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One Weird Trick

10 ways to a new you in the new year.

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We've all seen the ubiquitous internet ads with the headline "One Weird Trick to a Smaller Belly" (or financial success or a larger wang or more hair). If you click on one of these, you'll inevitably get a narrated, animated video that urges you to keep watching for 15 or 20 minutes, until the "weird trick" is finally revealed.

Well, the Flyer's weird tricks don't require watching a video; you just have to keep reading. You're welcome. And Happy New Year!

How to Relax

Before Olivia Lomax opened Delta Groove Yoga Studio in 2013, she worked in finance. Her job, coupled with being a mother of three, created a mountain of anxiety in her life. Lomax combated that stress with a routine she developed at age 17 after suffering a sports injury.

"Doing my yoga practice before work or after the kids went to bed was my saving grace," Lomax says. "I began to notice that I was doing yoga for the stress relief more than for the physical benefits. I would notice a significant change in my mood and ability to remain calm." 

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There's an efficient, two-fold way to remedy anxiety, Lomax says. Focus on your breathing and living consciously will follow. "The body follows the mind and the mind follows the breath," Lomax says. "If you have a hard time slowing down the breath, move your body to start to coordinate everything. Put away all electronics — unplug. Drink a glass of water. Then slow the breath down to less than three breaths per minute. Inhale for seven seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for seven seconds. 

"Living consciously means practicing an intelligent awareness of what is really happening inside your body and mind and understanding how you are accessing the energy to run these systems," Lomax says. "We go to great lengths to ensure our phones and computers are the latest technology and systematically upgrade the software. But how often do we do that for our body and minds? We can crash and burn out too, if we don't optimize." — Joshua Cannon

How to Organize Your House

Your house is a mess. Articles of clothing hang not in closets but on the backs of chairs. Newspapers and magazines have accumulated, and you find yourself wanting to hang on to certain unread copies without knowing when you'll get to them. And even if you have everything in order, you wonder if you've got the right stuff on the walls or the furniture in the right places.

We've all been there, some of us more than others. So what do you do? Well, there are professionals, right here in the River City, who can help you deal with it. There's Teresa James of Cordova, for example, who used to enjoy helping out friends with such problems and who finally realized that home organizing could be a business. So, starting around 2009, "Organize and Stage Your Home" became an ad hoc title she now uses to advertise her services.

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She'll consult with you on the phone and also arrange to come out and take a look for a modest hourly fee. The trick, she says, is to prioritize. What do you need and where do you need it? And what are you hanging on to that you never use? Those things are just in the way, so suck it up and give them to other people who need them more. Or, as she puts it, "Go ahead and release!" (James will take stuff away and distribute it, if you don't want to.) And, hey, there's even a tax write-off!

Most home organizers don't do maintenance as such, but they'll assist you in landing a housekeeper from a market supply that's none too commodious. And people like James can be invaluable when you're moving, on either end of the move.

The main thing is to find the help you need and get on with it. — Jackson Baker

How to Get Fit in Seven Minutes a Day

A couple of years back, The New York Times published a story called "The Scientific 7-Minute Workout." It resurfaced in my social media a couple of weeks ago, and I decided to give it a shot.

The workout consists of 12 exercises, each done for 30 seconds, which technically would be a 6-Minute Workout, but they give you 10 seconds to transition from one exercise to the other, I suppose. Or die. This routine makes up for its lack of duration with its intensity.

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You start with 30 seconds of jumping jacks, then go through 30 seconds each of wall sitting, crunches, pushups, running in place, chair-stepping, planking, deep squats, etc. After seven minutes of this, you will be breathing hard. Unless you're in shape already, which is disgusting.

From the Times article: "In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair, and a wall, [the workout] fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science."

It's definitely made a difference in how I feel, though for the first few days, how I felt was sore. Really sore. But now it's become more tolerable, though it still makes me sweat, which is the point, of course. And the upside is that after seven minutes of "steady discomfort," you're done.

Google it if you're interested. — Bruce VanWyngarden

How to Organize Your Wardrobe

Sophie Jones not only liked to play dress-up as a kid, she also liked to cut up her clothes — much to the chagrin of her mother. This led, naturally enough, to her studying apparel and textiles in college. She then worked styling the women's runway for Ralph Lauren in New York. She knows a thing or two about fashion.

Jones, who's back in town working for a PR firm, Hemline, describes her own aesthetic as monochromatic and masculine with a feminine touch. Her one weird fashion trick for you? "Display images of your favorite fashion looks in your closet to help improve your wardrobe."

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More from Jones: Collect images from fashion magazines or shopping mailers or print out images from Pinterest. Hang them in a place that you will see as you get ready. Recreate looks from the images, which is especially beneficial when in a hurry or can't think of what to wear.

This method will inspire new outfits and help you discover ways to incorporate the pieces you love but don't know how to wear. It will also remind you of pieces in your closet that get forgotten about when folded away.

Jones also advises that you make smarter purchases to create a cohesive wardrobe that all works together and simultaneously eliminates clutter. — Susan Ellis

How to Draw

My "one weird trick" to "draw better" is to use a pencil and draw very, very lightly and quickly. Most people try to draw a drawing the way they look at a drawing. They want nice, dark, perfect lines. They want to start at the top left corner of the page and draw perfectly until they get to the bottom right-hand side of the page and it's amazing. 

Instead, start with faint stick figures, making sure everything you want is on the page and in proportion. Then you hang all the stuff that has to be there on the stick figure, drawing more detail and more heavily until it looks done.

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Having said that, I'll add that I can tell everyone in a classroom to "draw lightly and quickly with a pencil" and typically, everyone in the class will go into default mode and gouge the hell out of their paper.

Greg Cravens

How to Lose Weight

Millions of Americans woke up New Year's Day with dreams of (and maybe even plans for) a trimmer waist. But many will trip and fall and quit that weight-loss journey this year because they won't let themselves eat doughnuts, or bacon, or a Gibson's maple bacon doughnut.

The advice from Star Ritchey, running coach, personal trainer, and owner and founder of Midtown running group Star Runners: Just eat the damn doughnut, already.

"I believe that restricting foods [unless for allergies] causes people to obsess over what they can't have, which leads to binging," Ritchey says. "I'd rather you focus on willpower and moderation and eat dessert a few times a week than eat cookies until you're sick because you've deprived yourself of them."

Ritchey says she's never told a client to cut out a specific food. But she does set limits on how often they eat out, or eat dessert, or (gasp!) how much alcohol they drink. Also, Ritchey recommends focusing on the things the body needs first — water, fruits, veggies, protein, and fiber. If you get all of that stuff first, you may not have any room left for junk food. "Your body will begin to crave this way of eating," she says.

Fad diets can shave off pounds, but the pounds often come back after the diet is dropped, and the dieter hasn't learned anything. "If you change your mindset to eating all foods but in a more responsible way, it becomes habit and you're more likely to keep the weight off."

Here's a quick, sample breakfast from Ritchey: a glass of water (it's important to drink water all day), a cup of berries (high in fiber/fruit), and a serving of Greek yogurt or egg whites (both have protein).

Toby Sells

How to Cook Better

Jimmy Gentry worked under culinary big dog Erling Jensen and has taught at L'Ecole Culinaire. Currently, he runs Paradox Catering and the super-secret supper club Paradox Underground Experience. In January, Gentry's latest project, Café Brooks by Paradox, opens in the Brooks Museum.

Gentry's weird trick for how to make your cooking really sing: Embrace acid.

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"People underestimate acids — lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar," he says.

Gentry says just one capful of vinegar can brighten up a dish and make it "10 times better."

If you want to get technical, just Google "acid in cooking." Otherwise, consider the power of acids in a marinade or a simple vinaigrette. Think about how acids, vinegar specifically, can turn a cucumber into a pickle.

Gentry extolls the virtues of acids in such fare as a butternut squash puree, a chimichurri sauce, or a stock reduction. "Acid bridges the gap from flat to heavy; it gives you that full flavor," he says. — SE

How to Speak in Public

Public speaking coach Irene Crist's advice for instantly becoming a better public speaker may conflict with everything you've ever heard about proper public speaking: "Put your hands in your pockets," she says.

Crist, who's helped to improve communication skills at a variety of Memphis businesses, isn't advising speakers not to be physically expressive. "But you've got to stop worrying about your hands," she says. "If you're worried about your hands, you're not focused on connecting with your audience. Forget them. If you're going to move them, move them, if not, leave them alone. But stop thinking about them. Thinking about them gets everybody every time."

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Crist has other tips, too, like: She thinks bullet points are better than memorized speeches because they help "you be you" and make it less likely for you to become tripped up by your own words. She says it's hard to connect with an audience if you haven't first connected with your subject matter.

And fewer things make it harder to connect with your audience than awkward, robotic, or overly rehearsed hand gestures. "I've had people put their hands in their pockets and suddenly become brilliant public speakers," she says. "They're relaxed when they have their hands in their pockets, and that makes it easier for them to do what they need to do."

Chris Davis

How to Do an Easy Magic Trick

"For me, all magic is great," Michael Clayton says. Clayton is a Memphis magician who does it all — close-up, stage-work, and manipulation. He's been a working magician since his teens and counts Houdini, Doug Henning, Lance Burton, and Bill Bixby (he starred in The Magician) among his idols.

Clayton can saw a woman in half, but he's just as adept at sleight-of-hand. His method is to engage the audience with humor (dad jokes seem to be a specialty) and then dazzle them with his tricks.

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For our purposes, Clayton shares what he calls a cocktail trick (if your audience has had a few, so much the better). All you need is a dollar bill.

1. With the bill "head-up," fold in half length-wise.

2. Fold the width once, then twice.

At this point, you may want to do abracadabra hands ...

3. Unfold the bill from the back, using your right hand. Pull apart.

4. Flip up the length-wise fold. Presto! The dollar bill is now upside-down. — SE

Pay Yourself Forward

You've got that old-fashioned holiday hangover after binging on a delicious (but rich and expensive) season of presents, parties, booze, and food. But now the season's cheery gleam has faded into that cold, unforgiving light of winter, and you've got to face the facts about how much you spent while wearing that Santa hat.

But for some, Christmas isn't all about giving. It's also a season of receiving — that annual raise, a holiday bonus, or even the promise of a tax refund in a few months.

One weird trick for anyone who comes into an unexpected financial bump, according to Brian Douglas, a financial advisor with South Main's Guidingpoint Financial Group, is simple: financial time travel.

"If you're fortunate enough to receive a raise, bonus, or tax refund this year, consider giving half to yourself now and half to your future," Douglas says. "One half could help you put yourself in a better financial position today by making an extra payment on your student loans or mortgage. The other half could then fund your retirement account, either by starting or contributing to your IRA, 401(k) or 403(b)."

It's advice as solid as sterling: Pay yourself before you pay everyone else. "Your raise or refund could make a big difference in the total you have set aside for retirement, particularly if you're still years from retirement and have time for compounding interest on your side," Douglas says. — TS

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