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Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

By Sue Shekut, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It’s helpful to receive comments on this blog. Comments often lead to new resource and connections. A recent Working Well Resource commenter, Julituli, directed me to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky and her blog on Psychology Today, The How of Happiness.

I read through Dr. Lyubomirsky’s blog and found an intriguing post on Martin Seligman’s latest book, Flourish.

 

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Dr. Lyubomirsky’s review summarizes the premise of Dr. Seligman’s book, that we should focus on “flourishing” versus the overused term, “happiness.” Dr. Lyubomirsky makes the convincing agreement that, “Research reveals that happy people are not self-centered, gratification-seeking hedonists lacking in meaning or fulfillment.  To the contrary, hundreds of studies have shown that happiness relates and leads to such positive outcomes as creativity, productivity, effective coping, satisfying marriages, close friendships, higher earnings, longevity, and strong immune systems.” and she cites this as reason enough to continue to use the term “happiness.”

I’ve followed Dr. Selgiman’s work since I first heard the term “positive psychology.” His research has led to the creation of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness which teaches  resilience training for our nation’s soldiers to help them prevent incidences of PTSD and suicide and to help them cope with, not only the impact of serving in wartime, but of coming home to a life so different from what they experience in the field of battle.

Merriam Webster defines the word “flourish” as to grow well: to be healthy; to be very successful: to do very well, and to thrive. According to Amazon’s summary of Flourish, Dr. Seligman asks, “What is it that enables you to cultivate your talents, to build deep, lasting relationships with others, to feel pleasure, and to contribute meaningfully to the world? In a word, what is it that allows you to flourish? “Well-being” takes the stage front and center, and Happiness (or Positive Emotion) becomes one of the five pillars of Positive Psychology, along with Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment—or PERMA, the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment. ” In addition to stories of how the U.S. Army is now trained in emotional resilience, the book provides the reader with interactive exercises to help you explore your own attitudes and aims, with the goal of helping you get more out of life and to well, flourish!

If you want to learn more about how to Flourish, check out Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish.

To read more of Dr. Lyubomirsky’s blog, go to The How of Happiness.

Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky

Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D.

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30 Days of Gratitude- Day 1
Image by aussiegall via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Remember the old adage, to “count your blessings” as  a tool to feel better about your self and your life? Did you know that maintaining an actively grateful personality can actually provide stress relief?

Robert Emmons at the University of California, Davis and Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami have maintained a study that attempts to help its participants develop methods to cultivate gratitude in daily life and assess that gratitude’s effect on well-being. They say of the project:

“Gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research.  We are engaged in a long-term research project designed to create and disseminate a large body of novel scientific data on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude.  Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being.  Through conducting highly focused, cutting-edge studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, we hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept.”

In the research, the scientists had all participants keep diaries of their lives. One of the groups was instructed to specifically look for the positive things that had happened to them that day, and one was instructed to keep a diary as they normally might. Emmons and McCullough discovered that their participants showed a clear correlation between those who kept a “gratitude journal” and a number of positive factors, including exercising regularly, reporting fewer physical symptoms, feeling better about their lives as a whole, and feeling more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.  Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.

Not convinced? They also reported that a daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others).

Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com’s Stress Management Guide, reminds us that “although we are born with specific tempermental tendencies, the brain is a muscle, and you can strengthen your mind’s natural tendency toward optimism if you work at it.”

Scott offers some helpful suggestions for how to encourage gratitude in your own life:

  • Make Gentle Reminders – When you notice yourself beginning to feel negative, try to think of 4 or 5 related things for which you are grateful.
  • Be Careful With Comparisons – Focus on yourself, and stop comparing what you have and do to other people.
  • Keep a Gratitude Journal – Make it a habit to remind yourself of good things that happen to you every day.

Sue’s Gratitude List

I notice that when I am more consciously grateful of all the good things I have in my life: my family, my friends, my work, my clients, my health, my ability to travel and hike and see wonderful natural beauty as well as the Internet and all the “Dick Tracy” gizmo’s we now have to entertain and communicate, I have much better days and a happier demeaner!

I am grateful you are reading my blog!  Start your own gratitude list today and see how you feel. Just list 10 things you are grateful for. Share them with us in the comments if you feel inspired!

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What does exercise do to your brain? Specifically how can exercise improve your mood, your memory and your ability to process information aka your ability to think (cognate)?

Dr. Walter W. van den Broek, MD, PhD, (aka Dr. Shock), a Dutch Psychiatrist, has a website that answers these and many other questions about neuroscience for laypeople.  Read his blog post below to learn more about the effects of exercise on your brain.

Neuroscience of Exercise by Dr. Shock, MD

The Benefits of Exercise

  • In children, college students and young adults, exercise or physical activity improves learning and intelligence scores
  • Moreover, exercise in childhood increases the resilience of the brain in later life resulting in a cognitive reserve
  • The decline of memory, cortex and hippocampus atrophy in aging humans can be attenuated by exercise
  • Physical activity improves memory and cognition
  • Exercise protects against brain damage caused by stroke
  • Exercise promotes recovery after brain injury
  • Exercise can be an antidepressant

The brain needs certain ingredients to flourish or to life up to the expectations of every day problems. The brain has priority when it comes to certain ingredients. A variety of foods can be beneficial for learning. Positive effects on brain function have been reported for fish oil, teas, fruits, folate, spices, cocoa, chocolate and vitamins.

How does exercise improve the brain?

  • With exercise the number of neurons increase in the hippocampus, a brain structure important to memory and learning.
  • Also synaptic plasticity increases in a certain part of the hippocampus due to exercise: the dentate gyrus.
  • Spine density increases in certain parts of the hippocampus.
  • Exercise also increases and improves the small blood vessels throughout the brain.
  • Exercise can change the function of neurotransmitters and can activate the monoamine system.

And from Henriette van Praag, from Trends in Neuroscience:

Recent research indicates that the effects of exercise on the brain can be enhanced by concurrent consumption of natural products such as omega fatty acids or plant polyphenols. The potential synergy between diet and exercise could involve common cellular pathways important for neurogenesis, cell survival, synaptic plasticity and vascular function. Optimal maintenance of brain health might depend on exercise and intake of natural products.

Source:

van Praag, H. (2009). Exercise and the brain: something to chew on Trends in Neurosciences, 32 (5), 283-290 DOI. Read more here: 10.1016/j.tins.2008.12.007

Read D. Shock’s full article at his website here.

And for those that want to know more about exercise effects on your brain as you age, read more on Exercise, Experience and the Aging Brain at this abtract  here.

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By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

How many New Year’s Eves have you spent sipping champagne and vowing to get more fit in the coming year? And how many times have you failed to follow through?

“December 31 over a drink is too late to set goals and make promises,” says Justin Price, owner of The Biomechanics, a personal training and wellness coaching facility in San Diego, Calif.

Fall, on the other hand, is a great time to start a fitness program because “‘you’re going to create good habits for the holiday season and the upcoming winter months,” says Price.

Chris Freytag, a fitness instructor and fitness expert with Prevention magazine, agrees.

“With the change of seasons comes a renewed time to rethink and restart,” she says. “‘What’s so special about January?”

Besides, says Freytag, a mother of three, moms with school-aged kids “think of September as the new year.”

Here are 10 ways to start making the most of the season. And who knows? This year, you might be in great shape before that New Year’s Eve party rolls around.

1. Take advantage of the weather. Fall can be a treat for the senses: the crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin carving, a gorgeous canopy of fall foliage, and the crunch of leaves underfoot. These months are a great time to exercise outdoors and enjoy cooler temperatures.

“Walking, hiking and cycling are all awesome in the fall,” says Todd Durkin, MS, fitness coach and owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, Calif.

Discover park trails and take in some new scenery, whether you’re walking, biking, or in-line skating, he suggests.

In places where snow falls early, try cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Or, if you live near the beach, get out and play volleyball, throw the Frisbee around, or play a vigorous game of fetch with your dog.

“It’s a great time to do beach activities because it’s so much less crowded,” says Price.

If you’re near a lake, try kayaking or canoeing, for an excellent whole-body workout and a great change of pace.

And remember, it doesn’t have to seem like exercise to be a great workout.

“Raking leaves or doing some fall outdoor yard work is a great way to get the heart pumping, and it’s great calorie-burning,” says Freytag.

2. Think outside the box. Always wanted to learn to tap dance? Attempt to box? Master the jump rope? Ask any schoolchild: Fall is a great time to learn something new.

Many classes at gyms and elsewhere get started in the fall, so look around and see if something intrigues you.

And with the kids in school, parents have more time to check out those classes, Freytag says.

Fall is the perfect time to gain new physical skills, Price says, because you burn fewer calories when you begin a new activity (thanks to the learning curve). If you learn something new now, by next summer, you’ll have mastered the skill — and you’ll burn more calories doing it, just in time for swimsuit season.

3. Be an active TV watcher. Many people get geared up for fall premieres of their favorite television shows, says Freytag. “If you’re going to sit down and watch hours of TV, get moving,” she suggests. “Make a date with exercise and TV.”

While you watch, you can walk or run in place, do standing lunges, do tricep dips off the couch, or lift weights. During commercials, do push-ups or sit-ups. In a one-hour show, you probably have close to 20 minutes worth of commercial interruption.

4. Integrate exercise into your life. You already know the obvious suggestions: park farther away from your destination; take stairs instead of elevators; take a walk during your lunch break. Here are a few that are less obvious:

* If you’re spending the afternoon taking kids to soccer practice, instead of reading a book or visiting with another parent, “why not walk around the outside of the field while they practice?”, suggests Price. “Or (if you feel comfortable) warm up and cool down with the kids.”
* Or try “walking meetings,” like those Price and his colleagues at Biomechanics often hold. ‘”We go for a walk, we brainstorm, and we figure out who’s going to take what responsibilities,” says Price. “‘Things get achieved much more quickly,” he says, and everyone feels better for doing it.
* You can even get moving while you get motivated — for fitness or other life goals. ‘”Get some inspirational music or find a motivational talk and download it to your iPod,” suggests Durkin. Walk while you listen for 30 minutes.

5. Rejuvenate yourself. Fall is the time to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit, says Durkin. Get a massage after your run. Learn to meditate. Take an art class. Treat yourself not just with exercise but other activities that promote wellness, he says, so you can feel good physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

6. Remember the 30-day rule. “‘It takes about four weeks for the body to adapt to lifestyle changes,” says Price. That’s why people who give up on their fitness programs tend to do so within the first 30 days.

So, when the alarm goes off in the morning and it’s darker and colder, don’t roll over and hit the snooze button.

“Try to stick with a program for a month,” Price says. “After a month, behavior patterns will have adapted and it will be much easier to stick with it after that.”

7. Strive for the 3 Cs. Freytag calls commitment, convenience, and consistency “the three Cs”, and says having all three will lead to a successful fitness program.

First, exercise takes commitment. When a client complains to Freytag about a lack of time, she responds: “Tell me something I haven’t heard before. We’re all busy; that’s just part of our lives.

You have to start planning exercise, just like you do everything else,” like meetings, dinners, and getting kids to lessons and practice, she says. “Put in on the calendar, because later always turns into never.”

Convenience means choosing a gym that’s close by, or an activity you can do at home, or a time when you’re not likely to be interrupted.

Finally, there’s consistency. “I’d rather see a brand-new client work out for 10 minutes a day rather than one hour every month,” Freytag says

8. Deal with darkness. The best way to enjoy fall is to exercise outdoors. But it is getting darker earlier, and staying dark later in the morning, so be smart and safe.

“Just because it’s 6 p.m. (or a.m.) and dark doesn’t mean you can’t work out,” says Durkin. If walking or running outdoors, he says, “wear a reflective vest and carry a flashlight.”

When cycling, affix a light to your helmet or bike.

If possible, use trails or a local school track to avoid vehicle traffic. Try to work out at the same time every day, so drivers get used to seeing you.

9. Dress in layers. When exercising outside, layer your clothing. Before your body warms up, you may feel chilled, but once the blood gets pumping, you’ll feel overdressed.

These days, there’s no lack of great weather gear. Freytag and Price recommend clothing with wicking, often called “DriFit.”‘ This fabric wicks moisture away from your skin so you’re not exercising with wet fabric hanging on you.

Freytag suggests three layers: “The inner layer should be a moisture-wicking fabric, so it wicks away sweat and you’re not chilled. The second layer should be a warmth layer, and the third layer should be a protective layer (like a windbreaker or rain slicker, depending on the weather).”

“And don’t forget the sunglasses,” she warns. UV protection is important year round. Fall sun can be blinding at certain times of the day.

10. Find your motivation. “People are motivated by different things,” says Durkin. It’s important to first discover what your individual goals are, whether it’s losing weight, strengthening and toning, or preparing for a race or event, says Durkin.

But goals aren’t enough to get you there; you have to be motivated by the day-to-day workouts, he says. So choose something you’ll enjoy doing and will be likely to keep up, whether it’s walking or hiking with a friend, working with a trainer, or taking part in a “boot camp” class.

Creating a challenge for yourself will motivate you, as will encouragement and accountability, he adds. “You want to know when you’re doing a good job, and when you’re not,” says Durkin.

Remember too, that anything worth having takes work.

“Tell me something you can do three times a week for 10 minutes and be great at? It doesn’t exist,” he says. “If it was easy to be great, everybody would be great.”

Link to Barbara Russi Sarnataro’s article here

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Climbing stairs is a great way to pump fresh blood, (and thus, oxygen) into your brain, give yourself a break from a stressful day, and burn a few calories. Best yet, it can be fun.

In the 1960’s, Volkswagen made ugly cars fun with the Volkswagen Beetle. Now they are finding new ways to make exercise fun. A car company encouraging people to exercise? Now that is FUN!

Link to You Tube video!

From Volkswagen’s The Fun Theory website: We believe that the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better is by making it fun to do. We call it The Fun Theory. Link to The Fun Theory Website

Working Well agrees!

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In an article from Physorg.com, A new study shows that exercise boosts body image for both fit and unfit:

Attention weekend warriors: the simple act of exercise and not fitness itself can convince you that you look better, a new University of Florida study finds.

People who don’t achieve workout milestones such as losing fat, gaining strength or boosting cardiovascular fitness feel just as good about their bodies as their more athletic counterparts, said Heather Hausenblas, a UF exercise psychologist. Her study is published in the September issue of the Journal of Health Psychology.

“You would think that if you become more fit that you would experience greater improvements in terms of body image, but that’s not what we found,” she said. “It may be that the requirements to receive the psychological benefits of exercise, including those relating to body image, differ substantially from the physical benefits.”

The study by Hausenblas and graduate student Anna Campbell is the first to systematically analyze the wide-ranging effects of exercise on body image by examining all intervention studies on the subject until June 2008. From the 57 publications, the researchers found conclusively that exercise buffed up the way people see their bodies regardless of the actual benefits, but the results varied.

Negative body image has grown to almost epidemic proportions in the past 20 years, with as many as 60 percent of adults in national studies saying they don’t like the way their bodies look, Hausenblas said.

Americans spend billions of dollars a year for products designed to change their body size and shape, including diet pills and various cosmetic procedures, she said.

“Body dissatisfaction is a huge problem in our society and is related to all sorts of negative behavior including yo-yo dieting, smoking, taking steroids and undergoing cosmetic surgery,” she said. “It affects men and women and all ages, starting with kids who are as young as five years old saying they don’t like how their bodies look.”

The psychological advantages of exercise have been less explored, including the reduction of depression or confidence in body image, compared with the well-researched and understood physical benefits, she said.

Link to article here

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Experts share tips about choosing a fitness professional who can put you on the road to better health.
By Annabelle Robertson
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Laurie Heit couldn’t imagine working with a wellness coach. In fact, she didn’t even know what a wellness coach was — until one transformed her life.

A compulsive overeater, Heit had struggled with her weight since childhood. She went on diet after diet, and was finally ready to join Overeaters Anonymous when a friend told her about wellness coaching. She suggested Chere Bork, a registered dietitian and coach. Heit jumped at the chance.

After her first appointment, Heit was so impressed that she decided to do more. She has now had 12 telephone coaching sessions with Bork at a cost of $75 each. She insists they were worth every penny.

Although Heit has made significant improvements to her diet and lost weight, she says she’s gained something far more important. Through the coaching process, Heit discovered that losing weight wasn’t what she needed most. She longed to be at home with her family. So after debating the options, Heit quit her insurance job and became a full-time homemaker. She’s never been happier.

“My goal didn’t change, but how I got there did,” she explains. “The time and exploration of the right food plan helped me explore myself and my wants in life.”

Fitness Trends

According to a recent survey by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), “educated and experienced fitness professionals” now constitute the most important fitness trend in the world, having jumped from third to first place since last year. “Personal trainers” rose from seventh to third place.

“We want to be well. We yearn to be in control and feel better. We want more energy,” says Margaret Moore, founder of Well Coaches, the only health and wellness coaching certification program endorsed by the ACSM. “But there is an enormous gap between wanting to be well and the everyday reality of living with the mental and physical health penalties of overeating, underexercising, and having too little down time.”

That gap is growing. The CDC reports that more than 66% of adult Americans are overweight or obese.

Doctors’ Views on Wellness Coaching

That’s one of the reasons why Moore and other wellness coaches have been working to increase awareness about the field among medical professionals. Moore readily admits, however, that although the idea is becoming increasingly popular with the public, it’s only beginning to catch on with doctors.

“Physician referral to coaches is still at an early stage,” she says. “We don’t have reimbursement, and it’s going to take years to fall into place. We see grass-roots, small-scale doctors coming to us. But most physicians just aren’t into it yet. It’s still very new.”

One doctor who has embraced the idea is Michael Lano, MD. Director of the Ridgeview Clinics, a group of primary care facilities in suburban Minneapolis, Lano refers several patients a month to Bork.

“I’m a family physician and I always tell my patients that it’s my job to help them live a long, healthy life,” he says. “But 98% is their part, and that’s what the life coach helps with — everything from diet and exercise to emotional well-being. It’s the same thing that we [doctors] deal with, but she deals with it from a lifestyle perspective.”

Lano says he sees significant improvements in patients who work with Bork. Most begin exercising and eating better. Many make other important changes as well, which tend to have a boomerang effect on their overall outlook and lifestyle, as they did with Heit.

Ideal Candidates for Wellness Coaching

However, not everyone is a good candidate for wellness coaching, says Lano. Some may be too old or sick to change. Others may simply be unmotivated. The ideal patient is someone who may not be doing anything bad, but they’re not doing the good things, either, he says. “They’re not eating well. They’re not exercising. They’re stressed. They’re stuck. They’re not making progress.”

Jim Harburger found himself in that situation. The 66-year-old clinical psychiatrist began to gain weight 32 years ago when he abandoned his heavy smoking habit. Gradually, his weight began to creep from 165 pounds to 220 pounds.

Much of the problem, Harburger says, was stress from his high pressure job as the director of a large behavioral health organization. But the trigger was the daily gift of sweets offered by his secretaries, which Harburger found irresistible.

“The metaphor was that I was being eaten alive by my job, but I was actually eating to handle the anxieties from my work,” he says.

Harburger joined a gym. But like so many others, he found it hard to get there and went only sporadically. Desperate, he finally decided to hire a personal trainer. The gym recommended Ellen Albertson, a staff member who was a registered dietitian, a licensed nutritionist, a certified personal trainer, and a licensed corporate wellness coach.

Albertson began each session with 20 minutes of walking, during which time she and Harburger would talk.

“One might think I could walk on my own, but what she was doing was listening to me about my life, learning about how I managed eating, the stressors in my life, and my relationship to my body,” he explains. “She became familiar, almost like a good therapist, with all aspects of my life. And slowly, she built a relationship that I started to value.”

Albertson also helped Harburger manage his cravings. A self-confessed sugar addict, he likened it to withdrawal from cocaine. “I felt my body shaking, I couldn’t think, and I was in total transition for almost a week,” he says. “Now I know that if I have a cookie, I need to separate myself from what I am eating or I will just keep eating.”

The result? Harburger, who visits the gym almost every day now, dropped 40 pounds over a three-year period.

Albertson says she sees it all the time. People come in expecting to be told what to do, but what actually works best for them is to slow down, think about their goals, and then determine the path themselves.

“People are out of touch with their bodies. When you listen to your body, you eat when you’re hungry, you stop when you’re full, and you enjoy food for its rightful place in your life,” she says.

Looking for the Right Wellness Coach

Michael Arloski, PhD, is the author of Wellness Coaching for Lasting Change, a training manual used by several coaching programs, works with dozens of corporate clients, training them on the finer points of coaching for long-term lifestyle changes.

“We need to move from ‘prescribe and treat,’ or what I like to call ‘education and implore’ — where we’re begging someone to change after we give them a lot of information — to a coaching model where we’re advocating for change and becoming an ally with that person,” he says.

To determine whether a coach is reputable, Moore suggests checking references and asking for testimonials. Look for people with degrees or certification from reputable organizations such as WellCoaches and then interview them extensively about their background.

Moore advises choosing a coach who makes you feel the most energized and confident. You should be inspired after a coaching session, with lots of “Aha!” moments, as well as motivated about your ability to make needed changes in your life.

Plan to pay between $50 and $150 a session, and expect to spend at least three months with a coach before seeing meaningful progress, which is typically defined as the creation of two or three healthy new habits. And don’t hesitate to end the relationship if something doesn’t feel right.

In addition to his dramatic weight loss, Harburger says the changes have had a positive effect on his career. Harburger’s wellness coaching has led him to return to private practice and reduce his workweek to 75%.

“I struggled with giving myself permission to do that, but it was miraculous. Before, I would never have initiated that. Now, I feel so unencumbered,” he says. “It’s like I’m on constant vacation.”

Link to article in WebMD .

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