How to Pull Yourself Away From Those Negative Thoughts

Do you consider yourself a worrier? Do you always think first about what could go wrong rather than what could go right when you make a decision? There is a valid reason why this occurs and it has to do with evolution. Our brains are hard-wired to overemphasize threats and exaggerate negative events. We feel these situations more intensely and see them more easily. Because we quickly see the negative side, we can’t readily see the positive side or the opportunities and resources that are also there. Negative thoughts feel real to us and we can accept them as reality. This hard wiring helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors survive living with predators and hunting their food. Even though we no longer need this survival mechanism as acutely, it still lies deep within our brain. The negativity bias can drain our vitality and happiness if left unchecked. Let’s take a look at a few techniques that can stop the negativity train that can takeover our brain.

 

  1. Practicing Mindfulness

 

Staying focused on the present moment and not stuck in the past or looking into the future can help us see situations more clearly. Take for example the time I woke up and saw I had a missed call from our adult son at 1am. I automatically imagined the worse case scenario. In the past, prior to the era of cellphones, these calls were associated with bad events such as the death of a family member or equally as important. Anyway, initially I didn’t even consider that it could have been an infamous “butt dial” phone call. It took me a few minutes to calm my panicking brain to see that possibility. I had to be present in the moment to realize if it were an emergency it would likely have not ended with one phone call.

 

  1. Reframing negative thoughts

 

Reframing is a technique that helps us to view an experience, emotion or situation so we can see the positive side. The first step is to recognize that you are caught up in a negative thought pattern and take steps to stop the cycle. You have to take a step back to separate yourself from your thoughts to see exactly what is going on. It’s like looking at the situation, event or emotion from a distance. This allows us a new perspective. For example, you have a 12 o’clock meeting and are out feverishly running errands. It’s been a hectic morning and you race to the meeting only to receive an email as you are pulling into the parking lot that the meeting has been cancelled. Ugh!… might be your first thought. You could be angry that they just wasted your time or you could reframe what just happened. Could it be that you really just received the gift of time back into your day? You just gained an hour to get more things accomplished at a less hectic pace or maybe time for lunch at your favorite place.

 

  1. Distract yourself

 

Remembering that we perceive or feel negative events, situations and emotions more intensely can make things seem worse than they actually are. Instead of wasting your energy in a negative thought cycle flip it into positive energy. We have all failed at something or other at least once or more in life. Instead of thinking “I am a failure” and making the thought a reality think about where you went wrong to improve your chances for the next time. Focusing on finding a solution is a better use of your time and energy. You could also start a project that you have been putting off or pick up a new hobby to help occupy your mind. Any activity requiring focus and is a little bit challenging will distract you and keep you from sitting in that negative mindset.

 

Yes, there are significant negative events, situations and emotions that are truly real but hopefully these are few and far between for the majority of us. It’s certainly comforting to know that there is a reason for all this negative chatter in our heads and why sometimes we find it difficult to let things go. It is not impossible to break the cycle but it will take effort and awareness. The next time you find your mind falling into a negative spiral, try one of the above techniques. If the one doesn’t work try another and stay more on the positive side of life!

The Easiest Way to Improve Sleep Quality

Sleep quality has been a hot topic as of late. The more and more you pay attention to the media, the more you will see recommendations to help improve your sleep. Many of these tactics probably work to varying degrees. After all, we’re all different.

 

Although there are so many different strategies you can use to improve your sleep quality, there is one in particular that is the easiest to implement. And, even better, it doesn’t cost you a thing (it will actually save you money). But, before we get to that, let’s look at the difference between sleep quality and quantity. Because understanding the difference is going to be imperative as we move forward.

 

 

Sleep Quality VS Sleep Quantity

 

As I mentioned above, what I want to talk about today will help you improve your sleep quality. I say this specifically because there is a difference between having better sleep and having more sleep.

 

On the surface, this makes intuitive sense. If you sleep better for the same amount of time VS sleeping crappy for a longer period of time, it stands to reason that you would rather want to sleep better than sleep more (at least in my head since I’m trying to maximize every minute of every day).

 

But, what if we look at this a little deeper. How does sleeping more compare to sleeping better when it comes to the impact it has on your body? That’s a great question. And any time I have a question, I look to research for the answer. Because (as long as the study was done effectively, which is a big IF) it’s harder to argue with science.

 

A recent analysis of 10 studies showed the relative risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Relative risk was determined by studying over 100,000 people (high number are typically good instudies) starting at a certain age and following up with them at least 4 years later. There were a couple of interesting findings.

 

First, the study found that you were less likely to develop diabetes if you got less than 6 hours of sleep on average than if you got more than 9 hours of sleep on average. So sleeping more than 9 hours on average is more detrimental to your body than sleeping less than 6 hours on average.

 

Second, sleeping less than 6 hours on average was the least impacted of the studied groups. The highest impacted group? Those who reported the highest difficulty of maintaining sleep.

 

Okay, so that’s one study. What’s the big deal, right? One study doesn’t prove anything. Well, maybe. So if you need more convincing, let’s look at another study. And one that’s not so specific to one disease.

 

A study done in 1997 followed college students around for 7 days (okay, they didn’t follow them, cause that might be a creepy). During that time researchers measured the average amount of sleep, sleep quality, as well as a host of other measurements such as depression, anxiety, hunger, anger, fatigue and life satisfaction.

 

The study showed that, among those students who slept on average 7 hours a night, sleep quality had a bigger impact on things like depression, anxiety, hunger, anger, fatigue and life satisfaction, than did sleep quantity. In other words, the fact that they slept for 7 hours (an average recommended amount of sleep) wasn’t enough. If they slept 7 hours, but slept awful, then they were more likely to be cranky and angry. On the other hand, if they slept 7 hours and slept great, they were more likely to be happy and charming.

 

 

The Easiest Way to Improve Your Sleep Quality

 

Now that I have you convinced that sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity, let’s get back to the whole reason we’re here in the first place. And, in order for you to understand the easiest way to improve your sleep quality, we’re going to look at…you guessed it…a study!

 

Last year (yes, this study is that new) researchers did a study on 959 school teachers to see what effect television had on their sleeping patterns. Now, I know what you’re thinking…” of course he’s going to tell me to not watch TV before I go to bed”. And you would be mostly wrong if you thought that (I would always recommend not watching TV before bed. That’s just not what I’m going to say HERE).

 

The study found that teachers who watched on average 120 minutes of television or higher had significantly less quality sleep (and of getting fired, because when in the world do you have time to grade tests and homework if you’re watching more than 2 hours of TV?!?!) than did those who watched up to 60 minutes of TV.

 

So, the good news is, if you watch greater than 2 hours of TV (whether you’re a school teacher or not) and you want to improve your sleep quality, simply cut your 2 hours down to one hour. If you REALLY want to improve your sleep quality, shut down that one hour of TV watching at least one hour before you go to bed.

 

See, I told you I was going to save you money by the end of this article. All you simply have to do is cut back on your screen time and your quality of sleep will start to rise. Don’t underestimate the importance of this little insight. Quality sleep will go a long way in keeping you at your peak health (as we observed in the previous section. And one of your goals in life should be to be the best version of yourself that you can be!

 

If you’re not involved with something that is improving your life and are ready to make a change in your health and vitality, start by setting up your Vitality Strategy Session! Our Pack is here to support you on your journey.

How to Get Started With Your Fitness Journey

The loss of vitality and health can be an insidious process. As children, we were full of energy and rarely stopped moving. We ate when we were hungry and slept when we were tired. We did what our bodies told us to do and then we became grown ups. Statistics show that the average person puts on 1-2 pounds per year from early adulthood through middle age. This occurs mainly because of lifestyle changes that transpire during the same timeframe. We leave school where we may have been involved in athletics. We begin careers that are demanding and result in less time to exercise or prepare meals at home. We resort to convenience foods that are often nutrient deficient and calorie dense on top of becoming sedentary. Next, add in marriage and family pressures to the mix. Time becomes scarce and valuable. Any extra time is spent working or with family not at the gym. If we could see the 50-year-old version of ourselves while we are in our 20’s things might be different. Instead we find ourselves overweight with less mobility and inflamed from our lifestyle choices. We know we need to change but often are confused about how to begin. Most commonly, it goes two ways. We change too many things at once or we change nothing because of indecision.

 

I want to share an example of making too many changes. Recently my son, who is in his late 20’s, decided he needed to lose weight that he had gained after college. He joined a gym close to his home and started a nutrition program given to him. He was counting calories, entering them into an app and monitored macronutrient percentages. He also started working out 5 days a week. Five big changes at once! I thought to myself this won’ t last and gently tried to lend a helping hand but I am only Mom. The fact of the matter is that a mostly sedentary person with a demanding job can’t stick with exercising 5 days a week, change their diet, count everything they eat and worry about macro percentages. Did he lose weight-yes, but after about 5 months he hated it. He admitted he couldn’t stand it anymore. He specifically mentioned that counting calories, eating the same things and worrying about hitting certain macro percentages was the too time consuming. Luckily, he took my advice and simplified.

 

There are many ways to make small changes so let’s get started. First pick something that you feel you can easily do consistently. Here are some ideas.

 

  1. Take the stairs at work. If you can’t do all of them then just do 2 flights at first and build up from there. This will add up!

 

  1. Walk your dog everyday for 30 minutes or walk with a friend. Both are accountability partners.

 

  1. Prep your lunches on Sunday for the week. You will save money and cut back on your processed food intake without even realizing it.

 

  1. Have a vegetable with each meal. The fiber they provide will help fill you and keep you satisfied for longer.

 

  1. Play with your kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews. You will be bonding and making memories so it a win-win.

 

Once you become more physically active and eating better, energy improves and you feel better. Don’t think too hard about it and don’t be paralyzed by indecision. Pick something and be consistent. If you fail after the first week, take the change and make it smaller. Walk 1 flight of steps instead of 2. When you get stuck, hire a knowledgeable coach who can guide you.  Small changes will build success and big changes will set you up for failure. Sustainable change is not the quick fix we want it to be, but a string of small changes added up to create success.

 

If you’re not involved with something that is improving your life and are ready to make a change in your health and vitality, start by setting up your Vitality Strategy Session! Our Pack is here to support you on your journey.

How to do a Bodyweight Workout

Being in the fitness industry for about 10 years now, I’ve heard just about every reason why someone isn’t able to start working out. Sometimes it’s a money issue, or their boyfriend didn’t say it was Okay, or your dog ate your workout shoes. One of the more prominent excuses that I hear is not having enough time.

 

Luckily enough for you, you don’t know 2 hours to get a fantastic workout in. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need 60 minutes (understand, I’m not talking about maximum effectiveness here). You can get an awesome workout in about 20 minutes and not need a single piece of equipment. But before we get to the specifics of our topic, let’s talk a little bit about making time, even for just a 20 minutes workout.

 

 

How to Build in 20 Minutes a Day to Workout

 

For the most part, the excuses that people come up with for not working out can be overcome by a few simple steps. If you don’t have enough money, start making more or set aside “X” amount a week that’s strictly workout money. If your dog ate your workout shoes, go but more. However, you can’t exactly create more time. At least, you can’t create it in a literal sense.

 

There are ways for you to make time during the day to do the things that you need to do in order to live an ultimately healthy and vital life. And that includes exercise. Here’s a short of things that you can do to free up 20 minutes a day in order to complete the bodyweight workout we’ll be going over in a second:

 

#1) Wake up 20 minutes early – Yes, I know you love your sleep. And I believe that quality sleep is imperative for optimal health. However, waking up 20 minutes early to get a workout in is going to be much more beneficial than it is harmful.

 

#2) Watch 1 less episode of Game of Thrones – Okay, this doesn’t have to be Game of Thrones. You can enter whatever TV show it is you watch on Netflix for hours at a time. Instead of watching 3 reruns, just watch 2. There’s your 20 minutes.

 

#3) Set your phone down for 20 minutes – The average person spends close to 3 hours a day on their phone. That’s a staggering number. 3 HOURS!!! Do your eyes a favor and cut 20 minutes out for your workout

 

 

How to do a Great 20 Minute Bodyweight Workout

 

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Bodyweight exercises are the greatest. They’re so great because…well, sadly the average person doesn’t use their body the way they should. And the best way to burn calories is to do exercise that your body is not used to doing.

 

The workout we’re going to go over has 2 groups to it: Group A and Group B. You’ll do each of these groups for 3 sets, doing each exercise in consecutive order to finish one set. Take 60 seconds to rest at the end of each set. So here we go:

 

 

Group A:

#1) Pushups                       8

#2) Split Squat                  8 Each Leg

#3) Plank                           30 Seconds

 

 

Group B:

#1) Reverse Burpee          8

#2) Squat Jump                   8

#3) Bear Crawl                  30 Seconds

 

 

The first group won’t get your heart rate up terribly high. Make sure your form is perfect for your pushups and your split squats. This is where we want to focus on form.

 

Group B, on the other hand, will send your heart rate through the roof. So make sure your pace yourself. If you feel yourself getting too tired, take longer than the recommended 60 seconds of rest.

 

This is only one combination of hundreds of bodyweight combinations that you can utilize to get an awesome workout. Learn how to use your bodyweight so that you can have ab impact on your health even if you’re not able to go to the gym regarly.

 

If you’re not involved with something that is improving your life and are ready to make a change in your health and vitality, start by setting up your Vitality Strategy Session! Our Pack is here to support you on your journey.

How to Overcome Those Cravings That Are Holding You Back

Sugar cravings, we have all had them. We are hardwired by our biology to love the taste of sweetness. We evolved seeking out sweet fruits rich in vitamins, minerals and a quick source of energy. The taste of sweetness helped us to avoid eating foods that were spoiled or poisonous. In coaching nutrition clients, many talk about sweet cravings when they begin to eat healthier. Cravings can become a frustrating obstacle that can impact your success. So what can be done about this strong desire for a particular food?

There are many theories as to what causes this intense desire for a particular thing. Cravings can affect our focus because they occupy the same space in the brain. Cravings are driven by our need for reward. I am sure you have heard “you need more iron if you are craving steak”. Does a nutritional deficiency cause us to crave? Some believe a lack of variety in your diet or a particular place like a movie theater can ignite a longing for a big container of buttery popcorn. We crave different things, for example sweet and salty foods, alcohol, cigarettes and exercise to name a few. These all of have one thing in common. They impact the reward center of our brains and bring us pleasure. The more we have, the more we want. Research shows that 97% of women and 68% of men experience cravings. Sugar and alcohol top the charts of items that are craved.

What are the steps you can take to combat cravings?

#1 Mindfulness Awareness

Become aware of the social or environmental cues that are triggering a craving. Does a particular time of day or place spark a craving?  It could just be that you have allowed a habit to form by having a candy bar at 3pm everyday. Have you always had a snack at night after dinner while watching television. Here is a question to ask yourself next time you grab for that bag of chips-Am I try

#2 Eat Mostly Whole Foods

Whole foods are full of vitamins, minerals and provide everything your body needs to balance hormones, stimulate receptors in your gut that help you to feel full and satisfied. Eating adequate protein, healthy fats and plenty of fiber keeps your blood sugar in balance and your body healthy diminishing cravings for processed foods overtime.

#3 Craving or Hunger

Recognizing that a craving is not the same as physical hunger is a big step. Cravings will come and they will go. Listen to your body’s hunger and satiety cues and eat according to them.

#4 Sleep

We have heard how poor sleep can wreak havoc with our hormones. Sleep helps the mind and body recover and rest. It allows our hormones to reset for the next day. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep at night because that’s when “all the magic happens”.

#5 Work on stress reduction

Stress is known to increase cravings and not for brussel sprouts! Everyone encounters stressors in their daily life. Figure out what relieves stress for you. For some it might be journaling, exercise, walking in nature, or reading. Whatever it is plan time into each day to do what brings you joy. Have it add value to your life.

Sugar cravings don’t have to keep you from achieving your goals. Recognize what they are and implement the steps above to keep working toward your goal.

How Exercise Makes You More Smart (Get It?)

Many of us spend most of our days in the gym trying to lose weight or put on muscle. Many a person has wasted countless hours walking on a treadmill or pedaling away on a recumbent bike in hopes of developing those ever evasive 6-pack abs. 

 

However, there is an underlying effect that exercise has on us that most of us don’t appreciate. Actually, I would imagine most people don’t even stop to think about this effect because they are too focused on trying to get through the final 10 minutes on the elliptical. 

 

But, before we talk more about that, let’s talk a little more about different types of exercise. 

 

What, Exactly, is Exercise Again? 

 

In a previous article, I talked about the difference between Non-Exercise Activity and Exercise. In short, Non-Exercise Activity is, well, non-exercise in nature. Where as exercise is defined as activity for the purpose of increasing your health and fitness, non-exercise activity might be defined as every other activity you do throughout the day. 

 

Now, I make this distinction because it’s going to play a part in our understanding of what else exercise can do for us besides get us ripped. First, because exercise is purposeful in nature, it takes some form of cognitive function to decide to do it in the first place. Sitting on the couch and vegging out is a decision, but not inherently difficult. Exercising is also a decision, but requires more cognitive effort than the former. So we’re already starting to develop an understanding of this new effect of exercise, that being improving your cognitive function. 

 

The above example is a bit of a stretch. I can’t say that studies have been done to prove the deciding to exercise verses deciding to sit and watch Netflix actually improves cognitive function. However, because of the general qualities that each activity holds (exercise is harder to DECIDE to do than watching Netflix), I’m going to make the connection that your cognitive function increases because of the decision 

 

How Does Exercise ACTUALLY Make You Smarter? 

 

Let’s take it a step further, though. Although there haven’t been studies proving the deciding to exercise makes you smarter, there have been studies on what types of exercise make you smarter. Case in point, a recent study of 20 subjects was done on the topic. The 20 subjects were volleyball players training to improve their overall abilities and volleyball skills. Training interventions included specific volleyball training, resistance training and sub-maximal aerobics training (running). 

 

The study measured the working memory of the subjects before and after exercise. The results were pretty clear cut, showing the memory significantly improved after exercise on all accounts. But the activity that improved memory the most was specific volleyball training. 

 

So why does it matter what type of exercise you’re doing when it comes to making you smarter? The answer can be linked back to the idea of purposeful practice. Have you ever heard the saying “practice makes perfect”? Well, that’s a lie. Practice doesn’t make perfect because perfect doesn’t exist. However, practice does make permanent. But it can’t just be any kind of practice. It has to be purposeful practice. You can’t practice passively to make yourself better. You have to pay attention. You have to push your limits. 

 

And this is the connection between smart exercise and dumb exercise. Dumb exercise is okay. Getting on the treadmill is dumb exercise because it doesn’t require much thought. Doing a dumbbell curl is dumb exercise because it’s easy to perform. Doing a Turkish getup, on the other hand, requires your attention. And if you don’t give it the attention it deserves, it’ll let you know about it by dropping the weight on your head (not sure what a turkish getup is? Check it out HERE). 

 

By the way, this same theory can be said for exercise and fat loss (but in a different kind of way). Fat loss happens most effectively when you make your body do something that it is not good at. When you throw something new at your body, it takes more energy to do it than if you do the same thing over and over again. In short, inefficient exercise is the most efficient way to burn fat. 

 

Let your exercise do more for you than just get you bigger shoulders or a shredded 6-pack. These are great things to have, for sure. But if you’re going to put in the effort, you might as well get as much as you can out of it. Take some time to figure out what you can add into your training routine to make yourself think (remember the turkish getup I mentioned?), and slowly you might notice other parts of your life becoming more effortless, as well.

 

If you’re not involved with something that is improving your life and are ready to make a change in your health and vitality, start by setting up your Vitality Strategy Session! Our Pack is here to support you on your journey.