The Benefits of Adult Friendships

An old poem tells us to, “Make new friends but keep the old, the new are silver the old are gold” (Parry, n.d.).   Researchers are finding that friendships are worth even more than silver or gold, in fact, there are many benefits associated with adult friendships. In a study published by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, researchers note, “Incorporating social support and connections is critical for overall health and for healthy habits to be sustainable” (Martino, et al, 2017).  These same researchers found evidence that social support (e.g., friendships), help people maintain a variety of health factors such as blood sugar control, heart health, a healthy body mass index, cancer survival improvement, and overall mental health improvement. Another study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, concluded that “social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression”(Choi, et al, 2020). The benefits of friendship also increase your sense of belonging and purpose, contribute to improved self-worth and confidence, help you cope with traumatic events in your life, and increase happiness while reducing stress.  

Adults often find it more difficult to develop new friendships or maintain existing friendships. Responsibilities such as work or taking care of a family may take priority. Additionally, friendships change as people change interests or move away. However, you are never too old, and it is never too late to reach out to old friends or make new friends. Friendship takes effort but given the benefits of friendship, the extra work can be worth it.  Following the suggestions below from the Mayo Clinic may help as you seek to nurture new and existing friendships:

1. Be kind. This is the core of successful relationships. You get back what you put in so make certain what you give is positive and kind. Try expressing gratitude for the small things, say “thank you” when you are thankful or appreciative of your friend or something kind they did.

2. Be a good listener. Let your friend know you are interested in their life.  Show interest though eye contact and body language. Try to listen and ask clarifying questions, but don’t seek to respond with advice unless it is asked for directly.

3. Open up.  Sharing about your life can deepen connection and build intimacy with your friend. It shows them that they hold a special place in your life. Try expressing your feelings with “I” statements to be vulnerable and build connection. 

4. Show that you can be trusted. Be dependable, reliable, and responsible. When your friends share confidences with you, keep it confidential. Be sure to follow through on commitments and be on time when you plan get togethers.

5. Make yourself available.  Forging friendships takes time, including time spent together. Try to see new friends regularly and check in with them in-between times. Try texting or calling your friends when you think about them just to talk and be available to them.


Choi, K. W., Stein, M. B., Nishimi, K. M., Ge, T., Coleman, J. R. I., Chen, C.-Y., Ratanatharathorn, A., Zheutlin, A. B., Dunn, E. C., Breen, G., Koenen, K. C., & Smoller, J. W. (2020). An exposer-wide and mendelian randomization approach to identifying modifiable factors for the 
prevention of depression. American Journal of Psychiatry.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2020.19111158

 Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 16, 2022, 
     from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860 

 Martino, J., Pegg, J., & Frates, E. (2015). The connection prescription: Using the power of social interactions and the deep desire for connectedness to empower health and wellness. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11(6). https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615608788

Parry, J. (n.d.). New friends and old friends. Poetry Nook. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/new-friends-and-old-friends 

The power of social connectedness. (2020, August 17). Psychology for all. Retrieved February 16, 2022, from http://www.psychologyforall.org/blog/the-power-of-social-connectedness

By Christina Pay, Extension Assistant Professor

Six Tips to Help Get You Saving

This week is both Utah Saves Week and America Saves Week. Since 2007, both have been held the last week of February to help people focus on saving money. For some, it can be daunting to get started, but the americasaves.org website can help you set goals and sign up for email and text reminders to keep you on track. Consider these tips:

1) Save automatically – This is the secret sauce to financial success. Automatically having your money direct deposited from your paycheck into a savings account increases your chances of saving by 100%. And if the money is out of sight and out of mind, you are less likely to withdraw it for random purchases. The book, The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach, is helpful for anyone who wants to become a regular saver. If you don’t have automatic savings set up, it is a great first step.

2) Save for the unexpected opportunity – We talk a lot about saving for an emergency, but what about saving for an unexpected opportunity as well?  When you have money set aside for the unexpected, whether it be an emergency or an opportunity, you’ll have a stash of cash ready to go. Take the automatic savings you just set up and put some away for the unexpected.

3) Save to retire – We spend most of our lives working in order to pay for our house, food, cars, entertainment, etc., but putting yourself first and saving money for your future is also a wise move. One way to do this is to set up your retirement contribution so it is a certain percentage of your income. That way, as your income increases, so does the amount you contribute to retirement, all without you even noticing. 

4) Save by reducing debt – If automatic savings is the secret sauce for financial success, reducing your debt is definitely the cherry on top. Paying down debt frees up money that was going toward interest. Check out www.powerpay.org for a free tool that helps you create a self-directed debt elimination plan using “power” or “snowball” payments. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can pay down debt and free up money for savings.

5) Save as a family – Make saving a family affair. Talking to your kids about money and empowering them to make good financial decisions is not something you will ever regret. No parent has ever said, “I taught my child to save too much money!” Setting a goal as a family to save for something fun you all want to do together can create a lasting impact on your children. Even if you don’t have children and it is just you and a significant other, setting goals together can help you achieve financial success, have fun together, and give you built-in accountability to reach your goals. 

6) Save for college – Make education savings simple by investing in a college savings plan like my529, Utah’s official 529 educational savings plan. Funds can help pay for qualified education expenses like tuition, books, computers, and other supplies for traditional and technical colleges. Savings can also be used for K-12 tuition expenses, apprenticeships, and student loan repayments up to certain amounts. Your employer may be able to help you set up an automatic, after-tax contribution directly from your paycheck into your account. ​Click here to learn how to get a $10 match from my529 during 2022 Utah Saves Week!

By: Amanda H. Christensen, Utah State University Extension associate professor, Amanda.Christensen@usu.edu

Financial Health by the Decades

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, combined with a review of research and consultation with leading experts, found that financial well-being includes the following four elements:

  1. Having control over day-to-day, month-to-month finances.
  2. Having the capacity to absorb a financial shock.
  3. Being on track to meet your financial goals.
  4. Having the financial freedom to make the choices that allow you to enjoy life.

Another way to think about it is that financial well-being is the feeling of having financial security and financial freedom of choice, both in the present and when considering the future.

So – what does financial health look like at each age? Timing will vary from person to person, but below are suggested financial milestones to achieve at each decade of life. This is not an all-inclusive list, but provides a foundation of things to consider. Milestones achieved at earlier ages, such as a good credit score and an adequate emergency fund, should continue into the following years.

  • Age 10: Learn to add and subtract, sell a service or good for money (i.e. lemonade, car washing, cookies, babysitting, cleaning, etc.). Save up for something you really want, use money to buy a gift for someone or donate to a charity.
  • Age 10-20: Work at a job for money, have checking/savings accounts, establish a Roth IRA, decide the type of lifestyle you’d like to live, what salary you’ll need for that lifestyle, and what career/job you’ll need to support that. Build credit with a credit card that has a low borrowing limit and use it regularly, but pay it off monthly.
  • Age 20: Learn to invest, budget, track income and expenses, regularly contribute to a Roth IRA and build credit. Make on-time debt payments, stay below 30% of your allotted credit amount on credit cards, save for emergencies, have $1,000 in an emergency fund, save for 3 months’ worth of expenses in a separate savings account and obtain adequate insurance.
  • Age 30: Achieve financial independence from parents, including independent living arrangements and no “subsidies” to pay expenses such as insurance premiums and cell phone bills. Have student loan debt completely repaid or close to repayment, have a year’s worth of salary (1x) saved for retirement, and establish a good credit history with a credit score in the mid-700s or higher. Become a regular at saving/investing, have at least 3 months’ worth of income set aside for emergencies, have educational credentials such as certifications and graduate/professional degrees earned or near completion, and have current estate planning documents and life insurance to protect dependents or co-signers, if applicable.
  • Age 40: Have three times annual salary (3x) saved for retirement, saving at least 15% of gross income, establish a college savings for children, if applicable, and increase investing expertise and diversification of investment portfolio assets. Increase human capital, including job skills and knowledge to remain employable and earn promotions/raises.
  • Age 50: Have six times annual salary (6x) saved for retirement; make catch-up retirement savings plan contributions, increase knowledge about the specifics of Social Security, Medicare and employer retirement benefits, increase knowledge of aging parents’ finances and communication about caregiving-related issues. Use financial advisers, as needed, as net worth increases and finances become more complex.
  • Age 60: Have eight times annual salary (8x) saved for retirement, have mortgage paid off, home equity loan, and credit card debt paid off prior to retirement. Use catch-up retirement strategies, if needed, such as downsizing, moving, working longer and selling assets, learning new skills and/or making other preparations to transition to a “second act” job or volunteer role.

Questions to ask yourself: Am I on track with the suggested financial milestones at each decade? What would it take to get on track with my current decade? For more information about financial milestones by decades, visit https://www.reuters.com/article/us-column-stern-advice-idUSBRE97R0VV20130828. For more real-life money smarts, visit www.utahmoneymoms.com. Join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram @utahmoneymoms.

By: Amanda Christensen, USU Extension associate professor, Amanda.christensen@usu.edu

The Importance of Routines

Having a routine helps keep us on track both mentally and physically, which can help make our days more positive and productive. According to Mental Health America, a routine is a tool used to improve mental health by organizing the overwhelming everyday tasks into a pattern that seems easier to accomplish. If you are struggling with creating routines, here are five things you can do to get started.

 1. Personalize your routine.

 It can be hard not to compare yourself to others, especially when you can view the highlights of peoples’ lives on social media. Having a routine that is personal to your situation and needs can make it easier for you. Remember, it is about what works best for you.   

 2. Keep it simple.

 There are many ways to set a routine, and a long list of tasks can feel overwhelming. If you focus on one small thing each month, your routine can look the way you envisioned it by the end of the year!

 3. Stack your habits.

Stacking habits is something dentists often recommend when it comes to flossing. Instead of trying to remember to floss at a specific time each day, stack the habit of flossing with something else you do already, such as watching TV in the evenings. Adding one new habit onto something you already do can make it easier to adjust your routine. 

 4. Add something in for you.

Self-care practices have always been essential, but they are more important than ever with the pandemic. With more anxiety about sickness, more responsibilities due to quarantines, and more unknowns in the world, taking time out of your day to do something for yourself is crucial. For some, there may be more time to devote to self-care, while others may only be able to find a few minutes. Whatever your situation, make sure to find a way to put yourself first in the day to recharge and be your best self. 

 5. Recognize that not every day will be perfect, and that is okay!

 No matter how well we plan or how perfectly timed our routine is, there will always be things that throw it off. Make sure you recognize that plans may change, and allow yourself to be okay if you don’t have a perfect routine each day. 

Additional routines that help keep our bodies and minds healthy include eating at regular times, exercising daily, and getting the right amount of sleep. These can all help you stay mentally and physically healthy. Additionally, knowing your schedule can reduce anxiety, keep the winter blues at bay, and help you feel more accomplished at the end of the day.

For article references and citations, click here. For more information and tips on mental health, click here.

By: Tasha Howard, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Tasha.Howard@usu.edu

How Body Image Affects Mental Health

What is body image? According to the National Eating Disorder Association, it is defined as our thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes about our physical appearance, which can be negative or positive. Positive body image generally includes feeling comfortable and confident in your body. It involves acknowledging that the way your body looks has little to do with your character or value as a person. Negative body image includes feeling shame, anxiety, or self-consciousness about your shape as well as a distorted perception of physical appearance. Comparison to others can cause your view of yourself to be distorted.

Women are more likely to have a negative body image than men. They are given messages throughout their lives that their bodies and looks are the most important thing about them. Through media and advertising, women see false beauty ideals. With social media’s prevalence, people are constantly looking at these images and making comparisons. These standards of beauty are usually not achievable or realistic, and some people may turn to expensive appearance-altering procedures in an attempt to mirror what they see. These comparisons, messages, and actions can cause poor body image, which can trigger disordered eating, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, shame, self-hatred, depression, and low self-esteem, all of which are harmful to mental health.

Developing a positive body image takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself as you try to not only have more love for your body, but to realize you are more than a body. You are a human being with talents and qualities that are much more important than what your body looks like.

Consider these tips to help develop a positive body image:

  • Remind yourself that your body is a magnificent tool that performs many functions that allow you to experience life.
  • Eat and exercise in a way that promotes health and strength, not to achieve a certain weight or body type.
  • Practice self-compassion, or extending kindness and understanding to yourself, rather than judgement and criticism.
  • Identify feelings of body shame and recognize where the feelings are coming from.
  • Practice mindfulness and avoid allowing painful thoughts and feelings to define or overwhelm you.
  • Unfollow people on social media who promote unrealistic body ideals or cause body shaming thoughts.
  • Surround yourself with positive people who love you for who you are, not for what you look like.
  • Kindly ask those you surround yourself with not to comment about your body or others’ bodies.
  • Wear clothes you feel comfortable in, that you don’t have to constantly think/worry about.
  • Focus on how it feels to move and live in your body, not on how it looks.

For references and citations, click here.

By: Emma Parkhurst, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Emma.Parkhurst@usu.edu and Susannah Woodbury, intern

February Pre-gardening Checklist

There is much that can be done now to get a jump start on the growing season. These tips, with links from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac, can help get you going.

* Consider adding a smaller structure such as a low tunnel or a larger high tunnel to extend your growing season.

* Try your hand at starting vegetables or annual plants indoors from seed to get a jump start on growing.

* Consider growing herbs and/or microgreens indoors to add fresh greens to your diet.

* If you are storing bulbs, check their condition to make sure they are still firm. Remove any that are soft or rotten.

Prune grapes and fruit trees in late February to early March.

Fertilize fruit trees at least 6 weeks before they bloom.

* Monitor for deer and rodent damage in the landscape.

* Avoid fungus gnat infestation in house plants by allowing the soil to dry between watering.

* Many of our Master Gardener courses will be held virtually or as a combination of virtual and in-person classes this year. For information about classes around the state, visit extension.usu.edu/mastergardener/find-a-program.

* Specific gardening information can be found at garden.usu.edu. Here you will find fruit, vegetable and herb growing guides, information on soil, lawn, yard, tree, shrub and flower care. In addition are monthly tips, the basics of gardening, information on events, classes, and more.

How Do I Know My Partner Will be Faithful?

Trust in a relationship is key to its success. Most people do not automatically trust someone they do not know. They often determine trust by giving a little at the beginning of the relationship, observing behavior, and then giving or rescinding it, based on their perception of the person’s behavior. According to “Assessments of Trust in Intimate Relationships and the Self-perception Process,” in The Journal of Social Psychology (reference below), for intimate partners to progress toward feeling fully secure in the longevity of a relationship, fundamental traits need to be exhibited. Two of those traits are predictability and dependability, which lead to faith in the survival of the relationship.

Predictability means that in any given situation, you have an idea of how your partner will respond. The article suggests that this knowledge is gained by a series of observations and behavioral responses. As a partner follows through with promises, the other person in the relationship can determine if he or she feels there is consistency in the behavior. Feeling as if we know what to expect is one way to build trust. Conversely, if a partner shows a lack of consistency in what he or she says and does, this can erode the base foundation of a trusting relationship. Once predictability is proven, a couple can move toward establishing dependability.

Dependability in a relationship means you can count on your partner to be reliable and trustworthy. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and always being truthful, including in interactions with others. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say are part of being truthful. However, there may be times when your partner needs to make a change to plans. Their willingness to communicate about the change is imperative. 

Our own past experiences can influence how we perceive behaviors. A breach of trust in a past relationship can color the way we interpret behaviors in the present. Open communication about your thoughts and feelings is vital to establishing a trusting relationship. 

Use the following questions to explore trust in your intimate relationship.

·             Does my partner keep promises?

·             Does my partner tell me about needed changes to a plan?

·             More often than not, is my partner’s behavior in our relationship positive?

·             Do I know what to expect from my partner in most situations?

·             Do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe with my partner? Why?

If you are still uncertain whether or not you can trust your partner, explore your past experiences and behaviors that caused you concern, and determine why. Talk with your partner about your concerns. If you do not feel comfortable discussing them, seek out a licensed therapist to help explore your experiences and thoughts. 


·         Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology138(2), 217–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224549809600373

By: Eva Timothy, Extension assistant professor, Eva.Timothy@usu.edu, 435-864-1483

Federal Student Loan Payment Pause Extended

Those who have borrowed federal student loans have received another extension on the repayment from the U.S. Department of Education. The payment pause has been extended through May 1, 2022, and takes effect for all qualifying borrowers, with no opt-in needed. In fact, if you are contacted by someone who tells you he or she can help you sign up for this benefit, it is a scam.

Understanding key details of this relief program is important for all borrowers. Here’s a summary of the latest program relief details some people may be missing:

  • The temporary payment relief is extended to borrowers with qualifying federal student loans. Some federal loans (Family Federal Education Loan, Perkins Loans, etc.) don’t qualify. Contact your federal loan servicer (www.studentaid.gov) to find out if your loans are eligible.
  • If your loans qualify, the U.S. Department of Education has automatically switched the status of your loans to “administrative forbearance,” and no payments are required until May 1, 2022. If you previously set up automatic payments, check to see if any payments have been processed since March 13, 2020. If so, it is possible to get a refund.
  • If you have defaulted on any federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education has paused collection calls and billing statements through May 1, 2022. If your employer continues to garnish your wages, you will get a refund.
  • You do have the option to keep making payments. In fact, any payments made during this 0% interest forbearance period will help you pay off your debt faster.

Remember, this relief program only applies to federal student loans. If you are still unsure about the type of loans you have, here are two things you can do:

  1. Pull your credit report free of charge at www.annualcreditreport.com. Look it over and find your student loan lender or servicer. Compare it to the complete list of federal loan servicers found at https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers.
  2. Confirm which of your loans are federal by checking https://studentaid.gov/fsa-id/sign-in/landing or calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243.

For further financial tips and information to help improve your financial wellness, visit Utah Money Moms and Empowering Financial Wellness.

By: Amanda Christensen, USU Extension associate professor, Accredited Financial Counselor, Amanda.Christensen@usu.edu801-829-3472

Cleaning Tips to Keep You Healthy

We all know it is important to clean and disinfect to reduce the risk of getting sick, but with many illnesses circulating, including the common cold, flu, RSV, hand-foot-mouth disease, and the COVID virus, now is an important time to reevaluate hygiene habits. How often do you clean and disinfect items that are used daily? Can you reinfect yourself with items such as a toothbrush or reusable water bottle? Consider this information.

Toothbrushes – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we now know the risk of catching COVID after touching a contaminated surface, such as a door handle, is low. But what about personal items like a toothbrush – is there a risk for reinfection? Although it’s commonly recommended to replace your toothbrush after an illness due to the chance of becoming re-infected, professionals agree this isn’t typically true for viruses. After your body has fought off a virus, such as the flu or COVID, in most cases your immune system will have developed the necessary protection to prevent reinfection of that particular virus.

With that being said, it is possible to infect others if the contaminated toothbrush comes into contact with another brush. Additionally, a toothbrush can be the cause of reinfection of a bacterial illness, such as strep throat. Since bacteria will die in the presence of oxygen, bacteria on a toothbrush that properly air dries between each use generally is not an issue for reinfection. However, bacteria can colonize if the bristles do not dry completely, which is why some professionals agree it is best practice to replace a brush after a bacterial illness. The CDC recommends against using dishwashers, microwaves, or other means to disinfect toothbrushes, as these methods may damage the brush.

Water bottles – How do you avoid reinfection from a commonly used item that travels back and forth with most people? According to Michigan State University Extension, you should wash the bottle in hot water with a teaspoon of unscented dish soap each day to reduce the risk of illness from bacterial growth. Soak the bottle in soapy water for a few minutes, rinse it well using warm water, and allow it to completely dry before the next use.

Alternatively, you can clean and sanitize bottles in the dishwasher if they are dishwasher safe. Avoid letting your water bottle sit with water left in it for long periods of time. Although COVID and the flu primarily spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes, experts recommend washing and sanitizing bottles after each use. Do not share a water bottle with someone who has cold-like symptoms.

General cleaning and disinfecting –To reduce the risk of infection from most illnesses, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Clean regularly using a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent. Using this type of cleaner will reduce the number of germs on surfaces, which decreases the risk of infection. Areas to focus on include high-touch surfaces such as light switches, electronics, doorknobs, countertops, etc.
  2. If someone in your household is ill or someone who has been in your home within the last 24 hours falls ill, it is recommended to disinfect to kill any remaining germs. Always follow the directions of the disinfectant and wash your hands immediately after use.
  3. Wear a mask when cleaning areas the sick person used, and open windows and use fans to help increase airflow.
  4. Remember all the usual precautions – wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when water and soap are not available, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with sick people and avoid sharing personal items with them, immunize yourself from infectious diseases, and stay home when you do not feel well.

    By: Emma Parkhurst, USU Extension assistant professor, health and wellness, Emma.Parkhurst@usu.edu                                                                        


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Toothbrush. Retrieved from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/toothbrushes

Use and Handling of Toothbrushes. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/faqs/toothbrush-handling.html

How to Keep Your Water Bottle Germ-Free. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_to_keep_your_water_bottle_germ_free

Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination — Kentucky, May–June 2021. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7032e1.htm

Cleaning Your Home. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html

January Garden Planning Tips

If the spike in gardening interest the last two years is any indication of what 2022 will be like, now is the perfect time to start planning! Consider these tips and links from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac.

* Peruse garden and seed catalogs and select new vegetable varieties to try this year.

* Plan and design your vegetable garden. Try to implement crop rotations of vegetable families to reduce disease buildup.

* Consider growing herbs and microgreens indoors to add fresh greens to your diet.

* Use deicing compounds sparingly to avoid salt damage to landscape plants.

* If you are storing bulbs, check their condition to ensure that they are firm, and remove any that are soft or rotten.

* Perform routine maintenance on lawn mowers and other small engine garden equipment.

* For information about Master Gardener classes around the state, visit extension.usu.edu/mastergardener/find-a-program.

* Specific gardening information can be found at garden.usu.edu, including fruit, vegetable, and herb growing guides as well as information on soil, lawn, yard, tree, shrub, and flower care. In addition are monthly tips, the basics of gardening, information on events, classes, and more.