Tag Archives: exercise

Stop Procrastinating and Pre-Commit to Healthier Habits

Procrastinating can cost you so much more in healthcareWhat if I told you that we, as a nation, waste $317 billion a year in medical expenses just because of forgetfulness and procrastination? Research from Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, shows that the biggest healthcare issue facing the nation today is not illnesses related to smoking, excessive drinking or obesity due to overindulgence in bacon cheeseburgers, super-sized sodas and curly fries. No! It is what the healthcare industry calls “non-adherence” – not taking our medications as prescribed by the doctor, following guidelines and sticking to our promises to take better care of ourselves in general.

We all know the importance of diet and exercise. Yet, often times we just think up some lame excuse. My husband, for example, won’t eat dark, leafy greens as he claims he’s got supersensitive papillae on this tongue and therefore they taste way too bitter. And a friend of mine won’t get on what she terms the “Dread-mill,” even now in NYC when it’s too icy to walk outside, because she knew someone who caught her foot in the belt when it was moving and fell off. (Truth be told, I feel the same way about the “H-elliptical” machine!)

And how many people do all of us know who don’t sign up for a 401K even when it means they are losing out on the match made by their employer, just because they never “get around to it?” Voila! Procrastination at work!

Getting everyone to regularly focus on their health-related behaviors is the best method for combating issues ranging from obesity to missed doses of important maintenance medications. While the approach may be appealing, unfortunately, it may run headlong against millions of years of evolution. According to Bob Nease, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at Express Scripts, “Our brains, though amazing machines, simply are not made for continuous focus on anything that isn’t immediately painful or pleasurable. The gray matter in our heads can process about 10 million bits of information a second — the same bandwidth of the original Ethernet cable. Yet the conscious part, which we think of as our mind, can only process 50 bits every second. We are wired for inattention.” (Yikes! That’s a thousand times slower than dial-up!)

Ergo, the intent-behavior gap, which explains why we behave in ways detrimental to our health, despite our best intentions to do otherwise.

Nease cites Adam Davidson, who writes the weekly “It’s the Economy” column for The New York Times Magazine, as an example. Apparently, after a lifetime of trying and failing to lose weight, Davidson recently succeeded by committing to a program that left him no options. “Most diets and other good intentions fail because there’s always a third option — an easy way out — that allows us to tell ourselves we tried even while undermining our own success,” he explains. “And when we make a firm commitment that eliminates these escape routes, we are more likely to get results.”

According to Nease, there’s a concept known to behavioral science as ‘precommitment.’ The idea, in fact, was first documented as far back as the 8th Century BC. “In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus needed to sail his ship past the Sirens, who’s enchanting song tempted sailors to their deaths. So before entering those waters, he lashed himself to the ship’s mast so he could resist. His precommitment helped him stay the course.”

Nease contends, however, that he has yet to hear of a diet guru taking Odysseus’ approach literally –e.g., lashing our arms to the dining-room chair. “But some companies are working to make it easier for people to impose big financial penalties on themselves if they fail to meet their weight-loss goals. And precommitment strategies in the tradition of Odysseus propose a good way to navigate through modern life’s multitude of options and temptations to arrive at a healthier place.”

For their part, Express Scripts discovered, for example, that offering their employees the opportunity to precommit nearly tripled actual participation in a company exercise program. “If they agreed in advance to let us block the time on their calendar,” Nease insists, “they ultimately overcame the day-of excuses, showed up, and got in some good exercise.”

The real costs, both financially and heath-wise, come from non-adherence to taking prescribed medications. Forgetting to take a heart pill, for instance, could endanger your life. My husband must take the anti-blood clotting medicine Plavix thanks to his three coronary stents (hellooo filet mignons!!). His cardiologist doesn’t want him to miss even a single dose as that could mean a heart clog and possible death. (He always hides his pills when we have an argument, fearing that I will switch them for a placebo!)

Discipline and willpower are the simple answers, but remember what Bob Nease said about our being wired for inattention and inertia? Below are some simple pre-commitment techniques, starting with the ones I recommend to my audience:

• Use only smaller plates and eat in a room outside the kitchen, away from the refrigerator.

• Eliminate leftovers by buying food and preparing dishes in smaller quantities.

• Banish snack foods from the house. You can’t eat what you can’t find.

• If you’re a late riser, put the alarm clock across the room to avoid simply reaching over and swatting the Snooze — or worse, Off – button.

To precommit to your medications, I defer to Bob Nease:

• Tape a note to your refrigerator or set an alarm that will help make taking your pills part of your daily routine.

• Having your prescriptions delivered to your home in 90-day supplies has been proven to increase adherence.

• Check your prescription insurance plan to see if automatic refill reminders are available and how you can sign up to receive them.

• Long before you near the end of your final refill, schedule an appointment with your physician to renew the prescription. If you wait until the last minute, you might not be able to get there in time to stay on your therapy.

• Take advantage of being able to ‘opt out’ if your automatic enrollment gives you the choice. This approach leverages inertia – the opposite of patient engagement — by making you do something to stop the delivery.

No matter what method you use to pre-commit to all aspects of your personal wellbeing, remember that better decisions today lead to healthier results tomorrow. In other words, to feeling Better Than Before.

Exercise for Joy, Energy, and Happiness

woman-and-scale-shutterstock1Every year I set the same resolutions – lose 15 pounds, cut out refined sugar, meditate daily, exercise 5 times a week – resolutions that seem like nostalgic wishes by mid February. This year I set the intent I am living with the intent to feel energetic, creative, joyful, centered and inspired

And, while I am making a commitment to work out more often and eat more mindfully, I am committing to physical activities that make me feel connected spiritually and full emotionally rather than torturing myself just to shed pounds.

I am discovering a love of yoga (believe it or not, I am not a yogi – read about it here!) through a group class I am doing with other mom friends.  Historically, yoga has been a struggle for me as I have felt like I am “bad” at it.  But this year I am approaching it differently – inspired, as I often am, by the guiding philosophy of my good friend Tara Stiles.

Tara and I recently hosted a SCLA event in San Francisco and as I watched Tara twist and turn in amazing ways to hip hop music during our event, I noticed the intention to find joy, creativity, and challenge by those in her class. Tara’s approach to yoga made it fun, rich and fulfilling for all those in the class, even if they couldn’t keep up with her!

In an interview I did with Tara last year, she talked about the joy she discovered in yoga:  “(As a dancer), everything has to be perfect or you’re not completing the movement. That’s what was so exciting about yoga. You’re going to your own limit and finding the ease in that moment.  From a mental, spiritual and emotional aspect it was definitely key. I was like, ‘I have to do this forever!’”

What I am enjoying about my own weekly yoga class is that I can do it at my own pace.  And its social!  I have as much fun chatting with the other mom friends as I do stretching and breathing. We’ve always been big supporters of yoga here on Intent and encourage all of you to give it a try if you’re looking for a practice that not only works you out but also helps you connect to your body through your mind and spirit.

I’ve also been on a few hikes on the lovely trails here in Santa Monica where I live, not checking my phone for emails, and walking in silence noticing the beauty of nature. 

And, this weekend I plan to start running on the beach again – one of the most emotionally healing things I have done in the past. For my 40th birthday, I ran a half marathon and found a love for running because of how it made me feel emotionally. Working out with an activity that makes you feel happy and better about yourself is much healthier than doing something you hate because it’ll trim fat.

Hopefully my strategy of living with intent this year will help me realize some of the changes I am seeking in my life more effortlessly and with lasting impact.  And more importantly, because I am having fun, feeling connected and inspired, I am anticipating my physical time, rather than feeling burdened by it. This will keep me motivated to stay on the path to healthier living!

Like Mallika’s blog? Support these similar intents on Intent.com!

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6 Household Stress Busters to Beat the Stress Monster

stress monster ballFeeling the stress monster coming to get you? In our fast-paced, results-driven world, it’s a common complaint among working adults to experience stress. Consider the following things you should keep around your home to send that pesky monster on its way.

Use a Sunrise Alarm Clock

If the thought of your alarm clock going off in the morning adds stress to bedtime, consider getting a sunrise alarm clock, such as the Philips Wake-up Light. These types of alarm clocks are designed to gradually add light to your room and help your body gradually wake up rather than being jarred awake.

The best part about it is you can decide when the “sun” rises. For 30 minutes before the set time to wake up, the light will gradually get brighter and brighter. It’s especially helpful in the winter, when you might need to wake up before the actual sun rises.

Essential Oil Diffusers

It’s been found the essential oils have many useful properties, and diffusers are a great way to add the lovely scent of essential oils to the air while relieving stress. Common stress-relieving oils include lavender, citrus fruits, and vanilla. There are a few options when it comes to diffusers.

Some use ultrasonic technology to break the mixture apart and diffuse it into the air. Others use the heat from candles to diffuse the oil into the air. By using essential oils, not only will it help relieve stress, but it will also help disperse unpleasant smells in the air without using chemicals.

Comedies

Did you know that the average a child laughs 300 times a day while an adult only laughs 17 times a day? According to a paper published on the National Institutes of Health website, laughter and positive emotions produce improvements in how your immune system functions. Those people who choose to cope with stress by laughing have a greater daily positive attitude and are able to deal with stressful situations easier.

There are a variety of ways to increase the amount of laughter you experience every day. One of the easiest ways is to watch comedies, whether TV shows or movies.

Meditation Apps

With today’s technology, it’s no surprise that there are apps designed to help you relieve stress and anxieties. One of the best ways to relieve stress is with daily meditations. When we feel stressed, the adrenal gland produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol. Prolonged exposure to cortisol results in adverse effects.

According to a study through the Center of the Mind and Brain, meditation helps to decrease the resting levels of cortisol. Meditation apps help you to focus on your meditation and take you through the steps to relax your brain.

In addition to meditation apps, there are other apps that you can have on your phone to help reduce stress. Breathe2Relax takes users through diaphragmatic breathing exercises that are known to help interrupt stress receptors in the body. The Worry Box app is a great way to control stress caused by worrying. In the app, it asks questions about what is worrying you, whether that worry is something within your control, and gives you techniques for dealing with worries.

Exercise Equipment

According to the Mayo Clinic, almost any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever by increasing the amount of endorphins in your brain. When you focus on a specific exercise, whether racquetball, running or yoga, it acts as a form of meditation to help you forget about the day’s stresses. For that reason, having exercise equipment in the home is a great way to beat the stress monster.

There are a lot of options with an exercise ball to work out your entire body such as push-ups and abdominal tucks. If you love aerobic exercises that get you moving, get a Wii or Xbox Kinect and some dance games like Just Dance to work off stress.

Start a Compost Pile

Environmental awareness and lowering your carbon footprint can contribute in making you feel better about your lifestyle and help to alleviate stress. In addition to recycling and switching to eco-efficient lightbulbs, starting a compost pile in your home or apartment is a great way to do your part for the environment. According to energysavings.com, keeping a 50/50 ratio of both brown materials and green materials in your compost heap is the most efficient way to break down the organic waste. Brown materials include everything from yard waste, newspapers, peanut shells and compostable paper products. Green materials include grass clippings, egg shells and fruit and veggie scraps.

With so many ways to relieve stress, there’s really no reason for stress to build up and weigh you down. These are just some items for your home that help you release that stress that you can use whenever you start feeling tense.

Keep Your Health and Fitness Intents by Varying Your Routine

bepresenteachmomentThe most popular resolutions that are made for New Year’s relate to health and fitness. At Intent we really push the idea that you should strive not to make resolutions or physical goals like “I want to lose 30 pounds” but dig deeper in yourself and set intentions about how you want to feel for the new year – “I want to feel healthier and have a better sense of wellness.” It’s also important that to achieve your intent you set realistic smaller goals to motivate you to satisfy the intent desire in your soul. But once you have set your intent and created realistic landmarks to help you get there, how do you stay on track? According to StatisticBrain.com, 24% of people never reach their intended resolutions.

Your chances of succeeding at your intent increase as long as you keep the passion for it alive, and that means not letting yourself get bored. More than half of new exercisers quit within three to six months after starting a workout program, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). If you get bored or dread working out then you are much less likely to keep up the regimen. So how do you step out of your comfort zone? Try these tips.

  1. Try a new healthy food or recipe once a week – By expanding your food vocabulary you force yourself to learn more about the nutritional values of food, making it easier for you to make decisions about meals and snacks in the long term. Think of finding a new recipe as a new adventure. You can learn to love new foods or love your current favorites in brand new ways and this will prevent you from getting burned out on the same routine meals. “Find healthy foods you love, or learn creative ways to prepare foods so that eating is not a punishment, but a pleasant, (sometimes even spiritual) experience that involves mindfulness and togetherness,” says Sports Club/LA nutritionist Karen Sherwood.
  2. Take a group fitness class – There are so many ways to get in shape besides tying yourself to a treadmill or elliptical. It can be as simple as going for walks outside or changing your running route. Look at your local fitness center for their classes and pick something that you’ve never tried before. In September, Sports Club/LA launched their “Recess” classes, which helped adults work out by playing the games they had so much fun playing as a child.  Or you may try one of their Blitz classes which is a full body work out designed to improve your endurance, strength and power. Take a yoga class for a month and then switch to cardio dance classes. Not only do you allow yourself the chance to try new things and meet new people, but also you work out different parts of the body and you allow exercising to be something you really enjoy rather than an appointment with a machine you’ve grown to dread. You are not a hamster on a wheel, so why create a work out routine that makes you feel like one?
  3. Stay centered and in touch with your intent – Sometimes our intents evolve as time goes on and it is important to stay connected to that feeling. Trust yourself to change as your intent changes. By building a meditation or yoga practice to keep your center you can feel when a routine has started to not work and you can use your inner instincts to adapt your routine to what your body and mind are telling you it needs. “Physical activity along with peaceful practices such as yoga or meditation to help build a refreshed sense of self. This is the glue that seals in the new lifestyle as the body begins to change physically, resulting in a new stream of motivation,” Sherwood explains.

By combining these tips you not only increase your chances of reaching your intent, but you also give yourself more opportunities to grow and learn more about your health. Being adventurous with your fitness and nutrition routines not only makes the journey more interesting but you get a deeper appreciation for the journey as you go on, and that will propel you forward. We hope you take these tips to heart and that your 2014 is healthier than ever.

Why Wait: Setting Realistic Intents for 2014 to Increase Your Success

300workout_woman_shutterstock_59839090-300x389

As December draws to a close people begin looking towards the year ahead and making their resolutions. At Intent, we encourage people to think a little deeper, to set their goals based on the desires of their soul. As you are creating your list of intents for 2014 there are several things to consider. Often times people set goals that are unrealistic and when they realize that they won’t be able to reach that expectation they give up entirely. Don’t let that happen to you,especially if you are setting intents related to your health and fitness. Create goals that challenge you, but that you know you can reach so that it motivates you to keep going.

To help you start off 2014 in a healthier way, and maintain that change throughout the year, we talked to our friends at Sports Club/LA on how to set Intents that are realistic for your personality and lifestyle to help you create permanent change. Follow these tips when making your 2014 New Year Intent lists.

  1. Avoid Specific Numbers and Go for Overall Change - The most popular “resolution” on lists this year will be “Lose x amount of pounds.” Stop right there. There have been several studies that show your weight number does not necessarily correlate to your overall health, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. If you start playing a numbers game then you already set yourself up for unnecessary pressure. Instead create an intent similar to “I intend to create a healthier lifestyle for myself.” It’s more general, but it leads to more lasting change. It means not only are you going to work out, but take into account your nutrition and spiritual health as well. When you begin to think broader about your overall health, you don’t tie yourself to a treadmill trying to sweat it out into a new pair of jeans. You begin making small changes in several aspects of your life to make you a happier person in general. Challenge yourself to think deeper, not heavier.
  2. Choose Smarter Nutrition Over Fad Diets - Your eating habits can account for up to 80% of your overall weight loss, so beginning to change your nutrition needs to be taken seriously. If you start automatically on January 1 (or tomorrow) on a fad diet that cuts out all of the foods that you’ve been used to eating, you won’t last very long. Instead it is about baby steps and making small, gradual changes so that you build making healthy choices into your routine instead of something you torture yourself to do for a few weeks – because then the results will be temporary as well. Look at improving your nutrition for good as your gateway to a healthier you! “What we choose to put in our mouth is the most intimate experience we’ll have, therefore it’s important that food be looked at with the intent of supporting and nourishing the body,” says Sports Club/LA nutritionist Karen Sherwood. “Foods that the body recognizes, i.e. fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and some grains should round out a person’s diet in moderate portion sizes. Weight loss is then just side effect of a truly nourished body. “
  3. Plan Challenging Routines that Don’t Ever Extend Yourself - The likelihood of you being able to go from couch to a 7-days a week work out regimen and sustain it is very unlikely. That is nothing to be ashamed of. Instead set a more realistic goal of 2-3 days a week to begin. This way if something comes up and you can’t make it one day you are still getting in a regular routine. Or start a regular class to get your feet wet – some place that will hold you accountable without overwhelming your schedule. As Karen also explains, creating a life change is about baby steps. “To make a complete life-change, taking baby steps and “leaning” into a new way of being is key. This enables us to pave a new foundation and build from there. It must begin with nutrition, and include an active life-style with focus on self care, rest, and stress management. When all of these wheels are working in harmony, the body and its relationship to food and the outside world begins to make sustainable change.”

Look over your list of 2014 intents and check them with these tips. If your current intents feel too numbers based or too specific, take a minute to think deeper – why are you setting that intent? Why is that something you desire? When you can answer those questions,  that is your true intent and focusing on that more encompassing goal will be more fulfilling than checking off a simple box. Setting an overall intent can allow you to make smaller goals, to create a plan of baby steps to reach it. Realize that creating true change in your life takes time and don’t rush it – allow yourself the patience to get there at the pace that is right for you.

Have you started your 2014 Intent list? We’d love to hear them so share in the comments below!

What Are You Hungry For: 7 Tips to Get (and Stay) Healthy

oc-nutrition-weight-loss-food-fact-3-1By Dr. Sue G. Decotiis

Running a specialist center for medical weight loss, each day I see patients who have struggled for a long time with failed attempts at losing weight. And without a doubt, hunger has been their biggest obstacle.

Although calorie restriction is necessary for weight loss, extreme and constant hunger shouldn’t be a side effect. Experiencing this type of hunger means that the body is not functioning optimally, and that you are not eating the nutrient-dense foods needed to get through the day.

Often, other issues like fluctuating blood sugar or hormonal imbalances like poor thyroid function, alongside nutritional deficiencies, are preventing your body from running properly. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including extreme hunger.

If you have struggled with hunger and want to make a new intention to lose weight and improve your health, here are some simple steps to get you on the right track.

1) Ask some key questions

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself “How do I feel?” Consider how you feel today, this week and longer term. Then ask yourself, “Do I like what I see?”

If the answers to these questions are negative, it’s probably time to consider how you can improve the way you look and feel.

2) Assess the facts         

If you want to deal with your hunger and lose weight, it’s important to equip yourself with some essential basic data. First, find out what your body fat percentage is, and where the fat is located – hips and thighs? Abdomen?

Also find out your BMR or basal metabolic rate, which indicates how many calories your body naturally uses each day.

Your doctor can help with these assessments and tell you exactly how much fat you have in your body at present. Tracking body fat is essential to assessing progress in both weight loss and health improvement. Be sure to get a complete assessment – BMI alone is not an accurate measure of health, as it is just a ratio of your weight and height.

3) Consider Appetite

Hunger is a normal physiological response when your body has not been given fuel for a while. But experiencing constant hunger and cravings — even shortly after eating — can be a sign that your body is not functioning optimally. That’s why it’s wise to see your doctor if hunger is a real problem for you.

Control of appetite is essential for effective weight loss but there is good new for those who struggle with it. There are now many FDA-approved medications that were not available even a few years ago which can make a real difference.

I use these medications with my patients in conjunction with a healthy eating plan and physical activity, tailored to the individual’s needs. Remember, consuming nutrient-dense foods is important to how you feel, how your body is functioning and how your appetite is controlled.

4) Diet and eating plan

For weight loss success and weight maintenance, calories must be controlled. However, it is not just a question of reducing the number of calories. Instead, close attention must be paid to the balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat in specific grams. A doctor and dietitian can help you with this.

Ideally, you should have an eating plan customized to your own metabolism and specific needs. This means a plan based on your metabolic rate, body fat percentage, and muscle percentage, which are used to determine the amount of calories, protein and carbohydrates your body needs to run properly. A tailored plan like this will help control hunger and appetite, setting you on the path for success.

Once the plan is set, progress can be tracked on a Body Composition Scale to ensure fat is being lost and muscle is maintained.  

5) Physical Activity         

Physical activity revs up your metabolism, burns calories and strengthens your muscles, making it essential not only for weight loss, but especially for weight maintenance. This is why I always prescribe my patients key exercises to help them achieve – and maintain – their weight loss goals.

That’s why it’s important to track not just overall weight, but body fat and muscle percentage. Patients who maintain muscle mass throughout the weight loss process have higher success rates in keeping the weight off and staying healthy.

6) Nutritional support

Nutritional support in the form of pharmaceutical grade vitamins and supplements are also key to my patients’ success. These high quality products are more effective than over-the-counter products, which can often be cheap imitators.

I recommend a multivitamin, fish oil and probiotic to all patients, as well as adding tailored formulas depending on individual needs. This is dependent on age, medical and nutritional status, health history and possible allergies.

One of the most popular and most effective supplements I use is the Slim Plex supplement, which contains Green Tea Leaf Extract in addition to other herbs and vitamins.

7) Maintenance

The most important thing to realize about weight loss maintenance is that you may gain a few pounds back. The key is regular follow-up with your doctor and understanding that this requires lifelong management. Weight loss is not just following a “diet” and going back to old habits once you reach your goal weight.

To keep yourself on track, always keep healthy foods on hand, continue to schedule time for physical activity, be aware of external stressors and try to stay in tune with your body. If you don’t feel well or it seems that your body is not functioning as it used to, consult your doctor!

The key to our patients’ success is the multifaceted approach we take in treating them and helping them achieve their goals. Oftentimes weight control is not just a matter of “calories in versus calories out”. It’s about getting to the bottom of what’s going on in the person’s body, especially when it comes to hunger and appetite.

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 Dr. Sue G. Decotiis has over 20 years experience helping women with complex weight issues. 

This blog is part of our “What Are You Hungry For?” series with Sports Club LA and to celebrate the release of Deepak Chopra’s latest book. Find out how you can win a copy of your own here and tell us what you are hungry for in the comments below. If you don’t want to wait for the give away you can purchase a copy of Deepak’s book today. 

Why Sleep is Vital to Your Overall Health

sleeping-kittenBy: Ali Jan Qadir

The embrace of sleep can be one of the most coveted things a person can ask for after a long day. While the reason we need sleep as yet eludes medical science, it is inarguably necessary. Most of us have experienced the feeling of being tired and spent and then gone to sleep only to wake up completely refreshed—so where does the stress and tiredness go? Well obviously something happens while a person sleeps which alleviates the physical, emotional and mental exhaustions of a day. Even doctors sometimes recommend sleep as a remedy to slight fevers and stress induced headaches etc.

The virtues of sleep are far and wide and affect us in critical ways. How we generally function; our physical and mental productivity, well-being, and activity are all related to the hours of sleep we put ourselves through. Even Psychological health has been found to be effected by our sleeping habits.

Sleep has a restorative quality. While we sleep our body calms down to very low metabolism rate (basal metabolism rate) and general tiredness falls off us as we are weaned off a tiring agent (adenosine) produced by our brain while we are awake. Repairs also take place as muscle growth, protein synthesis etc. are speeded up. So when we wake up we feel refreshed as both our cognitive and physical function have completely recovered and we are again full of energy.

Uninterrupted sleep also hugely impacts the capacity to learn and our memories. When we sleep the new information we have acquisitioned in the hours we were awake is stabilized and consolidated and is stored as memory from which it is easy to recall when we’re awake; so sleep helps retain knowledge and hence enhances our learning process and memory: It makes us more productive—why this is, is a matter of conjecture but studies have found this to be the case, the more hours of sleep the better memory recall and learning a person can have and therefore the more productive a person can be.

Sleep also affects the cognitive brain functions, for right handed people, the right side controlled functions of the brain like reflexes expressive and receptive speech, complex verbal and mathematical skill are all profoundly affected by sleep—the more one sleeps the sharper all these functions will become, being able to perceive and express things better will definitely improve the on our social lives so that is a plus most will welcome.

Nowadays, in the internet age: with everything happening at super speeds and connectivity at an all-time high people care less about sleeping habits and a healthy sleeping routine, they caffeine up and take life late into the night while making room for only patches of sleep. Lack of sleep can cause irritability, moodiness, stress, and even depression–which basically translateto a nose dive in the quality of life. Motivation levels start to tank and this can lead to even worse problems. And all this can turn into a vicious cycle as stress and depression are known to cause insomnia, so one can get caught in a very bad place if one isn’t careful about sleeping habits: A person’s peace of mind will completely be ruined by such a turn of events.

To overcome sleeping disorders a very basic and simple answer is to start exerting yourself physically. Physical exertion causes fatigue in the muscles and increases body temperature so in turn is compensated by the brain by adding hours to deep sleep by cooling down and allowing muscles to relax, and it also helps in making one sleep faster and easier. Mental activities also help as one can try their hands at things like Sudoku or simpler still trying to use your unfavorable hand( left hand for someone who is right handed) etc.  This improves sleep regulation by the brain as its activity rate is improved. Distractions are also a source of lack of sleep which needs to be removed. But that doesn’t mean that one should tax the brain, because it needs to calm down for sleep to come. So the brain should be allowed to be in a relaxed state when a person is about to go to sleep—about a couple hours before bedtime that is. Caffeine drinks like Tea and Coffee or soft drinks, Alcohol and other such beverages should be avoided because both adversely affect sleep; caffeine is a well-known brain stimulant while Alcohol although it makes one drowsy at first ruins sleep after a couple of hours as it has slow acting stimulants. Another important thing is to correct one’s biological clock by making a steady routine for bedtime and getting up in the morning.

So by getting an ample amount of sleep on a regular basis one can avoid all the issues that may pop up from sleep deprivation and restore ones peace of mind, sleep is also a stress relieving exercise and additionally on top of it powers of rejuvenation it also increases productivity so it not only maintains one’s quality of life it actually improves on it. So while ‘early to bed, and early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and wise’ may be a clichéd and hackneyed phrase it is in fact a wise motto to believe in.

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Ali Jan Qadir is passionate about sharing what he learns. His articles always aims to give useful advice to his readers. His writing ranges from productivity to art. He also runs a blog about sleep and beds where his questions answers like what’s the best bed for back sleepers.

4 Simple Tools To Change Your Life

Lucas muscle pose1. A Vital Body
You want to keep this vessel — your body — for many years to come. And the road to doing that starts today. This means doing all the things that keep your body healthy. Slacking off on keeping your body healthy makes no sense, because it takes away from the sustainability of the vessel that keeps you alive. To not take care of your body properly could mean years taken off of your life. So that involves drinking plenty of water, exercising, making an effort to eat healthy, quitting smoking — because this body is the only one you are ever going to have. This won’t just affect your longevity, but also the quality of your life as you live it.

2. Body Posture
What you achieve in life is absolutely dependent upon the way you carry yourself. Carry yourself well and people more readily accept you and respect you as a person. To do this, you’ll need open, inviting body language. Stand up tall and look people in the eyes. They will see you as confident and together, and treat you as such. A strong body posture affects not only how others see us, but also how we see ourselves. Not convinced? Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk and give “power posing” a try.

3. Movement
Changing your physiology is an easy and effective way to change your overall state. Tony Robbins has been advocating this for years. When I’m in a lousy (unresourceful) state, I snap myself out of it by walking, singing, dancing, or exercising. Getting the blood pumping will do more than you’d expect and increase endorphin production in your system.

One day I was walking down the street in New York City, and I was mad. I was so upset; I felt that I couldn’t even look people in the eye. Just as a game, I decided to put a smile on my face. Now, this was a fake, terrible smile, it must have looked terrifying. But even after a minute of this, I felt so goofy with this fake smile that it made me laugh. With a smile on my face, people around me smiled back. Now remember that this is New York City, people don’t usually smile at each other as they pass by. Imagine how we could change the world simply by living our lives with a smile on our face and a good attitude. So go ahead, give it a try.

4. Focus
Combine your change in physiology with a change in focus to jumpstart major changes in your life. There’s a Hawaiian proverb: “Energy flows where attention goes.” Put another way, what you focus on manifests in your life. I invite you to step back and look at your life for a moment. You can evaluate it in two ways. You can focus on your fears and on the obstacles ahead. Or, you can appreciate what you have in your life and focus on and what you desire. Which of these two you choose will dramatically impact the quality of your experiences. The way you approach your problems impacts how well you are able to solve them. This will ultimately cause you to — or prevent you from — achieving your dreams. How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a winner or a loser? Because at the end of the day, the only one preventing you from becoming the person you want to be is you. Your identity may be influenced by your surroundings, peer group and upbringing, but ultimately it’s created by you.

Are you ready to improve the quality of your life? To feel happier, to feel better about yourself and about your relationships? It is all inside you: the ability to positively affect your state by changing your physiology and your focus. It is easy to make simple life changes that will lead to a lifetime of happiness. Now get out there and lead an OUTSTANDING life!

Trick or Tips For Having a Healthier Halloween

Halloween - PumpkinsI hesitate to admit, but Halloween is my favorite ‘holiday’ of all. I am not above sending cards and messages to family and friends telling them to have a Happy ‘Boo’ Day. Or a ‘Fang’tastic Afternoon.  Or a “Spook’tacluar Evening. Once I even wore a T-shirt emblazoned with: “Ding Dong, the witch isn’t dead.” (And, alas, nobody begged to differ.) I have been known to serve cocktails with a peeled grape at the bottom of the glass. (Eyeballs, see?) And display whole a cauliflower as a centerpiece. (A brain, understand?)

My kids loved it, too. After all, it’s the one night of the year when we let our children ring door bells and accept candy from total strangers –albeit friendly neighborhood ones. (Ah, such illicit liberation.) My babies are all grown up now. So that leaves my husband and me to carry on the tradition. While he doesn’t actually trick or treat — I mean, he’s a lawyer –and even they have certain standards — he likes it for a different reason.  I let him buy candy. That being said, he also never fails to fool me. We start off on a positive note. He is very concerned about what he will be handing out to the wee ones. So he methodically sorts through the bags of goodies at our local chain pharmacy

“Not this,” he says, throwing back the fun-sized Butterfingers. “Too many calories! Not these either,” he sneers, turning his attention to the Star Burst Fruit Chews. “Sugar and fat!” The Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins also didn’t make the cut. Neither did the Laffy Taffy, Mounds, Baby Ruth’s, or Tootsie Pops. “That’s just begging to go to the dentist.”

Finally, he reaches the Snickers Minis. “These,” he announces, with a satisfied smile. “These are good!! A nice balance of carbohydrates with the protein of peanuts.”

Well, suffice it to say, his largesse in suddenly caring for the well-being of the little tykes in our building always seems disingenuous. The reason? Snickers Minis (preferably frozen) are the only candy he eats. So I suspect that half of them won’t make it into their plastic pumpkins. Yet I fall for it every time.

And I am always right. Not only does he insist on giving out the, er, ‘boo’-ty all by himself, but when I check the freezer before I go to bed, guess what I find hiding behind the frozen spinach? Yep, the  Snickers Minis. His sneaky little plan is to eat them himself, as snacks, during the week.

With that in mind, focusing on the adults for a moment, I asked Julie Erickson, nutrition expert and owner of Endurance Pilates & Yoga, to share a few simple suggestions we should keep in mind when choosing our treats. And if we do indulge, how to deal with the extra calories:

1. Look at the ingredients: Some of the tastiest candies have some of the scariest chemicals. Choose ones that have shorter ingredient lists and contain less chemicals and processed compounds. For example, if you are deciding between sweet and fruity candies, Swedish Fish have 9 ingredients, the first being real sugar. Strawberry Twizzlers have 20, including  corn syrup  (the first listed) and a chemical preservative.

2. Be honest: If you cannot control your sweet tooth, don’t purchase the candies that you like to give away to the kids. Instead, buy yourself a single serving of your favorite treat and get giant bags of the snacks that won’t tempt you as much.

3. Check out serving sizes, calories and nutrients: One serving of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (2 cups) contains 13 grams of fat- 20% of the recommended daily value.  One Hershey’s Bar provides 40% of the recommended daily value of saturated fat. If you want to indulge, be sure to limit consumption during your regular meals throughout the day.

Exercise-wise, to work off the extra candy-induced (would-be) poundage, Julie recommends the Halloween HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training) 30 minute Calorie Scorcher below. (Note: This is an advanced level workout that assumes a high level of fitness going in. It is designed to burn off as many calories as possible in a half hour. The number of repetitions or duration of each group, however,  can be reduced for those who are newer to exercise. But whatever your fitness level, the effort on the work phases should be all out and the rests should be a complete stop.

1. Warm-up: Run for one mile run at VO2 Max (as fast as you can).. Rest 30 seconds.

2. Jump Rope: For 4 Minutes. Rest 30 seconds.

3. Tabata Pushup Sequence: Push-ups for 20 seconds. Rest 10 seconds. Repeat 8x. (Tabata is another form of HIT).

4. Pilates Rollups/Neck Pulls: Lie on the floor, arms and legs extended. Roll upper body away from floor, stretching arms and chest up and over legs and reaching past toes.  Repeat 10x. Try rolling up from the floor with hands behind the head. Repeat 10x.

5. Tabata Cone Hop Sequence: Jump side to side over a small cone for 20 seconds. Rest 10 seconds.  Repeat 8x.

6. Plank/Teaser holds: Alternate these two power stretches: Facing the mat, press forearms into the floor and extend legs out like the ‘up’ part of a pushup so that thighs are off the ground and toes are curled under. Hold Plank for 30 seconds. Rest 10 seconds. This is the Forearm Plank stretch. For the Teaser stretch, sit up for 30 seconds on the mat with your pelvis tilted, legs extended to 45 degrees and your arms parallel to your legs. Switch back and forth until you have done both stretches 4x.

7. Burpees: From standing, leap into the air with the arms stretching overhead as high as possible. Then fall into a squat position with your hands and feet on the mat and jump your feet back to the ‘up’ part of a pushup position. Immediately do one full pushup, then quickly jump your feet forward toward your hands again and start leap from this crouch position. Repeat 10x.

Armed with the above info, go ahead and eat your Snickers Minis.  But as Julie suggested, try to show some restraint. (Even The Lawyer keeps it to one a day until his cache runs out.) Just know that I scare because I care. I ‘witch’ you all a happy and healthy Halloween. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Deepak Chopra: 5 Steps to Take Charge of Your Wellness (Part 2)

Scale-Apple-Measuring-Tape-DietContinued from Part 1, here are the final 3 steps to take charge of your wellness:

Step 3: Identify Harmful Patterns

To change your negative habits, you have to know what they are. Some bad habits, like smoking and excessive drinking, are obvious, but others may be less so. Sitting all day is damaging to your health, even if you get half an hour of exercise or more before or after work. Depriving yourself of eight hours’ sleep for even a short period is also hard on the body in ways that sleep researchers are just beginning to fully recognize.

Forming a new habit takes repetition and focus, and if your attention is elsewhere you may have a harder time adjusting to new behaviors. For that reason, some experts advise against planning big changes if you are going through a particularly stressful period. I think that reasoning is wrong. Although it’s true that you are likely to have more setbacks at such times, it’s just as true that people change as a result of meeting challenges and crises: “Aha” moments occur quite often when somebody hits bottom.

Visualizing your desired outcome is a useful tool in your journey. “Seeing” yourself as you wish to be has helped smokers quit, obese people lose weight, and sports champions achieve their goals. In order to change the printout of the body, you must learn to rewrite the software of the mind. This truism is reinforced by brain scans that show a decrease in certain higher functions (making good decisions, following reason over impulse, resisting temptation) when a person falls into a pattern of giving in to a wide range of lower impulses, such as fear, anger, or simply physical hunger. You need to implement a healing regimen that encourages and rewards your good choices if you want brain pathways to follow suit.

Step 4: Make Steady Changes

Even though you are working on the big picture, for psychological reasons a series of small victories is desirable. In essence, you are training your brain to succeed. Most of us, having been defeated by old conditioning, take the course of least resistance, not realizing that we are training our brains into pathways that rob us of free will over time.

So begin with a victory you can define and which means something to you. Skip red meat for a week. Take the stairs, not the elevator. If you’re very out of shape, walk 10 minutes every day and gradually build up your time. Put down your fork halfway through your meal, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself if you’re still hungry. If you work at a desk, make it a rule to always stand or pace when you’re on the phone. Over time, what seem like baby steps produce new physiological changes in every cell of the body. Trillions of cells are eavesdropping on your every thought and action. Instead of pretending that your body doesn’t know what you’re doing, make yourself the gift of delivering good news to your cells.

In my view, the most important victories occur in awareness, however. If you tend to procrastinate, be aware of the reasons you do it. We get comfortable in our warm, fuzzy old routines, and making changes, even small ones, feels threatening psychologically, as if even a positive change is a risk. Predict when you will procrastinate and invent a strategy to outmaneuver your future self. For example, if you know you’ll be tempted to hit the snooze button instead of getting up for an early morning jog, put your exercise clothes across the room from your bed—with your alarm clock on top.

Step 5: Reinforce Good Decisions

Sometimes brain research underlines the obvious, but it is a breakthrough to observe MRI scans and see for yourself that good decisions “light up the brain” in ways that are different from bad decisions. In the larger scheme, when you undertake a wellness program, you will be faced every day with the choice to stay the course or abandon your mission. How does your brain make choices, then?

Executive control, which means choosing a thought or action to meet an internal goal, is managed by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala play roles in regulating decision-making based on the memory of feelings. Regions of the midbrain in which the neurotransmitter dopamine is predominant also influence decision-making. Some of the choices that trigger dopamine’s release: eating sweet foods, taking drugs, having sex.

We may overindulge in chocolate cake because we tend to value the short-term outcome we know (deliciousness) over the long-term outcome we have never experienced (weight loss and increased energy from better nutrition). One way to break that cycle is to reward ourselves in a different way. Instead of eating cake, we can go play a game or listen to music.

How long does it take to form a new habit? An average of 66 days, according to a 2009 study from University College, London. Repetition and giving yourself time to adjust are the main factors in forming a new behavior pattern.

For more information go to: www.deepakchopra.com

Follow Deepak on Twitter

 

Originally published February 2012

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