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6 Ways Fitness Makes You Successful

6 Ways Fitness Makes You Successful

It’s 8:25 p.m. and you’re working late.  Again. The boss has gone home,  along with most of your coworkers. But  not you: you’re still chained to your  desk, and you’ll probably be there  for a while.

Over the last few months you’ve been cranking through work, though.  You’ve  pulled ahead of your competition, and you figure a significant  promotion — along with a bigger paycheck and more responsibility — is  right around the  corner.

Sure, you feel rundown and you’ve put on some weight. But you just  haven’t  had much time to sleep, much less shop for and prepare healthy  food. And the  prospect of squeezing in a workout when there is so much  to do seems  laughable.

Here’s what you tell yourself: I’ll work out when I clear these  projects. I’ll sleep after I get the promotion. I’ll start eating  better when the kids start school.

It’s a scenario familiar to many of us: too much on our plates, not  enough  hours in the day, and a persistent feeling that any time away  from work means  lost time, money and accomplishments.

Many of us have been brainwashed into thinking that stress and poor  health  are the price of success. We may even see our rundown bodies as  evidence of our  unflagging dedication to the demands of our careers.

New research shows that this zero-sum view of work and working out is   flawed. Far from detracting from your productivity and efficiency,  regular  exercise can make you smarter, and more effective, resilient and successful. And this is true whether your “profession” involves  tackling corporate mergers or taking your kids to soccer  practice.

In addition to helping you look and feel better, time invested in  upgrading  and maintaining your fitness repays itself many times over in  ways that  psychologists, brain experts and other researchers are only  beginning to  understand. And putting even a little effort into upgrading  your health and  fitness can have a surprisingly dramatic effect on your  professional  performance.

Fit for Success

You may have been hired for your brain power. But the condition of  your body  could matter more than you realize, particularly as you climb  the corporate  ranks. A 2005 survey conducted by TheLadders.com  found that 75 percent of top executives considered being physically fit  “critical to career success” and being overweight “a serious career  impediment” to advancement.

It turns out that employees’ salaries are influenced by how closely  their  body weight approximates an “ideal,” which frequently and unfairly  differs by  gender. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2011  found that slender women out-earned their overweight female  colleagues by a  significant margin. Men of moderate weight, meanwhile,  earned more than both  slender men and overweight men.

Being thin, in other words, tends to be an advantage for women and a   disadvantage for men. Being heavy is a disadvantage for both.

It’s unfortunate, to say the least,  that these sorts of prejudices   persist. Until attitudes change, though, it means that if you’re  overweight,  you’ll probably be operating at some level of professional  disadvantage.  Getting into better shape could give your earning power a  direct boost; it  could also benefit your confidence and self-esteem in  ways that amplify your  job performance.

That’s why Phyllis R. Stein, a career counselor from Cambridge,  Mass., with  more than 36 years in the business, says: “Whether you’re  looking for your next  job or trying to reach the next rung on the  corporate ladder, I consider  exercise an essential job-related  activity.”

Stress Case

Cultural biases notwithstanding, success-oriented people have plenty  of good  reasons to work out regularly, says Stein. One of the best:  Exercise improves  energy while decreasing stress and amplifying mental  focus.

Consider cortisol, a steroid hormone that regulates your energy   throughout the day. Under normal conditions, cortisol levels peak early  in  the morning to get you going, and then gradually decline as the day  progresses,  leaving you mellowed out and ready to sleep at bedtime. A  hectic work  environment can throw this natural circadian cycle into  disarray. Commuter  traffic, an irate boss or an impending deadline can  create small cortisol  spikes during your day, each one followed  immediately by a sharp decline in  energy and mood.

Worse, many stressed-out workers turn to junk food, sugary  snacks and caffeinated energy drinks to keep themselves going — all of which  can make the hormonal roller-coaster ride even wilder. Months of this  routine  can exhaust and ultimately kill off some of your brain’s  stress-regulating  neurons, leaving you perpetually listless.

“When you’re chronically stressed, the normal daily cortisol cycle  can  flip,” says Tom Nikkola, CSCS, CISSN, director of nutrition and  weight  management for Life Time Fitness in Chanhassen, Minn. “This can  leave you  barely able to get out of bed in the morning, but too keyed up  to sleep at  night.”

Though it may seem like a minor, inevitable annoyance to the  ambitious  white-collar warrior, sleep deprivation actually comes with a  steep economic  price. One 2004 study estimated that sleep disruption of  various kinds cost  Australia more than $4.5 billion annually in the form  of lost work, reduced  productivity and accidents — 0.8 percent of the  gross domestic product.

Here again, exercise can come to the rescue. “Easy movement, like  walking or  low-key yoga, before bedtime nudges the parasympathetic  nervous system into  gear, diffusing stress and helping to calm you  down,” Nikkola says. Even 10 to  20 minutes of stretching before hitting  the sack, for instance, could keep you  from tossing and turning,  resulting in an additional hour of slumber. And when  you’re sleeping  better at night, you’re also less likely to reach for the junk  food and  energy drinks that can wreak havoc with your daily energy cycle.

If you’re willing to kick your intensity up a notch to the “moderate”  level  (the equivalent of a brisk walk or anything that gets your heart  pumping), you  get other benefits, including improved mental focus. A  2008 study found that 45  to 60 minutes of a midday group exercise class  improved the mood, performance  and concentration of white-collar  workers.

“The clear and positive benefits of exercising only accrue on the  days when  it happens,” notes the study’s lead researcher, Jim McKenna,  PhD, professor of  physical activity and health at Leeds Metropolitan  University in the United  Kingdom. A second study, published in 2010 in  the journal Pain Med,  showed that just 10 minutes of exercise produced measurable reductions in  anxiety and depression.

So rather than skip that yoga class when you’re facing a day loaded  with  challenges, it’s probably wise to make it an even higher priority.  “You should  treat your workout like it’s the most important meeting you  have all week,” Nikkola says.

Reclaim Your  Brain

“When you’re stressed, your brain busies itself trying to keep you  safe from  threat — real or imagined,” says Sascha du Lac, PhD, associate  professor of  neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies  in San Diego.  Self-preserving thoughts can monopolize the brain space  that could otherwise be  used for scanning your environment, accessing  memories and relating to other  people.

Fortunately, physical exercise can help heal and hone the very same mental  abilities that are sabotaged by everyday stressors.

Picture yourself hiking or running on a trail. Though you’re not  conscious  of it, this relatively simple, pleasurable activity requires  you to make  hundreds of split-second choices — about foot placement,  balance and  navigation, for example — which can improve your capacity to  think, feel and  relate to others.

“The cerebellum, the area of the brain traditionally associated  mainly with  movement, is also involved with higher functioning, like  planning, socializing,  abstract thought — even creativity and emotional  intelligence,” explains  Elizabeth Beringer, director of the Feldenkrais  Institute of San Diego and  editor of Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe  Feldenkrais (North Atlantic Books, 2010).

“When you exercise regularly, your attention can broaden and shift at  will,” adds du Lac, “away from fearful, self-preserving thoughts and  onto what’s  actually going on around you: the responses of your  coworkers, your own  insights and ideas, the specific demands of the task  at hand.”

Psychological research has also shown that, for many people, a  regular  exercise routine is a “keystone” habit: a behavior that sets off  a chain  reaction of seemingly unrelated positive behavioral changes. In  a 2006 study  published in The British Journal of Health Psychology,  researchers  found that sedentary people placed on an exercise program  voluntarily began  smoking less, drinking fewer alcoholic and caffeinated  drinks, and eating  healthier. They also did more household chores, used  their credit cards less  often, and kept up more diligently with study  and work obligations. Everything  in their lives that required  self-discipline, in other words, became easier — almost by magic.

“Regular exercise builds self-regulatory resources,” explains Todd   Heatherton, PhD, professor of psychology and brain sciences at Dartmouth   College and an expert in habitual behavior and addiction. This ability  to  self-regulate, or exert willpower, say researchers, may be the most  significant  key to success in any work environment — it’s what  allows you to stick  to a task when others give up, and to overcome  obstacles that at first seem  insurmountable.

Small Changes, Real  Results

Improvements in mood, energy and productivity aren’t affected   significantly by the type of exercise you choose, so don’t fret too much   about whether you should be getting your work-enhancing boost from  yoga, a Zumba class or a run around the lake. The key is to do  something you enjoy — and maybe something a little novel as well.

“Learning is inherently enjoyable to humans,” says Beringer. “It  lights up  pleasure centers in the brain.” So mix things up, and try to  include activities  that build in some variety and progression, like team  sports, dance or martial  arts.

Also keep in mind that if your primary fitness goal is to boost your  work  performance, you can begin with a relatively small commitment of  time. “Researchers believe that 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous  exercise, a few  times a week, is all you need to see positive  adaptations in the brain,” says  du Lac. “You can do that all at once or  in small segments throughout your  day.”

And when you can’t spare even that much time and effort, just use  your head. “Imaginary movement lights up the same areas in the brain  that real movement  does,” says du Lac. Clinical studies show that  athletes who visualize an  unfamiliar exercise see gains in strength and  power similar to those who  actually practice the movement.

So when work is pushing you to the limit, spend a few minutes  daydreaming  about a jog down the beach, complete with the feeling of wet  sand beneath your  feet and the smells and sounds of the ocean. The  process could confer at least  some of the same benefits of a real  workout.

Of course, you’ll get the most significant advantages from moving  your  entire body on a regular basis. And now that you know the extent to  which your  professional future depends on it, you may find yourself  more motivated to do  just that.

The Efficient  Workout

If driving to and from the gym for an exercise class just isn’t in  the  cards, try these easy ways to get in a fat-burning, muscle-building  workout on  a busy day:

  • Hop in the saddle. Consider bike commuting. You get  to  skip the stress-filled commute, burn some calories, reduce your  carbon  footprint and save gas money all at the same time. Bonus: It’s  tough to flake  out on your after-work exercise routine when the bike is  your only way  home.
  • Grab a bell. A kettlebell, that is. Pick up a hefty  one at  your local sporting-goods store and stash it underneath your  desk at work. In  10 minutes, you can do a full-body, low-impact workout  that puts the treadmill  to shame.
  • Climb a skyscraper. Racing up the service stairs of  tall  city buildings is becoming an increasingly popular urban sport —  in large part  because it’s tough. If you work in a high-rise, lace on  your running shoes, hit  the stairs and scamper up 10 or more flights as  fast as you can. Take the  elevator back down (for recovery), if you’d  like, and repeat two to four more  times.
  • Make like a monkey. Mount a chin-up bar in the  doorway to  your office, and do a single pull-up every time you go in or  out. Can’t do a  pull-up yet? Stick with the self-assisted, jump-and-pull  variety until you can,  which will be soon, because you’ll net dozens of  reps per day. To avoid angry  memos from the boss, get a bar that mounts  over the door jamb — not one that  requires screws and a drill.

Fitness Tips for the  Time-Starved

“Keeping active doesn’t have to mean taking up residence at the gym,”  says  Elizabeth Beringer, director of the Feldenkrais Institute of San  Diego and  editor of Embodied Wisdom: The Collected Papers of Moshe Feldenkrais (North  Atlantic Books, 2010). “The trick is to make movement a natural  part of  your day rather than another thing you have to make time for.”

  • Sound the alarm. “Staring at a computer screen can  pull  your attention away from your body. People often sit motionless in  front of  them for hours on end, and only later realize they’re in pain.”  So instead of  waiting till your lower back is begging for mercy, set an  alarm that tells you  to get up and stretch every 20 minutes or so.  These micro-breaks will help  stave off aches and improve your focus.
  • Reach out. Ergonomic experts will tell you to set  up your  workstation so that everything you need is right in front of  you. Beringer  suggests going the opposite route: “Extending your arms is  extremely  pleasurable, and we almost can’t do it enough,” she says. “So  put some things  you regularly need — important documents, a file  cabinet, the phone — an arm’s  reach away so that you have to extend and  shift in your chair every so  often.”
  • Rise up. Every hour or so, get out of your chair.  Go  refill your water bottle. Do some deep lunges and a few pushups.  Schedule a  walking meeting. Make a point of getting vertical several  times throughout your  day. You can also experiment with working at a  counter or other standing-height  surface.
  • Go mobile. “Mobile devices like cell phones were designed  to help us be more mobile,” says Beringer. “But few people take full  advantage of  that.” So don’t hunker down at your desk during a cell-phone call  when  you could be walking around the room or climbing stairs. Attending to   your body’s need for movement helps you think, interact and perform your  job  better.

By , Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness  publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic  lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in  favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com   to learn more and to sign  up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe  to the print or digital version.

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101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy

101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy

In December 2010, Experience Life launched RevolutionaryAct.com, a microsite inspired by a feature article and accompanying manifesto in the January 2011 issue of Experience Life magazine. It’s based on the conviction that “being healthy is a revolutionary act” — one that requires renegade perspectives, unconventional choices and strong social support. We invite you to become part of this positive movement intent on creating a healthier world by signing up at RevolutionaryAct.com. In the meantime, we’re excited to share “101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy” with you.

·         Defy convention

Do the healthy thing, even when it’s challenging, inconvenient or considered weird. Take pride in that.

·         Buck trends

Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s smart or good for you. Enlist fellow trend buckers and create a trend of your own.

·         Rage against the machine

Use your healthy frustration about the unhealthy status quo to spark creativity and determination.

·         Celebrate what’s good

Look for signs of progress (beyond pounds lost) and rejoice when you find them. Give yourself a pat on the back every time you make your health a priority.

·         Repossess your health

Reclaim responsibility for your well-being; own your daily choices; minimize your reliance on the broken sick-care system.

·         Redefine your role

You are not a “healthcare consumer.” You are a human being. You may be experiencing an illness or other health challenge right now, but remember that good health is your body’s natural state.

·         Practice medicine without a license

Research your own conditions and treatment alternatives, ask questions, and seek second opinions with impunity. Leverage the expertise of trained pros, but don’t allow it to eclipse your own informed instincts about what’s best for you.

·         Minimize symptom suppression

Make whole-person vitality, well-being and resilience your goal. Partner with healthcare pros who understand and support your desire to be fully healthy with a minimum of medical intervention.

·         Safeguard your juju

Don’t let yourself get run down, depressed, negative or reactive. That’s when immunity drops, inflammation rages, and unhealthy tendencies strike.

·         See the bigger picture

Yes, this is about you, but your well-being also affects everyone and everything around you. When you get healthier, everybody benefits.

·         Be part of the solution

It’s going to take a lot of strong, clear-headed, high-vitality people to solve the world’s problems. Be one of them.

·         Go at your own pace

A healthy life is more a marathon than a sprint. So start where you are. Choose sensible, sustainable shifts over instant cures and quick fixes.

·         Be proactive

If you feel a cold, flu or nasty headache coming on, take evasive maneuvers. Rest. Refuel. Reconnect. Rebuild your immunity and vitality. There’s no heroism in ignoring your body’s needs.

·         Leverage your big “whys”

Know the specific reasons your health matters to you. Write them down where you’ll see them daily.

·         Raise your sights

Don’t get sucked in by obsessions with six-pack abs and buns of steel. Don’t play “compare the bodies.” Fulfill your best-self vision.

·         Learn the skills

Healthy, fit people have learned how to be healthy. Learn those skills, practice them, and you’ll be healthy, too.

·         Reap the rewards

Look and feel better, sure. But also think better, smell better, give better, love better, live better, be better.

·         Focus on the fundamentals

Drink water, eat good food, move, rest, relax, connect. Don’t sweat the more complex stuff until you’ve got a grip on the basics.

·         Fake it till you make it

Don’t yet see yourself as a super-healthy person? Experiment with doing a little of what you’d do if you were already supremely healthy and fit. As often as you can, act as if your commitment were unwavering.

·         Aim for 85%

You don’t have to make 100% healthy choices all the time. It’s what you do most of the time — day in, day out — that counts. The healthier you get, the easier and more automatic healthy choices will become.

·  Brush and Floss

Your teeth and gums are a huge determining factor in your whole-body well-being. They’re also an easy place to start demonstrating your commitment to whole-person health on a daily basis.

·  Eat fresh

Trade dead, packaged goods for foods that are fresh, alive and full of high-vibe goodness. Figure out where to find them, learn to juice/slice/dice them, and eat them with great pleasure.

·  Eat more plants

There’s a long list of phytonutrients and other good stuff in vegetables, fruits and legumes that you can’t get any other way. Put plants at the center of your plate for as many meals and snacks as you can.

·  Don’t fall for fakery

Processed, fake, diet and imitation ingredients burden and inflame your body, contributing to chronic disease. And there’s no clinical proof that artificial sweeteners and fat-free products support weight loss or do any part of you any good.

·  Learn to cook

Get a dozen healthy, whole-food recipes under your belt, and your life will be forever changed. Start by mastering one.

·  Have breakfast

Let there be protein, produce, healthy fats and fiber in it. A good breakfast wards off energy dips, brain fog and afternoon cravings.

·  Watch your reactions

40% of U.S. adults have an intolerance to gluten; 70% to dairy. Know if you’re one of them. Digestive, skin, joint, energy and mood problems may be your first clue.

·  Beware the USDA Food Pyramid

It is a whole lot healthier for Big Ag and Big Business than for humans. Fill two-thirds of your plate with an array of vegetables, add in some other whole foods you enjoy, and don’t let the rest of the Pyramid’s propaganda confuse you.

·  Approach ADA guidelines with a healthy dose of doubt

The American Dietetic Association is sponsored by processed-food corporations and staffed by former food-company execs. Their pro-processed-food advice is often colored by that, and their calorie-counting obsessions are profoundly counterproductive.

·  Go easy on the sugar and flour

These two ingredients (combined with unhealthy industrial vegetable oils) have a starring role in most packaged foods we eat. More than any other culprit, they fuel inflammation, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer.

·  Savor what you eat

The foods you rush into your body tend to create more problems than they solve. Take your time and consciously enjoy every single bite. Notice as your hunger diminishes.

·  Care where food comes from

Know your food’s history, and you’ll want to consume more selectively. Most factory-farmed and industrially produced foods aren’t all that appetizing once you know their origins.

·  Go for quality, not quantity

An ounce of wonderful is far better than a whole mess of mediocrity. Most beige, starchy and supersized foods are not worth eating.

·  Move it out

A healthy person poops every day. Twice a day, maybe more. How’s your fiber and water intake? (Also, see #28.) A clogged up colon wreaks havoc on your whole body.

·  Read labels

Don’t worry so much about the calories, grams and RDAs. Read the ingredients. Most ingredient lists begin with some combination of enriched wheat flour, sugar and oil. Avoid foods like that. Also avoid foods with long lists of ingredients you don’t recognize.

·  Ignore labels

Most of the marketing claims are meaningless, and a lot of the data is confusing. Most of the very best foods (in the produce department) have precisely one ingredient and, often, no labels at all.

·  Say no to soda

Both regular and diet soft drinks stimulate a pro-inflammatory insulin response, trigger cravings, acidify the body, decay your teeth and leach minerals out of your bones.

·  Ask for what you want

If you want extra this, none of that, something on the side, X in place of Y, broiled instead of fried, and everything prepared just so — say so. Being picky about what you put in your body is nothing to be ashamed of. Picky eaters unite!

·  Drink a lot of water

The health of every cell and synapse depends on it. And when you’re dehydrated on a regular basis —even a little — your metabolism, energy and immunity all suffer mightily.

·  Filter your water

You’ll drink more when it tastes pure and you know it’s clean. If plain water doesn’t turn your crank, enjoy water with a slice of lemon, orange, cucumber, or a splash of juice. Or try herbal tea instead.

·  Love what you’ve got

Treat your body with respect and appreciation. Focus on what it can do, not what it can’t. Find something to celebrate, not something to criticize.

·  Redefine your goals

If you’ve been trying to lose weight and struggling, make it your goal to get superbly healthy and fit instead. And then don’t be surprised when the excess weight starts melting off.

·  Beware artificial hungers

Notice what triggers your sudden desires and uncontrollable appetites. Stress and anxiety both masquerade as hunger. Find better ways of dealing with them or warding them off.

·  Identify real hungers

You can’t eat or spend your way out of loneliness, fear, boredom or lack of meaning. Find healthy ways to honor and shift them, instead.

·  Be human

Cut yourself a little slack now and then, and forgive yourself your unhealthy trespasses. Learn what you can from them, and then move on.

·  Make being healthy easier

Self-restraint is a limited resource. Do everything in your power to make healthy choices automatic choices and to keep unhealthy temptations out of range.

·  Don’t believe the hype

Give up on gimmicks, fads and instant fixes. Most miraculous weight-loss schemes do more harm than good, and yo-yo dieting is a recipe for weight gain.

·  Look beyond unrealistic role models

Find your inspiration in people whose lives and goals have some relevance to your own. Also remember that most of the pictures you see of celebrities and fitness models have been extensively retouched.

·  Question authority

Big organizations like the FDA, USDA, AHA, AMA and ADA all struggle under real limitations and conflicts of interest. Know and understand them.

·  Face the facts

Your body is a mirror: It reflects your choices, your priorities, your habits, your attitudes and your quality of life. If you don’t like your body, be willing to change the way you are living.

·  Maintain a morning practice

Take a few minutes each sunup to set your intentions, take a few breaths, read an inspiring passage and start the day on your own terms. You may be shocked at the difference it makes.

·  Move your body

Every day, every which-way you can, in as many ways as you enjoy. Movement nourishes your body, clears toxins, and reduces the inflammation that breeds illness and irritation.

·  Reframe exercise as a privilege

You don’t have to exercise. You get to exercise. Visit a person whose mobility is severely limited, and you’ll appreciate the distinction. Do what you can, and count yourself lucky.

·  Break a sweat

The more often, the better. Sweat is a signal that your metabolism is switching into a higher gear. Sweat is weakness, complacency and toxicity leaving the body.

·  Stay strong

More muscle and sinew means more capacity to do anything. Don’t let age, aches and pains, or lack of time be your excuses for abandoning your strength.

·  Maximize your mitochondria

Every time you exercise, you upgrade your body’s energy-and-vitality factories and build your metabolism.

·  Find your fitness edge

Flirt with it in ways that feel good and exhilarating. Bursts of high-intensity exercise trigger positive, dramatic changes and help catalyze the body’s healing response.

·  Get past body envy

Release supermodel and celebrity obsessions. Translate your desire for a fitter, more beautiful body into positive, self-respecting daily action that nourishes you and makes you stronger.

·  Embrace meditation

There are few life skills that will pay of as handsomely or give you as much peace and healthy perspective. Even a few minutes of meditation a day can trigger positive transformations in your biochemistry, neurology — even your DNA.

·  Study your systems

Learn how your body works, and respect its genius. The unfortunate fact that most of us aren’t formally educated in how to properly care for our bodies doesn’t mean you can’t learn.

·  Get to the bottom of your symptoms

Body trouble? Find the source. Root out the cause. Don’t settle for a drug that forces your symptoms to go underground only to pop up somewhere else with a vengeance.

·  Self-medicate with caution

Get honest about how you’re using alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, pain killers and other drugs to simulate well-being or cover discomfort.

·  Abandon victim thinking

“Poor me” doesn’t get you anywhere you want to go. Instead, dust yourself off, see the choices that got you here, then reclaim your prerogative to choose your own better way forward.

·  Sleep well

Rest = recovery, repair and resilience. Exhaustion = illness and messed-up metabolism. Prioritize ample sleep time as the health essential it is.

·  Breathe deep

In for four, out for five. Oxygen’s good; breathing keeps you alive.

·  Get off your butt.

Sitting for more than an hour or so at a stretch is deadly. Get up, stretch, walk around. Do some deep knee bends or go climb a couple flights of stairs.

·  Slow down

Perennial rushing is toxic to the body and mind. Find moments of silence and contemplation where you can just be. Create margins of sanity. Practice the defensive art of scheduling breaks and vacations.

·  Connect with community

Find ways of being active and involved in some kind of group activity. Joining a group, if you haven’t already, can reduce your risk of dying this year by half.

·  Heal your relationships

Mend fences, build bridges, forgive trespasses, grieve losses and let toxic grudges go. Then move on. Get help with this if you need to.

·  Get outside

You need sunshine, fresh air and time in nature. Daily. Grab five minutes in the morning, five on the way home from work.

·  Respect your environment

Keep in mind that human health depends upon the health of a lot of interconnected ecosystems and the planet as a whole. Make choices that respect that reality.

·  Embrace play

Fun, novelty, humor and joy are key sources of energy, strength and inspiration. If you’re suffering from a case of fun-deficit disorder, remedy that situation ASAP.

·  Consume media wisely

Seek out entertainment and information that makes your life better. Choose not to watch, read or listen to stuff that demoralizes or immobilizes you, incites craziness, or insults your intelligence.

·  Be your own biggest fan

Refuse to bad-talk your body, nitpick your appearance or kvetch about your weight. Find something to dig/love/ appreciate about yourself — just the way you are.

·  Turn off the TV

Opiate of the masses. Fritterer of time. Fryer of focus. The average American watches several hours of TV a day. How much of your life are you willing to hand over to a box?

·  Eliminate tolerations

If something’s driving you crazy, deal with it. Noticing and resolving daily annoyances, messes and downers helps free up energy and increases your pleasure in living.

·  Follow the money

Look at your checkbook register and credit-card statements for clues about where your spending is inconsistent with your healthy goals and values.

·  Redirect your resources

Take some of the money you’re spending on unhealthy distraction, consolations and indulgences, and re-route it toward your healthy-living priorities instead.

·  Ditch debt

The stress of being stretched too thin financially is at the root of a great many health ills. Develop the skills you need to master your money and live within your means.

·  Invest in your health

Money spent proactively on your health delivers far better returns than money spent reactively on treating illness and disease. When healthy choices seem “too expensive,” consider the long-term costs of health-sapping alternatives.

·  Wise up

Keep seeking new wisdom and mastering new skills that help you take better care of your body and live a more satisfying life. Continual learning and discovery support both health and happiness.

·  Build on your successes

Look at what has worked well for you in the past, and do more of that. Identify and leverage your strengths. Be willing to learn from your “failures,” too — but refuse to wallow in them.

·  Surprise yourself

Don’t be boring. Every once in a while, do something unexpected or out of character and see what happens.

·  Find your tribe

Surround yourself with other healthy, positive, active people who share your passions. It’s a lot easier to thrive around people who are thriving.

·  Laugh it up

Seek out mirth, glee and merriment at every opportunity. Laughter triggers a cascade of healing, energizing chemicals.

·  Get a buddy

Do your healthy thing with a pal or partner. Camaraderie and accountability go a long way toward creating success.

·  Give your best gifts

Developing and sharing them endows you with enthusiasm and energy. Neglecting or squandering them slowly kills you.

·  Pace yourself

When working hard, take brief rest breaks every 90 to 120 minutes so your cells can recharge. Be kind to yourself, and be honest about how much you can take on at any given time.

·  Vote your values

Take your healthy convictions to the polls. Share them with your elected representatives. Vote with your dollars, too, to support healthy products, companies and communities.

·  Visualize the possibilities

What if we lived in a world where the majority of people were healthy and happy most of the time? Imagine that future — then start creating it in your own life, one step at a time.

·  Follow your bliss

The more positivity and enthusiasm you can build into your life, the healthier, happier and more satisfied you’ll be. Happiness breeds healthiness.

·  Be responsible for yourself

Own your decisions and actions, no matter what the circumstances. Refuse to abuse or be abused on any level. See challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities.

·  Take the high road

If you feel yourself getting dragged down or losing traction in your healthy commitments, ask: What’s my highest choice right now? What can I do to make this situation better?

·  Make time

The hour you give yourself for self-care pays you back three. Think you’re too busy? The busier you are, the more effective and energetic you need to be, and the less time you have to get sick.

·  Make space

Declutter your house, your office, your car, your desk, your mind. Create room for your chosen future; create space that reflects the way you want to feel.

·  Focus on action, not outcomes

Live the life of a healthy person, and the results will take care of themselves. Every healthy step is a victory. Every day is an opportunity to feel, live and be better than the day before.

·  Make it a party

Discover new healthy passions. Revel in new healthy pleasures. Have so much fun getting and being healthy that everyone around you wants to do it, too!

·  Let go of excuses

Yes, you’re busy. You probably have a lot of priorities competing for your time, energy and resources. But wouldn’t all those priorities be better served by a healthier, more dynamic you?

·  Show up

No one is going to do this for you. You can’t fake it, and you can’t phone it in. Your body is where you’re going to spend the rest of your life. So make it a great place to live.

·  Pass it on

Pssst! Being healthy is a revolutionary act. The more of us who stand up for our health and happiness, the more power we have to change the world — one person, one life, one revolutionary act at a time.

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit www.experiencelifemag.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

6 Healthy Habits That Can Make You Sick

6 Healthy Habits That Can Make You Sick

I dance the Macarena whenever I come across an article that argues against extreme healthy living. I laughed while reading research about dark chocolate firing up the happy brain. And I high-fived the doctors who warn folks against too much sunscreen–because it blocks the vitamin D that all of us need. I hate that stuff and was looking long and hard for an excuse not to look like a clown this summer. Thank you! I’ve even performed the opposite of an intervention with one of my friends last week who was trying to give up alcohol and nicotine at the same time.

And now, I bring you one more doctor you will like: Dr. Erika Schwartz, Medical Director of Cinergy Health. She’s here to tell us not to get too carried away with our healthy habits. Thanks, Erika!

As a society, we are constantly striving to lead healthier, happier lives. But with these efforts, we sometimes run the risk of going too far. As a rule of thumb, any extreme is unhealthy, but rarely are we made aware of the “cons” of healthy habits, instead led to think any good thing is better if done as often as possible. Not so fast …

Here are some examples of healthy habits that can backfire when done in excess:

1. Over-Exercising
Your body and mind do not need more than three to four days a week of 30 to 45 minutes of cardio activity. Cardio/aerobic exercises should be done every other day alternating with Yoga, Pilates, walking, and weight training on the off days. Hiking, swimming, tennis, golf, team sports and a simple variation in exercise over the course of the week, month and season is the best way to stay lean, toned and energized.

2. Staying Out of the Sun
Our bodies need Vitamin D to stay strong by making healthy bones and ward off illness by boosting our immune system. The only way to get Vitamin D into our system is via sun exposure. Don’t make yourself overly neurotic about sunscreen. If you are going to the pool or beach or participating in outdoor sports that involve more than 20 minutes of sun exposure, slather on the SPF 30, but if you are simply doing your daily errands outdoors, enjoy the feeling the sun on your skin. The only part of your body that should always be protected is the face.

3. Using Antibacterial Soaps and Gels
Antibacterial soaps and gels are good to carry in your purse or car but becoming obsessed with the sanitization they promise could weaken your body’s ability to fight off “good bacteria.” Washing your hands with warm water and soap for twenty seconds will do the trick.

4. Sleeping
The average person needs eight full hours of undisturbed sleep at night. If you are regularly getting fewer or more than nine hours sleep, you are not doing yourself much good. Human beings are not built to think, process, or function optimally on more or less than seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Not to mention too little or too much sleep is bad for our skin and causes bloating, overeating, confusion and depression.

5. Relying on Air Conditioning
While air conditioning feels great on a hot, humid summer day, don’t sit and breathe in cold recycled air all day and night long. The air may contain bacteria and germs and certainly all kinds of particles of dust. Every few hours, turn the air off, open the windows, go for a walk outside and breathe in the fresh air–don’t forget to wash your air conditioning filters with warm water and soap and let them air-dry every month you’re using them. And if you work in an office building where windows never open, bring a sweater to keep your core temperature warm and get out of the office at least for lunch and a mid-afternoon break.

6. Eating Organic Food
While organic foods–such as fruits, vegetables, and packaged goods–tend to be expensive, the real problem is that they can still be heavily processed. Make sure to read the labels of the food you are purchasing carefully even if you are buying them from the health food store. Foods don’t need to be “organic” to be healthy. Stick with labels that have simple and few ingredients, and a low amount of natural sugars (like honey, turbinado sugar, cane sugar), sodium and processed carbohydrates.

By Therese J. Borchard, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

Top 10 Sex-Drive Killers

Top 10 Sex-Drive Killers


If you don’t remember the last time you felt like having sex with a partner, you are probably suffering from low sex drive. A number of psychological and physiological factors can have a major impact on your libido. Read on to know more about the top ten sex-drive killers.

Stress
Many people perform best under intense pressure, but sexual performance certainly isn’t one of those. Stress at the workplace, financial troubles, a sick family member, or simply a hectic lifestyle with poor eating habits can take a toll on your sex life. You and your partner can seek counseling from a sex therapist, learn techniques for managing stress, and work toward having a better lifestyle—if it’s stress that’s wreaking havoc with your sex life.

Relationship Problems
Knotty relationship issues need to be resolved and major differences ironed out if you want to reclaim the intimacy and affection that you once shared with your partner. Emotional closeness plays a major role in sexual passion, particularly for women. Poor communication, infidelity, constant arguments, and other relationship-breakers need to be eliminated before mutual sexual desire can be regained.

Alcohol
If you always require a couple of drinks before you can get in the mood for sex, there’s something seriously wrong with your sex life. Alcohol is commonly perceived as an aphrodisiac that breaks down barriers and inhibitions before sex, but all it actually does is numb your libido in the long term. Getting drunk might even put off your partner and you might end up having lousy sex. The same goes for recreational drugs and other so-called libido boosters.

Too Little Sleep
Lack of sleep is one of the biggest killers of sex drive. After all, if you start snoring as soon as you are under the covers, you are not likely to have a very active sex life. If it’s sleep apnea or insomnia that’s causing all the trouble, you can get suitable treatment for it. Try and get rid of whatever it is that is interfering with your sleep patterns, because sleeping too little gives you fatigue and saps the libido.

Medication
Loss of libido is a side effect that accompanies a number of medications. Ask your doctor to prescribe alternatives or change the dosage if your sex drive is being affected by medications, such as: antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, oral contraceptives, anti-HIV drugs, synthetic progesterone-medroxyprogesterone, finasteride, or chemotherapy.

Body Image
If you feel you just aren’t sexy enough to please your partner, you are suffering from poor body image linked to low self-esteem. Many men, for instance, feel that their penis is too small, and these feelings of inadequacy can affect their sex life. If you are a woman and are too concerned about your breast size, you are probably ruining your sex life. Talking to a psycho-sexual therapist or a qualified counselor will help you develop a positive body image and dramatically enhance your libido.

Obesity
Obesity is directly related to lack of sexual desire and poor sexual performance. The causes for this are usually linked to social stigma, low self-esteem, unsatisfactory relationships, and simply difficulties in having sex. Losing weight can certainly lead to better sex.

Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a medical condition characterized by a restricted flow of blood to the penis, thus leading to difficulties in getting or retaining a satisfactory erection. Men suffering from ED are likely to worry about their sexual performance and kill their sex drive. ED medications such as Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis can address this problem to a great extent.

Low Testosterone
The amount of testosterone in your body determines the level of your sex drive. If your testosterone levels dip too low, your libido is likely to decline. Testosterone therapy is recommended for boosting your sex drive.

Depression
Depression is a double-edged sword because it saps sex drive, while antidepressants do so too. Seeking treatment for clinical depression is necessary; you can deal with the low libido once the depression is under control.

By Aderline Peech, DivineCaroline

At DivineCaroline.com, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at DivineCaroline.com.

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