online coaching using mind and body for a life worth living

Maximizing The Body Mind Connection

“Where the mind goes, the man follows.”-Proverbs 23:7

For thousands of years human beings have pondered the nature of human existence and the human experience. Because we are thinking beings, historically humans have believeddaydream that we are mind more than body. The mind-body connection is frequently thought of, and believed to be, mind over body, meaning that the mind is more important than the body. The mind-body dilemma has been studied by some of history’s greatest thinkers, as they attempted to understand the relationship between mind and body, thinking and action. Aristotle, René Descartes, and many Asian philosophies and spiritual traditions have dedicated volumes in an attempt to decipher the process. 21st century research has continued this study.

Most people have a natural tendency to consider themselves as more mind than body, a spiritual being that resides in a space just behind our eyes. Since we use our brain to think and interpret, many of us have a tendency to see that space in our heads as being where we reside, where our spirit, our essence, is located. Undoubtedly, this abstract essence, which we call the mind, is what tells us we are alive, our own command central that allows us to interpret, plan, control, and regulate everything that we experience. Our interpretations of events frequently get rather complicated, at times even overcomplicated. Our thoughts can be overwhelming and often paralyzing. Recent behavioral scientific research shows that there is a way to keep our minds in check and make our lives more fulfilling if we understand both sides of the mind body connection.

The mind-body connection is not a one-way relationship. Thinking about the mind as in control the body is running your life on half throttle. Recent research done at Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and other research institutes implies that the relationship between mind and body is more of a reciprocal relationship than was once thought. While the mind undoubtedly controls the body, the body has an almost equal relationship in its ability to influence the mind. Understanding of these concepts can radically change and influence a person’s behavior, leading them to attain their full potential in multiple areas of their lives. Put in very simple terms, the mind controls the body, the body influences the mind.

“If you train the body, the mind will follow.” – Ross Enamait

Recent research done at Harvard University shows that people who are trained to use their body and physiology can create a better mindset going into stressful work-related situations such as job interviews, presentations, and confrontations with co-workers. Being optimally ready for these situations obviously requires mental preparation, visualization, and rehearsal, things that most of us do before these events. What frequently happens is that, just as we get to the critical point in the interaction, a little bit of doubt comes in, we accept the doubt as a truth, and both our bodies and minds run with it, causing us to perform not quite as well as we had hoped we would. Anyone who says that this has never happened to them is probably lying, we’ve all been there. If we’re lucky, we do okay in these situations, but deep down inside we know we could have done better. Our gut instinct is correct. These situations can be remedied by an understanding of how our physiology influences performance.

Researcher Amy Cuddy, from Harvard University school of business, suggests that prior to Confident businessmanstressful social and occupational situations that we engage in what she calls “power poses.” These are consciously practiced stances, body positions, and activities where we are engaged in expensive, expressive, and powerful body positions. (See how to power pose here: http://mindbodycoach.org/need-confidence-power-pose/ ) One of the simplest way to be in an empowering physical state is to be aware of posture – shoulders back and down, breathing in a controlled manner from the abdomen. This powerful physical position sends signals to the brain that we are in control, capable and powerful. Our performance in these social situations can’t help but be improved by the sense of body control that this posture gives us. Control your body and you will control your mind.

The creature comforts of modern living, for all their conveniences, tend to create disempowering physical states that, unfortunately for all of us, have become the norm. Not too many of us get up in the morning to moderately demanding physical activities such as gathering eggs, milking cows, tending to domesticated animals, and starting a fire for the day. These tasks, although tedious and difficult, would set you up for a feeling of control, take charge, and “can do,” starting you off in a more powerful and assertive mindset. These physical activities would send a signal to your brain that you are capable, competent, and able to handle whatever that day would throw at you. There are, however, ways that these basic human activities can be replicated:

⦁    Morning exercise. Human beings were built to adapt to physical stress. We’ve known this for a long time but have only realized recently the impact that morning exercise can have on our mental health, motivation, and feelings of competence. Yeah, I know many of you are saying, “I don’t have time to get to the gym before work.” You don’t need a gym to engage in some power producing morning rituals. Stretch before getting out of bed, bang out a few sets of push-ups and sit-ups, open your window in engage in some deep breathing where you stand upright and fill your torso from the abdomen upward, throwing your arms back and upward powerfully. Five minutes is enough time to set your brain in a powerful, more confident, and assertive mindset.
⦁    Be conscious of your body position throughout the day. Many of us sit at desks, have long commutes, and sedentary jobs where machines do all the work. Be sure to get up every hour and take a five-minute or so break. Engage in some sort of mild physical activity during these breaks, making a conscious effort to improve your physiological state. You will return to work not only clearheaded, but feeling more capable and more likely to utilize your full potential and work capacity. (See also “Death By Desk.” http://mindbodycoach.org/death-desk/ )
⦁    Become aware of your breathing throughout the day. Breathing is obviously a necessity for life, but it is a way to control your emotional state. When we are stressed, deep control breathing sends off a signal to the brain that we are okay and will survive. It creates feelings of physical calm and control. Remember, control your physiology and you control your mind.
⦁    Smile! A smile has been proven to be in instant mood elevator. It’s very difficult to be sad when you are smiling. In addition to the obvious rapport that it will build with others, research indicates that it can improve your life span. (See also, “Smile, It’s Good For You.” http://mindbodycoach.org/smile-good/ )
⦁    Be aware of your hand and arm gestures as you communicate. Good communicators instinctively know that physiology conveys more information than words. Numerous studies have suggested that perhaps as much is 90% of human communication is nonverbal. Powerful hand gestures, arm movements, and pauses in speech not only are good for your audience, but also sends signals to you that you are confident in your material, you know what you’re doing, and you believe fully what you are saying.
⦁    Warm up like an athlete. Prior to stressful situations, engage in some warm-up style physical activity. There are reasons that all athletes stretch before competition, baseball Box Guyplayers swing weighted bats, and boxers shadowbox. These reasons are not merely physical. Before a stressful situation, find a quiet space where you can engage in some physical activity to help set yourself up for success, go for a brief walk with some deep breathing, or find someplace to practice power posing.

It’s pretty common that most people can identify with feeling better during the warm summer months, particularly if you live in an environment that has a full range of seasons. People tend to be less depressed, more physically active, and enjoy a greater sense of well-being that most attribute to sunshine and warm temperatures. While warmth and sunshine are beneficial to this feeling, don’t underestimate the role played by the increase in physical activity at most people engage in. Find ways to engage in meaningful physical activity regardless of the season or climate that you are in.

When considering the mind body connection, don’t forget to also consider the body mind connection. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

“Action beats reaction every time.” – Tony Blauer


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The Nocebo Effect : Be Careful What You Believe

“Nocebo – (Latin for “I shall harm”) is an inert substance or form of therapy that creates harmful effects in a patient. The nocebo effect is the adverse reaction experienced by a patient who receives such a therapy. Conversely, a placebo is an inert substance or form of therapy that creates a beneficial response in a patient. The phenomenon by which a placebo creates a beneficial response is called the placebo effect. In contrast to the placebo effect, the nocebo effect is relatively obscure.” – Wikepedia

Virtually everyone is aware of what is sometimes called the power of suggestion. If you’veIllness ever been to a magic show, thought you had scabies, or got freaked out by some show about snakes on Animal Planet, you know how it works. You are exposed to, or told something, that you begin to believe relates to you. That scratching that you see somebody else engage in triggers something in you and you respond in kind, literally feeling their pain, at least until you realize that it’s not really happening to you. Anyone who has ever taken Psychology 101 is aware of the placebo effect and the positive benefit that comes from the power of belief. (See also: http://mindbodycoach.org/really-power-placebo/ ) What most people are not aware of is the nocebo effect, the negative impact from negative beliefs, expectations, and previous negative experiences. Unfortunately, the nocebo effect is even more powerful and prevalent than the placebo.

As a practicing psychotherapist and coach for the past 20 years, I am acutely aware of the power that the nocebo has on people’s lives. People carry negative beliefs and expectations well into their senior years that impact their lives in negative ways, impose limitations on quality of life, and even lead to early or possibly sudden death. Consider the following : Eighteenth Century Viennese neurologist and university teacher, Erich Menninger von Lerchenthal, described how students at his medical school picked on a much-disliked assistant. Planning to teach him a lesson, they sprung upon him before announcing that he was about to be decapitated. Blindfolding him, they bowed his head onto the chopping block. One student swung and ax into a chunk of wood, while another dropped a wet cloth on his neck. Convinced it was the kiss of a steel blade, the poor man “died on the spot”.

The power of the nocebo as a cause of sudden death is well documented. In many cultures, the curse of a witch doctor or shaman has led to the demise of believers. In the modern era, people frequently get sick from the flu, viruses, and exposure to elements that are both real and imagined. In fact, with many minor illnesses it is really difficult for science to know what the actual cause is – an exposure to a germ or virus, the power of the nocebo, or some combination of the two. Research on the power of the nocebo is very hard to quantify-how it happens, who is more susceptible, or how frequently such events occur, but most of us have been exposed to this either through our own beliefs or those of people that we know. In this day and age the Internet is full of warnings, anecdotal tales of medical catastrophes, strange occurrences, and a host of ideas that can wreak havoc on the imagination of someone prone to the power of the nocebo.

We’ve all heard stories of someone who at an advanced age literally chose the way that they would die. My paternal grandmother, a 5 foot tall bundle of Italian energy, passed away in her sleep at age 84, exactly as she had predicted for the previous 10 years. As her mind began to deteriorate, she would occasionally experience brief waves of depression and wish that she would go to bed that night and not wake up. She passed away peacefully in her sleep early one Sunday morning, literally choosing the way that she wanted to exit this life. Coincidence or choice? Really doesn’t matter because my grandmother had the luxury of choosing the way that she wanted to depart this earth. If your family is similar to mine, I’m sure there is some similar story in your family tree as well.

The power of the nocebo also influences beliefs about our capabilities, likability, skills, and ability to learn new tasks. For whatever reason some people are impacted more by negative messages in childhood than others. These messages come from parents, teachers, clergy, friends, and classmates where, for whatever reason, something that is said to us or happens to us sticks with us for a lifetime. I had a counseling client years ago who was in his early 40s and never had a meaningful relationship as an adult because of a traumatic breakup when he was in the eighth grade. A girl broke up with him rather publicly at an eighth grade dance. His behavior through his high school years and beyond reinforced this belief-that he was undesirable, ugly, and incapable of having a meaningful relationship. One of the great things about life is that age is a great equalizer. The “beautiful people” of our high school years eventually look like those who were labeled as physically ugly or undesirable. Any high school reunion beyond the 30 year mark proves this. People still carry these negative beliefs about themselves that are formed in adolescent and early teen years, one of the more interesting and detrimental aspects of the nocebo.

“The man who thinks he can, and the man who thinks he can’t, are both right.”-Henry Ford

As a former athletic coach and official I’ve seen this hundreds of times. Athletics tends to Sumobe a great laboratory for beliefs and the power of both the placebo and nocebo. Athletics are filled with thousands upon thousands of examples of athletes who either exceeded their physical ability through hard work combined with a powerful belief system or athletes who squandered a lot of God-given talent because they were “head cases,” unable to harness their ability. Those that succeed are able to put setbacks in perspective and assess their situations realistically, those who can’t fall back upon their negative belief systems. If you’re a sports fan, I’m sure you can think of hundreds of examples that illustrate this. For every Larry Bird and Carl Yastremski there is a Todd Marinovich and a Johnny Manziel.

We tend to believe our own thoughts. We are not always fully aware of where these thoughts come from. It’s not important to know where the thoughts are coming from as much as it is to be aware of the impact that our thoughts, self talk, and beliefs about ourselves have upon our current behaviors. We tend to believe our thinking and it becomes our “truth” even if it is not literally true. In therapy and coaching you can often see how people’s behavior reinforces their beliefs and how a person’s actions, or lack of, really make the faulty beliefs come true. Clients frequently respond to failure with logic such as, “See, I told you I couldn’t do it!”

Take a careful look at how you are influenced by the power of the placebo, but more importantly, the nocebo. Before you fall victim to the latest medical scare, before you fail at some task, or hesitate to take some chance, ask yourself: what am I thinking right now, where is this thought coming from, and is there some action that I could take that would give me a better outcome? You may be surprised at the answer. We all just may lead richer lives if we become aware of the role that negative belief systems and the nocebo affect play in shaping our reality.

“I discovered that everything you do is in response to a request or a suggestion made to rockyyou by some other party either inside you or outside. Some of these suggestions are good and praiseworthy and some of them are undoubtedly delightful. But the majority of them are definitely bad and are pretty considerable sins as sins go.” – Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

You Are What You Do : Seven Ways To Grow Old Gracefully

“Life requires of man spiritual elasticity, so that he may temper his efforts to the chances that are offered.” – Viktor E. Frankl

The human animal is one of the most frail, yet resilient creatures on the planet. We are born incredibly weak and fragile, are dependent upon adults well into our teens, and we are making adjustments physically and emotionally throughout the entire life span. We have to use brain capacity to figure out how to stay warm, locate food, shelter, and Vector silhouette of man.physical necessities. Our bodies, in and of themselves, are ill-equipped to face even the most favorable environments. Having no physical armor, inadequate body hair, and minimal body fat, we are forced to build shelter, make clothing, eat almost daily, and we must rely on others of our species for daily necessities as well as needed psychological support.

Despite our dependency on others to negotiate our way through life, human beings are incredibly adaptable and resilient. Our bodies are designed to change and grow based on the activities that we perform. Our brains, the master organ that runs and directs all human activities, also changes, adapts, adjusts, and grows as well. In fact, despite what most people think, the brain is part of the human body, not separate from it. Our minds and bodies are designed to work together, in harmony, allowing us to adapt to whatever challenges, physical or emotional, that present themselves.

Most people in highly developed technological societies have very little knowledge of how to harness the incredible capacity of the adaptable machine that is a human being. We tend to believe that this machine is fully developed physically by approximately age 21. At that point the physical body is at its peak and the goal becomes to try and maintain that as long as possible. Somewhere around mid to late 30s however, the body changes and most individuals give up on trying to maintain or build muscle, and adapt to their changing physicality. Our activity levels slow down and most of us have responsibilities that make remaining physically active less likely. Our bodies soften and put on body fat. Muscles, joints, and tendons become less flexible and more rigid along with this decrease in activity. We pass this off as a part of our life span and begin to accept pain, low energy, and the lack of motivation as being natural and normal.

Our psychological development is presumed to be “complete” by approximately age 40. By that point we believe we are intellectually and emotionally close to our peak and, like with the body, the goal becomes to maintain intellectual and emotional capacity for as long as possible. We believe that further personal development and academic pursuits are unnecessary. We’ve arrived and we are who we are. We understand our feelings, know where we stand philosophically and politically. We tend to resist change because we believe that our worldview needs to be rigid because we believe our beliefs and values to be correct.

Research, if not common sense, indicates that humans are physically capable of change from birth to death based on the activities that a person engages in. For example, as a child, your body was flexible, limber, and relatively pain free. You also did a lot of bending, twisting, jumping, and climbing as part of your daily routine. This brings up the chicken or egg question. Were you able to do those things because your body was flexible, limber, and pain free? Or, were you flexible, limber, and pain free because you did those things?

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Of course, there is some natural wear and tear that occurs in the human machine, but how much? How much playing can we do? How much of our deterioration is “natural” and how much of it is determined by our attitudes towards aging? As we progress through life, our bodies become the physical activity that we do. If you work at a desk and you’re sitting 6 to 8 hours a day, then your body is going to mold to the seated position. Your hamstrings will tighten, your lower back will feel the effects, your shoulders will internally rotate, and your head and chin will jut forward. Your muscle tone will atrophy, your entire body will soon take the shape of a seated person. Our bodies are designed to mold themselves into the activities that we perform most in order to make it more efficient in the performance of those activities.

Yes, is very difficult to develop the body of a 20 year old when you’re pushing 60, but how fit can you be given the limitations of an aging body? Rather than focusing on what you can’t do, what would happen if you were more focused on what you were capable of doing? How fit, limber, and agile can you be? If you’ve lost some of these abilities, how much can you get back?

Doing a little of something for your aging body is far better than doing a lot of nothing. If you objectively look at your body in front of the mirror, you’ll notice that your body has molded itself into the activities that you engage in on a routine basis. For example, if you are an aging auto mechanic you’ll probably find that your body looks pretty bad, but your hands, wrists, and forearms are still pretty formidable. If your fitness regimen consists primarily of walking and little else, you’ll probably find that your calves and hamstrings are still pretty strong and useful, but your upper body may be puny and weak. You still may have some body parts that are youthful, strong, and vigorous because you’ve continued to use them. If these physical attributes have been maintained, then why not build and maintain others as well?

Keeping in mind that, while you may never be that 20-year-old athlete again, you can be an athletic middle aged or senior athlete. Here is what research indicates is still possible:

⦁ Agility, suppleness, and a more limber body. This can be attained through a daily practice of light stretching, yoga, body weight calisthenics, and work on the ground or floor. Alternating challenging days with light days is necessary, as we all know our bodies ability to recover from activity deteriorates over time. One of the number one predictors of longevity is how quickly and efficiently someone can rise from a position on the ground or floor. People who are capable of getting off the ground more quickly are more likely to live a longer and vigorous life. Formal exercise classes can help, but there’s a lot that can be gained by simply laying on the floor and rolling around 3 to 5 times per week. Throwing in some occasional push-ups, situps and crunches, a downward and upward dog combined with a walking program can create a well-rounded fitness routine.See also http://mindbodycoach.org/ive-fallen-cant-get/
⦁ Improved strength. The body adapts relatively quickly to increased demands on its muscular system. It will respond to resistance that is placed upon it. The body can’t tell the difference between barbells, dumbbells, or complicated weight machines at the gym from the resistance provided by gravity, yard work, or carrying groceries. Any resistance work performed consistently sends a message to the muscular system that it needs help with that task, and the body will marshal its resources to make the body stronger in the performance of that task. Joining a gym may be a good idea, just be sure you have the ability, determination, and persistence to get there three or more times per week. If not, find a routine of resistance training that you can perform at home, or at work and do it consistently. The muscular system must recognize that this activity is being done on a consistent basis in order for it to adapt and build the necessary muscle and strength to continue it. The body doesn’t know that you’re getting older, or that your less motivated than you were 20 years ago, it just knows that it needs to build more resources in order to continue with the activity.
⦁ Improved harmony between strength and agility can be arrived at more efficiently if you toyamaworkout using exercises where you are not supported by complex machines. There is a place for weight machines such as those that you see at a commercial gym, but you can also combine strength and agility by utilizing calisthenics, yoga, martial arts, or equipment such as elastic exercise bands and suspension trainers. Anything where you are moving your body through space and working with gravity will create a sensation of body control that you may not have had since your teens. Save the machines for working around injuries that you may have accumulated over the years.

The mind, much like the body, has the capacity for change and adaptation throughout the lifespan as well. Research indicates that one of the best ways to stave off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and lack of mental acuity is to continue to challenge your mind as you age in the same manner that you challenge your body. Keeping mentally sharp by reading, studying, learning, and challenging beliefs that you’ve held for years is mental exercise that will slow the inevitable decline drastically.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – Sophia Loren

There is a saying that you may have heard, “Age is nothing but a number.” Saying this and believing it are two different things. You’ll have a tendency to believe this if you are keeping your mind active and engaged in the process of living. Here’s some ways to keep your mind engaged:

⦁ Read, read, read. Reading is a mind-body activity. Keep in mind, your brain is part of your body and the visualization, processing, and information gathering that reading engenders is one of the healthiest things that a person can do. Read the things that you wish you had read years ago, re-read books that impressed you when you were in school, read things that challenge long-held beliefs that you’ve had for years. Use the internet to satisfy your curiosity, take online courses, and formulate well thought out opinions. Remember, no system, including your mind can grow without being challenged. Without challenge, there is no growth. See also http://mindbodycoach.org/the-hidden-costs-of-going-paperless/
⦁ Question everything that you thought you already knew. Many people get caught up in beliefs that they’ve had for years and doggedly hang on to them only because they have put so much time into believing them. Others will find that their religious, philosophical, and political beliefs continue to evolve. There’s nothing wrong with having the same beliefs that you did years ago, just be sure that you still truly believe them.
⦁ Take on new challenges, projects, games, activities, anything that challenges your brain in a way that makes it uncomfortable. It may be crossword puzzles, sudoku, learning a new language, mastering a video game, or taking a class of some sort. It’s quite possible that the good old days of childhood were enhanced by these types of challenges. Maybe the lack of these challenges is the reason that we grow old mentally.
⦁ Build in your daily routine some kind of meditative or contemplative practice. Meditation, prayer, or some combination of the two is a great way to allow your mind to continue to develop and grow, accepting new ideas and beliefs. Your spirituality, as well as your intellect, will adjust and adapt if you challenge it.

The human machine is incredibly adaptable and will continue to adapt, adjust, and Jacl Llnevolve as long as you are breathing. Taking a thoughtful mind-body approach to the developmental process allows you to decide who and what you want to be.

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” – Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven

Carry on!

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Syndrome X : The Not So Silent Killer

A syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms that are correlated with each other and, often, with a specific disease. The word derives from the Greek σύνδρομον, meaning “concurrence”.- From Wikipedia

bbellySyndrome X, now known as Metabolic Syndrome, is a cluster of at least three of five medical conditions- high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, belly fat, or low HDL cholesterol. Approximately 34%, or 47 million Americans have Syndrome X currently, and many are in the process of falling victim to it. The syndrome appears to run in families, and is more common in African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and is a risk factor in heart disease, all cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, premature death, and diminished quality of life. Not all doctors are comfortable with the term, as it is not a single condition but a syndrome, a grouping of risk factors. What all doctors do agree on is that it is a killer disease and that there is a lot that we can do to prevent it from spreading and killing us.

According to the American Heart Association, there are five risk factors associated with Syndrome X, AKA metabolic syndrome:
1. A waist size of over 40 inches for a male, and 35 inches or more for a female. In addition, it is a matter of pear 2how body fat is stored in a person’s core. Males with an “apple” shaped abdomen are at greater risk, as are women with a “pear” shaped core.

2. High triglycerides. This is the “bad cholesterol” that resides in your bloodstream to provide your body with energy. Too much of it clogs arteries leading to cardiovascular diseases. A triglyceride rate of 150mg or greater puts you at risk.

3. Low “Good Cholesterol,” or HDL. For men this is less than 40mg and four women less than 50mg. It is recommended that all Americans have a lipid profile done every five years to determine these numbers. If you are in a high risk category, African-American, Native American, Asian, it makes sense to have them done more frequently. Discuss with your doctor how often to have these tests done.

4. High blood pressure. Having blood pressure of over 135/85 places you at risk. Either of these numbers being elevated is a red flag. Blood pressure can be monitored quite easily using a home monitor or sticking your arm in one of those contraptions that are probably in the corner of your neighborhood pharmacy.

5. High blood sugar levels. A blood sugar level of over 100 puts you in a high risk category, with a number of 100 to 125 putting you in “pre-diabetic” category. 79 million Americans are currently prediabetic, and without some lifestyle changes run the risk of developing type II or “adult onset diabetes.”

To be diagnosed with Syndrome X,  you must have three of these five risk factors, but certainly taking action on any one of these is in your best interest.

How can syndrome X be prevented? The good news is that it is not that difficult. The bad news is that, for some people, it is difficult to prevent because it requires some effort and lifestyle changes. Syndrome X is a group of diseases exacerbated by modern lifestyle and reliance upon technology. Experts say that you prevent metabolic syndrome essentially the same way that you would treat it with the exception of medications. The following will lifestyle changes are the safest way to prevent becoming a victim of Syndrome X:

cardio-exercise-walkingExercise. Most any kind of physical activity will do, but something that works to keep your body moving and your weight at a reasonable level. The American Heart Association recommends building up to between 30 and 60 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. Keep in mind that the activity does not have to be done all at one time but can be broken up into shorter bouts. The key is consistency. While you may opt for longer sessions occasionally, such as gym workouts or weight training three times per week, it is more important that you do something every day. It may be as simple as parking your car a little farther from your destination, walking your dog a few more times a week, or some floor exercises while watching TV.
Cleanup your diet. No mystery with this one. Eat more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and all that stuff that you know is good for you. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you which foods to avoid, but generally anything that is processed or packaged should be avoided at all costs. Seek to find healthier alternatives to that sweet tooth and your appetite for junk food. Go light on fruit juices, as they are hidden sources of sugar. Eating fruit in its natural state is far better than filling up on juices.
Lose some weight. Again not a shocking revelation that being overweight contributes to Syndrome X. Weighing yourself at least 2 to 3 times per week and putting a tape measure to your waist occasionally may be damaging to your ego, but it just may prevent you from falling victim to Syndrome X. Facing those numbers can be frightening, but denial of these numbers can literally be fatal.
If you are a smoker, quit. If you’ve tried and failed multiple times, contact your physician and quit immediately. That “I’ve cut down” attitude is not helping anything. Consider that “cigarette or two” you smoke each day to be similar to playing Russian roulette with a pistol with a “bullet or two” in the chamber. Eventually, it’s going to kill you.
Develop a working relationship with your primary care physician. Even if you don’t feel you are at risk for pcpdeveloping Syndrome X, your doctor should be familiar with you and your unique medical needs. Even if you are in good condition, get a physical when it is recommended. The worst that can happen is your doctor gives you a pat on the back, you feel better, and you leave the office with a little ego boost. It’s a good idea to look under the hood once in a while.
⦁ Take medications if they are prescribed for you. Medications for blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol are critical if you are in a high-risk category or early stages of Syndrome X. If your numbers improve, don’t stop taking your medication. Too many people rationalize that, “I’m doing well, my numbers are good, so I don’t need this medication any longer.” The reality is that your numbers are good because you are taking that medication. It should be evidence to you that the regimen you are on is working.

Syndrome X is a not so silent killer that can be prevented in most cases. Modern medical science and living an old school lifestyle can keep even those in high-risk categories alive and well over a longer period of time. The recommended lifestyle changes here are not too big a sacrifice, and may even make your life more enjoyable. Don’t fall victim to Syndrome X!

“Warning: Before beginning an program of physical inactivity, consult your doctor. Sedentary living is abnormal and dangerous to your health.”- Frank Forencich, Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Dying Of Civilization: How Modern Living Is Eroding Our Well-Being

“The human race will eventually die of civilization”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mankind has made more technological progress in this century than in the previous 50 years. We are only 15 years into this century, so one can only imagine the kind of pollutionprogress that will be made by the year 2050. One would think that with all this progress our lives would be much more healthier, happier, and fulfilled than they are. What’s going on with all this progress and why does it seem that Emerson was correct over 150 years ago?

The reality is that the progress and lifestyle changes from modern technology come with a hidden cost that research only recently has made apparent. Most of us are quite aware of the cost of these lifestyle improvements on our physical well-being. Here is a brief list of some of them:

⦁ Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol are examples of some diseases that are on the rise.
⦁ Nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of vitamin D, lack of omega-3 fatty acids, lack of iron and other essential nutrients are so common that doctors are suggesting that pills be taken in order to ensure sufficient levels of these in other nutrients.
⦁ There has been an increase in addiction and addictive behaviors. There is more chemical dependence for things such as pain and prescription medication and, although rates of tobacco smoking have leveled off, there is an increase addiction to fast food, caffeine, sugar, and electronic cigarettes.
⦁ Physical fitness for the average American of all ages has decreased dramatically since the mid-20th century. People on the extreme are as fit, or fitter, than ever before, but the average man, woman, or child of 2015 is significantly less physically fit and active. Rather than freeing up time for exercise and fitness, modern life has done just the opposite.
⦁ Sleep for Americans in their prime, productive years averages between five and six hours, significantly less than the eight hours that are recommended. This means that students, much of the workforce, and young adults and raising families are functioning subpar due to lack of sleep. In addition to the physical impact of sleep deprivation, there is a toll that this takes on their emotional health and overall sense of well-being and happiness.
⦁ Hormonal problems, unheard of decades ago, have become quite common. Chemicals in our environment have wreaked havoc with the hormone levels of males. Low testosterone levels, impacted by chemicals in our environment, have become a hidden epidemic that is only recently beginning to be discussed. You can be pretty sure that great grandpa never heard of “Low T.”

All this progress has brought high expectations and, along with it, a lot of disappointment. The number of Americans qualified for Supplemental Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, increased 250% between the years 1987 and 2007. For the years 2001 to 2003 alone, 46% of Americans met the criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association for at least one major mental illness. Clearly, despite all this progress, suffering continues. It’s quite possible that this progress is, in many ways, responsible for the rise in emotional difficulties.

Even more alarming is the fact that these emotional problems are impacting people at a younger and younger age. In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, spoke to the National Press Club about an American depression epidemic: “We discovered two astonishing things about the rate of depression across the century. The first was there is now between 10 and 20 times as much of it as there was 50 years ago. And the second is that it has become a young person’s problem. When I first started working in depression 30 years ago … the average age of which the first onset of depression occurred was 29.5 … Now the average age is between 14 and 15.”

In 2011, the U. S. Center for Disease Control reported that the rise in antidepressant use had increased 400% in the previous 20 years. Granted, there has been an increase in the pathologizing of what previously had been relatively normal behaviors, but one would have to also conclude that, in part, technological changes are partially to blame. Here are some reasons that could explain the rise in these statistics:

⦁ Pills. The United States has developed into a culture that attempts to medicate almost any problem or disturbing emotion. This presents problems in and of itself, but also creates a mindset that there is a quick fix oral solution to almost any challenge we face. Pop a pill and instant relief, kind of like the Alka-Seltzer commercials of the 1950s, “Relief is just a swallow away.”
fat-kid-eating-chips-watching-tv⦁ Parenting. The baby boom generation has spoiled our children. Despite our intentions of making the world a better place and our love and concern for the next generation, we have enabled them through seemingly innocent activities such as driving them to and from everything, organizing all their recreational activities, buying them the latest and best technology we could afford, and negotiating all their difficulties with peers, school, coaches, and employers. Of course, the Xbox, 400 channel cable TV with remote in their bedroom, and the 64 ounce bag of potato chips in the cabinet aren’t helping them either. Parenting trends have robbed many children of their right to develop their own resiliency by solving their own problems. As adults, many of them are ill-equipped to solve their own problems, creating feelings of helplessness, inadequacy, and alienation.
⦁ The culture of instant gratification. Modern technology gives us instant access to virtually everything at the push of a button. We carry more computer power in our shirt pocket than Neil Armstrong had when he walked on the moon in 1969. This instant gratification also carries over to things like, preparing food, paying bills, and even waiting to make that phone call. Just reach into your pocket and do it now. When this “do it now” kind of behavior is not available people tend to feel anxious and depressed.
⦁ The lack of physicality in normal life. Exercise through normal, everyday activities has fat mowerbecome a lost art. We either hire somebody to do our activities of daily life or we buy a machine to do it for us. Many of us don’t even brush our teeth, we have a machine to do it for us, that riding mower would probably be a better value for that quarter acre lot we have, Junior needs to have a car, after all, the school is almost a mile away, and of course, there’s never enough time for me to exercise. The lack of physicality is a major reason that many feel anxious and depressed. If your body does not feel up to par, then there’s no way you will feel well emotionally. The mind-body connection is that simple.
⦁ The media. Although we are living in the safest time in human history, media coverage gives most the impression that there is a predator living in every neighborhood, the government is going to sweep in any minute and take away our hard earned rights, and that there are germs and diseases lurking everywhere, waiting to kill us as soon as the opportunity arises. Fear sells, and the media knows this. The human brain is wired to anticipate danger and protect us from it. Many people thrive on the drama of the most obscure news stories, watching the same story repeated from hundreds of different angles. Certainly not the greatest way to achieve serenity. Your own life will give you drama despite your best intentions to prevent it. Why borrow anyone else’s?

My intention here is certainly not to paint a doom and gloom scenario for modern life. Rather, it is to point out that a a lifestyle that combines the best of modern technology, hikescience, and medicine with a little more common sense is the best way to attain fulfillment. Too many get caught up in the instant gratification that modern life and technology seduces us with. Just stop occasionally to consider the cost.

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”- Albert Camus


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Going With Your Gut: The Gut Health-Mental Health Connection

“Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough.”-Robert Heller

Our gut is perhaps the source of the human animal’s most visceral experiences, responsible for countless ways that a human being perceives his existence. For the gutbiologist, it is merely a tube by which animals, including humans, transfer food to the digestive organs. Recent scientific investigation and thousands of years of human experience confirm that it is far more complicated than that. Studies have confirmed that not only does the gut transfer food to vital organs, but it plays a role in our physical health, mental health, emotional stability, and impacts the study of human immunology, neurology, endocrinology, and pathology.

Since 2007 scientists have been attempting to catalog the over 100 trillion microorganisms that live in the human gut. Although your initial reaction may be one of disgust, the majority of the 500 species living in your bowels are an essential part of human health. Most of us have become familiar with the term “good” bacteria and the positive role that it plays in digestive health. Science is just now beginning to realize how this good bacteria also influences the human brain and the state of a person’s mental and emotional health.

While studying the impact of good bacteria on digestion, scientists were surprised to find that the ingestion of probiotics modulated the processing of information that is strongly linked to depression, anxiety, and the human stress response. A study of 45 subjects conducted over a three week period showed a significant increase in the efficacy of prebiotics on the subjects capacity to handle stress when compared to a placebo. The study concluded that the consumption of prebiotics reduced the production of cortisol and aided in the maintenance of emotional control. Most people are somewhat familiar with probiotics supplements, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, but are less familiar with prebiotics that can be gained by eating chicory, artichokes, raw garlic, onions, asparagus, wheat bran, and other carbohydrates that contain soluble fiber. These prebiotic sources nourish the microorganisms that contribute to positive mental health, allowing them to proliferate and grow. While this study concluded that additional research is necessary, they stated that the effect of these foods in this particular study was similar to what has been observed in individuals taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. “I think pre/probiotics will only be used as ‘adjuncts’ to conventional treatments, and never as mono-therapies,” the study’s lead author, Philip Burnet, told The Huffington Post. “It is likely that these compounds will help to manage mental illness… they may also be used when there are metabolic and/or nutritional complications in mental illness, which may be caused by long-term use of current drugs.”

Gut bacteria interacts with the enteric nervous system, which regulates a host of human activities that most of us take for granted such as digestion, production of hormones, and regulation of thyroid and adrenal activity. The enteric nervous system also produces 95% of the serotonin in your body, a neurotransmitter that has been associated with feelings of well-being and happiness, and is enhanced by the prescription drugs Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and other SSRIs. Scientists now know that it is not the brain which regulates gut activity, but the gut which helps to regulate the brain. Michael Gershan, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, refers to this as the “second brain.” He states that, “The second brain contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.”

Our bodies respond to stress, physical or mental, in the same manner making no distinction. Any stress or bodily inflammation will impact the entire nervous system. What we eat will impact the enteric nervous system. Our gut communicates with the brain through the vagus nerve which interacts with our parasympathetic nervous system, controlling our ability to calm ourselves down. Quite simply, the food that we consume will impact how our bodily systems communicate and, as a result, the state of our emotional health, well-being, and the way that we perceive the world around us.

Prebiotics and probiotics have the potential to be used as adjuncts to more conventional 21-kinds-of-fermented-vegetables-prebiotictreatments for mental health, but not as replacements. The effects of psychotherapy and psychopharmacology can be impacted greatly by a diet rich in prebiotic’s/probiotics. Whether a person is suffering from emotional issues or not, everyone can benefit from a diet that has gut health in mind. It is recommended that you you eliminate the following from your diet as much as possible:
· sugar
· gluten
· industrial vegetable oils
· soda
· antibiotics
· oral contraceptives

Be sure that your diet is rich in:
· foods that contain soluble fiber such as chicory, artichokes, dandelions, asparagus, raw garlic, and leeks
· active culture yogurt. Read the label and avoid those that are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients
· kefir
· kimchi
· sauerkraut
· pickled fruits and vegetables

While the research on the efficacy of the use of prebiotics/probiotics is promising, none of the researchers are saying that it will ever replace psychotherapy or psychopharmacology. It can and should serve as an adjunct therapeutic intervention. Statistics indicate that approximately 70% of Americans take prescription medications of some type and 20% take psychiatric medications. The vast majority of those taking psychiatric medications do no other therapeutic interventions such as psychotherapy, meditation, or nutritional supplementation. It is quite possible that many who initially run to a doctor for a pill when they are experiencing difficulty and problems in living may do better with a few months of psychotherapy, a cleaner, healthier diet, and a consistent exercise regimen..

Even if your emotional health is sound, being aware of and attending to gut health is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to keep the human engine running smoothly.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”- Hippocrates1748-7161-4-6-12-l

Hippocrates’s advice may come across as fourth century BC hyperbole, but he’s probably right about one thing. We all should be a little more aware of the medicinal effects of the food that fills our gut.


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Why Time Speeds Up As We Age And What You Can Do About It

“Sure, everything is ending,” Jules said, “but not yet.”- Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Time is the most ever present, yet misunderstood aspect of the human experience. To be 4382338132_bf43fbc41chuman is to be aware of its existence, its passing, and its inevitability. It has been a major subject of study for human religion, philosophy, and science since the onset of human awareness, yet it eludes a universal definition that fits in all its applications. It is the most experiential aspect of what it means to be a human being, and it is perceived as passing more quickly over the course of a lifetime.

The way that an individual perceives time plays a major role in a person’s mental and emotional health. If person feels that there is not enough of it, too much of it, or that it is passing too quickly or too slowly, they are more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression. Being able to manage the perception of time’s passing is important to a person’s sense of well-being. As a child, most of us struggle with the slow and arduous passing of time as we wait for things we are told are going to happen in the future, things we look forward to such as going to school, summer vacation, and being a grown-up. We lived for future events we thought would never arrive, but sure enough they did. For young adults who are starting careers and family, time tends to slow, or at least it seems to, as all those grown up events we anticipated begin to unfold, although usually not in the original manner that we intended. Once we realize, somewhere in early middle age, that we are in fact living those moments that we anticipated, the perception of time becomes much quicker, distorted by the accumulated events of our lifetime.

Of course time does not change, but our perception of time, and our relationship with it, does. There is a subjective perception that time speeds up during our walk of life and, as a result, people tend to underestimate intervals of time as they get older, finding themselves making statements like, “Really, it’s been that long?” or being more capable of waiting for things to occur. A length of time, for example six weeks, an eternity for a teenager, will pass in the blink of an eye for an adult over 50. What accounts for this change in our perception and what are some implications on our health and wellness?

As young children, we live in the present with very little ability to project or anticipate what clockwill happen in the future? When a child does something stupid and an adult asks “What were you thinking?,” the answer “nothing” is quite true because children truly live in the present moment, being unable to anticipate what will happen next because they have very little frame of reference. They simply have not had a lot of “nexts ” in their lives, requiring them to be extremely engaged in the present moment in order to properly process and function. An adult, having a frame of reference and experiences to draw from, will more than likely make better choices. One day to an 11-year-old would be approximately 1/4,000 of their life, while one day to a 55-year-old would be approximately 1/20,000 of their life. This helps to explain why a random, ordinary day may therefore appear longer for a young child than an adult. By age 40 and adults perception of time will be eight times faster than that of an 11-year-old.

When something is new and novel, our perception is that time passes more slowly. In the acquisition of any new skill, job, relationship, or task we tend to accumulate rituals and habits in order to work or relate in a more efficient and automated manner. When things are on automatic pilot mode, time passes much more quickly because the mind is not absorbing the step-by-step, moment to moment, passage of time as it does when something is new and novel. The brain does not have to slow down to absorb and observe what is happening. Think about the first few years of a new job, a relationship, or starting a family. Those years are probably perceived as passing slowly. As habits, rituals, and other adaptive functions develop, we go on automatic pilot and our perception of time accelerates. Pioneering American psychologist, William James, explained it this way: “Each passing year converts some of this experience into automatic routine which we hardly note at all, the days and the weeks smooth themselves out in recollection to contentless units, and the years grow hollow and collapse.”

This distortion of time that occurs as a natural part of the aging process is quite frequently something that brings an individual into coaching or counseling sessions. People often feel that “life is passing me by,” or that it is “too late for me to do that now,” or “I would have loved to of done that with my life but I’m too old for that now.” Taken to an extreme, an individual may have the subjective perception that they are, in some sense, dying. There is often hope for those that seek help, as they are not yet 100% convinced that their thoughts are true. There are others who quit taking care of their health and wellness, giving up any ambitions about what they can do with the rest of their life, as they begin to believe this distorted process of the acceleration of time. This can be problematic, as a person who believes this in the early 50s is condemning themselves to approximately 25 years of self-imposed despair, stagnancy, anxiety and depression. Often the origin of all of this negativity is a belief that it is “too late” to accomplish some goal, change careers, start or end a relationship, or get into top physical condition. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/woulda-turned-pro-myths-glory-days/ )

The good news is that there are some ways that a adult can, if not slow the passage of time, see it a little more realistically:
⦁ Time appears to slow when we are fully engrossed in an activity that we love doing, captures our attention, and occupies us on the physical as well as emotional level. Activities that are physically challenging or perceived as a emotionally exciting slow down our perception of time, forcing us to pay attention in order to function. Taking up a new sport or physical activity, learning a new subject in an academic setting such as a classroom, or getting back into the dating scene after years of seclusion, are all examples of things that might fit the bill. If you are relatively healthy and adventurous, you may want to consider things like kayaking, martial arts, skydiving, or even performing karaoke a couple of nights per week. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/find-flow/ )
⦁ Time does not fly when you are having fun. It may appear that way as you are performing an activity that fully engrossed as you, but doing this activity frequently contributes to an overall sense that time is slowing down. The perception of fun is due to the novelness of an experience and the more novel experiences one has, the slower the overall perception of time becomes. Activities that you find to be fun are not only valuable in and of themselves, but they are a requirement if you want to maintain a healthy sense of well-being as you age. Studies of people who live to beyond the age of 80 frequently find that they took up some new activity during their senior years that breathed new life into them. Going to the gym, golf, and ballroom dancing are all good examples. Many senior citizens buy themselves additional years by entering into new relationships after the death of a spouse. Continuing to enjoy life and grow as a person is important at all stages of life, but it is even more critical as one approaches their senior years. Succumbing to the time distortion is tantamount to giving up the will to live in many instances.
⦁ Stop living in the past. Notice that I said living there, not visiting. Memories are important anchors and greatly enrich our lives, contributing to a sense of value and self-esteem. It’s important not to make that the sole focus of our emotional energy. While we should revisit pleasant memories often, we should have things that we are still looking forward to doing. It’s these anticipatory events that will help us slow down our perception of time.
⦁ Spend some time each day in some meditative type of activity. Focusing on the present oldmoment is one of the best ways to slow the perception of time. Studies show that even a brief meditation practice can extend a person’s life considerably. This is a major reason that Buddhist monks and Roman Catholic nuns live so long. Their constant prayers and meditation are important part of their lifestyle. In addition to the health and wellness aspects of a meditation practice, there is a time distortion that occurs that is very beneficial, creating a more positive relationship with time. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/moving-meditation/ and http://mindbodycoach.org/breathing-101-improving-lifes-basic-activity/ for some simple ways to start your own practice.)
⦁ Approach life with the open-mindedness and wonder that you had as a child. Become more curious about the simple things that surround you. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/may-killed-cat-curiosity-good/ and http://mindbodycoach.org/beginners-mind/ )

Realize that you have the ability to distort time. While you cannot change the absolute nature of time, you can distort your perception of it. Following the activities suggested here will have the immediate benefit of enriching your life and the long term benefit of making it last, or at least appear to last, longer.
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”- Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

“Come With Me If You Want To Live:” Why Arnold Was Right About Weight Training

“We are here to pump you up!”-Hans and Franz

Fitness, diet, and exercise trends come and go. It seems that every year or so there is a hans franznew latest and greatest exercise or diet fad that is going to allow its practitioners to lead healthier, happier, productive, and certainly much better looking lives. They often highlight how little activity will be required, how easy it will be to do, and sometimes even promise that benefits can occur in the privacy of your own home while you sleep. Of course, your friends will be amazed. One exercise that has stood the test of time is good old-fashioned barbells and dumbbells, weight training.

Weight training has been around for a couple hundred years in various forms. It evolved from a subcultural fad to a mainstream activity paralleling the rise of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian born bodybuilder, actor, governor of California, and now American cultural icon. Back in the 1970s he spoke of the health and wellness benefit of weight training and predicted that in the future everyone would be lifting. At the time, most of what he said about anything was entertaining, kind of funny, and implausible. Forty-five years later doctors, orthopedists, and physical therapists have gotten millions to lift in order to maintain physical and emotional wellness, develop general overall health, rehabilitate injuries, and increase our lifespan.

“Come with me if you want to live.”- Arnold, as the the Terminator

Research studies have consistently shown that weight training has health benefits that go far beyond merely pumping up muscles and strengthening bones. Having more lean muscle mass gives older people better cognitive functioning, reduces depression, lowers the risk of diabetes, boosts good cholesterol, and increases overall health and well-being. “Muscle is our largest metabolically active organ, and that’s the backdrop that people usually forget,” said Kent Adams, director of the exercise physiology lab at Cal State Monterey Bay. Strengthening the muscles “has a ripple effect throughout the body on things like metabolic syndrome and obesity.” It also impedes the development of sarcopenia, age related shrinkage of the musculoskeletal system. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/preventing-shrinkage/ )

Until the 1970s, when Arnold Schwarzenegger began to spout off about the benefits of bodybuilding, weight training and weightlifting was a bizarre, subcultural phenomenon of strange men who posed in their underwear and bulbous Eastern Europeans who hoisted the equivalent of small automobiles overhead. Eventually, the athletic world realized that weight training would create stronger, faster, and better athletes for virtually every sporting event. Athletes training for football, basketball, track, and even sophisticated sports like golf found their skills greatly aided by consistent use of barbells and dumbbells. Eventually, an eccentric Florida businessman-bodybuilder named Arthur Jones developed a series of weightlifting machines which he called Nautilus and using progressive resistance became mainstream. The medical world soon found that weights could not only prevent many health problems, but was the best way to rehabilitate a person following surgery or any injury that damaged the structure of the body. By 2015 there’s virtually no one hasn’t done the physical therapy using light weights for some injury or another.

Science, research studies, and mainstream medicine now realizes that strength training with weights is one of the most beneficial things that one can do to improve their physical health, quality of life, and increase their longevity. Here are some of the facts:

⦁ Weight training preserves muscle mass. After age 40 the average person loses approximately 1% of muscle mass per year to something called sarcopenia. Resistance training, particularly weight training, helps preserve this muscle mass. This gradually diminishing muscle mass is a silent killer that weight training can prevent.
⦁ Weight training preserves bone mass. Most everyone knows how osteoporosis impacts women during menopause and beyond, but what most are unaware of is that it also affects men after the age of 60. The reasons why are unclear, but what is clear is that weight bearing exercise can increase and maintain bone density. There’s no better than weight bearing exercise than training with good old-fashioned barbells and dumbbells.
⦁ Weight training can be cardiovascular exercise for those who are unable to run or even walk. All muscles, including the heart, are taxed by weight training. For those who have difficulty walking or running, weight training can activate the arms as secondary pumps to the heart, creating cardiovascular fitness. For those who are more mobile, weight training with little to no rest between sets and exercises can improve overall fitness while preserving muscle mass. Many studies indicate that training with weights is a safer and better way to increase cardiovascular fitness and endurance while minimizing the trauma to the body that comes with running and other forms of intense cardio.
⦁ Weight training increases your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories throughout your day. Muscle mass burns fat far more efficiently and effectively than any other part of your body. After the age of 40, eating the same amount of food and maintaining the same amount of activity will cause the average person to gain about 10 pounds per decade due to declining metabolic rate. In others, bodyweight remains the same but looks different. We’ve all heard someone say, “I weigh the same as I did when I was 30, but I’m carrying it differently.” Something to be proud of, but weight training may be able to make you carry that weight a little better.
Arnie⦁ Intelligent weight training is far safer than most people would imagine. This is where Schwarzenegger missed the boat. He extolled the virtues of weight training in the classic movie Pumping Iron while heaving, shoving, screaming, and yelling, describing it in a weird combination of pleasure and pain. Benefits can come from training at moderate intensity.
⦁ Weight training is the ultimate lifespan friendly exercise routine. Too many people associate weight training with their teens and 20s, when it’s fairly normal to be extremely focused on looks and body type. The same people have often stopped training by the age of 40, either not exercising at all or opting for less time invasive activities such as walking. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s probably not the best way to maintain health and fitness. If the same people can get over the fact that the weights that they are lifting will decrease over the years, they may be able to continue to reap the benefits. Focusing on how well lifting makes you feel, rather than how well it makes you look, can shift your mindset allowing you to receive the health benefits over a longer period of time. Contrary to what you may think, it’s better to feel good than to look good. (See also http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/downloads/growing_stronger.pdf )
⦁ Weight training benefits cognitive functioning. A 2010 study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that women ages 65 to 75 who did resistance training sessions once or twice a week over the course of a year improved their cognitive performance, while those who focused on balance and tone training declined slightly. One reason for the improvement, researchers believe, may be that strength training triggers the production of a protein beneficial for brain growth. Even if you’re not over 60, lifting weights can give you a mental lift that is incredibly empowering. Human beings are, at the end of the day, sophisticated animals who were developed to be physical beings. Weight training puts you in touch with powerful and empowering feelings.
⦁ Weight training, particularly using barbells and dumbbells rather than machines, can improve balance, maintain athleticism, and prevented tendency to fall as one ages. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/ive-fallen-cant-get/ )

Adding weights to your exercise and wellness regimen does not have to be a major production. While you can run out and join a gym, it’s hardly necessary and for some may not be advisable. If weight training does not fit conveniently into your schedule or lifestyle, then you’re probably not going to follow through, enjoy it, or do it over the long haul. While Arnold was perhaps a little over-the-top in the 1970s with his enthusiasm, he has served as an example of someone who has made it part of his lifestyle. You should do the same. Your goal was not to look good just for the summer of 2015, but to feel vigorous, alive, and well every day of your life. Weight training is the best way to do that.

If you have no idea how to lift, you may want to engage the services of a personal trainersenior-older-people-lifting-weights-12022486 for a few sessions. If you’ve lifted in the past, then gradually get back into it. The links that I have provided here give you some intelligent plans to utilize weight training to improve your health. If you opt for a gym membership, great, just make sure that you actually use that membership. That tag on your key ring is not a fashion statement, it’s for swiping in when you go to the gym. Make sure you go. If you opt for working out at home, then there are tons of low cost weights and exercise equipment available at yard sales and on craigslist. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money nor does it have to take up a lot of your time. It does have to be something that is consistently a part of your lifestyle.


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Emotional Contagion: Why Your Feelings May Not Be Your Own

Emotional Contagion (noun)- the tendency to feel and express emotions similar to and influenced by those of others; also, the phenomenon of one person’s negative thoughts or anxiety affecting another’s mood

When it comes to human health and wellness, we are truly living in the most interesting of times. The medical community is now capable of prolonging human life, keeping usSpartacus-crowd-scene healthy, active, and vital in ways unimaginable as recently as 50 years ago. We have access to a wealth of information on how to improve the functions of our minds, bodies, and spirit right at our fingertips. Diseases that once killed millions have been eradicated and more cures are being discovered every day. Despite what you may think about war and violence, we are statistically living in the safest time in all of human history. So why do so many of us neglect our physical and emotional health, feel frightened and unsafe, and live our lives waiting for the next disaster? The answer very well may be found in human social psychology.

Human beings are, by design, social animals. We are this way because millions of years ago our ancestors needed to bond together in tightly knit communities in order to survive. Humans are simply too frail and ill equipped to survive solo. For thousands of years, our species has survived because of conforming to group norms, ideas, and beliefs. This need to conform, fit in, and imitate others is primitive on some levels and, in many cases, automatic. Many of us like to think that we are “our own person,” unique and nonconforming individuals. Sometimes we are, but most who feel that way actually are not. They’ve just found some subgroup that they identify with and imitate. People, ideas, and lifestyles that are truly unique and different are frequently mocked, ridiculed, and shunned by the society at large, being labeled as immoral, perverse, or just plain weird.

Emotional Contagion is the tendency of two or more individuals to emotionally converge, sometimes creating an emotion that neither one would have ever felt alone. The word contagion is defined as the “spreading of a harmful idea or practice by the close contact of one person to another.” Modern man has never had more capacity for perceived close contact with others due to the instant access of the Internet and social media. On many levels, we know this, referring to ideas that spread quickly as “going viral,” in the same manner that the Black Plague once raced through Europe. Most of which goes viral is harmless, innocent, and cute – puppies, kittens, and babies, acting in endearing ways that put a smile on our faces. A lot of other stuff that goes viral is poor journalism, biased news, and fear provoking information that many of us end up perseverating over, taking on a lot of fear and anxiety that we not only can’t do anything about, but in many cases comes from information that is simply not true. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/going-unplugged-age-distraction/ and http://mindbodycoach.org/craze-rage-enjoy-anger-despite/ )

I’m sure that more than a few of those reading this will initially respond with a “not me” attitude. Keep in mind that this synchronization of emotions can occur on a conscious or unconscious level and is not always negative. American social psychologist Elaine Hatfield has devoted much of her working life studying, measuring, and quantifying Emotional Contagion. She describes it as a two-step process:
1. We imitate people. If someone smiles at you, for example, you smile back.
2. Changes in mood through faking it. Through the act of smiling you become happy, if you frown you feel bad. Mimicking the actions of others creates the emotional connection between people that leads to the taking on of the others emotions. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/fake-till-make/ )

All humans are susceptible to emotional contagion. Some organizations-athletic teams, js7schools, religions, and corporations-consciously, or at least semi-consciously manipulate others in this manner. The results can be either positive or negative, depending upon a variety of variables. It’s not always bad, sometimes creating pro-social values and inspiring pro-social activities from a larger group. On the other hand, it’s also the emotional state that led to the Salem Witch Trials, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust. It’s important to recognize this, become aware of Emotional Contagion when it is occurring within you, and make a more conscious decision of how far you want to go with the emotion that it evokes.

Social psychologist R. William Doherty of the University of Hawaii has developed what he calls The Emotional Contagion Scale, which he published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior in 1997. It is reprinted here, see how susceptible you are too Emotional Contagion:

The  Emotional  Contagion  Scale

This is a scale that measures a variety of feelings and behaviors in various situa­tions. There are no right or wrong answers, so try very hard to be completely honest in your answers. Read each question and indi­cate the answer which best applies to you.

Use the following key:
5. Always = Always true for me.
4. Often = Often true for me.
3. Usually = Usually true for me.
2. Rarely = Rarely true for me.
1. Never = Never true for me.

1. If someone I’m talking with begins to cry, I get teary-eyed.
2. Being with a happy person picks me up when I’m feeling down.
3. When someone smiles warmly at me, I smile back and feel warm inside.
4. I get filled with sorrow when people talk about the death of their loved ones.
5. I clench my jaws and my shoulders get tight when I see the angry faces on the news.
6. When I look into the eyes of the one I love, my mind is filled with thoughts of romance.
7. It irritates me to be around angry people.
8. Watching the fearful faces of victims on the news makes me try to imagine how they might be feeling.
9. I melt when the one I love holds me close.
10. I tense when overhearing an angry quarrel.
11. Being around happy people fills my mind with happy thoughts.
12. I sense my body responding when the one I love touches me.
13. I notice myself getting tense when I’m around people who are stressed out.
14. I cry at sad movies.
15. Listening to the shrill screams of a terrified child in a dentist’s waiting room makes me feel nervous.

Note: The higher the score, the more susceptible to emotional contagion a person would be said to be. Happiness items = 2, 3, & 11. Love items = 6, 9, & 12. Fear items = 8, 13, & 15. Anger items = 5, 7, & 10. Sadness items = 1, 4, & 14. Total score = all items.

Source: Doherty, R. W. (1997). The Emotional contagion scale: A measure of individual differences. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21, pp. 131-154.

An awareness of your own susceptibility to this phenomenon allows you to make a more intelligent decision when it comes to dispensing your emotional energy. Being aware of hapywhere you spend this energy is an important part of your life experience and your emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness. You will be more aware of what thoughts and emotions are truly your own. Take a moment to fill out the Emotional Contagion Scale and see where you stand. Become more aware of what baggage and whose baggage you decide to carry. Lightening this load is bound to lead to less stress, anxiety, and a more fulfilling life for you and those around you.


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

An Inconvenient Truth: Walking Is The Best Exercise

“Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.”- Rebecca Solnit

Walking is the most fundamental movement of the human animal. We begin to do it with a lot of fanfare and excitement during our first year of life. As parents, we eagerly look babyforward to the day that our child takes their first step unassisted. We celebrate that day, recorded on video, and in some cases spend the next 18 years driving them everyplace so that they don’t have to walk. Our ancestors walked everywhere, and if you are a Baby Boomer then I am sure that you have told the story of walking 3 miles to school daily, uphill both ways. What happened to the human animals propensity for walking, and what has been the cost of this change in the way that we view human locomotion?

The verb walking comes from the Old English word wealcan meaning “to roll.” Walking is distinguished from running and other methods of ambulation because only one foot at a time breaks contact with the ground and there is a brief period when both feet are supporting the body weight while in motion. It is the safest and most natural form of exercise that a human can do. It can be done anywhere, can be performed solo or in groups, can be exercise, transportation, meditation, or even a conversation starter. It can increase energy, control weight, reduce stress, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, prevent some cancers, and fights osteoporosis. Humans are able to do this activity from approximately a year old to well into old age. Studies have shown that walking a half an hour approximately 5 times per week yields comparable antidepressant properties as psychotropic medications. Despite all of these physical and mental health benefits, many people find this activity inconvenient, boring, and a nuisance. What’s wrong with us?

Evolutionary biologists believe that these benefits exists because the human animal is hardwired to walk. Walking is something that humans must do, they argue, in order to be fully healthy and human. Primitive man was kept alive and survived due to two critical factors, his ability to think and reason in ways that other animals cannot, and his ability to paleo-diet-introductionwalk. It is widely believed that human beings first developed 1.8 million years ago in East Africa. Based on footprints found in Kenya, it is presumed that man was walking in our current upright style 1.5 million years ago, and from that point onward man began to navigate the globe. Man’s intellectual capacity allowed him to figure out the best places to migrate to for food, safety, and survival needs. For a while, the human animal was a nomad, traveling in vast communities, seeking out the best locations for food, clothing, and shelter. Eventually, humans learned how to plant seeds and farm, domesticate animals, and create consistent and predictable sources of food, allowing for the development of communal living.

Even with consistent sources of food and the development of communities, walking remained a part of man’s every day activity. Even into the early modern period, walking was a part of everyone’s daily existence. Public transportation, as we currently know it, did not exist in developed nations until approximately the 1880’s. The automobile did not become commonplace in American life until the middle of the 20th century. The human animal has abandoned walking for only a brief period of our total existence. Perhaps the rise of overweight, out of shape, unhealthy, stressed out, and lethargic people correlates to the demise of this basic and necessary human activity called walking. It’s quite possible that these health related problems are our body’s way of reminding us that movement is in our DNA. We have to move and walk to be a fully functioning human being.

The very act of walking has gone from a given activity to an exception. Go to any commercial gym in the country and you will see people waiting in line in order to get on a machine on which they walk to nowhere, indoors, staring at a television. If you are a parent, you may find yourself driving your children to and from places that are less than a mile from your home. You probably drive your car periods of a half a mile or less for routine activities. What’s the message that we are giving our children with these behaviors? What’s the toll on our bodies and health for this “convenience?” How many convenient opportunities are missed each day for a simple, yet highly effective, form of exercise that costs us nothing?

Part of the bad rap that walking has received is due to its being taken for granted as a method of exercise, stress reduction, and mode of travel. There are exercise trends that catch people’s attention and, at least for a while become the “best” way to obtain health and fitness. We had the running boom of the 1970s, (yeah, I’m still paying the price for that too), Jazzercise, Zumba, aerobics, and Crossfit. Walking, no pun intended, seems rather pedestrian in comparison. It is viewed as too boring, time consuming, and not intense enough to give us a good workout. On the surface, this would appear to be true. There are, however, three criteria that must be met for good exercise:
· Frequency-how often you perform the exercise
· Duration-the amount of time the exercise is performed
· Intensity-the amount of physiological stress the activity applies to the body.

Walking would appear to fall short of many other physical activities at first glance. Why walk for an hour when you may be able to get the same results from 20 minutes of running? After all, it’s less intense than running, requires more time, and needs to be done more often.

Like many things in life, things are often not what they first appear to be. If you are a runner or work out at a gym, then walking should play a major part in your fitness regimen. Factor in some of the extra tasks that are required for that quick jog through the neighborhood or workout at the gym that you squeeze in three times per week. If you are brutally honest with yourself and your time management you will find that they are a number of time consumers:
· warm-ups and stretching
· cool downs
· changes of clothing and shoes
· travel to and from
· aggravations (ever forget to pack your shoes for that work out at the gym before work?)
· down time required to rehab injuries from intense exercise

Walking, excels at two of the three criteria for a great exercise choice, frequency and duration. If you are looking to get super fit, it is by no means all that is required. If you are looking to stay in good shape indefinitely, then it is the wisest activity to add to your routine. If you are into extreme modes of fitness such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, or strength sports, walking adds to your aerobic capacity, aids recovery, and does not deplete that hard earned muscle and strength that you’ve worked to build. It’s often said that that man was “born to run,” but it is far more likely that man was “born to walk.”

No matter what your fitness goals, or even if you don’t have fitness goals, don’t overlook Walk_Park-smallerthis simple and basic human activity. Twenty-four hundred years ago Hippocrates said “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Study after study and the experience of humans over 2 million years support his premise. Find ways to add walking to whatever exercise you are currently doing. If you aren’t currently exercising, or have an aversion to exercise, walk for other reasons-for transportation, meditation, as a way to have a good conversation with a friend, or to give your dog some exercise. If you are currently on a good fitness regimen, add walking for the mental health, fat burning, and recovery benefit that it will give you.

If you can walk, then you must.

“Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”- Steven Wright


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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