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Mind & Soul

5 Mental Tricks to Feeling Amazing, Even if You Miss a Few Workouts

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Your self-worth has nothing to do with how often you hit the treadmill.

Your plan was to relaunch your regular gym and clean eating regimen on January 1. More than a week into the new year, that’s mostly fallen by the wayside. Logically, you know that your self-worth doesn’t rely on perfect attendance at SoulCycle. So why do so many of us drop into a shame spiral when we skip a few workouts or finish off a sugary treat?

“We’re in a society that hyper-values fitness and thinness, and we’re taught to be ashamed of feeling like we’re not to living up to expectation,” says Andrew Walen, a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders and body image and the founder of The Body Image Therapy Center in Washington, D.C. Not sticking to a routine can also make you feel out of control, and that too tends to fuel anxious or depressive thinking, says Walen.

Maintaining your healthy food and fitness goals is hard work, and sometimes life gets in the way—or the couch and a Stranger Things binge session are calling you hard. Next time you start to feel guilty for what you view as slipping up, try these simple mental tricks, which will banish negative thoughts and empower you with body positivity.

Recite a mantra

Repeating an affirmation, song lyric, or some other catchy and motivational phrase might sound a little silly. But reciting inspiring words keeps you in the moment and gives your brain something to focus on, crowding out self-criticism while the mantra’s positive message sinks in, says Walen.

Next time you start to beat yourself up for ditching the treadmill, repeat your mantra out loud or in your head with intention. We like “I’m more than my body” and “I am beautiful” because these phrases are simple and super upbeat. But anything that resonates with you in a personal way will work just fine.

Banish ‘I should’ from your brain

Pay attention to key words in your own internal dialogue. “Every time you hear ‘I should’ or ‘I must,’ recognize that you’re punishing yourself for no reason,” says Walen. For example, if you’re spending time relaxing on the couch with family and suddenly catch yourself thinking, “I really should put on my gym gear and go for a run,” stop right there. Distract yourself with your social feed, a conversation with your partner, anything to get out of that negative head space.

Put on clothes that make you feel awesome

You should never feel bad about your body, but if you do, there’s no quicker way to start feeling sexy and attractive than changing into an outfit you know you look good in. “Dress in a way that makes you feel adventurous and flirtatious and desirable,” says Walen. “Don’t feel like you need to fit into a mold with what you wear—it’s a time to express yourself.” Whether it’s a revealing bandage dress or comfy jeans and sneakers, your clothes can switch up your mindset.

Don’t get sucked into someone else’s body criticism

Body shame is so prevalent in our culture, you might frequently find yourself caught up in other people’s body drama—such as a conversation about your sister’s failing efforts to stay on Whole30 or your coworker’s guilt about gaining a few pounds. Before their body negativity triggers your own dissatisfaction, change the subject, suggests Walen.

If redirecting the conversation isn’t your cup of tea, just leave the vicinity. Politely excuse yourself and spend time with people who are talking about something besides diet and exercise.

Be kind and forgiving—to yourself

When we feel guilty for not living up to our own (our society’s) expectations, we tend to punish ourselves for it—vowing to skip a meal to make up for a binge, for example, or overexerting ourselves at the gym to compensate for blowing it off all week. Problem is, doing this treats food and fitness as punishments, when they should be celebrations of your body and mind. So give yourself permission to make mistakes and enjoy life’s indulgences, with no regrets whatsoever.

Source: http://www.health.com/mind-body/how-to-feel-body-positive

How to Rewire Your Negative Thinking Habits and Feel Happier

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For many of us, it’s second nature to focus on the negative. We tend to dwell on criticisms (while brushing off compliments), and brace ourselves for the worst possible outcomes. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD, author of The Science of Positivity: Stop Negative Thought Patterns by Changing Your Brain Chemistry ($16; amazon.com).

In her new book, she explains how cynical thought habits develop (remember we humans evolved to focus on threats for survival), and how you can rewire your brain to “transcend negativity.” The ultimate goal, she says, is to experience the world in a more optimistic—and realistic—way.

And it’s worth the effort: A recent study by Harvard University researchers found that women with an optimistic outlook were less likely to die of top killers like cancer, infection, and heart disease. We tapped Breuning, who is a professor emerita of management at California State University East Bay, to learn how to remove our crisis goggles, and prioritize positivity for a more balanced and healthier life. Read on for simple steps you can take starting today.

Pause for positivity three times a day

The brain’s neural pathways are shaped during childhood and adolescence, Breuning explained in an interview: “Our early experiences create superhighways in the brain where electricity flows effortlessly.” As a result, by the time we finish puberty, we’re biased toward certain paths of thinking, like finding the “bad” in most situations.

The best way to carve new pathways is through repetition, says Breuning. It might feel weird at first, but you can redirect your thinking habits by taking note of positive things in your life three times a day for six weeks.

If you need inspiration for what to feel positive about, Breuning recommends appreciating your micro-accomplishments: “I’m not talking résumé things,” she says. Instead, focus on little choices you made that worked out well. It could be something as simple your decision to wear waterproof boots because of the foul weather predicted that day. “Your inner mammal is worried about survival, so it’s going to panic about every choice unless the brain circuit for feeling good about your decisions is as well-developed as the brain circuit for feeling bad about your decisions,” she says.

Set realistic expectations

It sounds counterintuitive, but it can really help to stop expecting greatness from yourself. “On the one hand, you don’t want to think, Nothing ever goes right for me. But on the other hand, many of us are coached to avoid that hopelessness with excessively grandiose expectations,” says Breuning. And when we can’t meet those expectations, we feel like failures.

To sidestep this vicious cycle, it’s best to set realistic goals that are within your control—and appreciate the journey, even if you don’t get there. For example, choose a doable goal (say, learning to do a chin-up), and make an effort to enjoy the process (building the muscle memory and strength required), no matter the outcome. “That’s really the secret to life,” says Breuning. “Enjoying the steps.”

Pursue variety

Mix up the simple pleasures in your life, and you may appreciate them even more: “Our brains are designed to look for reward, but any reward that you already have stops triggering your happy chemicals,” says Breuning. “That’s how dopamine works.” In other words, instead of feeling content once a specific need is met, we tend to shift our attention on other needs. It’s a phenomenon known as habituation.

So how can you manage it? The answer involves embracing variety. Take this real-world example: If you love red wine, try having a glass just three days a week rather than every single night, to preserve your brain’s ability to enjoy it when you do have it. The aim is not to suffer, but to find alternative things that make you feel good, while also training yourself to derive more pleasure from the thing you already know you love. “Above all,” says Breuning, “variety is going to give you the most feeling of reward.”

Source: http://www.health.com/anxiety/how-to-be-more-positive

Exactly What to Do if Your New Year’s Resolution Is Already Slipping

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With each new year comes a new opportunity to better ourselves. We vow to kick our sugar addictions, call our parents more, and check Facebook less. Yet within weeks, most of us are back to snacking, screening parental calls, and mindlessly scrolling through our newsfeeds.

But before you become one more person observing Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions Day (yep, it’s a real thing; January 17 is the day most people throw in the towel), know this: There’s still time to revamp a resolution that’s losing steam and initiate the lasting change you aimed for back on January 1. “The most important thing is to first figure out the top reasons why resolutions fail, and then use that to get back on track,” says behavioral psychologist Art Markman, PhD.

Markman, the author of Smart Change: Five Tools to Create New and Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others explains the top five reasons New Year’s resolutions fail—and the small tweaks to make to fix each mistake.

Your resolution is framed in a negative way

We often make resolutions around what we want to stop doing instead of what we want to start doing, says Markman. “When you have a behavior you’re trying to change, whether it’s eating less or checking your email fewer times a day, you actually have to put another behavior in its place,” he explains. “The key is to focus on a positive action that you’re going to perform in the situation where you were doing the old behavior.”

So instead of vowing to give up a certain behavior or do without something, frame your resolution around the new positive action you will do in place of it. Let’s say you want to quit mindlessly scrolling through your phone at night. Instead of pledging to turn off your device by 10 p.m., vow to start getting ready for bed at that time instead. This way, you unplug digitally while rewarding yourself with more sleep—a positive action that can motivate real change.

Your end goal is too vague

Resolving to exercise twice a week sounds like a solid plan, but it isn’t targeted enough, says Markman. “Your goal has to be so specific that the actions you’re going to take [to accomplish it] can make it onto your calendar,” he says. “‘Twice a week’ isn’t on your calendar, but ‘Mondays and Thursdays at 4 p.m.’ is.”

Getting specific doesn’t just help you realize what you need to do in order to see your resolution through; it also highlights the things that could get in the way of it (think: your weekly manicure also scheduled at 4 p.m. on Thursdays). Start accounting for all possible roadblocks, and add into your planner the steps you’re taking to get them out of the way so you can actually make it to the gym, rather than make excuses.

You don’t address the root cause

In order to carry out a resolution, you need to know the who, what, when, where, and why of the behavior you’re trying to change. For example, if want to stop biting your nails, pay attention to the circumstances under which you engage in the habit.

“I encourage people failing at their resolution to keep a habit diary for a week or two,” says Markman. “Not so they can change their behavior, but just to watch it and see what they’re doing.” Once you realize that you always bite your nails while anxiously finishing a work project, you’ll be better equipped to take actions to stop it—like buying desk toys to busy your hands throughout the day or just being more mindful about keeping your fingers on your keyboard as the deadline ticks away.

You think it’s all about willpower

Willpower is overrated. According to Markman, people often believe their commitment is enough to prevent them from falling back into their bad habits. Sadly, a pantry full of cheese popcorn isn’t going to magically become less tempting just because you’ve told yourself you’ll stop gobbling it down while you watch Netflix.

“At this point you’re riding the brakes,” says Markman. “Your motivational system is reminding you of the snack in the kitchen and you have to rely on your willpower to keep you from eating it. But just like in a car, if you ride the brakes long enough, they’re going to fail.”

The solution? Rather than relying on willpower, structure your environment so the thing you want or habit you’re trying to break is so difficult to get or do that won’t bother attempting it. Because you can’t eat a pint of ice cream you never bought, right?

You’re going at it alone

News flash: If you succeed in carrying out your resolution, no one’s going to say Congratulations, but it’s not that big a deal because you had a support system. “If you find yourself ditching your resolution, phone a friend,” suggests Markman. “Find somebody who’s willing to serve as your backup so that when you’re about to slip, you can call or text them for support instead.” Crushing your goals doesn’t count any less if you do it with a little help from your friends.

Source:http://www.health.com/home/how-to-revamp-new-years-resolution

10 stress busters

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If you’re stressed, whether by your job or by something more personal, the first step to feeling better is to identify the cause.

The most unhelpful thing you can do is turn to something unhealthy to help you cope, such as smoking or drinking.

“In life, there’s always a solution to a problem,” says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster. “Not taking control of the situation and doing nothing will only make your problems worse.”

He says the keys to good stress management are building emotional strength, being in control of your situation, having a good social network and adopting a positive outlook.

What you can do to address stress

These are Professor Cooper’s top ten stress-busting suggestions:

Be active

Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you to deal with your problems more calmly.

 

Take control

There’s a solution to any problem. “If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse,” says Professor Cooper. “That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of well being.”

The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.

Connect with people

A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.

“If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help,” says Professor Cooper.

The activities we do with friends help us relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.

“Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems,” says Professor Cooper.

Have some ‘me time’

Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don’t spend enough time doing things we really enjoy.

“We all need to take some time for socializing, relaxation or exercise,” says Professor Cooper.

He recommends setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work. “By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work overtime,” he says.

Challenge yourself

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.

“By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person,” says Professor Cooper. “It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.”

Avoid unhealthy habits

Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. “Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behavior,” says Professor Cooper. “Women are better at seeking support from their social circle.”

Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. “It’s like putting your head in the sand,” says Professor Cooper. “It might provide temporary relief, but it won’t make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.”

Help other people

Professor Cooper says evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient.

“Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective,” says Professor Cooper. “The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel.”

If you don’t have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favor every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues.

Work smarter, not harder

Working smarter means prioritizing your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference. “Leave the least important tasks to last,” says Cooper. “Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.”

Try to be positive

Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful.

“People don’t always appreciate what they have,” says Professor Cooper. “Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty,” he says.

Try writing down three things that went well, or for which you’re grateful, at the end of every day.

Accept the things you can’t change

Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.

“If your company is going under and is making redundancies, for example, there’s nothing you can do about it,” says Professor Cooper.

“In a situation like that, you need to focus on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job.”

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