Awareness, Behavior Change, Books, Inspiration

How to turn your I CAN’Ts to I CAN!

Have you ever been in situations where you felt the least bit motivated?  Where you find yourself saying “I can’t!” instead of “I CAN!” I think we all have these moments but what’s encouraging is what I learned from Charles Duhigg’s book, Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity about motivation. Being motivated is like a skill that we can practice. It’s something we could work on and improve!

Disclosure:  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  For more info, visit the Disclaimer and Affiliate Disclosure page.

How do you improve motivation? Duhigg discusses two simple ways you can do it. But first let’s define the word Motivation. It is derived from the Latin root ‘mot’ which means ‘to move’. Basically Motivation is what moves us towards action. To further break it down, motivation is categorized as either extrinsic or intrinsic.

Img credit to khanacademy.org

If I ask what drives you to exercise and you answer, my job offers a gift certificate to employees who logs at least 10000 steps everyday – that’s an example of extrinsic motivation.  They are external factors driving you to take action on a specific task. On the other hand, if you answered it leaves me feeling more energetic and less stressed, that would be an intrinsic motivator. The two key concepts discussed by Duhigg focuses on building your intrinsic or self motivation.

Chore into Choice

The bottom line of making a choice is to give us a sense of control.  As human beings, our natural inclination is to assert control.  Do you like it when people tell you what to do?  Do you respond better when given choices?

When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more.  They are, on average, more confident and overcome setbacks faster.  People who believe they have authority over themselves often live longer than their peers. – Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better

Here’s how I’ve applied this concept when I lack the motivation to run –

I’m currently training for the Rock n Roll San Diego Marathon in June – my 7th marathon!  Being consistent with training is one of many factors that would help me achieve the goal of a BQ this year. (Yikes!  I still can’t believe I set this stretch goal!)  However I’ve had days where I want to sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Here’s where the power of choice comes in – I tell myself to put on my running shoes and go out there…but ONLY FOR 10 MINUTES.  When I do, I usually feel much better and before you know it, I’m out there for up to 30 min even to an hour!

Apparently it doesn’t even matter what type of choice you make.  It’s the amount of control you feel that matters most.  Try it out.  When you feel less enthused about a specific task, start making choices and see what happens.

Ask WHY

Let’s say you’re involved in a challenging situation.  How do you keep going?  This is when you ask yourself why and find an answer that is most meaningful to you.  The why has to align with your values and bigger goals.

In my *Evoke Healthy Habits facebook group, I posted the question “What is your biggest frustration with your health right now?”  A couple women responded they lack the motivation.  I think when we connect physical activity or healthy eating with what we value the most, we’re more apt to prioritize it.  So think about it – are you struggling with motivation when it comes to your health?  Then ask yourself why a healthy lifestyle should matter to you.

Self motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper values and goals.  –Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better

My recent Whole 30 experience has led me to ask Why a few times this past month.  The why definitely affirmed my desire to determine if the unusual symptoms I’ve had for the past several months is related to food sensitivities.  The re-introduction process starts this week so I’m interested in seeing if any food groups are sources of irritants in my body.  I admit the symptoms are less frequent and I’ve stayed healthy all month despite being in the midst of the cold and flu season.  Plus my skin finally cleared up!  Imagine having to deal with acne as a 41-yr old (cringe..) I’m definitely pleased with the results.

From I CAN’T to I CAN

It’s reassuring to know that we can improve our self-motivation with practice.  The most effective way in doing it is:

ASSERT CONTROL THROUGH CHOICES and connect your actions to DEEPER MEANING by asking WHY.

Please share what you do to keep yourself motivated to achieve your health and fitness goals.

Would you like a copy of Charles Duhigg’s book?  Click on the link below!

*If you’re interested in being a part of a community for women who want to build sustainable healthy habits, join our closed Facebook group, EVOKE HEALTHY HABITS

Evoke Healthy Habits is a community for women to receive support and guidance from one another while going on a journey of change towards a lifestyle of healthy habits. We have weekly challenges, recipes, workouts, and tips to help you establish healthy habits for the year!

Click on this link and request to join: facebook.com/groups/evokehealthyhabits

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Behavior Change, Books, Health

Time for a Reset! Inspired by Food Freedom Forever

I never thought I would ever try a food RESET.  It’s been in the back of my mind as I’ve read articles about it, but I was always hesitant in trying one.  After reading Food Freedom Forever by Melissa Hartwig, I realized a reset was the next step to optimize my health.

Disclosure:  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  For more info, visit the Disclaimer and Affiliate Disclosure page.

What is a RESET and why is this important to me?

You may or may not be familiar with Melissa Hartwig’s Whole30 program.  It is designed to eliminate foods that impact your cravings, metabolism, digestion and immune system for 30 days.

During the 30 days of elimination, the focus is to pay close attention to these following areas and see if there are any improvements – “Energy, Sleep, Digestion, Mood, Attention Span, Self-Confidence, Cravings, Chronic Pain or Fatigue, Athletic Performance, and Recovery and any number of other symptoms or medical conditions”.  Once 30 days are up, the foods eliminated are re-introduced in a systematic way to determine which ones are problematic.  With the knowledge which food has a negative impact, it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not it’s worthwhile to eat the ‘unhealthy’ foods given the consequences without the guilt.

The Whole30 is one example of a reset program.  Other types of reset are further discussed in Food Freedom Forever.  It’s up to you to select what type of reset that will work for you best.  What attracted me to a reset is because for the past several months, I’ve been feeling something is off with my body.  It could also be relegated to stress (which is another topic for a future post) but if I can optimize the way my body responds through proper nutrition, then why not give it a try?!  It’s only for 30 days.

I made changes to the way I ate a couple of years ago when I surprisingly found out I was borderline pre-diabetic. You can read more about it in My Journey of Change. But I’ve never done a complete elimination reset so it should be interesting to see the results.

Benefits of a Reset

If you’ve contemplated a reset before, there is a myriad of benefits that might convince you to try it. And none of them have to do with weight loss at all.

During the 30 day reset, the scale is off limits! The emphasis is on what is termed as ‘non-scale victories’. There is a downloadable list of 100 non-scale victories on the Whole 30 website found here https://whole30.com/downloads/whole30-nsv.pdf.  After looking at the list, it’s no wonder so many people have gone through this reset.

One problem I’d like to resolve is knowing if a certain type of food is causing adult-onset acne.  (Yes, I can’t believe at age 41 I would be dealing with acne like I did back in high school). Other benefits I’d like to gain from the reset revolves around Mood, Emotion, Psychology – handle stress better, less anxious – as well as the Inner Physical functions -less fatigue, less lower back pain to name a few.

The Reset Plan

I decided I will follow The Whole30 reset with a few add-ons.  Here is the list of ingredients I would need to avoid as part of the program:

  • ADDED SUGAR
  • ALCOHOL
  • GRAINS
  • LEGUMES (including peanuts and soy)
  • DAIRY
  • MSG, CARAGEENAN, SULFITES
  • NO BAKED GOODS, JUNK FOODS or TREATS with the approved ingredients

I’m adding nuts to this list because I think I may have developed an allergy to certain types of nuts like cashews and possibly pecans.  So I will also be nut-free for 30 days.

The most challenging for me would be to avoid grains (and nuts) but the rest seems doable since I rarely consume them nowadays.

Create Healthy Habits

Melissa Hartwig specifically wrote the book Food Freedom Forever to those who have a difficult time adjusting to the aftermath of the Whole30 program.  It’s about having a strategy so you’re in a place where you feel in control of your decisions of what you put in your mouth.

This is how Melissa defined Food Freedom:

..it means finally feeling in control of food, instead of food controlling you.  It means indulging when you decide it’s worth it, savoring the experience without guilt or shame, and then returning to your regularly scheduled healthy habits.  That’s real food freedom.

Are you ready to set your own food freedom?  Have you tried a reset before?    

My reset starts on Monday 9Jan and ends on Tuesday 7Feb (elimination portion).  The reintroduction phase may take a couple of weeks.  By the end of February, I should know which types of food aren’t the best for my body.  If you’d like to do a reset with me, leave a comment below or request to join the Evoke Healthy Habits Facebook group.
Whole 30 Resources:
whole30.com
The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom
The Whole30 Day by Day: Your Daily Guide to Whole30 Success
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Behavior Change, Books

Improve your Health with The Power of Habit

Is it possible for someone to be void of unhealthy habits?  Where you’re automated to do what is best for your health? No more guilt-ridden mind games when you tell yourself, just one more bite and you’re done. Then, minutes later you find yourself finishing a plate of (insert your kryptonite food).  Or instead of hitting snooze to delay your intention to exercise before work, you immediately get up and out the door for an early morning run. After reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, it may just be possible!

Disclosure:  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  For more info, visit the Disclaimer and Affiliate Disclosure page.

“We are what we repeatedly do” –  stated 2000 years ago by the great Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle.  It’s as true now as it was back then.  Researchers at Duke University revealed in a 2006 study on habits that 45% of people’s everyday behavior are repetitive action.  Habit formation and change is the subject deeply explored in the The Power of Habit.  Our habits play a significant factor in the way we eat, move, and sleep. When we understand how habits work, we can determine which ones we want to implement in our lives and take action.

HOW TO FORM NEW HABITS

“I would like to eat more vegetables!” How do you develop a habit of eating more vegetables?

The first step is to understand Habit Formation.  Charles Duhigg described habit as a ‘three-step loop process’ that occur in our brains.

1. Starting with the CUE, basically a trigger that signals the brain to act on a specific behavior automatically.

2. This is then followed by the ROUTINE, the behavior itself which could either be “physical, mental or emotional”.

3. Last the REWARD, the payoff for the behavior.  This is how the brain remembers the pattern and make it automatic.

A simple example of a habit is washing your hands before you eat.

Cue – After you order at a restaurant or after you unpack your lunch.
Routine – Wash your hands.
Reward– Lower risk for illness.

Back to the question of developing a habit of eating more vegetables? The process will be an experimentation of identifying the right cues and rewards.  A reward has to be significantly valuable for the brain to remember the pattern. If the reward evokes a feeling or emotion, it tends to be more powerful than a physical reward.

What worked for me?

A visual cue! I place a package of pre-washed, ready to eat mixed greens in the fridge where it’s easy to see. (Convenience and ease plays a factor).

The cue signals me to prepare a bowl of salad to eat as a side for lunch or dinner. (Routine)

Emotional reward. My body receives the nutrients it needs to function properly.

BAD HABITS TO BETTER HABITS

If you want to get rid of a bad habit, raise your hand!  The trouble is we can’t really make bad habits disappear.  By using The Golden Rule of Habit Change, we can work towards replacing a bad habit with a better habit.

Habits, good or bad, are ingrained in the brain. They are difficult to change unless ‘new neurological routines’ overtakes the old behavior.  Once we understand the loop, we can find a way to take control and create a new pattern.

With habit change, The Golden Rule uses the Same Cues and Same Rewards, but the Routine is changed.

What’s a bad habit would I like to change? Eating nuts out of a container! It’s my favorite snack and tend to overeat them. The easiest way for me to change the routine is to put a serving of nuts in a bowl. I know it sounds so simple but I still find it to be a work in progress.

IMPACT OF A KEYSTONE HABIT

Can you identify a powerful habit you have that tend to set a domino effect towards better habits?  This powerful habit is called a Keystone Habit.  Once developed, it strongly influences other habits you have in your life.

Exercise is considered a keystone habit as studies have proven its impact on daily routines.  People who are habitual exercisers tend to eat better and get enough sleep, making them more productive at work. They also show signs of less stress.

Another example is keeping a food log to lose weight.  A study in 2009 directed a group of obese people to keep a journal.  After six months, those who kept a daily food log lost twice as much weight.  The single habitual act of logging food in a journal caused the participants to recognize patterns in their behavior that led to habits of healthy eating. Journal writing was their keystone habit.

What fuels the cascade of changes from a keystone habit?  SMALL WINS!

Small Wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

Bob Bowman, coach of Michael Phelps used the keystone habits of visualization and relaxation, forming the right mind-set for Phelps to remain calm and focused prior to each race.  Bowman honed in on the small wins and as he mentioned to the author, Duhigg “…it was best to concentrate on these tiny moments of success and build them into mental triggers.  We worked them into a routine.  There’s a series of things we do before every race that are designed to give Michael a sense of building victory.” The mental habits Phelps’ coach instilled in him contributed to his success as an Olympic champion.

I agree, SMALL changes can truly create a BIG impact.  Instead of tackling a major lifestyle change all at once, focus on the small victories.  Have patience in the process.

BELIEF and the POWER OF SOCIAL COMMUNITIES

For some habits, however, there’s one other ingredient that’s necessary: BELIEF

Belief in yourself and the process to change for the better.  Is it easier to believe when you tackle a challenge on your own or with the support of a community?  I think it depends on the type of person you are. Some people are wired with the utmost determination.  Any change, simple or difficult, they can handle on their own.  For most, me included, I agree when the author stated in the book that “Belief is easier when it occurs within a community.”

There’s an endless number of health and fitness communities whether it’s for weight loss, dietary changes, or just staying active, online and offline.  When you start to feel discouraged, you can get support from members of the community you’re in.  Also, observing someone else’s success could cause you to believe that you can also achieve the same success.

Sidebar – Interested in being a part of a community for women whose goals are to establish sustainable healthy habits?  Check out Evoke Healthy Habits Facebook group.

MAKE THE DECISION

Change is hard.  To form new habits through experimentation of cues and rewards as well as to find alternative ways of behavior to satisfy the same cues and rewards in place of a bad habit requires work and determination.  The process could get difficult and take time.

You are the only one who has control over the decisions you make in life.  

 It’s up to YOU to DECIDE to accept the challenge.

 

What’s one habit would you like to change or have? 

 

 

If you’re ready to build a lifestyle of sustainable habits, please consider joining our community for women whose goals are to achieve a life full of healthy habits.  We do weekly challenges, share easy and simple recipes in addition to providing support and encouragement to each other.
Visit following link and request to join: EVOKE HEALTHY HABITS

 

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Books, Health, Inspiration

How are We Wired to Eat? Let Robb Wolf Explain.

Have you struggled with an uncontrollable desire to eat and asked yourself, “Why? Why can’t I stop doing this to myself?”  Don’t blame yourself.  As Robb Wolf states in his book, Wired To Eat:  IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!

Wired to Eat
Img credit to robbwolf.com

If you live in a modern Westernized society of relative leisure and abundance but are not fat, sick, and diabetic, you are, from a biological perspective, “screwing up.” Really.  Our species is here today because our genes are wired to eat damn near everything that is not nailed down….we are genetically wired to eat simple, unprocessed foods, and to expend a fair amount of energy in that process…But modern life affords us the opportunity to move hardly at all, while finding ourselves surrounded by the most varied assortment of delectable food imaginable.”

Disclosure:  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  For more info, visit the Disclaimer and Affiliate Disclosure page.

What an interesting and logical concept.  We are no longer in an era where we have to actively forage for our survival.  All we have to do is connect online for someone to knock on our door and deliver food for us.  In fact, I recently saw a billboard ad of McDonald’s now available on Ubereats!

Before I further dive in to details of why processed foods are hard to resist, I’d like to briefly share Robb Wolf’s health transformation story.

Robb Wolf’s Lifestyle Change that Saved Him

Robb Wolf’s passion for transforming the health of thousands of people stemmed from his own personal transformation.  His health issues started early during his childhood years.  In his twenties, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.  If you’re not familiar with what ulcerative colitis is (because I wasn’t), it’s an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and sores in the digestive tract.  With his health in decline, he was in the midst of depression and he mentioned in the book,

“I thought I was going to die, and the idea was pretty appealing, considering how much my life and health sucked.”

Robb Wolf’s mother also had a host of health issues and a test revealed she was allergic to grains, legumes, and dairy. Robb thought about the types of food before grains, legumes, and dairy were produced.  And it led him to the path of discovering the Paleo way of eating.  Once he tried it, his health significantly improved where his issues disappeared.  The Paleo diet essentially saved his life.  This started his journey of transforming others through the Crossfit affiliate gyms he opened, published posts on his blog, The Paleo Solution podcast and his first book and New York Times bestseller, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.

Our Environment has Evolved but our Genes are still Catching Up

Let’s look at how our ancestors lived back in the pre-historic times compared to how we are living today.  Before technological advances, our bodies were doing exactly what they were designed for – whole foods for nourishment, plenty of physical activity,  the right amount and quality of sleep, enough time spent under the sun and love from a strong, supportive community.  Our lifestyle today is the OPPOSITE!  And our genes haven’t adjusted.

…Our bodies haven’t caught up to these changes.  Ten thousand years might seem like a very long time, but in the context of our genes, it’s more like a meteoric environmental change than that slow-moving bulldozer. – Wired to Eat

Our lifestyle today, in disagreement with the design of our bodies, have resulted to a gamut of Western degenerative diseases.  Obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and a number of other conditions have been on the rise for the past decades.

 

“Bet You Can’t Just Eat One”

The popular slogan from Lay’s Potato Chips holds true.  For me, it’s tortilla chips.  Put a bag in front of me and game on.  It’s why you won’t find a bag of tortilla chips in our cupboard.  There’s a term used in the book to describe the type of food difficult for us to refuse – hyperpalatability.  Palatable is defined as something tasty and flavorful.  The term hyperpalatibility is referred to the types of food combining sugar, salt, and fat to stimulate your taste buds and activates the reward centers of our brain.

Robb Wolf pointed out an interesting connection between food and sex (mainly pornography) and its effect on the brain.  Both impact the reward centers of the brain otherwise known as the hedonic system where pleasure is derived.  Dopamine plays a main role as a pleasure-seeking neurotransmitter.  “Stimulating the dopamine centers of the brain creates a positive feedback loop in which one desires more of the substance or activity that elicited the initial good feelings.”

The bad news is whether it’s porn or food, the amount of exposure that made us feel good before doesn’t have the same effect the next time.  We tend to want more or something a little different to have the same effect.  Therefore, it explains why tortilla chips with my favorite salsa is even more enticing!

The problem today is that we have a near infinite variety of foods that completely bypass our neuroregulation of appetite.  These foods produce a degree of stimulation in the brain that leaves normal food looking (and tasting) awful.

Rewire your Brain to Restore your Health

This book is divided into two sections.  The first part was to understand how we are wired to eat and the second is an action plan to rewire and reset for weight loss and health.

Phase one is a 30-Day Reset to find out where you’re at on the ‘insulin resistance spectrum’.  Robb Wolf makes a case that in addition to diet, we also have to consider improvements to sleep, stress, and exercise for proper neuroregulation of appetite.

Phase two is a 7-Day Carb Test plan.  It’s purpose is to build a personalized nutrition plan for the type and quantity of carbs a person can tolerate.  This was based on a paper published in the journal Cell titled “Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Response”.  It’s an interesting study that showed every individual has a different response to the types of food consumed.  Some did better on lower-carb, higher-fat diets, while others responded well on quite the opposite, higher-carbs and lower-fat.  You can make great strides with your health by simply being aware of the type of foods that mesh well with your body.

For Sustainable Change, have a Strong ‘WHY’

How do we keep going, when the going gets tough?  Usually, a definitive why pushes us to reach our goals.  Robb Wolf’s advice to strengthen your motivation calls for a strong WHY.

You need a reason to make these changes and just keep doing them, even when your motivation is in the toilet.  That may sound daunting, but it’s not.  We are talking about one meal at at time, one day at a time.  Instead of fixating on your whole life, just focus on getting the next meal right.  You don’t need a motivational speech to take your next breath, because it’s automatic.  If you make this new way of eating and living automatic, it will be as effortless as taking your next breath.

What’s your take on the approach of personalized nutrition?  Does your appetite need rewiring?

Check out Robb Wolf’s Wired to Eat from your local library, bookstore or click the link to take you to Amazon – 

Wired to Eat: Turn Off Cravings, Rewire Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods That Work for You

 

*If you’re interested in being a part of a community for women who want to build sustainable healthy habits, join our closed Facebook group, EVOKE HEALTHY HABITS

Evoke Healthy Habits is a community for women to receive support and guidance from one another while going on a journey of change towards a lifestyle of healthy habits. We have weekly challenges, recipes, workouts, and tips to help you establish healthy habits for the year!  Click on this link and request to join: facebook.com/groups/evokehealthyhabits

 

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Books, Inspiration

Win the Day with Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning

I’m not sure who coined this phrase, ‘If you Win the Morning, you Win the Day’. The first time I heard it said was by Tim Ferris.  On The Tim Ferris Show podcast, Tim asks his guests what their first hour of the day looks like. This question made me reflect on how I spend my first hour of the day and how to improve it.

Disclosure:  This post contains Amazon affiliate links. For more info, visit the Disclaimer and Affiliate Disclosure page.

In my quest to set up an ideal morning to win the day, I discovered Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)

Hal Elrod Miracle Morning book
Image credit halelrod.com

Hal Elrod’s Transformation Story

What I found fascinating in the book besides the strategies to ‘transform your life before 8 am’ was Hal Elrod’s miraculous transformation after a devastating car accident.  Hal was involved in a 3-car collision when he was 20 yrs old.  One that approached his car head-on and the other smashing into the driver side door.  The following is a narrative about the injuries he suffered at the point of impact.

The door collapsed into the left side of my body.  The frame of the metal roof caved in on my head, slicing open my skull and nearly severing my left ear.  The bones of my left eye socket were crushed, leaving my left eyeball dangerously unsupported.  My left arm broke, severing the radial nerve in my forearm and shattering my elbow, while my fractured humerus bone pierced the skin behind my bicep…

Hal Elrod was clinically dead for six minutes, but the paramedics was able to revive him.  He spent six days in a coma. And after he woke up his doctor told him he may never be able to walk again. However, his unrelenting spirit and determination to press forward affected his body in a manner where he started to heal. And after seven weeks of rehab in the hospital, he learned to walk again.  What ultimately helped him to full recovery?  His positive mindset and practice of gratitude.

I stopped putting energy into wishing my life were any different-into wishing bad things didn’t happen to me-and instead focused 100% on making the best of what I had.

Such a powerful message!  In the following years after his accident, he succeeded in many of his endeavors. As a sales manager, he had the highest earning sales; he finished writing a book  (not this one – this book is a product of his next downfall even more painful to him than death itself!); and became a life/business Success Coach sharing the success he had after his car accident.

Clarity on the Run

But for Hal Elrod, the worst is yet to come.  For him, it was the financial fall-out of 2007 that crushed his life even more than the six minute death and the six day coma he experienced.  After he revealed to a friend his devastating financial loss and how his life was in shambles, his friend’s simple question of ‘Are you exercising?’ caused a series of events that led him to the eureka moment from which the book Miracle Morning was born.

It was one morning when Hal decided to take his friend’s advice, laced up his ‘non-running’ shoes (because he’s not a runner) and went for a run.  While listening to a personal development audio by Jim Rohn, one phrase struck him.  This quote was the driving force of digging himself out of a deep turmoil and became the concept of the book ‘The Miracle Morning’.

Morning Life S.A.V.E.R.S

Everyone can benefit from including any one of these strategies as part of your morning routine. He used the acronym SAVERS as in ‘lifesavers’ because this approach was what brought him back to life.

S – Silence

Isn’t the morning the most ideal time to spend in silence? You’d only agree with me if you wake up earlier than anyone else in the house! Silence is synonymous to meditation, prayer, breath. Whatever it is that puts you in touch with your spiritual being.

When my girls finally slept through the night, I started a meditation practice right after I awakened.  I use the Calm app on my phone and try to focus on my breath for five minutes.  To me, five minutes is a long time to focus when my mind constantly wanders.  The beauty of a guided meditation is it reminds you to come back to the breath after you acknowledge your current thought.  I think it helps me maintain my focus and use the power of breath when stressful situations arise during the day.

A – Affirmation

Who believes in the ability of affirmations to instill confidence to propel you towards success?  It’s what Hal Elrod learned from reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  It’s a book I’m also currently reading as I continue to improve my personal development.  I understand how our minds powerfully influence our beliefs.  If we implant a positive affirmation in our mind, we start to believe in it and eventually we become it.  Affirmations have never crossed my mind until recently, after reading this book as well as Napoleon Hill’s.

You can use affirmations to start programming yourself to be confident and successful in everything you do, simply by repeatedly telling yourself who you want to be, what you want to accomplish and how you are doing to accomplish it.  With enough repetition, your sub-conscious mind will begin to believe what you tell it, act upon it, and eventually manifest in your reality.

V – Visualization

A week before a race (half or full marathon), I spend time to visualize running on specific parts of the course.  How I would approach a hill.  Or what my posture will look during the last few miles of the race.  Even what my finish line photo would look like!

Honestly, this is the one approach I don’t do first thing in the morning.  I don’t think about it usually, but I can see how effective it could be paired with the affirmation.  To see yourself achieve goals and conquer adversity in different areas of your life.  Like affirmations, it’s a great enforcer of belief.

E – Exercise

My favorite!  Lately, with Chicago Marathon a couple of weeks away, I’ve spent the first hour of the morning either running on the treadmill or in the pool running.  The days when I don’t I usually do at least 10 minutes of  movement, targeting the five functional movements – push (push-ups), pulls (rows), bend and lift (squats, deadlifts), single leg (lunges), rotational (med ball chops).

Any type of movement helps to improve your cognitive function with more glucose and oxygen to your brain.  It literally wakes up your brain!  Movement also immediately enhances your energy and sets you up for a productive day.

R – Reading

Reading is the fast track to transforming any area of your life.  It is one of the most immediate methods for acquiring the knowledge, ideas, and strategies to achieve Level 10 success in any area of your life.

Couldn’t agree more!  I think reading is the most inexpensive and best investment to success.  I loved to read ever since I was a kid.  When I lived in the Philippines, my mom purchased two sets of encyclopedias.  One was particularly for kids, Disney’s Wonderful World of Knowledge.  How I loved paging through those books.

Photo credit to amazon.com My favorite was The Human Body. There’s an illustration of what happens to food after swallow it!

However, I can’t get into the habit of reading in the morning.  I usually set aside time for it during the day or before bed.  I can see the advantage of reading in the morning, in case you have a busy day ahead, then it’s something you’ve already done.

S – Scribe

Finally, the last one is Scribing or Writing.  This could take the form of journaling, jot down ideas or even write your first book!  I’m big on journaling.  In fact, I have a journal dating back to 1989.  Now I like to divide my journal into three sections – Health, Wealth, Wise on the front page and a Gratitude + Affirmations on the back page. For example in the Health section, I like to track my hours of sleep, movement (types of exercise, # of steps, # miles ran), if and how long I meditated and the type of meals I eat throughout the day.

I finish my journal entry before I go to bed.  So what I write in the morning is my affirmation.  Sometimes I’d write under the Wealth section one to three things I truly want to focus on that will contribute to my success.

It’s Your Turn

Do you think it’s possible for you to do all of the Life S.A.V.E.R.S in the time you have in the morning?  If not, Hal Elrod even devised a way for you to complete all of them in six minutes!  One minute for each activity and they can be in any order you want.

Of course, you can design your morning any way you prefer to include one or more of these approaches.  Currently my morning looks like this-

5a – alarm goes off – I spend the first couple of minutes singing in my head ‘This is the Day the Lord has made, I will Rejoice and Be Glad in it.”
510 – dressed for a pool run – quick coffee drink
520 – drive to YMCA
530 – 615 – pool run
615 – 630 shower and dressed
630 – breakfast for kids and myself (pack kids lunches)
645 – eat breakfast and read
0700 – wake up girls

As you can see with this type of schedule, I don’t have time to meditate so I move it to before bedtime which sometimes I even forget or fail to do so because I just need to go to bed.  Nor do I have time to journal so that is also moved to the ‘nighttime routine’  However, there are days when I don’t go to the gym so I have to do most of the SAVERS.

Nevertheless, when I make time for myself first thing in the morning and start on a positive note, it sharpens my mental and physical capacity so I can handle whatever the day throws at me.  I truly believe when YOU WIN THE MORNING, YOU WIN THE DAY.

Do you feel it’s important to have a morning routine similar to Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning?  Which one of the SAVERS do you think will make a big difference to you?

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Books

Let Sleep Smarter be your Guide to Better Health

I believe Nutrition, Movement, Sleep, Breath, and Community are the five components to consider when addressing our health. However, sleep is usually the one pushed aside. It is the last thing on our minds when we have a million things to do in the 24 hours we have each day.

Disclosure:  This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  For more info, visit the Disclaimer and Affiliate Disclosure page

However, we should prioritize sleep. The lack of it negatively affects our bodies and minds.  Our quality of life diminishes considerably with poor sleep quality.  And how can we optimize sleep?  By applying the strategies Shawn Stevenson discussed in his bestselling book, Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success

Image credit to sleepsmarterbook.com

THE VALUE OF SLEEP

Shawn Stevenson learned the value of sleep as he went through his own health transformation.  In college, he was diagnosed with a spinal condition called degenerative disc disease.  According to Shawn’s doctor, this was an incurable disease.  That his spine was rapidly deteriorating and he had a spine of an 80 yr old man.  But instead of merely managing through the pain, he became proactive at learning more about his body and overall health.  This led him to make changes in his diet and exercise that incredibly made the pain disappear and eventually healed him.  Sleep also played a big factor during this healing process.  Because of the powerful way sleep transformed his health, he knew he needed to write a book about it.  If you’d like to learn more about Shawn’s story, listen to his podcast episode, My Story of Healing: The Soul and Science of Transforming Your Health.

Always remember the value of sleep, you will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep your require…It’s a natural state your body requires to boost your hormone function; heal your muscles, tissues, and organs; protect you from diseases; and make your mind work at its optimal level…You will work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you’re properly rested.” – Shawn Stevenson

FIVE WAYS TO OPTIMIZE SLEEP

Sleep Smarter covers 21 strategies to help you become a champion sleeper.  Here are five tips to get you closer to the sleep you deserve!  These are also the five I’m currently working on.

Artificial blue light emitted by electronic screens triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (such as cortisol) and disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep.

Aaaaarrgghhh!!  This is such a hard habit to break!   I am controlled by my devices, from laptop to cell phone to the big screen TV.  My current goal is to start at 30min before bed which I still find challenging.  Then eventually tack on a couple of minutes at a time to get me to the 60min point.  If I do better at prioritizing what needs to be done during the day, I won’t leave unfinished matters to do at night.
The ‘Social Media black hole’ is another issue. This is when you intend to spend only a couple of minutes on social media, then the next thing you know a half hour passed!  When we scroll on Facebook, our body produces a powerful chemical called dopamine.  Dopamine is a brain chemical that causes a seeking behavior.  And it’s followed up by the opioid system giving us the pleasure of the results of what we sought.  It’s a continuous loop where we constantly seek and are rewarded.
How do you solve this problem?  By finding an alternative equally pleasurable.  
For me, it’s reading a book and writing in my journal.  For you, it could be listening to music or talking with your loved one.
And if you really have a need to do work to meet a deadline, Shawn Stevenson recommended a blue light blocker whether it’s a pair of glasses or an application (he uses f.lux) on your computer screen.  I think all smartphones and newer laptops has a nighttime setting to block out the blue light.

Electronic devices emit both electric and magnetic fields known as EMFs.  EMFs have been found to cause disruption in the communication among the cells in our bodies.

Even though I invested in a separate alarm clock,  I still find myself setting the phone on my nightstand.  I sometimes use the Calm app for a sleep meditation session.  It has helped with getting thoughts out of my head to lull me to sleep.  I think eventually I can re-create the session without needing the guide of the app.

In the book, Shawn details the risks of cell phone EMFs.  In 2011, a document was released by the World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying cell phone radiation as a Group 2B carcinogen based on an increased risk of  a malignant type of brain cancer, glioma from cell phone use. Yikes!
And EMF also affects our sleep, that it significantly disrupts melatonin secretion.
“Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and other tissues in your body that send signals to your cells to prepare you for sleep.”  When melatonin isn’t properly secreted, the quality of sleep is negatively impacted.

Optimal Room Temperature for Sleep is around 60 deg to 68 deg F

What’s your thermostat setting at night? The body’s core temperature fluctuates throughout the day.  At night, when your body is ready for bed, it automatically drops to prepare for sleep.  Apparently, if your house is warmer than the ideal temperature it’s harder for your body to get good sleep.
This has happened to me when I purposely went to bed early, but forgot to open the window to cool down the bedroom. I tossed and turned all night!  Pulling the covers off me but I’d put them back on because it felt weird to sleep without a blanket over my body.  But then I’d get hot again and it was a sleepless cycle of covers on then off.
Besides the thermostat in your home, you also have to check your “Internal Thermostat”.  Stress and anxiety are likely contributors to an increase in core body temperature.
“…stress can arouse your system, elevate your body temperature, and unwittingly disrupt your sleep.  You absolutely must have a strategy to manage stress in our high stress world today, or you can sleep in an igloo and still not be cool enough.”
 

Meditation increases ‘feel-good’ hormones and endorphins, lowers stress hormones like cortisol, and even reduces inflammation in the body.

Speaking of strategies to manage stress, meditation is one of the best ways to do it.  As Shawn points out, it shouldn’t be complicated.  You can make it as short and simple with a five minute session – focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body.  The trick is to do it more often throughout the day to feel calm and stay present especially during stressful moments.
I mentioned earlier about the sleep meditation session I sometimes do at night.  It’s usually five to ten minutes.  I also do a short session in the morning.  From the book, I learned morning is one of the best times for meditation.
“As the American Academy of Sleep Medicine research showed, meditating in the morning is proven to help test subjects sleep at night.   You’re creating a conscious neuro-pathway to relaxation, a buffer against stress, and a profound sense of presence that will help you sleep better in the evening.”

Remember, food isn’t just food – it’s information.  And the types of food that you eat, along with the nutrients they contain (or lack thereof), automatically incite processes that determine what your body, health, and sleep will look like.

Your gut health is connected to sleep due to serotonin, where 95% of it is found in the gut. Serotonin is the building block for melatonin.  As mentioned previously, melatonin is the hormone that signals your body to sleep.  In the book, you can learn more about the physiology of the gut with the way serotonin is produced relative to the health of your digestion.  Basically, you want the bacteria (friendly and unfriendly flora) to achieve a natural balance to effectively produce serotonin and melatonin.
Be very cautious of these items as they have been clinically proven to damage your gut microbiome: Agricultural chemicals ie. pesticides, Processed foods, Repeated antibiotic use, Chemical food additives and preservatives, Chlorinated water.

Are any of these strategies already a part of your optimal sleep quality practice?  If they are, yet you still struggle with sleep, many more tips are available in Sleep Smarter.  I find myself referring to this book when I notice my quality of sleep has been sub par.  Check it out for yourself!

Note:  This is the first book in the series of health and transformation books I intend to post on the blog every month.  If you’d like to be notified of future book posts, please subscribe below.  Thank you!
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