Tag Archives: Learning About Health

Reinforce Your Resolution

12 Jan

Resolutions are tricky; we want to set a goal that really matters, but not something so crazy we could never achieve it. Some of us shoot for the moon and others are still contemplating that perfect goal. For all who really want to see improvements in life, here are a few things that can boost you toward your desired outcome, whether you call it a resolution or just a much needed change.

  1. Get focused. Make sure you’re targeting your desired outcome. Let’s use weight loss as an example. It’s a good start to say you want to lose 15 pounds in the New Year, but give yourself a little time to think about it. What do you believe losing the weight will do for you? Do you want to be in a smaller size, or do you want to tighten up in specific areas? Losing the weight may or may not get you to those specific outcomes unless you identify in advance exactly what you want.
  2. Quantify where you are and where you want to be. With weight or clothing size, this step is pretty easy, but it takes some thought when it comes to goals that aren’t numbers driven. Drilling down to the specifics pays off and makes it much easier to see your progress, and course correct if you’re getting off track.
  3. Determine the pay-off for you and others. Imagine that you’ve met your goal. How does that change your day-to-day life? How does it change things for your loved ones? What are the long-term benefits of this accomplishment? If the resolution is a big leap for you, it may be helpful to visualize your accomplishment by creating an inspiration board or journaling as if you have already achieved the goal. (This can be useful throughout the year as inspiration, reminding you that the benefits will be bigger than the obstacles.)
  4. Think beyond the resolution. What has contributed to the issue or current status? What changes and actions will help you achieve your resolution? As you consider these questions, it may be helpful to revisit the last step to remind you why this goal is so important to you.
  5. Identify obstacles & plan a counterstrike. Take some time to think about the barriers you may face and the weaknesses you could experience as you work toward your goal. When you identify what may come between you and your desired future, plan around it. For each obstacle, give yourself options, reinforcement and support that you can use when you need it the most.
  6. Set mile markers. To keep you moving toward your goal, it’s helpful to see progress as you go. Breaking down your goal into smaller steps allows you to see progress as you go and allows you accomplish it in reasonable segments. The quantified info from step 2 may help you identify specific, reasonable incremental goals.
  7. Reward yourself. Plan to win and give yourself benefits along the way. If your goal is to get into a smaller size, don’t hold back all the reward until you get there. Buy something flattering at the halfway point, or enjoy a rejuvenating relaxation day. (Just make sure your reward is supportive of your goal!)
  8. Review & revise. One reason resolutions are broken is that we’re no longer in alignment with the goal. We can lose sight of the importance, feel frustrated, or believe we’re not on track to succeed. When you give yourself an opportunity to review the resolution, you can refresh your commitment or revise the plan so you can reap the rewards of your resolution.

These steps should help you achieve your resolutions and minimize stress and frustration while you work toward them. Cheers!

 

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How Relaxation Can Make You Healthier & Happier

8 Jun

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With all that we have to do in a day, it isn’t easy to take time out for relaxation, but the health benefits are definitely worth it. I’ve gotten some great questions from clients about relaxation and thought a quick Q&A review could help encourage you to commit to a daily relaxation practice.

What benefits can be gained from relaxation?

Mindful relaxation (relaxation with intention) has been proven to lower stress and the resulting physical effects including: muscle tension, elevated heart rate, unhealthy cortisol fluctuation, hormone imbalances, irregular metabolism, and heightened inflammation. Research shows that regular relaxation can:

– Improve heart health and reduce the risk of stroke;

– Improve immune function;

– Boost memory;

– Reduce the incidence of depression;

– Improve focus, attention, decision making (and even test scores!);

– Help overcome cravings and weight issues;

– Reduce acne; and

– Improve hormone levels.

How does relaxation improve health?

When we’re truly relaxed, the body sends signals to the brain that we are content and safe. Heart rate slows, breathing is deep and steady, muscles relax and blood pressure is regulated. These physical changes allow the brain to shift out of activation mode (fight or flight) and into a neutral, balanced state – which then allows cortisol levels to lower.

When we’re in fight or flight, our brain is laser focused on essential survival functions – ready to defend and preserve. When we relax regularly and shift into neutral, it reduces stress on the body and brain and promotes a more balanced state, even after the relaxation has ended. When our brain is in neutral and no longer over-activated, we’re able to live our lives more comfortably and joyfully, with greater health – and we have an improved capability to respond to an urgent matter when necessary.

Isn’t relaxation the same thing as sleep?

No, sleep is critical for health too, it just serves a different function. The brain is very busy as we sleep – communicating with the body and converting short-term memories to long-term.  One of the values of doing relaxation when you’re awake is that it teaches the brain to move out of the higher frequency activity while you’re alert. Being calm and relaxed during the day in contrast to being action-focused is a way of informing the brain that we are not at risk, so the brain can commit resources to all “non-essential” functions (like being calm, experiencing happiness, and digesting food properly).

How long do I need to relax each day?

To really give your brain a clear indication that you’re safe and are well served in neutral, it’s best to relax about twenty minutes, once each day. This give you enough time to get into a relaxed rhythm of breath and achieve a slower heart rate. You can also leverage this relaxation practice at stressful times throughout the day by taking in three or four expansive breaths and exhaling fully.

Does watching TV qualify as relaxation?

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy – watching television or listening to your favorite music doesn’t qualify as true relaxation. Although it may get your mind off of the stress of your day, it doesn’t provide the improvement in heart rate variability, breathing, cortisol levels and muscle tension. A good way to begin deep relaxation is to spend twenty minutes relaxing in a comfortable, seated position focused on your breathing. If you begin thinking too much, just let the thoughts pass and direct your thoughts back to breath.

When is the best time to relax?

The good news is – you can benefit from relaxation anytime of the day. When you’re first starting a relaxation routine, I encourage you to plan for it at a time that is most convenient, so you can practice consistently. If you decide to do your relaxation first thing in the morning or right before bedtime, try to do it sitting upright to make it easier to resist falling asleep. When the brain isn’t used to mindful relaxation, it tends to take the relaxation cues as an invitation for sleep. If you would rather plan it for the middle of the day, just find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably and not be interrupted. Eventually you will be able to relax in the midst of chaos, but that’s not easy when you’re first starting!

What if I can’t relax?

Many people feel that they are incapable of relaxing when they first try and that’s validation that it’s really needed. Relaxation is truly a skill. If stress is a big factor in your life, your brain may resist it – believing that you need to be in survival mode. Just keep practicing and keep these points in mind:

– You don’t need to clear your mind of thoughts, you just want to allow the thoughts to pass rather than engaging in problem solving, planning or remembering.

– You can use techniques to help distract you from thoughts – like imagining a peaceful landscape, focusing on your breathing, repeating a positive statement or releasing tension from each area of your body.

– It takes time to develop the skill and begin to feel the changes from relaxation. Once you start sleeping better, enjoying life more and are achieving your goals more easily, you’ll be hooked!

I hope you experience blissful relaxation!

Feel free to post questions and comments below.

Are You Dehydrated?

7 Dec
Are You Dehydrated?

Are You Dehydrated?

Water is essential to health and it makes sense when you consider that our bodies are more than 60% water. Just the daily processes of breathing and elimination cause us to lose about 60 ounces of our body fluids each day, so replenishing is necessary. Many of us develop the ability to ignore our signaling for water, which can cost us. When we don’t have enough water, we get reminders from our body – but we think of them as annoying symptoms. Digestive issues, dry skin, headaches, constipation, and difficulty focusing are some of the hints we get, and if we don’t rehydrate, our organs are forced to scale back and make due with the supply of resources they get. Long-term, this can really strain the system and cause serious health issues.

There’s debate about the quantity of water we need to drink. It seems reasonable to start at a minimum of 60 ounces to replenish what we’ve lost, and increase when active or feeling thirsty. Our body weight plays a part too; the more we weigh, the more water we have, lose, and need to replenish. The latest research suggests half your body weight in ounces of water should be consumed each day. Believe it or not, there are limits to stay within so you avoid the uncommon effects of water toxicity. You don’t want to drink too much, too quickly or exceed about 100 ounces per day (see my previous post, “Healthy Hydration” for more details).

Of course, there’s the other critical question – What’s the best quality water to drink? Unfortunately, the most accessible resource to most of us – tap water, is not ideal. It typically contains contaminants and chemicals that distract the body (at best) and can even accumulate in the body and cause sickness or disease. So the short answer is, distilled or quality filtered water is much preferred over tap water. The longer, more detailed discussion will be posted soon. Please let us know what works well for you!

Learning About Health

29 Apr

We all bring our work home with us at times, at least I think that’s normal. Please tell me it’s normal? Anyway, I do a lot of my research and reporting at home in the evenings. I’m really passionate about what I do, because it’s focused on improving health, so I often share fun facts with my kids. I figure they may retain a little – although they’re only ten, nine and five, so I’m not expecting that they absorb much of it.

Today I was making lunch while the kids were playing with their Littlest Petshop collection and I heard my nine-year-old say, “Oh no, she’s missing, I can’t find her and she has low iron. She may be so tired she won’t be able to get back home!” I guess they do remember some of the health topics I’ve mentioned!

I see this as an advantage I’m giving the kids that I didn’t have. I had an entirely different experience when I was a kid – learning what can happen when things really went wrong with health – and I felt powerless. My first memory of health related issues was when I was told my Mom was too sick to continue living. I was three, and I didn’t understand. Many years have passed since then, but I still can’t honestly say I understand how a vibrant 29-year-old woman got so sick. What I do know is that I want to prevent it from happening to others, whenever possible.

I encourage you to learn about your own health and the health topics that interest you. Oh – and it’s never too early to share health information with the kids in your life.

The best of health to you!