Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Kale Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

September 22, 2016

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Image from www.eatingbirdfood.com

A neuroscience researcher reveals 4 rituals that will make you happier

September 19, 2016

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You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t trust them.

Actually, don’t trust me either. Trust neuroscientists. They study that gray blob in your head all day and have learned a lot about what truly will make you happy.

UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in your life.

Here’s what you and I can learn from the people who really have answers:

1. The most important question to ask when you feel down

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like your brain wants you to be happy. You may feel guilty or shameful. Why?

Believe it or not, guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward center.

Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center.

And you worry a lot, too. Why? In the short term, worrying makes your brain feel a little better — at least you’re doing something about your problems.

In fact, worrying can help calm the limbic system by increasing activity in the medial prefrontal cortex and decreasing activity in the amygdala. That might seem counterintuitive, but it just goes to show that if you’re feeling anxiety, doing something about it — even worrying — is better than doing nothing.

But guilt, shame, and worry are horrible, long-term solutions. So what do neuroscientists say you should do? Ask yourself this question:

What am I grateful for?

Yeah, gratitude is awesome … but does it really affect your brain at the biological level? Yup.

You know what the antidepressant Wellbutrin does? Boosts the neurotransmitter dopamine. So does gratitude.

The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable …

Know what Prozac does? Boosts the neurotransmitter serotonin. So does gratitude.

One powerful effect of gratitude is that it can boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.

I know, sometimes life lands a really mean punch in the gut and it feels like there’s nothing to be grateful for. Guess what?

Doesn’t matter. You don’t have to find anything. It’s the searching that counts.

It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place. Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.

And gratitude doesn’t just make your brain happy — it can also create a positive feedback loop in your relationships. So express that gratitude to the people you care about.

For more on how gratitude can make you happier and more successful, click here.

But what happens when bad feelings completely overtake you? When you’re really in the dumps and don’t even know how to deal with it? There’s an easy answer …

2. Label negative feelings

You feel awful. OK, give that awfulness a name. Sad? Anxious? Angry?

Boom. It’s that simple. Sound stupid? Your noggin disagrees.

[I]n one fMRI study, appropriately titled “Putting Feelings into Words” participants viewed pictures of people with emotional facial expressions. Predictably, each participant’s amygdala activated to the emotions in the picture. But when they were asked to name the emotion, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activated and reduced the emotional amygdala reactivity. In other words, consciously recognizing the emotions reduced their impact.

Suppressing emotions doesn’t work and can backfire on you.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Gross found that people who tried to suppress a negative emotional experience failed to do so. While they thought they looked fine outwardly, inwardly their limbic system was just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused. Kevin Ochsner, at Columbia, repeated these findings using an fMRI. Trying not to feel something doesn’t work, and in some cases even backfires.

But labeling, on the other hand, makes a big difference.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

To reduce arousal, you need to use just a few words to describe an emotion, and ideally use symbolic language, which means using indirect metaphors, metrics, and simplifications of your experience. This requires you to activate your prefrontal cortex, which reduces the arousal in the limbic system. Here’s the bottom line: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.

Ancient methods were way ahead of us on this one. Meditation has employed this for centuries. Labeling is a fundamental tool of mindfulness.

In fact, labeling affects the brain so powerfully it works with other people, too. Labeling emotions is one of the primary tools used by FBI hostage negotiators.

To learn more of the secrets of FBI hostage negotiators, click here.

Okay, hopefully you’re not reading this and labeling your current emotional state as bored. Maybe you’re not feeling awful but you probably have things going on in your life that are causing you some stress. Here’s a simple way to beat them.

3. Make that decision

Ever make a decision and then your brain finally feels at rest? That’s no random occurrence.

Brain science shows that making decisions reduces worry and anxiety — as well as helping you solve problems.

Making decisions includes creating intentions and setting goals — all three are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Making decisions also helps overcome striatum activity, which usually pulls you toward negative impulses and routines. Finally, making decisions changes your perception of the world — finding solutions to your problems and calming the limbic system.

But deciding can be hard. I agree. So what kind of decisions should you make? Neuroscience has an answer.

Make a “good enough” decision. Don’t sweat making the absolute 100% best decision. We all know being a perfectionist can be stressful. And brain studies back this up.

Trying to be perfect overwhelms your brain with emotions and makes you feel out of control.

Trying for the best, instead of good enough, brings too much emotional ventromedial prefrontal activity into the decision-making process. In contrast, recognizing that good enough is good enough activates more dorsolateral prefrontal areas, which helps you feel more in control …

As Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz said in my interview with him: “Good enough is almost always good enough.”

So when you make a decision, your brain feels you have control. And, as I’ve talked about before, a feeling of control reduces stress. But here’s what’s really fascinating: Deciding also boosts pleasure.

Actively choosing caused changes in attention circuits and in how the participants felt about the action, and it increased rewarding dopamine activity.

Want proof? No problem. Let’s talk about cocaine.

You give two rats injections of cocaine. Rat A had to pull a lever first. Rat B didn’t have to do anything. Any difference? Yup: Rat A gets a bigger boost of dopamine.

So they both got the same injections of cocaine at the same time, but rat A had to actively press the lever, and rat B didn’t have to do anything. And you guessed it — rat A released more dopamine in its nucleus accumbens.

So what’s the lesson here? Next time you buy cocaine … whoops, wrong lesson. Point is, when you make a decision on a goal and then achieve it, you feel better than when good stuff just happens by chance.

And this answers the eternal mystery of why dragging your butt to the gym can be so hard.

If you go because you feel you have to or you should, well, it’s not really a voluntary decision. Your brain doesn’t get the pleasure boost. It just feels stress. And that’s no way to build a good exercise habit.

Interestingly, if they are forced to exercise, they don’t get the same benefits, because without choice, the exercise itself is a source of stress.

So make more decisions. Neuroscience researcher Alex Korb sums it up nicely:

We don’t just choose the things we like; we also like the things we choose.

To learn what neuroscientists say is the best way to use caffeine, click here.

OK, you’re being grateful, labeling negative emotions and making more decisions. Great, but this is feeling kinda lonely for a happiness prescription. Let’s get some other people in here.

What’s something you can do with others that neuroscience says is a path to mucho happiness? And something that’s stupidly simple so you don’t get lazy and skip it? Brain docs have an answer for you.

4. Touch people

No, not indiscriminately; that can get you in a lot of trouble.

But we need to feel love and acceptance from others. When we don’t it’s painful. And I don’t mean “awkward” or “disappointing.” I mean actually painful.

Neuroscientists did a study where people played a ball-tossing video game. The other players tossed the ball to you and you tossed it back to them. Actually, there were no other players; that was all done by the computer program.

But the subjects were told the characters were controlled by real people. So what happened when the “other players” stopped playing nice and didn’t share the ball?

Subjects’ brains responded the same way as if they experienced physical pain. Rejection doesn’t just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg.

In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain … at one point they stopped sharing, only throwing back and forth to each other, ignoring the participant. This small change was enough to elicit feelings of social exclusion, and it activated the anterior cingulate and insula, just like physical pain would.

Relationships are important to your brain’s feeling of happiness. Want to take that to the next level? Touch people.

One of the primary ways to release oxytocin is through touching. Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to touch most people, but small touches like handshakes and pats on the back are usually okay. For people you’re close with, make more of an effort to touch more often.

Touching is incredibly powerful. We just don’t give it enough credit. It makes you more persuasive, increases team performance, improves your flirting … heck, it even boosts math skills.

Touching someone you love actually reduces pain. In fact, when studies were done on married couples, the stronger the marriage, the more powerful the effect.

In addition, holding hands with someone can help comfort you and your brain through painful situations. One fMRI study scanned married women as they were warned that they were about to get a small electric shock. While anticipating the painful shocks, the brain showed a predictable pattern of response in pain and worrying circuits, with activation in the insula, anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. During a separate scan, the women either held their husbands’ hands or the hand of the experimenter. When a subject held her husband’s hand, the threat of shock had a smaller effect. The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits. In addition, the stronger the marriage, the lower the discomfort-related insula activity.

So hug someone today. And do not accept little, quick hugs. No, no, no. Tell them your neuroscientist recommended long hugs.

A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.

Research shows getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases happiness big time.

Don’t have anyone to hug right now? No? (I’m sorry to hear that. I would give you a hug right now if I could.) But there’s an answer: Neuroscience says you should go get a massage.

The results are fairly clear that massage boosts your serotonin by as much as 30 percent. Massage also decreases stress hormones and raises dopamine levels, which helps you create new good habits … Massage reduces pain because the oxytocin system activates painkilling endorphins. Massage also improves sleep and reduces fatigue by increasing serotonin and dopamine and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.

So spend time with other people and give some hugs. Sorry, texting is not enough.

When you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone, they felt better. What about when they just texted? Their bodies responded the same as if they had no support at all.

[T]he text-message group had cortisol and oxytocin levels similar to the no-contact group.

Author’s note: I totally approve of texting if you make a hug appointment.

To learn what neuroscience says is the best way to get smarter and happier, click here.

OK, I don’t want to strain your brain with too much info. Let’s round it up and learn the quickest and easiest way to start that upward spiral of neuroscience-inspired happiness.

Sum up

Here’s what brain research says will make you happy:

  • Ask “What am I grateful for?” No answers? Doesn’t matter. Just searching helps.
  • Label those negative emotions. Give it a name and your brain isn’t so bothered by it.
  • Decide. Go for “good enough” instead of ‘best decision ever made on Earth.”
  • Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text — touch.

So what’s the simple way to start that upward spiral of happiness?

Just send someone a thank-you email. If you feel awkward about it, you can send them this post to tell them why.

This really can start an upward spiral of happiness in your life. UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb explains:

Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which, in turn, will make you happier.

So thank you for reading this.

And send that thank-you email now to make you and someone you care about happy.

 

Article sourced here: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-neuroscience-researcher-reveals-4-rituals-that-will-make-you-a-happier-person-2015-9?IR=T

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Salmon & Avocado Sauce

September 15, 2016

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20 Ways to Spring Into Your Fitness Routine

September 11, 2016

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As we head into spring cleaning season, most of us are focused on purging closets and organizing junk drawers, but this time of renewal can be about more than just conquering clutter and defeating dust bunnies. Spring is also a great time to step back and reassess other areas of your life—like your health and fitness routine. Read on for 20 ways to “re-spark” your motivation and fast-track your results.

1. Start from the ground up. Have your shoes reached the end of the road? Athletic footwear could be the single most important piece of workout gear, especially for runners and walkers. The decision to replace your shoes depends on a variety of factors, including mileage, preliminary pain, sole compression and odor. When the time comes, visit a specialty store where you can get a professional fitting. You might even consider investing in a couple of different pairs—a study by the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory showed that runners who switched athletic shoes throughout the week experienced 39 percent fewer injuries than those who stuck to the same pair.

2. Make sure you’re in good company. Finding a workout buddy significantly boosts weight loss success rates, but compatibility is key. If you already have an exercise partner or are part of a fitness group, take the time to evaluate what you’re getting out of it. Are you leaving sessions feeling like you’ve done more socializing than sweating—or, conversely, are grueling workouts causing excessive pain or strain? If so, it may be time to seek out a partner whose goals are more aligned with yours.

3. Set a schedule. Are sporadic workouts keeping your goals out of reach? Consistency is essential to success. Create a workout schedule and post it wherever you’re most likely to see it, whether that’s your fridge, a bathroom mirror or your phone’s calendar. Treat daily exercise like a requirement rather than an option.

4. Get a physical. Eighty percent of people don’t get regular well checks. Even if you don’t have any overt health issues, it’s a good idea to schedule a physical to ensure that your blood pressure and cholesterol are within healthy ranges, and to gauge your risk of any future medical issues.

5. Take it outside. Now that the weather has given way to sunshine & flowers, it’s the perfect time to move your exercise routine from the gym or living room into the great outdoors. Trade the treadmill for the sidewalk or the stationary bike for the real thing. There are countless ways to combine the benefits of being outside with exercise, such as taking your yoga mat to the park, introducing your dog to jogging or joining in a game of tag with the kids.

6. Do a skin check. While it’s smart to wear sunscreen year-round, it’s especially important in spring and summer, when you’ll be spending more time outside in direct sunlight. If you haven’t visited a dermatologist yet this year—or if you’ve noticed any new moles, marks or blemishes— make an appointment for a skin health check.

7. Try a new fitness class. Bust out of the winter doldrums by stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying a new group fitness class. Boutique fitness studios are popping up all over the country, providing a more intimate and personalized alternative to traditional gyms.

8. Dress for success. Fashion fitness is more popular than ever, and for good reason: A 2012 study explored the concept of “enclothed cognition,” which is when certain clothing causes people to think and behave differently. By investing in flattering, high-quality exercise apparel, you’ll be more likely to show up for workouts and push yourself harder. Inspect your current gym wear and ditch any worn, ill-fitting garments. Sports bras should be replaced every three to 12 months. And you don’t have to spend a fortune: Check out our tips on building a workout wardrobe on a budget.

9. Refresh your tunes. If you’ve been working out to the same playlist all winter, mix it up with some fresh spring songs. Effective exercise music can significantly enhance motivation and results. Check out our tips on how to create the perfect workout playlist.

10. Ditch activities you dread. Although workouts should sometimes be challenging, they should ultimately bring you joy. If you find yourself constantly watching the clock during spin class or feeling miserable during every mile of your run, it may be time to seek out a new activity. When you enjoy your workouts, you’ll be much less likely to skip them and will get more out of each session.

11. Stick it to the scale. If the movement (or lack thereof) of the numbers on the scale have you stressing, find alternate ways to measure your progress. For example, you can try on clothes to see if they fit differently, or use measuring tape to determine how many inches you’ve lost. After all, weight loss is not always the biggest indicator of fitness improvements.

12. Update your social stream. Social media can be a wellspring of positivity and inspiration. Keep the great ideas flowing by seeking out fresh sources of health and fitness motivation. In addition to our own Instagram and Facebook pages, we also like these 10 motivational Twitter feeds.

13. Show unhealthy snacks the door. When you’ve finished purging the closets, head to the pantry and fridge. Clear out any sugary sweets or high-fat, high-calorie snacks that add little to no nutritional value. Replace them with fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, dried fruits and other healthy snacks.

14. Bring Pinterest to life. Create a fitness bulletin board where you can pin “before” photos of yourself, inspiring pictures from magazines, your bib numbers from races, printouts of inspiring emails or message boards, or anything that gets you energized and excited about fitness.

15. Try a new workout tool. If you’ve been eyeing an abs machine or punching bag at the gym all winter, spring is the perfect time to take the plunge and try it out. Either watch other people and mimic their movements, or ask a personal trainer for a demo.

16. Plan a weekly menu. After you’ve purged the high-calorie culprits from your kitchen, sit down and plan a weekly menu of nutritious meals. Start by listing the healthy ingredients you already have and planning meals around those, then make a shopping list for the rest. Meal planning is essential to more efficient grocery trips and avoidance of unhealthy takeout.

17. Register for a race. Find a spring or summer 5K and recruit a friend to run or walk it with you. Setting a concrete goal will help boost your motivation, and it’s also a great way to meet other fitness-minded people. Plus, many local races support charities, so you’ll be doing good while checking an item off your bucket list.

18. Ditch the distractions. If you always read a magazine on the elliptical or scroll through your phone as you walk, make spring the season that you set these time-suckers aside. Without distractions, you can focus on more mindful exercise.

19. Ramp up the intensity. Break through a fitness plateau by boosting your workouts to the next level. If you typically run at a 10-minute pace, sprinkle in some fartleks (speed play) throughout. Instead of lifting the same light weights at high reps, try going heavier for slower, fewer reps. If you’ve always been a walker, sprinkle in some short jogging stretches. Look for any opportunity to stretch out of your comfort zone and make your routines more challenging.

20. Rest and rejuvenate. Just as it’s important to schedule exercise, rest and recovery should be part of your fitness routine. Take the time to reward and pamper yourself between workouts, whether it’s by taking a slow walk through the park, getting a massage or pedicure or spending an afternoon gardening.

Which of these have you already completed? What other suggestions do you have for refreshing your health and fitness routine for spring?

By Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
Sourced here: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=2095

Happy Father’s Day -The Science of Fatherhood

September 4, 2016

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For decades, psychologists and other researchers assumed that the mother-child bond was the most important one in a kid’s life. They focused on studying those relationships, and however a child turned out, mom often got the credit — or blame.

Within the last several decades, though, scientists are increasingly realizing just how much dads matter. Just like women, fathers’ bodies respond to parenthood, and their parenting style affects their kids just as much, and sometimes more, than mom’s.

“We’re now finding that not only are fathers influential, sometimes they have more influence on kids’ development than moms,” said Ronald Rohner, the director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut.

Feeling dad’s love

Rohner and his colleagues recently reviewed decades of studies on parental acceptance and rejection across the globe. Unsurprisingly, parents have a major effect on their kids. When kids feel rejected or unloved by mom and dad, they’re more likely to become hostile, aggressive and emotionally unstable. Parental rejection also can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and negative worldviews.

This is true for both parents, Rohner told LiveScience. But in some cases, dad is a more important factor than mom. [History’s 12 Most Doting Dads]

Behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely linked to dad’s rejection than mom’s, Rohner said.

By the same token, dad’s love is sometimes a stronger influence for children than mom’s, the researchers found.

“Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers,” Rohner said. He and his colleagues detailed their findings in May in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Influence and persistence

The research looked only at male father figures, so while the dad in question doesn’t have to be biological, the results don’t apply to absentee fathers. Rohner and his colleagues aren’t certain why fathers sometimes outshine moms in their kids’ development. In every family, Rohner said, there is a member with more influence and prestige — the person who might set the weekend plans, for example. In families where dad is that person, his actions might make the greatest impression on the children.

In those cases, “kids tend to pay more attention to what dad does and dad says than mom, and he’s going to have more influence,” Rohner said.

Dads may also be responsible for endowing their kids with “stick-with-it-ness” that serves them well in life. In a study of two-parent families published Friday (June 15) in the Journal of Early Adolescence, Brigham Young University researchers found that dad’s parenting style is more closely linked to whether teens will exhibit persistence than mom’s parenting. A persistent personality, in turn, was related to less delinquency and more engagement in school over time.

The magic fathering style that was linked to such persistence in kids is called authoritative parenting, a style characterized by warmth and love, accountability to the rules (but explanations of why those rules exist), and age-appropriate autonomy for kids, the researchers found.

“Our study suggests fathers who are most effective are those who listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms,” study researcher Laura Padilla-Walker told LiveScience.

It’s not clear why dads might be more important than moms in teaching perseverance, but it’s possible that fathers simply focus on this trait more, while moms teach traits like gratitude and kindness, Padilla-Walker said. [5 Ways to Foster Self-Compassion in Your Child]

Being a good dad

Fortunately for dads, biology is there to back up good parenting. Hormonal studies have revealed that dads show increased levels of oxytocin during the first weeks of their babies’ lives. This hormone, sometimes called the “love hormone,” increases feelings of bonding among groups. Dads get oxytocin boosts by playing with their babies, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Fatherhood also leads to declines in testosterone, the “macho” hormone associated with aggressive behavior, according to research published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This change is stronger the more involved a dad is with his baby’s care, suggesting that it may reduce a man’s risk-taking drive and encourage nurturing and domesticity.

What’s most important, Padilla-Walker said, is that fathers realize they matter. Quality time is important, she said.

“That doesn’t mean going on fancy vacations, it can be playing ball in the backyard or watching a movie with your kids,” she said. “Whatever it is, just make yourself available and when you’re with your children, be with them.”

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas or LiveScience @livescience.
Article sourced here: http://www.livescience.com/20997-science-fatherhood-fathers-day.html

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Celery & Almond Salad

September 1, 2016

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Is It Better to Lift Heavier Weights or Do More Reps?

August 28, 2016

Anyone who hits the weight room regularly will inevitably face the question: Should you add more weight and do less repetitions or use a lighter weight and do more reps?

The debate has raged on for as long as people have argued over cake versus pie (the answer is pie, obviously), but it’s not quite that simple.

The truth behind weight versus reps lies somewhere in between, but to paint a clearer picture, you have to understand why we ask this question in the first place.

A Worthy Villain: The Fitness Plateau

Once you’ve been following a fitness program for a while, you’ll eventually hit a fitness plateau—that dreaded no-man’s land where your body adapts to your routine, and you no longer make progress. It sucks, but it’s normal, and it happens to everyone.

One way to bust through the plateau is simply to change things up. This is where lifting heavier weights, adding more reps, or doing both (called a double progression) can shake up sleepy progress.

The Case for Heavier Weights

When you pile on the pounds, you typically lift on the lower end of reps (as few as 1-5 for some people). That doesn’t sound like much, but by doing so, you’re increasing your overall maximum strengthand greatly improving your ability to lift heavier weights.

Most of that newfound superhero strength is because you’re improving your efficiency at a given exercise. Think of how your bank account grows when you minimize unnecessary spending. It’s like that, and the more you practice restraint with a budget, the easier it is to save.

Lifting heavy weights feels awesome, but it’s easy to get sucked into chasing the numbers and running into a wall. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you simply can’t add any more weight, and if you push it, you could compromise your form and put yourself at risk for injury.

“If you’ve increased your weight and now your form is breaking down, it’s best to drop the weight and then increase the number of reps you’re performing,” says Tanner Baze, a certified personal trainer.

Which brings us to…

The Case for More Reps

When you lift lighter weights for more reps, you are still getting stronger, just in a different way. You’re developing “muscular endurance,” or your ability to exert a certain amount of effort before you fatigue. Sure enough, doing more work (more sets and reps, more workouts, more overall bad-assery), will help you get stronger in the long run. Busting out more reps is also a challenging workout at a high-intensity level, which burns major calories and has a greater afterburn effect.

Plus, when you hit a plateau, adding reps instead of heaving more weight allows you to focus on proper technique and form and still leaves room for additional changes to your program, if necessary.

The upside of maintaining tip-top form is you end up really working the muscle as intended, not relying on a bunch of compensatory patterns (for example, letting your quads do all the work when your glutes are too weak) or potentially hurting yourself. One downside to this technique is that it may make your workouts slightly longer, as you’ll spend more time doing more reps.

Why Not Just Do Both?

Confusion about lifting heavier weights or doing more reps still lingers in the weight room because weightlifting and its effects on our bodies are often misunderstood, Baze says. Hint: It involves a lot morethan lifting super-heavy weight or banging out more reps in isolation.

You need a combination of muscle damage (that hurts-so-good soreness after a great workout), mechanical tension (the sheer strain of lifting something heavy), and metabolic stress (that “burn” you feel from your muscle really working). Both heavy-weight and high-rep training check those three boxes and will ultimately build strength. Plus, both methods require proper form, because without good technique, it doesn’t matter how much weight or how many reps you do, you could be risking injury.

“If your goal is just to generally get stronger and more fit, choose one or the other,” says Nathan Jones, a doctor of physical therapy student and strongman competitor.

For long-term progress and to keep things interesting, you can incorporate both heavy-weight, low-rep training and light-weight, high-rep training by switching up the sets and reps on different days or weeks (a technique known as periodization). “If you’ve been doing 5 sets of 5 squats and can’t add weight or get an extra rep, drop the weight and go to 5 sets of 8, or add weight and go to 3 sets of 5,” Jones says. Basically, imagine your sets and reps as a wavelength continuously going up and down.

There’s nothing inherently magical about changing things up this way. “Personally, I think it’s more psychological than anything,” Jones says. “Doing the same rep range every single time you lift gets boring. So doing something different helps you maintain motivation, and subsequently, keeps your effort high.”

The Takeaway

“There is no wrong decision here,” Jones says. When you lift more weight, add more reps, or do both appropriately with good form while keeping effort high, you’re nudging your body toward continually improved fitness and strength.

That said, when you add weight or make changes, do so in small increments. Your goal is to squeeze big results from little changes. It also helps to include a proper warm-up and cool-down.

“The single most important factor in your progress is your willingness to work hard and exert high effort,” Jones says. “So long as you’re doing more of something over time, you will get stronger.”

Mixing it up just a teeny bit to keep yourself motivated and to see progress—whatever your goal—will go a long way.

Article first appeared:http://greatist.com/move/strength-training-lift-heavier-weights-or-do-more-reps
APRIL 28, 2016  |
BY STEPHANIE LEE

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Lamp Kofta with Lemon

August 25, 2016

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One Accessible Morning Practice to Launch our Day

August 21, 2016

newday

Every morning is a fresh start. No mistakes have been made; nothing has gone “wrong.”

We get a blank slate every single morning of our lives.

The way we begin can determine our mood for the rest of the day, essentially dictating our conversations, actions and overall attitude.

The Maasai tribe of Tanzania greet each other every morning not by asking, “How did you sleep?” but rather, “How did you wake?” implying that yes, we are in control of how we handle the good, the bad and the annoying—every morning.

For those of us who occasionally wake up on “the wrong side of the bed,” we are in fact making a decision about whether or not we want to use that as an excuse for an ensuing bad mood for the remainder of our waking hours.

Everyone I know starts their day in a different way.

Some people get up and immediately jump on Facebook or Instagram to see what overnight love they received. Others wake up and switch on the news first thing (which, let’s face it, isn’t going to put us in a good mood these days), and others wake up ungodly early to run 10 miles while it’s still dark outside.

One friend of mine who lives in New York City even went so far as to downsize in space, but pay more rent, so as just to have the tiniest balcony where she could stand in the morning, looking over her neighborhood while sipping tea, knowing that she needs those few minutes of quiet time to take on the day and the big city.

For me, traveling for work and being on location a couple times each month, every morning is completely different. I’ve learned to create a morning ritual for which country, time zone and sleeping arrangement don’t matter.

I could be waking up next to a camel in a desert camp of Morocco, on the floor of a bus station in Bolivia or beneath the down comforter of the Kempinski Resort in Jordan—and still I’ll be able to start my mornings the same way.

It’s simple: I disconnect in order to reconnect.

I put my phone on airplane mode before I go to sleep, so when my alarm goes off in the morning, I’m not distracted by any notifications.

After I turn off the alarm, I put my phone away for the next hour, leaving technology to be dealt with after I’ve had “me” time. (The idea is to disconnect from all screens or devices so that we can reconnect with ourselves.)

Some people may use this time to pray, journal, color or do a few sun salutations. There are many ways we can push the reset button.

Personally, I use this time to observe nature. Wherever I am in the world, I will go outside and sit. If outside isn’t available for some reason, I’ll sit in front of a window.

I begin by greeting the world, paying deliberate attention to whatever birds, trees or wind are surrounding me as I address the earth with,

“Good morning Pacha Mama. I acknowledge you. I appreciate you. I respect you. And I will do everything in my power to protect you and treat you right today.” 

Then I sit, with the intention being fully present for 15 to 20 minutes.

Some days it’s easier to meditate than others. Sometimes my eyes stay closed for only 10 seconds—and some days for 10 minutes. If meditation doesn’t come easily that day, it becomes a “morning of awareness,” where I close my eyes and just listen to the sounds around me. If my eyes continue to drift open, I allow it. For me, observing the world of natural beauty around me instills a feeling of peace.

I believe we can all get this same peace from morning quiet time.

In this current age of pervasive technological availability, I have found it critical to my mental health, daily attitude and personal and professional relationships to consciously disconnect from screens at the start of the day.

Choosing to disconnect from digital buzz allows space for internal clarity and calm. For one hour every morning, we can consciously reconnect with ourselves before launching into the day.

Author: Elizabeth Gottwald
Article sourced here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/08/one-accessible-morning-practice-to-launch-our-day/

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Broccoli Soup with Pine Nuts

August 18, 2016

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