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Why “Going To The Gym” Doesn’t Work

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” – John Dryden

The month of February is starting next week. How are you doing with your New Year’s resolution? You know, the one that you are going to “go to the gym” at least three times a week? If you’re like most people, you are already slacking on this. Statistically, over 80% of you are already sliding on this and will be completely over it by Valentine’s Day. What’s going on? Bought the right clothing for it, you planned it out well, or at least you thought you did. You even put the cool looking ID badge on your key ring to remind you of all the hard work you were doing. Now that ID badge is a constant reminder to you, nagging you that you are failing on a promise you made to yourself. What’s going on with you? Why can’t you “go to the gym?”

The answer lies in the reasons that you need to go to the gym in the first place. Most people decide to go to the gym were at one point in their life in pretty decent shape. They remained pretty active during high school and college, and perhaps were once quite athletic. By their early 30s jobs, careers, marriage, family, and children all came along and gradually changed their lifestyle. People find themselves trying to salvage small bits of their schedule to carve out some “me time,” where they can get in a workout. For most people, the lifestyle of trying to survive in the 21st century changes their daily habits. A person wakes up one day, looks in the mirror, and sees a large stranger staring back at them. After the initial realization that the stranger is actually them, thoughts change to, “What happened?” A person usually decides that they’re going to change and “get back to” some past physical size or capability that they had in their youth. You know, back to my weight when I got married, back to my 34 inch waist, back to my what ever. But how? How do I get it back?

The media, television, and the Internet-three indulgences that got you out of shape in the first place-eventually provides the answer. Join a gym! Simple! Three easy words, join a gym! 10 bucks a month! What could this possibly go wrong with this? Some of these gyms even guarantee that you will not feel embarrassed being there, promising that no one is going to judge you, there will be no muscled out bodybuilders juiced out of their minds actually working hard. You can go there, listen to a little pop music, putter around on a few shiny machines, and even attend their pizza night on Fridays. Within six weeks you look fantastic, all your friends will be telling you how great you look, and life will be puppies and rainbows.

So what goes wrong? What goes wrong is your willpower and habits need to be built up before you begin to work on your body. You’ve gotten out of shape because of a lifestyle that you developed because you have responsibilities. This fast-paced lifestyle that probably includes job and family stress that’s led to high levels of cortisol, eating on-the-fly when you get a chance, not enough time, and eventually too much on your plate. Literally and figuratively, too much on your plate. You’re too busy, eating a little too much of what ever is available when you’re hungry, and not moving enough during your day.

“You’ve decided to change, but nothing else has. Whatever got you here in the first place is still out there.”- Original quote from the author

The problem with this logic is that the reason you got out of shape in the first place is that your lifestyle changed your habits. Modern life is a Chinese water torture, slowly but surely dripping, dripping, eroding willpower and motivation. Going to the gym without building motivation first is the biggest mistake, setting you up for inevitable failure. The second mistake is announcing it to everyone. “I’m going to go to the gym, get back in shape.” Everyone knows it, and you emphasize it by putting that fashionable ID badge on your key ring. Within a couple of months it serves as a nagging reminder that you are fooling yourself. Eventually, you even stop looking at yourself in the mirror, stop stepping on the scale, and start feeling bad about yourself… again. You start believing that you’re lazy. In all reality, you wouldn’t be if you had the time to work out. You don’t! At least not in the traditional way of “going to the gym.” You have more important things in your life, or so you think… Telling yourself that you are going to “go to the gym” a regular basis is unrealistic in a setup for failure.

The solution? A little reality check. You can find the time. In fact, despite what you think, we all have the same amount of time-24 hours each day. How do you learn to utilize your time in a way that allows you to stay fit? Here are some practical, but not very sexy, suggestions:

⦁ Start by building up your motivation! It’s not that you don’t want to be in shape, you’ve lost your drive, motivation and willpower. Start by building this back first. The way to do this is with small, and I mean really small, bouts of exercise, 10 minutes or less, one to two times per day. It needs to be simple. Things like a 10 minutes stretching routine in the morning, parking your car a few blocks away from your job and walking, skipping the elevator for the stairs, or walking your dog after work, are good examples. No excuses! If the weather is unfavorable, then do 10 crunches and 10 push-ups on the floor. Write these down in a notebook! This is very important. It may seem trivial, but trust me, it’s not. You have to write this down with the date in what you did for those 10 minutes. Do not do any more than this for the first month! The goal for this month is to gradually get you used to moving again as pain-free as possible. If you go to a gym, your enthusiasm will take over in a way that your body cannot accommodate. You’ll get sore muscles, sore joints, pain, and will feel rundown. Nothing kills motivation faster.
⦁ Do not buy any equipment that you don’t already own! Nothing is a bigger reminder of your lack of motivation than a dusty exercise bike in your basement, or some $1500 exercise machine that you used for a few weeks. Remember, you’re building motivation first, and slowly. If you do have exercise equipment do not do a long routine of any type. 10 minutes periods of time only! If you feel enthusiastic indulge yourself with a second 5 minute period of time only if at least eight hours are between episodes. And, stick with this for a full month.
⦁ Not having any equipment to use is not an excuse. Start by using your body weight and learn how to move again. Equipment, although great, tends to put strain on the joints more so than body weight exercises. Pain is the killer of motivation, remember that.
⦁ Do not join a gym or spend any money on your exercise routine for at least 30 days! Work is probably one of the reasons you haven’t had the time to exercise over the years. Wasted money on trying to get fit is a nagging reminder that you are lazy, unmotivated, and out of shape. Before you spend a dime on your exercise program, be sure that you can stick to a routine for at least 30 days.
⦁ After 30 days you may begin to ramp up your exercise routine to approximately 30 minutes per day. This 30 minutes may be done consecutively or it can be broken down into two, 15 minute sessions. Again, it is imperative that this is recorded in your notebook with the date, the length of time, and what you did for exercise. Even though you made it through the first month or so, Do not go to the gym! The reason is you run the risk of sabotaging your exercise routine by the commitment of time it will take to get there, work out, shower and change, and return to your real life.
⦁ After 90 days of exercise, you’re on your own! Feel free to amp up your daily routine to as much as you want. If you want to buy home equipment, then do so. Whatever you do for a daily routine, just make sure it fits your schedule. Never drastically alter your schedule for your exercise routine! Remember, the reason you stopped exercising in the first place was because of your schedule. Make your routine fit your schedule by working out in the morning before your day starts, doing something during your lunch break at work, closing your office door for some push-ups, crunches, or stretching, doing an exercise tape every afternoon when you get home, walking your dog twice a day, etc. Your routine needs to be as natural as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Getting in the car, driving to a commercial gym, changing into some fashionable clothing, working out in a warehouse under the scrutiny of others on shiny machines, showering, and returning to your real-world is not natural, at least not for you. There are select few who are wired to thrive at a commercial gym. You are not one of them! If you were, you’d never would have gotten out of shape in the first place. Don’t fool yourself! Do not go to the gym!

Following these suggestions will allow you to develop internal reasons for exercise. You can learn to enjoy exercise in and of itself, rather than for the external reasons where you are rewarded by what others think of you. The activity itself needs to be your reward. You need to consider it as being equally beneficial to your mental health as it is to your physical health. Once you start connecting the mind benefits with the body benefits, your hooked.

Just remember these simple rules:

⦁ At least three substantial workouts a week
⦁ Never go more than three days without some kind of workout.
⦁ A brief workout is better than no workout.
⦁ Do something daily, even if it is a few minutes of stretching on your “off” day. Mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and physical projects around the house all count as a workout.
⦁ Balance cardiovascular workouts with resistance work such as weights, body weight exercises, or resistance bands.
⦁ Don’t Diet! Just be sure to cut down on sugar, simple carbohydrates, and allow yourself sugary, sweet, desserts around one time per week.

Following these principles sets yourself up for success rather than failure. Build back the motivation you once had and remember how much fun it was to feel fit and move.

“And now you gotta get it back, and the way to get it back is to go back to the beginning. You know what I mean? “- Apollo Creed

John

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

Social Media And The Dumbing Down Of America

“The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”- Carl Sagan

As a young boy growing up in the highly Roman Catholic greater Boston area, I recall a practice called “going on retreat.” It called for going away for a day or two for prayer and pope contemplation. Of course, when we went on these as adolescents, we did everything possible to avoid the quiet and solitude that the retreat directors tried to expose us to. They were, undoubtedly, “the lamest thing that ever happened.” Years later, I was a teacher at a Roman Catholic high school and the yearly retreat was a part of the opening week for the faculty. We would spend two days and one night away from the hustle and bustle of the world in semi-isolation on some quiet and usually huge piece of property owned by the Catholic Church. We were supposed to be engaged in prayer, so as to be ready to spend the upcoming school year “teaching as Jesus taught.” I recall not praying very much at all, but I was introduced to that feeling of calm and serenity that being isolated from technology, music, telephones, and TV that those two days provided. And, for some bizarre reason, I always the better spiritually, despite my half assed attempts at prayer. It kind of felt like a detox of sorts, in which I had been purged of all the negative aspects of a culture dependent upon technology.

The reality is that technology is, in fact, addictive. We have become a culture where virtually everyone utilizes every spare moment they have staring at a 3X5 computer that they hold in their hands. Our days are punctuated by the sounds of iPhones that vibrate, ring, chime, and interrupt with inappropriate music. Our whole lives are in those little tiny computers. We pay our bills, get information, music, our books, photographs, and hold the intimate details of our lives – all in the palm of our hand. Way too much information and way too accessible.

This glut of information can be a blessing or a curse. Unfortunately, within the last 10 years it is starting to look more like a curse than a blessing. Here’s some negative aspects of this technology:

1, Social media is highly addictive. Studies show that approximately 70% of all Americans log into Facebook daily. Almost 50% login multiple times per day. People receive likes and shares for things that they post. From a behavioral standpoint, these are positive reinforcements. All living creatures seek positive reinforcements and they can be addictive. Dr. Cecilie Andraessen at the University of Bergen, Norway and her colleagues have classified the overuse of Facebook as an addiction, creating an instrument called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale to quantify what constitutes Facebook Addiction. You can look it up, but don’t bother. You probably have it.

2, Social media leads to unrealistic and contrived comparisons to others with regard to looks, possessions, relationships, and belief systems. For young people, particularly adolescents, social media is a way to develop your identity, embellish your looks and accomplishments, declare your relationship status or lack thereof, and let everyone know what you just had for lunch. For the older crowd, social media is a way to feel superior to others because of your religious or political beliefs. Adults will argue about two conversational taboos that they would never argue about face to face-religion and politics, pontificating about their private and personal beliefs to friends  that disagree in a way that would be insulting and obnoxious if done in real time.

3. Social media creates a false perception of making a difference. People can be lulled into a false sense that they are promoting social justice by trying to convince those with different beliefs to change their ideals in causes that they support. Liberals versus conservatives, Republicans versus Democrats, Hillary versus the Donald, etc. all of this cyber posing and posturing can make one feel like Gandhi, Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King, all the click of a button. However, nothing changes in real time. To my knowledge, there are no instances ever of anyone changing a belief that they already held because of a Facebook argument.

4. Social media and the Internet have created a Cult of Celebrity, where the opinions of rockactors, athletes, musicians, and pop cultural icons are held in higher esteem than those of politicians, scientists, spiritual leaders, and intellectuals. If Springsteen or Kanye say so, it simply has to be true. This Celebrity Cult can be dangerous if the culture looks to celebrities for guidance in realms that are out of their areas of expertise. We have recently elected a celebrity as president of the United States and there is a growing groundswell of support for other celebrities to run in 2020. Yesterday I saw a petition online to support Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson for president. Really? Can you smell what the president’s been cooking?

5. Social media tends to promote nonscientific and archaic solutions to society’s problems based on anecdotal evidence. According to the Internet and social media, yoga, cannabis, and curcumin can cure virtually anything. No need for physicians or science. There’s nothing that probiotics cannot cure. Oh, and forget about those vaccinations. They can kill you.

6. Social media and the Internet has created an environment where anyone can find any news story they may need to support a false assumption. Conspiracy theories abound, exciting the imagination of millions of people. Once a theory goes viral, it becomes an accepted fact. It has to be, because everybody believes it, right? The masses line up, either for or against, and society gets dragged into a rabbit hole of nonsense. The interesting thing is that both sides, for and against these theories, can find ample evidence supporting their viewpoint – all at the push of a button.

7. Social media has distorted the meaning of community. While online communities can be highly beneficial, they’ll never replace real communities where people meet face-to-face, in real time, and share their human experiences. Ideally, people should have both. Social media can be a great way to stay in with extended family and old friends that you’ve lost touch with. Just be sure not to neglect family members and friends who live close by.

8. Social media has distorted our sense of privacy interpersonal boundaries. People will vent about a relationship that they had just ended, some personal problem that may have just gone through, or how much they hate their job. Existential angst gets dispersed into cyberspace and, once it’s there, it’s hard to get back. Some people use social media in the same way that previous generations used a journal or a personal diary. Today it’s very fashionable to put all your deepest and most private thoughts on your Facebook page. Sometimes not a great idea.

9. Social media has changed the ways that people share good wishes, congratulations, and couple-phonecondolences. This is one of the better aspects of social media. Being able to respond to someone’s grief, joy, or to be able to instantly celebrate something of significance with them is great. Just make sure that you try to do the same thing in person if possible. I often wonder if that guy that writes that long and rambling post about how much he loves his wife on their anniversary had the brains to tell her to her face.

10. The Internet and social media have replaced books, pens, paper, and libraries. While this, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad, it can lead to faulty research. Most people latch on to the first article that pops up in a Google search and unquestionably believe it to be true. It has to be, right? I got in on the Internet.

Like most things in life, the answer is balance. Use technology wisely, as overindulgence can lead to misinformation, impaired relationships, loss of privacy, and a host of physical and emotional disturbances. But, don’t take my word for it.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” – Carl Sagan

John

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

Animal Magnetism: The Benefits Of Living With Animals

“They show us what’s missing in our lives, and how to love ourselves completely and unconditionally. They connect us back to who we are, and to the purpose of why we’re here.”- Trisha McCagh

For most of mankind’s history, humans have had an intimate connection with animals. Humans lived with animals, relied on animals for food, power, warmth, and fuel. The kidshuman species would never have survived and thrived without a mutual coexistence with animals. Prior to the early 20th century, human existence was intertwined with those of animals. It is only in the last hundred years that we have become disconnected from the animal world. While modern man, in his arrogance, considers this to be “progress,” it is actually quite the opposite. There are lots of health and wellness benefits that have been lost by distancing ourselves from the rest of planet Earth’s creatures.

Humans and animals share humans and animals share a mutual history. Humans would not have survived without this relationship between man and beast. For thousands of years humans have relied on animals for food, clothing, tools, fuel, guidance, comfort, and emotional support. This relationship has not always been mutually beneficial, nor could it be. The reality of nature is that life consumes life, with most animals eating the flesh of lesser creatures. Primitive man would not have developed the brain capacity required for survival without the benefits of consuming animal protein. During the Neolithic Age, man learned to domesticate animals, use fire to make animal flesh more palatable, and reaped the benefits of greater brain capacity and intellectual development from the consumption of a consistent source of protein. Without our brains and intelligence, we humans are merely ill prepared primates with little hope of survival. Man’s improved brain power enabled him to harness the potential of animals by using bones for tools and weapons, the skins for clothing and building material, and dung for fuel. Animals lived intimately with man, sharing mutual living space. Animals were a part of the tribe and animals and humans shared the common experiences of birth, life, work, and ultimately, death.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th century changed this. Industrial society in the last 100 years has grown distant from the animal world and is now suffering the results. Earlier generations, although intimately connected with animals, did not take them for granted nor did they personify or idealize them. There was a greater understanding of the nature of life for both humans and animals. Living among animals is a constant reminder of the rhythm of nature, the endless flow of birth, life, death, and rebirth. While this way of life may sound primitive or barbaric to those of us living in the anesthetized 21st century, it may just be a healthier, interesting, and perhaps a more spiritually connected way of living.

A recent trend in mental health treatment is the utilization of “therapy animals” as a method of connecting people to emotions, empathy, and feeling supported. Animals of all kinds of species are trained, certified, and approved as therapeutic tools for humans who are suffering. Dogs, cats, horses, ferrets, reptiles, you name it, all are providing mental health benefits for thousands of people. Here are some of the health benefits of therapy animals:

⦁    Positive interactions with pets has been proven to lower blood pressure, lower heart rates, and lessen anxiety. It can also have a positive impact on depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and virtually all types of emotional distress.
⦁    Petting and handling pets reduces stress. Physical contact in an affectionate way releases oxytocin in the human brain, a hormone that is associated with stress reduction and lower levels of cortisol. Too much cortisol not only creates stress, it also is a major factor in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
⦁    Animal care has multiple health benefits. Animals can get you outside and make you more physically active. You may be struggling to follow a program of daily walking. Your dog is not likely to tolerate your not following through on this. In addition, the daily care required by any pet not only gives you a positive routine, but it also can be somewhat physical and provides moderate exercise.
⦁    Animals create a sense of connectedness. Being able to interact with a living thing is an essential part of emotional health. If you own a pet or farm animals, you intuitively know this. You talk to them and they, in their own way, talk back through behavior, gestures, expressions, and a host of ways. These interactions are important to our mental health.
luigi⦁    Contact with animals improves our immune systems. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that, in the last two generations there has been an increase in common allergies among children and adolescents. While many studies cite the overuse of antibiotics and sterilization processes, there is developing research that indicates our disconnection with animals as being another possible factor. If you have pets, or even have ever visited a farm, you know that being around animals is occasionally a dirty business. Dirty, but beneficial to health.
⦁    Animal care teaches us empathy. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat animals. If you’re a dog owner, you’ve seen this repeated over and over again. In many prisons animal care is part of the rehabilitation of violent criminals. Sociopathic and criminal behavior is associated with a lack of empathy for fellow humans. Prisoners who groom and train animals develop a connection from interacting with a dependent, living being. This, for many violent offenders, is the only positive interaction they have ever had with a living creature. It can also teach them discipline, routine, and what it feels like to have someone rely on you in a positive way.
⦁    Animals remind us of the true nature of life. Most animals have a much shorter lifespan than humans. The death of a pet is a big part of many children’s development. If you remember pets that you’ve lost, or have ever gone through this process with your own children, you know how painful it is. Painful, but necessary and meaningful. Modern life has separated us from birth and death, with these incredibly meaningful events taking place away from our homes and occurring in institutions. Living with, and among, pets is a constant reminder of the cyclical nature of all life.
⦁    Animals keep us in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that many find elusive. The goal of any type of meditation is to stay focused in the present moment. If you own a dog or cat, it’s pretty simple. Do what they do. Spend time around either of these animals for a while and you’ll understand.
⦁    Animals help fight loneliness, isolation, and fear. If you’re a pet owner, you’re never really home alone when you have a pet. Just having that cat sitting on your windowsill can gronkbe comforting. Animals can be a way of lessening the feelings of isolation that can create depression and low self-esteem.
⦁    Animals can be a vital part of a child’s education. Children who grow up on farms are more likely to have a healthier understanding of birth, life, death, and sexuality merely by living the lifestyle. There also more likely to realize that you get out of life what you put in. Children raised in this environment having intimate connection with the food that they consume in a way that is healthy. For example, many believe that hunting and procuring meat yourself is somehow “animal cruelty,” yet it is perfectly acceptable to gorge on a McDonald’s burger or chicken McNuggets that come from animals that live short and brutal lives. Like a lot of things in the 21st century, things we find distasteful are relegated to others to do. Then, there is a tendency to look down upon those that do our dirty work.

A connection to animals is an often missing element of modern life. Our distance from the rest of the Earth’s creatures is not progress, but detrimental. Finding ways to stay connected with animals is healthy and therapeutic in a multitude of ways. Consorting with animals can make you a better human being.

anneboss“Maybe it’s animalness that will make the world right again: the wisdom of elephants, the enthusiasm of canines, the grace of snakes, the mildness of anteaters. Perhaps being human needs some diluting.” ― Carol Emshwiller

John

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 Zen Of Being Sedentary

“Mind your actions, as they become you.”-Buddha

In the year 2015, the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report released statistics on health club memberships in the United States. The statistics, at least on the surface, are quite Couchencouraging. Here are their findings:
⦁ 52.9 million Americans over the age of six have gym or health club memberships.
⦁ 23.2 million Americans are referred to as “core” members, utilizing these facilities at least 100 times per year.
⦁ 43% of these gym members utilize group exercise classes.
⦁ There are 8 million personal trainers in the United States.

These statistics should be encouraging. From a percentage standpoint, that’s lots of people claiming to be gym members.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”-Benjamin Disraeli

Yes, the statistics are encouraging, yet why does it seem that there are more overweight, hunched over, depressed, and lethargic Americans than we ever had before? Why are millennial’s projected to be the first generation of Americans that will not outlive their parents? What’s really going on, if so many of us are engaging in formal exercise? With so many conspiracy theories circulating American popular culture, surely there must be some insidious forces at work, some agents of evil sabotaging the earnest efforts of hard-working Americans. Like a lot of conspiracy theories, the devil is in the details.

ScaleMost of us are aware of the impact of poor diet on our exercise programs. All that effort in the gym, hoisting heavy iron dumbbells and barbells, can be wiped out by a 3 ounce spoon of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream quite quickly. And, those “core” gym members who utilize the gym 100 times per year often will engage the gyms services daily from January 1 to the end of February, dropping off to a couple of times a month for the rest of the year. “Something came up,” “too busy,” or “I just don’t have enough time,” become the stories that a person tells themselves. “I’m going back next week,” becomes the excuse to keep that Planet Fitness membership card on your key ring. It looks cool, kind of a status symbol, and serves as visible proof that you will go back “next week.”

The biggest conspiracy is the relationship between human nature and the convenience offered by the modern lifestyle. Many of those “core” gym members do, in fact, put in a lot of hard work in the gym. An hour per day, three days per week, is certainly a sufficient amount of time put in to keep in great shape… isn’t it? Well the answer is, like a lot of things Zen, maybe…

The reality is that there are 168 hours in a week. Our hard-working gym member utilizes 3 of those hours in hard and purpose driven exercise. They may have the greatest program available, an enthusiastic and inspiring personal trainer, and a 20,000 square foot gym filled with the latest equipment to motivate them. The problem is not with their effort, but with how they spend the other 165 hours during the week. The devil that lies in the details here is not effort, enthusiasm, or even willpower. It’s a lifestyle where sitting in chairs, working at sedentary jobs 40+ hours per week, and spending five hours per day hunched over in active cell phone addiction can sabotage these efforts.

If you ask a typical person who exercises whether or not they are sedentary, they are likely to tell you with a mixture of indignation and pride, that they certainly are not. They are likely to follow it with, “I go to the gym three times a week,” or some other impressive and true statement that validates the hard work that they know they put in. It’s frustrating to many people who put in the effort that they don’t look or feel all the positive benefits of their hard work.

Statistically, a sedentary lifestyle is defines as one where a person is sitting 5 to 6 hours per day or more. While there are no statistics on how many Americans are doing this, it’s safe to say that it is probably a lot more than those who claim that they are bona fide gym members. It’s also safe to say that many of these hard-working gym rats have jobs and a lifestyle that is sabotaging their best efforts. If you throw “Screen Time” – the amount of time a person spends watching television or hunched over a computer or iPhone into the mix, and you got a lot of well-intentioned people living an out of balance lifestyle.

The human body is a remarkably adaptive, ever-changing organism that modifies its shape to the activities that it does habitually. There is a reason that the village blacksmith had that huge right arm, distance runners have lean, sinewy legs, and that hard-working person at the gym has poor posture, sloped shoulders, and an out of proportion butt. Relatively speaking, we tend to physically turn into the activities that we engage in most of the time. Since most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our job and moving to Alaska to live the reality TV lifestyle, or the ability to distance ourselves from the social obligations of hanging out with our families, there has to be some kind of solution.

“Be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

Many philosophical traditions look at human development as a process of constantly becoming. Life is a process of growth, change, and development-whether we are conscious of it or not we are in a constant state of change and adaptation. The direction of our change is determined by those things that we believe, think, and do. We literally become what we do. In no area of human development does this happen more definitively and subtly than in our activities. We don’t think of being sedentary as an activity, but nothing could be farther than the truth. Our bodies conform and ultimately take their shape from the activities that we engage in most often. That poor posture, protruding abdomen, and the accompanying physical problems are the result of our sedentary lifestyle. While the physical toll that this takes is quite obvious, the mental health impact is equally as profound.

Most sedentary positions result in the body turning in on itself. Sitting in that Lazy Boy recliner night after night eventually results in a body that is hunched forward in the shoulders, internal organs that are condensed into the lower abdominal region, and a development of a disempowering posture. This posture, if carried into your daily activity, sends a message to your mind that says “I am weak and powerless.” This feeling is reflected in all areas of your mental and physical life. The sedentary lifestyle causes attitudinal changes which result in a person feeling that their get up and go is gone. Expecting that hour of exercise you get each day to offset the 23 hours of inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle is expecting too much.

What’s the antidote? What can the dedicated fitness enthusiast do to offset the debilitating impact of the inescapable sedentary lifestyle? The answer is to take a break:

Throughout the day, be cognizant of how much time you are spending being sedentary. For each hour that you sit take a five-minute movement break. The movement can be nonspecific – such as moving your arms, rotating your neck, stretching your spine, or it workcan be formal-engaging in a routine of stretching, chair yoga, or brief walking. Anything that gets you moving and loosens up your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings will be very beneficial.
If possible, lay on your back with your knees elevated some time during the sedentary period of your day. This flattens out your upper and lower back without putting undue stress on either. Research indicates that knee and back orthopedic issues are virtually nonexistent in cultures where people toilet and sleep on the floor. People in these cultures have more knee and hip flexibility and better balance in old age. Certainly, don’t give up that American Standard flush toilet or that memory foam mattress, but I think you get the idea.
When you do those formal workouts, try to do activities where you are moving your body through space rather than merely sitting on weight machines or recumbant bikes. Reading on the treadmill or any other cardiovascular equipment is a waste of your valuable exercise time. When working out, emphasize the working!
Constantly remind yourself, both on days when you have a formal work out and those in which you don’t, to engage in both specific and nonspecific movement throughout the day. Remember to ask yourself, “What are you doing for the other 23 hours?” This will help you to not sabotage the hard efforts that you put in at the gym.
Consider giving up your gym membership in order to work out without equipment. I know this sounds like heresy, but here’s the logic. Nineteenth century Americans were far more fit and vigorous than those of us in the 21st century. They didn’t live as long, not because they weren’t healthy, but because they didn’t have the luxury of modern medicine to prevent them from succumbing to catastrophic illnesses. The combination of an old-school attitude towards exercise and a life, combined with 21st century medical advances, could be the secret to a triple digit life expectancy. There are hundreds of workouts that a person can do with minimal equipment using body weight, household items, and equipment where your body uses its own kinesthetic senses to balance, work, and create resistance. If you have cable television, there is probably an exercise channel that could get you going in the right direction.
Consciously work on your posture. Working the rotator cuff muscles, upper back, core and abdominal muscles is imperative. A strong, flexible back and a tight abdomen are not vanity. There were necessity for health, longevity, and a vigorous lifestyle.
Have a formal exercise regimen that you adhere to. Work hard during that “sacred time” that you dedicate to this routine. Just don’t forget “What are you doing for the other 23 hours?” Remember, your body will shape itself to the activities you engage in most often. Sit in the chair, you become the chair.

Business man flying through the air kicking.Keep in mind that, in 2016, it’s virtually impossible not to become a victim of the Zen of being sedentary. We ultimately become the things that we do most often. This applies to all aspects of our behavior, the shaping of our character, and is a primary factor in our physical development. We are in a state of constant growth that develops in accordance with our actions. Life is a state of constantly becoming. Be a little more mindful of what you are becoming physically as well.

John

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

Conscious Consumption : Why A Good Diet Isn’t Enough

“You are what you eat.”-John De Cola

I first heard this quote from the French physician Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in the year 1969. At the time I was an impressionable 15-year-old high school sophomore working out at a local gym in Framingham Massachusetts preparing for my first varsity football fat-guy-workoutseason. I heard it from John DeCola, the gym owner and 5’8″ human anatomy chart who was working out himself that summer for the 1969 professional Mr. America competition. As part of your membership, he did an analysis of new members, gave you your own program, and gave nutritional advice. I remember him telling me that I had “long clavicles,” which I could tell by his enthusiastic tone of voice was a good thing. He also told me that I had to lose my “spare tire.” I didn’t know what a spare tire was, but I could tell by his expression this wasn’t too good. John went on to win the 1969 Mr. America title and I’ve been fighting to keep that spare tire flat ever since. I also remember him telling me that “70% of this game is diet. It’s very important. Remember, you are what you eat.”

Today research indicates that John’s advice is still true. There are, however, a lot of other things that we consume that can sabotage our best efforts at maintaining our health and wellness besides diet. Certainly, we consume much more today than ever before. Food, although very important, is only part of what we consume. We not only eat, but we drink, breathe, and consume massive amounts of news and information. All this input contributes to the state of our health and well-being. What we ingest becomes the fabric of who we are, what we think, our values, and how we live our lives. Today the best way to be sure we are healthy and happy is to engage in conscious consumption, being more aware of what we are taking in and consuming.

Here are a few things you may be consuming that you may want to pay a little more attention to:
⦁    News and information. A recent article published in the Huffington Post suggested that as little as three minutes of news watched each morning could negatively impact a person’s day for the next eight hours. Three minutes! Negative news stories contribute to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, as people get overwhelmed by stories that they can exert no control over. Human evolution has wired our brains to be on the alert for potential danger and threats. We are more likely to think negatively than positively and, as a result, we gravitate more towards negative sensory inputs. This means we are more wired to remember news stories that threaten us with terrorist attacks than that story about the kitten that was rescued from that tree. It also explains why we can’t turn away from that car crash we drove by on the way to work. Sigmund Freud referred to this fascination as our “death instinct.” Our brains are designed to notice these and retain them as a warning for ourselves. In 2016 the average person consumes as much information in one week as a person would in a lifetime a century ago. For more see http://mindbodycoach.org/media-madness-media-influences-mental-health/
⦁    Gossip, celebrity news, and social media. We also have only so much bandwidth for empathy, concern, and emotional connection. Getting involved in the latest drama from the lives of the rich and famous is like consuming junk food. It fills us up emotionally, but has no lasting value. It also diverts our attention from potentially important relationships in our real lives, such as our spouses, partners, children, and family. We probably better off spending time with our actual friends and family than our virtual friends and our social media contacts. It takes more time to nurture the real world relationships, but the benefits are certainly much more significant.
⦁    Screen time. Since the 1950s social scientists have been concerned with the amount of time that we spend watching television. We’ve come along way from three channels that you marveled at in 1960. We still have television to contend with, but we also have iPhones in our pockets, Netflix, streaming video on demand, and jobs that require us to spend eight hours a day staring at a computer. Research indicates that all this screen time not only can cause eye strain and migraines, but that it also contributes to metabolic syndrome, difficulty processing emotions in the real world, and is as escapist as consuming moderate amounts of psychoactive drugs. As people spend more time engaged in the fantasy dramas of others, they are becoming numb to events occurring in real life. Excessive screen time has been linked to the rise of bullying in American children and has become a primary factor in most divorce cases. It also has been shown to rewire the brain and a negative and non-productive way, causing us to experience difficulty regulating our emotions.
⦁    Air. Not only is the air that we are breathing today far less healthy for us than it was for man-breathing-fresh-airour great grandparents, but most people don’t know how to breathe correctly. As we spend less time being physically active, more time hunched over computer screens, and leading lives that are more psychologically stressful, we have begun to breathe inefficiently. Ask the average person to “take in a deep breath,” and you’ll notice that they take an unproductive breath as their upper chest and shoulders expand. Proper breathing involves expanding the abdomen and lower lungs with virtually no involvement of the shoulders. Breathing is by far the number one most important consumption activity that we engage in. It is said that a human can go three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without breathing. For a How To on breathing properly see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iypetAkg_pY
⦁    Water. Yeah, we all know that we should consume approximately 8 glasses of water each day. Most of us like to think that we do, but do we really? We have so many beverage choices that many people grow up consuming very little water. In fact, many Americans have the belief that “water tastes gross” and drink very little of it, substituting all kinds of other liquids in its place. There has been a lot of research published recently that shows Americans are becoming more aware of the negative health impacts of cola and soft drinks, but there are many more culprits flying under the radar. Many sports drinks, energy drinks, juice drinks, and other beverages are hidden sources of sugar, empty calories, and chemicals that we could do without. The bottled water industry has become one of the most productive businesses the world. Unless you live in a third world nation, your tap water is probably okay. Learn to develop a taste for it. The human body is 70% water, so what we drink is as important as what we eat.
⦁    Food. By food, I mean real food, the kind that Great Grandpa had waiting on the table for him after a long day at work. There are a lot of reasons that Americans are more impatient, fat, lethargic, and unhappy while living in the most abundant time in human history. John DeCola was 100% correct, we ultimately become what we eat. Every cell in the body regenerates within a seven-year period of time. That means that every seven years our physical body is entirely new. How well our cells reproduce is determined by what we eat and consume. Many people pay more attention to the motor oil that they put in their cars than the food that they put in their mouths. Your body is your most important vehicle. Fuel it carefully. For more see http://mindbodycoach.org/sugar-sugar-compulsive-eating-conspiracy/ and http://mindbodycoach.org/food-mood-connection/

“Garbage in, garbage out.”- Unknown

Ultimately, we are what we consume. That which we consume literally becomes who wedecola2 are. And, it is very important. Be aware of what you consume, food and otherwise. Conscious consumption should be a governing principle for all of us. Be discriminating about what you take in. Your life is guaranteed to be a fuller and richer one..

“We consume so we never have to answer the hard questions. When we are bored we eat. When we are lonely we watch a movie, read the newspaper, jump on social media. Each time we do we cover up our real emotions and keep throwing another layer of confusion and anxiety on top, making it almost impossible to dig ourselves out of the hole, or at least see which way is up.” – Evan Sutter, Solitude: How Doing Nothing Can Change the World

John

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

Sugar, Sugar : The Compulsive Eating Conspiracy

“Sugar, ah honey honey,
You are my candy girl
And you’ve got me wanting you.
Honey, ah sugar sugar,
You are my candy girl
And you’ve got me wanting you.” – Sugar, Sugar, the Archies

In 2016, it is virtually impossible to not know what a person needs to do for their health. Turning on your computer usually leads to a homepage that is bound to throw some health related suggestions, recent study, or some exercise program at you that is doable and should fit your lifestyle. Research indicates that most people do, in fact, give many of those suggestions a try. Fewer of us are smoking, most claim we are exercising, and Fat Gymvirtually everyone says they are watching their diet. If you look around carefully however, it doesn’t look that way. Most people, despite their efforts, are overweight, lethargic, and sluggish. Some, in fact, are quite miserable. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2009–2010 indicates that two thirds of American adults are considered overweight, one out of three adults are considered obese, and three out of four American adult males are obese. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that poor diet and exercise has now surpassed smoking as the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the generation labeled as the Millennials, those reaching adulthood around the year 2000, will be the first generation in history to not outlive their parents. What the heck is happening?

The answer to this may be one of the most under discussed conspiracies of our time – the role of the food industry in creating a generation of Americans addicted to food. That’s right, addicted. We all must eat, that’s biological fact, but many of us are addicted to foods that are unhealthy, yet more compulsively consumed than tobacco or alcohol ever were. And, it appears the food industry is putting as much effort into this perpetuating this addiction as the tobacco industry did in the 1980s, sabotaging the sincere efforts of millions of Americans to take care of their health and wellness. In fact, numerous studies have shown that food addictions are more shackling than addiction to cocaine! This explains why, despite the fact that more of us are trying to take care of our health through diet and exercise, we are a lot worse off in many ways than the World War II generation. For example, in 1960 the average body weight of a woman age 20 to 29 was 128 pounds. By the year 2000 it was 157 pounds. For 40 to 49-year-olds, it rose from 142 pounds to 170, coincidentally the same weight as a American male in 1960. Men didn’t fare any better during those years either. Today’s American male weighs as much as 1.5 American women from the 1960s.

If you are one of those that has been trying hard to get your weight, health, and energy levels under control and are failing, it may not be your fault. If you find yourself frequently eating when you are not hungry, craving foods that you know are not good for you, or eating mindlessly at times, you may be addicted. Breaking free of this addiction is the only way for you to get your weight and health under control. Like all addictions, this is both behavioral as well as chemical.

One of the biggest reasons for this addiction is that we are no longer eating real food. woman-snorting-doughnuts-largeThe food industry has found ways to manipulate three nutrients that the human body craves: sugar, fat, and salt. These three taste sensations are compulsively sought out of biological necessity. Our brains crave these so that we are compelled to eat enough for survival. In earlier history humans were wired to eat only when they were hungry, not out of boredom or for recreational purposes as we do today. Of course, their lives were a greater struggle and they were more active than modern man. Sugar, salt, and fat activate the reward center of our brain as definitely and surely as any illicit substance, in fact, even more so because we must eat regularly to survive. When these nutrients are combined they become addictive, meaning the more of these foods that you consume, and the greater the tendency to crave even more. This explains why many of us compulsively eat things well after the point of satiety.

As an example, in studies done of the addictive qualities of dairy products, researchers found that test subjects consistently rated products more highly with regard to desirability if the natural fat from these products was needlessly supplemented with moderate quantities of sugar and salt. The food industry will often sneak in sugar and salt in other forms calling them “preservatives.” While they may have some preservative capabilities, they are also highly addictive and researchers who produce these products are fully aware of what they’re doing. If something is on the label of the food that you buy is something that you cannot pronounce or is labeled as a preservative, it is probably a hidden source of sugar, salt, or fat. If not, it is probably something that your brain will interpret that way leading to compulsive overeating. If something is labeled as a food “product,” a cheese product, for example, as opposed to real cheese, it probably falls in the same category.

The addition of sugar is one of the easiest ways that the industry increases our compulsion for food. High fructose corn syrup, fructose, lactose, and other forms of simple carbohydrates are added, giving our brains that fix that we crave. It is estimated that modern Americans consume as much sugar in five days as a typical American did an entire year in the early 19th century! While all carbohydrates will be converted to glucose in our bodies, these sources of carbohydrates enter the bloodstream in quantities that can be addictive. As an example, you’re better off having real orange juice than that juice drink that contains “10% real orange juice,” and, you’d be much better off eating an orange rather than either because of the combination of vitamin C, natural sugar, and fiber. Food denuded of fiber does not fill you up, and that and the combination of high sugar content leads to addictive consumption.

Thee are a number of subtle ways of sneaking in excess amounts of sugar and salt into our diets that you wouldn’t initially consider. Some examples are in condiments such as ketchup, ready-made foods such as canned spaghetti sauces, quick “grab and go health foods,” such as granola bars, power bars, and protein bars, and the obvious Snicker’s bar or bag of chips. Of course, the modern lifestyle lends itself to grab and go eating. Opening a can of Campbell’s Soup for the family after a long day at work makes clear sense, unfortunately, the sodium content from that can does not.

The food industry will argue that these methods of producing food are necessary as the population of the earth is now over 7 billion people and food must go from production to table much more quickly than ever before. In the process they have created food that is mostly processed rather than natural, contain more simple sugars and simple carbohydrates than natural, and has been robbed of healthy fats and replaced with unhealthy. These changes not only are impacting our weight and physical health, but also our mental health. A study done in 1999 said that there had been a 100 fold increase in the prevalence of depression worldwide over the course of the 20th century. While nutritional changes cannot be blamed for all of this, it may be a factor. The Western Diet now has and imbalance of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats, a critical factor in the development of symptoms of depression.

Today, the Standard American Diet, or SAD, is:
⦁    High in processed foods. If a food is packaged, prepared, or boxed it’s probably not the best choice.
⦁    High in carbohydrates. Breads, pasta, rice, and sugar in excess are all bad choices. Even pasta, whole grain or not, will be converted to sugar by the body. While you don’t have to give these foods up, it’s probably a better idea to prepare these naturally and consider them to be a side dish.
⦁    Low in plant-based foods, fiber, natural antioxidants, and plant-based nutrients.
⦁    High in animal and unhealthy fats. Fats that are saturated and hydrogenated are components of an inflammatory and unhealthy diet.
⦁    Low in healthy fats such as omega-3’s, which reduce inflammation. Supplementing your diet with a good source of omega-3 is a simple solution.

A healthy diet is much more than calories in and calories out. Many studies indicate that the best way to lose weight permanently is to make wiser food choices rather than the traditional counting of calories. Calorie deprivation is not the healthiest thing for your body or your brain. The human brain consumes more calories than the rest of your body combined. No wonder that a calorie deprived diet leads to cranky and sometime in erratic behavior. A natural diet of real food is the best way to keep weight off permanently.

The overconsumption of foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat is one of the joys of Choicelife. No one is suggesting that you become a nutritional Nazi and deprive yourself of the occasional doughnut, bowl of ice cream, or glass of beer. Just pay a little more attention to what you consume on a regular basis. If you find yourself compulsively overeating and low in dietary willpower, it just may not be your fault.

Eat like your life depends upon it, because it does.

For more on this topic see also:
http://mindbodycoach.org/food-addiction-cant-believe-ate-whole-thing/
http://mindbodycoach.org/food-mood-connection/
http://mindbodycoach.org/leptin-the-free-energy-boosting-weight-loss-miracle/
http://mindbodycoach.org/endocrine-disruptors-how-modern-life-wreaks-havoc-on-your-hormones/
http://mindbodycoach.org/syndrome-x-the-not-so-silent-killer/
http://mindbodycoach.org/going-with-your-gut-the-gut-health-mental-health-connection/

John

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 A Balanced Lifestyle Is Unattainable

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” – Epicurus

Balance, when one is talking about their lifestyle, is one of those concepts that is really hard to nail down and define. Most people who are active physically and are concernedHigh-Wire-Balancing-Act about their wellness often strive for a balance in their life without delving into what the word balance really means. In practice, however, it frequently becomes an all or nothing pursuit that eventually tips too much in the direction of hedonism or excess. People start off in their wellness plan with good intentions, but inadvertently set themselves up for failure as they strive for perfection. Perfection, unfortunately, does not exist and when a person realizes that, they usually give up on some very important components of their wellness plan or scrap the whole thing together.

In seeking balance, or anything else in life, people have to remember that perfection does not exist. It is an ideal to strive for, something that does not exist in reality, a journey rather than a destination. Nothing is ever truly in the state of balance, everything in the physical world and in person’s life is constantly in a state of flux. A balanced lifestyle must include elements that are healthy and good, while maintaining control of things that are less than perfect or even undesirable. Realizing and accepting this is one of the keys maintaining a solid, sustainable and balanced wellness plan.

“Wellness is the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and the fulfillment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings.” – The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization definition of wellness is very thorough and comprehensive, breaking wellness down into five basic components. In putting together your own wellness plan, consider the five areas that they have identified:

1. Physical
Exercise-Rest. If you are going to be sustaining physical exercise as part of your lifestyle, you going to have to build in periods of rest and relaxation. Knowing when to back off, tone down, work around injuries, and build in recuperative activities is essential to sustaining this portion of your plan. Sets and reps are good, but don’t forget rest, ice, planned time off, and that occasional ibuprofen.
Moderate Eating-Occasional Indulgence. No one’s ever perfect when it comes to diet and you certainly won’t be the first one. If you are eating a balanced and healthy diet 80 to 90% of the time, you are on your way towards sustaining a wellness lifestyle over the long haul. Don’t think of yourself as being “on a diet,” think of yourself as eating healthy as often as you possibly can. This lowers the mental expectations and prevents you from catastrophizing that occasional cake and ice cream or sixpack that you consume. Don’t beat yourself up! Remember grasshopper, balance! See also http://mindbodycoach.org/8020-rulelots-times-life-seems-like-merely-spinning-wheels-getting-nowhere-seemingly-reason-can-identify-things-come-together-things-often-seem/
Resistance Exercise-Cardiovascular Exercise-Athletic Movement. Your exercise routine plankshould have resistance work such as weight training, body weight exercises, resistance bands, etc. This is important at any age, but more important as something that you sustain over the lifespan. The importance of cardiovascular exercise does not even need to be explained, it’s that important. You should also find an activity that you do on a regular basis that makes you feel athletic. It can literally be athletic, such as yoga, martial arts, softball, basketball, or it can be something that gets you moving outside such as jogging, brisk walking, hiking, etc. It is very beneficial for everyone to think of themselves as being some type of athlete and to retain a competitiveness with yourself. The mental health benefits of this are probably more important than physical. See also http://mindbodycoach.org/preventing-shrinkage/ and http://mindbodycoach.org/ive-fallen-cant-get/

2. Psychological
Mood. Being able to keep your mood in a state of balance is one of life’s keys to happiness. Not overreacting during times of sadness, anger, emotional pain, and loss is an incredible life skill for anyone to develop.
Self Awareness. Knowing what your values are and living a lifestyle that is consistent with those values creates that balanced emotional state that you’re looking for in your wellness plan. Knowing what’s important to you, whose important to you, and what you believe in and value, is the first step towards living a balanced life that is consistent with those values. Again, self-examination will show some inconsistencies now and again, but that’s okay. Remember, perfection doesn’t exist.
Self Talk. Trying to maintain a healthy and positive internal dialogue with yourself is the goal here. Learn to catch yourself during times of negativity and talk yourself into a more beneficial, realistic and positive mindset. Search this site for articles on cognitive behavioral therapy for help with this.

3. Socially
Family. If you have a family that you find supportive, nurturing, and worthy of your emotional investment, congratulations. You are one of life’s fortunate people. If you don’t, create one. Humans are social creatures, needing others for survival. In the 21st century, this survival is no longer physical, but emotional. We need meaningful interactions with others in order to feel whole. John Donne and Abraham Maslow were onto something here. See also http://mindbodycoach.org/going-tribal/
Work Colleagues. If you working a 40 hour week, then you’re probably spending more time with coworkers than some family members. While you certainly don’t have to have love and affection for your coworkers, it’s probably a good idea to be able to coexist with them. Working as a team with them, accepting them for their faults, and seeing their points of view, can make the work week a little more palatable. Hopefully, you’ll have coworkers that you really care about and consider to be friends. If not, work to accept them for what they are.
Acquaintances. These are the people that you see every day as you go about your normal routine. The person at the post office, the guy at the drive through window at the coffee shop, the doorman of your office, or that neighbor who heads off to work at the same time you do. A smile, friendly wave, or acknowledgment of their existence is probably more beneficial towards your wellness than theirs.
Significant Others. If you are involved in a relationship, keep in mind that that also must be kept in balance. Also keep in mind that the 50/50 ideal of relationships does not exist. The 50% mark is a line that one crosses based on which person is the most needy at that point in time. Relationships with spouses, romantic interests, and significant others are constantly changing. Sometimes one partner is giving 90% because the other needs it. For example, if your spouse is ill, then you are helping them and giving more than your 50%. If they are going through a difficult time emotionally, you support them because they need it and you care. If you feel a resentment towards them because of this, then examine the relationship and try to work through it. If you can’t work through it, then maybe it’s not a relationship you should be in. When it comes to significant others, remember the Karl Marx quote: “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.”

4. Spiritually
Beliefs. What do you believe when it comes to ultimate questions? Where did we come from, where am I going, what becomes of me at death, is there a supreme being, divine intelligence, God etc. Many people live their lives ignoring the answer to these kinds of questions because of fear. Others, retain the beliefs of their childhood which came from organized religion and their parents. Some will study philosophies and religious traditions to find the answers that make sense to them. This aspect of a wellness plan is perhaps the most personal and private of all. It is important to your wellness to have something of an idea of what you believe in. It’s virtually impossible to feel whole and well if you don’t have a belief in something greater than yourself.

5. Economically
How Much? How much do I need in terms of money and wealth in order to feel secure, safe, and well? How much money does my family need in order for us to support each other? Do I really need to have 500 channels on my TV, a new vehicle every other year, and brand-name everything in order to feel good about my life?
Job. Do I feel good about my employment? Many people go through life feeling that their job is a drudgery. It’s something they do because “it pays well,” but don’t feel really good about what they’re actually doing. Finding some meaningful connection to the work that you do is an important part of feeling well and good about yourself. If you’re selling a product or performing a service that you don’t believe in, it’s not a good thing. If you were working simply for the money, then that’s not a good thing either. Can you compartmentalize your life? Do you find yourself working at home and on weekends because of your job demands? This is not a problem if you derive some meaning and satisfaction from doing so. If you find yourself working seven days a week for a job that you do not find emotionally satisfying or meaningful, then this part of your life is out of balance. There are, however, going to be crunch times with any job where you have to attend to it. These times are part of the nature of balance.

Wellness is far more than a physical thing, it is rather a comprehensive lifestyle that one maintains easily because it is based on beliefs and personal values. Yeah, it’s a little deeper than push-ups, sit-ups, and that walk you take every day. If you have an understanding of the role that balance plays in this, you’ll feel good about yourself way beyond the physical. Attending to these five principles will give you more awareness and overall satisfaction than simply looking good in the mirror.

“Remember, success is a journey, not a destination. Have faith in your ability. You will doboatpose just fine.” – Bruce Lee

John

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

Find Your Ikigai : What Okinawa Can Teach Us About Longevity

Ikigai (生き甲斐, pronounced “ee-kee-guy”) is an Okinawan concept meaning “a reason for being”. Everyone, according to the Okinawans, has an ikigai. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning to life. Examples include work, hobbies and raising children. -Wikipedia

Okinawan culture is a culture that is rich in tradition, purpose, physical activity, and social connectedness. Long known for its connection to Zen, karate do, and tea ceremonies, it Toyamakatahas recently been studied in depth because of the longevity of its inhabitants. Okinawans live longer than any culture on earth, with the average being 82 years old. Per capita, they have more centenarians than any other country, and their centenarians are known for their health, vigor, lean builds, freedom from heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis. Clearly there is a lot that the Western world can learn from the culture of Okinawans.

Okinawa is the land where karate was invented, and many of these centenarians practice the art on a daily basis. The rhythmic exercise, lifelong practice, and mind-body effects of this activity are well known, but they are not the whole picture. Okinawans who do not practice karate do also have longevity as well. There are a multitude of factors that lead to the long lifespans of the inhabitants of Okinawa. (For more on the health benefits of karate do see also http://mindbodycoach.org/karate/ , http://mindbodycoach.org/best-kept-mind-body-secret/, http://mindbodycoach.org/mind-body-mr-miyagi/ )

One immeasurable factor in why the Okinawan lifespan tends to be so long and rich is something that is called ikigai. Ikigai has a number of translations, but the one that is most relevant roughly means, “the reason that I get up in the morning.” According to Okinawans, everyone should have an ikigai . Disharmony in life results from a imbalance between the mind, body, and spirit. Knowing your ikigai is a way to keep your spiritual life and your life’s purpose in balance with your position in the universe. People who have an ikigai don’t lie in bed in the morning dreading that moment when their feet hit the floor, they are energized, looking forward to the day, and except their life as a challenge. They have a purpose and this purpose is not only spiritually energizing, but physically and emotionally energizing as well.

Here is an Okinawan story that illustrates the concept:
In a small village outside of Osaka, a woman in a coma was dying. She suddenly had a feeling that she was taken up to heaven and stood before the Voice of her ancestors.

“Who are you?” the Voice said to her.

“I am the wife of the mayor,” she replied. “I did not ask whose wife you are but who you are.” “I am the mother of four children.” “I did not ask whose mother you are, but who you are.” “I am a school teacher.” “I did not ask what your profession is but who you are.”

And so it went. No matter what she replied, she did not seem to give a satisfactory answer to the question, “Who are you?”

“I am a Shinto.” “I did not ask what your religion is but who you are.” “I am the one who wakes up each day to care for my family, and nurture the young minds of the children at my school.”

She passed the examination, and was sent back to earth. The next morning she woke at sunrise, feeling a deep sense of meaning and purpose. She tended to her children’s lunches, and planned fun lessons for her students that day. The woman had discovered her ikigai.

In Western civilization many people are living in a rat race, where life feels like running on a treadmill every day. You work, go home, sleep, rinse and repeat – over and over and over again. Like the song from the 80s says, everyone’s working for the weekend. Dread those five days, recharge for two and then repeat the cycle. Most people look forward to retirement, but when retirement comes there is no purpose attached to it because for the previous 40 years there has been no ikigai. People tend to struggle to find an ikigai in retirement. Some do, but most don’t. The main purpose of most retired people in developed nations is to try to regain the health, life satisfaction, and wellness that they were robbed of from those 40 years of living a life that had no ikigai. Hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Everyone, regardless of age, should try to identify their ikigai. If one waits to retirement to find their purpose it’s far too late. There are some key factors to reflect upon if you are trying to define what your ikigai is:

An ikigai is not something that drains you. It is something that you look forward to doing and that you find emotionally and spiritually energizing.
An ikigai is not something that you are working towards. It is something that you do, a journey rather than a destination. It may even be striving for perfection, an impossible task. Many Okinawans practice karate do, a martial art in which one strives for perfection of form and function, all the while knowing that it is unattainable. Yoga, golf, art, gardening, caring for pets, and cooking are all good examples of behaviors that could form your ikigai.
An ikigai is not invisible, internal, or something that you think about. It is something that you do, a behavior that you engage in that you find fulfilling.
An ikigai is something that can be summed up briefly, perhaps even in a single sentence. “I cook for my children and grandchildren,” is an example. “I meet with my buddies daily for coffee,” as simple as it is, could be an ikigai.

IkigaiFinding your ikigai need not be complicated, it can be an extension of something that you currently do regularly. It is probably something that you look forward to, really enjoy, find purpose in, and don’t think much about because it is something simple. A review of potential things that could be your ikigai may reveal many potential ikigais. That’s okay, this is not rocket science. You may have multiple ikigai and as long as they are simple and meaningful that’s great. Ikigai may change over time, and that’s okay too.

“I was eight when I moved to Florida, and I thought, “Oh great, the retirement capital of the world. I’ll be dead within a decade.” – Jarod Kintz,

When the Social Security Act was passed in 1935 it established the retirement age is 65, which at that time was the average life expectancy. Today the average retiree has between 15 and 30 years of retirement, a long time to go without a purpose in life. Depression and addiction are a seldom talked about epidemic among senior citizens in situpsthe United States. We’ve all heard anecdotal stories about that person who retired and died shortly thereafter. Perhaps if more people could find their ikigai they could live as long as seniors on Okinawa. The combination of an Okinawan mindset combined with modern medical technology should extend the life span as well as our quality of life.

Now that you know what an ikigai is, find it,

“Refire—an attitude of embracing the years ahead with enthusiasm rather than apathy.” – Morton Shaevitz, Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life

John

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 State Of Your Sleep

“Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, and eight hours for what you will.” – Benjamin Franklin

Last week, the Center for Disease Control published the results of a study of the sleep habits of Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study showed that Sleep outone third of American adults between the ages of 18 and 60 do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. The study showed that many of the 444,306 respondents not only didn’t sleep enough, but weren’t sure of how much sleep they needed or the impact of that a lack of sleep can have on their mental and physical wellness. In their summary of their results, the CDC pointed out that sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk in developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, and mental health problems. If Benjamin Franklin knew this 250 years ago, why is it that so many Americans are ill informed about rest, sleep, and the impact that it has on our well-being?

Wayne Giles, director of the CDC’s Division of Population Health, gives a hint as to where the problem is coming from. He points out that, “Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night, rising at the same time each morning, and turning off or removing televisions, computers, and mobile devices from the bedroom can help people get the healthy sleep that they need.” Perhaps these devices are the shiny objects that distract Americans from sleep and have taken priority over our desire to sleep. Maybe living in an age of too much information has distracted us from a basic, yet necessary, human activity.

Here are the key findings of the CDC’s study:

⦁ Healthy sleep duration was lower among Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (54 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (54 percent), multiracial non-Hispanics (54 percent) and American Indians/Alaska Natives (60 percent) compared with non-Hispanic whites (67 percent), Hispanics (66 percent), and Asians (63 percent).
Cowboy⦁ The prevalence of healthy sleep duration varied among states and ranged from 56 percent in Hawaii to 72 percent in South Dakota.
⦁ A lower proportion of adults reported getting at least seven hours of sleep per day in states clustered in the southeastern region of the United States and the Appalachian Mountains. Previous studies have shown that these regions also have the highest prevalence of obesity and other chronic conditions.
⦁ People who reported they were unable to work or were unemployed had lower healthy sleep duration (51 percent and 60 percent, respectively) than did employed respondents (65 percent). The prevalence of healthy sleep duration was highest among people with a college degree or higher (72 percent).
⦁ The percentage reporting a healthy sleep duration was higher among people who were married (67 percent) compared with those who were never married (62 percent) or divorced, widowed, or separated (56 percent).

The study went on to conclude that getting less than seven hours sleep per night not only is associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, but also can be a factor in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It is also assumed to play a major role in early death. “People have to recognize that sleep is just as important as what they’re eating and how much they’re exercising,” said Dr. Shalini Paruthi, co-director of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis. “It’s one of the pillars of good health.”

The CDC has recommendations for all of us to follow to combat this health problem:

⦁ Healthcare providers should routinely assess patients’ sleep patterns and discuss sleep-related problems such as snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.
⦁ Healthcare providers should also educate patients about the importance of sleep to their health.
⦁ Individuals should make getting enough sleep a priority and practice good sleep habits.
⦁ Employers can consider adjusting work schedules to allow their workers time to get enough sleep.
⦁ Employers can also educate their shift workers about how to improve their sleep.

There are a variety of reasons why people routinely sleep less than the recommended amount of seven hours. Many don’t even realize the role that their lifestyle plays in their lack of sleep. Conversations at work tend to revolve around information that Americans glean from television and the computer. Television shows like Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, and other visual junk food tends to keep people up late at night and make it difficult for them to fall asleep when they finally lay down. This behavior is also associated with a sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices – things that lead to obvious health problems.

Others take a type of pride in their ability to “get by on less than X amount of hours of sleep.” These people tend to be driven, motivated, and workaholic. Yes, you can “get by” on brief amounts of sleep, but should you? Shouldn’t this be something that you do occasionally when work or life presents a crisis rather than something that you do on a regular basis?

A happy and fulfilled life is all about balance. The advice the Benjamin Franklin gave Tigeralmost 300 years ago is both simple and profound at the same time. Sleep should play an important role in the trifecta of life events – work, rest, and recreation. Not enough of us seem to be paying attention to our sleep, and our health is paying the price. The CDC’s study gives us all plenty to sleep on.

For some how-to articles on obtaining a good nights sleep, use the search box to the right of this article. Pleasant dreams!

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin.

John

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

Leptin : The Free, Energy Boosting, Weight Loss Miracle

“According to data by Marketdata Enterprises, a market research firm that specializes in tracking niche industries, Americans spend north of $60 billion annually to try to lose pounds, on everything from paying for gym memberships and joining weight-loss programs to drinking diet soda.” – U.S. News & World Report, January 2, 2013

If you are typical American or resident of a first world nation, you probably at some point or another have spent some money contributing to the wealth of the weight loss industry. obese-vs-thin-womanMost of these weight loss products are promoted by celebrities, fitness models, actors and actresses, and the rich and famous. Many look at these “beautiful people” and enviously say things like “Well, if I had their money I’d be able to afford the nutritionist, trainer, and plastic surgeon that they have.” Most of us think that affluence gives them a weight loss advantage that we’ll never have.

Recent research has discovered a miracle substance that is available to everyone that is guaranteed to suppress your appetite, melt body fat, increase your energy and activity level, and maintain ideal body weight forever. And, here’s the best news of all – it’s free and is available to everyone regardless of financial means. You can obtain this miracle substance without doctors, surgeons, or painful exercise regimens, in fact you can make it yourself. This miracle substance has been called the Holy Grail of weight loss and fitness.

This miracle substance is called leptin. It is a hormone, produced by the brain, that tells the brain it is not hungry and pushes the brain and body to be active. It’s a feedback mechanism, keeping the body in a state of equilibrium, creating a healthy balance of intake and output of energy. The substance is miraculously effective, and is available at no financial cost to you. However, you’re going to have to work to get it, but more on that later….

Leptin has been in the human animal since before Noah built the ark. Its purpose is to keep a person from accumulating excess weight and fat. For example, when early man gained excess fat, that fat secreted the hormone leptin. Leptin signals the brain that it no longer needs to overeat, allowing the excess fat to melt while decreasing appetite and increasing the desire to be active. The message is – you’ve got some extra fuel available so go use it. The hormone tells the brain to get the body moving, to go do something productive – build something, do some work, and get active. It is a feedback mechanism designed to keep a person fit, active, and at optimal weight and bodyfat.

Leptin was discovered in the mid 1990’s in experiments with lab rats. Rats with a genetic predisposition toward low levels of leptin sat around, overate, and became fat and obese. Humans with low levels of leptin tend to do the same through behaviors like lying on the couch, eating Doritos, and over consuming sugary food and drinks. Researchers attempted to create supplements that contained leptin, erroneously assuming that overweight people were leptin deficient. Studies indicated that overweight people had plenty of leptin in their systems. Researchers were puzzled as to why their leptin wasn’t working as it was supposed to. Why were some people leptin resistent?

Years of research found the answer – insulin blocks leptin. Today, insulin levels are at epidemic proportions, the average person has insulin levels twice the average of 50 years ago at baseline, let alone the levels of insulin spikes caused by sugary foods such as candy bars. This insulin blocks leptin at the brain. The result is laziness and overeating, because the brain thinks it’s starving. The brain demands food by creating cravings to eat. There is no reasoning with a craving brain, it’s gonna get what it wants, usually when it wants it. If your doctor has told you that you are pre-diabetic, then your susceptible. Maintaining healthy weight, body fat, and energy levels is going to be difficult, if not impossible. Your brain demands that you become lazy, lethargic, and unmotivated in an attempt to conserve energy. The result is you become fat, lazy, unmotivated, and miserable.

obese-man-on-a-scale-smallerThe antidote to leptin resistence is where the work comes in. You have to eat in a way that lowers insulin levels so that your leptin can work efficiently and effectively. Most diets are destined to fail because they don’t address the issue of leptin resistance. Leptin resistance is the reason for yo-yo dieting and the tendency to regain all that weight that you worked so hard to take off. There are some strategies that you can take in order to optimize your leptin levels and work more effectively with this wonder hormone:

1. Change your eating habits. Don’t “go on a diet,” change how and what you eat. Avoid refined and processed foods and eliminate your intake of processed sugar. Fructose, in the form of sweetened juices and drinks is a no no, low-sodium vegetable juice is a better option. Consume fructose in the form of fruits, but don’t overdo it. The fiber in the fruit will make it more useful to your system.

2. Eat a breakfast that is high in protein and and healthy fats. Oatmeal and natural peanut butter would be a healthy breakfast choice. Protein-based breakfasts are conducive to low, steady insulin levels throughout the early part of the day. This consumption of protein creates satiation. Two scrambled eggs and a little bit of leftover meat from the night before our great way to jumpstart your day.

3. Eliminate snacks. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. Allow at least four hours between each meal, allow 4 hours without food before bedtime, and allow at least 12 hours between your evening meal and breakfast the following day. This is better for your liver and allows your hormones to work more efficiently.

4. Optimize your sleep. In bed before 10 and up at dawn allows your hormones to work with the body’s natural rhythms. Try to get outside in the morning shortly after waking, even if it’s for some brief deep breathing exercises, exposure to daylight, or meditation.

5. Eat real food. If it comes in a box, is processed, packaged, or is artificially sweetened it’s probably not a good food choice. Don’t eat anything your great, great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. If nature didn’t make it, beware!

6. Get a physical and blood work done. Get your blood sugar levels checked and work to get them down to acceptable levels. This will allow your leptin to work as it is intended to, lowering your appetite and increasing your energy levels and motivation.

7. Get your diet and insulin levels under control before embarking on a program of vigorous exercise. Exercise done with high insulin levels will increase your cravings if your insulin levels are making you leptin resistant. Better to get your diet in check first. When you do begin to exercise make sure you balance cardiovascular work with exercise in the form of weight training, bodyweight training, or some kind of progressive resistance. Healthy muscle mass increases your metabolism, allowing leptin to work as it is intended.

Obesity is not caused by laziness or lack of willpower alone. Leptin resistance makes it happy-seniors-working-out-300x240virtually impossible for people to keep the pounds off after a successful program of diet and exercise. Dieting smarter and working to optimize your body’s level of the miracle hormone leptin needs to be a priority if you are going to keep it off permanently.

Work at it. While leptin is free, it doesn’t come without a cost.

“Fitness – If it came in a bottle, everybody would have a great body.” – Cher

John

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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