The body achieves what the mind believes

Your body can achieve what the mind believesThe body achieves what the mind believes. Strong stuff. How much is really in your mind? Can you achieve anything you believe?

I think you have to temper that with a short dose of reality. I know I’m never going to be a rock star. For one thing, I can’t carry a tune. Wait – that doesn’t stop a lot of “rock stars” I hear on the radio. For another, I don’t play the guitar. Hmmm, again, not a prerequisite. And, I’m 60 years old. Well, I guess stranger things have happened. I’ll have to work on a look.

But, really. The mind is incredibly powerful. Let’s think about something a little less esoteric. Say, my goal is to do 10 regular pushups. No girlie pushups on my knees. No – real pushups on my toes. And my starting point is that I can’t do any from my toes. No problem. Do 20 pushups on my knees. And 10 with one leg straight, the other knee on the floor. And switch to the other knee. The next day, I’ll do more, and try one pushup on my toes. The key is to practice every single day. Eventually I know I’ll get stronger and I’ll be able to reach my goal. And then I’ll make a new goal.

Walk well to age well

runningman1We all want to get old, but we want the best quality of life as we age. We want to be able to do what we did when we were young (or as close to that as possible). What’s the secret?

Retired occupational therapist Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind suggests that good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk every day are the keys to aging well. In her article, “The Surprising Secret to Aging Well” in The Next Avenue, Beskind suggests that good posture and that walk from early childhood on will build bones and keep us young. It will build bone density and balance reflexes that will cut down on debilitating falls and injuries in later years.

Beskind states that walking has enormous benefits — emotionally and even creatively. This is in addition to the well-known benefits to the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. A sturdy gait pattern with alternating arm/leg movement helps maintain balance reflexes and strength in lateral hip muscles. And going for a walk frees the mind for creative pursuits.

So you don’t have to go crazy – just a brisk walk (with your head held high and your arms swinging in opposition to your gait) will help you achieve the golden years of your dreams!

Breathe properly for more energy

Breathe for energyDid you know that breathing correctly helps you feel less tired? Yup, it’s one factor that internist Dr. Holly Phillips identifies that proper breathing is one way to feel more energized in her book, The Exhaustion Breakthrough.

At least once an hour everyone should make the effort to breathe correctly, that is, consciously and deeply, from the diaphragm and not from the chest. Inhale fully and exhale fully. You’ll stand straighter, with no slumped shoulders.

Check in with your body once an hour while you’re at it. To start, set an alarm – your phone has one built in.  From the top of your head, down through your jaw, your shoulders and chest, your back and hips, your legs and your feet. Stop clenching your teeth and locking your jaw. Align everything. Put your feet flat on the floor. Check for any areas of tension or discomfort. And fix it! Poor posture makes you look tired and feel tired! Stand up and walk around. Then, when you sit back down, you’ll be more energized.

Take 10 deep breaths when you sit down. Full, slow, diaphragmatic deep breaths. You’ll be straighter and maybe even taller! Now reset your alarm and get back to work.

Keep moving!

Side plank in PiYo. Great for strength and flexibility.Whatever you do, keep moving. To stop is to atrophy. And to atrophy is to die.

I know, there are some days when it just hurts to get out of bed. I have those days too. From the bottom up and the top down. Neck hurts. Shoulders hurt. Back hurts. Hips are killing me. Knees hurt. Even the ankles hurt.

But that’s no excuse! Whether it’s arthritis, bursitis, muscle soreness or just sleeping funny. Get up, get dressed and move!

I know it’s not easy. Life isn’t easy. But the more you move, the less you hurt. Those first steps to the bathroom are slow and uneven. Maybe I’m even limping a little. But by the time I finish my morning ablutions, it’s a little better. And then when I’m dressed and the dogs fed, it’s better still. And by the time I finish my coffee I can face a short walk. And then I can work out.

And don’t skimp on the workout! You’re cheating yourself if you do! Yes, modify the moves. Yes, take a break when you need to. (If you’re doing a DVD exercise program, hit pause – again, you don’t want to cheat yourself!) Drink plenty of water during the breaks. But don’t cheat yourself!

And when you’re done, chances are you’ll feel great! Or, if not great, then at least you’ll be proud of yourself for finishing!

Knit for your health

knitting reduces stressKnitting and other handcrafts are more popular than ever. And it’s thanks in no part to the health benefits you derive from it. The Craft Yarn Council reports that a third of women 25 to 35 now knit or crochet. And now men are starting to join in!

Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind-body medicine and author of The Relaxation Response, says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state similar to that associated with meditation and yoga. Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

But unlike meditation, craft activities result in tangible and often useful products that can enhance self-esteem. A good idea is to take pictures of your end products on your phone – look at them to boost your spirits.

Another benefit is that when you’re knitting or doing other hand work, you can’t mindlessly eat – this cuts down on snacking. And if you’re knitting, you can’t smoke! Another health benefit.

I recently knitted a pair of fingerless mitts to keep my hands warm this winter. It felt really good to do something productive in the evening rather than just watch TV!

Pain! Do you stop or continue?

Don't baby yourself! Recognize muscle soreness and move on.Many years ago I dislocated my shoulder. I have never experienced pain like that! Think of an ice pick going through your shoulder and then twisting. And then grinding. And then pulling it out a little at a time. And then someone is bashing your shoulder over and over again. That’s the kind of pain. So severe I passed out from it. And then a few days later when I thought it was better, I dislocated it again in my sleep. The doctor said to cut out the aerobics for a while and do other strengthening exercises.

Over time the shoulder got stronger, and I could forget about the dislocations. I lift weights – probably baby weights to many people’s way of thinking, but they’re good for me.

And then a few days ago my shoulder started hurting again. I didn’t think anything of it, but it went on for several days. My mind started to worry at it – what if my shoulder dislocates again. Should I stop working out? Should I stop using weights?

But my brain kicked in and said, “Go easy. It’s not that kind of pain. Yes, it hurts, but the shoulder is not going to dislocate!” And my intelligent brain was right, rather than my panicked brain. I went a little easier, assessed what was going on and moved on. And now my shoulder is fine.

So, the take-away here is to know your body. Know the different kinds of pain that you experience. If something is new and scary, get it seen to. Get to know what muscle soreness is like. You’ll recognize it and move on.

Unplug – for your sanity

Rest and unplug for sanityWe’re surrounded by our electronics and our devices. There is no escaping the fact that to live successfully in 2016, we need to be plugged into the world around us. It’s how we stay in touch with our friends, how we keep tabs on our kids, know if our flight is on time, how late the bus is going to be,  how we get our news.

But once in a while we just need to unplug. Stop the noise. Get some peace back into our lives. Turn off the computer. Turn the phone off. Turn the TV off.

And then we can go about regaining our peace and sanity. Just sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Let the thoughts zoom through your mind. Acknowledge them but don’t take any action at all. Then open your eyes and read a book for 15 minutes. Cook your favorite meal without the TV blaring. Play with the dog for a while, or go for a walk with him. Or by yourself. Look at the trees, at the bushes, at the houses. Or just think about the things and people that make you happy.

It’s easy to become immersed in our technological world, but once in a while it’s important to live in our own head and figure out who we are inside.

Practice yoga for your body and your mind

triangle_webWhen I was growing up, there was a lady who taught a yoga class on what is now our local PBS station (back then it was Channel 11). She wore a long-sleeved leotard and tights every day. My mom and I tried to follow along, and we did pretty well, except for the really hard arm balances. Lilias spent 27 years on PBS and is still practicing and teaching yoga online. And she’s the norm for yogis. People who regularly practice yoga just seem to not age. They seem healthier and happier than the population as a whole. Why is that?

For starters, yoga is great exercise. The physical benefits include increased strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. And some flow classes can really get your heart rate up too! And now studies have shown that yoga provides mental benefits as well.

Real Simple’s “Getting Fit For Life” blog 1/19/16 (http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/stretching-yoga/yoga-brain?xid=soc_socialflow_facebook_realsimple) cites new research published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice that suggests that yoga can help people manage bipolar disorder.

And it makes sense that yoga can help everyone de-stress. “The Mayo Clinic boasts yoga’s power to fight stress and improve moods for all. And the practice can offer a moment to escape from our busy lives. Research shows that mindfulness-based stress reduction, like that at yoga’s core, can help lower anxiety and stress. In a study at the University of California, Los Angeles, participants who practiced yoga for just 12 minutes every day for eight weeks showed a decrease in their immune systems’ inflammation response. When we’re overstressed, our bodies lose the ability to regulate our inflammatory response, which can lead to a long list of health problems, including a greater risk of depression. By lowering our stress levels, we can also lower the risk of depression.”

A study from the University of Illinois has shown that even brief (20 minute) sessions of hatha yoga can improve focus and information retention.

And yoga helps us live in the present moment, which tends to make us happier. So – let’s keep practicing yoga!

It’s freezing!!!

mittsThe wind chill is sub-zero, actually! How do you stay warm when it’s so cold outside? We’re told to keep our thermostats below 68 degrees. So we pile on the layers, so that we look like abominable snowmen! And then we can’t move, much less think! The answer is exercise! Start moving and start sweating! You’ll feel warmer. The more you move the warmer you’ll feel. And even when your workout is finished, you’ll feel the warming effects for a while.

But then what do you do? You can’t work out all day! Tone it down! I hop in place. Ten on each leg does it for me. That has the same effect as working out, plus I can do it at work. Once an hour or so I’ll stand up and start hopping. People may look at me like I’m crazy, but I don’t have to chug the hot chocolate! Nice hot soup is good at mealtime, and I love hot chocolate but can’t afford the calories.

One thing that hopping doesn’t do, though, is warm my hands. My hands freeze! (My feet are cold, too, but hopping helps them.) So I knitted myself a pair of fingerless mitts. My fingers are exposed, but it’s hard to type with full mittens. The mitts keep my wrists and most of my hands warmer, and that does help.

Some days are easier than others

No doubt about it – some days are easier than others. One day you’ll do a workout and it’s a piece of cake. A couple of weeks later, I’ll do the same workout – same time of day, same conditions – and it’s really, really hard! I don’t know why, that’s just the way it is. It’s always been that way for me.

And some days I can balance on one foot really well and can hold the position for quite a while. And the next day I can hardly hold it for 2 seconds! I don’t know why – that’s just the way it is. I get the same amount of sleep. My diet is about the same. I usually practice my balance at about the same time every day. The weather is about the same. No reason! And some days after a particular workout my knees are fine. And after I do that workout again, my knees are killing me! Nothing is different – everything is the same and yet my result is totally different. I’m still getting the same fitness benefit, I’m sure, but the immediate physical effect is different. If I ever figure out the reason for this, I’ll pass it along!