Sunday, November 28, 2010

A reflection of a week of Family, Food, and Being Thankful...

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we have now entered into the crazy Christmas season. This week was really wonderful. With family it's always a tricky balance in deciding when to stand up for yourself (and now allow yourself to be a doormat!) and removing yourself from situations which will quickly disintegrate. I definitely got to practice this balance this weekend, and feel like I did a pretty good job balancing and maintaining the boundaries I have set. The time that I spent with some of my family members was incredibly precious to me, as I know time with them is very short.
I've been reflecting a lot on how different my life is now compared to last Thanksgiving. This year certainly had twists and turns and pain that I couldn't even imagine as I stuffed my face with Turkey last year. However, this year had lots of joy, laughter, traveling, and accomplishment that I will always remember. So, I guess when it comes down to it, I'm overwhelming thankful that I could stand with family and friends and survive the year, through the ups and downs, and still be able to laugh and love. Humans are surprisingly resilient, and I'm very thankful for this.

So now, the transition into parties, snacking, stress, planning, and celebrations is upon us. Instead of waiting until January 1st to "Start Over" or set healthy goals, why not start right now? The month of December doesn't have to be a waste in regards to your health. So why not take a few moments to reflect on your life and set a few small goals for the month to help you maintain health. (see my previous post for setting healthy goals that you will be successful in meeting!) Some possible categories: Stress, Organization, Food, Working Out, or Relationships. Let me know how you're taking control of your health during the holidays!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How to Write Goals for Successful Behavior Change

SMART is an acronym used to describe how to write goals in a way to create the highest likelihood that you’ll be able to meet your desired goals.  Goals like “I’m going to work out” or “eat better” or “sleep more” are very difficult to achieve. What does better mean? How do you know when better or more is achieved?  That’s why we need  SMART goals!

Specific: This answers the question who, what, and why of the behavior change. What do you want to accomplish by

Measureable: How will you measure your change in behavior? Include criteria for measuring the progress that you’re making.

Attainable: It’s fine to challenge yourself, but if your goal is outrageous, then you won’t achieve it. The more you experience success, the more motivated you will stay. If you can’t achieve your goal, then you need to re-write it.

Realistic: Is your goal do-able? Again, stretch yourself and write goals that take some effort to achieve, but not so much effort that you give up and fail.

Time-Oriented: What’s the time frame for your goal? Commitment to a set time allows you to work toward something specific.  Will you complete your goal at each meal, by the end of the month, or by the end of the year?

Other tips for setting and achieving your goals:

1.     Get others on board! Whether they are just supporting you or working towards the same goal, having others to keep you accountable and encourage you are crucial to success!
2.     Put your goals in a place you’ll see them every day (kitchen, bathroom mirror, etc…)
3.     Evaluate your goals and progress on a frequent basis!
4.     Come up with a way to reinforce your progress or goal attainment.
5.     Engage in positive self-talk!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Deep Breathing for a Healthy Life!

No matter what my clients are coming in for, I teach almost all of them the art of deep breathing. What...being taught how to breathe? I know, it sounds stupid. We've all been breathing longer then almost anything else we've done in life. However, very few of us breathe properly. I always say that this is one of the most healthy things you can do for yourself in the shortest amount of time. Throughout our daily lives we all experience stress. By using the deep breathing technique, we evoke a relaxation response within us, reducing tension, the level of stress hormones in our body, and increasing oxygen throughout our body.

So, here's how to do it.Find a quiet, non-stressful environment. Sit up straight, but relaxed. Close your eyes and place a hand on your stomach and a hand on your chest.
Normally when you breathe your shoulders move up and down. THIS IS INCORRECT. Your stomach should move in and out if you are breathing properly. As you breathe in slowly through your nose, your stomach should push out, as you exhale, your stomach should go back in (toward the direction of your backbone). Your hand should move out as you breathe in, and in as you breathe out. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Do each for a count of 8-10 seconds.
Remember in elementary school when you were learning basic addition, multiplication, etc... and you had to do those awful time tests? By doing them over and over again, it became so natural that most of us don't even need to think when adding 2+3 or 5+5 now. That's what practicing the art of deep breathing is. We need to practice it each day for it to become natural so we can use it in times of stress.
This is something you can do while sitting in class, in a meeting, at work, or when frustrated at your significant other, parents, or children.
Like I said, this is one of the most important things you could do for your health! And remember, in life we don't always get to choose what happens to us. We WILL encounter stress. But when we encounter those times, we get to choose how we respond, and deep breathing is a great way to choose a positive way to respond! 
Try setting a short among of time each day (5 minutes or so), or twice a day, to practice deep breathing. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Thankfulness Project

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.
-- Epictetus

If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.
-- Rabbi Harold Kushner 

November is now upon us, and Thanksgiving Day is rapidly coming. On Thanksgiving, everyone in my family writes down two things that we're thankful for from the past year. Then, after we finish dinner, we pass the pieces of paper around and grab two of them. We then read the two items and try to guess who wrote it. It's a fun game to play while we focus on the blessings that we've had this past year. However, I always get the feeling that thankfulness should be much bigger then just one day a year. 

Focusing on your blessings and being thankful in life has been proven to increase mood and decrease stress . In a blog by CNN, they summarize findings from thankfulness research the following way: "Doctors say giving thanks, taking the time to notice positive things in your life is not only good for your psyche but it's good for your body. University of California at Davis researchers found that practicing gratitude can lower your blood pressure and make you feel less hostile. Grateful people are less angry, less negative and usually look for the cup half full. Studies by Cornell University researchers have shown that those who are thankful appear to have lower risks of developing phobias, alcoholism, even depression. They even have stronger immune systems" ( Sounds pretty great, right? Something so "simple" and not time consuming at all can do wonders to help you shift to a positive outlook on life, which leads to numerous health benefits. 

So, that being said, we should ask the question "So now what?" That's why I love the idea of the Thankfulness Project. Basically, all you do is come up with 5 things you're thankful for every day and write them down. This can be done on facebook, twitter, or in your own personal journal. Not only does it force you to think of positive aspects of life in the moment, but when you're feeling down and negative, you can easily go back and read a list of positive things in life. The next time you're tempted to complain about something in life, why don't you try listing a few things you're thankful for first?

Here's an example from my life: Today I'm thankful for:
*An extra hour to sleep due to Daylight Savings Time :)
*A warm place to sleep when it's cold outside
*Being able to spend last night with a group of friends
*Apple Cider-I love fall foods!
*The fact that no matter what's going on, there will always be the sunrise the next day

So, will you join me in focusing on blessings and having a thankful heart? If you're on twitter, write #ThankfulnessProject next to your list:) Good luck, and enjoy focusing on your blessings!