Do what makes you happy

Do what makes you happy. Put a smile on your face.

At least once a day, do what makes you happy. Do something that will put a smile on your face.

Yes, these are hard times. We’re physically isolated from others, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be happy.

Happiness increases optimism. Optimism increases resilience. Only with resilience will we be able to survive this bleak period in our existence. With resilience we’ll be able to undertake new challenges. We’ll be able to resume pastimes that we can’t enjoy now. We’ll be able to go to restaurants, to movie theaters, to parks, to the mall.

So, how can we embrace happiness? For one thing, turn off the news. Take a break from social media.

Have a virtual conversation with a friend. We all have wonderful devices with built-in ways to make this happen. Even just call a friend on the phone. To hear a friend’s voice can be joyous.

Watch a favorite video. Or, go on a virtual tour of a museum or art gallery. There are plenty of those.

Catch a live stream from a facility that’s closed now. Lots of zoos are offering live streams. There’s a “Donate” button on many, but it’s not mandatory. On the other hand, if you can afford it, those facilities could use your donations. They’re not getting the admission fees or concession sales now that they were used to. A reduced staff has to be there, to care for the animals, but there are no actual visitors.

My favorite is the daily live stream from Dolphin Research Center on Facebook. Every day at noon my time (1 pm Eastern Time), they’ll go live with a session with dolphins or sea lions. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on my face.

Or, as I’ve said before, put on some favorite music and start to dance. There’s no one to watch you, so get crazy. You’ll enjoy the music, get some moves on and be happier.

So, for just a little while every day, do something that makes you happy.

Increase optimism, grow resilience

Yoga helped me regain my balance and increase my optimism today. That will help to grow my resilience.

In these uncertain times, we’re scared, we feel lost. The only way we’re going to get through this is to grow our resilience. One sure way to do that is to increase our optimism.

Most of the country is sheltering in place now, to try to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 virus. There’s no cure, it spreads like wildfire, and it’s dangerous to many who catch it.

The economy has come to a standstill, since many businesses are closed. Restaurants and theaters are closed. People aren’t buying anything (except, perhaps toilet paper and hand sanitizer). We’re told to maintain “social distancing” – stay at least 6 feet away from others.

It’s scary and we don’t know when it will end.

But it will end. One day, hopefully soon. And to get beyond this time with anything approaching normalcy, it’s crucial to grow our resilience. To come out stronger and happier.

How do we grow our resilience? One sure-fire way is to increase our optimism. When we’re optimistic, we feel happier and more able to look forward.

So, how do we increase our optimism? One sure-fire way is to exercise. The endorphins that are released help, and the increased oxygen and blood-flow are supporters too. I know, personally, that I always feel better after a workout.

Today I did a Yoga practice. Nothing too strenuous because it had been a while since I did Yoga, and I didn’t want to feel it for days afterward. But it sure felt great today.

Another way to feel happier and more optimistic is to put on some favorite tunes and move. Just get moving. The music and the movement all contribute to feelings of optimism and well-being.

Go for a walk. Pet your dog. Read a good book. Make your favorite meal (not too calorie-laden, though!). You’ll feel better.

And every time you do, you’ll increase your optimism that much more and grow your resilience.

Is Stress Good for Us?

Meditation is a great stress reliever, but short-term stress may be good for us.

Is stress good for us? There’s a difference between long-term and short-term stress, and our reactions are different.

Long-term stress = not good

We all know that long-term stress is bad for your health. Stress can increase blood pressure and heart rate. Stress can prevent you from sleeping well. Stress can impact your eating and exercise habits. Stress can even have a negative impact on your skin. So, we can safely conclude that it’s best to avoid long-term stress.

But, short-term stress is another story.

Short-term stress can get your blood pumping, charge you up for the challenge ahead.

Studies have shown that stress in short duration can actually help the brain improve. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that after rats were place in a short-term stressful situation (they were immobilized in their cage for a few hours), new brain cell growth doubled. The rodents also did better on a memory test later on. “We think the same thing happens in people—manageable stress increases alertness and performance,” study author Daniela Kaufer, PhD, a professor of integrative biology, told Berkeley Wellness. “Moderate and short-lived stress—like an upcoming exam or preparing to deliver a speech in public—improves cognitive performance.” So be assured that the next time you have to speak before a group of people, your brain will grow!

It makes sense that short-term stress helps your memory too. If you’re being chased, you’ll be forced to remember your path rather than just meandering down random streets or alleys.

And a positive short-term stressor will increase our energy. Situations that challenge us, or are exciting and stimulating, place stress on our mind and body—but the experience doesn’t necessarily cause discomfort. Rather, this kind of stress can motivate us, sharpen our senses, and help us solve problems. Good stress actually creates new neural pathways and stimulates healthful endorphins.

The short-term stress you experience when you exercise is great for your body. (But it’s important not to overdo, especially if you’re not used to intense exercise. The short-term stress you’ll experience on a brisk walk may be all that you need to calm your mind enough to be able to focus.)

In fact, this short-term “good” stress can actually boost your immune system. Another study with rats showed that rats who were stressed briefly had a surge of immune cell response. There’s no reason to believe that we are different.

So, get stressed a little! Lace up your walking shoes or take the dog for a walk.

Grow your resilience

The tree pictured has resilience. It is growing off of a ledge. Learn how to grow your resilience with my new ebook.

Fitness is more than eating right and exercise. I believe that fitness is holistic – that is, body and mind. Keep the body healthy, keep the mind healthy and you’ve got fitness nailed. But what happens when you encounter hardships? Can you bounce back? It helps to know how to grow your resilience in cases like this so that you can come back from those hardships better and stronger than ever!

So how can you grow your resilience? Contrary to what some people may think (those who wallow in their misfortune and say, “Woe is me,” or words to that effect) you can actually grow and improve your resilience. It is a skill that can be improved with effort.

Learn from misfortune

It’s important to look at what happened objectively and learn from the experience. Learn from your reaction to the experience. Were you reactive or proactive? Could you have been proactive to get a better outcome?

Choose your reaction

Whatever happens, take a moment and breathe. You don’t have to react immediately. Run through your options in your brain. “If I do {this}, then {that} will happen.” I know – sometimes it’s hard not to react to circumstances right away. But, it’s almost always to your benefit to wait a moment to react. That nanosecond may be just enough time to rethink a reaction that would not be appropriate. (Or to think of a better reaction even if your first inclination was not inappropriate.)

The point is that you almost always have time to think before you react or offer a comment.

Other ways to grow your resilience

There are other ways to grow your resilience. One is to be happier. Optimistic people can almost always bounce back quickly from one of life’s misfortunes. They seem to have the coping skills that are needed.

Want more ways to improve your resilience? Click here or the button on the right and get my new ebook, “How do you bounce back?”

The Satiation Diet

Eat foods to satisfy you longer

Chicken being prepared for roasting: a lean protein which satisfies us longer.

Ever hear of the “Satiation Diet?” me neither, until today. It makes perfect sense, though. The idea is to eat foods that satisfy you for longer. And by increasing the protein in your diet to 20 – 25% of calories, along with the fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains you’ll feel more satisfied for longer, eat less between meals and reduce your total calorie intake. You’ll lose weight and keep it off.

A well-rounded diet is key

We already know that the best way to lose weight is to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits. And the carbs we eat should be complex carbohydrates, like whole grains. And protein is essential in our nutrition. (And, of course, to move more!) 

But, to be really successful at losing weight, we need a “diet” or eating plan we can stick to. We have to reduce calories to lose weight, but that won’t happen if we find that our eating plan leaves us hungry. We’re only human, and when we’re hungry, we eat. (Or get cranky – like me.) And eating without planning means grabbing whatever we can get our hands on the fastest, and that’s not usually the healthiest option.

Reduce snacking

That means if our healthy planned meals leave us satisfied for longer, the tendency to snack between meals is reduced. And eating a little more protein with our meals will leave us feeling more satisfied. So, even if the total calories is a little higher, our total calories for the day will be less because we won’t be eating between meals. That protein should, of course, be lean protein like chicken or fish. I will admit to the occasional burger too! There are plenty of non-animal protein choices too, so there’s no excuse not to increase your protein intake. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should decrease the fresh vegetables in your diet. These have other nutrients that your body needs.

The conclusion:

So, eat more protein!

Yoga Day

Happy International Yoga Day!

Crescent pose for International Yoga DayThere are millions of yogis around the world celebrating International Yoga Day today. Are you one of them?

I am. I’m not a consistent practitioner, but from time to time I enjoy an hour of yoga. Chances are, I’d creak less if I practiced more, but I have to admit I prefer other workouts most of the time.

Why so many?

So, why do so many people practice yoga? For some, it just makes them feel better. They say it centers them and are more present and in tune with their body.

A few health benefits of yoga

Others appreciate the health benefits without delving deeply into the mind-body connection. With a consistent practice, yoga will improve your flexibility, strength and posture. Every pose emphasizes these. A focus on breathing is instrumental in improving all-around fitness.

Flexibility

Practicing yoga – just the Sun Salutation for just 15 minutes a few times a week will improve flexibility. And you’ll be breathing deeply, increasing your energy level.

And you don’t have to be flexible to start with. Every pose has modifications. No one is perfect. Everyone is improving.

Cardiovascular

A Flow practice improves cardiovascular health too. My favorite yoga instructor taught an incredible Flow class – different every week – that left us breathless and flopped on the floor like a rag doll after the final Shavasana.

Stress reducer

Many yoga poses are designed to reduce stress and increase calm. It’s been shown that a regular yoga practice can reduce stress and even promote better sleep.

Increase energy

On the flip side, many yoga poses, especially when combined, increase energy and leave you raring to move more. Even without caffeine, that Flow class left me energized and ready to tackle chores.

I’m convinced

I think tomorrow I’ll practice yoga instead of do a cardio workout. I’ve convinced myself!

People With Dogs Exercise More

Booker the Boston Terrier after a rousing game of tug!Do you have a dog? If you do, chances are you get more exercise than your neighbors who don’t have a dog. A recent British study shows that people with dogs exercise more than those who don’t own dogs. In fact, dog-owners are 4 times more likely to get the recommended amount of daily activity.

Hundreds of families in Britain were surveyed

The study involved hundreds of English households and suggests that just the fact of having a dog can influence how much exercise people get. The study was published in April in Scientific Reports and involved first homeowners in a community in Liverpool. Eventually the study involved hundreds of participants from over 300 neighborhoods, more than half of whom were dog-owners. Scientists reviewed results of surveys and actual activity monitors that people wore for an entire week. The results showed that people with dogs spent more than 300 minutes per week walking with their dogs, compared to about 100 minutes walking by people without dogs.

It follows naturally …

It makes sense, too. If you have a dog, you’re likely to take it for a walk. And if it’s a nice day, the walk will be longer, your pace will be more rapid. You’ll breathe more deeply and feel like exercising even more.

Exercise More with Your Dog

There are other ways to get exercise with your dogs too. I like to chase my dogs and have them chase me in the backyard. I’m lucky enough to have a fenced yard. It’s not big, but neither are my dogs. We run around like maniacs – it’s great exercise for all of us! Plus, it’s a fun way to reinforce the recall – or “Come”! I call my dog’s name and take off running in the opposite direction. He’ll chase me and, since he’s faster than I am, catch up to me. When he catches me, I turn around, cheer for him, grab his collar and give him a little treat. And start again!

Another way to get exercise with my dog is a rousing game of tug! Sometimes I get down on my knees – more my dog’s level – and play with him. I switch hands from time to time so that both arms get a workout. If your dog doesn’t like to tug, chances are he’ll like to chase a toy. Pull a toy along the floor – not too fast or your dog will be discouraged – and let your dog catch it! A game of tug ensues! Fun for all, and pretty soon you’ll both be out of breath.

Many aspects of fitness

The aspects of fitness are more than physical

Fitness is not just physical – there are many aspects of fitness.

We’ll be focusing on each of these aspects in more depth soon, but an overview might be helpful here. Because it’s the most obvious, let’s talk about the aspects of physical fitness. Health, balance, strength, cardio fitness are all elements of physical fitness. What you do to increase one aspect of physical fitness helps another.

Balance is one aspect of physical fitness

Balance moves like this one also improve strength.

As an example, by practicing your balance (and you can get a free Week of Balance by subscribing to my newsletter!) will increase your strength. By doing a cardio workout, you can also increase your strength and balance – think of hops and side-to-side leaps. Even jumping in place can improve your balance.

If you focus on improving your strength, you’ll probably also improve your balance. Those one-legged squats will definitely challenge your balance while at the same time increase your strength. Add a pair of dumbbells and you’re working upper body as well as lower body strength. (Talk about multi-tasking!)

Eating clean will also improve fitness

Eating clean helps your overall fitness.

We can’t talk solely about physical fitness, because so many aspects of your life can affect it! If you focus on eating clean, you’ll improve your overall health, you’ll feel more like exercising and thereby improve your strength and cardio fitness!

And by attempting to eat a cleaner diet, you’ll not only probably lose a little weight, you’ll be cleaning out your system. More fiber in your vegetables and fewer processed foods will tend to move things along in your digestive system.

Mental fitness may be more difficult

Mental fitness is like a dresser. Here's an organized drawer. An achievement to strive for.

More complex is the aspect of mental fitness. I like to think of this as a bureau, or dresser. Currently mine is a mess. Socks are mashed in with underwear, t-shirts and pajamas. There are even swim goggles and pantyhose in there. There’s no order in those drawers. Too many ideas, problems, chores, and other things to do are running around in my head. How’s yours?

First off, a plan is probably needed. I need to figure out what to do with all those items. How best to organize them? I really should start to write everything down. Then categorize them. This is called a “brain dump.” I should really do this every month or so.

If all the aspects of fitness work together – body and mind, happiness ensues. I’ll have to try it. Let’s start together!

It’s impossible

Balancing everything in your life is impossible. Prioritization and scheduling are key.

It’s impossible to do it all and achieve balance

It’s literally impossible to do it all. You’re trying to balance all aspects of your life, and there’s just too much. Work and family. Chores and friends. Clean out the closet. Read that book. Train the dog. Go grocery shopping. Sleep and everything else. Something’s got to give.

What gives is you …

There just are not enough hours in the day to complete everything. Usually when that happens the things that don’t get done are the things most important to you.

Should other things come before you?

You put family first. Your home. Your job. All those things are important, certainly, but without you, your health, your sanity, you won’t have those things.

Balance is the key

The only way to keep your sanity and stay happy and healthy is to have balance in your life. Balance work and family. Balance your chores with your friends. Don’t spend an hour a week training the dog when just a few minutes every day will give you immeasurable progress! Get the family involved! A shared load is an easier one. And if everyone helps, they’ll all have an investment in the outcome, ensuring its success!

How to get balance?

So, how do you achieve this balance? Prioritization is paramount. Write everything down that needs to get done. This will probably take the longest! Prioritize tasks. Make notes on who can help you with them. Call a family meeting and let everyone know that you’re feeling overwhelmed but that they can help you! You may be surprised at your family members’ willingness to chip in. Especially if you break jobs down into very small, specific tasks. If something seems like it won’t take a long time, it’ll get done!

A calendar will help

Now that you have your tasks, schedule their completion! A big wall calendar will keep the whole family on task. And if everyone writes in their jobs, their investment will continue and things will actually get done!

New Year’s Resolutions?

Have you made progress?

Turning the calendar page on your New Year's Resolution? It's not too late to make progress.How’s your weight-loss New Year’s Resolution going? We’re a week into February – have you made progress? It’s hard! I know! I want to eat bagels for breakfast, and mac & cheese for dinner too. But I know that won’t get me closer to my goal. I don’t want to get all hot, tired and sweaty exercising every day. I know those first couple of minutes are torture – so why put myself through that?

Exactly – why! The why of our weight-loss goal will keep us on track.

I want to have less pain in my knees and hips. I want to play with my dogs. I want to compete in agility.

Why do you want to stay on course with your weight-loss goal? Go on walks with your loved ones? Shop for hours? Feel good about trying on clothes? Travel? Run around with the grandkids?

Think about your “why!”

That’s the key! Thinking about your why! Your “why” will keep you on track.

I know that if I lost a couple of pounds my knees wouldn’t hurt quite so much. So I’m changing my eating habits to make that a reality. I’m sticking to my exercise schedule.

Yes, it’s hard to stick to those goals. And practically impossible to do without some help along the way.

Accountability is key!

Accountability is key. If you’re not accountable to anyone, there’s no motivation to stick to your goals. No matter how lofty your ideals, and how solid your intentions, without accountability it’s very easy to say – “tomorrow!”

There are different kinds of accountability too – and you don’t have to choose just one. You can be accountable to a coach – one-on-one or group coaching is great. Knowing that you have to report your progress is incentive to actually make some progress toward your goal.

And you can be accountable to yourself, although that runs the risk of days slipping by even though you intend to report in. Tools to keep yourself on track can include keeping a journal every day to mark progress and problems. Making entries in your calendar for your shorter-term goals, and making appointments with yourself to actually do the tasks you’ve set.

Most importantly, if you get off-track, don’t get discouraged. It happens to everyone. Get right back on track and don’t beat yourself up about it.