Are you getting enough sleep?

Are you getting enough sleep?

If you’re an adult in the 21st century, chances are you’re not getting enough sleep. Our screens bombard us. Our diets undermine us. The TV is blaring. The stereo is on. The dogs are barking, or snoring, or making some other noise. The outside light is penetrating our eyelids. Too many distractions are keeping us from the single most important, easiest thing we can do for our health.

You need sleep for your health.

Poor sleep is linked to weight gain

For those of us concerned with our fitness, studies have shown that poor sleep has a direct connection to gaining weight. It might be hormonal, or we may just be too tired to exercise or watch what we eat. But the fact remains that if we don’t get enough sleep, we have a tendency to be fatter.

On the other hand, good sleep is linked to eating fewer calories. Food for thought!

Focus and productivity

Studies have also shown that people who get enough sleep have better focus and increased productivity. Good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills and memory performance.

Athletic performance

Studies have also shown sleep to be directly correlated to speed, accuracy, reaction time and mental well-being among basketball players. On the other hand, not sleeping enough leads to slower speed, weaker grip and more difficulty in performing physical activities.

Other health risks

Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep causes a greater risk of heart disease and stroke, Type 2 Diabetes and depression.

The moral?

So, the conclusion we can draw is to turn off your screens, turn off the TV and the radio. Get better window coverings. Take the dog to the vet to find out why he’s making all those noises! (You know that I won’t tell you not to sleep with your dog!) Your health and your sleep are worth it.

Fried food without the guilt

A better way to fry food

Air-fried zucchini and peppers. Delicious without extra calories from frying.What’s better than the taste of fried food? Fried food with fewer calories! Eliminate the guilt when you eat air-fried food! The air fryer gives you taste without the calories! We love our air fryer. Seriously love it. Despite its cuteness (it looks like R2D2 on our counter), our air fryer delivers yummy food in  very little time.

Technicalities

Technically, the device doesn’t “fry” food. It’s a mini-convection oven that circulates hot air around the food. You put your food in the basket along with some oil and turn the machine on. Excess oil drips down to the outer basket, where it’s easy to clean out. The result is delicious!

Zucchini and Peppers

The picture above shows a dish we made recently – just sliced zucchini and peppers. You can see the start of nice caramelization – we couldn’t wait to dig in. We put sliced vegetables in the air fryer and tossed them with a teaspoon of olive oil. Set the fryer at 400 degrees for 8 minutes or so. When it beeped, we shook the basket and reset the fryer. We could have let it go another few minutes but we were hungry! Delicious! So much more tasty than steaming, with not many more calories.

Try Sweet Potato Fries for a New Taste Sensation

We’ve sliced sweet potatoes and air-fried them. Absolutely scrumptious. And Yukon Gold Potatoes too. We’ve even re-heated gyros meat. All the fat from the meat dripped into the lower basket and the meat was crispy and delicious.

Even after a few months experimenting with our air fryer, we’re still learning new ways of using it. We’re trying new foods and, honestly, have not been disappointed.

Here’s a good choice:

Check this one out on Amazon! (I may receive some form of payment if you click this link.) You may notice some product links on the “Stuff I Love” page. I will only include products that I really do love. The air fryer? It makes me very happy, and my taste buds delirious!

Get happier!

Are you stuck in a dark rut?

Even though darkness looms, happiness can emerge!All too often we find ourselves doing the same things – day after day. Repeating the same tasks and not finding happiness in them. If we don’t have happiness and joy in our lives, we have no motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When we’re not happy, our fitness suffers.

Can we dig ourselves out?

So, how can we lift ourselves up and find the joy again? Even when we are doing the same things day after day, we can be happy!

Permission for happiness!

The first step is to tell ourselves that we can be happy. The mere act of giving ourselves permission sometimes makes it true. Try writing down the three biggest factors that made you the person you like today. They could be life-changing moments, like a big presentation or a job change. Keep that list prominent so that you can look at it every day and remember that you’re a person to be proud of!

Change the scenery

Another method is to change the scenery. I’m not talking about a tropical vacation (although that would be nice). Go for a walk. Change your route to work. Sometimes just looking at something different changes your perspective to a more positive one.

Re-energize!

Take a nap. Have a healthy snack. Refuel and re-energize! When your stomach is full of good stuff and you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you feel more positive.

Acknowledge the downsides

Be aware of the negative aspects of a task. That will motivate you to take action and turn those negatives into positives. Your brain will be more nimble trying to turn things around.

Get another opinion

Talk to someone. Things may not be as bleak as they seem to you. Sometimes we’re too close to a situation to look at it objectively. And don’t always consult someone who has the same beliefs as you do. They may see what you consider bleak situations the same way.

Stress can be good!

Channel your stress into a positive outcome. If you’re anxious about something, try to determine the real reason for the anxiety so that you can take action. Taking action is a positive step and leads to a brighter outlook.

So the next time you feel yourself going to that deep, dark place, try these tips and aim for the sunshine!

You matter

If you’re like me, you go through your days doing the same things you’ve always done. I get up at the same time every day, eat the same breakfast every day, go to work at the same time, take the same route, see the same people at training every week. Get take-out from the same restaurants. All this without even thinking.

I’m feeling introspective today, so I’m wondering, “Why?” Why are we here? Is it just to do the same things every day? How can I justify my existence if that’s it?

So perhaps I’ll strive to make a difference today. Maybe not to the whole world, but if I can make a difference to one person, that could be enough for today.

To make a difference, I think, you have to make someone’s life better, happier, more fulfilled.

So, I’m telling you today that you matter!

To your family, your friends, your coworkers, your pets. You matter! Their lives would be poorer without you.

The old James Stewart movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” recounts the story of George Bailey – who wished he’d never been born one Christmas Eve, and how the town he loved would have been dramatically different if he hadn’t existed. (Not for the better!) The film demonstrates that we’re each here for a reason – we’re here for the people we know and love.

The world today is hectic. We’re bombarded by outside influences all day every day – through multiple screens, speakers and neon signs. We’re caught up in the day’s headlines, our newsfeeds, Twitter feeds, Instagram posts. It’s easy to be nervous about the state of the country and the world. It’s hard to think about why we alone might matter to someone else. But you do! So, take a few minutes in a quiet place and think about that!

Just like you exercise your muscles, practice your skills

Use it or lose it!

They say, “Use it or lose it!” And that’s true of pretty much everything.

We exercise to improve our health. If we don’t exercise, our health tends to decline.

We exercise to improve our cognition. Yup, exercising our body helps our mind.

We exercise to get stronger. Use those muscles or they become weak.

We exercise to retain flexibility. Don’t stretch and our flexibility decreases.

We exercise aerobically to strengthen our heart and increase lung function. Don’t exercise for a few days and we’re out of breath faster.

Practice not only makes perfect…

The same holds true for other skills. If you played piano when you were younger, you know what I’m talking about! Don’t practice and you won’t even remember where the keys are.

We practice our balance to stay upright and prevent future falls. Falls, especially as we get older, can be dangerous, if not tragic. From slipping and falling on the ice to rolling an ankle on broken pavement, improved balance can help.

Download my “Week of Balance” booklet. A free .pdf file to help you get started retaining your balance.

In dog training it’s the same. Lots of skills are involved in training a dog to compete in obedience or agility. Don’t practice one of them and the behavior deteriorates. My agility instructor likens this theory to circus performers spinning plates on a long dowel. He’d get a row of plates spinning, and when the last one started the first one would start to slow down and topple. The performer would have to run back to the first one and start it spinning again.

Calm your mind

Being able to calm your mind is another skill that requires practice. There are so many distractions in the world that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to focus on a single thing. From our own devices – phones, tablets, laptops, TVs – to the world around us, there’s a lot to take in.

I find it imperative to be able to narrow my focus. I get more done when I’m not trying to do several things at once. We all have heard people extol the virtue of multi-tasking, but the only things that benefit from multi-tasking are computers.

We’re much more productive when we can focus on a single task and then move on to the next one.

Guided meditations can help calm the mind

But many find it hard to calm the mind at first. It just takes practice. And sometimes a little help. Check out my free short, guided meditations. Sometimes just a couple of minutes of a guided meditation helps clear your mind. And there are also lots of free smartphone meditation apps. (I find these to be a little long, but everyone’s different.)

Guided meditations:

Garden meditation

Ocean meditation

River meditation

Focus on the important stuff

Is frizz important?

There are a limited number of hours in a day. You’ve got to spend 7 or 8 of them sleeping. The rest are up for grabs! Lately I noticed how many products there are in the marketplace for frizzy hair. And lately I’ve noticed that with all the rain and humidity we’ve had my hair has gone totally frizz. Am I tempted by all these products that promise smooth silky hair without frizz? No. It’s not important to me. I notice that my hair is frizzy because I do look in the mirror to make sure I’m somewhat presentable (the public does come into my shop, after all), but I’ve got better things to think about than my hair.

Focus on more important things

I think about training my dogs – what do they need for us to succeed as a team in their sports? I think about my sister’s and my shop – what can I do to make Golly Gear more successful, and our customers happier? I think about what to make for dinner (meal planning sort of went out the window this week…). I think about my new balance exercises.

So, you can see that I try not to focus on stuff that is unimportant to me.

What really is important?

To focus on the important things, though, I have to decide what really is important. Of course, what’s important to you may be very different from what’s important to me. And no one can tell you what’s important – aside from the obvious, of course – family, friends, work, etc.

Prioritize

Once the important stuff is decided, then it’s a matter of prioritizing tasks.  Balancing the different aspects of my life. You would think this would be easy, but it may not be. I find that the best method of prioritizing is to get absolutely everything down on paper and then sort the tasks. It can be a monumental effort, but once it’s done, I get a great feeling of relief.

What’s not on that list of tasks? De-frizzing my hair. Making an appointment with my stylist is, though!

Guilt and eating “healthy”

Eating what makes you happy may not be eating the things that are “good”

In my ongoing chat about our feelings of guilt, a natural topic is that of eating “healthy.” Why the quotes? Because to me, eating healthy means eating what makes you happy and eating the things that are good for your body.

And that may produce guilt

Are those mutually exclusive? Sometimes, and that’s where the guilt comes in.

You might think that eating the things that make us happy involves vast quantities of chocolate, pizza, ice cream, chips, … and the list goes on.

And, yes, in the short-term, those things do make us happy. They taste incredible, the texture is amazing, and they lift our spirits.

But we know intellectually that these things are “bad” for us, and we feel guilty about eating them. We know that we “should” be eating more vegetables, more fruit, more whole grains.

Why eat things that aren’t good for us?

So why don’t we? Why do we eat the “bad” stuff and then feel guilty about it?

Perhaps we haven’t found the “good” stuff that we like as much as pizza. Or that satisfies our soul like spaghetti.

So, try foods that you’re not used to. Try different recipes. Try quinoa. Try kale. You might like it. Or not – and then you can try something else that you read about that’s supposed to be “healthy.”

It happens to everyone

And for those of us who do eat “healthy” most of the time, there are still times when nothing but a Snickers bar will do. Biting into that yummy chocolate and then getting your teeth stuck in the peanuts and caramel… Well, you get the idea. That happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I was hungry late one Saturday afternoon and I wanted a Snickers bar. So I had a Snickers bar. True, it was a fun-sized one, but it satisfied me. I knew I’d have to do a few more minutes on the treadmill to work it off, but it was worth it.

Actions have consequences

See, that’s the thing. There are always consequences to our actions. If you think about your actions, and their repercussions, there’s no reason to feel guilty about taking the action.

But there’s no reason to feel guilty about them

“If I do x, then I’ll have to do y.” No big deal. No reason to feel guilty.

And that reasoning follows through all your actions, not just eating.

Guilt about money

Guilt in spending on yourself

Do you feel guilty about spending money on yourself? I’m not talking about spending money on frivolous things, like a costume jewelry bracelet. (Really, who needs a costume jewelry bracelet? Unless, of course, your business is researching costume jewelry.)

I’m talking about an exercise program. Or a pair of leggings. Or a pair of running shoes. Or fresh greens.

Yes, funds are limited. But after all the vital stuff is taken care of – mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance – the rest is discretionary.

Guilt about groceries

We all have to eat, and food is a major part of the budget. But after the staples, like milk, eggs, toilet paper, paper towels, you’ve got to figure out where your food budget does the most good. You might as well get the healthiest food you can with your limited dollars. (I’m not talking about organic food – it has not been proven that organic is substantially healthier than non-organic food. I wash my fruit and vegetable carefully – I don’t usually buy organic produce.) It has been proven that fresh fruits and veggies are good for you.

Produce is also cheaper when it’s in season. It’s June now, so grapes and other soft fruit is getting cheaper. Tomatoes are cheaper now, and so are some greens. In-season produce is also tastier!

So, it pays to buy fresh – you’ll be healthier! And so will your family. Another guilt factor – do you feel guilty about feeding your family your “rabbit food?” It’s natural to feed your family the food that you’re cooking for yourself. You wouldn’t be eating it if it wasn’t tasty, well-balanced and well-seasoned. Ask them how they feel about the meals you’re serving. Chances are they’re enjoying the freshness as well. Don’t be surprised if you need to see your doctor less. You’re getting healthier.

Guilt about personal items

So, after you’ve spent on the necessities, you feel guilty about spending money on personal items? Get over it. You’ve budgeted for your family. Now it’s time to take care of you. Your workout shoes are worn? Time for a new pair. They’re less expensive than a trip to the emergency room after you’ve injured yourself.

You feel guilty about spending on a new pair of leggings? By now you’ve trained yourself not to reward yourself with food. So after a few successful months of working out and eating right – you deserve those new leggings (or T-shirt, or yoga mat).

Guilt is not helpful. A budget is.

A first look at guilt

Guilt and exercise / or not exercising

I’ve been thinking about guilt lately, specifically how it relates to exercise.

Are you torn between your guilt about exercising and not exercising. Spending time working out or with family? Do feel like your brain is on the treadmill even when you’re not?

Have you felt guilty about not exercising?

Or guilty about exercising when you could be doing something for your family?

I’m here to tell you to get over it!

If you’re doing something productive –

If you feel guilty about not exercising – are you doing something else that’s worthwhile? Are you working? Earning a living? Helping your family with something? If you’re engaged in an activity that’s productive, then you can work out another time. Schedule it! Put it in your calendar! (One that you actually refer to on a regular basis.)

If you’re not doing something else worthwhile, then you should feel guilty, so get up and move!

Seriously, though, you’re probably spending more time and energy feeling guilty than you would if you’d stick in a DVD and did a workout. You’ll feel terrific afterward – virtuous and healthy!

Are you exercising when you should be doing something else?

Are there really important things that you should be doing when you’re working out? Or are they just things to get to … some time?

If they’re the really important things, go do that and, again, schedule a workout.

Now, only you can determine if those things you’re thinking about are “really important things” that should be done now, or if they can wait.

The key, it seems, is to prioritize tasks. And then use your calendar so you’re sure not to forget the specific tasks that you need to get done.

But don’t leave out exercise!

If you’re feeling guilty about spending time on yourself when you could be doing other things for family, friends, or work, then don’t.

By spending a little time (as little as 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week) on yourself exercising, you’ll be gaining a healthier you. A you that will be around longer for your family. A you that can spend the quality time with your family that they deserve. And a you that will be more productive at work.

So stop feeling guilty. Write down and prioritize the things you need to do.

Why would we want to prevent pain?

“It’s easier to prevent pain than to squelch pain. Literally and figuratively. “

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, posited this as a rule for life that happy people know. It’s true. I’ve thought about it a lot on the physical side – how to prevent injury, and how to deal with an injury.

And, if at all possible, it’s a whole lot easier to prevent an injury. Make sure you stretch properly. Drink plenty of water. Warm up slowly. Challenge yourself, but don’t push when you shouldn’t be pushing! And take the time to do a proper cooldown.

I practice this all the time, both with my workout DVD programs, and when I run on the treadmill. Even though my DVDs have warmup periods, I try to do a little before I even turn on the machine – I’m old… I need more of a warmup. And for the most part I’ve been successful at avoiding injury. Sure, I feel my muscles if I try something new and sore muscles are part of the fitness journey. But that’s not an injury. It won’t cause long-lasting effects.

But how about emotional pain?

Do we want to prevent emotional pain? Do we lock ourselves away so that we prevent the pain of someone letting us down, or of separation? I don’t think so.

Emotional pain is part of being human.

You know that old saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” I think that’s true. If you don’t put yourself out there to be loved and to love someone, that’s quite a lonely existence.

We need each other! That’s part of being human too. Sure, we have to be smart about which relationships we pour ourselves into – don’t fall for a married guy… Or a gay guy… But, we need human interactions. Form friendships wherever you can. Do nice things for people. Put yourself out there. That’s how you feel human and engaged, and fulfilled.