Sleep, Food, Mood and Exercise

I want to get down to basics today, the fundamentals that can make a world of difference in how you feel and how your days go: Sleep, Food, Mood and Exercise.

I’ve noticed over time that, often enough, being “healthy” is understood to mean eating right, and getting enough exercise.   Good nutrition and fitness are obviously extremely important parts of the equation, but far from the whole story.

How we feel on a day to day basis is impacted by much more than what we eat, and our level of activity. In Smarts and Stamina – The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health & Performance, authors Marie-Josee Shaar and Kathryn Britton have likened these four areas to four points of a compass, all of which interact and are interdependent. Lack of attention in any one area, over time, affects the others and the reasons for this are both physiological and psychological.

I’ll be addressing all four components of a truly healthful lifestyle in the coming weeks, but today let’s start with sleep.

It’s no secret that sleep –or the lack of it – has been a growing problem in our society for years. Chronically operating at a sleep deficit puts undue stress on the body and can lead to increased risk for weight gain or developing Type 2 diabetes. Recent research shows that adequate sleep can help fight depression and anxiety, and possibly lower our risk of Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis and cancer.

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Lack of sleep can take a toll on our performance, productivity, and relationships. Being tired can put you at risk for a higher incidence of car accidents, because sleeplessness affects reaction time and decision making. Conversely, being well-rested increases stamina, concentration and emotional wellbeing.

Sleep is healing and regenerative.   Its effects on both the body and brain are powerful . It balances the biochemicals in our brain that govern how we feel, behave and even how much we eat.

Given the importance of sleep to optimal health, here are some things you can do to make sure you are getting enough:

  • Decide to make sleep a priority.  How much is enough? The common recommendation is anywhere from seven to nine hours a night, and individuals vary in their need.   By the time we’re adults, we typically know how much we need based on how we feel. The National Sleep Foundation (http://sleepfoundation.org) recommends paying attention to your own individual needs by assessing how you feel on different amounts of sleep. For example, do you feel rested and alert on seven hours, or does it take a full nine for you to be at your best. Do you tend to depend on caffeine throughout the course of your day? Do you feel sleepy when at work or at school? In the end, you are your own best judge of how much you need so pay attention to how you feel to be at your best.
  • In Western society, operating on too-little sleep is sometimes heralded as a “badge of honor,” because it means (supposedly) we are being more productive, and are busy “getting things done.” Maybe we don’t want to miss out on anything! When you realize that lack of sleep actually decreases levels of productivity, and impairs focus in work and other important tasks, it may be time to reexamine our thinking on that one! A good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s essential for our health and our brain. And we are likely to miss out on things we aren’t fully present for because we are too tired.
  • Pay attention to how you operate while awake. Are you (and your kids) always scheduled, constantly on the go trying to get from one thing to the next? Do you spend a good part of your day checking your phone, email, and the like? All that activity and exposure to computer screens and artificial light adds to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, disrupting our internal body clock and making it more difficult to relax when it’s time to rest. If you’ve had difficulty sleeping, be sure to shut down your electronics at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Have a bedtime ritual. Give yourself time to wind down at the end for the day. Your body needs time to make this shift so take some time for a warm bath, meditation, or a quiet activity such as reading.

The bottom line on sleep is simple: Getting enough will make you happier, healthier and make your life better, and we all want that, don’t we?

Why Hire a Coach

Be as you wish to seem.” – Socrates

We all have dreams and wishes in life. Sometimes our wishes come true and our dreams come to fruition. As a Certified Life Coach and a Certified Wellness coach, that is often why clients seek me out to begin with – to achieve a cherished dream or goal. And my objective for my clients is always that they will see their wishes come to pass.

Only in coaching, we do a lot more than wish! Dreams and goals have to be backed up with a deliberate plan, and that plan has to be put into action. There will be bumps in the road, and sometimes detours, when Life will intervene. What role does a professional coach play in the process?

  • Athletic coaches help athletes train and improve their skills and performance, individually as well as in teams. Acting and voice coaches zero in on making the most of those talents. Life coaches help clients identify their strengths and values, clarify goals, and maximize potential.
  • A well-trained coach can help a client recognize what might be holding them back and find ways to get “unstuck.”  Using their professional skills and objectivity, they can help the client find a path to the Bigger Picture of their goal, and design a step-by-step strategy to get there.
  • Clients come to coaching because, for whatever reason, what they have been doing in the past isn’t working. A coach’s ability to reframe a particular situation or challenge can offer a new and much-needed perspective that enables the client to move forward with a renewed approach to their circumstances.
  • Empowering clients to discover, and capitalize, on their Signature Strengths is an important part of coaching. Recognizing and applying core strengths in the pursuit of goals has been demonstrated to lead to greater happiness, well-being and success in work and in life.
  • Having a positive attitude is a key component of success in life, but just as important is positive action. Taking positive actions – what you do – changes who you are which, in turn, produces different results. One of the hallmarks of the coaching relationship is accountability, that is, defining and taking actions towards objectives. Having accountabilities provides a structure for the client and also serves as a learning tool in the coaching relationship. If a particular action doesn’t work as planned, client and coach can revisit and revise that strategy. This collaboration can open up a fresh approach to a previously frustrating situation.

Increasingly, coaches specialize in areas such as health and wellness, small business, re-careering and parenting, among others. It’s important to ask a prospective coach what specific education and training they have received, what credentials he or she holds, and what their areas of specialty are. An excellent resource is the International Coach Federation (ICF); http://www.coachfederation.org/ which requires members to complete stringent educational and training requirements, as well as continuing education.

A coach can be a valuable ally in making your dreams come true. Take your time and choose one that’s the right fit for you.

 

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Stay the Course!

As you’re reading this, we’re already almost halfway into January of 2015!   Crazy, right?

Did you start out on January 1st with a goal or intention in mind for the coming year? While we may start out with the best of intentions, it’s a fact that most of us don’t succeed when it comes to our New Year resolutions, or goals. If you started out the year with great ambitions and are starting to waiver, you’re not alone and all is not lost. You can get back on track and stack the odds of success in your favor.

One of the main stumbling blocks when it comes to making changes is dealing with setbacks. And, trust me, you will have them. We often think of making changes as being a decision making process. You decide to lose 10 pounds (or quit smoking, drink less, meditate daily, get organized) and then you follow through on the decision. Only it doesn’t go that smoothly. You lose a couple pounds, then fall off the healthy eating wagon, gain them back, and think, “See, I just can’t do it. I keep trying, but losing these last 10 pounds never happens.” Or you’re meditating every day for 20 minutes – and making it a priority – until the morning you’re running late and it falls by the wayside. And then it falls by the wayside the next morning, but you’ll do it later in the day. (You forget…..) Another year’s resolution, down the well-travelled drain…….

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-overcoming-challenges-concept-how-to-overcome-your-life-image42304849Another familiar scenario is the “Well, it’s just the way I am, I’ve always been this way, I just don’t seem to be able to stick to things” explanation. Maybe a family member or early teacher said things that reinforced this particular notion about yourself and you’ve been carrying that around ever since.

There’s a concept in coaching called the “Inner Critic.” You know the critic. It’s that voice we all have in our head that comes up at times and judges us, makes us feel guilty, or inadequate, or unworthy. Often, we’re not even aware of it. Another name for it is The Saboteur, because it can quietly but effectively sabotage our efforts to change by undermining our confidence in ourselves. As above, it often originates with a past authority figure. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you do now.

Here are some ways to deal with challenges, setbacks and quiet the Critic:

  • Instead of seeing a setback as reason to throw in the towel, realize that it is only one occurrence in the much bigger picture of your overall goal. Everyone experiences challenges on the way to a Big Goal. It’s part of the process. If you realize that setbacks are simply part of the journey, it can go a long way towards keeping you going.
  • Use setbacks as an opportunity to learn. Did you arrive at dinner starving because you skipped lunch and end up blowing your entire eating plan? Ok – next time, do things differently. If lunch may be on the run, brown bag it, including some protein and fruit. A little pre-planning can go a long way towards helping you stay on track with your Big Goal.
  • Realize that you’re not alone. Anyone who has ever succeeded in realizing a goal has encountered their fair share of hurdles along the way. Know that going in, and that recognition alone can often keep you going when nothing else will. Decide that you will persist.
  • Self-blame is counter-productive. Recognizing that your Inner Critic is on a rant (inside your head) is the first step in silencing it. Silence that critical voice within by refusing to acknowledge it, tell it to leave the room. If you’re a visual sort, draw a picture of it and sit on it. Whatever. Just don’t let it take over and hold you hostage. Perfection is a myth.
  • Talk it out. If you simply cannot regain a healthy perspective, talking it out with a supportive person can make all the difference.   You get it out of your head (where it’s doing you no good) and an objective friend can often provide a more balanced view to help you reframe things, and get back on track.

It’s been said that change is a process, not an event.

Any process will have ups and downs, obstacles and achievements. It’s all part of it. As long as you keep going, you are in the process of getting to your Big Goal, so persist. Keep going. Pick yourself back up. Because you can.

As my special gift to you, purchase any of my coaching packages before January 31st, and I will gift you a 90 Minute Goal Planning and Strategy session to start off the New Year, for yourself or a friend ($189.00 value.) What could be a better gift than helping your loved ones create their ideal life?

 

Stay the Course!

As you’re reading this, we’re already almost halfway into January of 2015! Crazy, right?

Did you start out on January 1st with a goal or intention in mind for the coming year? While we may start out with the best of intentions, it’s a fact that most of us don’t succeed when it comes to our New Year resolutions, or goals. If you started out the year with great ambitions and are starting to waiver, you’re not alone and all is not lost. You can get back on track and stack the odds of success in your favor.

One of the main stumbling blocks when it comes to making changes is dealing with setbacks. And, trust me, you will have them. We often think of making changes as being a decision making process. You decide to lose 10 pounds (or quit smoking, drink less, meditate daily, get organized) and then you follow through on the decision. Only it doesn’t go that smoothly. You lose a couple pounds, then fall off the healthy eating wagon, gain them back, and think, “See, I just can’t do it. I keep trying, but losing these last 10 pounds never happens.” Or you’re meditating every day for 20 minutes – and making it a priority – until the morning you’re running late and it falls by the wayside. And then it falls by the wayside the next morning, but you’ll do it later in the day. (You forget…..) Another year’s resolution, down the well-travelled drain…….

Another familiar scenario is the “Well, it’s just the way I am, I’ve always been this way, I just don’t seem to be able to stick to things” explanation. Maybe a family member or early teacher said things that reinforced this particular notion about yourself and you’ve been carrying that around ever since.

There’s a concept in coaching called the “Inner Critic.” You know the critic. It’s that voice we all have in our head that comes up at times and judges us, makes us feel guilty, or inadequate, or unworthy. Often, we’re not even aware of it. Another name for it is The Saboteur, because it can quietly but effectively sabotage our efforts to change by undermining our confidence in ourselves. As above, it often originates with a past authority figure. But that doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you do now.

Here are some ways to deal with challenges, setbacks and quiet the Critic:

• Instead of seeing a setback as reason to throw in the towel, realize that it is only one occurrence in the much bigger picture of your overall goal. Everyone experiences challenges on the way to a Big Goal. It’s part of the process. If you realize that setbacks are simply part of the journey, it can go a long way towards keeping you going.
• Use setbacks as an opportunity to learn. Did you arrive at dinner starving because you skipped lunch and end up blowing your entire eating plan? Ok – next time, do things differently. If lunch may be on the run, brown bag it, including some protein and fruit. A little pre-planning can go a long way towards helping you stay on track with your Big Goal.
• Realize that you’re not alone. Anyone who has ever succeeded in realizing a goal has encountered their fair share of hurdles along the way. Know that going in, and that recognition alone can often keep you going when nothing else will. Decide that you will persist.
• Self-blame is counter-productive. Recognizing that your Inner Critic is on a rant (inside your head) is the first step in silencing it. Silence that critical voice within by refusing to acknowledge it, tell it to leave the room. If you’re a visual sort, draw a picture of it and sit on it. Whatever. Just don’t let it take over and hold you hostage. Perfection is a myth.
• Talk it out. If you simply cannot regain a healthy perspective, talking it out with a supportive person can make all the difference. You get it out of your head (where it’s doing you no good) and an objective friend can often provide a more balanced view to help you reframe things, and get back on track.

It’s been said that change is a process, not an event. Any process will have ups and downs, obstacles and achievements. It’s all part of it. As long as you keep going, you are in the process of getting to your Big Goal, so persist. Keep going. Pick yourself back up. Because you can.

What to Say to Yourself Instead of “I Always Gain Weight Over the Holidays.”

Enjoy the season!

Enjoy the season!

Let’s be honest. How often have you heard someone (maybe even you?) say something like: “It’s normal to gain weight at the holidays,” or “Who doesn’t gain weight on vacation?” Granted, there are absolutely going to be more opportunities to eat, drink and be merry this time of year, and no one is arguing that vacations are the time to let go of routine.   Lots of pleasure in life comes from times when we gather over a meal with family and friends.

I’m just wondering if there are times that we subtly give ourselves permission or explain away unhealthy behaviors that we’re trying to change because “it’s that time of year,” or “everyone else does the same thing.” Is that really true? Or are we making excuses? Setting ourselves up for a fall?

With Christmas just around the corner, it might be a good time to examine your mindset about how you approach your healthy lifestyle habits at this time of year. Do they fall by the wayside completely? Do you tell yourself it’s no use, you’ll get back on track in January? Is it “not your fault” because you are just inundated with delicious goodies everywhere you go (and you don’t want to be rude……)

Here are some ideas and strategies to help you stay on track and enjoy the pleasures of the season:

  • Ok, the holidays are filled with an abundance of occasions to eat, drink, and stay out late. Whatever the occasion, we’re likely to enjoy it most if we’re at our best. If we’re overdoing it on anything (food, drink, not getting enough rest and sleep, or whatever) there’s just no way we’re going to be at the top of our game. And isn’t that especially important at this time of year so that we can truly enjoy the season? Keeping a “big picture” perspective might be useful here, such as: “How am I going to feel tomorrow if I overindulge tonight?” Is it really worth it?
  • The “I blew it today, I might as well go ahead and really blow it,” syndrome. This is usually followed by “Oh, well, I can start again tomorrow…..” or “What the heck…..I’m going to enjoy the holiday, my time off, etc.” Invariably, when tomorrow comes, it’s harder to get back on track then you anticipated, or you end up upset with yourself come January 2nd because here you go again, starting over……..The antidote: Don’t use going off the rails as an excuse to really go off the rails.
  • You have a choice. You really do. If you’re done eating and you’re still being offered food, a polite “I can’t eat another bite. Everything was delicious,” is all that’s necessary. Really.
  • Ultimately, parties – and the season – are about people.   This is the time of year to connect – with family, friends, and those people who add meaning to our lives. Here’s where redefining our idea of a holiday gathering can come in handy. Try moving away from the buffet table once you’ve eaten, and focus your energies on the celebration and conversation. That’s why you’re there, right?
  • Plan ahead. If dinner is at 4:00 pm, you’re not going to want a big lunch. If you’re going to a late party, have a snack of fruit and cheese at 5:00 pm so that you don’t arrive famished. If you know there’s a special dish you love, go ahead and have a serving, but not seconds. Planning ahead keeps you from making a less-than-healthy choices when you are over-tired, rushed or starved.

Your mindset determines your outcome. All the “diet tips and tricks” in the world won’t do you any good without the right mindset. Deciding that, while you may not lose any weight during the holidays, you will hold at your current weight may be just the “mindset” goal that you need. Having that mindset – that big picture thinking – can serve to direct your choices and help you make ones that will take you through the season feeling your best and ready to go on January 2nd!

 

So What (Exactly) is Grit and Why Is It important?

Clients come to coaching because they are ready to make some sort of change or improvement in their life. They’ve come to a place where the status quo is no longer acceptable. It may be due to health concerns, a change in circumstances or something else, but whatever the motivation, some type of needed change is indicated. Sometimes they feel ready to change but aren’t sure how to proceed. They may have started down the path only to find themselves stuck or sidetracked, maybe more than once. Change – real change that becomes a part of one’s life – usually is not met by a quick fix. It’s a process. Sometimes changes are made only to be met with backslides, or a return to old habits or patterns. Change can be challenging and tricky, and almost invariably at some point we are going to come up against a wall. That’s where grit comes in.

Grit has of late become a buzzword of sorts being tossed around in some circles. But what is it and why is it important in the quest for change?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines grit in behavior as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Another definition is, “The ability to work hard and respond resiliently to failure and adversity; the inner quality that enables individuals to work hard and stick to their long-term passions and goals.”

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-positive-bold-green-can-ends-row-dull-gray-can-t-illustrating-success-oriented-attitude-white-image30559044University of Pennsylvania psychologist and researcher Angela Lee Duckworth, who has conducted studies on the subject, defines it as “passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long term goals,” and believes it to be a (maybe the) central predictor of long-term success. You could also call it mental toughness.

If “being gritty” predicts achievement, how do you know if you have it? And how can you get it if you don’t?

There isn’t always consensus about exactly what constitutes grit, but certain character traits appear to be key:

  • Having a clear and focused goal, along with the ability to avoid distractions and stay focused;
  • A strong motivation, a will to persist;
  • Self-control – the ability to delay short-term gratification, in favor of the long term;
  • An optimistic, positive outlook – the ability to meet challenges with confidence in one’s own abilities and the belief that things will work out;
  • A growth mindset, i.e., the ability to look at challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than as “failures.”

We all recognize the importance of determined and persistent effort in the pursuit of a goal. What appears to differentiate grit seems to be a capacity to maintain one’s stamina over a long period of time despite the inevitable setbacks and adversities inherent in long-term goal achievement. Without the necessary grit – a quality which seems to come from deep within – even the most talented or intelligent among us can get discouraged and thrown off track. As Angela Duckworth says, “Grit is sticking with your future — day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years — and working really hard to make that future a reality. It’s living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Happy Halloween and Headspace Review

Wow – 2014 is flying by! Driving in the city this week I watched as hundreds of golden leaves blew from trees and piled up on sidewalks, and now Halloween is right around the corner!

As we head into November, and start planning for Thanksgiving, life can start to feel more harried and quiet spaces more elusive. I really think that, ultimately, “life” is not necessarily the culprit here, but what goes on in my head (or doesn’t) as the pace starts to feel like it’s picking up. I’ve discussed the value of meditation here before, and science keeps coming up with more research on its benefits. Particularly in this age of distractibility, it’s a great antidote to lack of focus, with its emphasis on single-minded attention. Practicing meditation regularly can, over time, lead to a decrease in stress and worry, and an increase in wellbeing and enhanced performance, among other things.

When I talk to people about meditation, one of the most common things I hear is “I can’t meditate,” because “thoughts keep going around in my head.” I want to share a secret: – I’ve been meditating on and off for nearly 30 years (mostly on) and guess what – thoughts keep going around in my head, too! It’s part of the process, and some days are just better than others. However I start out, I almost always end my meditation feeling more calm and centered, more spacious, then I did going in. And that seems to carry through into the rest of my day.

Recently, I felt in the mood to try something different so I tried an online offer I had come across called “Headspace.” Headspace calls itself “Meditation made simple,” and says you can “ Learn online, when you want, wherever you are, in just 10 minutes a day.” It was conceived by Andy Puddicombe (whose voice also guides the meditations) – a meditation and mindfulness expert and ordained Buddhist monk.

Even though I’m not new to meditation, I was in the mood for something different so I signed up for the free 10-day trial.

What I like a lot:

Very user-friendly. The website has a clean design, is easy to navigate, and has lots of practical information about meditation and mindfulness.
Anyone can find 10 minutes in the space of a day to be quiet, clear their head, just be. (If you can’t, there’s other websites out there that can help….)

Andy Puddicombe has a friendly, gentle and unassuming style and so the meditations come across as soothing (at least to me.) Plus, he has a rather nifty British accent if you like that sort of thing.

The mobile app is great if you are on the move, travelling, or otherwise removed from your computer so you can take time out whenever and wherever it suits you.

If community is important to you, you can find one here. You can submit questions for Andy, interact with others, share your own stories and gather ideas for how to integrate your meditation practice into your life.

You have lots of options. You can continue with a 10 minutes a day practice, and move on to 15 or 20. You can also choose from meditations that are specific to an area, say, performance or when you need a quick time out to regroup (entitled SOS.)

Here and there, a short video begins a session with helpful tips, such as how to deal with those pesky thoughts that keep coming up.

All in all, I liked my trial enough so that I signed up for a subscription. (I have no affiliation with the site, by the way.)

As meditation and mindfulness practice becomes more mainstream (Oprah meditates daily and has for years, as does Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, and the Seattle Seahawks!) information and resources are growing. You might try: Deepak Chopra’s Center for Well-Being, http://www.chopra.com/welcome-to-the-chopra-center, which has a free library of information, along with guided meditations. Another good one is Dr. Barbara Frederickson’s website: http://positivityresonance.com/meditations.html. Dr. Frederickson is a leading researcher on positive emotions and the considerable benefits of meditation in enhancing those emotions. This website includes a variety of guided meditations including loving-kindness meditation, among others. My all-time favorite basic primer on meditation is: How to Meditate, A Guide to Self-Discovery, by Lawrence LeShan, and there are a wealth of others out there.

Explore and try different ones out – there are lots of options, and not every meditation style will be a “fit” for you. If you find yourself feeling happier, calmer and more focused, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Have a magical Halloween!