Category Archives: Well-being

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Motivational Monday- Life and Responsiveness

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Wellness Wednesday: 5 Practices to Start Your Day

Love it or Hate it, we set our clocks forward this week.  Therefore, if you are someone who normally gets up at 6 a.m. it will feel as though it is actually 5 a.m. for a little while until internal rhythms adjust and the break of dawn re-centers more in our favor.

So what are a few ways to help jump start your days?

Hydration – if we are properly hydrating throughout the day, we are ingesting water regularly and not taking 7-9 hour gaps.  However, obviously, we don’t drink while we are asleep.  Be sure to have a glass of water in the morning.

Some swear by warmer temperature to the water and the addition of lemon juice (for alkalinity).  It’s likely not as important to get hung up with “how” to drink the water versus simply investing in ourselves  and the day upon us by doing it.  Find what works for you.

Commit Yourself to Consistency – In this instance I am mostly referring to sleep and bed times.  Yes, going to bed is the night before versus the current day.  However, a consistent bed time can help regulate circadian processes including hormonal regulation.  Go to bed early enough to account for time it takes to fall asleep AND obtain sufficient duration.  Furthermore, allow yourself to rise at a consistent time.  In fact, a well-trained sleeper doesn’t even need an alarm clock!

With respect to adjusting to the time change, if you normally go to bed at 9 p.m., even though it feels early and your body may think it’s still 8 p.m., still go to bed.  If you simply can not bring yourself to actually sleep at this time, try various relaxation techniques and be sure to power down electronics a minimum of 1 hour before bed.  This will help reduce the disruption technology can have on us.

*Important side note; studies have suggested that sleep helps aid detoxification.  See two links at the bottom of this post.

Shake Your Money Maker & “Move It” – Does this mean you have to dance?  No.  Although, I’m not a stranger to recommending it!  It does mean you should take part in, at minimum, light physical activity as part of your start of day routine.

This is a good time to emphasize activity that has flow to it, such as gentle movement options.  While at rest and lying down, spinal discs fill up a fluid like substance and at are at their fullest when you rise.  Although this is a natural occurrence that serves a function, it can still inadvertently cause a little havoc in the morning if abrupt activity occurs before the body is ready to take it on.  Adequately limbering up by taking care to understand appropriate types of movement can help prevent injury.

There is also truth to the “morning stretch”.  Need a suggestion, watch Fido.  Animals instinctively take upon movement and stretches as needed upon rise.  Follow this link for a Livestrong article written by Linda Ray on this topic.

Power Up – hey you in the Starbuck’s line grabbing your own the go coffee and pastry!  We see you.  In fact, many of you we notice DAILY!  Do you really think with all the biochemical interactions our bodies endure on a daily basis that’s going to cut it?  Nope!

Studies have shown that children receiving adequate breakfast performed better based on cognitive and behavioral metrics.  This doesn’t just go away because we have become adults.  Substantial nutrition, particularly in the beginning half of the day, can help bring about focus, mental clarity, and overall productivity.  Therefore, allow yourself time to eat a good breakfast and make sure you are getting up early enough for this, even if you prep the night before.

Make sure your morning meal is both macro- and micro-nutrient focused.  In that you are including a balance across protein-fat-carbohydrates AND taking in food choices that are considerate of content with high nutritious value.  For more tips on how to do this, keep following this blog and/or look back through some of my previous suggestions or referrals for meal planning and recipes.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Finally, we can’t control the weather.  We can, however, control the attitude in which we set forth on our day with.  Put on your happy face and go with it.

– Keep Calm & Wellness On….

The brain flushes out toxins in sleep, and poor sleep associated with buildup of Alzheimer’s toxins : Discoveries, Oct 22, 2013.

How Sleep Clears the Brain, Oct 28, 2013.

 

Motivational Monday: Marathons & Life’s Journeys

Yesterday was the Chicago marathon.  Since moving to Chicago in 2011, it has become an annual tradition to cheer the thousands of runners and wheel chair racers.

The event is quite motivational to observe and many people come out to watch one of Chicago’s best “parades”.  For many spectators, it turns into quite the social affair with outrageous signs, creative outfits, various noise makers, and planned brunches at places along the course.  The positive energy can be infectious!

Each year has demonstrated its own sense of character.  One year, I had three out of town friends who traveled in order to run it and my cell phone was signed up for the tracking notifications..  (Talk about an added boost to the exhilaration from watching the event!)  This year, one sign that became the hit of social media for the day read “I complete Netflix marathons”.

As the sign implies, the theme of “marathon” can take on multiple meanings and purpose.  It can indicate a literal showing of athletic sportsmanship or it can be a figurative representation for various journeys throughout life; each with time committed and a respective end goal.  I have come to hold particular appreciation for the term marathon used as an analogy for one’s health journey.  This can be significantly relatable for one who is working very hard to send a chronic condition into remission.

Training for a marathon requires intent, commitment, and following a plan.  However, it also requires key aspects of resilience.  Beyond having the ability to get back up when one falls, it is the self-awareness to know when to take slower steps toward the end goal.  As the photo below reveals, there may be a few storm clouds along the way, but further down the path, the sun will shine.

For this week’s Motivational Monday, it is only suiting to focus on life’s journeys and many accomplishments.  Whether they are health related or not, each deserves its own form of “hurrah” for completion.

Congratulations Chicago Marathon entries and for all of you completing your own versions of marathons throughout your daily lives!

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Running is in the Air

Fall is in the air… 

For many Americans, the Fall season is a time to think about pumpkins, hot chocolate, changing color of the leaves, and, without further ado, football.  I, however, don’t care much for watching football and hold an even greater apprehension towards the less than healthy food options that go along with spectatorship.  Stadium concessions and sports bars aren’t exactly targeting the “clean eating” crowd and most spectating involves extra hours of sitting, something I do enough of during the work week.

Without disrespect to those that love this way of life as one of American’s greatest past times, I have come to accept that with football season, I will lose 50% or more of my social circle on “game days”.  Therefore,

…I must find delightful diversions for myself.

Summer’s heat and humidity, as well as the strong temptation to make a beach day, typically wreak havoc on my running game plan.  Yet, the Fall season is a great time to reverse this pattern and up my game at the practice of running.  Cooling temperatures and generally clear mornings create an ideal outdoor environment for hitting the trail, city streets, or neighborhood path.

Although not for everyone, running has been a great activity for weight loss and maintenance, physical endurance, and overall peace of mind for me.  Often, I have found greater mental clarity on or after a run.  However, I wasn’t always a runner.  Running laps or short distances for conditioning was a regular component of my training protocol in high school and college sports, but the “fever” that many people experience from running was something I never caught.

Embrace and gain focus.

Alas, I learned to get over it.  Through trials and tribulations with progress here, setbacks there, I eventually became a runner in my early 30’s.  The biggest hurdle was to quit making excuses.  In order to gain this mental clarity, I had to get over myself in many ways.  Part of this strategy included overcoming a perfectionist mentality while accepting that less active times were o.k. and not reason to throw in the bag.  In fact, as I learned from a collection of seasoned experts, taking rest periods in running can be beneficial to the body and more helpful than hurtful for long term athleticism.  After several years of taking a stab, then giving up, I finally paced myself to a reasonable running protocol.

The iconic slogan of Nike, “Just Do It”®, is a pretty good one for running motivation.  It also embodies the classic “K.I.S.S.” principle; keep it simple stupid (or silly as I prefer to use).  Finding the subtle joys in it versus focusing on any negatives has been the easiest way for me to let go and embrace running.  Now, about 8 years of greater focus to include running in my physical activity protocol and approximately 5 years of taking the practice more seriously in terms of setting goals and entering timed races, I jump for joy for Autumn weather.  After all,

…Fall, is now running season in my play book of life!

National Holidays – A pleasant time to remember mindfulness

For many working Americans, a national (or federal) holiday brings about feelings of “yippee”.  It could mean a 3- or 4-day weekend from work, time to take a vacation, or the opportunity to attend a special, themed event.

In reflection of the Labor Day weekend, I am reminded of the idea of mindfulness.  Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as (1) the quality or state of being mindful or (2) the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis (2015).

The idea of mindfulness is referenced often in health and wellness promotion.  We even have a division of medicine exclusively focused on the area; Mind-body Medicine[1].  The concept of mindfulness can be a critical one to incorporate into efforts that support participant behavior change which is particularly relevant to chronic conditions or overall behavior in support of maintaining physiological wellness, absent of diagnosis.  Therefore, I like to find opportunities to link to the concept.

Holidays can be a great time to remind ourselves to slow down, connect with family or social networks, and, overall, find opportunities for joyfulness.  They can also be great times to take inventory of personal priorities.  I have found that 3-day weekends present an excellent opportunity to take a personal productivity day that may not have been available otherwise.  This can help bring about balance to an often hectic lifestyle and, therefore, contribute to greater mindfulness as we move forward into the next days, months, seasons, and/or years.

This Labor Day weekend, I delicately balanced time with friends and my dog with the management of a few personal affairs.  In Chicago, we were fortuned with late summer weather so, naturally, a trip to the Lake Michigan waterfront was included.

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Often, on weekends, I am furiously managing google alerts and personal e-mails not reviewed during the week, running errands, cleaning my apartment, working out and planning fitness regimes, and preparing meals for the next work week to come.

This weekend, however, I powered down for most all of Saturday and Sunday.  Then, used Monday to gradually re-power up, so to speak, and caught up on a few personal affairs.  In hopes to avoid a “case of the Mondays” (only this week on Tuesday), I avoided an excessive, over planned schedule.  This further allowed for awareness of the various moments and presented better opportunity to be fully present within them.

…I hope that many were able to do the same.

In further support of this concept, Raquel Vasallo’s 20 Signs You’re A Spiritually Healthy Person is a great reminder for a big picture view of living mindfully (2014).

[1] For information about Mind-Body Medicine visit The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s website “about” section; http://cmbm.org/about/what-is-mind-body-medicine/.

References:

Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.  (2015).  Mindfulness.  Dictionary.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindfulness on September 7, 2015.

Vasallo, R.  (2014, July 2010).  20 Signs You’re A Spiritually Healthy Person.  Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14440/20-signs-youre-a-spiritually-healthy-person.html on August 1, 2015.