Archive for January, 2011

Our bodies were designed to move.  While sitting still for long periods of time, day after day, will contribute to a myriad of health problems, moving around will help your circulation, your digestion, your metabolism, your muscles and joints, not to mention your brain.  On a whole, people are much more productive mentally when they take the time to move around.  In terms of our evolution, the human species has survived and thrived with movement.  It is only in very recent, modern times that humans have become so sedentary, and health practitioners and scientists are finding more and more that a sedentary lifestyle is an unhealthy one.

If you are like millions of other Americans with a job that keeps you chained to your desk, it is extremely important that you make time throughout your day to move your body, especially on the days you do not plan to exercise.  Although, to be clear, it is important to move your body around even on the days you do plan to hit the gym.  It is simply not advisable to sit at a desk with little or no movement for hours at a time.  Also, it is important for your eyes to get a break from the computer screen they’ve been staring at.  Finally, while you may be tempted to forego taking the time to move your body around on those days when you are just swamped with work, taking 5 minutes every hour or so to do some light exercising/stretching will actually increase your productivity.  Sitting for long periods of time causes decreased energy, decreased blood flow to the brain, and listlessness.

Here are a few simple exercises you can do at work:

(IMPORTANT:  Check with your doctor first before beginning any new exercise regimen.)

60 Second Full Blast Cardio

It is very beneficial to both your heart and your longevity to improve what is called your heart rate variability – you heart’s ability to go from 0 to 60 in mere seconds.  So, every once in a while, get up from your desk and do 60 seconds worth of cardio at full speed.  You can do jumping jacks, run in place, or simulated jump rope for instance.  If you have a stairwell nearby, run up and down it for a minute.

Simple Strength Exercises

As any personal trainer worth his/her own salt will tell you, you don’t need weights to build strength.  All you need is your body and a little imagination.  Some examples of simple strength exercises for the office:

  • Squats against the wall
  • Lunges (front, back, and to the side)
  • Dips using a sturdy chair (triceps exercise; test your chair gingerly first)
  • Desk pushups (test the desk to make sure it will hold your weight)
  • Using water bottles as weights:  Overhead press (shoulders); Bicep curls

Simple Stretching Exercises

Too many of us overlook stretching, but it is so important to the health of our muscles and joints to keep them mobile and loose – especially when you’re sitting in one position for long periods of time as you do at work.  Here are some simple stretching exercises:

  • While sitting or standing up tall, reach your hands up to the sky.
  • Standing, lace your hands behind your back, pinch your shoulder blades together, lifting your chest and chin.
  • Standing, bend forward with a flat back.  You should feel this in your hamstrings.
  • In your chair, with your hips facing forward, twist your torso to the right, while keeping your head looking towards the left.  Reverse.
  • Gentle neck rolls from side to side.
  • Gentle shoulder rolls, front and back.
  • While standing, circle your hips, to the right and then to the left.
  • Gentle ankle rolls.

Other Tips

Whenever possible, move. Do a lap around the office.  Take numerous trips to the water station.  Walk at lunch.  Take the stairs.  Don’t send an email to the co-worker down the hall – get up and walk there.

Get some sort of reminder system going. There are many great (and free) applications you can download to your computer that will sound an alarm so you can be reminded to get up and move your body.  (It’s easy to get caught up with what you’re doing and forget, trust me, I know.)  One example is an application called Cool Timer.

Invest in a ball chair. A ball chair will help to keep your body active even while it is sitting, because it engages your core.  With a ball chair your core has to work to keep you balanced on its circular, uneven surface.  It also will help you keep good posture.

For your eyes: Every time you exercise, take care of your eyes at the same time.  If you have been focusing for a long time at your computer screen or another short-distanced object like a document, spend a couple of minutes forcing yourself to focus on objects far away from you.

Criticism & Relationships

Criticism can often seem like second nature.  Probably because we criticize ourselves so often.  Most of us are our own worst critics.  Criticism can wreak havoc on one’s self esteem, and it can be equally destructive in a relationship.  Does this mean you have to swallow everything your spouse/partner does without any means of standing up for yourself?  Of course not.  If you feel wronged somehow in your relationship, there is a way to communicate your feelings without being critical.

Criticism will find its way into almost every relationship.  It is a language we all learned to speak (unfortunately) at a very young age.  If it’s easy to criticize ourselves, it is almost as easy to criticize others, especially the ones we spend a lot of time with, like our spouse or partner.  It’s how we deal with it, how we address it, and how we keep it in check that matters.  If criticism has gotten out of control in your relationship, I would suggest above all else to seek couples counseling / marriage counseling.  More than likely, there are deep-rooted issues and patterns of behavior that would best be addressed with the help of a licensed professional.  If, however, you feel your relationship is healthy, but would like to nip criticism in the bud before it becomes too destructive, read on.

First, let’s look at those times that we criticize.  I heard a wonderful quote the other day about criticism:  “Criticism is just a bad way of making a request.  So why not just make the request?”  Often, when we criticize someone, it is because they are not doing something we would like them to do or they are doing something we would like them to stop doing.  Rather than using an attack mode of communication like criticism, it would be much healthier and much more effective to simply make your request:  “When you _____, I feel _____.  Could we please try to come to a solution together so this doesn’t happen anymore?”  If you approach it that way, it is much less likely to be received negatively by your partner, and will foster a solution that much quicker.

Next, let’s look at how we listen to criticism.  Listening is the other equally important component of communication, and it is sadly often overlooked.  Fact of the matter is, in the heat of the moment, your partner may in fact lash out at you with a harsh criticism.  Nobody is perfect after all, and we all have our bad moments, especially when we are feeling tired, or anxious, or stressed, or simply had a crummy day.  That’s why it is so important to not react defensively when we are criticized.  Try to avoid counterattacking with criticisms of your own as a defense mechanism.  “Well, I wouldn’t do this if you didn’t do that.”  Or, “You’re one to talk.  You always _____!”  Etc., etc.  It is futile to try to “prove” your partner is as “bad as you are.”  This leads to nothing but hurt feelings and raised voices.  Instead, take your ego out of it and try to listen for the request behind the criticism.  If it is unclear, ask questions to try to uncover it.  Responding this way will not only calm your partner down, but it will help you both come to a compromise / find the solution you ultimately seek.  Of course, again, on your bad days  you may not respond to a criticism as well as you should.  On those days, when you and your partner/spouse find yourselves in a criticism power struggle, call a timeout, retreat to your separate corners, and agree to resolve the conflict at a later point in time.

If you have made a New Year’s resolution in the past and were not successful at achieving it, you are not alone.  New Year’s resolutions as a whole do not have a very high success rate.  Yet, many of us still feel compelled to make them.  I, for one, am all for New Year’s resolutions.  Like many others, I consider the New Year an opportunity for a fresh start.  It naturally compels me to take stock of the past year and to set goals for the coming year.  This is not a bad thing for anyone.  It is important to set goals for yourself, which you can do at any time of the year of course, but the start of a new year is the time many of us choose to do so.

Before you feel discouraged by the low success rate of New Year’s resolutions, let me cheer you up with a couple of thoughts.  First, if you never make any resolutions at all because you think you’re bound to fail, then you are 100% guaranteed to fail.  You might as well increase those odds by making one.  One study found that 46 percent of individuals who made resolutions were successful compared to four percent who wanted to achieve a certain goal and considered it but didn’t actually create a resolution.[1] So, no matter what your success rate has been in the past with New Year’s resolutions, my best advice is to go ahead and make another one this year.  You have a much better chance of achieving your goal this way.

Here are some tips to help you succeed with your New Year’s resolution(s) this year:

1.  Be Thoughtful / Mindful in Making Your Resolution

If you are going to make a resolution this year, you might as well make it something that will truly effect positive change in your life.  Don’t just pick something arbitrary like: “I’m going to stop eating candy for 6 months.”  While essentially it is good to cut out candy, it is not a sustainable goal that will substantively change your life for the better.  Rather, it will be a very difficult resolution to adhere to and it will more than likely cause you to go on a candy gorge once you’re done, thus reversing any good the resolution did in the first place.  It’s important to take the time to look at your life with honest eyes and figure out what would be most beneficial to change or improve.  Bare in mind, it might not be the most obvious thing.  Ask yourself why you want to make the change.  If it is a reason that is highly motivating, this will help you stick to your resolve when the going gets tough.

2.  Start with One Thing

Don’t try to take on too much.  You can always add more goals as the year goes on.   We all have many things we’d like to improve about ourselves, but if we try to take them all on at once, we will feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the enormity of the task before us.

3.  Visualize Your Resolution

It will help you achieve your resolution if you take the time to meditate on it regularly and visualize it.  Who are you once you’ve achieved it?  What do you look like?  How do you speak?  How do you carry yourself?  How do you interact with others?  How do you interact with yourself?  What does your life look like?  Imagine an entire day in your life once you have achieved the goal.  The clearer and more detailed you visualize, the better.  Then, as you are working towards achieving your goal, do your best to be, act, speak, think and react like the “you” you visualized who had already achieved the goal.   This will help enormously.

4.  Write Your Resolution Down

Every expert out there on personal transformation and goal achievement speaks of the importance of writing your goals down on paper.  There is great power in doing this and it increases your odds of achieving your goals exponentially.

5.  Have a Plan

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  I don’t know who said that first, but it’s the truth.  A lot of people will tell you to not aim too high with your resolution, but I do not necessarily agree.  I think it is important to think and dream big, but you need to have a plan with small achievable goals and action steps that will lead you to that big dream.  Otherwise, it will remain just that – a dream.

6.  Build In Accountability and Support

Tell EVERYONE your resolution.  You may want to keep it close to your chest for fear of failure and resulting embarrassment, but here’s the thing.  The people you tell, your support system, increase your chances of success by a million trillion – meaning, A LOT!  They will be there to pick you up when you fall down and make a mistake, or get off track.  They will help push you and challenge you to do your best always.  They will be there to help keep your hope up, your heart open, and your courage intact as you move towards your goal, your dream.   If you are someone who has trouble accepting help, I encourage you to be that support system to others also trying to succeed at their New Year’s resolution.  This way, it is a give and take relationship.  Also, it will serve to give you both perspectives, which should help you to be on the receiving end because you will fully understand how much the person helping you wants you to let them help.

7.  Think Outside the Box

Ok, so maybe, for instance, you’d like to lose weight.  And maybe, for instance, this has been your New Year’s resolution for two years running and you’ve only managed to gain weight.  Or, you lost some but gained it all back.  Instead of making the same old resolution, “I will lose X pounds by X date,” think of a different resolution that will help you achieve your ultimate goal – a healthy body at a healthy weight, for LIFE.  Maybe it’s, “I will keep a detailed food journal so I can understand my relationship with food.  I will record everything I consume and how it makes me feel.  I will also educate myself on nutrition, fitness, and the human body.”    This type of resolution will get you much closer to your ultimate goal of a healthy body with a healthy lifestyle than the former.  And it is also a very achievable resolution.

8.  Don’t Be Mean to Yourself

Remember always that the road to success is a journey, with many ups and downs, twists and curves.  Falls, setbacks, and mistakes are a guaranteed part of the journey.  It is extremely important that when these happen, you don’t beat yourself up about it.  Look at each mistake honestly so you can learn from it, but be kind and compassionate to yourself.  If you beat yourself up about your mistakes, it will cause you to lose hope and get discouraged.  Before you know it, you’ll have stopped trying to achieve your resolution because you no longer think you can.

9.  Reward Yourself

As important as it is to not beat yourself up when you make mistakes, it is equally important to reward yourself in some way when you achieve the small, measurable goals you’ve set out for yourself.  This will do a lot to keep your spirit up and keep you on the road to success.

10.  Keep Going No Matter What

YOU CANNOT FAIL.  I’ll say it again.  YOU CANNOT FAIL. You’ll make mistakes, get off track, and have many moments when you feel like you are failing, or have failed, at achieving your resolution.  But – and this is a BIG but – as along as you keep picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, forgiving yourself the fall, and moving forward, YOU CANNOT FAIL. So, KEEP GOING NO MATTER WHAT!


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