Category Archives: Health

“Have to” versus, “Get to,” or, The Power of Gratitude in Your Life!

Adding gratitude into your life can be powerful.

Adding gratitude into your life can be powerful.

Today I had a session with a client who experienced a very powerful shift. During a family weekend away in a cabin, she stepped into a messy kitchen. Suddenly, she realized that instead of automatically thinking, “Oh, I HAVE TO clean this all up…” she reframed the thought as, “I get to do this for/with my family so that we can spend better time together.”

Once she switched the thought in her mind, she also noticed that the attitude spread to the other members of the family. Everyone worked together to get things done, and it kicked off a wonderful experience for the rest of the weekend.

How many times do we rush through our day thinking that “I have to do this,” when, if we take a step back, we can instead be grateful for the opportunities that we are able to do or have? Life, after all, tends to be made up of the choices we’ve selected for ourselves. There’s actually a saying: “If you don’t like your life, make better choices.”

Gratitude has a host of benefits across a wide spectrum, including a stronger immune system, being less bothered by aches and pains, lower blood pressure, better sleep, feeling more alert and alive, experiencing more joy, optimism and happiness, and being more forgiving and outgoing. These benefits can be obtained with just such a shift in thinking.

Sometimes if we’re mindful of the moment and think about what is going on, it can cause us to realize that we ARE too busy or stressed to enjoy what is going on. If the list of things for your day is a mile long, even enjoyable activities can start feeling like a “have to”, instead of a “want to,” or even, “get to”.

Here are some simple ways to cultivate gratitude in your life:

  • Savor moments of happiness: When something good happens, really enjoy the moment and make it last. Reflecting upon these moments later has also shown to have health benefits.
  • Express it: Simply saying, “Thank you”, benefits both the person who says it and the receiver of the thought. Make it a point for a day to state gratitude for things both small and large. Note how it makes you feel.
  • Keep a gratitude journal: Making notes of what we’re thankful for, either daily or once a week, can be an invigorating experience. This can also help guard against taking things for granted.
  • Meditate on gratitude: I’ve written about the benefits of meditation on a focused mind. There are many ways to meditate, and this includes concentrating on the things for which we are thankful.

Later, I realized I had mentioned during a chat with my sister that, “I have to walk the dog now.” Noting that this was something I normally enjoy, I reflected on my conversation with my client. I suddenly realized I had been preoccupied for most of the day.

So, I took a deep breath, looked out into the sunshine, and reframed the thought. “I get to walk with my dog on a peaceful evening and enjoy the scenery,” I mused. Due to that simple shift, instead of feeling bothered… I felt happy, smiled, and appreciated the time to head out the door with my pal.

Contact amie@runningwithlife.com if you’d like to open up your life to gratitude, and more!

Until then – Keep Running with Life! -Coach Amie

Have You “Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for RUNNING?? Here’s How to Get It Back!!

How to rekindle your LOVE OF RUNNING!!

How to rekindle your LOVE OF RUNNING!!

I’m dedicating this post to someone who recently contacted me about this – however I frequently speak to people who have this issue. They rarely run anymore because what they once loved now feels like a chore. Perhaps you have the same feeling but it’s toward another type of exercise, a job… or even a relationship! Here are a five questions to ask yourself to rekindle your fire!

  1. What did I originally love about it?

    Think back to when you really loved to run. What got you to lace up your shoes and get out there? Perhaps it was the feeling of being outdoors in nature, but recently you’ve been rushed and have just been putting in treadmill miles. Or maybe it was the endorphins (feel-good chemicals) that rushed through your body and left you feeling exhilarated, but recently you’ve been stressed and so just push through your run to “get it over with”. Maybe it was the freedom, however now when you run, instead of letting things go, you just stare at your sports watch with demanding expectation each time.

    Picture yourself back when you used to run and loved it. What elements were different that you can recapture now?

  2. What caused me to stop enjoying it?

    Feelings of irritation or avoidance can happen if we push ourselves hard for a goal, sacrifice, and end up with results that are less than stellar in our eyes. Perhaps it was a race goal that didn’t pan out as expected, or even a bad string of workouts. This can leave us feeling dejected and not wanting to participate, or sometimes even think about, that activity anymore.

    If this is the case, can you reframe the result from something negative into a positive? If you didn’t get the race time you wanted, what other good things came out of the training you had put in? Maybe you lost a few pounds or got into great shape. Maybe you worked harder than you ever thought you could. What did you learn about yourself in the process?

    And if it was a bad race – sometimes we overgeneralize the situation. Just because one race at one time wasn’t ideal, doesn’t mean that all future races will be the same. You’ve gone through it – you’re smarter now. You’ve learned what works for you – and what doesn’t. Now you can focus on improving your training, schedule and strategies for next time.

    If you’re going through a bad set of workouts, maybe you can look at something else that has been affecting you, such as poor sleep or compromised nutrition, that you can correct for the future. Again, learning from it, rather than staying down for the count.

    Pulling out the positives can help motivate you to move forward toward new goals and new heights, rather than dwelling on perceived disappointments.

  3. Am I overwhelming myself with expectations?

    Sometimes we set our goals so high that it feels overwhelming. We think it will take hours and hours of time, we must hit certain paces all the time, and if we don’t do that 100% then we’ve failed. It becomes demotivating to even think about.

    I’m all for setting high goals, however it’s best to be realistic and set them to a level that you can achieve or is just above what you think you can achieve. Maybe your first goal is to just go for a run without any focus on time or distance, but for the sole purpose of enjoying it.

    With small wins, you can have the confidence to move on to bigger things.

  4. Is my life in balance?

    Sometimes burnout can occur when we do one activity to the exclusion of other things we enjoy. Even things we love to do need balance. If running feels like a burden, it’s OK to stop for a while. Even elite athletes are known to take up to a month off in their off-season or after a tough race. Studies have shown that up to ten days off of workouts affect fitness very little.

    There are also health and mental benefits to cross-training or trying another type of workout. You may even find one you enjoy enough to incorporate from time to time on a regular basis.

    And, even workouts need balance. For all the hard workouts you do, remember to incorporate recovery into the mix. This helps become stronger both physically AND mentally.

    Also, what else is going on in your life? Are you extremely burdened at work or is a relationship or other issue taking it’s toll? Are you allowing someone else’s negative opinions toward your running influence the way you feel? Sometimes other issues can lead to an overall loss of motivation, so work on balancing things in your life as a whole.

  1. Have I been doing the same ol’ same ol’ a bit too long?

    Perhaps every day you go out and run the same route at the same time of day. Or, your pace and distance are always the same. If so, spice it up! Add interval training – if even on the same route, alternate fast/slow running. If the route is convenient, try running it in the other direction, or even changing up a block here or there. Add some cross training, such as push-ups or squats after every few blocks.

    Go trail running if you just run on roads. If you run alone, try running with other people, or volunteering to run with a shelter dog. If you always run from home, try a different route. Even driving a few miles away and just starting from a new location can open up a lot of new options. Run at a different time of day. Sign up for a race… or if you feel all you do is compete, don’t, and just run without your Garmin for a while, enjoying being mindful of the moment.

    Overall, don’t be afraid to change things up for a while. And make sure to give yourself permission to do so. Feel good about what you are trying versus feeling guilty because “I should be…” Do what you need to do to stay healthy and well!

I work with people every day to develop strategies to improve health and wellness – contact amie@runningwithlife.com for how!

Like/Follow the Running with Life Facebook page for more updates 🙂

Until then, keep Running with Life! – Coach Amie

How Meditation Can Help Your Running… And Your Life

Can Meditation Help Your Running?

Can Meditation Help Your Running?

I was out in the middle of nowhere when I realized IT.

On a sunny morning, I was out for a run in the countryside. It had been happening for a while, yet it hadn’t dawned on me. Until just – that – moment. And that’s exactly what IT was. The complete clarity of that moment.

I saw the greenness of the trees and surrounding vegetable fields. The pale blue sky. The birds flying and chirping to my right. A breeze blowing across the dark asphalt road. I was in that frame of time, and nothing else.

But even more: I was fully in tune to my running. I felt, smoothly, how my body and muscles were functioning during the run, as a well-oiled machine. The tap tap tap of my feet hitting the ground in perfect rhythm with my breathing.

And that’s when I realized IT. The constant chattering of my thoughts were missing. The stream of things I had to do later that day, of what someone said yesterday, of how far I’d run or still needed to go, of my race, of this, that and the other thing – gone. I had total, clear focus on my surroundings, my body and my running.

A couple of weeks prior I had bought a meditation headband known as, “Muse,” to help me meditate. I’d studied meditation before, and said I was going to do it. Without “actually” doing it. I was skeptical. But the headband was a bit expensive, so now that I had some skin in the game – I was invested – I WAS going to meditate. Through sensors that communicated with an app, it detected if your thoughts started to move away, at which point, it would signal you to get back in the game.

I made a goal to use it every morning when I woke up. I started with three minutes. Clear your mind, and focus on your breath. That doesn’t sound that hard, until you try to do it, and then all of a sudden, you hear the ending tone of the app and realize that your mind has been elsewhere. The.Whole.Time.

Nevertheless, I stuck with it. I made it to five minutes, seven, and twelve. Around the two-week mark, I began to think it wasn’t doing anything for me.

Until that moment.

I then noticed the same effect on the trails. My mind wasn’t everywhere in the chaos of my daily thoughts. It was on the trail, totally centered, yet without effort. I wasn’t tripping over roots yet I also wasn’t forcing myself to pay attention. The focus was clear, yet natural.

In his book, “Running with the Mind of Meditation,” Sakyong Mipham, a marathon runner, Tibetan lama and leader of an international community of meditation centers, says that running and meditation complement each other. It is natural to train both the body and the mind. Without this, we can become imbalanced. This combination of body and mind training, according to Mipham, is needed to become fully engaged in what we are doing.

This concept is also similar to what other texts name as, “Flow.” Have you ever been so involved and interested in something that you’ve lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced Flow. If you’ve watched elite athletes competing in their sport, you can see the definition of total focus, the synchrony of their mind and body in a total state of  Flow.

The first step in meditation can simply be mindfulness. Just noticing what you are doing and staying focused on it. If you are talking to someone, clear your mind and let your full focus be in the other person’s voice. In running, concentrate on your form or even one aspect of your form.

When you’re ready to try meditation, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can simply relax, breathe, and focus on the feeling of your breath entering and exiting your body. Many think you must close your eyes, but you can also focus on something with your eyes open, such as a candle. You can listen to a clock ticking, or you can envision a relaxing scene. If you can’t clear your thoughts, you can simply watch them go by, without judgment, as clouds in a clear sky. Set a timer for two to three minutes, so that you can focus without worrying about the time. There are also many types of meditation. The key is to find the one that resonates with you.

Yesterday I attended an advanced mindful meditation clinic and the instructor said meditation IS training. It’s directing your mind to be in this place, right now. She said she couldn’t tell us how meditation would affect our lives, because it affects everyone differently. For some it may be during exercise, for others it may be a calmness in the din of fighting children or a demanding work environment. It might be better productivity, improved sleep, lowered anxiety/stress/depression or increased resistance to pain. It might be all of these. You never know until you try…

I can provide the help you need to incorporate meditation and focus into your life and/or running. Contact amie@runningwithlife.com for more information!

Keep Running with Life – Amie

10 Answers to Why You’re Not Losing Weight (!)

Are you trying to lose weight for health or optimizing performance, but the pounds just aren’t coming off? Read on for 10 solutions!

Why aren't you losing weight?

Why aren’t you losing weight?

  1. Track your food intake.
    Start doing this one step, and you can stop reading this now! Some like to claim that it’s not all about calories in versus calories out; and honestly, it can sometimes be more complicated (more on this later.) However, if you haven’t tried this basic formula, how will you know if this method works – for you?

    Websites and apps like MyFitnessPal, Weight Watchers or SparkPeople all allow you to readily track the food you eat and the calories you burn exercising using a large database of food counts and exercises.To lose weight, the calories you eat need to be less than calories burned. This is normally the first problem many people have.
     
    Studies have shown that many consistently underestimate their food intake and overestimate their daily activity, with many saying they must just have a slow metabolism, bad genetics or other factors.If you feel this method is too inconvenient for you, do it for three days or a week. That alone may surprise you.

  1. REALLY measure your food portions.
    This goes along with #1… if you are tracking, but haven’t weighed or measured your food, it can be an eye opener as to what a portion size actually is. A simple food scale can do the trick here. Weighing can be more accurate than measuring, for example, 120 grams of something, versus a measured half cup. 120 grams is 120 grams, but a measuring cup can be overfilled, even unknowingly.
     
    Another way is to go by observational portion sizes but even these surprise many: a 3-ounce serving or protein is about the same size as your palm. A serving of peanut butter is about the same size as your thumb. See this chart for more…

    Portion Sizes are often overestimated

     
    If you were tracking and measuring for a while and then decided to “wing it” after a while, it’s good to track and measure again for a few days just to make sure your portions are still in line. It’s natural to sometimes get a little hungry when trying to lose weight. Psychologically this can cause slight “excesses” here and there – a slightly larger portion here, a small snack there. And it all adds up!

  1. Correct your calorie deficit.
    To lose weight, the typical rule of thumb is that a 500-calorie deficit per day will equal around a pound of weight lost per week. A generally safe rate of weight loss for most people is around 1-2 lbs per week, or about 1% of your total bodyweight per week.Some might see shows such as the “Biggest Loser” and think, “But that’s too slow!” But frankly, the smaller and leaner you are, the longer it can take to safely lose fat.
     
    Everyone is different, and you may lose somewhat faster (or slower) than this, however expecting to drop 10 pounds in a week with an extremely high calorie deficit, either through eating too few calories or combining that with exercising to the extreme can be unhealthy and even dangerous, causing nutritional and hormonal imbalances. At a lesser level, it can actually slow weight loss in the long run. Also, as hunger rises, it can lead to a binge and cause a larger setback than it’s worth.
     
    On the other hand, if you are at a very low- or no-calorie deficit, you will find your weight loss stagnant or non-existent. There could be several reasons for this. First, see #1 and #2. Then, even if you are diligently following what you read, the listings for calories in food values can be inaccurate. As well, calories burned during exercise are based on average equations and can vary greatly from person to person.
     
    So what to do? One method is to adjust what you’ve been doing. If you have calculated a reasonable calorie deficit according to your preferred method, continue using the same technique as you were before before, but adjust your TOTAL daily calories by 100-200 calories per day, and see if that changes anything. Experiment until you find a level at which YOU begin to see your desired results.
  1. Stick with the program.
    Real weight loss programs may take 3-4 weeks to show results. Some may notice weight loss right away, while others may take longer as their body adjusts. Factors such as sodium intake, bloating or dehydration can skew results. Many people choose to weigh themselves once a week, and any of these factors can influence the number you see.
     
    If exercise is involved, it can be even more complicated. Exercise is powered by carbohydrate stored in the muscles. A hard workout burns off carbohydrates.  Since carbohydrate is stored in the muscles with water, this can cause weight loss. When the carbohydrate is replenished, this can then again appear as weight gain – however it is not fat gain, yet the scale will vary due to these issues. Therefore, it can take a while to see a weight trend.
  1. Measure results in different ways.
    I usually advise people to use more than one measure for the most accurate results if they are trying to lose fat. A scale is one tool, but doesn’t always tell the whole story. Regularly checking body composition, or the percent of your body that is comprised of fat, is also an important component. “You could be gaining muscle,” is often heard by frustrated, exercising dieters. Yet this almost cliché statement can be true!
     
    How to check body composition? There are many ways, with some of the methods considered the most accurate (the “Bod Pod” air displacement chamber, water displacement or DEXA scanning) also being the least available and most expensive. Other ways include an experienced trainer using calipers to “pinch-test” the amount of fat on the body (the more sites “pinched” with the calipers tend to be the more accurate). Or, a step-on body fat (bio-impedance) scale.
     
    Some argue the step on bio-impedance scales vary in their readings, however I have found on several different occasions that when using a 7-day average of results, a step-on bodyfat scale has been within 1% of the DEXA or underwater weighing methods for measuring body fat. Also, it’s not always getting stuck on the exact number, but observing a gradual downward trend, that matters.
     
    Other commonly used methods are how your clothes fit (using the same clothes), measuring tape, progress pictures, a mirror or athletic performance. These can all give a better rounded picture of your progress than just a number on the scale.
  1. Reduce stress.
    Stress can stall in weight loss or even cause weight gain, as can lack of sleep. Stress and tension can cause the “stress hormone” cortisol to build up in the body, which some say can lead to excess fat accumulation, especially around the midsection. As well, anxiety can be a large culprit of overeating or even sedentary behavior.
     
    Looking at lifestyle factors outside of diet and exercise can cause the “A-ha” moment to your body and be the key to weight loss success.Relaxation and focus techniques such as meditation, massage and even enjoying more moments of laughter or serenity can all help with both stress and weight loss. Intense bouts of exercise can also help calm anxiety.
  1. Be careful of “justification calories”.
    After an endurance race or other hard fitness goal, it can be OK to take a break and give your body the extra calories it needs to heal. However, it’s not uncommon for the break to become an extended vacation from healthy eating habits and lead to weight gain over the coming weeks or months.
     
    This attitude can even happen after a single exercise session. In one experiment, researchers had two groups of people walk the same route around a campus. One group was told they were going to walk this route for exercise. The second group was told they were going to walk the same route to sightsee. Afterwards, both groups were polled as to what they ate – and guess what – the group who thought they did the route for exercise ate more than the “sightseeing” group. So again, watch the “justification” calories.
  1. Start just one time.
    On the contrary, it’s tempting to give up after falling off the wagon only one time. “I already ate a donut, so I might as well eat <fill in the blank> as well, and start over tomorrow/next week/next month.” Constant progress, over perfection, is the goal. Many times if someone has overly perfectionistic attitudes toward eating, this can also result. So give yourself a reality check and just keep going!
  1. Moderate the “cheat.”
    As mentioned before, not counting small snacks here and there can add up. However, some people choose to give themselves free meals or days during the week. While some can find this motivating, having an extreme free for all, even just one day a week, especially when paired with any of the previous steps, can set a person’s weight loss plan back several days – each week. An integrative doctor I used to see commented that some hormonal markers such as insulin levels can possibly take many days or even longer to reset after an event.
     
    While it’s fine to give yourself treats or a break now and then, try to keep in mind moderation, and a full picture of figuring out a lifestyle change that will work for you for a long time to come.
  1. Change it up.

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over...

    STOP the Insanity!

    If what you’ve been doing for the past three months or three years has not worked – stop and try something else! Just because it worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for your particular body type, chemistry or lifestyle. Or, if it was working for a while and then is no longer working, perhaps your body has become accustomed to your routine. The human body is extremely adaptable – so change up your workout routine or food intake.

    I wrote in a recent Facebook post about my 50+ lb weight loss. There was a point when I ate very healthfully, trained sometimes twice a day but could not break out of a weight loss plateau I had reached. At one point, I accidentally injured my foot, and could barely walk at all. Not wanting to gain weight without exercise, I cut calories to a sedentary level and watched my intake like a hawk. That week – the weight started falling off. Weeks later as my foot healed, I had lost 18 lbs without any exercise whatsoever, whereas everything I tried before hadn’t worked.

    When I went back to a workout class that I had regularly attended before my foot injury – everyone else who had continually gone to the same class looked the same. They all asked me what new diet or exercise program I had tried. I simply told them I stopped exercising as much and relaxed my calorie deficit. To this day I’m not sure some of them believed me.

The key to lasting weight loss is to find what works for YOU. This is one thing a Wellness Coach can help you to discover. Contact amie@runningwithlife.com for more information on how.

Keep running with life ! – Amie

Excellent Pre-run Snack – Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans [Recipe]

Ok class… who can tell me what this is???

Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans – Gone!

Yes, that’s right – it’s an EMPTY box of Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee beans. I’m going to blame this one on a friend I’ll call Heidi R.T. (and you know who you are…) One day, she had a post mentioning that she was choosing from a selection of chocolate/coffee delicacies, with a picture of the chocolate covered coffee beans being one.

Honestly, my first thought was – Oh, how unhealthy! Until… she reminded me of my own philosophy that small bits ARE ok. And, indeed they are! Every day, you have a small amount of “discretionary” calories to have as you choose!  There is need to be “a perfect eater” to lose weight, or to simply be healthy!

I coincidentally saw these at the store and purchased them. One serving has 180 calories with 12 grams of fat, however, if you only eat a few chocolate covered coffee beans at a time… the contribution to your total day can be small.

So, I chose to have 6-8 of the chocolate covered beans occasionally before my morning run. That’s around 50-60 calories and is a nice little caffeinated pick-me up equivalent to about a half cup of coffee. And, they are not totally unhealthy. Caffeine has been shown to increase athletic, exercise and running performance, the rate of carbohydrate uptake into the muscles, with some studies showing enhanced fat burn as well. Dark chocolate as well is a powerful source of antioxidants.

The real deal - Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

The real deal – Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

However… a couple days ago to my dismay, I had just an empty box!

I’ve missed it so I decided to play around with some recipes…. so here’s one you may want to try!! Making it at home also ensures your own natural ingredients  😉 And, I’m not personally into the Paleo diet, but if you are.. this qualifies!

The original recipe is from memienge.com. I like it because you can make just small bits at a time. This is handy if you are the type of person who’d rather not keep temptation in the house. If you don’t want caffeine, you can substitute use raisins, almonds or other nuts for the coffee beans as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened 100% dark cocoa powder
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup coffee beans

Directions:

Melt coconut oil and stir in maple syrup. Stir in cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt until completely combined.

Chocolate Mixture

Chocolate mixture – almost there!

Place coffee beans on a piece of parchment or wax paper on a plate. Drop small portions of the chocolate mixture on the coffee beans. Now… next time, I would use small candy molds, if you have them and you’re a stickler on having the rounded shape, otherwise they come out more like “drops”… but the flavor is the same 🙂

Put in the fridge or freezer about 15-30 minutes until hardened. Eat. Yum!

You can make variations by substituting raw honey or molasses for the maple syrup; as well you can add mix-ins such as dried coconut or a bit of cayenne pepper. As the coconut oil tends to melt at room temperature, I’d keep these in the fridge.

If the flavor is too “dark chocolate” for you (I love that, but it wasn’t ‘sweet’ enough for my taste-testing Mom), you can use regular cocoa powder instead of dark, and sweeten to taste. I will experiment using natural stevia powder from my garden, and update when I do!

Have a great day, and let me know what you think!!

And don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” the Running with Life Coaching page on Facebook for more tips, giveaways and more!

Two Easy Steps To Get Your Run On

What do you do when it’s raining/cold/hot/(insert your least favorite weather condition) and you still need to go for your run?

Here are two quick and easy steps to get you out the door:

Step One – Find music that moves you. If you don’t run with music, that’s ok! Play your songs to help motivate you to get dressed and ready for your run.

The book, “Healing at the Speed of Sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Lives,” by Don Campbell, points out that music can even cause people to workout harder. The speed of the music made a difference too. In the study, faster correlated with a more intense workout, even if the song was the same and just played at a faster tempo.

Scott Jurek in his book,”Eat and Run,” talks about music adding to endurance as it has the ability to ease pain equivalent to taking an extra-strength Tylenol.

Yesterday my go-to song was, “Numb,” by Usher. As the first lyrics started… “They say life is a battlefield, I say bring it on…” I ran out into the rain as if I had a built-in shield.

Today in drizzly conditions with strong winds I wove in, “Top of the World,” by the Imagine Dragons. More than the song, it reminded me of awaking to a sunny day in Phoenix, when I simply felt alive. I put myself there, and the mood remained for the duration.

This past weekend, I ran in the cold listening to hot salsa music, picturing myself in one of my favorite places, Miami!

Even for household tasks that may not be the most enjoyable, putting on motivating tunes can help the time pass faster. Campbell’s book also suggests using music you enjoy to help you wake up and start your day each morning.

Step two – Head out the door without overthinking it. There’s a saying that if you spent the same amount of time exercising as you did deciding if you were going to workout, you’d be done already.

“Don’t think just do,” is totally appropriate here. If you are healthy and uninjured, clear your mind, or focus on the song that is playing, and take off. I once read an elite athlete who said when they don’t feel like running, they tell themselves they will go 1 Km (just over half a mile). If at that point they want to go back home, then they will. 99.9% of the time though, you’ll just keep on truckin…

Does music give you energy? What else do you use for motivation ?

Moving Through Change

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. We had our pea-coats with us, and I took a bag. Of all my worldly possessions I took no more than the few necessaries that filled the bag. Where I might go, what I might do, or when I might return, were questions utterly unknown to me…

I love this passage from “Great Expectations”, by Charles Dickens. It depicts the transitional March personality as well as new beginnings. Leaving it all to venture forward into the unknown is an enthralling experience. What big changes have you made in your life? What changes do you want?

I was feeling a bit low in remembrance yesterday so I did what normally boosts my mood: I slipped on my running shoes and headed out the door. My breath and strides felt heavy as my runs have felt labored since the 100K, yet I didn’t care. I was outside, moving and alive.

The night prior I’d thought about some losses I’d experienced. I remembered dismissing them as if they didn’t matter and thought I was leaving things behind. However, while it’s necessary to let go of the past, we also need to realize and even grieve over what was lost. Sometimes, that’s the missing piece that stops us from really being able to start over with a clean slate. Acknowledging what hasn’t worked and what that meant is part of moving forward in a new career path, relationship – life itself.

I took a deep breath, and like a Phoenix flying from the embers, the crisp air set my soul alight.

What would you like to change? Have you started? Why or why not?

Is Your Social Network Killing You?

“Having a poor social network is as bad for your health as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day,” states Matthew Lieberman in his book, “Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect”.  Lately, I’ve been picking up this pattern of importance in neuroscience books. TLDR: A lack of social connections is dangerous to health.

I’ve been researching what tends to keep people healthy versus what tends to increase risk for depression and declining health. Lieberman states that people are becoming increasingly disconnected from one another in the modern world. Yet, humans are social beings, wired to be around others since the beginnings of time. We banded together to survive – to hunt together, share community work and live in the safety of numbers. If someone was sequestered from the group, it was a signal that something was wrong. Even today, quarantining is used as a form of punishment. Studies have shown that not only is the risk of depression increased for those who are isolated, but it also increases the chance of an early death as well as dementia. [1]

When we feel down it is often contradictory because we don’t feel like doing the things that may help the most. Being around others is one example. But according to author and psychology professor/researcher Dr. Steve Ilardi, sometimes literally just being in the presence of people can help lift mood. Go to a café, take a walk at the mall. Go to a group run. Do work you were going to do anyway in a place where others are present.

And, research on social connectedness shows that it’s quality over quantity. Alex Korb, in his book, “The Upward Spiral”, writes that someone who has five people in whom they can confide is in a better position than an individual with 1,000 Facebook friends who feels they have no one they can really trust.

How would you rate your social connectedness? Is it something you’d like to improve?

[1] http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/26/social-isolation-not-just-feeling-lonely-may-shorten-lives/

The News and Your Health

Many of us are aware of the terror attacks that struck Belgium, and thoughts go out to those involved. This morning, media programs splashed headlines across the news, with channels running special report streams with in-depth analysis. Images of fear-stricken faces scrolled across television screens, online and in print.

Yet studies have shown that these types of attacks not only affect the people directly involved, but can also impact those who are at a distance from the attacks who constantly watch the intense media coverage [1]. This can cause increases in depression as well as PTSD, even if the viewers are a continent away from the event.

On the other extreme, purposefully blocking out our reactions to sad events or denying whatever level of internal grief it can cause can have health impacts as well. It’s human nature to show concern for others. It’s fine to stay keyed in to what is happening, but like many things, moderation is key.

Integrative medical doctor Andrew Weil has suggested limiting news exposure as there tends to be a negative bias in the stories covered that can affect health and create a pessimistic view about life [2]. And once started, it can be hard to look away. Weil suggests that occasional “news fasts” can be helpful. At the same time, others may cite the stories of hope and positive news that can evolve in later coverage.

Rather than blindly taking in information day to day, note what effect media has on your well-being. If you are having issues with feeling down in general, make some adjustments and see if it helps.

Turn on the news to catch the headlines, but then shut off the TV or internet as you have a meal. Focusing on what we’re eating versus including it in our multitasking can also help increase mindfulness, which is being aware of what we’re eating. This can help to feel more satisfied and consume fewer calories [3]. Later on, skip the constant updates and take a walk out in nature instead, which tends to be healing [4]. Then, evaluate how you feel.

Do you think that media can affect your health? How do you stay tuned in with moderation?

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3346624/When-fear-used-weapon-PTSD-depression-strength-resilience-psychiatrist-reveals-terror-attacks-impact-mental-health.html
[2] http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA230786/Learning-To-Live-With-Terrorism.html
[3] http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/02/09/the-benefits-of-mindful-eating
[4] http://www.chopra.com/ccl/healing-through-nature

What’s Stopping You?

You are only confined by the walls you build yourself

Do you ever feel down? Stuck in a rut?

What have you been pondering for too long?  Alex Korb, Ph.D., relates in his book, “The Upward Spiral”, that indecision can contribute to a consistently muddled state of mind, even depression.

Sometimes the important thing is to just choose. Korb states that any resolution you come to releases dopamine, a feel-good neurochemical in your brain. That encourages more decision-making, and begins to rewire neural networks so that future conclusions become easier. It also stimulates focused action.

A client felt stuck from deciding upon a career track. Two previous occupations that hadn’t panned out. As a result, they’d been fearful of devoting themselves to something else.

They’d been applying a cognitive distortion to this situation. These thinking ‘errors’ and their corrections are central to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which has been shown to successfully treat maladies such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and binge eating. This particular type of distortion, known as “overgeneralization”, asserts that just because something happened before, it will recur. Just because something didn’t turn out the way someone expected long ago, doesn’t mean it will necessarily recur in a new situation with a different journey.

However, even if a new career path doesn’t turn out as they currently desire, isn’t that just life? Many things in our lives weren’t meant to be forever, and things change in ways we can’t control or predict. I’ve read that the average person now changes careers four to seven times. So looking at it that way, twice doesn’t seem that bad. And any experience we have adds to our repertoire of what we can do in the future. Realizing these things, they were able to let go of the negative thought and move on.

Reframing cognitive distortions can lead to a more realistic viewpoint. It opens us to new possibilities and can help see things in a more positive light. Besides the impact on or lives, Positive Psychology shows a more positive way of thinking can improve health.

Which situations can you reframe in your own life? What’s stopping you??