Tag Archives: health

This Summer, Get Your Life Back Together

This summer is all about big and scary changes for me. What about you? What areas in your life — mental, financial, relationships with siblings or spouses, diet, etc. — need the most improvement? What makes you frustrated or unhappy is the area that needs the most work. Let summer 2013 be all about making healthy steps forward, not backward.

1. Mental Health 

Do you wish you had someone to talk to in confidence? Do you feel depressed, angry, hopeless or frustrated and not sure how to get out of this mess? Gather up your courage and locate a mental health professional. Focus on practical methods of therapy that will help you to focus immediately on the major issues and he or she will guide you to make the necessary changes in life.

  • Find a therapist at therapists.psychologytoday.com and enter your zip code.
  • Choose someone that specializes in areas you need work on (eg: anxiety or substance abuse, marriage counseling) and that accepts your insurance or offers a sliding fee scale — one of the most common reasons for putting off seeing a therapist is the thought that one cannot afford it — not true!
  • Make an appointment for next week.

2. Physical Health

Feel sluggish all the time, tired, and winded going up a few flights of stairs? Recently gained weight? Never exercise? It’s time to change.

  • Start small — 3 times a week for about 30 minutes.
  • Make it easy — take a walk after dinner. No purchases required to get fit.
  • Make it fun — involve your friends/family. Play tennis, play tag with kids, go to the beach and walk along the shore, go swimming, take Zumba, etc. Find something you like.
  • Make it last — attach the habit of exercising with something you already do everyday. Drive past a gym on the way home from work? Keep your gym clothes in your car and head there immediately before going home. Need to watch a certain show every night? Exercise during that program.

3. Spiritual Health

  • If you are religious and have been slacking on going to your church/temple/place of worship, it’s time to recommit. It’s a great place to feel a sense of community and faith like nowhere else and feel like you’re part of a bigger whole, which is comforting. Also, start reading your passages and reflecting silently, too. How can you be a better Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/etc. person today? Can you volunteer, help someone, read a new passage, pray, be closer to nature?
  • If not religious, you can still work on your spiritual health. Practice saying a mantra everyday that makes you feel empowered. Or go to a quiet place of nature and reflect silently.Take steps everyday to remain positive in your life and believe in the magick/karma/The Secret. Meditate. Do yoga. Feel more in tune with your body & soul. Align yourself — become more balanced.

4. Diet/Nutrition

  • This is an important step. Diet has a profound impact on the way we feel, think, and our ability to perform/function in our daily lives. Take this summer to practice eating habits that make you feel better. Journal what you eat, at what time, and how hungry you were. Note how it makes you feel after eating and what emotion you were feeling. Note trends in how you feel hours later or the next day, too — especially if you eat a lot of carbs (sluggish, tired, bloated). Change your habits one meal at a time and become more conscious of the calories you consume — though you don’t have to count them, it’s a good idea if you want to lose weight.
  • Eat cleaner, local, organic foods — search for local farmers markets in your area.
  • Eat more vegetables. Every meal. And try a new veggie once a week or so.
  • Drink water, not calories. An easy way to lose weight and feel better is to drink more water and replace sodas/juices/etc. with water.

5. Social Life/Happiness/Relationships

This is an important one to work on. Ask yourself honestly: How can you be a better…daughter, mother, son, father, wife, husband, friend, relative?

  • What relationships in your life are fading and need TLC? Who can you call that will brighten their face? Catch up with old friends.
  • Ditch the toxic people in your life, as well. If you feel negative when you’re around, make bad decisions like drink/smoke, or if they treat you badly, ditch them. Life is too short to hang around with awful friends. You can always make new friends that align with your goals. Seek them out.
  • Do something that makes you happy everyday. Even if it’s a little bit selfish. If you are not happy everyday, than what is the point of living — seek help if you are feeling depressed, and seek ways to bring happiness into your life on a constant basis.
  • Make an effort to be social, friendly, and confident — even if you don’t feel like it, fake it. It will get easier, I promise.

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If this article helped or inspired you in any way please let me know what you will be working on this summer. I have my own list and I’d like to see what you will be up to.

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3 Quick Life Hacker Tips: Sunday Edition

  • It’s important to be consistent in healthy and creative habits.
  • Remain positive even if you have to force yourself: adjust your attitude.
  • Put your goals in your view everyday, all the time — write them down, think about them, be a little bit obsessed — it’s how you become great.

check this out for great positive images on Pinterest.

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Convince Yourself to Hit the Gym: Jillian Michael’s Mind Trick

In an interview with Shape magazine, Jillian Michaels shares her top mind trick for working out when she doesn’t feel like it:

SHAPE: On those days you just don’t want to work out, how do you convince yourself to get out of bed and do it?
JM: I play mind games. I tell myself how grumpy ill be if I don’t work out and think about how lethargic I’ll feel the next day. I promise myself that I will just do 15 minutes and if I am still miserable I’ll stop. There hasn’t been one time I didn’t stay to finish at least 30. Once you are there and the endorphins kick you, you find the strength to power through.

You can read the entire article here.

Why does this work?

  • You turn a negative thought: I don’t want to workout today — into a positive one: Okay, I’ll just do 5-10 minutes and stop.
  • You give yourself permission to start by lowering expectations — it can be overwhelming trying to exercise for 30 min, 45 min, 60 min 4-5 days per week. By saying it’s okay to just START NOW, and say it’s okay to stop if you want, you bring yourself on that machine or to push play on that workout video.
  • After starting, the hardest part is over — Jillian Michaels says that she has never stayed to finish at least 30 minutes of her workout — I guarantee that you will, too.
  • Even if you do decide to stop after 10-15 minutes, SOMETHING is always better than NOTHING. Studies have shown that 3 bouts of 10-15 minute exercises can be just as effective as one long workout.

So get going! Some last inspiring words from Jillian:

Start giving yourself all the affection and attention that you give others, and I promise that not only will your attitude and self worth change, but your waistline as well.

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Why You Eat When You’re Sad

This is an extension of the post I did a few days ago called How to Stop Emotional Eating – For Good. Emotional eating can take many forms, but most people can probably agree that it is when you are sad that the cravings for cookies and ice cream start calling. I wanted to do a more in depth exploration of why this happens, and of course, ways to help overcome it.

Stress.

The number one reason we will eat is due to the stress that negative emotions cause us, especially sadness. Most times, stress goes hand in hand with depression and can either be a symptom or a factor in being sad. When we’re stressed, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which creates cravings for unhealthy foods and stores these extra calories in the belly, the visceral fat region which is a danger zone for heart attacks. Some people also feel the need to soothe their oral fixation caused by anxiety or any other emotion, which can be soothed by the repetitive motion of picking up handfuls of food into the mouth.

So how to reduce stress? There’s plenty of techniques, but here’s just a few to get you started:

  • Meditation – it sounds corny, but it really does work. Search around for some meditation videos on YouTube like this one or this one, and lay down face up (or however you’re most comfortable) with arms down your side and preferably headphones on. Listen to the music, or the music with guided meditation (helps with imagery). A good meditation session will leave you less stressed and relaxed like you’ve just woken for a nap.
  • Nap – if the meditation isn’t your thing, then you can take an actual nap. It doesn’t quite solve anything, but it does help you to sleep on some hard decisions.
  • Deep breathing – breathe deeply through your nose for about 5 seconds, hold for just a sec, and slowly release through your mouth for about 5-10 seconds. Do this for a couple of minutes, especially at moments of high stress, and see how you feel.
  • Yoga – yoga is another thing that’s not for everyone, but if you like it, you’ll love it. You can also do some basic stretching (not yoga-y) while using the deep breathing technique to really reap the benefits. You can do a quick pose when you’re feeling stressed at the office, or you can do it every time you wake up (and do the Sun Salutation).

Numb or Distract Ourselves.

Going back to the pain/pleasure principles discussed in the How to Stop Emotional Eating – For Good article, people don’t like to feel pain and will instinctively find any way to stop pain and increase pleasure. This often includes distracting ourselves from difficult news or emotions. Food is a way to distract ourselves from the pain and to induce pleasure with the chemicals and sugars found in foods. The repetitive act of eating is soothing, as well as the sensations of food which cut off our thoughts.

Habits/Learned Associations, such as from Childhood.

Most moms can admit to using an ice cream cone as a pick-me-up for their children when they get a minor injury, such as falling off a bike. However, if used enough times, the child can learn to associate good feelings with food. Food is seen as the way to make the pain go away, or to stop crying. Maybe moms should start using carrots instead of cupcakes, and the world will be a better place 🙂 Ahh, but even though this may be an ingrained response from childhood, it is fairly simple to unlearn the association. One way is fear – imagine spiders and other gross things on your favorite junk food item or literally throw dirt on your junk food item before you’re about to eat it (a waste of food yes, but for an important point). Or as soon as you feel a craving for that specific treat, such as ice cream, pinch your wrist very hard. Soon you will learn to associate the junk food with pain.

As an example: One time I spent far too much time on Youtube watching gross videos about decaying animals, just for the curiosity of how flies and maggots play the role in the circle of life. I had also watched a fascinating time lapse of all kinds of fruit decaying and molding in a bowl. Unfortunately, the next day my sister gave me a cherry to eat, and I literally could not stomach the thought of eating that cherry. It disgusted me to look at the fruit and be reminded of that video. So it can be done. Next time I’ll try to find something about ice cream.

Ignoring the Larger Problem(s).

This is related to numbing/distraction, but usually the problem is far worse than normal thoughts throughout the day. Perhaps you have a dark secret that even yourself cannot bear to think about – do you have a sudden urge to eat potato chips or the like? Some people hide their disparity about their failing marriages or their cheating husbands by gorging on food at night because they can no longer cry about it, or the food helps them ignore the problem. This is when it is time to see a professional, to uproot these issues. Being raped or molested is another huge reason girls will overeat, as a way to provide a buffer so that they won’t be noticed by predators. Short of seeing a therapist, which is highly recommended (especially if you’re eating to cover up feelings about serious depression or suicidal/harmful thoughts), you can try these things:

  • Journal! Write it out, and tackle your feelings head on. Write a story about it, in third person if you must, and share it with someone. Chances are there are a lot of people who can relate, too. Sharing makes it easier to go through the experience.
  • Pick up a creative hobby to do instead of eating. Can’t write or talk about it? Try drawing or painting. You don’t have to be good at it, just do it for the therapy.
  • Try CBT therapy on your own. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a technique that many therapists are skilled in. You can try a simplified version by yourself, if you’d like: CBT’s goal is to find out the reasoning behind your behaviors and to try to alter your thinking patterns and inspire better behaviors. For example, your undesired behavior is that you eat too much, and your cognitive functioning is that you eat because you’re sad. Write out why you do this, and find the real problems. If you’re crying, or it feels hard, then you’ve found the real reasons. Once you’ve pin-pointed the thoughts that are making you do this behavior, then it’s time to find out how to change those thoughts and therefore your behavior. Whenever you think a negative thought, change it into a positive. Work on your self esteem. Change your surroundings so that you can change your problem. And then you can also consciously work on changing your behavior. The two are related, so you’ll start seeing improvement both ways. It’s usually a long, difficult and drawn out process – which is why professional help is recommended. I’ll write a post more about CBT later, however.
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How Positive Psychology Can Help Improve Your Life

Most psychology topics deal with dysfunction or mental illness, and it can take a toll on how we feel about the state of human life and question the intentions of people. However, the burgeoning field of positive psychology explores what makes life worth living, which can be a radical inspiration in the midst of  this crazy/beautiful life.

There are many things that the science of positive psychology has taught the world since its introduction just over a decade ago, such as that most people are happy and resilient and that strong relationships are critical to one’s sense of happiness, but perhaps the most significant one is that the good life can be taught. It is not by fate or genetics that people become happy. Happiness and feeling satisfied in one’s life truly is a journey that must be discovered through trial and error, of break ups and make ups, of reading and learning and experiencing all that life has to offer. So how can this scientific breakthrough help your life?

Don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment. Grow out of your comfort zone and do something a little bit crazy. Explore a new city or town, meet a new friend, try a new dish. Take a class you would never have thought to take, read a book in a genre you thought you’d hate. Try a new exercise, a new fruit, make a recipe from scratch. Bake vegan brownies. Browse around Wikipedia and learn something new. Discover new heroes and inspirational figures. Watch the sunrise, watch the sunset. Learn a new sport, learn a new language. Try a new hobby. Try painting. The ideas are endless.

Keep your mind flexible by always reading and learning something new. Read a new blog article per day (such as this one) or a new chapter in an inspiring book. And keep your heart full by nourishing your relationships with your family, friends, and significant other. Give hugs and kisses, and talk on the phone and in person. Have deep, meaningful conversations.

Think about the positives, not the negatives. Whenever you catch yourself thinking a negative thought about yourself, catch it and re-write it in your mind so that it states something positive. Review an affirmation everyday and read your goals to keep your vision in your mind. Free write every morning in a journal and get out all of that negative thought garbage out of your head and literally rip up the page and throw it away. On a new page, write 10 things you love about yourself and 10 things you could do today to work towards your goals on improving yourself.

Think of your goals in a positive light, not negative one by stating that you wish to achieve financial abundance, not to get out of debt. Work out everyday to become a healthy, thin person instead of losing weight. Say that you want to only put healthy things in your mouth, don’t say that you want to stop eating junk food or drinking alcohol. Think of what to replace in your life, not what to get rid of, which usually has a negative connotation. Think back to operant conditioning, where the positive reinforcement system is better than a negative punishment. Think of giving yourself positive things in your life to increase good behaviors, rather than thinking of always adding punishment or decreasing good things to decrease bad behaviors. Not only will this way of thinking help you think of life as more satisfying and positive, but it also tells you more clearly what kind of life you are after, and not what you are not after.

Inspired by Psychology Today’s What is positive psychology and what is it not?

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Why You Should Give Up Mobile Surfing, Redbox, and Facebook

Surfing The WebTake a look at everything you either spend money on or time on. What do you see?

 

Does this list reflect your life’s goals or priorities? If not, you need to start an overhaul, or spring cleaning, of life’s worst time-suckers and money-wasters.

Here’s an example of things that I have spent or still do spend money on many times a week. Upon reflection, my life (and yours) could be far better without.

 

  • Web surfing on a smartphone. Do you have an iPhone, Android, or other smartphone that has web capabilities? Do you realize how much battery life this sucks out? Not to mention the additional monthly fee you spend just because you couldn’t wait to search on Google or watch a video on Youtube. Is your mobile web really worth missing out on the real social interactions you get from being outside of your home? It seriously pisses me off when I see people’s heads down at a club or a party, constantly looking on Facebook or texting other people. There’s real people to talk to right here!
  • Daily ice cream treat. I love ice cream, seriously. I love it so much that I have cravings for it everyday. Which is exactly why I need to quit this habit. A small treat here and there is totally fine, but if you’re constantly filling a huge bowl, grabbing seconds, or ordering the large cones, it’s time to quit cold turkey. A bad habit could turn into an addiction very quickly, especially if it’s delicious, creamy, and on sale 2/$5 at Stop & Shop.
  • Ordering french fries and soda. Eating out is something that should be on the quit list entirely, but mostly the real killer is not the main meal – they are a) the side and b) what you drink.  French fries are nothing but processed, fat-laden garbage that also tastes pretty decent. When you really pay attention to the taste, fry by fry, however, you’ll discover that it is more the tongue-numbing salt that is doing its job of making you shovel those faux potatos in your mouth. Ever take a bite out of an unsalted fry, and thought, this is pretty bland? That is because they are — and should be completely eliminated. Especially because all of that salt (in addition to your sandwich or burger) makes you thirsty like hell. The absolute worst thing to drink when you’re thirsty is caffeine, because it just makes you more dehydrated. Soda contains caffeine and sugar. So not only are you making yourself bloated, dehydrated, and fat, you’re also adding in completely empty calories, which is the nutrition equivalent of throwing money out the window.
  • Redbox. I like this movie renting box so much, I usually never pass an opportunity to go take a look at what’s inside, but it operates on the same principle of dollar stores and Ebay. They all lure you in with really cheap prices (usually a $1) so you’re only thinking, “Wow, only one dollar! I can’t pass this up!” But while you’re ordering more and more stuff, you’re brain is still excited about the sticker shock (in this case, the shock of a great deal), so it’s not mentally keeping track of how much stuff you’re buying. And pretty soon that $1 movie ends up being three $1 movies that you don’t return until Friday, which ends up being about $9 for three nights. I’ve seen a couple very good movies from Redbox, but compared to how many I’ve rented, that’s a very small percentage (maybe 5%). Most of them I end up getting mad at, so it’s still a dollar that I wasted (and 1-2 hours). And usually every time I go bring a movie back I will look for more, so pretty soon I’m steadily buying at least one $1 movie every night. Do this for a month, and that’s $30 spent on mostly crappy movies. Small amounts really do add up fast (what would you do with over $300 extra a year? Definitely not rent bad movies).
  • Obsessive Facebook and email checking. Ever been so bored online that you constantly keep going back to your inbox or Facebook (or other social networking site) every like, 10 minutes? It rips you out of whatever else you were doing, or should have been doing (college students, I’m talking about you. I know, I do it too). And once you change gears, it takes a while to re-focus and bring yourself back to what you were doing. If you find your motivation waning that much, it is best to take a real break – get off the computer and eat a snack, or go to bed, depending on the time. Take a quick stretch break if you’re in the midst of studying, and get some real social interaction for a couple of minutes (maybe you can even get new ideas). Next time you find yourself absentmindedly surfing, it’s best to catch yourself as soon as you can and just close the laptop and reserve doing these things once a day or even once a week, if you can allow yourself to do that.
  • Spontaneous bar outings. These are serious money-wasters. It’s fine to have fun every now and then, and to take advantage of specials like free ladies night or $2 tuesdays. But going out more than once or twice a week (or month), can burn a serious hole into your wallet. On an especially fun night, I’ll end up spending about $50. On a single night. Every week, that amounts to an extra $200 that I could better spend on paring down my recurring credit card balances or put into my savings for emergencies. I know many people that go out as much as 4 times per week, and can’t imagine the money they waste on drinks and cover prices, not to mention gas. Going out that frequently also takes a toll on your health (sugary alcoholic drinks, hangovers, and usually inhaling greasy bar or diner food at odd hours, is not healthy). It is best to reserve club nights and bar nights to maybe once or twice a month, and/or have a strict budget in mind, like only bringing $20 in cash and leaving your card at home. Also, do most of your drinking during the pregame (it’s cheaper), and choose venues that offer specials or discounts.
  • Casual mall-going or retail shopping. I’m a girl, so I’m no stranger to the magic powers of retail therapy. It’s how most girls spend their free time and communicate serious topics with their friends. Plus, buying stuff brings about a certain power, like, “I can afford to buy this,” especially if it’s well-desired (like an iPhone) or expensive (like an iPhone). Unfortunately, this is where most of my money seems to disappear. If I don’t have a concrete need to buy something, like an urgent need to buy a new shirt because my favorite one hit the dust, then it’s best not to go at all. Or at least leave your cash and cards at home. Charging is even worse, because you forget all about having to pay for it until well after shopper’s regret comes and goes, plus you have to pay interest, which is like throwing money away.
Are there any things I forgot? What small things do you waste money, time, or both, either regularly or unintentionally?
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