There are many ways to adopt a routine and a few for failing to incorporate a health or fitness routine into one’s life. If you are like most people, you’ve likely begun and dropped countless health or fitness routines. For me, it’s been running, jogging, hiking, yoga, weight-lifting, etc. Two health and fitness practices that have stuck in my life are hiking and daily yoga practice.
In the pursuit of acquiring a healthier lifestyle and optimizing wellness, here are 7 Principles for Embedding a New Health or Fitness Routine.
1. A slowly tapering practice sticks for life. This means start gently, slowly build, and persist in practicing.
2. One must not skip practice. If a daily practice is missed for any reason, just do it the next day and don’t get hung up over missing a session.
3. One must daily make a note of their practice. The Seinfeld Method of not breaking the “chain” of habit is a sound one. Either using a digital prompt – like a task app on a smart device or computer – or an old-fashioned calendar on which a simple note or checkmark is made, every day note one’s practice. A small notebook for logging practice works quite well.
4. One must share with others to socially contract the plan, progress, and outcome of practice. This emphasizes a commitment to actually doing the work of the practice and heightens the likelihood of practicing. This is an excellent use of social media and of personal networks of friends or family.
5. One must establish, then broaden, and then deepen one’s practice. First things first: just start doing it and keep doing it, then broaden aspects of the health and fitness routine, and then deepen the practice. An example here is performing the Warrior Pose II (Virabhadrasana II): first, carefully imitate the posture (called an asana in yoga) and establish it in one’s daily life, then slowly learn the technique from the feet upward and broaden the practice, and then deepen the practice by adding correct breathing (called pranayama in yoga).
6. One must be mindful during and about one’s practice. Mindfulness means being present in the practice or fully aware and conscious of one’s thoughts and movements about the practice when not performing it. This means holding and practicing affirming or positive thoughts about it, as in mentally declaring that one will hike or walk or do yoga at such-and-such a time, and train one’s thoughts to focus on the practice while doing it. Although this sounds easy, some individuals in our hurry-hurry-hurry world find this challenging. The best counsel here is practice mindfulness, read about it, and practice more.
7. One must continue to acquire new knowledge and skills. It is well documented that fitness routines must be shaken up and changed, otherwise one’s mind becomes bored and tends to avoid practicing. After establishing, broadening, and deepening one’s practice, the next logical step is to continue enhancing the practice.
The idea here is to select a health or fitness method, learn about it, practice it, and embed it into one’s life. Persistence is key and these principles will aid in elevating one’s wellness and health.
As Virgil declared: Fortune sides with him who dares. So, dare to start and dare to embed a new health or fitness routine. @DoctorJames
Three facts about men’s bodies from a recent Men’s Health issue:
- 38 hours is how long your metabolic rate stays elevated after an intense full body workout
- 30% improvement in flexibility acquired by older men after 16 weeks of intense full body workouts
- 18% more space taken by 1 pound of fat as compared to 1 pound of muscle
SMOKING CESSATION and YOUR HEALTH
Given that so much is known about tobacco smoking, if you are smoking and want to improve your health, wellness, and life expectancy, choose to quit. There are many smoking cessation medications and programs that are effective. If a smoker persists in quitting, the potential for actually walking away from tobacco improves with each successive attempt to stop. So, if at first you don’t succeed in quitting, try again until you do succeed and your body will thank you. In one Colorado city, anti-smoking laws led to a 41% drop in hospitalizations due to heart attacks.
Four facts about tobacco smoking cessation and physical health:
- More than 20% of all American deaths are from smoking
- Smoking reduces lifespan by 13-15 years (Is that cigarette worth losing 20 minutes of your life?)
- 24 hours after smoking cessation, chance of heart attack decreases
- 2 weeks to 3 months after smoking cessation, 30% improvement in lung function
TWO STRATEGIES for FITNESS
- Choose one fitness action and fold it into your daily living. One simple idea is to buy a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps daily or park far away from the store entrance when driving, so that you walk more. Another way to do this is to forego taking elevators and escalators unless you are physically challenged, which will move your body regularly. After a few weeks, choose another fitness action and add it to your lifestyle. As you continue to get healthier, you’ll find resurging energy and enthusiasm for health.
- Probiotics: if you take antibiotics, consider taking a probiotic (after consulting with your health care provider, naturally). Antibiotics kill the friendly flora in your gut at the same time they are killing the invading bacteria that cause illness. Probiotics will restore the natural, friendly flora and enhance general immunity and health. A typical probiotic is a liquid solution of lactobacilli, which can be purchased from health food stores and many vitamin stores.
Let us get up, moving, and healthier! @DoctorJames
Rather than being some nebulous idea, gratitude is a powerful aspect of both being and becoming more human. In the USA, we annually celebrate Thanksgiving as a feast with friends and family. On this day, it is customary for us to pause and be thankful. Setting aside a specially recognized national day of gratitude is a great idea; let us daily cultivate gratitude.
An Attitude of Gratitude
The idea of being grateful, of gratitude practiced daily, is one that is central to wellness and health, according to positive psychology. This emergent discipline of the general field of psychology focuses on virtues, strengths, and potentials of human growth and development. As an aspect of personhood, daily practicing gratitude is understood to foster peace of mind, higher quality interpersonal relationships, and a sense of prosperity, even in difficult circumstances.
- Choose to daily practice gratitude. Optimism will emerge and persist, for a better life for all and for the planet.
- Tell someone that you know something about them or something that they do for which you are thankful.
- Say “thank you” to someone whom you do not know for their civility or courtesy.
- Before sleeping, write down three things for which you give gratitude. Read them aloud to yourself.
- When facing a struggle or challenge, bring out your gratitude journal and read it aloud.
Here’s a thought:
Thank the gods for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell.
While other folks go hungry, we’re eating very well.
With home and hearth and happiness, let’s not complain or fuss.
For by this stack of evidence, life’s very good to us.
May your day and your life be filled with the practice and benefits of gratitude.
Everyone in the world of modern communication has heard about H1N1 influenza. To protect one’s health in these circumstances and in everyday living, a change in personal hygienic behaviors will defend and improve respiratory and general health.
Humans have reason to fear and prepare for influenza pandemics, especially given that an estimated 50 to 100 million people died in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920, a total equal to one third of the European population. Many deaths were from secondary illnesses, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis, which is instructive.
There are simple behaviors that can keep one from getting these illnesses or minimize one’s chances of getting them. If adopted these habits can effectively avoid or minimize community-acquired illnesses throughout the year. With practice, nearly all who do will see a significant drop in their colds and other respiratory illnesses. As well, these are highly effective methods for improving one’s general fitness and health.
HERE’S HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR RESPIRATORY HEALTH
- For one day, pay attention to all of the surfaces your hands touch in public settings: bathrooms, buses or trains, workplace surfaces, etc. Remind yourself of the people who have also touched these surfaces and of the poor hand hygiene of many people.
- Improve your hand hygiene, which consists of both handwashing and hand sanitizing. Hand SANITIZERS remove or kill bacteria, but not viruses: this is a common misunderstanding. HANDWASHING removes bacteria, viruses, and physical soiling from hands. Thorough handwashing is always the preferred method.
- Sneeze or cough into your inner elbow, which covers and contains your coughed secretions and keeps material from your hands. Minimize touching your face unless your hands have been recently washed.
- Knuckle it: use your knuckles on keypads for ATMs or other access: do not use your fingertips.
- If you must use a public pen for a signature, promptly sanitize your hands after using it.
- Do not touch straps, poles, or any part of a bus or train when commuting. If you must steady or reposition yourself, on exiting the vehicle immediately sanitize your hands and then wash your hands at your next opportunity.
- Always wash your hands when you return home (see handwashing technique below).
Proper use of hand sanitizers means that you cover your hands with enough solution to briskly rub over the hands, then allow them to air dry. Hand sanitizers are not meant to be a substitute for handwashing, but are used when handwashing is not convenient or indicated. Handwashing is a better method of hygiene than is hand sanitizing. Handwashing should always be used when one has soiled hands. The best practice is to WASH YOUR HANDS more often.
PROPER HANDWASHING includes:
- turn on faucet and wet dirty hands with water first (soap is too harsh on your skin unless first diluted)
- apply enough soap to adequately wash hands
- wash all surfaces of hands briskly and thoroughly: palms, finger tips, back of hands, wrists, and between fingers
- wash all hand surfaces by rubbing vigorously with soap and water for 15-20 seconds: sing “Happy Birthday” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” 3 times to yourself until you have learned the proper length of time
- turn off faucet with paper towel or use your elbow if towels are unavailable
- dry hands thoroughly
- do not touch surfaces or door handles when you exit the bathroom: instead, use a paper towel, your coat, or your foot
- if you handwash frequently, consider using a non-scented lotion after handwashing to maintain skin integrity, as frequent use of soaps can cause micro-breaks in the skin of the hands and these can provide access to bacteria or viruses
Once you begin to practice these simple methods, you may notice others’ lack of proper hand hygiene, especially when using public facilities. You may also be surprised by a drop in colds or other community-acquired infections and illnesses.
Simple practices support one’s general health.
Choose to improve your hand hygiene and elevate your wellness.
A few years ago, a social experiment in improving happiness was undertaken in the village of Slough, England. Social researchers used known cognitive and social methods to improve the happiness of Slough and it actually worked. Measurements taken before and after the experiment showed a demonstrable rise in individual and collective happiness for the people of Slough.
Here are the 10 easy steps that were used:
- Plant something and nurture it
- Count your blessings – at least five – at the end of each day
- Take time to talk – have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week
- Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up
- Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it
- Have a good laugh at least once a day
- Get physical – exercise for half an hour three times a week
- Smile at or say hello to a stranger at least once each day
- Cut your TV viewing by half
- Spread some kindness – do a good turn for someone every day
ACTION PLAN or COME ON GET HAPPY
Take one easy step and then add another every few days or perhaps have a 10 week plan: start with one step, add another the second week, etc., until you have all 10 steps in active daily use. You will actually be happier and so will your friends and those around you.
If we remember that knowledge of one’s ability to choose is empowering, then one is empowered to actively choose actions and activities that will bring happiness, gratitude, and optimism. These are core aspects of human wellness and they are easily nurtured and sustained.
Choose to practice happiness, for wellness as individuals and in community.