Okinawa’s Protector of Evil Spirits




When you are in an overseas country, you are guaranteed to see many interesting places and things.  One frequently seen in Okinawa is shisa.  Shisa are a traditional Okinawan decoration that resembles a cross between a dog and a lion.


Don’t worry about good spirits leaving your home. I’ll make sure they stay put!

These statues are usually found in pairs.  One usually has a closed mouth, while the other has an open mouth.  My oldest son and I play a game when we are out driving to see who can first spot a shisa.  They can usually be found on the rooftops of homes, entrances to public places, shops, or flanking the gates of homes.  Many Okinawans believe shisa ward off evil spirits.  It is traditionally believed that the shisa with the open mouth wards off the evil spirits, and the one with the closed mouth keep good spirits inside the home.  They can be found in all sizes and colors.

History Behind Shisa

Shisa were first brought to Okinawa from China in the 14th century.  There are many legends told of shisa.  One legend is of a boy who was given a shisa as a gift from an Okinawan nobleman.  One day a dragon came to attack the boy’s village, and the shisa came to life and saved the village.  Another legend tells of shisa that were given to the Ryukyuan king.  There was a sea dragon that terrorized Naha Bay, so the king had his shisa confront the sea dragon.  The shisa came to life and roared like a lion, causing a great rock to fall from the sky and land on top of the dragon.  The dragon died, and the rock and dragon were covered with plants and trees.  The spot where the dragon perished is now believed to be present day Ganna-mui Island.

If you are ever lucky enough to visit Okinawa, be sure to look for shisa.  You can rest assured they will protect you from any evil sea dragons lurking about the island.


Are Morning People Happier than Night Owls?



Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Benjamin Franklin

Bad news for night owls.  People who wake up early are happier.  The American Psychological Association asked 700 individuals, ranging from ages 17-79, about their moods, health and favourite time of the day.  Their studies indicated that early birds felt happier and healthier than their late night counterparts.

I confess that I am a night owl, but a night owl who yearns to become a morning person.  This lifestyle began upon entering college, and it still haunts me to this day.  Drinking coffee in the afternoon played a key role in me staying up till the early hours. While I got a lot of work done at night, I often became irritable with my sleeping patterns because most of the shops were closed, and I was missing out on lots of beneficial vitamin D.  Researchers suggest one of the reasons early risers are happier is that the world caters to a morning person’s schedule.

It can be difficult for parents with children to stop their night owl tendencies, especially if they have toddlers.  Parents of small kids: If you wake up at the crack of dawn, please share with us how you do it.

Now this question is for the night owl community.  Do you want to be happier?  There will be those who disagree with this study, but how will we ever know if we do not give it a try.


How to be a Happier and More Productive Morning Person

  1. Create your to-do list the night before.  According to time management guru David Allen, this is one of the most effective ways to getting things done. At the end of each day, write down what you need to accomplish.  Once you review your  list in the morning, you will stay focused throughout the whole day.
  2. Get enough sleep every night.  Sleep is vital for your overall health – it is even more important than healthy food and exercise.  Lack of sleep can increase your chances of getting sick and interfere with your concentration level – reducing your productivity.  Avoid drinking coffee in the late afternoon, sleep in a pitch black room, invest in a sleeping eye mask, and keep electrical devices away from your bed.  Some experts recommend unplugging all power in your bedroom before bed to prevent electro-magnetic fields (EMFs) from interfering with your production of serotonin and melatonin.
  3. Stop hitting snooze.  I struggle with this all the time! I think I will feel more refreshed if I sleep an extra ten minutes when in reality, it makes my mornings worse.  I end up falling behind on my morning prep, running to the train station, and then realising I forgot something important at home. Tip: Place your alarm clock across the room, and set it for a time you need to get out of bed.  It is very hard to wake up early, but it will soon become a habit. To get high-quality Zzz’s, go to sleep earlier and get at least seven hours of shut-eye.
  4. Early morning exercise.  Exercising in the morning gives you an insane amount of natural energy.  The energy and motivation you get from exercising is much greater than a cup of coffee. Guaranteed.  Studies show people who exercise before work have better time management skills, an improved mental sharpness, and are more patient with others.  Best of all, that endurance and vigor lasts throughout the day.  It also puts you in a better mood in the morning.  As an added bonus,  you will approach eating with a distinct mentality.  Knowing you got out of bed to workout hard will keep you from indulging on bad food choices.
  5. Have some quiet alone time.  Outside stimulation affects all of us.  We miss opportunities for inner growth, prayer,  and recharging.  We live in such an externalised culture that we are being kept away from knowing ourselves.  Family, friends, TV, work, computers, smart phones, music,  and the demands of daily life are keeping us from devoting time to our inner self – our soul and spirit.
  6. Eat a real quality breakfast.  Instead of reaching for coffee first thing in the morning, drink at least a full glass of pure water.  To understand why it is important to drink water in the mornings, read my article here.  Try eating something light and healthy, e.g. a bowl of fresh fruit or a green smoothie.  Use the morning hours to give your body a break from digesting heavy foods, while supplying the enzymes, vitamins, and minerals your body craves to function at peak level.  A bowl of Lucky Charms, pancakes and a pop tart will only zap your energy.
  7. Do the most time consuming projects first.  You will be buzzing right after your coffee and exercise session, so use that mental peak for tougher projects.  Save your easiest tasks for later on during the day.
  8. Check your email twice a day.  Now this is a very hard act to follow, especially for people glued to their smart phones (I am guilty of this one).  According to some experts, checking your email too much can make you work less.  Productivity expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders insists it is best to clear out your inbox during the first 1-2 hours of the day.  After that, she does not check her email until the next morning – allowing herself to focus on completing her to-do list and spending time with loved ones.   If this is impossible to do at your job, Scott Scheper advises to check your email twice a day.  He says that every time you open up a new email, ask yourself three basic questions: 1) Is this relevant?  2) Can I solve this?  3) Will this take less than two minutes to answer?
  9. Take breaks.  Taking regular breaks during work time makes you more productive and more focused.  How many  people find themselves getting tired while they are sitting in front of their computer?  Instead of reaching for another cup of coffee or eating something sugary, try doing some exercise. I am not saying to start doing some lunges in front of your co-workers.  Instead go to the bathroom or somewhere private and perform 50 jumping jacks.  Do something to get oxygen flowing to your brain.  You will think clearer, smarter, burn calories and have more energy!
  10. Do not log on Facebook or other social media sites.  Russ Warner, CEO of ContentWatch, argues that employees waste company time with their lack of productiveness.  Access to social media and chatting programmes while trying to work end up making you less effective.  According to a survey, one of the biggest culprits of time wasting is “surfing the Internet.”  An astonishing 73% of employees between the ages of 18-35 visit non-work related websites every day at work.  If you want to finish that to-do list, log off those social media sites until after you complete a fair amount of work and want to take a break.  Those sites only serve as distractions – making you lose precious time to complete important tasks.

The difference between rising at five and seven o’clock in the morning, for 40 years…is nearly equivalent to the addition of ten years to a man’s life.

– Philip Doddridge