Fitness & Nutrition Blog

Create A Solid Night Time Routine For Better Sleep

 




1. Make it a routine and set your bedtime

Having a regular bedtime is just as important for adults as it is for children. Set your bedtime, whether it’s 9 pm or 1 am and stick to it. A consistent sleep schedule can get you more and better quality rest and may lower your risk for heart disease. Additionally, a set bedtime will ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but the amount you need is highly individualized. 

 

WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK BEFORE BED

2. Snacking: Eating some simple carbs after dinner may help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Foods like potatoes, toast with peanut butter, low-fat cheese and crackers, almonds, bananas, or yogurt are easy to digest and may be sleep inducing. Avoid sugary or high-fat foods (sorry, no ice cream). Some spicy foods are also difficult to digest and may cause you to wake up throughout the night.

 

3. Stop eating early: Speaking of snacking, avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. Beyond eating early, sticking to a regular dinner time regulates your circadiam rhythm and improves your sleep efficiency. 

 

4. Have a hot beverage: Warm milk is a traditional bedtime routine in some cultures. It may be that the sleep-inducing compounds that milk contains, such as tryptophan, can promote sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in proteins (such as turkey) and plays a role in the production of serotonin, which boosts mood, promotes relaxation, and functions as a precursor in the production of melatonin.

If you don’t like milk, or you’re on a plant-based diet, you can try chamomile tea, which in addition to reducing anxiety and depression may also boost your immune system. Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in your brain that can promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

5. Avoid caffeine: Coffee drinkers should stay away from consuming it in the afternoon. Some people are so sensitive to caffeine that they should stop before noon

 

6. Avoid alcohol: We’ve said it before. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it is detrimental to a good night’s sleep. Sleep is an active process and alcohol inhibits those processes. Alcohol prevents you from getting enough REM sleep and deep sleep as your body metabolizes it.

 

TIPS FOR WINDING DOWN

Not every tip will work for every person, so experiment with different wind-down activities to see which ones work better for you.

7. Separate work from bed: The ability to work from anywhere means you can also work at any time. Working remotely often means you have less separation between home and the office, and potentially less separation between work and sleep. This was an issue during the coronavirus pandemic when people who were used to going into work suddenly had to work from home. Nearly one-third of American employees worked remotely during the pandemic, and about 40% of Americans polled reported new sleeping problems. 

Avoid working in your bedroom if possible. Maintaining a separate space for sleep lets you mentally associate your bedroom with relaxation and sleep. Additionally, try to stick to a schedule. You are in your work area for a specific time that is separated by at least a couple of hours from bedtime. This gives you a chance to have work, family and wind-down times, and spaces that encroach less on each other.

8. Tech-free time: Plan some technology-free time before you go to bed. Blue lights from most televisions, computers, and phones inhibit the production of melatonin. It also affects your circadian rhythm, which is one reason blue light and sunlight wake you up in the morning. Some electronics have settings that alter screen temperatures to a warmer color in the evening, but electronics can have other negative effects. Social media can create feelings of anxiety and depression, emotions you don’t necessarily want to feel when you’re trying to sleep.

 

WIND-DOWN ACTIVITIES

9. Pre-bed yoga routine: A gentle activity such as yoga can calm your mind and heart rate as you prepare for bed.  One survey found that most adults reported improved sleep after practicing yoga and 85% said it reduces stress. Try relaxing positions such as child pose, reclined butterfly, or simply sitting cross-legged on the floor (or your bed) in the easy pose and breathing for five minutes to activate the parasympathetic system.

 

10. Music, white or pink noise: A sound machine for white or pink noise frequencies that generate a steady background hum can drown out noises that may keep you awake or jolt you out of sleep. Turn on the sound machine as part of your nightly routine to teach your brain that these sounds mean its bedtime.

 

11. Journaling: Writing in a diary the old-fashioned way lets you organize your mind, decrease overthinking and worry, and allows you to fall asleep faster. If you’re prone to staying awake with anxiety, organizing your thoughts on paper may help calm you enough to be able to rest. You can also use journaling to write about positive experiences to redirect your mind as you prepare for sleep.

 

12. Meditation: Like yoga and journaling, meditation decreases resting heart rate and improves heart rate variability. Meditation also promotes neuroplasticity.  

 

13. Supplements like magnesium or melatonin: Magnesium can help your body relax by inhibiting the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system.  Magnesium deficiencies have been connected to sleep disorders and poor sleep. If you’re not getting enough of it in your diet a magnesium supplement may aid your sleep.   

 

Meditation For Weight Loss

 



What is meditation?

Meditation is a practice that helps to connect the mind and body to achieve a sense of calm. People have been meditating for thousands of years as a spiritual practice. Today, many people use meditation to reduce stress and become more aware of their thoughts.

There are many types of meditation. Some are based on the use of specific phrases called mantras. Others focus on breathing or keeping the mind in the present moment.

All of these methods can help you develop a better understanding of yourself, including how your mind and body works.

This increased awareness makes meditation a useful tool for better understanding your eating habits, which could result in weight loss.

What are the benefits of meditation for weight loss?

Meditation won’t make you lose weight overnight. But with a little practice, it can potentially have lasting effects on not only your weight, but also your thought patterns.

Sustainable weight loss

Meditation is linked to a variety of benefits. In terms of weight loss, mindfulness meditation seems to be the most helpful. A 2017 review of existing studies found that mindfulness meditation was an effective method for losing weight and changing eating habits.

Mindfulness meditation involves paying close attention to:

  • where you are
  • what you’re doing
  • how you’re feeling in the present moment

During mindfulness meditation, you’ll acknowledge all of these aspects without judgment. Try to treat your actions and thoughts as just those — nothing else. Take stock of what you’re feeling and doing, but try not to classify anything as being good or bad. This becomes easier with regular practice.

Practicing mindfulness meditation can lead to long-term benefits, too. Compared to other dieters, those practicing mindfulness are more likely to keep the weight off, according to the 2017 review.

Less guilt and shame

Mindfulness meditation can be particularly helpful in curbing emotional and stress-related eating. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can recognize those times when you eat because you’re stressed, rather than hungry.

It’s also a good tool to prevent you from falling into the harmful spiral of shame and guilt that some people fall into when trying to change their eating habits. Mindfulness meditation involves recognizing your feelings and behaviors for what they are, without judging yourself.

This encourages you to forgive yourself for making mistakes, such as stress-eating a bag of potato chips. That forgiveness can also prevent you from catastrophizing, which is a fancy term for what happens when you decide to order a pizza since you already “screwed up” by eating a bag of chips.

How can I start meditating for weight loss?

Anyone with a mind and body can practice meditation. There’s no need for any special equipment or expensive classes. For many, the hardest part is simply finding the time. Try to start with something reasonable, such as 10 minutes a day or even every other day.

Make sure you have access to a quiet place during these 10 minutes. If you have children, you may want to squeeze it in before they wake up or after they go to bed to minimize distraction. You can even try doing it in the shower.

Once you’re in a quiet place, make yourself comfortable. You can sit or lie down in any position that feels easy.

Start by focusing on your breath, watching your chest or stomach as it rises and falls. Feel the air as it moves in and out of your mouth or nose. Listen to the sounds the air makes. Do this for a minute or two, until you start to feel more relaxed.

Next, with your eyes open or closed, follow these steps:

1.    Take a deep breath in. Hold it for several seconds.

2.    Slowly exhale and repeat.

3.    Breathe naturally.

4.    Observe your breath as it enters your nostrils, raises your chest, or moves your belly, but don’t alter it in any way.

5.    Continue focusing on your breath for 5 to 10 minutes.

6.    You’ll find your mind wandering, which is completely normal. Just acknowledge that your mind has wandered and return your attention to your breath.

7.    As you start to wrap up, reflect on how easily your mind wandered. Then, acknowledge how easy it was to bring your attention back to your breath.

Try to do this more days of the week than not. Keep in mind that it might not feel very effective the first few times you do it. But with regular practice, it’ll get easier and start to feel more natural.

If you’re curious about trying other types of meditation or just want some guidance, you can find a variety of guided meditations online.  Two popular meditation apps are Headspace and Calm.  

When choosing a guided meditation online, try to stay away from those promising overnight results or offering hypnosis.

Other mindfulness techniques

Here are a few other tips to help you take a mindfulness-based approach to weight loss:

  • Slow down your meals. Focus on chewing slowly and recognizing the taste of each bite.
  • Find the right time to eat. Avoid eating on the go or while multitasking.
  • Learn to recognize hunger and fullness. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. If you’re full, don’t keep going. Try to listen to what your body is telling you.
  • Recognize how certain foods make you feel. Try to pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. Which ones make you feel tired? Which ones make you feel energized?
  • Forgive yourself. You thought that pint of ice cream would make you feel better, but it didn’t. That’s OK. Learn from it and move on.

What Is The Difference Between Salt & Sodium

 




What is Sodium?

With it’s bad rap, you may be surprised to learn that you can’t live without sodium. It's an essential mineral you must get from the food you eat in order for your body to function. Sodium not only helps your body keep fluids in all the right places, but also aids in nerve conduction and helps your muscles work. The kicker is, you only need about 200 milligrams of sodium a day for normal body functions, and most Americans consume closer to 3,400 milligrams.


Salt: Sodium and Chloride

You may know salt best as the white crystals that bring out the flavor in your roasted potatoes. But those crystals are actually minerals made up of the two compounds sodium and chloride, with 40 percent from sodium and 60 percent from chloride. While salt is made up of mostly chloride, it’s still considered a high-sodium item. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium.


Why You Need to Watch Sodium

When it comes to diet and nutrition, the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you limit your daily intake of sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day. The American Heart Association goes even further, and says you'd be better off limiting your intake to 1,500 milligrams a day. When your blood has too much sodium, your body shifts more fluid into the bloodstream to dilute it. This increases blood volume and, in turn, increases blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.


Tips for Keeping Low Sodium

While salt is high in sodium, it’s probably not the primary source in your diet. For most people, packaged foods, fast food and ready-to-go meals constitute more than 75 percent of their sodium intake. To keep a lid on sodium, fill your diet with more freshly-prepared foods that are naturally low in sodium such as fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and proteins without added salt. At the grocery store, keep an eye out for foods labeled "low sodium." When dining out, ask for your food to be made without salt.

Protein For Muscle Recovery



1. How does protein repair and rebuild muscle?

Protein is made up of amino acids, which act like building blocks for the body. When you eat protein after an activity, it gives your muscles the amino acids necessary to repair and rebuild.

And why is this important? Well, repetitive muscle contractions from jumping, running, and other forms of exercise can break down muscle cells and cause damage to the muscles in your arms, legs, and the rest of your body.

Taking in adequate protein after exercise helps reverse damage, build muscle, and get you ready for the next tough workout


2. How much protein do you need for muscle recovery?

“Protein synthesis” is the scientific way of saying “repairing and growing muscle.” Post-exercise intake of about 0.2–0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) has been shown to increase this muscle protein synthesis.1 That’s somewhere around 10–30 g of protein depending on your body weight, and the intensity and duration of your workout. The longer and more intense the exercise, the more protein is needed to optimize recovery. Over the course of the day, active individuals should aim to eat about 10–20 percent of their total daily energy intake from protein (or about 50–100 g, based on a 2,000-calorie diet). Athletes may need even more protein and should aim for 1.2–2 g/kg each day.1

While protein gets most of the glory when it comes to post-exercise fuel, carbohydrates have a role to play, too. In fact, carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio have been found to help maximize recovery by replenishing energy stores.


3. Why is it important to have protein right after a workout?

Intense or prolonged activity causes an increase in muscle protein breakdown. This is followed by an increase in muscle protein synthesis over the next 24 hours. For that reason, it’s important to consider both the amount of protein you eat and when you eat it.

Ideally, protein should be eaten within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. Combined with simple carbohydrates (i.e., sugar), your post-exercise snack can help both replenish energy stores and rebuild muscle. Miss the 30-minute window? While less effective, fueling any time after activity is still important and can be beneficial.


4. What type of protein is best after a workout?

From whole foods to supplements and animal- to plant-based proteins, there are many ways to meet your protein needs, and it can be confusing to navigate. Also known as complete proteins, high-quality proteins (those which are highly digestible and provide an adequate amount of essential amino acids, which our bodies can’t make) are most effective for building, repairing, and maintaining muscle.

High-quality food sources of protein include dairy, fish, meat, eggs, and soy. However, that’s not the only type of protein that’s useful. You’ve likely seen whey (from dairy) and plant-based protein powders, concentrates, and isolates on the market, too.

Like soy, pea protein is a plant-based protein that has been found to be effective for post-workout recovery and can be used by all athletes — even those who follow a vegan diet. Just keep in mind, pea protein is an incomplete protein, meaning it delivers fewer essential amino acids, so you may have to eat more to have the same recovery impact as whey or soy.

With that said, for most people, eating enough calories during the day and including a variety of plant-based foods in the diet can ensure adequate protein and amino acid intake. You don’t need to eat animal protein to support post-workout recovery; all types of protein can work.


5. What foods can help repair and rebuild muscle?

Whole foods are the foundation to a healthy diet, but a big, homecooked meal isn’t always convenient when on the move. Below are a few examples of nutritious, post-workout foods that can help promote recovery without slowing you down:

 

Quick At-Home Recipes:

  • Yogurt Parfait: 6 oz plant-based yogurt + half cup mixed berries + walnuts
  • Nut Butter Roll Up: 1 flour tortilla + 2 tablespoons nut butter + half sliced banana + drizzle of honey
  • Egg + Avocado Toast: 1 poached egg + 1 slice whole grain toast + half avocado
  • Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich: 2 slices of deli turkey (about 2 oz) + 1 slice whole grain bread + 1 slice of cheese (about 1 oz)
  • Recovery Smoothie: 2 tablespoons plant-based protein powder + half banana + 1 cup water or milk + ice (add 1 tablespoon nut butter for an extra protein punch!)

Recovery Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup nut butter
  • 6 dates, pitted, soaked in hot water, and mashed into a paste
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions: Mix together, bake at 350 for 10 min. Allow to cool before enjoying!

 


 

How To Set Realistic Fitness Goals

 




1. Focus on one goal at a time.

When it comes to setting a fitness goal, one of the biggest mistakes is that people try to do too much at one time. Perhaps you want to hit the gym every day, cut out added sugar, and get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Trying to tackle that much at once is essentially just setting yourself up for failure. With so many things to achieve, people get anxious, and if they didn’t do one thing, they feel like a failure. This can lead to negative self-talk that lowers your chances of achieving any of the goals.

Instead, pick one thing you want to crush—like, doing a pull-up, or completing your first-ever 5K—and channel your efforts into achieving that before exploring another goal.


2. Make it your own.

It can be easy to scroll through the Instagram or look at others in the gym and feel inspired-yet-envious of those who seem fitter. Yet basing your own goals off of what you see others achieving is neither productive nor practical.

When we are bombarded by images of what fitness should look like and how we should do XYZ, it can be hard to identify what’s good for you. Certain things that top athletes can do—run a marathon, do 100 push-ups, master the most challenging yoga poses—may be great for them, but it’s not metric that everyone should be measured by. In other words, your goal should be your goal—something that you personally are excited about and realistically able to achieve—not someone else’s.

3. Make it measurable, specific, and time-bound.

Having a measurable goal allows your to track your progress, says Vidal, and the more specific your goal, the clearer the path to achieving it becomes.

Wanting to “be stronger,” for example, is a great place to start, but what does that mean to you? Saying you want to increase the number of push-ups you can do makes the goal measurable, and saying you want to be able to do 20 push-ups in one minute makes it specific. On top of that, the goal should be time-bound, as this helps you focus your efforts, develop a more structured plan for actually achieving the goal, and creates a sense of urgency that can be motivating. Examples of measurable, specific, and time-bound goals include being able to deadlift 10 repetitions with 50 pounds in three months, running a 5K nonstop by the end of the year, and correctly performing a pull-up by the start of summer.

A great way to remember this is through the SMART method, which helps you make sure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. 

4. Set the bar low—at least, at first.

Speaking of attainable: Your goal should seem relatively easy or within reach of what you are doing. Why? If you think it’s easy, you have likely already worked through any mental obstacles that could thwart your progress. On the confidence scale, you should be at a 9 out of 10 when it comes to your belief that you’ll actually achieve your goal. The less confident you are, the less likely you will adhere to the steps needed to make it happen.

Plus, attainable goals help ensure that you start out with some all-important wins. The more success you have in your fitness journey, the more you will stay with it. Having this success early on is especially important as it builds confidence that can snowball into long-term results.

5. Play the long game.

We all want instant gratification, but it’s important to be realistic with the time frame you develop for achieving your goal. Lasting changes take a while.

Know that you are never going to make an overhaul in one week. Instead, pick a goal that can be achieved over the course of several months or even a year. A long-term mentality will help you see your goal as a lifestyle change, rather than quick fix, and you’ll be much more likely to adhere to it.

6. Understand what’s driving your goal.

Sometimes fitness goals are driven by underlying fears, insecurities, or body image issues—like wanting to run a marathon because you were bullied in middle school gym class, or signing up for a CrossFit class because an ex once commented on your weight—and it’s important to address these issues rather than assuming achieving your goal will assuage them.

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, it can stir up a lot of emotions. If thinking about your goal brings anxiety and/or triggers past mental struggles, consider talking with a mental health professional. 

7. Be flexible in your definition of success.

Though it is important to make your goal specific, it’s also important to give yourself permission to alter it as you progress with your fitness journey. Perhaps a goal that seemed appropriately challenging at first is actually way too tough to maintain, or vice versa.

If your definition of success is rigid, it will be hard to maintain that. Set goals you think you can achieve and then modify them as you understand more what you are capable of. There's nothing wrong with moving the goal posts as you get more comfortable with your body's abilities.

8. Develop micro goals on the way to your big goal.

Within your larger goal you should schedule in smaller, confidence-building goals that are achievable in a shorter time period. For example, say you want to run a nine-minute mile. During your training, you should make a smaller goal, like running a half mile in five minutes, to both show yourself how much you've accomplished and assess where you currently are. It’s all about those little victories. You want to be able to reward yourself mentally. Having to wait too long to feel like you’ve accomplished anything can diminish your motivation and pull you off track entirely.

In general, it’s good to set micro goals that can be achieved every two to three weeks. That amount of time can help you determine if you’re macro goal is realistic and provide the chance to scale things back if needed.

9. Consider a professional’s input.

If you’re having a hard time evaluating your current fitness level, determining what would be a realistic goal, and/or just feeling overwhelmed about the process, it can be helpful to consult an expert, like a certified personal trainer. A professional can help give you guidance on how realistic your goal is and can help you set markers along the way, so you can check in and confirm you are on the right track over time.

A personal trainer should ask clients about various factors influencing their lifestyle, including their prior history with fitness (e.g. Have they trained before? Are they a former athlete? Do they have experience lifting weights?), their nutrition, their work and social history (e.g. Do they have a demanding, high-stress job? Do they go out frequently?, etc.). These questions aren’t to judge; they’re to understand. Once the trainer understand their life, they can create a program around that works for them.

On top of that the trainer can conduct several athletic tests—like endurance tests and strength tests—to assess someone’s baseline level of fitness. Though you can ask yourself these questions and conduct fitness tests on yourself, if you’re new to fitness, it may be helpful to get an expert’s input.

10. Be honest about your prior and current habits.

Asking yourself the tough questions can help you honestly evaluate what’s most appropriate for you. Have you been somebody who in the past has crushed several fitness goals and just wants to take it to the next level? If that’s the case, you could likely tackle a more complex goal, like running a long distance race at a certain pace.

But if you’re new to fitness, which of course is totally okay, you may want to focus on more simple behavior modifications, like going to the gym a certain number of days a week.

If you want to see measurable progression, you have to be realistic with what you are currently doing. If your routine doesn’t involve any form of exercise, suddenly getting yourself to the gym five days a week—while certainly possible—may not be the most practical or realistic goal.

On top of that, it’s helpful to consider what has stopped you from achieving goals in the past. If you have a chronically hard time getting up the morning, for example, sign up for evening workout classes rather than aiming for those 6 a.m. sessions. Being honest with yourself will help you identify and eliminate barriers before you get started.


11. Plan for a support system.

When thinking about your goal, you should also think about who in your life could encourage, motivate, and hold you accountable to it. Then recruit them whenever you're in need of support. If people you spend the most time with are supportive of your goals, it will make a huge difference.


Steps To Natural Hormone Balance

 




The dance of the endocrine system is complex, intricate, tightly regulated, and we are still in the midst of learning about it. 

 

The key players are estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, adrenaline, insulin, and cortisol. All of these hormones have the ability to upregulate, down regulate, and turn each other on and off, all the while trying to keep YOU in homeostasis. When we are overwhelmed with stress, poor food choices, toxicity, pollution, contaminated water, and emotional traumas, it becomes very challenging to balance YOU.

 

The good news? There are a lot of things you can implement to help your hormones thrive. 

 

But first…

 

What IS the endocrine system?

 

All of your organs have a relationship with your hormones. This is what the endocrine system is in charge of. Your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles, and pancreas secrete hormones into your bloodstream and the entire endocrine system works to create a healthy balance between them all. If just ONE hormone is out of whack, it can create a cascade of hormonal imbalance amongst the other hormones as well.

 

Symptoms of hormone imbalance can show up as anxiety, depression, mood swings, inability to sleep, weight gain, trouble losing weight, weight loss, digestive issues, constipation, fatigue, afternoon energy crashes, painful periods, heavy periods, missed periods, acne, headaches, PMS, low libido, changes in appetite, thinning hair, dry skin, and brittle nails.

 

Some common hormonal imbalance problems and symptoms include:

 

Estrogen dominance - sleep issues, changes in weight, heavy appetite, higher perceived stress, constipation, mood swings, swollen and tender breasts, headaches

 

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) - fibrocystic breasts, acne, abnormal hair growth, mood swings, weight gain, infertility, blood sugar imbalance, and higher risk for diabetes

 

Low estrogen - decreased sex drive, irregular periods, brain fog, fine lines and wrinkles, fatigue, depression, mood swings

 

Low progesterone - breast tenderness, anxiety, irritability, menstrual cramps, mid-cycle spotting, headaches, fibrocystic breasts

 

Low testosterone - erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood swings

 

Hypothyroidism - weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability, irregular periods, constipation

 

Hyperthyroidism - anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, heart palpitations, IBS, trouble sleeping

 

Diabetes - weight gain, nerve damage, vision loss, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems

 

Adrenal fatigue from cortisol imbalance - fatigue, muscle aches and pains, anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, and fertility issues

 

How does hormonal imbalance become an issue?

 

There are a wide range of hormonal disturbances that can cause imbalance. Things like diet, stress, medical history, genetics, AND exposure to toxins from the environment, household cleaners, and skin care regimens can all play a role in causing endocrine disruption. 

 

Specific causes of hormone imbalance:

 

  • Food allergies
  • Leaky gut
  • Consuming things like gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and excessive caffeine and alcohol
  • High levels of inflammation
  • Chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, some medications
  • High amounts of stress
  • Lack of sleep and rest

 

What can YOU do about it?

 

The awesome news? There are A LOT of simple steps you can implement into your life to naturally balance your hormones. 

 

1. Eat whole foods - No shocker that our first piece of advice is to eat a whole foods diet. Swapping processed carbs and sugar for healthy fats is crucial for hormone balance because your body needs a variety of fats to produce hormones optimally. Healthy fats are also important for lowering inflammation and promoting weight loss. Ditching the refined carbs, gluten, dairy, and sugar for healthy fats like butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, pasture-raised meats, as well as organically grown produce are all super important for hormone balance.

Favorite foods for hormone balance: Farm fresh eggs, pasture-raised meat and poultry, avocados, wild-caught salmon, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, apple cider vinegar, dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, homemade mayonnaise made with farm fresh eggs and avocado oil, olive oil, microgreens, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, herbs of all sorts, spices, berries when in season, and fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut

 

2. Exercise - Moving your body is super important for detoxification and hormone balance. Movement and sweating helps to regulate hormonal imbalances and lower inflammation. Whether you choose to go for a brisk walk, do a yoga class, or a short HIIT workout, it’s important to remember a few things.

  • Be consistent
  • Be mindful of duration and intensity - don’t overdo it
  • Progress steadily
  • Listen to your body


3. Supplements - Most humans are deficient in vitamins and minerals, requiring supplementation in order to properly fuel their body. It is difficult to get everything that we need from food, so supplementing becomes essential. Our hormones can’t maintain balance if our bodies aren’t getting the nutrients we need. 

Favorite supplements for hormone balance: Probiotics, Vitamin D, evening primrose oil, B Vitamins, liver supplements, Vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, fish oils, bone broth, adaptogens like ashwagandha and holy basil, digestive enzymes, mushrooms like reishi, chaga, and lion’s mane

 

4. Address emotional imbalances - If you are stressed out about your relationship, finances, your job, your health, or whatever it may be, your hormones cannot and will not flourish. It is so important to address stress, worries, fears, frustration, anger, and unforgiveness because all of these emotions can wreak havoc on your endocrine system. 

 

Go-to’s for addressing emotional imbalance:

  • Meditation
  • Self-reflection
  • Gratitude
  • Prayer
  • Deep breathing
  • Active forgiveness, even if the other person doesn’t know or care
  • Being in nature every day
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Warm bath


5. Play - Enjoying life is a must for optimal hormone health. Elevated stress, an unhealthy need for control, and the perfectionist mentality does nothing but deteriorate health. But play? It brings vibrancy and joy to your life, which will naturally encourage hormone balance. 

 

Some great forms of play:

  • Start a garden
  • Plant flowers or trees
  • Paint or color
  • Work a puzzle
  • Try a new recipe
  • Play with animals
  • Laugh with friends over dinner
  • Ride bikes… or your horse
  • Go on a trip to the beach
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Read a fantasy book
  • Dance 


6. Sleep - To set your body up to win, shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep every night in total darkness. Our stress hormones, like cortisol, are regulated at night - especially before midnight. Proper sleep helps our bodies to build energy and prepare for the day ahead. Try to be in bed before 10 p.m. Your body will thank you.

 

7. Hydration - Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hormone production and regulation has a lot to do with staying hydrated. When we are dehydrated, it stresses our bodies and knocks hormones out of whack. Drink AT LEAST half of your body weight in ounces every day.

 

Great ways to hydrate:

  • Drink water - with or without ice
  • Add things like fresh lemon, lime, or cucumber to enhance flavor and add nutrients
  • Drink sparkling water WITHOUT added “natural flavors” - Spindrift uses real fruit
  • Herbal teas without caffeine


8. Essential oils - Majority of body care and household cleaning products have harmful toxins and chemicals in them that are very disruptive to our hormonal systems. Thankfully, there are essential oils that are great for cleaning and smelling good, all while adding health benefits to our bodies (AKA our endocrine system). There are endless oil brands and scents out there, but some of our favorites to diffuse and add to baths are:

  • Brands - Doterra or Young Living
  • Clary sage for treating PMS, PCOS, and infertility
  • Fennel for gut and thyroid health
  • Lavender for anxiety, depression, and emotional balance
  • Sandalwood to relieve stress and promote relaxation
  • Thyme to improve progesterone production and increase fertility


9. Detoxification - In order for your hormones to maintain a beautiful rhythm of balance, it is also important to focus on elimination. The liver is a major organ involved in regulating hormones, so setting it up to function properly is a must. A build of excess hormones, like estrogen, can cause imbalance if they aren’t passing through the liver and leaving the body through feces on a daily basis - and preferably more than once a day. 

 

How to detox your liver:

  • Rub castor oil on your stomach at night before bed
  • Drink detox teas with dandelion root, milk thistle, burdock root, and licorice root
  • Drink matcha or green tea
  • Eat dark and leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, herbs, and citrus fruits
  • Move your body
  • Deep breathing
  • Drink water


10. Seed cycling - Eating seeds throughout different times of the month can help to naturally balance hormones in a very gentle, but effective way. You will need sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

 

On days 1-14 of the follicular phase, eat 1-2 tablespoons of fresh, raw flax seeds and/or pumpkin seeds for estrogen balance leading to ovulation.

 

On days 15-28 of the luteal phase, eat 1-2 tablespoons of fresh, raw sunflower or sesame seeds for progesterone balance leading to menses.

 

If you have irregular cycles, are pre-menopausal, or post-menopausal, no worries! You can start by following the moon phases. You can eat the flax seeds and pumpkin seeds from the new moon to the full moon. Eat the sunflower or sesame seeds from the full moon to the new moon.

 

Yawning While Exercising? Here is Why



A yawn, which is usually associated with being tired or bored, is an innate reflex by the central nervous system — namely, the brain. That means you can't control when and where you yawn.  So just because you yawn a couple of times during a workout, it doesn't mean you should try to make it stop.

 

But here's why you might find yourself yawning during a workout.

 

1. You're Stressed or Anxious

The idea that yawning increases the amount of oxygen you take in — you're gulping a big breath of air, right? — has been debunked, according to a November 1987 study published in Behavioral and Neural Biology.  A yawn can, however, increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve focus and concentration.

Perhaps you're about to start a workout or a big athletic event, or you're a few minutes into it, you might start yawning as a way to improve your focus and concentration. That's because yawning can cool your brain temperature.

 

Before a workout, game or event, you might have anxiety and stress — but the good kind of stress — and that might elicit a yawn.  Your body's fight-or-flight response kicks in, and a yawn opens the jaw, which increases blood flow for the working muscles. A runner, for example, might yawn in the moments leading up to a race due to anxiety. That yawning should stop once she or he is moving because running is a steady-state exercise. When you're in a steady-state of aerobic exercise your brain knows you need to breathe consistently. A yawn disrupts that consistent breathing. In other words, your body prioritizes breathing over increasing blood flow or cooling down your body temperature — another reason you might be yawning during a workout.

2. You're Too Hot

Perhaps the biggest reason you might yawn during a workout is to bring your core body temperature down. This is called thermoregulation.

When you inhale a large amount of ambient air that's cooler than your body temperature, it helps lower your core temperature and brain temperature.

This happens because when you yawn, your jaw musculature contracts, increasing blood flow to those muscles. When you gulp in cool air, it cools the blood in the jaw muscles, which is then delivered to the brain and other parts of the body. This is a type of insensible perspiration — perspiration that does not involve a loss of pure water or associated loss of solute.

 

A major way we cool is by breathing.

Case in point: Researchers in a May 2014 study in Physiology & Behavior recruited 120 pedestrians to walk during the winter (December to March) and summer (June to October) and found that the participants who walked in the summer reported more yawning than those in the winter. This study supports evidence that yawning is used as a means of thermoregulation.

But when the ambient temperature is hotter than your core temperature, yawning will subside, according to a January 2013 review published in the International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research.

 

3. You're Doing High-Intensity Work

Whether you yawn during a workout depends on what you're actually doing. The exercises that most commonly cause yawning include high-intensity interval training (during the rest interval) and those that target large muscle groups, like heavy lifting for the lower body. You're using more musculature, which increases the core temperature. When you yawn during a HIIT workout, it will be during the rest or lighter interval. 

 

Tip

If you really feel that you must reduce your yawn frequency, you can try methods to better thermoregulate. Methods that have worked are drinking cold water/liquids, doing an ice water mouth rinse (shown to be very effective for disease populations, such as multiple sclerosis), wearing moisture-wicking clothing and using appropriate ventilation to lower environmental temperatures.

 

When to See a Doctor

Because yawning is a reflex, there usually isn't any reason to try to stop it from happening. But if you're experiencing excessive yawning during a workout, it might indicate something more serious.

If you're yawning excessively during moderate to vigorous activity, that yawning can lead to lightheadedness or dizziness. It could mean very low blood pressure or a hyperactive vagus nerve.

Low blood pressure is associated with a host of underlying medical conditions, according to the American Heart Association.  Some of those include pregnancy, bed rest, medications, allergic reactions and problems with hormone-producing glands.

A hyperactive vagus nerve can be caused by extreme stress. The nerve works overtime to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, but in some cases, it brings down blood pressure too much, causing severe low blood pressure, according to an article from Society for Science and The Public. 

If you're yawning during exercise but not experiencing any negative side effects, don't worry too much. But if you're dizzy or lightheaded, that warrants a conversation with your doctor.

 

 

Mobility Training Benefits

 





What is Mobility?

Most people know what flexibility is. But often, people confuse this with mobility. There is a difference between the two. Flexibility refers to the ability of your joints to move pain-free and without stiffness through a range of motion. For example, flexibility is when you are able to lift your leg further with the assistance of your arms.

However, with mobility, you are able to control the whole range of motion with just the muscles. Mobility refers to the strength of the muscle in this range of motion. For example, you would be able to control the entire movement of the leg with just the leg muscles. Unlike flexibility, there is no requirement for any assistance to perform the move.

Now we’ve covered what it is, let’s look at how mobility training benefits your workout.

 

The Importance of Mobility

Mobility is essential because it prepares our bodies for the stress of training. It is a vital contributor to reducing the risk of injuries as well as improving technique and range of movement. It is important to note that strength alone isn’t enough to have good mobility.

Commonly, an individual will walk into the gym, go straight to the resistance area and begin lifting. At best, they may do a quick 5 minute warm-up on an exercise bike or elliptical trainer. The warm-should not be neglected. This being said, it is the bit in between that warm up and hitting the weights room that is important. This is where mobility training comes in. We will now discuss the mobility training benefits that all gym users should take advantage of.

 

How Mobility Training Benefits Your Workout

 

1. A More Effective Warmup

Mobility training benefits your workout in ways that a quick warm-up cannot. During mobility training, blood is being moved to the surrounding tissues. Synovial fluid, the fluid in our joints that helps them to glide freely, is carried into the working joints. An example of this would be to perform hip circles to warm up the hips. The blood is transported to the hip flexors, glutes and external rotators, which are the muscles that move the leg. Synovial fluid lubricates the hip in preparation for exercise.

 

2. Reduced Risk of Injury

One of the biggest mobility training benefits is the reduced risk of injury. If there is any restriction to a moving joint, then there is a high risk of injury, especially if you like to lift heavy.

 

3. Improved Technique and Range of Movement

Mobility training benefits your form. When muscles and joints are more flexible, we get an increased range of motion. This allows us to perform exercises with better technique. For example, if we have tight leg muscles, then we will struggle to lower in a squat or perform a deadlift with correct posture. Having a better technique, especially in such a compound movement, can further reduce injury risk. 

Many people believe that merely performing static stretches can achieve the above. However, there’s a difference between the effect of static stretching, and how mobility training benefits your workout.

 

Static Stretching Versus Dynamic Mobility Stretching

Stretching prevents injury, decrease soreness, and improve performance. Many people incorporate static stretching into their routine. However, dynamic stretches – part of mobility training – are not so widely used.

This being said, research shows that dynamic stretching, or stretching while moving, appears to be more effective than static stretching as part of your warm-up. Below we discuss the mobility training benefits of dynamic stretching in comparison to static.

 

Static Stretches

Static stretching usually consists of holding positions with no movement. They tend to only focus on the main muscle groups, such as quads, hamstrings, calf and arm muscles. While they are useful in increasing range of motion if performed correctly and for long enough, they can, in fact, be detrimental as part of a warm-up.  For example, static stretches are linked to a decrease in leg press performance and knee extensor concentric torque.

static stretches appear to actually decrease muscle-force production capacity. This loss of strength and performance has been named “stretch-induced strength loss.”  Static stretches, therefore, shouldn’t be part of a warm-up. Instead, they should be and performed in the cool-down. They also need to be held for long enough (30+ seconds) to be beneficial. However, it is easy to rush through static stretching without proper form. This is not so much the case for dynamic stretching.

 

Dynamic Stretches

Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, are often a static stretch performed with movement. Doing these results in many mobility training benefits. For example, dynamic stretches keep your heart rate higher than static ones. This is important during and after a warm-up, and better suited to sports that require running or jumping. An example of a dynamic stretch would be a set of walking lunges, instead of a static lunge forward. This being said, you need to ensure that you perform enough dynamic stretches, with the right quality.

Now we have discussed the numerous ways mobility training benefits you, let’s look at how to do it.

 

Types of Mobility Training Exercise

There are many ways to reap the mobility training benefits above. Mobility exercises take many forms. For example, some require only your bodyweight, whereas others use various types of equipment. This can include resistance bands, foam rollers, barbells or poles.

 

Body Weight

There are many different exercises that can be used to increase mobility. Using your bodyweight is a wise place to start. Most exercises have regressions for those just beginning. There are also progressions if you are more advanced. If you’re just beginning, these mobility drills will get easier with practice and patience.

 

Foam Rolling

Many mobility training benefits can come from foam rolling. However, some people shy away from foam rolling because it can hurt. Unfortunately, if it is painful, this is probably a sign that you need to do more of it. Also, it is common to spend too little time foam rolling. The foam roller needs to move slowly over the muscles, while you use as much of your body weight as possible to increase the tension.

 

Resistance Bands, Poles and Barbells

Resistance bands, as well as poles and barbells, are a fantastic way to get the mobility training benefits that bodyweight stretching cannot achieve. If performed correctly, this equipment will allow you to take the muscles to a much greater stretch.

As mentioned, for those just starting out, try bodyweight drills first. Below are some exercises to get you started.

 

Body Weight Mobility Exercises

Below are some bodyweight and floor drills that are easily performed, in a gym or at home.

 

1. Thoracic Spine Windmills

The thoracic spin runs from the base of your neck to the area between your shoulder blades. Good mobility in this area allows you to move your arms freely over your head and turn side to side. If you have reduced mobility you can get shoulder problems and pain, develop poor posture and upper back pain.

To perform the windmills, first, lie on your side, and bend your knees and hips to just past 90 degrees. Rest your knees beside you on the floor. Then, straighten the bottom leg and rest the top leg on a foam roller or towel. Extend both arms together straight out in front of you, keeping your palms together. Lift and rotate your top arm away from you, opening up your chest to the ceiling. Hold for about 3 seconds and then slowly return it to the starting position. Repeat a few times on each side.

 

2. Shoulder Pass Throughs

If you are a sufferer of poor posture, you are likely to be tight through your chest and the front of your shoulders.
To perform the shoulder pass through, hold a broomstick or pipe in the overhand grip, as wide as you need to. Maintain straight arms and begin to lift the stick in front of you to above your head. Avoid hyperextending your back. Once you have taken it as far back as possible, hold in the end position for a couple of seconds before returning to the start position. Then repeat a few more times.

 

3. Hip Openers

It’s vital to warm up the hip joints as they contribute significantly to balance and stability. Hip mobility training benefits all types of workout.

To perform the hip openers, lift one knee up to your chest and make a circle with your knee. Bring the knee across your body and then out to the side. Repeat on the other side. You can perform these static or walking.

 

4. Spiderman Walks

One of the best exercises for mobility training benefits is the spiderman walk. This is because it hits multiple joints. To perform the spiderman walk, start with a forward lunge with an extended range of motion to stretch out the hip flexor. Stay there for a few seconds and push the hips down to increase the stretch. From there, bring your pelvis back, straightening the front leg and stretching the back of your hamstring. After this, return to the starting lunge and take your hand closest to your forward foot and twist it to the sky, with your head following your hand. Swap sides, and repeat a few times.

 

5. Deep Squat

This exercise as part of mobility training benefits the hips and ankles. To perform the deep squat, start with your feet shoulder width apart. From there, lower your hips down towards your ankles. Ensure that your feet stay flat on the ground. If this is difficult, work your way up to where you can sit with your chest up for several minutes. Feel free to support yourself a little at first to allow you to get lower.

 

 

 

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

 


People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also a powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.

Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to deal with mental health problems, improve your energy and outlook, and get more out of life.

Exercise and depression

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. As one example, a recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.


Exercise and anxiety

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.

Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.


Exercise and stress

Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, or frequent urination. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.


Exercise and ADHD

Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.


Exercise and PTSD and trauma

Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of allowing your mind to wander, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices.

Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.


Other mental health benefits of exercise


Even if you’re not suffering from a mental health problem, regular physical activity can still offer a welcome boost to your mood, outlook, and mental well-being.

Exercise can help provide:

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. 

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you build resilience and cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

Getting started with exercise when you have a mental health issue


Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. But when you feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have another mental health problem, it can seem doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, which can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to work out, or your social anxiety means you can’t bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park.

Start small. When you’re under the cloud of anxiety or depression and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set achievable goals and build up from there.

Schedule workouts when your energy is highest. Perhaps you have most energy first thing in the morning before work or school or at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits? Or maybe you do better exercising for longer at the weekends. If depression or anxiety has you feeling tired and unmotivated all day long, try dancing to some music or simply going for a walk. Even a short, 15-minute walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your energy level. As you move and start to feel a little better, you’ll often boost your energy enough to exercise more vigorously—by walking further, breaking into a run, or adding a bike ride, for example.

Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving counts. That could include throwing a Frisbee with a dog or friend, walking laps of a mall window shopping, or cycling to the grocery store. If you’ve never exercised before or don’t know what you might enjoy, try a few different things. Activities such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project can be great ways to start moving more when you have a mood disorder—as well as helping you become more active, they can also leave you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Be comfortable. Wear clothing that’s comfortable and choose a setting that you find calming or energizing. That may be a quiet corner of your home, a scenic path, or your favorite city park.

Reward yourself. Part of the reward of completing an activity is how much better you’ll feel afterwards, but it always helps your motivation to promise yourself an extra treat for exercising. Reward yourself with a hot bubble bath after a workout, a delicious smoothie, or with an extra episode of your favorite TV show, for example.

Make exercise a social activity. Exercising with a friend or loved one, or even your kids, will not only make exercising more fun and enjoyable, it can also help motivate you to stick to a workout routine. You’ll also feel better than if you were exercising alone. In fact, when you’re suffering from a mood disorder such as depression, the companionship can be just as important as the exercise.

Make exercise a fun part of your everyday life

You don’t have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into long, monotonous workouts to experience the many benefits of exercise. These tips can help you find activities you enjoy and start to feel better, look better, and get more out of life.

 

How To Take A Break From Work & Why We Need It

 



Risks of Chronic Stress


The body is designed to respond to short bursts of stress. When stress is prolonged and the stress response is triggered repeatedly and regularly—as can happen in a stressful job or a conflict – ridden relationship - the situation turns into one of chronic stress, and real health problems can set in.

Chronic stress may make you more susceptible to conditions ranging from frequent headaches and gastrointestinal issues to high blood pressure, which brings an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. When your "allostatic load," or overall level of stress, accumulates to a certain level, stress can snowball because you're constantly in a state of reactivity.


At this point, even positive events can feel overwhelming if they take energy to enjoy. You're not able to respond from a place of strength and wisdom, but rather from a place of anxiety, or you work on auto-pilot.


Signs That You Need a Break


Sometimes, it's obvious that you need a vacation. In other cases, stress can sneak up on you. You may not necessarily recognize when you're at risk of being overwhelmed and burned out. 

Everyone responds to stress in unique ways, which means that the signs of being overwhelmed are also highly individual. However, there are some general warning signs that apply in most cases.

If you're experiencing one or more of the following, start planning some downtime. This might mean a real vacation or even just a weekend staycation to recharge your batteries.

Key signs you need a break include:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Cynicism about work
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Low mood
  • Frustration
  • Feeling unfocused or fuzzy-headed
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Poor performance at work
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, or co-workers

In fact, unless you already feel energized, motivated, excited, creative, and fully engaged at work and in your relationships, you'd likely benefit from a vacation, because it's a good idea to manage stress before it feels overwhelming. Vacations, mental health days, and regular self-care can keep you functioning at your best.


Think of these breaks as preventative care. We need to participate in them on a regular basis in order to be able to manage our stress and prevent burnout. The key is to prevent ourselves from getting to the point that we absolutely need the break.


Benefits of Taking a Break

Vacations and even shorter breaks (take an afternoon off) where you get some physical and psychological space from the demands of life can bring many rewards. Some of the benefits you may enjoy when you take a break include:

  • Reduced stress: Obviously, you feel less stress when you're not in a stressful environment. But taking breaks bring more than that. They interrupt the cycle of stress that can lead to being overwhelmed.
  • Rest: By breaking out of the cycle of chronic stress, you can restore yourself physically and mentally to a healthier place.
  • Clearer thinking: Because a chronically triggered stress response can lead to decreased creativity, memory problems, and other issues, this break in the stress cycle can lead to sharper thinking and increased creativity in all areas of your life.
  • Increased productivity: All of this can make you better at your job, more available in your relationships, more energetic with your families, and more able to enjoy life after you return.

How to Take a Break

If you need a break, there are several different options for getting one. You can go for a long and luxurious break, a relaxing and simple one, or something short and sweet. You can even have minutes-long breaks that you take throughout the day to keep productivity higher and to keep from feeling overwhelmed.

Vacation

A vacation is a real break, in the classic sense of the word, and taking a vacation is more important than many people realize. That's why many vacation days go unused when they should be enjoyed to the fullest.

The key to a restful vacation is to prioritize rest and fun when you go; don't overbook yourself with tourist activities or bring so much work with you that by the time you return you feel you need a vacation from your vacation.

Staycation

The staycation is becoming more and more en vogue, especially as people have a greater need to take a break, but with fewer means to pull off an exotic trip. The staycation is all about rest and relaxation, and enjoying home sweet home—a place you are often too stressed and busy to really enjoy.

The key to a refreshing staycation is the same as the key to a restful vacation, though somewhat trickier to pull off: Don't overdo it, and don't let work creep in. That means no cleaning, office work, or dealing with regular responsibilities. You can either turn off the phones, ignore email, and make it a point to both rest and play at home, or go to a nearby hotel to make it easier.

It's important to still put your "out of office" up on your email and try to resist checking your email regularly.  You can still check it occasionally as this sometimes helps decrease stress and anxiety while "on vacation," but just because you are home on a staycation, does not mean you are supposed to work.

Playcation

Few people talk about having a playcation, but it's a great idea: Stay home, but make it fun! The difference between a staycation and a playcation is that staycations tend to focus more on resting and relaxing, while playcations are for—you guessed it—fun!

With the hard work and stressful routines that characterize many people's lifestyles, it's important to have some fun (like Billy Crystal did to "get his smile back" in the classic movie City Slickers) as a way to recharge your batteries and be sure you're enjoying life. You can devote several days to taking a playcation, or just be sure you pepper in some fun on a regular basis.


Short Breaks

Sometimes you just need to take a break from stress long enough to disrupt the body's stress response cycle, and then get back into action. If you just need a quick break, take a hike or a bike ride, enjoy a movie, or even have a five-minute meditation session.

Spending time outdoors in the fresh air and physical activity can also be great stress relievers. Incorporating these into your short break, such as going for a walk outside around the block, can help you get more bang for your buck from your short break.

Final Thoughts

Everyone needs a break from time to time in order to relieve stress. Even if you can't take a big vacation, a staycation or short break can be a valuable way to feel restored and refreshed.


Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic: The Nervous System And How It Works

 



The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is also called the involuntary nervous system. It regulates important bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, temperature, pupil dilation, and digestion. The system allows us to react and adjust these functions without consciously thinking about them.

The ANS is further divided into two components: The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These two systems work in conjunction to provide input to your body at all times, acting to decrease or increase activities.

In a healthy system, when it’s time to act or there is a perceived threat, the sympathetic will dominate, when there are no threats, the parasympathetic dominates.

SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: FIGHT OR FLIGHT

The ANS directs your body’s rapid and involuntary response to strain, such as danger, disease, and exercise. It sends messages to organs, muscles, and glands to increase heart rate, dilate the bronchial tubes to your lungs, increase perspiration, and cause pupil dilation.

This “fight or flight” response is an evolutionary survival mechanism, enabling humans and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations such as an oncoming car or a buffalo speeding towards them. But your body may also react during non  life threatening stress too, like traffic jams, making a presentation at work, or family arguments.

While your body is busy responding to stressors, the SNS inhibits non-vital functions such as digestion and salivation to stop energy from going to those organs and focus it on saving your life or nailing that presentation.

The SNS does not calm you down after it’s wound you up though, that role is performed by the parasympathetic system.

PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: REST AND DIGEST

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) works in opposition to the sympathetic system, controlling the body’s ability to relax. It mainly function to downregulate the body using the vagus nerve, which sends impulses from the brain to the body and back. The PSNS works to tell your brain what’s happening within your body, instead of your brain telling your body what to do. It usually activates when you are feeling relaxed or in a mundane situation.

The PSNS slows your heart and respiratory rates, narrows pupils, and increases digestion. It’s called the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” system as it conserves the body’s natural activities until after a stressful situation has passed. Once the danger is over, the PSNS returns the body to homeostasis.




AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM AND HEART RATE VARIABILITY

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of how the SNS and PSNS affect your heart beat. When your nervous system is balanced, your heart is constantly being told to beat slower by your parasympathetic system, and to beat faster by your sympathetic system. These mixed messages result in a constant state of variation in your heart rate. HRV is the variance in time between beats.

For example, if your heart beat is 60 bpm, the time between beats is likely not exactly 1 second. It may be 0.9 seconds between two beats and 1.1 seconds between two others.

When you have high heart rate variability, it means that your body is responsive to input from both the SNS and PSNS. This is a sign that your nervous system is balanced, and that your body is capable of performing at its best.  

Conversely, a low HRV means that one branch is dominating and sending stronger signals to your heart than the other. This may occur during a race for example, when the SNS is focused on allocating resources to your legs (sympathetic activity) as opposed to digesting food (parasympathetic activity). But it may also occur when you’re tired or sick, leaving fewer resources available for tasks like exercising or giving a work presentation.

Essentially, if one system is dominating, it means the SNS has less ability to take over when it needs to, such as when you’re facing down a bear.  


How to restore balance

Once we understand the difference between SNS and PSNS we can actively try to stimulate our PSNS. Here are 7 fixes to restore the balance between your SNS and PSNS.


1. Reduce Stress - Stress is ubiquitous. Good health depends on removing or reducing whatever stressors we can control, and reduce our reactions to those we can’t.


2. Meditation - We can’t remove all external stress. Meditation is the best way to decrease our reactivity to stress we can’t control. It teaches us to ignore triggers. It reduces our breathing, slows our heart, and decreases our blood pressure: all signs of PSNS activation. Meditations reduces lactic acid in our muscles, promoting recovery.

3. Massage - Regular massage has been shown to restore balance between SNS and PSNS. Massage makes us stronger, calmer, and more able to fight infection. By activating the PSNS, massage promotes recovery. It retrains the body to move more readily into PSNS even when we’re stressed.

4. Breathing - Breathing straddles the peripheral nervous system and the autonomic system. It happens automatically but we can also control it. We can hold our breathe for example, but we cannot stop our heart. Slowed breathing is a hallmark of PSNS. But it’s not just a symptom, it’s a signal. Slowing your breathing intentionally tells your SNS than things are okay. This activates the PSNS.

Daily breathing exercises will strengthen your lungs, improve your immune system, and decrease your resting heart rate. Here’s a simple way to activate your PSNS. Inhale for a count of 2. Hold that breathe for a count of 5. Exhale for a count of 7. Repeat.


5. Yoga - Like meditation, yoga will bring you into PSNS, It also bolsters your ability to decrease SNS activation when you are stressed.

Daily or weekly yoga classes, or even a quick yoga video at home, will improve your strength, flexibility and breathing.

6. Nutrition - Can what you eat affect your SNS/PSNS balance? Yes. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugar will facilitate PSNS. An anti-stress diet brings the right mix of protein, minerals and other nutrients to support PSNS.

7. Exercise - Yes, intense exercise, even the idea of it, stimulates our SNS. But regular aerobic exercise such as light jogging can actually decrease SNS activity and activate our PSNS. The key is moderation and measurement.




Belly Laughs Can Improve Your Life

 



Stressed? No worries. We have a really good remedy for that. And it’s super easy, we promise. If you want more joy in your life, all you have to do is laugh. Invite the chuckles, giggles, and downright cackles into your life and watch your world shift.

 

Laughing feels SO good. It’s a natural medicine that improves your mental and physical health, helps you build stronger relationships, and makes you more fun and attractive to be around.

 

What does laughing mean in biological terms?

 

It means that when you are laughing, you are showing emotion with a vocal sound. Laughter is contagious from person to person. And I mean contagious in a really good way. Laughing is a form of communication between humans. It can mean that we are having a great time, are bonding and showing understanding, or even that we are uncomfortable or embarrassed. 

 

It’s not too surprising that laughing occurs more often in people that are already happy. Laughing gives the stress hormone cortisol the boot and replaces it with feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. All of these awesome chemical reactions happening from laughter can help to increase social bonds, boost motivation, reduce pain, cause stress to plummet, and draw others closer to you.  

 

There are many benefits to laughing. A study from 2016 that you can find right here on pubmed.com found that people with a strong sense of humor had a long life expectancy, while those who didn’t, had a higher risk of health issues. 

 

So what exactly are all of the benefits of laughing?

 

Improves mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and anger

Boosts immunity

Relaxes muscles and tension

Increases blood flow and circulation

Decreases pain

Boosts social bonds and attractiveness

Encourages forgiveness

Forms new perspectives with challenges

Increases alertness, productivity, and memory

More positive and optimistic outlook on life

 

Studies have also shown that true laughter is more about connections and relationships, rather than individuals laughing at things happening on electronics. When we laugh together, it invites more opportunities for other funny things to show up in the conversation. And remember what we said about it being contagious? Keep it rolling together!

 

We are going to invite you to take some steps to set yourself up to catch more humorous moments in your life so that you can enjoy the fullness of a good laugh more often.

 

-    Laugh together. Bring up certain things that you know the other people with you are going to find funny.


-    Put your phone away to avoid distractions and actually catch each other's jokes. I feel like so much humor has been lost because we are missing it. And when it continues to be missed, those who are trying to deliver it are eventually going to give up trying.


-   Spend time with funny, playful, and happy people.


-   Set up game nights with friends5.


-   Tell jokes and funny stories.


-   Watch/listen to funny movies, books, podcasts.


-   Smile more. Smiling is the precursor to laughter.


-   Practice gratitude.


-   Try laugh yoga or laugh therapy.


-   Be silly and spontaneous. Don’t take yourself so seriously.


 

Laughter is one of the greatest medicines available to us because it literally pummels stress in every fight. Chronic stress is the root of so much disease and unhappiness, so if we can knock out stress with a 1-2 punch, we will experience the happiness that we were created to enjoy.


Why You Should Document Your Fitness Journey

 



How many times have you been on the verge of quitting your workout? Everyone hits a training plateau now and then, but this isn't a hint that you should stop working out. You only need a little prodding to get back into your training shoes, and chronicling your fitness journey may be beneficial in these cases. Documenting your fitness journey may appear to be an amateur habit to have when on a training regimen, but you will be surprised at the benefits of doing so. Whether you prefer selfies or journals, everything that aids you in this instance is beneficial.

Here are five reasons why you should keep track of your fitness progress.


1. Plan

This is one of the most compelling reasons to keep track of your fitness progress. The majority of people abandon their exercise program because they lack a clear fitness plan. You'll need a firm plan of action if you want to enjoy a blistering training session. To be successful in your fitness journey, you must have a fitness plan. Documenting your progress also encourages you to make a fitness plan and assists you in achieving your fitness goals.


2. Progress

Your mind might sometimes fool you into believing you haven't made any progress. This can demotivate you and perhaps cause you to stop exercising. Thus, you should keep track of your progress by keeping a fitness journal. If you track your progress, you can readily see where you are in your journey and how much further you need to go to attain your objective. Set a goal for yourself and keep track of important statistics like weight, stamina, and other factors that might help you track your progress.


3. Accountability

Work and time are not valid excuses for skipping workouts. Stop creating excuses for not working out and start doing it. To stick to your exercise routine, you must retain personal accountability. While having a long-term plan may motivate you to achieve your goal, recording your fitness journey forces you to be accountable to yourself and keeps you on track.


4. Suitability

Every workout isn't suitable for everyone. A training program's success is determined by your lifestyle and physical conditioning. Maintaining a fitness blog or diary to track your progress is similar to keeping a database that allows you to compare workout plans. You may easily refer to your database and change your routines if you reach a training plateau.


5. Motivation

It's difficult to find the motivation to stick to a fitness routine these days, and it's all too easy to lose the stamina to keep going. Keeping track of your fitness progress will provide you with the incentive you require to stay on a fitness plan. It provides you with something to concentrate on and helps you stay on track to achieve your objective. Furthermore, the documentation of your health or fitness journey may be useful to others. When someone sees your paperwork and learns about your incredible trip, they will be inspired, and that is one life you have touched for the better.

Documenting your fitness progress motivates you to keep going with your fitness routine. When you look back on your achievements, the path you've charted will serve as a blueprint for your next triumph. So, start keeping track of your fitness progress and reap the rewards.

 



Winter Wellness: Tips To Get Through The Winter Months

 


1. Get Outside Often

It's easy to avoid going outside in winter. A covered garage can make it easy to go from your car to your office then back to your car again to arrive back home without ever feeling that icy sharpness on your face.

But staying inside for days on end, with nothing but artificial warmth and sniffing companions for company, can increase your chances of getting sick over winter.

Choose a day when the sky is blue and clear or it's not raining. Dress warmly, and step out and feel that winter sunshine. Admire how beautiful and clean your world looks when there is snow on the ground. You'll feel much better for it.

2. Keep Up the Exercise

Thumbs up if you have made it your goal to exercise more. How's that going for you?

Don't begrudge yourself if things haven't gone as well as planned. We know that it can be harder to stay motivated when it's cold outside and the days are shorter.

Choose a gym that is close to your home or work, or find a local fitness group or yoga class that fits in with your life. Buy something appropriate to wear and schedule in workouts as you would an appointment. Download a mobile app such as Fitness Buddy to chart your fitness. Make the most of a beautiful sunny winter's day, dress warmly, and run in the cold.

3. Make the Most of Nutritious Winter Fruits and Vegetables

Eating during winter doesn't have to be boring and vitamin deficient. Keep carbohydrate-laden foods such as white bread and pasta to a minimum and fill your plate with dark leafy greens, winter squash, citrus and pomegranate, which thrive in the chill of winter.

These fruits and vegetables are laden with nutrients, antioxidants and fiber which increase your energy and help keep that winter-weight at bay. They may help reduce your risk of cancer too.

4. Protect Your Skin From the Inside-Out and Outside-In

Cold, dry air quickly sucks moisture from our skin. Combine that with a blasting of hot air from a central heating unit and some nice scratchy winter fabric and your skin can end up being one dry, itchy, scaly mess.

Keep moisture locked into your skin with a heavy, oil-based moisturizer. Lather it on every time you bath or shower or whenever your skin feels dry. Drink plenty of water and eat foods like berries which are high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, walnuts, or take omega-3 supplements), and consider using a humidifier to help add moisture to the air.

5. Watch Your Vitamin D Levels

Do you seem to succumb to every cold, flu, or stomach bug doing the rounds? Perhaps you are just generally feeling a bit blue. Both our immune system and our mood rely on vitamin D. Because vitamin D is made in our bodies after exposure to the sun, it is not uncommon for people to become vitamin D deficient during the winter months. Vitamin D also helps ensure that our bodies absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus for building bone.

Ask you doctor for a blood test to determine where your vitamin D levels fall. If yours are low, you may benefit from a daily vitamin D supplement of 400–800 IU/day (10–20 micrograms).

6. Try to Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule

Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the hormone melatonin, which is released in response to light. Exposing yourself to too much light at night - such as that emitted from computer screens, TV screens or electronic devices - inhibits the release of melatonin which decreases sleep quality and quantity. This makes us feel sluggish and tired the next day.

Get up and go to bed at the same time of day regardless of the season. Restrict computer use and TV watching at night. Consider a melatonin and magnesium supplement if you also have trouble sleeping.

7. Thwart That Cold or Flu In Its Tracks

Maybe your throat has become a bit sore or scratchy. Perhaps your nose or eyes are starting to feel a bit congested. You can feel a change in your health but it's still in the early stages.

Keep some natural remedies at home to take at the first sign of a cold or flu. Olive leaf, garlic, echinacea, elderberry, vitamin C, and zinc may help to boost your immunity and increase our resistance to those nasty winter viruses.

8. Be Mindful of Your Heart

Extreme cold coupled with unaccustomed exertion is bad for your heart. Studies have shown that heart attack rates increase as temperatures decrease, and normally sedentary people who subject themselves to intense bursts of activity are more at risk.

So be careful if you have to go out on a freezing cold day and shovel snow. Use a small shovel and just move small amounts of snow at a time. Take any chest pain seriously. Seek medical help immediately if you feel discomfort, chest tightening, or pain in the chest, upper arm or neck area. Most heart attacks start with mild symptoms initially so it is important to get any symptoms of chest pain checked out.

9. Stay in Control of Your Asthma

Winter can be a challenging time for people with asthma. Cold and flu viruses can trigger asthma attacks; dry air or smoke from the fireplace can irritate airways; and the Christmas tree may harbor invisible mold spores that exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Try to avoid known triggers if you can. Buy an artificial Christmas tree and cover your mouth with a scarf when going outside. Keep taking your asthma medications, even if you are feeling well. See your doctor in the winter months if you feel your  asthma is not under good control.

10. Shine Some Light on Those Winter Blues

Thirty percent of people in the northern U.S. states struggle with the winter blues each year. A few of them suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that happens around the same time each year.

Benefits of Sleep Masks

 



HOW DO EYE MASKS HELP YOU SLEEP?

The basic premise of a sleep mask is very simply to block any light from reaching your eyes. Exposure to light when you’re trying to sleep confuses your circadian rhythm, the body’s 24-hour internal clock that regulates sleep patterns.


Our circadian rhythms are essentially set by light. If you have even very small amounts of light in your bedroom you’re pretty much telling your body it’s daytime, which means don’t sleep, and you actually inhibit the production of the sleep promoting hormone melatonin.”


WHO SHOULD TRY A SLEEP MASK?

Chances are, almost everyone can likely benefit from going to sleep with an eye mask on. In particular, a sleep mask may be useful for anybody who:

- Suffers from insomnia

- Is a light sleeper

- Works night shifts or has to sleep during the day

- Travels frequently 

BENEFITS OF SLEEP MASKS

A study reports that those wearing a sleep mask show substantial improvements in their sleep and next-day recovery. On average, their total time asleep increases by 27 minutes, they see a 2% gain in REM sleep, and their recovery is boosted by 9%.


These stats were found to be generally consistent across all age groups, and for both men and women. Analysis of those wearing a night mask also considered possible confounding factors as well, meaning other behaviors to help sleep were controlled, like wearing blue-light blocking glasses or reading before bed.


Beyond more time asleep, increased REM sleep, and better recovery, here are 5 additional benefits of sleep masks:

Stop distractions and prevent you from viewing screened devices in bed. You’re not going to look at your phone or turn on the TV if you’ve got a mask on.


Cheap and easy. A sleep mask costs a lot less than blackout curtains and is much simpler than trying to eliminate all sources of light around you.


Travel well. You might have complete darkness in your bedroom at home, but that can be extremely difficult to replicate anywhere else you sleep.


Improve dry itchy eyes. Covering your eyes may prevent them from being exposed to dust, dry air, or other potential irritants.


Protect your skin. Over time, a mask can help preserve the delicate skin around your eyes and stave off wrinkles.

 

WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR IN A SLEEP MASK

In order to get the most out of a sleep mask, it’s important to find the right one for you. Here are some key characteristics to look for:

  • Make sure you find it comfortable, easy to wear, and that it doesn’t bother you if you have sensitive          skin
  • Check to see that it blocks out ALL light
  • Avoid masks that feel too tight–an adjustable strap may be useful
  • Get one that fits your sleeping style (for example, one that won’t slide off or put pressure on your                face if you sleep on your side.)

 



Your Detox Pathways Matter

 


Things like stress, eating processed foods, exposure to environmental toxins, lack of movement, compromised sleep, and pharmaceutical drugs can all hinder your body’s natural detox systems.


What organs play a role? There are several involved:


The skin through sweat, lungs through breathings, kidneys through urine, intestines through feces, and the liver clears toxins.


How can you support these organs? You can ADD simple things like these to your daily routine:


MATCHA

There is nothing like a delicious cup of matcha in the morning. It is FULL of chlorophyll – which is great for detoxification. 


CITRUS

Citrus fruits like lemon, lime, oranges in ice water are amazing for the kidneys and FULL of vitamin C.


VEGGIES

Cruciferous vegetables like: arugula, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, and mustard greens are all SUPER AWESOME at helping the liver to detox.  Add these guys to salads, saute on the stove with some pasture butter, or make yourself a delicious grass-finished burger wrapped in a cabbage bun.  


Garlic and onion are both super potent and packs a swift punch full of detoxifying properties.  Caramelized onions “all day every day”, and garlic in EVERYTHING is just better!


HERBS

Herbs like cilantro (salsa or guacamole), parsley (chimichurri), and rosemary (with a juicy steak or rack of lamb) are powerhouses for the detox pathways.


Turmeric and curry are absolute rockstars at reducing inflammation AND, your guessed it, detoxing the body.


MOVEMENT

Move your body, in some form or fashion, and sweat daily.  Your skin will applaud you.


DEEP BREATHING

Please take DEEP breaths too throughout the day.  Ideally 100 conscious deep belly breaths. 


BONE BROTH

A nice warm cup of delicious bone broth is an excellent assistance to the gut, kidneys and liver.


GREENS

Dandelion, turnip, beet greens are a great detoxifying additions to fresh salads.  An apple cider vinegar / olive oil based dressing with a tiny touch of maple syrup will counteract the bitterness perfectly.  


TEA

After dinner, tea is a great way to settle into the night.  Tea with herbs like milk thistle, burdock root, licorice root, ginger root, and dandelion root are the best.   


CASTOR OIL

Before bed, slap a dob of castor oil into your hand and rub it over your kidneys and liver.  Castor oil is a MAJOR healer and fantastic for detoxification.  P.S. Wear and old t-shirt because the oil can stain.  You can also search for castor oil packs on the internet.


SLEEP

Sleep 7-9 hours every night, please!!! Our bodies work really hard to detox and repair through the night.  Honor that process with good rest. 


HAPPY DETOXING


Isometric Exercises You Should Be Doing




Isometric exercises place tension on particular muscles without moving the surrounding joints. By applying constant tension to the muscles, isometric exercises can be useful for improving physical endurance and posture by strengthening and stabilizing the muscles.


There are two types of muscle contraction: isotonic and isometric. Isotonic contractions occur when muscles become shorter or longer against resistance, and tension remains the same. Isometric contractions occur when tension increases but the muscle remains at a constant length.


Many strength building exercises involve concentric or eccentric movements, which are both isotonic contractions. Concentric movements cause the muscle to shorten, and eccentric movements lengthen the muscle.


Isometric exercises do not involve the muscles shortening or lengthening. During isometric exercises, the joints are still, and the muscles do not change shape or size. People will typically hold the isometric contraction for several seconds or minutes.


Some isometric exercises develop tension by holding the body in a certain position, while others may involve holding weights. Holding the muscle contraction allows the muscle tissue to fill with blood and create metabolic stress on the muscle. This can help improve strength and endurance.

An advantage of isometric exercises is that they are fairly easy to perform, usually do not require any equipment, and are easily incorporable into many weight lifting exercises.


Benefits of isometric exercises 

Many exercise regimens will include some isometric movements, along with more dynamic exercises.

Some benefits of isometric exercises may include:

  • They are useful exercises for activating many muscle fibers at once.
  • They require less practice to perform exercises with good form compared with some dynamic movements, such as squats.
  • They are suitable for people with an injury or medical condition that restricts movement. For example, a 2012 study found that isometric exercises are suitable for people with osteoarthritis.
  • Some research suggests that isometric exercise training may be an effective way to lower blood pressure. 
  • According to a 2015 study, these exercises can improve muscle stability and the ability to hold weight over longer periods.
  • Some research suggests that isometric exercises may help with pain relief for lower back pain, knee osteoarthritis, and neck pain. 


Risks of isometric exercises

In general, isometric exercises are less intense for major muscle groups than many dynamic movements. However, although they can be safer, isometric exercises may still cause or worsen existing injuries.


Performing isometric exercises with poor form can also lead to injury. For example, performing a plank without proper form can increase tension in the lower back, potentially leading to an injury.


If a person notices any pain or discomfort while performing an isometric exercise, they should stop immediately.


Examples of isometric exercises and how to do them

There are many types of isometric exercise, and each targets different muscle groups. Some common isometric exercises include:


Plank

Performing plank exercises is an effective way of strengthening the core muscles. To perform a plank: 

  • Start in a pressup position.
  • Bend the elbows so that the forearms are flat on the ground.
  • Hold the body in a straight line, with the forearms underneath the shoulders, keeping the core muscles tight.
  • Start with holding this position for 10 seconds, and build up over time.


Wall sit

The wall sit is a simple exercise for improving muscle endurance in the thighs without straining the lower back muscles. To perform a wall sit:

  • Stand around 2 feet in front of a wall, with the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the body into a sitting position so that the back rests flat against the wall.
  • Bend the knees to a 90-degree angle as if sitting on a chair, keeping tension in the core.
  • Hold this position for as long as possible.



Glute bridge

The glute bridge exercise targets the gluteal muscles behind the quadriceps. To perform a glute bridge: 

  • Lie on the back with the knees bent upward so that the feet are planted flat on the floor. Extend the arms and face the palms upward.
  • Engage the core muscles and lift the hips away from the ground until the torso is a straight line, using the arms for stability.
  • Hold this position while keeping the core muscles active.


Dead hang

The dead hang will work the upper body, particularly the shoulders. To perform this exercise:

  • Grab a pullup bar with the hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Cross the feet and lift them back off the ground so that the body is hanging in the air.
  • Hold this position for as long as possible. 


Isometric squat

This exercise is a variation of the traditional squat that builds endurance in the leg muscles. To perform this exercise:

  • Stand with feet at least shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly bend the knees, push the hips backward, and lower into a squat position.
  • At the bottom of the movement, move the arms forward to aid balance.
  • Hold this position.


You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be appealing, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating, if you do them right they will be sustainable.  

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again and with belief in yourself you can succeed. 

Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the track to success.  

You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles. 

You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve got to do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some harsh cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone.  The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and attractive in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, or have an excuse to buy hot new clothes. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.  

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
    • o SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based
    • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
    • The more encouraged you’ll be,
    • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

 

Keep Your Fitness Plans On Track During The Holidays

 




1. Schedule Your Workouts

Sitting down on the weekend and planning your workouts for the week ahead can be the most effective 15 minutes you spend on your health and fitness. By writing your workouts into your schedule, you’ll be more likely to regard them as protected time and actually do them.

Just stay flexible by checking in a couple of times during the week to make adjustments as soon as you know about things that have popped up. This lets you create a back-up plan for those extra busy days, rather than being caught off guard and having to ditch your workout.


2. Put Exercise First

By far, the best way to ensure that you don’t miss a workout is to do it first thing in the morning. Not only does this guarantee that unforeseen interruptions in your schedule won’t interfere with exercise, but studies have shown that our will power is higher early in the day before we’ve had to exert a lot of self-control.

Devoting the first 20 to 30 minutes of each day to exercise not only makes it more likely to happen, but an early morning workout could help you fight food carvings throughout the day, too.


3. Recruit an Exercise Buddy 

Another great way to motivate yourself over the holidays is to make a pact with a friend or group of friends. Even if you don’t workout together, checking in with someone else daily will make you think twice about skipping a session.

If your friends are all couch potatoes, head online to find an accountability partner. Around the holidays especially, social media is bursting with workout challenges and support networks.

If you can’t find anything in your social media feed, check out the forums on fitness-oriented sites and apps, like MyFitnessPal and Spark People.


4. Plan Ahead for Travel 

If you’ll be spending the holidays away from home, it’s imperative that you have a quick and easy travel workout in your repertoire.

This needn’t be your typical high-quality workout to be effective. A simple routine consisting of three to five exercises you can do with no equipment in a very small space is enough to keep you on track until you can get back to your usual routine.

The five exercises we suggest for our clients are one-legged balance stands, push-ups (modified if necessary), body squats,  basic crunches and prone opposite arm and leg raises (swimmers.)  Doing two or three circuits with little rest between exercises will give you a cardiovascular workout as well as maintain your muscular strength and endurance.


 5. And Squeeze in Mini-Workouts

One more thing: Because you might not get to exercise every day during the holidays, or the workouts you do get in might not be as robust as usual, try to focus on sneaking in short bursts of activity as often as you can throughout each day.

These “activity snacks” can be as simple as a trip up and down the stairs in your home, a walk around the block with the grandkids or a few deep knee bends during the commercial breaks when you’re watching football.

Studies have shown that walking just over a mile a day or doing three four-minute bouts of high-intensity exercise per week may be enough to help you maintain your weight and fitness level. By using the tips provided here, you should have ample time and motivation to do that much or more this holiday season.


Post Workout Recovery Tips

 



1. Cool down

The last thing you want to do after a hard workout is to put in even more effort or work, but that’s exactly what you should do. Take at least five to six minutes to focus on your breath as you stretch out the major muscles you just worked.  

Stretching eases muscle tension, enhances blood flow, boosts mobility, and promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tired muscles, which all help facilitate repair and recovery, helping your body grow stronger.


2. Drink up

It’s important to replenish your body’s water supply after you’ve exerted yourself and sweat so much of it out. Besides lubricating joints to help ward off aches, proper hydration also helps regulate body temperature and prevent muscle cramps and dizziness. Plus, you need enough flow to shuttle all the nutrients that promote recovery to your muscles, heart, brain, and more.

And don’t forget to sip on water before and during your workout, too. If you only drink when you feel thirsty like so many people do, you’re already overexerted and on the spectrum of dehydration. Your body also absorbs it better when you sip over longer periods of time as opposed to guzzling a bunch right after exercise.


3. Give yourself a massage

Foam rolling feels really good, and that’s because it’s essentially a massage. Using a foam roller helps break up muscle “adhesions” that can cause soreness or inhibit performance.

A massage gun can help in a similar way, and if you don’t have either, a lacrosse or tennis ball can do the trick. Follow the product instructions for use, and if using a DIY method, have a personal trainer or physical therapist demonstrate the right way to do it.


4. Feel the chill

There’s a reason athletes regularly soak in an ice bath (yes, a tub filled with ice-cold water!). Hydrotherapy has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow, two key components to recovery.

If you’re not quite ready for an official ice bath, that’s okay— the same benefits can be absorbed through taking a cold shower!


5. Try compression garments

You can find snug-fitting compression garments for most major body parts—calves, knees, hands, elbows, back, you name it—and they help tame or prevent pain and delayed soreness by slightly squeezing muscles to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.

They are also thought to help remove lactic acid—which builds up in muscles following high-energy exercise, leading to pain—especially in runners. Beyond improving comfort, relieving or preventing pain helps you stay on track with your health goals and promotes improved flexibility and range of motion.


6. Schedule rest

Of course, you take a breather after a workout, but you should designate specific days during the week where you don’t do much at all. A lot of times the mindset is that you need to workout constantly to reach your goals. But seven days a week is too much—your muscles need time to repair in order to get stronger and grow, so build rest days into your exercise regimen.

That doesn’t mean lounge around (sorry!). Doing some light activity that gets your body moving—like a walk, hike, bike ride, light swim, or game of tag—enhances muscle recovery without straining them by boosting blood flow.


7. Do a quick body check

When you’re done working out, take a moment to assess how you feel. One of the best ways to keep soreness or injury at bay is to not overexert yourself. Your goal should be to challenge yourself without punishing yourself. In other words, go hard, but not so hard that you pay the price with soreness the next day. You’ll know you hit the sweet spot if you walk away from your workout feeling challenged, but also strong and energized. You should never leave a workout feeling drained and spent. If you do, dial it back next time.


8. Feed your muscles

In order to build muscle strength or bigger muscles in general, pay close attention to the foods you eat after exercise. It’s best practice to eat something within an hour of completing your workout.

Savage recommends eating a balance of healthy carbs, lean protein, and healthy fat—all of which help facilitate the changes your body needs to make physical progress. For example, a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and sliced bananas or a cup of Greek yogurt with fresh berries would fit the bill.

It’s also important to replenish the electrolytes lost through sweating. These minerals play an essential role in fluid regulation and muscle contraction—and lacking in them can lead to muscle cramps or weakness, dizziness, a headache, and other unpleasant symptoms. Most fresh fruit contains electrolytes, and sipping on coconut water is also a good way to boost your levels.


9. Get hot, then cold

When you’re feeling sore after a tough workout, apply heat to help relax and calm muscles, then switch to ice to reduce pain and inflammation. This combo is ideal—then stretch out your muscle.  


10. Prioritize sleep

Bedtime is when our muscles get the chance to recover from exercise, and sleep deprivation prevents protein synthesis needed to repair your muscles.

Create a sleep routine that helps you doze off. In order to sleep soundly all night we recommend creating a soothing ritual, which can include practicing a quick meditation, dimming the lights, or diffusing a relaxing scent like lavender.


Practices To Handle Holiday Stress


Set your intention to enjoy the holidays as much as you can. By making the conscious decision to open yourself to true well-being and happiness, you’ll be more likely not to miss those uplifting moments and even begin to have your radar out for them. Psychiatrist Dan Siegel argues that by setting your intention, you “prime” your brain to be ready for positive experiences. And this can spur a positive cycle of happiness: Research by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson shows that when we allow ourselves to feel positive emotions, we become more open and sensitive to future positive experiences, bringing us even more of those good feelings down the line.


Savor any moments of well-being when they’re here. Don’t just know that you’re feeling good. Let your awareness savor how the experience registers in your body and mind for 15 or 30 seconds. (Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson calls this “taking in the good.”) Research by Fred Bryant, a professor of psychology at Loyola University, has found that savoring positive experiences strengthens our positive response to them. And neuroscience studies have shown that the longer we hold an emotionally stimulating experience in our awareness, the more neural connections form in our brains to strengthen the trace of that experience in our memory.


Take a break, regain your focus. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything on your To Do list, remember to take a few breaths. Take a break and enjoy a cup of tea or a hot bath. Try some yoga or exercise. Or get out of the doing mode for a little while and let yourself just relax. It can be challenging to disengage from the clutch of activity and connect with the moment in a restful way. But research suggests that it’s worth the effort to slow down and regain your focus: A recent study out of Harvard found that a wandering mind—typical in our multitasking culture—is a strong cause of unhappiness. 


Practice gratitude. Don’t take your good fortune for granted. Consciously reflect on all the blessings in your life each day. Express your appreciation directly to loved ones and friends when you’re with them. You and they will both feel the joy of loving connection. In a study by Martin Seligman, a leader in the field of positive psychology, people who considered themselves severely depressed were asked to write down three good things that happened each day for 15 days. At the end of the experiment, 94 percent of these subjects had a decrease in depression and 92 percent said their happiness increased. A study published earlier this year in the journal Psychological Science found that people who expressed gratitude to others felt significantly closer to those people afterward.


Practice generosity. Neuroscience research shows that performing an altruistic act lights up the same pleasure centers in the brain as food and sex! Whenever you feel the impulse to be generous, act on it. As you do, notice the expansive feelings in your body and mind. Without expecting anything in return, notice how good it feels inside when you see someone happy because of your sincere generosity. It can be as simple and profound as being fully present for a friend, sharing the gift of your caring and attention. Or when you open the door for someone, consider the positive impulse behind that act. Anytime you do something that contributes to the well-being of another, let yourself feel the joy of generosity. And be sure to include yourself in your generosity practice.


Play and have fun. Remember what it was like when you were a kid during the holidays? Let yourself experience that again. Be around kids if you can. Tune into and take delight in their enthusiasm. Singing or dancing are excellent ways to get out of your head and open to joy. As David Elkind, author of The Power of Play, writes, “Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social emotional development at all ages.”


Finally, remember that happiness is contagious: Research shows that happiness can spread like a virus across three degrees of separation; if you’re happy, you increase the odds that your close friends and family will be happy, too. So the more you can stay connected to your own happiness, the more you help others get in touch with their own well-being. We all benefit when you can awaken the joy within you. Happy Holidays!



 

How Exercise Can Make You More Resilient To Stress



Let’s be real: Life is freaking hard. Stuff happens. Unexpected stuff, like a beloved pet passing away or a fender bender on the highway during rush hour. Stressful stuff, like a tight deadline or a scheduling conflict at work. Money issues. Health issues. Relationship issues. You name it, we all got it.

So having the resilience to deal with life’s stresses head-on is crucial; an inability to cope will almost certainly lead to anxiety and depression.  But what if you could increase your mental toughness and resilience with exercise. How? Because what your body does physically affects the chemistry of your brain and vice versa.

Here are some fascinating, science-backed facts that demonstrate how exercise can help you be more resilient.

1. Releases Feel-Good Chemicals

Exercise releases endorphins and dopamine, which are feel-good chemicals that relax and reduce our perception of pain.

If you’ve ever been in the midst of a really intense workout session, then you know that even if your workout gets tough, your body feels like it can keep going.

And when you finally finish or take a break, your brain releases those chemicals that make everything seem awesome again (which may be part of what makes exercising so addictive).

More recently, scientists have discovered that exercise also causes your body to produce endocannabinoids— a neurochemical that’s strikingly similar to the cannabinoids found in weed or CBD oil.

It’s thought that these special molecules could be partially responsible for the famously elusive “runner’s high” that is comparable to a mild cannabis buzz. But if you’re not a jogger, no worries — the effect can be achieved through any moderate-intensity exercise.

As if that weren’t enough happiness getting cranked into your system, your muscles also release myokines into your blood when you exercise, making you more resilient to stress. The name of this protein is Irisin, and researchers sometimes refer to it as “the hope molecule.”

That’s right; exercise literally pumps hope into your body. If that doesn’t help you build resilience, I don’t know what will!

2. Provides an Outlet for Frustration

Stress releases cortisol and adrenaline, which can actually kill brain cells. But this is why exercise is so great — it not only helps lower cortisol levels, but it stimulates the release of these BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) molecules that protect your brain.

And getting those feel-good endorphins we just talked about can also provide an emotional outlet in times of frustration or sadness.

So after a bad day at work, sometimes exercising can be just the antidote you need.

High-intensity exercise is perfect for this. Try kickboxing, circuit training, or a HIIT spinning sesh.

Exercising after work helps sweat out all the day’s aggravations and little annoyances that otherwise get bottled up.

3. Instills Self-Confidence

It turns out that when we feel good about ourselves and what we can accomplish physically, it teaches us to be more confident about what we can achieve outside the gym.

The self-esteem/exercise connection has been well-documented in the research as well.

For example, one study of 84 male university students found that those who worked out for 45 minutes three times a week had more self-confidence after eight weeks than those who did not follow an exercise regime.

The thing is, it’s not just the act of exercising that helps you cope with stress but how good you feel about yourself when exercising.

So if you’re someone who has trouble getting started, try this: don’t worry so much about working out — instead, focus on strengthening your emotional connection to exercise. That way, once you actually do start to work out, your mind will already be on board with the idea (because you’ve already built a positive emotional connection), and you will enjoy that physical activity experience even more than usual.

4. Regulates Emotions

Research shows that exercise can help regulate emotions, which is crucial for handling difficult challenges in life.

Part of this is the reasons we already talked about like the feel-good hormones produced during exercise and how sweating it out can release your frustrations.

But another reason is because of something called proprioception, which is your mind’s ability to sense your body’s movements.

You can use this proprioception to build resilience.

For example, if you make powerful movements with your body, like when you lift heavy weights, your mind will think, “I feel powerful.”

Push yourself an extra mile in your weekend run, and your mind will think, “I feel tenacious.”

5. Grounds You in the Present

It’s so easy to let obstacles in our life consume our thoughts and overtake us with worry.

Part of resilience is the ability to focus on what you can do in the here and now.

And nothing makes you more present than exercise.

Exercise is almost a kind of moving meditation because it forces you to focus on your breathing and think about what’s going on right now.

Think about it. How much are you fretting about the future when you’re trying to break your planking PR? Chances are, you’re extremely focused present — almost too focused!

Next time you’re face to face with a difficult situation in your life that’s making you anxious, try going for a 15-minute jog (or even a brisk walk). Focus on your putting one foot in front of the other and sync your breathing. You will feel more calm and resilient by the end of those 15 minutes.

The effect will be even better if you run/walk outside, preferably through a trail or park where you will reap the benefits of “Green Exercise.”

Green exercise is any physical activity you do outside in nature that is scientifically proven to improve your mental health and boost your overall sense of well-being.  Studies show that even 15 minutes walking in nature is enough to feel more capable in the face of adversity.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, a healthy body facilitates a healthy mind — and a healthy mind is better equipped to deal with life’s inevitable setbacks.

So although there’s no magic pill that will erase your problems, exercising regularly can make you feel more prepared to tackle them.

If you are new to working out, there’s nothing wrong with starting small. Remember, even a 15-minute walk can make all the difference!

So next time life gets you down, get moving — your body and mind will thank you!


 

Stay On Track During The Thanksgiving Holiday



Thanksgiving should be one day out of the year where you throw caution to the wind and enjoy whatever you want. But if you overdo it, you may feel tired, sluggish, and head down a slippery slope of overindulging until New Year's Day. You can enjoy your feast while also keeping on track with your goals. 

Here are eight tips for staying on track during Thanksgiving:

  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after your meals.
  • Prioritize protein and veggies.
  • Enjoy the seasonal stuff, but be picky with your indulgences.
  • Eat slowly and without distractions.  
  • Stop eating when you're full or when something is no longer enjoyable for you.
  • Be aware of grazing.
  • Use the extra energy to kill your next workout.  
  • Lastly, have a great week, and focus more on spending time with your loved ones rather than obsessing over your diet.

You should enjoy the stuffing and pumpkin pie, but you don't need to fill your plate with both; stick to moderate portion sizes to enjoy your food without going overboard. Same goes for grazing; it's easy to hang out in the kitchen and mindlessly munch on crackers, cheese, and other apps before you sit down to eat. Be mindful of what you put on your plate, and make sure you eat slowly and enjoy every bite.

Most of all, enjoy the holiday! You're bound to eat more than you typically do, which is fine; one day won't derail the rest of your year's worth of progress. If you do overdo it and feel sluggish, make sure you get right back to your healthy habits the next day.  

 

Practicing Gratitude Has Profound Health Benefits

 



Before the feast begins, everyone around the table shares something that makes them feel grateful. It’s a Thanksgiving tradition in many U.S. families, but you might be surprised to learn that the simple exercise can have dramatic benefits.


For those who can resist diving into the turkey and mashed potatoes for a few minutes to share their thanks first, evidence indicates that gratitude can boost health and well-being.


Benefits associated with gratitude include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and a host of other things we associate with better health. The limits to gratitude’s health benefits are really in how much you pay attention to feeling and practicing gratitude.


You might get a warm glow from expressing gratitude once a year at Thanksgiving. To truly derive long-lasting benefits, though, experts say you should make it a part of your daily or weekly routine. Scientific evidence from gratitude research backs up a few typical approaches, including saying thanks to people who don’t expect it and writing down a few things each day that make you grateful. It’s very similar to working out, in that the more you practice, the better you get.  The more you practice, the easier it is to feel grateful when you need it.


Research has found links between gratitude and brain structures also tied to social bonding, reward and stress relief. Other studies have revealed connections between the tendency to feel grateful and a chemical called oxytocin that promotes social ties.


Research on gratitude has also found associations with other health benefits, including general well-being, better sleep, more generosity and less depression.  It makes sense that gratitude is beneficial from an evolutionary perspective. Gratitude is such a key function of our social lives and our evolution as a species. People who did not develop gratitude or grateful relationships with others, it’s very unlikely they would have survived in a social context.


There’s something wonderful about getting together with people and being thankful, so you may not be able to be with your family or loved ones, but it may be a time to be brave and ask other people to get together — it doesn’t have to be fancy — and talk about what you’re thankful for.


Gratitude can help people cope with stress and build stronger relationships

Taking a few moments to reflect on gratitude can broaden your perspective, helping you find meaning in small but enjoyable moments, like drinking a delicious cup of coffee or taking a hot shower. Finding those minor sources of joy can keep you from dwelling on what you don’t have, and instead help you think about what makes you happy.

Writing in a gratitude journal can build a reserve of positive feelings that you can draw on during rougher patches in life. And sharing thanks with people in your life who make you grateful can pay off with deeper connections.

People who are grateful get less triggered or angry, they have more positive feelings, and in some ways, that attracts other people. When you feel these positive emotions and relish good experiences with others, there’s a bonding in that, and it tends to build stronger relationships.


Whether spiritual or philosophical, gratitude has roots throughout human history

Gratitude is a common thread through many religions and philosophies. Cicero reportedly called it the “mother of all virtues.” Greek philosopher Epictetus said: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” And Charles Dickens shared a similar sentiment with his oft-quoted phrase, “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”


Whether you embrace a spiritual, religious or secular approach to feeling grateful, practicing gratitude reflects a recognition that the positive things in life have a source beyond ourselves. To be grateful is to express a personal relationship with that source, whether understood as an anthropomorphic deity or as the cosmos, the universe or the greater world… That’s a profound thing.


Tips on practicing gratitude

So what are some proven techniques to becoming a more grateful person? Gratitude research has shown that some of the most effective approaches include maintaining a gratitude journal, writing personal thank-you notes and regularly expressing gratitude to others in person.  Keep a gratitude jar as a family, have them write on a piece of paper what they are grateful for every day and place it in the jar.  During dinner or leisure time, take a few of the notes out of the jar and enjoy reading one another’s thoughts.  


As for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday there’s no wrong way to practice gratitude. Going around the table to share thanks, writing positive messages to others or simply taking the time to connect with friends and family are all good ways to get started.

How Physical Activity Impacts Sleep



Exercise is essential to your overall health and wellbeing. Even small amounts of physical activity can improve your mood and cognitive function, alleviate anxiety, and decrease your risk of diseases and other medical conditions. Studies have also found that physical activity helps people sleep better. That said, how, how much, and when you exercise will affect your sleep in different ways.


Additionally, a good night’s sleep is important for those who exercise regularly. Sleep allows your body to recover from the previous day. Getting enough rest after a workout strengthens your muscle and tissues, which can help you avoid fatigue and exercise-related injuries. Conversely, poor sleep may lead to  lower physical activity levels during the day.

Does Physical Activity Help You Sleep Better?

Numerous studies have explored the link between exercise and sleep, and most conclude that certain types of physical activity improve sleep quality and duration. Interestingly, other forms of exercise can decrease sleep quality and prevent us from getting enough rest.

The best exercise to improve sleep largely depends on how old you are. For instance, some studies have found that moderate exercise training over the course of several weeks can improve sleep quality and duration for adolescents, whereas vigorous exercise during the same timespan has been shown to decrease sleep duration for some teens.

Regular exercise can help healthy adults sleep better. While acute physical activity can have a small effect on sleep quality and duration, regular, moderate exercise can extend sleep duration, improve sleep quality, and decrease sleep onset, or the time it takes to fall asleep.

For adults with sleep disorders, exercise needs may be a bit different. One study found that moderate resistance training and stretching exercises are beneficial to people with insomnia. Similarly, subjects who participated in moderate aerobic sessions reported decreased sleep onset, fewer waking episodes during the night, longer sleep duration, more sleep efficiency, and less overall anxiety.

Other Health Benefits of Physical Activity

In addition to helping you sleep better, regular exercise also provides the following benefits.

  • Improved Endurance: Certain aerobic activities can increase your heart and breathing rates, which is important for healthy cardiovascular, respiratory, and circulatory function. Endurance exercises include running or brisk walking, swimming, and cycling.
  • Stronger Bones and Muscles: Weightlifting and other strength-building exercises can increase your muscle mass. For older adults, physical activity also keeps bones and joints in good shape. This can counteract the loss of bone density, which naturally occurs with age, and decrease the risk of a hip fracture during a fall.
  • Increased Balance and Flexibility: Balancing exercises like tai chi make it easier for you to walk on uneven surfaces and reduce your risk of falling and injuring yourself. Yoga and other stretching exercises help your body remain limber.
  • Weight Management: Exercising allows you to burn the calories you consume from eating and drinking. The right amount of exercise depends on your body type, since some people require more physical activity to burn calories. However, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five times per week is recommended for most people.
  • Reduced Health Risks: Regular exercise can decrease your risk of a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. These include cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Physical activity can also reduce your risk of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.
  • Longer Lifespan: People who exercise for roughly 150 minutes per week are 33% more likely to outlive those who don’t exercise. Keep in mind that you don’t need to overdo it on physical activity in order to be healthy. Even small bursts of moderate to vigorous exercise can benefit your overall health.


When Should You Exercise?

The timing of your workout is crucial to sleep. Aerobic workouts in the early morning have been shown to improve sleep quality to a greater extent than the same workouts in the afternoon or evening. Exercising in the morning has also been linked to more time spent in slow-wave sleep. A daytime walk lasting 10 minutes or longer can also improve your sleep that night.


A good rule-of-thumb is to avoid strenuous exercise within three hours of your scheduled bedtime. Working out late in the day can raise your body temperature, which in turn may impact sleep onset and how well you sleep. Some studies have even concluded that high-intensity workouts within an hour of bedtime can negatively affect sleep time and sleep efficiency.


Yoga and other stretching exercises may be more suitable evening exercises, as they promote feelings of relaxation and can improve sleep quality. Alternatively, you can alleviate physical tension before bed using progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.