What’s Your Payoff?

Happy 2017!  The new year can be an exciting time because it means a blank canvas – a chance to create our lives in a new way.  For lots of us, it also signifies the beginning of a change we wish to make, which is where the New Year’s resolution typically comes in.

Clients usually come to coaching seeking change –  they may feel stuck in their work or personal life, and aren’t sure what steps to take next.  They may have identified habits that are getting in the way of them living as fully as they would like to, or had some type of wake-up call in the form of a health scare or relationship upheaval, and realize that the time has come to face their reality.

Change is difficult, and maintaining those changes can be even trickier.  What’s the saying?  “Anyone can lose 10 pounds.  I’ve done it hundreds of times.”  Ouch.

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What’s the deal?  If we say we want to make a change, and know that it’s good for us over the long haul, why is it so darn hard?  What about the determination and discipline we seem to have in other parts of our lives?  How can we be so successful in our work or other undertakings and struggle so miserably when it comes to changing something seemingly as simple as a habit?

Here’s some food for thought.  If the payoff you get from continuing your bad habit feels better to you, on some level, than the benefit you might get from changing, it’s going to be an uphill struggle.

Let’s say you want to stop smoking.  You know you need to; your family doctor has been on you for years, you know the risks, you want to be around for your children.  You have all the information and  every reason to stop.  And yet, every time you make the attempt, with the best of intentions and all your resolve, you end up in the same place – smoking.  Your abstinence may last a few days or a few months but sooner or later you slide back.  What kind of payoff could you possibly be getting from that?

Maybe you’ve stayed in a relationship that is no longer healthy for you, you know it’s time to move on, but you never do.  What if the doctor has told you you’re a candidate for Type II diabetes and the time to lose weight and make changes in your eating habits is now.  Your well-being, your health is at risk.  You decide to make changes starting tomorrow but before the week is out you’re slipping back into old eating patterns.

In any of these examples, the pain and discomfort of change seems to outweigh the difficulties associated with continuing the habit.

In the smoking example above, more than one factor could be at play.  Maybe you’ve relied on smoking to keep your weight under control over the years.  You’ve heard stories about significant weight gain from some who’ve stopped, and you’re not sure you want to chance that.  You may be at a point where the relationship you’re  in no longer feels right for you.  Still, the idea of having to put yourself out there in the dating world, or risk being alone, doesn’t sound all that great either.  A hoped-for job promotion may create anxiety about losing the camaraderie of your band of work colleague so you end up turning it down.

You get the idea.

Let’s face it.  When we’ve indulged in a habit for a long time – maybe even years – it’s because we have been getting some type of benefit from it.  It’s going to be hard to make a change unless we can begin to see more benefit in the new behavior, the change we are trying to make.  It’s just easier to keep doing what we’ve always done.  When we are able to begin more of a long-term view of the benefits to be gained, it’s going to be easier for us to make the effort.   We might think:  “Yes, I may end up gaining a few pounds if I stop smoking, but I’ll be healthier over the long haul, and have more energy to exercise.  I can always lose the weight and I’ll feel so much better!

There is a quote by Anais Nin that speaks to this:  “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

The next time you find yourself frustrated or struggling in some way with a habit you’re trying to change, stop and ask yourself:  What’s my payoff for staying where I am?  What am I getting out of this behavior that I am afraid to lose?  Asking that question, and listening for the answer, could be the key that unlocks the door to the beginning of real change.

Feel free to comment below with any thoughts you have – I’ll be sure to respond.

Wishing you your best year yet!

Back to Basics

So……how was your summer?  Are you ready for fall?  I know I am – it’s my favorite season, especially here in Colorado.  The air is crisp, the Aspens turn gold, and every day seems to have a clear blue sky.

By now, most of us have heard that 40 is the new 30, or that gray is the new black, or strong is the new thin (or whatever……)  Lately, I’ve been hearing that September is the new January because we associate it with back to school, a new season, new possibilities, and so forth.  Maybe so, but metaphor aside, I do love September and it does feel like a time for gearing up for new things.

Because of that, I thought it might be a good time to revisit those foundational pieces that allow us to function at our optimum.  Our bodies are beautiful machines that need to be cared for regularly if we want to live a quality life.  In doing so, we not only feel better, we look better, our thinking is clearer, our energy levels are higher, and we perform better.  Our immune systems are strengthened so we’re not at the mercy of every cold or bug that comes our way.  One of the best ways to live a rich and pleasurable life is to take our health seriously.

Fall is a great time for running outdoors!

Fall is a great time for running outdoors!

Here are my basics:

Exercise.   Physical activity is at the top of the list when it comes to looking and feeling your best.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes (or 2-1/2 hours) of cardiovascular exercise at moderate intensity every week.  Brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming all qualify.   Add in two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups, and you’re good to go and be in great shape for years to come.  Don’t forget to stretch, which becomes increasingly important as we age.

Fresh, healthy food in as close to its natural state as possible.  Fruits and vegetables in season, lean proteins (think mainly chicken, fish, lean meats. There are wonderful vegetarian alternatives these days.)  Lean cheeses, yogurt and whole grains round it out.  Read ingredients and avoid processed foods with added sugar or salt.  A good rule of thumb:  If it comes in a box, don’t eat it.  If you want your machine to function at its peak, the fuel you give it is key.

Mood.  There’s a reason gratitude has become such a popular topic in recent years.  It’s an instant mood booster.  So are our positive and connected relationships with others, having a sense of meaning, being of service, commitment to goals, and exercise such as brisk walking.   Why is it important?  Research shows a sense of happiness – or well-being – provides a wealth of benefits:  improved health and immune function, better relationships, more meaningful work and (even!) higher income.  Happiness is not just a result of how we live, it is also an inner resource that can afford us better outcomes in all areas of our life.

Hydrate.  Water is your best bet when it comes to staying hydrated.  It increases energy and reduces feelings of tiredness.  It flushes out toxins so it keeps your skin glowy.  It reduces hunger, aids in digestion and helps you focus more clearly (your brain is mainly comprised of water!) And it’s free!  Drink up!

There are more basics to cover, which I will do next time in Part 2.  For now, making a commitment to increase your awareness and action in even one of these areas is going to make a significant difference in how healthy you feel, how you look and how you live.

I love to hear from you so if you feel the urge to share what’s making a difference for you in how well you live, feel free to post a comment on my blog and I’ll respond!

Enjoy those feelings of fall in the air!

The “What the Hell Effect”

Something I’ve observed over the years (in my own life at times, as well as others) is what’s come to be known in some circles as the “What the Hell Effect.”  It goes something like this:  “Well, I really blew my weight loss/healthy eating/no sugar/Weight Watchers/Skinny Bitch – or whatever -plan today.  What the hell – I might as well really blow it.  I’ll start over tomorrow.”

Researchers have given this phenomenon a name – the Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE), which has also come to be known as the “what the hell effect.”  The “what the hell effect” comes into play whenever we indulge in a behavior that we have decided not to indulge in, sworn off of, or committed to giving up. When it comes to food and eating, for example, a “dieting mindset” can trigger feelings of guilt and shame, of not “being perfect,” which can then spiral down into an overeating binge.

When it comes to change, an all or nothing mindset simply isn’t realistic.  Research shows that most individuals don’t overcome a problem on their first try.  Expecting perfection from yourself is a setup for failure.  The process of change very often involves trial and error, “one step forward and two steps back.”  Knowing this can prevent a full backslide into the old behavior.

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Here are some solid strategies to get you back on track fast when you derail in the moment:

  • Don’t use blowing it as an excuse to REALLY blow it. Acknowledge the lapse, forgive yourself and move on.   Everyone makes mistakes, blows it, from time to time.  Get right back on the horse, minimize the damage done.  Keep your eye on the bigger picture – a change to a healthier lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Remember your why – the commitment you’ve made to a healthier life and what that means to you. Keep a strong vision in your mind of the person you are working to become and hold to that vision at times like this. The power of this kind of personal vision cannot be overstated.
  • Hopefully you have a support system of like-minded friends, family members or a group. (If you don’t have one, you need to get one!) This is the time to use them.  You may be feeling some weakening in your commitment – having someone to talk things through with can help you get back on track more quickly.
  • If you’ve blown your food plan for the day, and someone just dropped off a box of fresh pastries direct from the bakery, realize this: You have a choice, you really do. You can renew your commitment  by walking away and going on with your day, or not.  The choice is yours. Keep in mind if you continue on with your “slip,” it may not be as easy to start over the next day as you think it will be.  Each time you make the right choice for yourself, you strengthen your emotional muscle, and it becomes easier to make good choices in the future.
  • How’s that working for you? Love Dr. Phil or not, this is a great question to ask yourself if you find yourself in the same situation repeatedly.  If you break down and have a cigarette in a moment of stress, and then go all in and buy a pack (and find yourself doing this repetitively, having to start over – again) – How’s that working for you?
  • A side effect of relapse into old behavior can be a loss of confidence in yourself and your ability to change. Self-criticism and shame are not your friends. Reaffirming your commitment to change is.   We sometimes think chastising ourselves is a way to make ourselves “tow the line.”  It isn’t.  Forgive yourself and move on by renewing your commitment as calmly as you can,
  • Learn from it. What can you learn about yourself here that will help you deal with challenges in the future?  Were you exceptionally upset or stressed about an occurrence, worrying about the future, bored, sad?   What can you do differently when this occurs in the future?  Knowing that you will be challenged again – and developing a plan of action to deal with it – is key.

Remember – Change is a process, not an event.  You are in the process!

Are You Ready to Commit?

Mоѕt оf uѕ thіnk оf  the Nеw Year аѕ a ѕtаrtіng роіnt, a fresh beginning.  The beginning of a new year usually begins with decision and anticipation, especially in those first weeks of January.  As time goes on, though, maintaining our resolve can be hard when we hit those inevitable challenges that arise.

Research shows that, while 45% of the American population makes New Year’s resolutions, only 8% of those who do actually achieve their goal.  There are varying reasons for this.  Whether you’ve resolved to lose weight, exercise regularly or something else, even the strongest commitment can start to weaken when confronted with the various obstacles that can arise on the way to a goal.  It’s possible you didn’t have the right strategy for success, or maybe you’re not seeing results as fast as you would like.  And so forth. Discouragement sets in.

It’s always possible to make a fresh start, no matter the date on the calendar, as long as your commitment includes these two things.  One is your mindset.  Without a solid belief and commitment to achieve your goal no matter what, you’ve already started out on shaky ground.  You may get sidetracked, you may take two steps forward and one step back, a family emergency may come up, but your mindset is:  I am going to lose this 20 pounds, no matter what, I am going to get there.  This is the attitude that will determine your success.

The other factor is your game plan, your strategy for success.  I’m a big believer in the saying:  “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  Having a plan is essential.  It doesn’t have to be a complicated plan, but you must have a blueprint to guide you. Otherwise, you’re winging it and you’re not setting yourself up to succeed.   If you’re trying to lose weight, it may just be cutting out deserts and walking for 15 minutes daily to start, but you must have guidelines in place, a compass for success.

Wellness is a way of being!

Wellness is a way of being!

If you find yourself saying, “I know I need to do something, but I just don’t know where to start”? – no worries, it’s all been figured out for you!  My 6-week online Evergreen Life Workshop is starting on February 15th and can give you the foundation you need to succeed.   Building optimal sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits are what will help you look and feel your best, and enjoy peak performance in all you do.  In this workshop, you will learn how to:

  • Control your food cravings and enjoy – yes, enjoy! – healthier foods
  • Trim and tone your body even if you can’t spend 10 hours a week in a gym
  • Sleep tight each night
  • Snap back after setbacks
  • Become a more energetic, more optimistic, more engaging version of yourself.

Sound good so far?  Read on.

If you feel like you have tried everything under the sun, get ready to:

  • Get out of the one thinking trap that can kill your ability to feel capable of change
  • Implement clear and simple strategies, easily adaptable to your life
  • Work with your strengths rather than try to fix your flaws
  • Minimize the amount of will-power needed to achieve success

We’ll be using the approach described in the Healthy Living Bestseller:  Smarts and Stamina: The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance.

The weekly activities are completely self-paced and can be completed at any time, wherever you have Internet access. There will be short videos, self-assessments, 3 live coaching calls, readings, and group discussions to give you a fresh and interactive experience. I’ve made this coaching program super-affordable because everyone deserves optimal health, energy and fulfillment.  Although the normal investment for this workshop is $179.00, if you register anytime before January 20th,  you only pay $147.00!

Act fast!   The Evergreen Life Workshop starts Monday, February 15th, and spaces are limited.    If you’re ready to get in shape on your own terms, and make it last, sign up here: https://app.ruzuku.com/courses/12168/enroll

 

Here We Go…

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah (or both, like we do) Happy Holidays!  I hope you are enjoying being in the moment and experiencing the best of this time of year.  Whatever your plans, most of us find this a time to remember and connect with people we love.  As enjoyable as that can be, it can also start to feel overwhelming when there’s so much more on our plate than usual.  Here’s where taking good care of you is super-important.

With the holiday season in full swing, I’d like to share a few ideas for those times when things start to get hectic.  I’ve used them all at one time or another – they are part of my toolkit for when life is feeling a bit too busy.

  • Really, remember to breathe.  This sounds simple but it isn’t always.  One of the first things that happen when we are tense is that our breath becomes shallower, and more rapid.  Our muscles tense up.  Deep breathing is a serious antidote to stress.  Taking time for a few deep breaths can slow down your heart rate, help your muscles relax and help you feel more calm and centered.
  • Take time out. Bundle up and go for a walk around the neighborhood, watch a movie with your kids or your spouse, or curl up with a good book for a while.  This may seem counter-intuitive when we feel we have so much to do, but taking a break will reduce your sense of overwhelm and help you return feeling fresh for the task at hand.
  • Let go of perfect. A favorite mentor taught me this:  Done is better than perfect.  (Let that sink in.)  It’s one of my mantras.  It can be yours, too.
  • Ask for help.  And don’t be shy!  If you’re having people over, ask guests to bring a dessert or appetizer.  Have your house cleaned.   Delegate last-minute trips to the store to your spouse or teenager.  Buy last minute gifts that come pre-wrapped for the holidays, or at shops that offer complimentary gift wrap.
  • Give the gift of experiences. Research in positive psychology shows that gifts of experiences, rather than things, have more power to influence happiness.  This is because experiences tend to carry more meaning over time – we can look forward to them, enjoy the actual time spent, and enjoy them again through our memories.  Tickets to a special game, a concert, or the gift of a spa or dinner experience are examples and can be more enriching for both recipient and
  • Now is not the time to let go of your healthy habits! You do get to splurge so enjoy the festivities, and do your best to keep the basics in place – a healthy eating plan, regular exercise, adequate sleep.  Your body and mind will thank you for it and you will go through the holidays feeling strong and energized.
  • Look for the meaning.  I saved this for last but I think it may be the most important.  The reason is that finding the meaning in our lives and what we do helps us to keep things in perspective.  The holiday season may mean different things, depending on who we are and where we are in our life.  When I was in my twenties, I loved dressing up and attending holiday occasions.   When my son was small, there was nothing better than watching “A Christmas Story,” and the fun of Santa’s visit and Christmas morning.  (He eventually figured out that there was something fishy about Santa and Mommy using the same wrapping paper……)  These days, it’s totally about family, dear friends and colleagues, special persons I encounter in my daily rounds throughout the year – those people I cherish.  It’s a time to reflect on what’s most important, and those things I might sometimes take for granted.  That’s what helps me keep the season in perspective.  When I do that, some of the stress seems to automatically fall away.  Details are less important.

Whatever the holiday season is for you, I hope you take some time to pause and reflect on what’s most important to you.  Knowing that, you’re bound to have your priorities in the right place.

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Flexibility 101

Most of us go through our days thinking of the obvious things we need to do and accomplish, such as going to work, taking care of our families, paying our bills and making time to have fun and decompress. With so much to do, taking care of our bodies’ health can fall by the wayside, yet our bodies carry us through all of these tasks so maintaining them in great health is of the utmost importance. We often equate physical fitness with going to the gym, doing intense cardio workouts, hiking and biking, and other aerobic activities and strength training. Stretching exercises and workouts designed to help promote and maintain flexibility are often neglected but are no less important!

The human body is meant to be active so movement of any kind is vitally important, which means not just cardio or strength training, but stretching as well. As we age, it becomes clear that the more flexible we are, the better. By incorporating regular stretching, blood flow in the body is increased and this will naturally help to reduce stress, in turn promoting better sleep. Excess stress in the body left unmanaged can lead to just as many health problems as being overweight or smoking, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stomach or digestive issues. Regular stretching also increases joint synovial fluid which helps the body to transport nutrients more effectively to joints, leading to less pain and greater flexibility. Range of motion is improved and this, in turn, helps prevent future injury.

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If you spend a lot of your day sitting, either because of a desk job or because you have a long commute, developing a routine that includes flexibility is even more essential. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can gradually lead to lower back pain, but stretching daily will help to ameliorate this. If you are also incorporating other types of exercise into your routine (as I hope you are for overall wellness), stretching will aid in reducing pain and soreness after more vigorous workouts. Your range of motion will increase. Simply by elongating certain muscles in the farthest position you can without pain and then holding for 10-15 seconds, you will make the muscle more flexible and limber. In turn, you help to preempt lingering soreness from working out, as well as prevent injury.

Improved flexibility also leads to better posture, meaning you are less likely to have back pain and carpal tunnel. You will also find that your breathing is improved; you experience increased concentration and focus, and feel more confident.

Physical fitness is vital for overall wellness. Without a healthy body, you cannot hope to have a healthy mind because physical ailments will hold you back from doing what you love. Stretching and flexibility exercises help to reduce stress, prevent physical injury, improve circulation, and delivers vital nutrients to your joints. Your body is there for you and working every second to keep you alive and healthy, so show it some love in return!