Have you ever stopped to think about the importance of volunteering? In Australia, volunteers contribute more to the economy than mining, agriculture and retail combined –more than $200 billion a year.

Just because volunteers don’t get paid, there are some great reasons to volunteer. You can help others, to keep active and healthy and to add to your chances of developing a career.

More than 6.4 million people a year across Australia volunteer their time annually, doing anything from dog walking for the local animal shelter, through to volunteering at major sporting events.

As we approach National Recycling Week (11th -17th November) it’s timely to take stock of just how far we - personally, corporately and nationally - have come with our recycling efforts.

Whereas our grandparents and great-grandparents lived by the economic mantra ‘waste not, want not’ to survive, we are more likely to focus on reducing waste and improving our recycling efforts to help the environment and relieve our guilt for being such a consumerist society.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to adjust and make productive changes.  Author Camille Preston, from AIM Leadership, has put out a great e-book The Rewired Resolution that will help you rewire for greater effectiveness.

Camille believes that most go-ahead people are over-wired – meaning they are “multi-tasking, multi-thinking and never really being present with the task at hand or the people in (their) lives.” This, she says, causes mental and physical health problems and loss of productivity.

Great news. A new branch of psychology - positive psychology - has identified that positive thinking can actually make real improvements in people’s lives, provided they back it up with positive action.

Does this sound like what you need? Read on…

Yes! Brain foods do exist and they can help improve our mental performance. While this doesn’t mean if we stick to eating spinach, walnuts and olive oil we’ll turn into geniuses overnight, it does mean we can give ourselves a boost in the brain department just by making slight changes to our diets. And who wouldn’t want a mental boost when studying uni or TAFEnow courses?

Healthy food, healthy mind

Did you hear the joke about the actress and the bishop? No, seriously, ever since humans have been expressing their emotions, they’ve found stress relief and overwhelming feelings of happiness and well-being after a good belly laugh.

There’s no simpler way to feel better. It’s costless, painless, drug-free and can be practised anywhere (well almost!), with anyone. And better still, you don’t have to get advice from an expert on how to administer this protective tool.

In Australia we are largely familiar with the word ‘freedom.’ We use ‘freedom’ words all the time -  freedom of choice, freedom of information, freedom of self-expression and freedom of the press - without blinking an eyelid.

When we compare the blessings of living in Australia with people who spent their early lives in oppressive countries we see the true value of Australian freedoms. We have the freedom to be creative, to be self-expressive, to gain and to share knowledge, to speak out about injustices and be who we truly are.