DIET VS. HEALTH

This is a great comparison in different thinking. Although this is obviously written for physical health and weight-loss, the same can be said for going on a mental diet. Changing from a life filled with stress and pleasing others to one of inner peace and spreading love can be just like the diet verses health comparison.

The circled part of the two words is an important element to think about as well. When you go on a diet, what you are doing to both your body and your mind is stressful. You focus on things like ‘cheating’ on your diet. You think of all the food you are restricted and forbidden from eating. It becomes about suffering through this period so you can go back to eating the terrible way that got you this way in the first place. Focused on more healthy eating is entirely different. You don’t restrict yourself as much, you just think, “would this help my body or hurt my body?” If you have a day where you do not eat as healthy as you should, you focus on reducing them while increasing the amount of healthy meals. This in turn lowers your stress which can help you lose weight anyway.

When embarking on any lifestyle change, whether that is diet, exercise, attitude, gratitude or a host of others there is one thing you should keep in mind. It is not so much about a specific process as it is about progress. Working on being a little better than you were the day before. Print this picture out if you like or even just print out the two words circled as they are for a powerful reminder. 

YOU WON’T BE INJURED

Here is a point to ponder – what does it hurt to be positive? I hear all of you pessimists out there screaming that you will constantly be disappointed, and to some extent that may be true. Really disappointment is tied to expectations. If you maintain a positive attitude and strive to find the best in everything it is very hard to have a bad day.

When you first start out it is a little rocky and you could be tempted to give up when life starts to go sideways. We all can feel that way at times. Once you develop positivity as a lifestyle it becomes easier to maintain. It is like anything we start. Take diets and working out for example. If you decide you are going to “Start working out” or “go on a diet” that is a lot different than “Committing to living a healthy and active lifestyle. A diet is not the same as “committing to eating healthier”.

There are two very distinct and important differences. One is a trial. I am going to go on this diet or go to the gym and there really is no long term commitment. As a matter of fact, most diets advise you not to follow them for a prolonged period of time. That should tell you that they may not be the best for your health. Committing to a healthy eating program or a more active lifestyle also gives you a little more freedom. From a psychological standpoint diets usually involve you ‘giving up’ something. A workout program entails you ‘having’ to go to the gym. One leaves you feeling deprived, one leaves you feeling forced. When you commit to a more active lifestyle that can start with parking far away and walking to the store. Eating healthier can start by adding more vegetables to dinner. These are things you are adding to your life. This will give you a much better chance of sticking with it in the long term.

It also gives you options. Maybe the gym is not your thing? All of the sweaty people and the occasional grunting individual can be a bit much for me at times. That is why I enjoy taking my bike out and going for a ride. I also enjoy walks around the neighborhood. Not only does it allow me to be active, but get to know some neighbors as well. When it comes to eating healthy I enjoy trying new dishes, learning about exciting meal prep options and a host of other things. I still have my occasional pizza or nacho night because I enjoy those things and feel it is good to enjoy them in moderation.

My main point I would like to make is living a more positive and rewarding life is the same. You do not have to start by walking on rainbows and sprinkling glitter everywhere you go. Start with whatever feels right for you. Maybe smile at one stranger a day? Perhaps mail out one thank you card a week? There are a million different options. Once you add one you may choose to add another because it feels so good. Do it at your own pace and when you feel it is right.

WHY WE ARE WARRIORS

A lot of us are struggling to keep up with resolutions we made a little over a week ago. Some of my friends I know have already broken theirs. This can leave you feeling like a failure. I am here to remind you it is ok to try and fail as long as you do not fail to try. Being a warrior is a daily battle. Life is about the daily battles. Some you will win, some you may lose. The goal in life is to do our best to win more than we lose.

Whether that battle is staying true to your fitness plan or even to your faith, it is a daily challenge. Even though we do our best, we may not win every day. A true warrior dusts themselves off every day and begins with a fresh and positive attitude no matter what yesterday has delivered. It is important to remember the war itself will never be won. Everyday we must face our demons and overcome the challenges not only from without, but even harder from within.

When we fail to keep a resolution or goal we have set, we must use that to fuel our motivation to do better next time. Winston Churchill defined success as “Going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” That is exactly what we must do to become successful. If your cheat day on your new healthy eating plan was taco Tuesday and that turned into burger Wednesday and pizza Friday, just start even more determined on Saturday. We all try and fail, just make sure you never fail to try. 

TRANSFORM TOGETHER

There are many good places to meet friends for social reasons.Here is one that not only accomplishes that, but has an added bonus of science. The science behind making good friends? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let me back up and talk a little more about the social pluses of today’s place to make friends. Today’s place to make friends and generally improving your life is the gym. Before you start rolling your eyes and clicking off this website, let me assure you I can relate to your doubts.

At the gym I am usually in a state close to hyperventilating, dripping with sweat, smelling less than ideal and in short, not my ideal self. Why on earth would this be a good place to meet someone? First of all, chances are most people there are in a similar state. Second, all of you already have one thing in common, you are chasing the goal of being healthier. Sure, your goals may be different. It may be you are facing a serious health condition, maybe you are trying to get in shape for your Jamaican vacation or you just want to fit into the clothes in your closet better. That gives enough variety to start some interesting discussions.

Here comes the science. The first one has to do more with working out than making friends, but it good to know just the same. It would fit under the category of psychological science. When working to obtain our fitness goals having a workout partner dramatically increases our chances of success. We find it easy to make excuses to ourselves, but most of us tend to feel a lot worse if we let someone else down. Having a partner that can not only talk us into the gym when we don’t feel like going, but hold us accountable when we don’t make it, will have our butts cursing on the treadmill far more often than when we try to go it alone. Adding to the fact two heads are always better than one when it comes to figuring out how to use that complex machine you never see anyone on but looks like it could really help your fitness.

The second half of the science as to why the gym is such a good place to make friends is even more impressive. When we exercise the brain releases ‘feel good chemicals’. These chemicals are called endorphins. No, they are not the cute animals that swim around the ocean. Those are dolphins. They do, however, cause very similar reactions in our bodies and brains. Endorphins, again the chemical not the aquatic animal, interact with receptors in your to reduce your perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. They have been compared to a natural form of morphine.

Imagine everyone you meet being on morphine. There would be a lot less conflict and a lot more mellow happy people. That is exactly what happens after we work out. It is also something I recommend couples try working into their routine. Spending time around someone who has just experienced the rush of chemicals compared to natural morphine should be pretty easy. If both parties are experiencing that feeling such as a workout partner or your loving spouse, great feeling are bound to occur. As the new year approaches lots of your friends will join gyms and those gyms usually run specials to get people to join. Why not find a friend to make that commitment with you? Can’t find a friend who is looking to get healthy? Join yourself and begin to talk to people there. Trust me when I tell you most people would be more than happy to talk about their workouts, diet and fitness routine. I don’t know if this is due to endorphins or just the fact they love to have people working with them.

Try taking and making friends at the gym. You won’t be disappointed. As an added bonus, you will become healthier and happier yourself.

HOW TO BEAT YOUR COMPETITION

 

Competition. Everyone has someone they are competing against. A coworker for a job. A person on the team for a position. Maybe even the violin player next to you so you can get first chair. There are even healthier forms of completion. Competing with your lover to see who can be more romantic. Competing with a friend to see who can eat healthy for the longest and who can make it to the gym more days this week.

While all of those may indeed be examples of competition, I think the real competition can be found within ourselves. There is an old Cherokee tale of the two wolves inside each one of us. In short, there are two wolves inside each one of us, a good wolf and a bad wolf. Each one wants to be in control and they will fight to gain control over our mind and body. The simple way to figure out which one will win? The one you feed the most. That is the real competition. It happens inside each and every one of us. The picture above gives plenty of examples.

Let me put a few more out there and see if they sound familiar. You know you should get up early and go to the gym before work but you hit snooze because it is cold out and you are tired. You just fed the bad wolf. You finally go the gym and put in a good workout. You fed the good wolf. On the way home from the gym you stop at the all-you-can-eat pizza place and have…well…all you can eat. You fed the bad wolf. You know you should apologize for something you said to a friend, but you don’t because your ego convinces you that you will look weak or bad. You fed the bad wolf. You talk about your neighbor/coworker/friend behind their back. You fed the bad wolf. You helped a complete stranger just because they needed it. You fed the good wolf.

Our lives are filled with examples of this over and over everyday. It is a never-ending…competition. The competition you must win is on the inside. This is a competition we will be in for the rest of our lives. Some days we may win, some days we may lose. Like any other competition, the more we practice, the more we train, the more we learn from our loses as well as our victories the better chance we stand in winning tomorrow.

WATCHING YOUR DIET

People are so careful about their diets today. Gluten-free, Paleo, low-carb, high-fat. It seems every day there is another healthy way that we should all be eating. Then there are the new allergies that people have to look out for. Some are allergic to nuts. Some people cannot consume dairy products or shellfish. In other words, these days people are being far more discerning as to what they put in their bodies. All this is good. It is good that we are eating with the idea of helping our bodies function at peak efficiency.

Ironically, and somewhat tragic to me, is that is where the discernment stops. We spend our days listening to music that is sometimes filled with violence and a total lack of respect. We watch television shows where characters try to get laughs by putting each other down with sarcastic barbs. We read stories in the newspaper, online and social media (more about that tomorrow) that are filled with harsh judgments, political rancor and other drama. Then at the end of the day we wonder why our energy is drained and we feel stressed out.

Like the picture above mentions, we need to mindful of the things we put into our body emotionally, spiritually, and physically. We will do our best to avoid that sweet treat that will only end up giving us cavities and some extra pounds to carry around with us. We should take the same approach on deciding if what we are going to consume with our eyes, ears, mind and spirit will serve us or contribute to our daily downfall. Will reading that article about the latest mass shooting really bring anything good into our lives? Does being inundated with the latest chapters of what is wrong with the world give us anything but a sinking feeling of depression and a sense of hopelessness?

Am I saying we have to be worried about every little thing we watch, read, listen to or even people we hang around? Not at all. That will only cause you to be stressed out about the things that can be unconsciously stressing you out. That would be…well…very stressful. What I am asking you is to be more aware of what is going into your body. In the beginning especially it can be hard to think of I have to get rid of that or I have to stop doing that. That can leave you feeling like your brain is fighting you and with a feeling of deprivation. As I do in all of my practices, here I advocate increasing the positive to decrease the negative.

How do we do that? Do your best to include reading a few pages of something inspirational. Those Chicken Soup for the Soul books work well. Filled with short inspiring stories that fill you with joy, they can add a little something special to your day. On this site and in my book we talk about creating a Happy Playlist of songs that bring cheer to your day. Spend time with people who make you laugh, smile and bring your spirit to life. As far as social media, we will delve into that tomorrow. If you have any other suggestions for things to add to your Diet feel free to leave them in the comments below.

THE PATH TO ETERNAL BEAUTY

Look in any magazine or watch any reality show and you will run across the same thing, everyone is trying to find the key to eternal youth and beauty. There are ads for creams, lotions, even cosmetic surgery has been refined to an in and out process. There is a new cool laser that can make your fat cells disappear. People spend millions of dollars a year on both hair removal and hair restoration. No matter how many advances or your financial ability to obtain them, one thing is for certain, eventually they will fade.

Do not misunderstand me. I believe there is plenty of physical improvements that make sense to do from not only an appearance stand point, but from a health stand point as well. Having dental work done will not only increase your chances of smiling, adding beauty right there, but help your health in many ways. Engaging in physical exercise will not only have your figure looking fit and trim, but help your heart and circulatory system run efficiently as well. Choosing a healthier way of eating over a crash fad diet will pay dividends for years to come.

Considering the amount of money we spend on items in the first category that serve only as a temporary cover up at best, we certainly could do better. Even the time, energy and effort we spend on items in the second category will only take us so far if we continue to ignore the single most important category to increase our physical appeal. The area of our life we should address first is often relegated to an after thought.

What is the area of our life that will bring us the greatest return on investment in regards to our beauty? It is our spirit, our heart, our inner peace. This may sound a bit cliché to many of you, but it is true. How many times have you come across someone who may not be your normal physical ‘cup of tea’ as it were, but something just attracted you to them? We all like to be around people who make us laugh, smile and enjoy life more. On the flip side, even if the person we are with has graced the cover of a million magazines, if they suck our spirit dry and leave us feeling emotionally drained there is no way we would want to be around them.

How do we invest in this portion of our lives? The answer is simple. Invest in ourselves. When we work to become better as individuals, we have more to offer each other and the world at large. Do something to refresh your spirit. Discover new ways to cultivate joy, engage in activities that make you smile. Foster an attitude of gratitude. Always look for the best in others. If you do these simple things and any others that will lead to an improved you, before long you will become more beautiful from the inside out. The upside here is the more you do this, the greater the beauty becomes. Keep it up and this beauty will never fade. No pills, lotions, fad diets or insane workouts needed.

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE 4-MINUTE MILE

Let me start by letting you all in on a few secrets. First, I do not, nor have I ever run a 4-minute mile. After eating all of the delicious meals Margie makes, I would be lucky to run a 40-minute mile. Also this post is not about running, it is about the power of belief.

You may have heard how powerful your beliefs are. You may have even heard they have a large influence in your life. You may have even scoffed at these two ideas. I am here to take this one step further and tell you that your beliefs can not only influence your life, but influence the entire world! Sound a little crazy and far-fetched?  Let us look at the history of the 4-minute mile and I will let you decide for yourself.

Humans have existed on this planet for a very long time in some form for fashion. Depending on your belief the length varies, but at the very least it has been many thousands of years. In that time, prior to the above date in 1954, no human had ever run a 4-minute mile. In fact, until that date, it was believed (there is that word again) that is was physically impossible for a human to run that fast. We were told our heart would explode, lungs could not handle it and that the physical make-up would not allow it. After much pizza and rum that still holds true for me, but I digress.

Enter Roger Bannister, a British athlete set to compete in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki where he finished fourth in the 1500 meters. This strengthened his resolve to break the 4-minute mile which he did at Oxford on May 6th, 1954, running 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. He proved what many had said was impossible.

That is not the coolest part of the story. As we discussed the amount of people who ran that fast prior to that day in May were zero. Roger Bannister’s record, however, fell after only 46 days! Since then over 1000 people have raced at less than a 4-minute mile. How is this possible? Did human genetics suddenly change? Did the world suddenly get faster? How do we go from zero people doing it for thousands of years, to over a thousand in a little over 50? What changed?

The only thing that changed was the belief that it was possible. This was first done by Roger Bannister visualizing himself doing it so much that it became believable to him. After he accomplished it people everywhere now could believe it was possible for them as well. If this is true about an athletic accomplishment that has stood since the evolution of man, isn’t it true about your own life as well?  That business you want to start is not impossible. The weight loss you want to achieve, it is possible. You want to beat that addiction? It is possible! When others, or maybe even the person in the mirror, tell you something is impossible for you to do remember the story of the 4-minute mile.If you see me at the gym, forget all about a 4-minute mile.

CHANGE YOUR LIFE WITH ONE SIMPLE SHIFT

In a nutshell this is the key to my upcoming book. A lot of people are lost in focusing on improving their relationships, their career, their inner peace and a million other areas of their life. This is all well and good as people should be trying to improve all areas of their life. When you think of all of the areas that could use some work, or that you just want to be operating at the highest level, it can seem overwhelming to say the least.

What many fail to realize, or find hard to believe is that focusing the change on ourselves can accomplish change in all of these areas and more. When we think of focusing on changing and improving ourselves to the benefit of all the areas of our life, a few issues may pop up. One of the things that may come to mind is the thought that why should we change when our spouse/boss/coworkers are the problem? Another issue may be the urgency that we have to change. The funny thing is that my working on ourselves, not only will all these areas be improved, but they will do so quickly and with less stress than if we tried to focus on each area separately.

Here is another aspect to consider. If we are waiting for our boss/spouse/friend/coworker to change, how long might that take? To be honest, it may and probably will not ever happen. Why should they change who they are just to make us happy? If you are anything like myself when I first heard this you may be tempted to reply, “Well Neil, why should I change?” The answer is simple, it will help you. Do you think your boss cares if you go home upset because he belittles you? I am guessing not. Do you think your rude coworker cares that they frustrate you with their actions? No.

How on earth will us changing help us deal with these people as well as improve other areas of our life such as our health, our inner peace? The fact is we can’t change other people, nor should we try. It is not our right or job to decide how everyone should talk or act. What our job is, however, is to decide what their actions mean and will do to us. A great and simple way to do this is by asking ourselves some questions that serve us. I am going to give you two questions that will change your life. Sounds pretty crazy and all of this will be expanded on in my upcoming book, but I want to get this information out there so you can start playing with it and putting it to work in your life right now.

Question # 1: Who do I want to be? This is a question we should ask ourselves everyday, several times a day. I am not just talking about professionally, but physically, mentally and spiritually. How many people do you think have a definition for these areas? I would also recommend taking time at the very least once a week, to write down your answers and take a look at them daily. Seem like a little too much work? Let me ask you this, would you go to the grocery store without a list of what you wanted? Would you just get in your car and start driving without first deciding where you want to go? Of course not. So, why are so many of us living our very life with no direction and then becoming frustrated with the lack of positive results?

Asking yourself this question does one more fabulous thing, it helps guide your actions. Let us say your description of who you would like to be includes a healthy fit person. Now, the way this works is after reading this description we arrive at the job after a stressful commute to find a caring coworker has brought in our favorite doughnut. With the thought of who we wish to become we may very well be less tempted to give in and eat half a dozen. Let us say the coworker is not so nice to us following our stressful commute. If our description includes being a person who does not live in reaction and has a sense of inner peace, we may be less tempted to volunteer to adjust their attitude. We may not always succeed, but knowing what our end goal is will help improve our chances. That also leads us to our other question.

Question #2: How can I use this? This comes in handy with challenges, but can also be used with positive circumstances as well. When we see those mouth-watering pastries after our commute we can use it to remind us that we need to find healthy great tasting snacks. Before you ask, yes they are out there. Have fun researching them. How about the rude coworker? We can use them to practice and build our patience and ability to not live in reaction. Another satisfying aspect is that nothing annoys someone who does their best to bring negativity to people’s lives as someone who doesn’t react to them. Remember, allowing people to get under our skin only negatively affects us, not them. Do yourself a favor and work on yourself for your own good and well-being.

DON’T WAIT, CELEBRATE TODAY!!

In past posts we have discussed the importance of not waiting to be happy until. In today’s post, I would like to add a caveat to that, do not wait to celebrate yourself until.

We all have people we know who are chasing worthwhile goals, or really working hard on improving themselves. These are both very noble pursuits. Ironically, these people can be the hardest on themselves, refusing to give themselves any acknowledgement or reward until the have completed the goal or reached their desired improvement.

This can actually be contrary to helping you achieve what you are attempting to do. By denying yourself reward until the very end, or being hard on yourself if you slip up can leave you feeling like a failure.

Examples? Your trying to lose 30 pounds and you eat better for a week and then you slip and enjoy a ‘taco tuesday’. Sure giving yourself a little pain will serve well to get you back on track, but beating yourself up can leave you feeling like you will never succeed. On the contrary even a verbal acknowledgement of the great week of eating could help instill pride and keep you motivated. Sure, you are not down to your goal weight, but you took steps toward a healthy lifestyle, that’s good work!

What about success goals? Maybe you want to write a book to help people live a more positive and rewarding life. You write the book, but then run into problem after problem promoting it. It is important to remind ourselves of our why. Knowing if you help a few people you could start a ripple effect and maybe change more lives than you thought.

These examples are purely hypothetical, but show how delaying recognition of our own accomplishments, even if they fall short of our end goal, can make us feel like a failure and dampen our enthusiasm going forward.

Take time to notice what you have done. Look how much further you are than a year ago, or last week, or maybe even yesterday. When you do mess up? Sure, give yourself a little bit of pain, but then use that feeling to propel you to avoid that pain in the future. Let it strengthen your resolve.