1. Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    March 6, 2014

    Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    by Michelle Blessing


    (This article is a follow up to “7 Habits of Happy People“)


    We all know exercise benefits us in the physical sense – it improves our health and extends our life expectancy.  But many people don’t realize the benefits exercise has for your mental well-being; exercise improves brain function, improves mood and decreases the incidence of depression.  Still not convinced about the benefits exercise can have on your happiness and well-being?  Read on…..


    Many research studies have been published regarding the connection between exercise and happiness.  Most of the studies have discussed the link between improved mood and happiness with exercising.  Although the link is not definitive (some studies state that people who are happier are more inclined to exercise), there is proof that being active and exercising can and does improve your mood.  Some researchers have cited the release of endorphins during exercise as causing the improvement in mood, while others believe challenging the mind and body creates a feeling of satisfaction that leads to increased mood and happiness.


    However, as discussed in the post regarding caring, it can be difficult to find the time (and the energy) to exercise on a regular basis.  Take it from someone one who has been there – I was notorious for finding every excuse in the book not to exercise.  Here are some examples of my excuses – the dishes need to be done, my favorite show is on TV, I feel guilty spending time away from my kids….on and on the list went.  I wasn’t exercising, and clearly, my mood reflected that.  I soon discovered that in order to be the best version of myself, I needed to make the time to take care of myself.


    Exercise is and should be an important part of your everyday life.  Exercise has the ability to teach you things about yourself – what fulfills you and what you’re capable of.  The art of practicing some form of exercise, whether it is aerobics, walking or yoga, allows you to get in touch with your body – and your mind.  The key to success – and happiness- with exercise is not choosing something easy; it is important, however, to choose something you enjoy and something that will challenge you.


    Exercise and becoming physically active is the first step in achieving some level of happiness.  But there is truth in the idea of challenging yourself to accomplish goals or master something.  It doesn’t matter what exercise you choose; the important component is to find your niche, settle in and work towards whatever it is you want to accomplish.  Happiness will be the icing on that piece of cake.


    For me, yoga is what fulfills me.  It’s not just about the breathing or the stretching, the poses or the meditation; it’s about challenging my body to reach its potential.  With every class I take, I try harder, I get stronger – and I find a deeper sense of happiness and satisfaction.  For others, running is their passion; they find inner peace in pounding the pavement and pushing their body to the limit.  It doesn’t matter what you choose, but you need to make a commitment.  Make a commitment to exercise at least a few times per week.  Start slow (and always check with your physician before starting a new exercise regimen); 20 minutes of exercise, 2 or 3 times a week is a good place to begin.  With each exercise session, push yourself (within your limits) to progress towards your goals.  Most importantly, focus on how the exercise makes you feel both physically and mentally.  Appreciate how the activity impacts your body and your mind.  When you are exercising, try to focus on only that; let other thoughts (about the kids, bills or dinner) leave your mind; instead, keep the concentration on your body and mind, especially reflecting on what you are capable of.  By appreciating your body and your mind for what it can do, you not only push yourself on the path to happiness and positivity, you might even inspire others to do the same.


    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazz_defo/3529977647


  2. Getting Fit Using Alternate Exercise

    October 17, 2013

    by Laura Green

    Well, age 34 is just a few months away (much fewer than I would like). The days when I would jog or swim a couple of miles a day are distant, dusty memories. Now, I get out of breath climbing the stairs out of the basement. But, I would like to get back into the healthy department, the question is, where should I start?


    Yeah, I always thought this was an “old lady’s” way of pretending to be in shape. Boy, was I wrong? I first became acquainted with yoga a few years ago when a middle-aged woman I knew – a breast cancer survivor – told me about the flexibility she had gained through yoga. I have never been flexible.

    Another exposure to this form of exercise was when I saw a 93 year old man reach down and touch his toes – with no trouble. He said that he was flexible enough for that because of yoga.

    Let me tell you, yoga is not “sitting funny” and chanting weird stuff. This non-impact exercise regimen has stretched parts of my body that I never thought could bend. It is ability based, so that old back injury from a car wreck is not in the least aggravated by my exercise. Regardless of your physical ability, size, age, and even inclination, you will find that yoga can build your core strength and improve muscle tone. All of this helps your circulation and lowers stress levels, too.

    Yoga doesn’t have to be overexertion, you work your muscles fairly hard and as a result you’re increasing the blood flow through your body. Pranayama, a breathing exercise can increase your heart rate and help supply nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. It all helps to boost your metabolism and everyone knows that a healthy metabolism contributes to the burning of excess weight and in turn will make you fitter.

    Tai Chi

    Tai Chi is a form of fitness more or less a moving type of yoga, You could refer to it as a sort of meditation in motion. The movements are adapted from martial arts and the movements of animals and birds in nature. The movements are arranged in “sets”. The movement is slow and graceful, and meditation is a key part in the exercise, or vital force in the body, to Taoism. But even if you don’t subscribe to the mysticism, Tai Chi is a great way to build your sense of balance and strengthen muscle groups.

    Tai Chi also features breathing exercises, “Qigong” can be practiced sitting, standing or lying down and can help mobilize and relax the body. Tai chi is a great way to reduce stress and increase circulation and muscle tone, a great way to get back into fitness.

    Fitness Retreats

    This is a bit of a different one, I would say the least popular most likely. But when you just don’t have the willpower to get youself doing the previous methods, or even just standard exercise, this is a great way to get fit again. The negative moniker greatly underestimates the good done by spas and camps. A day, a week, or a month at a weight loss clinic or spa can be the jump start for your weight loss and fitness regimen. There are reality shows based on this premise, with coaches that “urge” people to perform physical feats they never before would have attempted.

    However, not all weight loss camps and spas are like that. You’ll find that extreme exercise and dieting is not necessary when you have a little encouragement from a skilled coach and trainer. While the extreme features of televised fat camps may appeal to some, to others, weight loss and fitness just seem further away.

    Alternative exercise can be the perfect way to get back in shape if you haven’t already tried it. Just remember, it’s all about sticking with it, Perhaps getting older won’t be so bad, after all.

  3. Using Your Gym Membership to Improve Body and Mood

    August 10, 2013


    Warning (from the editor) – Date: March 20, 2014: Recent studies demonstrated possible link between testosterone replacement supplements and prostate cancer. Please consult your physician before implementing any recommendations from the article below.


    Working hard at the gym is a great way for people to blow off steam and feel rejuvenated. Those who spend their time lifting weights, working muscle groups, and exercising are known to live happier lives. Through the use of creative routines, people are able to change up their gym workout and create an exciting and effective regimen that will yield more results over time. Utilizing different machines and routines can yield results that simply cannot be had anywhere else, promoting proper muscle growth and toning a body to look fit and in shape. Variety and change is highly important in the gym and allows the body to get a full workout that allows it to heal and become stronger in an all-encompassing way.

    Variety is also important in your nutritional intake as well. Talk with a personal fitness trainer, or a nutritionist if possible to establish a nutrition plan that will improve recovery time, and help you achieve your goals. Nutrition plays a key role in our mood while we are lifting too. For instance if your glutamine levels drop to low you can experience depression, or if you are exercising too regularly or too hard you may experience a spike in your cortisol levels that cause adrenal fatigue. Your nutrition plan should expect to encounter some of these issues and you should have a way to prevent them from happening just by planning on what food and supplements you are planning to consume. your nutritionist should be able to help you with meal planning and helping you select the right supplements for your body. Typically they will ensure that if you are trying to gain lean muscle mass that you take in at least 3 grams of protein for every pound of body weight and they will encourage a 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. If you are a male they will also have you take some form of Tribulus or Tonkat ali which are both scientifically proven to boost testosterone levels. Also if you are a vegetarian they may encourage you to take a protein shake. These are just some examples of ways, in which a nutritionist can help you put some health variety into your nutrition to balance out your workout routines.

    Tim Montgomery’s experience is a true testimonial of the benefit of differing workouts. Tim suffered from muscular dystrophy and had a hard time building a workout routine that stuck. The trainers at his local gym suggested variety that accommodated his health conditions on a day to day level. Acknowledging the need for a variety of work outs allowed Tim to get into shape. Tim’s trainers had him utilize machines and cardio routines such as running and jogging to shape and define Tim’s muscles. He became strong in stature, and more defined. Tim’s system allowed him to carry on living a productive and healthy lifestyle with higher levels of testosterone from his ingeniously developed workout routine. With variety, the body is always on its toes pumping out testosterone and becoming stronger.

    Creating a variety of workouts doesn’t allow for the body to become accustomed to a routine, which means constantly getting stronger and building muscle. Short intense workouts allow people to be involved in their workouts, build body mass, and spur on testosterone. Testosterone allows the body to become more masculine and ready for physical tasks. Variety is not just he spice of life but it is the spice of workout routines. Utilizing variety is a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle that encourages body development and growth. Testosterone contributes largely to muscle growth and finding ways to encourage production will help a healthy workout process. Increasing testosterone will boost results, which ultimately allows men to perform better in the gym. Changing a routine is one of the best ways to boost testosterone levels and prepare yourself for the best workout possible.

    Switching between different exercise routines is a great way to build muscle and to stay healthy. Changing things up is a great and easy way for anyone to improve their health and overall fitness by trying new workout moves and equipment that improve strength. Doing this will not only tone your body but attract more social attention as well. Let’s face it, everyone loves positive feedback about their body, it’s a compliment and great encouragement to keep in the back of your mind as you workout. Toning a body by building testosterone and changing up routines is a highly rewarding experience that can easily be enjoyed through a large quantity of methods. Utilizing all of the information on hand properly is highly important and can lead to a great routine and healthy lifestyle like never before. Building a healthy body is as easy as changing it up!

    So What Muscles Should I Focus On?

    First, you need to break down the types of the three largest muscle groups found in the human body. The Skeletal muscles or striated muscle group are responsible for body movements. Skeletal muscles make up over 600 body muscles, in varying sizes and shapes, in addition to the cardiac muscles, and the smooth muscle groups. When we speak of the largest muscle groups in the human body, these muscles have to be larger muscles because each muscle group has a significant job.

    • The Gluteus Muscles are responsible for hip extensions and lateral rotation. If not for the Gluteus Muscles, you would not be able to stand upright. The Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Minimus are the muscles with the most density and thickness.
    • The Latissimus Dorsi, another large muscle group, is responsible for keeping the arms attached to the trunk of the body. The Latissimus Dorsi starts at the spine and stretches from the thoracic vertebrae to the sacrum, wrapping around the back. This muscle attaches to the upper arms.

    Running from the outside of the hip to the upper leg, to the inside of the knee is a muscle called the Sartorius. The Sartorius Muscles allow the legs to cross and connect the pelvic area to the inner part of the knee by stretching around the front of the thigh. Without the Sartorius muscle, you could not flex your legs or walk. This muscle controls your leg movements and needs to be strong.

    The testosterone hormone works to build harder muscle, increases stamina, mental alertness, immunity, improves mood, energy, libido, strength and self-confidence. Weight lifters all need testosterone supplement to achieve their goals. Another nutritional supplement would be an appetite stimulant. A weight lifter has to increase their caloric intake of protein, fresh vegetable and fruits. If your appetite is not up to par, this supplement will give you the desire of increased and required food intake, especially proteins.

    If you are a fitness fanatic, you must read about these muscle groups, the importance and function of each group, and the natural way to build new muscle mass. You must supply the body with the right natural foods and supplements in the right amount to achieve healthy goals. Whether your fitness goals are to lose weight, gain weight, build a leaner body, build harder muscle, tone muscle groups, increase your stamina and strength, increase energy, tone up mental alertness, refurbish immunity, improve your mood, and self-confidence, it makes no difference. Everyone has different goals; however, there is only one pathway towards these goals.

    Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jduty/3778676832




  4. Why Exercise is Good For Your Brain

    June 24, 2013

    by Christine Hanchett

    We all know that exercise is important for maintaining a healthy body weight and gaining muscle, but did you know that exercise is good for your brain as well?  To be more specific, it is actually cardio exercise that has been shown to be great for the brain.  That is not to say that anaerobic exercise isn’t good for the brain—it’s just that there hasn’t been too many clinical studies to conclude one way or another yet.   But there has been a lot of research into cardiovascular exercise and improved cognition and brain plasticity.  So as to the specific reasons for the cardio exercise being good for the brain, here are the five main benefits:

    Sends More Oxygen to the Brain

              Physical exercise increases breathing and heart rate, sending more blood to your brain. The extra oxygen and glucose you receive from the improved blood circulation is used for enhanced energy production and waste removal. Exercise can actually make cerebral blood vessels grow, even in people of an older age. Walking is one of the best exercises you can do for your brain; you get the increased blood circulation and because it is not as strenuous as running, for instance, you do not get a buildup of oxygen and glucose in your leg muscles.


    Stimulates Growth of Neural Connections and Cells

              Exercise aids in the release of hormones, particularly those that aid in the growth and nourishment of new brain cells. New connections are also able to grow between important cortical areas of the brain. The growth of new neural cells (neurogenesis) and new connections between cells allows your brain to have what is called “plasticity.” Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize neural pathways. These types of changes occur when we learn something new or memorize new information. Research supports the idea that if someone experiences a brain injury, plasticity allows another part of the brain to actually adapt itself to be able to perform the duties of the injured part!


    Better Cognition

              Exercise not only makes you look better, it can make you smarter as well! The increased blood flow to your brain from your increased heart rate can improve your memory, learning ability, concentration, executive functioning (planning, organization, the ability to mentally juggle several different tasks at once, etc) and abstract reasoning. To really improve your brain, take some ballroom dance classes; you’ll be getting the brain benefits of exercise and improving your cognition mentally (by having to remember the steps) at the same time!


    Reduces Effects of Stress

    When you are stressed, cortisol levels in your brain become higher, leading to slow, scattered thinking, impaired learning, and forgetfulness. High levels of cortisol can increase blood sugar and suppress the immune system. If prolonged, it can lead to muscle wasting (atrophy). Exercising helps to lower your cortisol levels, leading to clearer and faster thinking again.

    Protection Against Diseases

    Studies have shown that physical exercise can have a protective effect on the brain against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The more an individual exercises, the less likely he or she is to develop dementia or lose their mental abilities. Even light or moderate exercisers reduce their risk for mental decline significantly. Risk of stroke is also cut in half for those who spend at least twenty minutes a day exercising. Interestingly, the positive effects of exercise against age-related diseases are shown to be particularly beneficial for women.

    With all of these mental benefits in addition to the obvious physical benefits, why are you still reading this?  Get your butt down to the gym—now!

    Image credit: Bruno Hotz

  5. Research Quantifies Benefits of Exercise Against Depression

    June 16, 2013

    exercise against depression

    by Jessica Josh

    We all heard that: exercise to avoid or alleviate depression. For years, mental healthcare providers have universally agreed on the merits of exercise as complimentary therapy for depression. But no clinical research has been performed in order to quantify its power over mental illness. Until now.

    In the May issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, psychiatrists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas reported unprecedented research findings on benefits of physical activity for treating clinical depression, known in medical parlance as major depressive disorder (MDD).

    “Despite the substantial evidence supporting the use of exercise in the treatment of MDD, previous studies have not provided a clear indication of the proper dose of exercise needed to elicit an antidepressant effect,” wrote authors Chad Rethorst, PhD, and Madhukar Trivedi, MD.

    According to World Health Organisation, depression afflicts around 350 million people worldwide, with 9 million adults in the US alone suffering from clinical depression.

    Specific guidance

    Reviewing findings from existing randomised trials, the authors found that exercise is indeed an effective antidepressant, either by itself or in conjunction with drugs and psychotherapy, among other treatments. These trials also suggest that MDD patients respond optimally to aerobic exercise and, to an extent, resistance training.

    Based on statistical results of their study, Rethorst and Trivedi recommend depression patients to aim for 50 to 85 percent of their HRmax (maximum heart rate) when performing aerobic activities. They also prescribed weight training at 80 percent of 1-RM (repetition maximum); three sets of eight repetitions involving both lower- and upper-body muscle groups are adequate.

    All in all, MDD sufferers should clock in three to five exercise sessions weekly, with each session lasting 45-60 minutes. However, Rethorst and Trivedi warned that measurable health benefits can manifest within four weeks of starting the regimen.

    Granted, clinical psychologists argue that exercise of any frequency and intensity is better than doing nothing at all. Even in the study by Trivedi and Rethorst 15 percent of patients did not finish the physical activity regimens required by the trials. So, why does it work? Physical exercise increases the rate at which serotonin (aka “hormone of happiness”) is generated by the brain, thus causing the increase in release and synthesis of serotonin.

    Stubborn depression

    Alas, even the best treatments may prove futile against depression. Sometimes other conditions, can aggravate it. Bipolar disorder, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular ailment, and anemia have all been known to make depression resistant to treatment.

    Psychiatrists may prescribe, in addition to antidepressants, medications indicated for other mental illnesses, e.g. mood stabilizers, stimulants, and antipsychotics. They may also request a cytochrome P450 genotyping test, which tells if the patient can efficiently metabolize a drug.

    Clinical psychologists are essential participants in the treatment of depression. Psychodynamic treatment, a relatively drastic kind of psychotherapy, helps the sufferer dig up deep-seated beliefs and feelings that contribute to the depression. This method obviously takes time but, unlike medication, it arms the patient with tools to avoid depression in the future.

    It is rarely used nowadays, but if worse comes to worst, psychiatrists may proffer options like transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), both of which make use of electric currents.

    In the former, a large coil builds magnetic fields that affect the mood-controlling parts of the brain. ECT, on the other hand, offers stopgap relief from severe depression by practically passing electricity through the brain; patients experience a seizure each time.

     Image Credit: Mark Sebastian

  6. How to Keep Fit While Travelling

    June 7, 2013

    keep fit

    By Sohaib Siddique

    My two biggest passions in life are fitness and adventure. I have never lived in one country longer than two years—half of the time which is usually spent visiting regions around me. As a kid, I’ve also always been into health and fitness. Missing a workout ruins an entire day for me, even when I am on vacation. But over the past few years, I have taught myself how to travel without sacrificing my health and fitness. This way I could dedicate my life to both my biggest passions. I picked up tips along my travels by talking to other people who were in great shape. Here are a few of them.

    You don’t need a whole gym…

    If you let your creative mind run free, you can use random things to replace weights. There’s always an item that can get blood running through your veins and your muscles pumped. If you feel like spending money, you could always get inflatable weights to fill up with water, but those would be a disaster in my opinion. You could use litre bottles, chairs, tables, rocks filled into a backpack—the options are endless. Rather complaining about not having a gym, make your own gym.

    Your body is heavier than you think…

    The experienced gym rats know very well that bodyweight exercises can prove very effective. In fact, all you need is some empty space and you’re good. If you need a workout matt, just use a couple towels.

    Do push ups for your chest, arms and shoulders. If you cannot do a complete push up, do the knee-variation instead. If you need more resistance, then elevate your feet off a chair, a table or anything else. Not a big fan of push ups?—no problem, do dips instead. Just put two chairs together with some weight on them (like your suitcase) and you’re good. Dips essentially work the same muscle groups push ups do.

    There’s no better lower body exercise than the squat. Squats are the ultimate mass builder—when I travel, I fill up my backpack with anything I can find—rocks are a great way to get a lot of weight without too much volume. Just throw that on and do some squats making sure you go deep each time to maximize resistance. Finish off with a core workout of crunches and sit ups. Again, you can hold a water bottle against your chest if you need more resistance.

    Travelling solo sucks, travel with a chin up bar instead…

    You would be surprised with the amount of exercises you could do using a simple door-mounted chin up bar. These bars only cost $25-30 and easily fit into suitcases. They mount onto most doors across the world and prove as a great workout aid. You can perform chins/pulls with different grips to get a complete back workout. Take it off the door and onto the floor to use the grips as push up handles. You can be creative and work different body parts as long as you know what you’re doing. P90x has some great exercises that use chin up bars to target different muscle groups.

    Still need a gym? Then use one…

    Sometimes, you just can’t get enough resistance no matter how much weight is piled onto your back. More advanced trainees should turn to public facilities when they’re travelling at this point. I’ve done this many times, and all you really need to do is go to the local gym and ask them if you can give it a trial day. Nine times out of ten they’ll be more than happy to give the new local who has just moved in a go at with their facilities. Remember, most cities have more than one gym, so give them all a “try”. Hey, we have to do whatever it takes to stay in shape!

    Modern day European cities are filled with public stations and parks that make a great outdoor gym, too. All you really need are some monkey bars and an improvised dips station and you’re set.

    God gave you legs to use them…

    We often find ourselves walking, running and even hiking from here to there when we’re away from home—and the bags can get pretty heavy. This is really good exercise, but if you’re someone who usually does a lot of running and other cardiovascular exercise anyway, then you will miss the rush you usually get. But now that you’re travelling, you have all the free time you can possibly get. Go for a run before you start your next exciting day. It’s a good way to get to know your surroundings when you’re on the road, too.

    If you’re really a cardio bunny, then you could rent a bike or throw on some roller blades for the day. There are always fun ways to combine tourist activities and exercise. Always think outside the box.

  7. The Benefits of Yoga for Seniors

    May 12, 2013

    Yoga for seniors

    by Jamica Bell

    Yoga has become increasingly popular over the last decade. In addition, it has also been proven to provide health benefits for people of all ages. In fact, there are now specialized classes available for two drastically different age groups: senior citizens and infants. The senior classes place an emphasis on obtaining positions that will help reduce feelings of fatigue, pain and stress. By enrolling in one of these classes, mature adults will be taught about the best yoga positions for their specific needs.

    According to wellness experts, there are several poses that work best for seniors: One-Legged Wind Releasing Pose, Staff Pose, Chair Pose, V Seated Forward Bend in a Chair, V Pose, and Relaxation Pose.

    Individuals interested in obtaining the positive health benefits associated with yoga should sign up for a yoga class as long as their doctor agrees that they are physically capable of starting a new exercise routine.

    The Perks of Doing Yoga

    This 5000 year old art form provides many physical benefits for those who participate in it on a regular basis, but it also offers several emotional benefits as well. Yoga is well-known as an exercise that provides people with a cathartic release from any pent-up emotions, making it ideal for anyone struggling with depression. In fact, many doctors will recommend yoga as an alternative treatment for certain physical and emotional ailments, and most people report positive results. The following attributes are just a few of the physical benefits of this peacefully exercise:

    • Aids in control of blood sugar in diabetes patients
    • Improves respiratory function
    • Improves arthritis pain
    • Boost bone density and prevents osteoporosis
    • Enhances balance
    • Fosters sleep quality
    • Diminishes pain

    Choosing the Right Class for You

    Whether you prefer an environment that is candlelit and meditative or instructional with higher impact, there are many options for whatever class best fit your personality If you want to take a yoga class with people in your age range, you can call a local yoga school and ask them if they offer a senior course. Additionally, if you are currently utilizing the services of an assisted living provider, you can ask them to help you find the best yoga options in the area. Major cities may provide mental wellness programs that may be more accessible than some rural cities. For example, senior living Birmingham communities have made great strides to ensure the senior citizens in their locale have ample access to quality mental wellness.

    What Should I Expect?

    When you first begin doing yoga, you can expect to have a little bit of difficulty getting into some of the poses, but your instructor will help you position your body correctly. As with any other new exercise program, it is possible that you will feel sore the next day. However, if you stick with it, you will soon begin to experience the many rewards of doing yoga.

    Is Yoga for Me?

    Anyone who wants to feel better both physically and mentally should definitely consider enrolling in a yoga class. If you are feeling hesitant because it has been a long time since you have enrolled in an exercise program or if you have never been physically active, it is important for you to remember that it is never too late to change your life. By signing up, you have made the first step to get in better touch with yourself and your spirituality. There are yoga courses that are designed for all experience levels, and a professional instructor can also work with several different physical limitations to ensure that you get the most out of the experience.

    Yoga’s popularity has grown so quickly because so many people have discovered that it truly helps them in several different ways. To take advantage of this lower intensity workout to improve your life, you should consult with an assisted living provider, hospital, or doctor’s office for a list of schools that offer senior classes.

    Image Credit: yogamama.co.uk

  8. Pushing Your Limits With Positive Thinking

    May 11, 2013

    motivation to get fit

    It’s true that exercise boosts confidence; however, everyone is prone to moments of doubt and negative self-talk – the key to overcoming or pushing through challenges is with positive thinking.  Before you cross that finish line you’ll want to give up and before you lose those next 10 pounds, you’ll want to cheat; positive thinking will help you stay on top of your goal whether it’s a better diet, increasing your 1 rep max, or finishing that first race.  So, when you want to give up, drop the dumbbell, or curse burpees, it’s time to practice these positive thinking exercises to help you stick to those goals.


    Find Your Mantra

    Mantra is like a mini pep-talk; words or phrases that resonate with you and move you to action.  Your words or phrase may only mean something to you, based off of a past event in your life or a goal of where you want to be.  Whatever it is, it must drive you and encourage you to push beyond what you believe you are capable of at that time.  These words of affirmation need to be repeated often; when you’re strong, when you’re in doubt, when you are about to give up – give yourself your pep-talk.  Say it in front of the mirror as you stand tall; believe what you tell yourself and most of all believe in yourself.  Here are some mantra ideas you can try:

    • Eat for the body you want, not for the body you have.
    • I deserve this.
    • Of course it’s hard.  It’s supposed to be hard.  If it were easy, everybody would do it.
    • I never regret a good workout.
    • The food I eat today is the body I wear tomorrow.
    • You know your limit, and this is NOT it.
    • There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.


    See it to Believe It

    We’ve all heard of great stars visualizing the game-winning basket, as conceded as it sounds, visualization is how they got to be that star in the first place; you need to see it to believe it.  Spend time visualizing yourself crossing that finish line, see that scale read 10 pounds lighter, or imagine yourself rocking the body solid leverage gym.  This exercise is important in positive thinking because visualizing where you want to be helps you see the path you need to take and it motivates you to action.  The more you see it, the more you can believe it.  And when you have moments of doubt, setbacks, and moments of trial, stop and visualize where you want to be and what you need to do to get there.


    Acknowledge Your Progress

    Keeping a log of what you do or what you eat isn’t to guilt you into working out every day; it’s a way to track your progress.  You should record what you did, how you felt, how you’ve improved, and take pride in what you’ve done!  Sure, you’ve probably made mistakes, but with positive thinking it’s important to reflect on those mistakes to determine you where you can improve rather than to beat yourself up.  As you analyze where you’ve been and where you are now, think on experiences where you were successful or that made you happy, and have helped you realize that it’s all been worth it.  These moments are what will keep you going when you’re ready to give in.

    Setting and reaching your goals can be hard and discouraging, but if you use positive thinking to face your obstacles with an optimistic outlook you’ll be on your way to setting new limits.  So before you throw in the towel, try one of these exercises to renew your motivation.

     Image Credit: Lululemon Athletica

  9. The Psychology of a Great Athlete

    May 5, 2013

    Psychology of a Great Athlete

    Image Credit: Joel Stewart

    by Korah Morrison

    For athletes, mental resilience is a key indicator of success. There are exceptions to the typical physical requirements, but the mental ones can be harder to bypass. Drive and volition, confidence, focus, calm and emotional control are some of the psychological characteristics of the most successful athletes on the planet.

    This article is an analysis of the key character traits of successful athletes, which confirmed by quotations stars such as Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, etc. Be inspired and aspire to more!

    Drive and volition

    “[Professional athletes] just work as hard as they possibly can. And the drive is usually propelled by intense passion for their sport; they just love playing the game.” Jim Taylor, Ph. D.


    Volition is the deliberate act of decision-making. For athletes, volition is comprised of self-motivation and the use of physical skills, as well as the comprehension of emotional response. These tactics combine to generate self-confidence.

    Work ethic: Everyone sees the greatness of a big-time athlete. But you don’t always see the sum of hours it takes to achieve that greatness.

    Total commitment: Maria Sharapova turned that work ethic into commitment. As a child, she was often first on the court and the last to leave.

    Motivation: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

    Conviction: “I cant” should never be uttered by a pro athlete. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team; what if he had given up then?


    Believing in yourself and your abilities is a substantial contribution to any accomplishment. It may also be a determinant of performance and efficacy in leadership.

    Faith: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” Muhammad Ali

    Desire: “If at first you don’t succeed… I was given the ball 27 times with ten seconds left in the game and the winning shot in my hands… and I missed.” Michael Jordan

    Abolish Doubt: “If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.” Carl Lewis

    Expectation: “My mind is my biggest asset. I expect a win every tournament I play.” Tiger Woods

    Perseverance: “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Michael Jordan


    The best athletes have practiced staying cool under pressure and against opposition.

    Manage tilt: “Tilt has many causes and kinds, but it has only one effect. It makes us play bad. It makes us do things we wouldn’t do it we were at our very best. And that’s how I want to define it, exactly like that. Tilt is any deviation from your A-game and you’re A-mindset, however slight or fleeting.” Tommy Angelo

    Handling pressure: “No matter how tough, no matter what kind of outside pressure, no matter how many bad breaks along the way, I must keep my sights on the final goal, to win, win, win – and with more love and passion than the world has ever witnessed in any performance.” Billie Jean King



    Focus means reigning in the ability to react quickly, but in a controlled manner. Attentional control may make the difference between an average athlete and a superior one.

    Pursue the goal: “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.’” Muhammad Ali

    Make your goal the top: “I play to win, whether during practice or a real game. And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.” Michael Jordan

    Abolish distracting thoughts: “Concentration is the ability to think about absolutely nothing when it is absolutely necessary.” Ray Knight

    Emotional Strength


    Emotions factor into an athlete’s abilities more than you might think. It ties back into confidence and mental strength, using acquired psychological skills to control these emotions.

    Enthusiasm: “Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string,” Pele

    Passion: “I run because it’s my passion, and not just a sport. Every time I walk out the door, I know why I’m going where I’m going and I’m already focused on that special place where I find my peace and solitude. Running, to me, is more than just a physical exercise… it’s a consistent reward for victory!” Sasha Azevedo

    Control: “Learn to control your emotions or they will control you.” Edgar Martinez

  10. The Psychological Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong Practice

    April 21, 2013

    Tai Chi

    Image Credit: Garry Knight

    by Dan Kleiman

    The evidence is in that slow movement, coupled with body awareness not only has astounding health benefits but amazing psychological benefits as well. Recently, the Los Angeles Times published a story about the widespread use of slow movement , awareness-based therapies, for the treatment of pain brought on by “…cancer and cancer treatments, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and other diseases and conditions, in pain clinics and integrative medicine centers. These treatment plans include such routines as Tai Chi and Hatha Yoga.

    One of the main reasons that programs such as Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga are so effective in managing pain is that the exercises help to relieve the depression often caused by chronic pain, greatly improving the quality of life. Continued practice not only keeps depression at bay but also improves confidence. In the above-mentioned study patients with chronic low back pain took a 12 week course of Hatha Yoga had significantly less problems with depression and disability than the standard care control group did. The same study using Tai Chi in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis reported less pain, stress and a much greater awareness of their body and more confidence.

    Medical experts are divided as to why these treatments are so effective. The most common consensus among researchers however is that the exercises encourage parasympathetic relaxation responses that reduce the stress response, inhibit inflammation, promotes immune functions and stimulates healing. They believe that the slow, deliberate movements extend the benefits of cardiovascular exercise to a much deeper level, drawing on previously untapped resources.

    The graceful, choreographed movement sequences of Tai Chi, called the “solo form” begin the process of merging mind, body and spirit. While learning solo form Tai Chi, students learn to feel different internal qualities and their outward manifestations. These different “energies” are called the 13 Postures of Tai Chi. As you perfect the 13 Postures, you are better able to relax: you sink your energy, lengthen the spine, relax the joints and muscles and calm the mind.

    When combined with appropriate breathing exercises, in which the breath is in harmony with the movements, the internal musculature of the shoulders, lower back and legs will open , with each breath taken. This promotes stillness, sensitizes the mind to both internal and external perceptions, suppresses jagged, hurried thought processes and raises the spirit.

    Later on, students more to two-person exercises called Push Hands. In Push Hands, you engage in extension and retraction movements in response to another person. You learn to neutralize your fight or flight response by grounding the other person’s force, in a gradual, non-threatening, systematic progression of exercises.

    In this video, you can see how our typical response is to either tense up or run away when we are faced with a threat: http://youtu.be/dbt1nC9jypI

    Tai Chi trains you to respond in a completely different way. You learn to “sink your chi”, staying grounded, present, and connected to the reality of the situation when you are faced with a mental, emotional, or physical challenge.

    In Tai Chi Push Hands, you learn that forcing a situation to resolve in a pre-determined way won’t work. Instead, you have to go into each encounter “grounded” and “listening”, or engaged and with an open mind. The big difference with Tai Chi, though, is that you do practices that help you learn this idea in your body. It’s not just something you tell yourself.

    Where your solo form practice helps begin the healing process by gradually eliminating chronic pain, stiffness and/or depression, interactive practices allow you to go deeper into the psychological dimensions of your relationships with people all around you.

    Push Hands exercises also address problems with visual perception and balance, by introducing resistance, reaction time, and sensitivity to outside factors. There are currently many studies, and more being currently conducted, that illustrate the many health benefits, both physical and psychological that students of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga receive. These exercises have been shown to not only be great for preventing illness and promoting psychological well-being, but more and more medical professionals are exploring ways to integrate these traditional practices into treatment programs for their patients.