By: Michael Mantell, Ph.D.
Yep, that’s right. Gratitude is medicine. You’ve seen the, “Exercise is Medicine” campaign offered up at www.exerciseismedicine.org, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Association and supported by many health and fitness related organizations notably among them, the American Council on Exercise, www.acefitness.org.
The goal of this initiative has been to make physical activity and exercise a routine part of disease prevention and medical treatment. In the words of the famous commercials, “But wait, there’s more…” What more can assure better living, healthier, fit and happier lives? No pill, no strict diet regimen are needed. It’s simply gratitude. At least that’s true if you believe what people have been writing since Biblical times, writing about more recently in the popular literature and researching at universities for the past several decades through the lens of positive psychology.
This dose of medicine requires a daily moment or two of your time. Research at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California at Davis, and the Universities of Michigan, Utah, Illinois and Kentucky, in particular, have demonstrated that people who are deeply thankful, count their blessings, notice the simple joys of daily life, and acknowledge everything they have in positive ways, engage in healthier behaviors and generally take better care of themselves. This extends to exercising more regularly, eating more wisely, and visiting their physicians for regular physical examinations as needed.
In his 2007 book, “Thanks: How the Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” Robert Emmons reported on his well-known study that found that people who keep a daily journal listing five things they feel grateful for each day, are 25% happier than those who don’t. He also described this group as feeling “…more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, attentive, energetic, excited, determined, and strong than those…” who focused on the hassles of daily life. The gratitude group also reported fewer physical symptoms and exercised more, which of course are related. The benefits of focusing, daily, on gratitude extend to the emotional, mental and physical areas of life.
Writing down your grateful thoughts is also a terrific sleeping pill. In his research, Emmons found that those who do, “get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening.” Sure beats a pill!
Gratitude beats back stress, which may be related to 90% of all doctor visits. Looking through the mental lens of what can go right, being appreciative of what you have instead of being angry for what you don’t have, leads to seeing life as full and satisfactory. It may well be the link to helping people cope with daily events, effectively avoiding the kind of thinking that creates stress—“Life should be different, and I should have it the way I want/demand it to be. It’s not and therefore that’s awful. Since life is awful, I can’t stand it!”
There you have it. One daily dose of spending several minutes jotting down three to five things for which you are grateful, what went right, developing the sense of abundance, appreciating others and the simple pleasures of life while avoiding a sense of entitlement and envy, goes a long way to adding health, happiness and wellness to your life.
Can you think? Be grateful for the good you can contemplate. Can you see? Be grateful for the beauty that you can see. Can you hear? Be grateful for the soothing sounds of life that you can hear. Get it?
Finally, if you forget, remember this GPS system that will take you to the best places of life: Gratitude, positivity and sensitivity.
Good – what’s good about your daily life regardless of what you have or not?
Recognize – what can go right?
Appreciative – are you appreciative of what you have…and don’t have?
Thankful – who have you sincerely thanked today?
Emotional – can you express emotion in a positive manner?
Fulfilled – you are either fulfilled or on the way to being fulfilled…never unfulfilled
Understanding – do you have the lens to understand that whatever happens always happens for the good?
Liked – do you look for what you can like in every person and situation you come across in life?
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Take a quick snapshot of your life and you’ll probably see your work, your family, your friends and yourself. Now ask yourself this simple question: what are you achieving and enjoying?
Not an uncommon question, since many ponder these two concerns during our daily activities—“What in the world am I really achieving by spending time on this?” “Am I really enjoying this or am I just going through the motions?”
Work-life balance was all the craze a number of years ago. Today, it seems, striving to find the balance between work and life is deemed a rather foolish pursuit. Instead, we are urged to thrive and flourish in all areas of life, not just one or the other. Forget finding equal ground, blossom in both areas. Sounds great, doesn’t it? While the media filled tens of thousands, if not more, pages and hours of airtime with “tips to achieve work-life balance,” today we hear that it’s not a worthwhile pursuit after all.
It’s a fairly grisly picture out there. With more than a third of people saying they are unhappy or very unhappy about the time they spend at work, to almost 50% of people saying they are neglecting important parts of their personal lives due to work, it’s pretty clear why more than 25% of employees in one study reported feeling depressed, more than a third feel anxious, and almost 60% say they are irritable. People have more and more but seem less and less happy.
For those who regularly workout at The La Jolla Sports Club, with or without a certified trainer, alone or in a group ex class, you can readily identify with recent research published in the journal Human Resource Management that looked at almost 500 adults, and found that regular exercise helps balance out feelings, improves self-confidence and the ability to be more productive at work and at home. The exercise that was studied wasn’t only gym-based but included “stolen moments” of activity during the day that add up to about 30 minutes per day, such as climbing stairs for five minutes or doing jumping jacks in 30-second spurts. Beyond exercise, of course, I coach my clients to change the way they think about work-life not as separate entities, but as one, called “LIFE.” In their terrific book, “Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life,” authors Howard Stevenson and Laura Nash identify four areas to contemplate as metrics for an overall, “good life.” These include:
1. Happiness: Feelings of pleasure or contentment in and about your life. 2. Achievement: Accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others have strived for. 3. Significance: A positive impact on people you care about. 4. Legacy: Establishing your values or accomplishments in ways that help others find future success.
But here’s the key. It turns out, according to research, that the happiest people are those that include something each day to fill each of these buckets. Delay enjoyment while you are busy achieving and you’ll be sadly disappointed—is there any other kind of disappointment? Focus on enjoyment and achievement may suffer. It’s not like working until the “finish line” will free you to have supreme happiness after your work life is over. That’s the foolish, “First, I’ll work until I’ve made enough and then I can do whatever I want to be happy.” Sounds terribly confused, and flies against what science teaches us about flourishing in life.
Quick Read: How to Add 22 years to your life
Want to take your life to this noble level of thriving and succeeding? Remember you need to focus on what’s important and here’s a hint: not everything is important. Set priorities and invest yourself NOW in those things that have the highest payoff.
“The link is what you think”, so put it in perspective. Achieve, enjoy, exercise and strive for brimming with optimal health and extreme happiness—the ultimate rewards for crisscrossing the work-life balance.
Written by: Kathleen Rafaat – kathleenrafaatnutrition.com
As a female, we have been taught to be careful, almost fearful, of carbohydrates. When you become an athlete, the fear becomes a stumbling block if you do not approach it as a way to maintain physical strength and stamina in your daily workouts and races. Understanding carbohydrates and how to use them is one of the most important tools in your workout routine. If you are a ATHLETE, your workouts are based on cycles and each cycle requires a different amount and timing, of those carbohydrates. It can get complicated, but let’s look at the simple side of what carbohydrates do for your body and how you can use them to your benefit.
Carbohydrates are found in all food and are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. There are simple carbs, or sugars, which include glucose (blood sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose. There are also two-molecule carbs that include sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (malt sugar). Simple carbohydrates are beneficial because they provide usable energy quickly. Complex carbohydrates, or starches, contain large 300 to 1,000 molecule compound and contain nothing but glucose molecules. It takes these compounds longer than simple sugars to come apart in the digestive system. Complex carbohydrates provide a longer-lasting source of clean-burning energy that can keep you going for hours.
When you are at rest, your body burns carbohydrates and fats, the rates of which depend on your level of fitness. As you increase your training intensity, carbs become the more important source of fuel for your muscles. Your glycogen supply is also much more limited than your body fat stores. Once they run low, fatty acids are used as the sole source of energy and performance is decreased. So now you understand how important carbohydrates are to your body during training and racing. Next, let’s learn how and when to eat and drink them!
If you look at training as a cycle, triathletes usually break the year down into four distinctive cycles, beginning with the Base Cycle. This is time you are laying down your foundation to develop aerobic endurance and muscular strength. It is filled with moderate intensity and high volume. If you look at the year as a whole, your carbohydrate volume should follow your training volume. So it makes sense to match up what you consume in the hours before, during and after training with the loss of fuel that happens during your training session. Once you become fatigued, you have no choice but to slow down or stop. Let’s work on how to stop that from happening!
In a perfect world, it is best to fuel your body 3-4 hours before you train but most of us have busy lives and it is difficult to eat that early. Let’s start with 1-2 hours before a training session that lasts for 75 minutes. An example is a 140 pound female triathlete. She will need between 2.5-3g/lb. of carbs for a low intensity training = 1,400 calories of carbohydrates.
Keeping in mind that you are eating 1-2 hours before your training session, it is better to limit your intake of carbohydrates to 1 gram per pound of body weight. So the 140-pound athlete could take in a max of 140 grams of carbs. Two hours before a whole grain bagel, 1 T peanut butter, banana and endurance sports drink would give you around that amount. If closer to an hour, using a liquid carb meal or energy bar is great since it is quickly and easily digested. Choose wisely and look for organic versions with the least amount of ingredients.
During your workout, you will need to ingest around 30-40 grams per hour if training longer than 2 hours. Start drinking as soon as you begin your exercise and continue to drink at frequent intervals throughout your workout. Gels, sports drink, banana, bars, are all good and should be used during your training to see which one works best for you. Remember to check your race website to see what they use, and practice what is on the course, in case your “special” combo is lost or dropped during the race!
After your training, make sure you are replenishing energy stores at a rate of about .75 grams per pound of body weight, during the first 15-30 minutes and for the next four to six hours. That is equal to 100 grams of carbohydrates for 140-pound athlete. This way you can maximize your glycogen stores and feel great for your next day of training!
When it comes to fitness, whether it’s fitness psychology, exercise physiology, gym equipment, exercise programming or anything else in the large space of the fitness gym world, IHRSA is the first and last word on the topic. This week, March 12-15, 2014, at the San Diego Convention Center, the 33rd Annual International Convention and Trade show of IHRSA will take place. IHRSA stands for the International Health and Racquet & Sports club Association. You can find them at http://www.ihrsa.org
Here’s an example of last year’s extravaganza:
After seeing that, you’ll now understand why many of the staff at The La Jolla Sports Club may be MIA over the next several days.
The trade show, with almost 400 exhibitors taking up more than a ¼ mile of space at the Convention Center, is the largest fitness toy store ever assembled. Here, we’ll see the latest and greatest in equipment and fitness/gym related information and material. It’s not too late for you to register as part of the public and dive in with those of us who’ll be there, loaded down with bags of cool swag in hand. There will be more than 8,000 in attendance, so no joke, come on down!!
Among the 180 health clubs in San Diego (there are 3,950 clubs in California), there’s no doubt at all, whatsoever, that the Sporting Club is the finest full-service club in town. Their are 313,000 club members in San Diego, (there are 7.6 million club members in California), and there’s no doubt at all, whatsoever, that our members experience the finest in personal and unique attention to achieving optimal health among these full-service clubs.
The La Jolla Sports Club offers supportive, knowledgeable and trained fitness pros to make it easy for members of all ages and fitness levels to build a well-balanced and enjoyable fitness program. Check out some of the talks from among the dozens upon dozens over four days at IHRSA this year, and you’ll see why our club is on the cutting edge of what’s contemporary:
- Fitness as a Part of the Healthcare System
- Active Aging: Trends & Opportunities
- Exercise as Medicine: Tapping the Medical Community
- Fitness Technology: Current & Future Industry Trends
- 7 Habits of Highly Successful Personal Trainers
- From Numbers Driven to Members Driven
The Sporting Club has been exploring these topics, examining programs, and already looking at exciting ways to stay ahead of the pack. Our state-of-the-art exercise equipment, classes, trainers and instructors ensure that our members enjoy a wide variety of exercise and optimal health options. After IHRSA, watch for even more!
Our fellow club members offer unique camaraderie, motivation and personal encouragement to continue improving optimal health lifestyles. What more can you ask for?
Just in case you can’t make it to the greatest fitness show on earth and experience the motivating fun, see some of the industry’s top leaders, and walk away with enough inspiration to keep you charged for the rest of 2014, here are eight additional ideas from IHRSA to stay motivated and feeling good all year long through the La Jolla Sports Club:
- Treat exercise as your personal “time out.”
- Set realistic, incremental goals.
- Do what you enjoy.
- Schedule time at The Sporting Club as you would any important appointment.
- Track it.
- Make it social.
- Be flexible and allow yourself breaks.
- Reward yourself.
You can increase you speed and duration of time that you spend on a treadmill without noticing much. One trick to doing this is by increasing you time by one minute every other day, and increasing you speed by 0.1 mph every other day. Here’s an example: Week 1 Monday 20 minutes @ 6.0 mph Tuesday 21 minutes @ 6.0 mph Wednesday 21 minutes @ 6.1 mph Thursday 22 minutes @ 6.1 mph Friday 22 minutes @ 6.2 mph
Week 2 Monday 23 minutes @ 6.2 mph Tuesday 23 minutes @ 6.3 mph Wednesday 24 minutes @ 6.3 mph Thursday 24 minutes @ 6.4 mph Friday 25 minutes @ 6.4 mph
At the end of 4 weeks, you will have increased you speed by 1.0 mph and you duration will increase by 10 minutes. Since you’ve done this so incrementally, you will hardly notice the extra effort you are putting forth.
By Tim Malley, Fitness Instructor at LJSC – Watch for more articles!