Feel your Best

“Working out and eating right are as much about feeling good as they are about looking good. We’ve got tips to help you maximize your healthy lifestyle and feel your best”

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5 Ways Exercising Helps Your Mental Health

Diligent gym habits aren’t just about physical health. Research shows exercise can improve your mental health, too.

Exercise Cranks Up Creativity:

Thinking outside the box in the workplace may be as easy as going outside your cubicle. A recent Dutch study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience suggests that people who exercise regularly are also better at creative thinking. So if you’ve been stuck on a task for a while, taking a stroll during your lunch break may be just the thing to get you past the block.

Exercise Increases Self-Esteem

Talk about a runner’s high! A report in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that engaging in physical activities (particularly during early teen years of adolescence) has a positive correlation with reported self-esteem years down the line. So start early and reap the rewards for years to come!

Want an added psychosocial boost? Try exercising outdoors — according to one a past study in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, working out in outdoor environments lifts self esteem more than if you were hoofing it on the elliptical indoors.

Exercise Lessens Anxiety

While exercise doesn’t quite have pharmaceutical-grade effects on extreme cases of anxiety, research in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine suggests that physical activity is effective in relieving symptoms in mild cases. Whether it’s hitting the free weights or getting your om on, releasing tension in your muscles can trail back all the way to your head.

Exercise Improves Memory

Having trouble remembering names or appointments? Time to lace up the sneakers. In a study published in Physiology and Behavior, subjects performed significantly better in a memory task after strenuous exercise than those who rested. Staying active is also a huge help for age-related mind decay. Research published in Neurology indicates that exercise helps preserve cognitive function as you get older. So while picking up the crossword or a new language definitely helps in memory decline, you may also want to pick up a pair of dumbbells while you’re at it.

Exercise Curbs Cravings and Addiction

We all know that runner’s high is caused by the release of dopamine into the body — and this is a good thing, especially when we have other not-so-healthy vices that tap into the pleasure chemical, such as alcohol, drugs, sex or food. According to research in Addiction, habitual cigarette smokers show that short amounts of physical activity momentarily broke their cravings. If you’re trying to break a bad habit, get out and move a little until the moment has passed.

Exercise Pumps Up Productivity

Managers rejoice! Cubicle workers who were also regular exercises reported in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine feeling more productive and energized during their workdays compared to their chair-bound colleagues. So the next time your boss gives you grief about your midday yoga session, just let her know it’s all part of the plan to help you meet deadlines.

Have More Energy Every Day

Stop falling off the workout wagon. These simple strategies will help you outsmart your inner slacker and harness more mojo to get up and go.Mantras, rewards, and other little tricks of the mind can be the perfect way to jump-start your motivation on days your energy is lagging

“If you find a ritual that works for you and repeat it over time, your body will instantly respond when you need that extra push” -JoAnn Dahlkoetter, PhD, the author of Your Performing Edge

Go for instant gratification.

Sure, working out can help lower your risk for cancer, heart disease, and a slew of other scary illnesses. But those long-term benefits seem awfully abstract when you’re trying to tear yourself away from New Girl to go to the gym. A “research found that the women who stick with exercise programs are the ones who do it for benefits they can experience immediately, such as having more energy or feeling less stress,” says Michelle Segar, PhD, the associate director of the University of Michigan Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls. She suggests starting a journal to jot down reasons to exercise that will pay off today — to be more alert for an afternoon meeting, to snap less at your kids — and reviewing it when you need a push.

Star in a mental movie

“Visualization is a great tool: I see myself at my healthiest, fittest, and strongest, doing different athletic endeavors. This motivates me to go the extra mile and skip the junk food,” says Jennifer Cassetta, a celebrity trainer and holistic nutritionist in Los Angeles. “Picturing yourself accomplishing something may create a neural pathway in your brain in almost the same way as actually com­pleting the feat would,” explains Kathleen Martin Ginis, PhD, a professor of health and exercise psychology at McMaster University in Canada. “It also gives you a burst of confidence that you can succeed, which makes you more likely to continue your training.” Use all five senses to make your internal blockbuster as realistic as possible: See the clock at the finish line, hear the roar of the crowd as you turn the final corner of the race, and feel your arms pumping as you stride across those last few yards.

Use mint over matter

If you need an extra kick to get yourself out of that desk chair and onto the stationary bike, pop a stick of peppermint gum into your mouth. “The peppermint scent activates the area of our brain that puts us to sleep at night and wakes us up in the morning,” explains researcher Bryan Raudenbush. More stimulation in this area of the brain leads to more energy and motivation to perform your athletic tasks.

Repeat yourself

Feeling discouraged? Do a workout you know you can rock. Those who are confident can keep up an exercise routine were the ones who would do it regularly. The more you believe you can complete the workout program, the more you’ll actually follow through with it.

Get it over with

Researchers in the United Kingdom have figured out a possible reason morning exercisers tend to keep at their fitness routine. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, subjects were able to bike for 18 percent longer after watching a movie than after doing 90 minutes of mental exercises on a computer. Why? All that thinking makes you feel tired before you’ve actually exhausted your muscles. So the worst time to go to the gym is when you’re mentally kaput after a stressful day at work. Trouble is, bouncing out of bed and into your sneaks is easier said than done. My trick? Good old bribery — of the caffeinated variety.

Let go of your inner geek

A study from the University of Alberta in Canada found that humiliation in gym class can turn people off from fitness for good. Reminding yourself that you’re not being judged or graded can help you shake off the PE-class blues, says Billy Strean, “Going to the gym isn’t about performing for someone else,” he explains. “The only person you have to impress is yourself.”

Engage in friendly competition

inner warrior

Hop on a stationary bike next to someone who’s superfit and you’ll be motivated to work even harder. Ask a friend whose abs you admire if you can tag along on her next workout, or introduce yourself to that superstar in your Spinning class and make sure always to grab a bike next to hers.

Read about it

“If you’re in a lull, the best thing to do is to pick up a book about your sport,”. “Go read about running or biking or whatever your passion is. You’ll be eager to try out the tips you learn.

Join the club

“When I talk to my nonrunning friends about my workouts, their eyes tend to glaze over, so I joined a local track club,” says Lisa Smith, 43, of Brooklyn. “It’s great to share stories with them, and the social aspect keeps me com­ing back and working harder.” In addition to the camaraderie and support, group training fosters a healthy sense of guilt, Martin Ginis says: You don’t want to let down the team by blowing off a workout. “Talking to your friends can also distract you when you’re exhausted and tempted to quit,” Smith says.

Tuck in early

Turns out, getting more zzz’s could put a little pep in your step. Con­sistently going to bed 30 or 45 minutes earlier instead of watching TV or surfing the Web may well pay off at the gym.

Fine-tune your workout

“Listening to rap — Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z — in the morning gets me fired up. According to research at Brunel University in England, listening to music can increase your endurance by 15 percent because your brain gets distracted by the songs and may miss the “I’m tired” signal. Plus the emotional connection to beloved tunes can give you a sense of euphoria that keeps you going. Maximize your musical motivation with apps that sync your playlist to your pace, like Lolo BeatBurn for the treadmill and elliptical trainer ($4 each, iTunes store) and RecordBeater ($5, Android Market).

Unleash Your Inner Winner

Going for the gold — in your workout, your job, your life — starts with killer confidence and a kick-butt attitude. Here’s how to think and act like a champion and get every damn thing you want.

Why We’re in It to Win It

The drive to win is in us all, and it goes way back. “Competition has always been a means to figure out status hierarchy, who is going to rise to the top”.Winning ensures survival plus the confidence, power, and dominance to fight off other potential competitors. Losing means possible injury or even death.

Our impulse toward triumph is strong and self-perpetuating. Scientists like Mehta have repeatedly researched the link between winning and testosterone: People with higher levels of the hormone want to win more, and when they do, they experience a testosterone bump that propels them to — woo-hoo! — win again. The scientists think that spikes in testosterone trigger a chemical reaction in the part of the brain that controls rewards, making you yearn to keep winning. Victory also boosts mood: People report feeling happier and less anxious after a win, research has shown. Conversely, if they lose, testosterone drops, making them less likely to reenter a competition in which they could risk further hurt.

These biological underpinnings are so fierce that we experience physiological changes even when we win vicariously. Researchers can measure hormonal shifts in our saliva when we’re rooting for a sports team or presidential candidate and our favorite wins or loses.

The XX Factor

Problem is, hormonal research has focused largely on men. Scientists have only recently started zeroing in on what makes women tick. The more important hormone for women might just turn out to be estrogen, says Steven Stanton, PhD, a research neuroscientist at Duke University. In two studies he conducted, women who had a high estrogen level were more motivated to win. When they did win, their production of estrogen went up; when they lost, it went down.

Get in the Game

The road to winning isn’t always pretty — it can be downright uncomfortable at times — but staying stagnant in a boring job, a bad relationship, or a workout rut is worse. When you have a nagging feeling telling you it’s time for a new challenge, go for it. Use these research-backed strategies to help reach the winner’s podium, whether you’re aiming to change from microwave zapper to five-star chef or from couch potato to marathon runner.

Determine your gold medal

Your gold medal doesn’t have to be awarded in a formal contest. It simply has to fill in the blank: “I want ___.”

Trick your brain

Once you’ve settled on your goal, figure out ways to break it down. Your brain can’t process big goals, because we’re not wired that way, says Scott Huettel, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Instead you have to craft a lot of little wins along the way to keep your brain’s reward center activated. Work backward from your milestone to map a route filled with smaller, reachable triumphs so you can continually see yourself progressing.

Put in the work

Don’t waste time worrying about whether you have enough talent. The most predictable route to winning, experts say, is frequent, focused practice on what you can improve and what you can’t yet do. It typically takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of this kind of practice before athletes, musicians, and other competitors win international competitions; that’s four hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for seven years, according to K. Anders Ericsson, PhD, a professor of psychology at Florida State University.

The point is, expect to get out of your comfort zone and put in some blood, sweat, and tears for the long haul.

Sign on support

Forget flying solo. You’ll most likely need a coach, a mentor, or a community. It could be a coworker, a training group, or even a social network, in which you can compete against friends while tracking your fitness, but you need someone to push you. “When you face failure, disappointment, or pain, a partner can say, ‘I hear you, but do it again,'” says Angela Lee Duckworth, “It’s hard to get yourself to do that.” Linking up with others can also help you learn some of their winning traits.

Block stress

The stress hormone cortisol can interfere with the production of testosterone and estrogen. New research by Mehta showed that stock traders who did a two-minute mindfulness meditation exercise decreased their levels of cortisol, increased their levels of testosterone, and boosted their performance. “It’s the first time we’ve shown that meditation can change people’s hormones and affect performance in competitive settings,” Mehta says. When you need a confidence boost before jockeying for a promotion or running your next 5K, take a few minutes to close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and acknowledge your thoughts without judging them.

Identify yourself

Dreaming of winning a book contract for the next hot trilogy? Wake up every day saying, “I am a prolific writer and a best-selling author.” That becomes the answer to any questions or doubts that pop up in your head. You can also use special cues to inspire yourself.

Face your fears

What is the one big thing you’re scared of that’s getting in your way? Maybe you want to knock surfing off your bucket list, but you’re terrified of six-foot swells. Break it down: Identify one component that you can do. Are you afraid of splashing waist-high? If the answer is still yes, go even smaller. Can you do 10 laps in a pool? “Find something that feels manageable to you,”. If doubt creeps in, think back to a moment in the water that felt phenomenal and mentally walk through that experience again. The visualization will give you the boost you need to believe that you are capable of mastering something that once seemed frightening.

Embrace bad days

People have a tendency to quit on the bad days. Don’t! “Make decisions on days where you’re in a much better place emotionally,” and use difficult days as tools to move closer to your win. “It’s important when you fall down to say, okay, while I’m down here, what can I learn from this?”. Ask yourself, What am I going to do differently next time?

Find your balance

“Some people become obnoxious because they have to win everything, including every argument,”. Pick and choose your battles, competing only for things that truly matter to you, and take time to soak up your successes. If you’re always looking for the next victory, you never give yourself time to relax and enjoy the glory.

6 Steps to Make a Healthy Change

change

Trying something new in your job, your workout, or your relationship can reenergize your life. Here’s how to take the risks that can be truly transformative.

“Going through change allows you to grow.”

Research suggests that optimists who are receptive to change are not only happier but also healthier, mentally and physically. Change resisters and pessimistic people have trouble dealing with stress, are more likely to suffer from depression and get sick more often. “It’s a negative cycle: Perceiving change as something to be feared leaves people stuck in an unhealthy situation, which can then lead to depression, which in turn makes change feel more frightening,” Troiani says. “You need to frame it as an exciting challenge, rather than a hurdle to overcome,” Jacobs adds.

Ready to be a change maker? Here’s how to get in the game.

Seize the Situation

If you’re waiting for the perfect moment to make a change, don’t bother, experts say. There is no such thing. “If there were, you would’ve already done it,”

Instead, try this exercise. Write down the answer to each question before moving on to the next one.

What do I want in my life right now that is missing?
How would I feel in five years if I didn’t have this in my life?
Why haven’t I made this change already?

Once you’ve answered these questions, that’s the moment to go for it — while you’re tapped into the positive emotions and excitement,. Start small to ease the anxiety. Want a change in career, but not ready to leave your job? Take a class to find out if the new field is a good fit. Testing the waters will make you feel informed, and that will motivate you to continue.

Make a Plan

“People want change to be quick and easy, but it is a process,”

“You need a plan to guide you.”

Write down your goal and be as specific as possible. Below it, make two lists: one detailing the steps you’ll have to take to reach your objective; the other listing the obstacles you’re likely to run into and how you’re going to deal with each one.

Prepare for Speed Bumps

Just when you think you’re weathering change, stress can sneak up from behind and prove otherwise. Hormones released by the body in response to stress impair the areas of your brain that adapt to change,” explains researcher Michael Schlund. When you’re under stress, your brain has a harder time accepting change and instead favors the familiar.

Rather than giving up and going back to the old way of doing things, double your commitment to recent changes.  The way to keep a new habit going is through positive reinforcement,”. Reward yourself — download the book you’ve been wanting to read, for instance — when you make progress.

Also key is building a support system. Share your plan with two or three friends or family members you trust. Be sure that one of them can inspire you and another has been down a similar path and under­stands what you’re going through.

 “If you can’t pinpoint what you don’t like about yourself, you can’t change it”.

3 Ways to Bust Your Rut

“So many people are stuck in place,”. Try these tips to outsmart the fear that’s holding you back.

Stop dwelling on the negative. Say that you’re contemplating a move to a new city. If you bog yourself down in the problems that could arise, you’ll end up too afraid to do anything. Instead, research the benefits to relocating. Then visit the city several times to make sure you’ll like it there. “Changing your focus from the cons to the pros is energizing,”.

Don’t make too many changes at once. This is a common mistake — you move, change jobs and decide to train for your first half-marathon all at the same time. Too much life transformation can be exhausting,

“Making one good change will inspire you to make more later,”

Give it enough time. “Our brains are hardwired to change slowly,”. Any new practice takes four to six weeks before it becomes a habit,”.

So be patient and stick with your goal for at least a month. When you hit that point, congratulate yourself. You’ve changed for the better.

Xx

 

 

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