Alcoholic drink cheers

New alcohol guidelines double daily drink allowance

New guidelines have been released around “safe” alcohol consumption for Australians – and in a surprising move, they allow for double the amount of standard drinks than the previous guidelines.

For the last decade, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has recommended having no more than two standard drinks per day.

A standard drink is 100ml of wine, so there’s every chance that the healthy glass of wine you pour at home knocks this over at once.

Recently the standards have been revised and actually doubled – to four standard drinks per day.

If you’re wondering why our national health council would endorse a greater amount of alcohol consumption – or perhaps you’re thinking their research was paid for by a beer distillery! – then the second part of their recommendation may make more sense.

It has reduced the maximum number of recommended drinks per week, down from 14 standard drinks (or two per day) to just 10 over the week.

“We’re not telling Australians how much to drink, we’re providing advice about the health risks from drinking alcohol so that we can all make informed decisions in our daily lives,” said Professor Anne Kelso, chief executive of the council.

“This advice has been developed over the past three years using the best health evidence available.”

Overall, it pays to keep in mind that these recommendations are just that – recommendations.

Realistically, there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume. In Australia we have glamourised and normalised boozing to the point that we celebrate it, but it’s not a healthy past-time in any way, shape or form.

It causes cancer. It makes us bloated, dehydrated and fat. It’s loaded with calories and has no nutritional benefits whatsoever.

I say this as someone who thoroughly enjoys a wine (or five) on a Friday night: as we begin this new year and wave goodbye to the alcohol-fuelled silly season, these new guidelines might prompt us to take personal stock of our drinking habits?

Trading out that vodka lime and soda for a simple lime and soda could be a winner – any maybe even help you meet that weight-loss goal you’ve likely set for the new year.

Woman writing a note at her laptop

12 New Year’s Resolutions you can actually keep

When was the last time you made a new year’s resolution – and actually kept it?

Most of us set ourselves up to fail with over-the-top resolutions that demand we change our entire personalities, habits and values in order to keep them. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you want to make a major life change like losing a significant chunk of weight.

But if you’d like to start with some smaller goals to gain confidence and tick off some wins before you dive into the bigger ones, why not try some of these on for size:

Floss. You know you need to.

Start the day with lemon water. Starting the day with a glass of ice-cold lemon water has a host of health benefits and gives you lightweight smug content to post on social media.

Save $5. Every week. Or every day, if you can afford it. Stash it in a tin or bank account that you don’t have easy access to and you’ll end the year with more cash than you began it with.

Go for a beach walk. If you’re not able to walk along the sand, at least park at the beach and inhale that salty, soul-rejuvenating air.

Surprise a loved one. With something they love: their favourite chocolate bar, a plant, a home-cooked meal. Do something nice for absolutely no reason and bask in the joy of selfless giving.

Spring clean something. The bathroom, your wardrobe, that weird third drawer that gets cluttered with life detritus…

Do a face mask. Ideally a sheet mask with a dewy serum that makes your skin glow – in just 20 minutes you’ll feel like everything is right with the world.

While you’re at it, treat your hair. A deep conditioning session will put back some of the moisture the sun is stealing from your hair over summer.

Complete one mini-project. We all have a lingering project (or 12) we need to knock over: stain the deck, sew ripped clothes, paint the front door, hang new photos.

Make a delicious dessert. The one you’ve always wanted to attempt – tiramisu, apple pie, crepes, bomb Alaska – and share it with mates.

Plant something. Herbs are a winner because you can use them in dinner, but if you’re worried about keeping things alive, start with a hardy succulent.

Learn something new. A language, an instrument, a dance move. Shake it up!

Job Computer Laptop Data

How to appear ‘intellectual’ on your job application

Here’s a quick life hack that could change your life – or at the very least, help you land your next job – if your new year’s goal is to switch careers.

A study has revealed that the way you present your name has an impact on the way you’re perceived.

By simply adding your middle name initial into your name, you may be perceived as being smarter, more intellectual, and a higher performer at work.

“Of whom do people expect a higher intellectual capacity and performance: Jane Smith or Jane F. P. R. Smith? Who would be more admired and respected? Who would earn more?” asks study authors Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg & Eric R. Igou.

“Eight studies indicate that, from the perspective of other people’s inferences, the answer is consistently ‘Jane F. P. R. Smith’. Authors with middle initials compared to authors with no (or less) middle initials were perceived to be better writers. In addition, people with names that included middle initials were expected to perform better in an intellectual – but not athletic – competition, were anticipated to be more knowledgeable, and to have a higher level of education.”

Why not try this out and see how much more respect you command? Whether you’re ordering a coffee at Zarraffa’s, checking your car in for a service or applying for a new job, slide that middle initial in for size.

If you’re female or foreign, then a slightly different strategy known as the Harry Potter approach might work: ditch first and middle names altogether in favour of initials.

Back in the day, when author Joanne Rowling pitched her idea for a series about a school for wizards, publishers told her young boys would never in a million years read books written by a female.

She adopted the penname J K Rowling, and the rest is history.

A shadow of undisguised racism persists in working Australia, so this could be a strategy that lands you an interview.

Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott, says that when candidates with unusual sounding names apply for jobs, their applications can be left at the bottom of the pile, regardless of their skills and experience.

His wife, Shaojie, found that “when she sent out her CV for employment opportunities, there were greater responses when she used the name ‘Jade’, the Anglicised version of her Chinese name”.

You shouldn’t have to change your name. But sometimes, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get your foot in the door. Try the ‘initial only’ strategy, because what have you got to lose – except a few letters?!

Girl Surprised Phone

How to digital detox this Christmas – without ditching your phone

At the post office recently, my school-aged daughter spied a cagey contraption she wanted us to buy.

“It’s a phone jail,” she said, looking pointedly between me and her dad.

“I think you two should put your phones in it every night during dinner.”

Suitably shamed, we bought the bloody phone jail. We’ve used it only twice. But the sight of it every morning, tucked away next to the coffee machine, does remind me how quickly we lose ourselves into the sinkhole of handheld technology every day.

It’s enough to make me want to do something about it.

So I am: I’m going on a digital detox this Christmas.

And because I want it to actually work, I’ve sought out advice from experts in the field.

After all, if this is going to work, it can’t be an all or nothing affair – there’s no way I would succeed on a diet over Christmas if I decided to suddenly avoid all sugar, fat and alcohol during the most sociable season of the year. So, I can’t expect to have success with a digital diet that simply cuts everything out, either.

Instead, I’m following the advice of Cal Newport, a computer science professor and author of Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.

In summary, here’s his advice:

1. Cull
Use your smartphone only for the following activities: calls, text messages, maps, and audio (songs/podcasts/books).

2. Redirect
You can still do all of your usual online activities: browse the web, catch up on news, use social media, etc. But you can only do it on your laptop. “When you’re away from your computer, your phone is still useful for basic operations, but it ceases to act as a crutch that helps you avoid the world around you,” Cal says.

3. Record
“I suggested that my students try this for one week… and actually record on a calendar or in a journal whether or not they succeeded in following the rule 100% for the day. One slip to check social media, or glance at email, or look up a website, and they don’t get to mark the day as a success,” he says.

Try this for a couple of weeks and when (if!) you’re ready to return to usual programming in the new year, consider hiding your most problematic (time-wasting) apps inside a folder on page three.

It’ll help you resist checking in just to pass time – and you may just start the new decade with an uber-productive pep in your step!


Why we should pay charity CEOs top dollar

Like many Australians, I’ve spent some time this week searching for news and updates about the fire crisis engulfing our country.

Everyone is looking for opportunities to help; we’re asking about which organisations and charities are the best ones to donate our hard-earned dollars to, in order to make the most impact.

This is absolutely spot on – everyone should do their due diligence before handing over a cash donation to anyone.

But there is one particular line of thinking that crops up over and over… and I can’t help but think it’s a little bit misguided.

It goes something like this:

“I would like to know which charity spends the most money per dollar donation on the actual animals/people/fires/recovery effort. I’ve heard of XYZ charity where the greedy CEO pays himself $200,000+ a year – and I don’t want to give to someone like that”.

Some even complain that when a charity pays its staff high wages, it’s technically “fraud”.

I understand these concerns.

And while I totally agree that it is unacceptable for charities to waste money on administration, excess travel and entertainment, and other miscellaneous expenses that could be curbed – I don’t believe staff expenses is one of them.

The reason for this is that high quality leadership at the top is essential if you want to run an efficient organisation: one with strong strategic thinking, high levels of fundraising and that can make a bigger impact overall.

And high quality leadership isn’t cheap.

The CEO that works for a charity and earns $150,000, $200,000 or even $300,000 is already quite likely to be taking a massive pay-cut.

In the private sector, working in IT or banking or finance, that same person could easily pocket upwards of half a million dollars per year. Just look at Alan Joyce!

For a charity to attract an experienced, qualified and clever CEO who is going to lead them forward, unleash a high-impact marketing campaign, make a big impact and grab your attention (compared to the thousands of other charities all competing for your dollars) and generally help them grow, they’re going to need to offer some incentive.

No matter how passionate a person is, they’re unlikely to cop with the long hours, the stress, the pain and the people issues that go with running an entire business, for $50,000 a year.

So, by all means: qualify the charity you’re supporting. Check out how ethical and transparent they are. But don’t judge their CEO salary too harshly – because without paying that price, they might not flourish in the future.