By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Here’s the latest scientific elixir of happiness—gratitude.
That’s right, gratitude will fill your storehouse of happiness. What’s this have to do with health and fitness? Plenty.
You see the study of positive psychology, specifically the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book, “The How of Happiness,” has uncovered that happiness builds “joy, contentment, love, pride, and awe…improves our energy levels, our immune systems, our engagement with work and with other people, and our physical and mental health.” She adds that building happiness in our lives, “bolsters feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem; we come to believe that we are worthy human beings, deserving of respect.”
That’s a whopping list of positive benefits from being happy—and with no negative side-effects to report. Robert Emmons, in his book, “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier,” adds that “happy individuals are also more creative, helpful, charitable and self-confident, have better self-control and show greater self-regulatory and coping abilities. Happy people, the facts clearly show, are flourishing and successful people.”
I don’t know about you, but I sure would like massive doses of this stuff! The best part of this wonderful tonic is that it doesn’t take tons of sweating, dozens of sets and reps, jumping onto and off of anything. It doesn’t take a medical examination, there’s no co-pay needed, and you really don’t even need a personal coach. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil—ok, an iPad will do as well.
Emmons famous research demonstrated that people who kept a personal journal and listed 3 – 5 things they were grateful for every day, “reminded themselves of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things they enjoy,” found a 25% increase in their happiness over other groups who did not complete such a journal. He also found that these increases may be sustained over a period of months, and that in as little as three weeks of keeping such a journal, you can sleep better and find more energy.
Want to feel more “joyful, enthusiastic, interested, attentive, energetic, excited, determined and strong”? Want to sleep better? Want more flourishing relationships? Want to cut down on anxiety, stress and depression? This simple daily exercise is the answer.
One of the foremost teachers of gratitude, David Steindl-Rast, has said that we can decide to live with gratitude even in the face of challenging times. He also points out that when we live with a sense of gratitude we don’t feel, we will begin to feel it.
Here are Emmons’ evidence-based 9 steps for becoming more grateful: 1). Keep a gratitude journal. 2). Remember the bad. If you recall tough times in life, you are more likely to appreciate what your have. 3). Ask yourself three questions every evening. Fill in the blanks with the name of a person (or persons) in your life. “What have I received from ___? What have I given to ___? What troubles and difficulty have I caused ___?” 4). Learn prayers of gratitude. 5). Appreciate your senses. 6). Use visual reminders. 7). Make a vow to practice gratitude. 8). Watch your language: 9).Go through the motions. Research shows that emotions follow behavior.
Happy holidays everyone—be grateful for what you have, and remember, abundance is not what you own, but how much you appreciate.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend, Clark Gracie, teaches between four and five classes at week in San Diego at the La Jolla Sports Club. In every class you can expect not only a challenging workout but to learn fighting and self defense techniques from one of the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters in the United States. Check out this short video on what each class has to offer and feel free to come visit our club to try out a class for yourself!
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
The La Jolla Sport Club saves lives. Bold statement, I know, but it’s true. It also saves money. Another bold statement, but it’s also true. Let’s explore.
You see, of the top 7 causes of death in America, 6 are disease we choose, the so-called, “Lifestyle Diseases.” Heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, accidents, diabetes, flu and pneumonia are considered, at least in part, to be caused by a person’s daily lifestyle habits.
The La Jolla Sports Club’s array of healthy classes, nutritional offerings at the Cafè, and limitless exercise opportunities all help fortify members against the unhealthy habits that lead to these diseases, teach and reinforce behaviors required to make correct choices to avoid illness and support behaviors and thinking necessary to adhere to a healthy lifestyle. It’s prevention on stilts.
So how does the club save money? The La Jolla Sports Club is unique as an independent health club in providing a leading edge, enviable, Corporate Wellness program to local companies who understand the value of having healthy, happy and productive employees.
Healthcare costs are increasing at a rate of 8%-14% annually, threatening the profitability and survivability of companies of all sizes. Eighty-eight percent of health care spending is attributable to illnesses that are preventable. Disability claims have a significant financial and morale impact on companies. Further, companies spend about $602 per year per employee plus indirect costs such as overtime for covering missing employees, missed deadlines, lost sales, lowered morale, and decreased productivity. Employers lose more than $300 billion of productivity due to these types of illnesses, absenteeism, lack of employees engaged in their work when they are working, and retention costs. Effective corporate and employee wellness programs such as the The La Jolla Sports Club’s, can cut 25% of these costs.
By nurturing wellness in employees for companies in our local region, whether it is in factories, corporate offices, large and small companies, retail establishments, health care facilities, across many industries, our corporate partners all report sizable benefit. Specific membership programs, rates, services and features structured for corporate members have evolved to include innovative elements on-site at the club, on the club’s website designed specifically for corporate members, as well as programming at the workplace. Not only are these services available to corporate member employees, but to their member dependents as well.
By paying attention to an organization’s unique culture, the resources it has and the individual needs of the employees, The Sporting Club develops a carefully constructed program based on thorough assessment and alignment, behavioral psychology for motivation and engagement, exercise science and nutrition to improve lifestyle choices of employees and their dependents and adds to a company’s profitability that wellness program cost-saving measures bring.
That’s it. Activity, nutrition and healthy thinking bring the results which save lives and money. It’s that simple. Doesn’t your company deserve these benefits?
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
In my last article, Three Rules for Succeeding the Last 3 Months of 2012, I described the value of three rules to help get across the Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Year’s finish line: 1. Focus on the process, not the outcome 2. Never give up. Ever. 3. Talk rationally to yourself.
Well, someone stopped me in the gym and asked me, “Only three rules? To get through the entire holiday season? Really? Only three?”
Well, miss-you-know-who-you-are, here are three more. Now you’ll have six to work on, and hopefully that’ll be enough to help you, and everyone else, enjoy the festivities, food and fun feeling fine and fit. Hey, that’s six “f’s”!
Here are three very specific, additional, tools you can begin using right away.
1). Intensify your activity and movement, if not actually increase your exercise. Wear a pedometer. You may not be able to spend more time at the gym, so find every imaginable way you can to increase your activity, even if it seems silly. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, so that means a 200-pound person walking three miles per day even at a moderate pace for one week can burn about 2,300 calories. Park further away from your office than you usually do, always take the stairs, carry your purchases instead of using a shopping cart if possible and turn your house cleaning into pumped up aerobic activity. Dance, skip and hop while you vacuum! Take a jog around the airport if you are flying somewhere and have the time—who cares what “they” are thinking—you’ll never see them again anyway. Schedule training sessions now for throughout the holiday season.
2). Party smartly and healthy. That means eating more fruit, more protein and less refined carbs. Interesting gossip going on over at the buffet? Stay away from the dangerous nibbling that goes on unconsciously. Sure, go to the buffet line, but be when you pile up your plate, make sure you are doing so with fresh veggies, lean meats and other lower calorie goodies. Whatever else you do, become a dessert splitter. Those cupcake look great. Small, cute, only 500 calories! Don’t deprive yourself though. Allow yourself one small serving of your favorite treat and be as mindful as possible as you savor the look, taste and aroma of whatever it is that you “must have.”
3). THINK FIT. Plan your eating before you go out and stick to your plan. People have all sorts of unhelpful, irrational thoughts about food, diet, and weight-loss especially around the holidays. “Watching what I eat should be easy.” “It’s not okay to waste food.” “If I get hungry, the hunger will get worse and worse until I eat something.” “There is nothing I can do to make cravings go away.” “It’s okay to eat this food because I’m stressed, everyone else is eating it, it’s just a little piece and I’ll make up for it later.” “I’ve already blown it so it doesn’t matter what else I eat.” It’s important to ask yourself what evidence you have that any of these thoughts, or others you may have, are true. They aren’t. They are just thoughts. Before you go out armed with your food plan, have a strong counter response thought plan to each of your sabotaging, unhelpful thoughts and be sure you use them immediately.
There you have it. Three more wise, well-balanced ways to wade through the winter wassail…and yes, that’s six “W’s.”
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
It’s that time of the year again when we all face the onslaught of holiday parties, festive food fests, drinking more than usual, late nights out, less sleep, and generally putting on a few pounds that we find more and more difficult to lose, come January. With three months of challenge ahead, I thought I’d share my three favorite rules to help you get across the goal line healthy, fit and happy.
Rule #1. Focus on the process, not the outcome.
Sure you want to set specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, timely, enthusiastic and rewarding goals (“SMARTER”) for reaching January in great shape, and still fitting into your jeans from this past summer. But my experience in working with athletes and fitness coaches has taught me that beyond developing a vision, being committed to goals, believing that you can achieve your goals and taking one step at a time, it’s getting involved with the “process goals” that have to do with the steps needed to achieve success that are most important. Too many focus on the destination and forget to enjoy the journey. The journey, in health and fitness, is what it’s all about. What steps, actions and techniques are you focusing on to help you assure you’ll reach your goals? Keep you eyes on your form, the strategies you are using for diet for example, and other types of processes needed to be successful. Examples include focusing on recording your diet daily, following certain guidelines for sleep, keeping your back in proper position while doing dead lifts, and enjoying the exercise, nutrition and sleep along the way to your goals.
Rule #2. Never give up. Ever.
“Winning means you’re willing to go longer, work harder, and give more than anyone else. ” ~ Vince Lombardi How’s that for inspiration to keep going no matter what? As long as you are alive, anything is possible. It’s not an all or nothing game during October, November and December, it’s about getting back up no matter how many times you’ve slipped. Make it a lapse, not a relapse. Don’t sell yourself short. OK, so you had that extra piece of cake or more pasta than you promised yourself you would have (process goal). Don’t let a slip destroy your plan. Giving up means settling for average, or worse. “Forget about it” is for people who are almost there but turn away from the finish line. Being your best is definitely available to you…if you don’t give up, ever. Seth Godin, author of “The Dip,” advises, that the “dip” — the boring, difficult, inconvenient time after the excitement, positive feedback, and the fun of a new goal has worn thin – is designed to keep you out of the inner circle of winners. He advises determining which dip is the right challenge for you and to stick with it, never give it up, no matter what. Ask yourself, “Am I panicking?” “Who am I trying to influence?” and “What sort of measureable progress (process goals) am I making?” Expect the dip, or lapse, gather your resources, find a coach, and keep going!
Rule #3. Talk rationally (accurately) to yourself at all times.
Recognize that your body hears your every thought. That’s right, whether it’s about diet, exercise, your self-image, your health, your fitness, it’s clear that your body has superb “ears.” I’ve written about this before here. Your body’s “ears” don’t hear words specifically, but rather forms of energy, pictures and emotions. The mind-body connection is so strong and the body’s “ears” so accurate, that every thought you have can be reflected in your health. It’s as if your body believes every word you think. So here are 7 thoughts that will help insure you’ll meet your holiday season health and fitness goals.
- I feel great
- My body is becoming leaner and stronger
- I find it easy to eat the right foods
- I love eating right
- I love working out
- I am healthy and have a ton of energy
- I have a fit body
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
The headlines came screaming out: Obesity on the Rise! 36% of America is Obese Today and 60% Will Be By 2030!! That’s no surprise given the fact that newer technology brings more virtual activity and with it, a more sedentary lifestyle. Heck, even gyms are stuffing virtual games into treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes.
But a recent set of studies is worth looking at, especially if you are a bit overweight…ok, if you are obese. I wrote my thesis on obesity way back in the dark ages of the ‘70s and the data looked gloomy then for those who were obese for longevity, heart failure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Today, it’s as if obesity, as commonly measured by a simple ratio of heart and weight, is talked about as if it’s a death sentence. That is, unless you understand the “obesity paradox.”
Simply stated, the obesity paradox suggests that patients with a number of chronic diseases of normal weight are twice as likely to die as those who are overweight or obese with those same diseases. So is there a need to reexamine the assumptions we’ve all been sold on about the association between body fat and disease? You bet there is!
Whether it’s overweight/obese dialysis patients, coronary disease, diabetic patients—it seems that study after study points to a similar finding. Cardiovascular fitness is a far more useful predictor of mortality risk than simple numbers on a scale. Trouble is, in many studies, fitness is not measured as it relates to disease processes. But evidence is growing that’s compelling medical researchers to take fitness into account.
When studies do take fitness into account, they come up with a terrific finding for those of us passionate about our fitness—“being fat and fit is better than being thin and unfit.” Get that? Here, it’s worth repeating, —“being fat and fit is better than being thin and unfit.”
Need to pick one? Of course, not. Being fit and at a healthy weight (taking into account body fat, lean muscle mass, and metabolic abnormalities) are best. But the latest research tells us if you do have to choose one, it’s more important to maintain fitness than leanness. They gym is the place where fitness and maintaining a health weight can be combined best. With individualized personal training and nutritional assistance by one of the club’s highly skilled certified trainers, the correct program, delivered appropriately for you, means your best chance for healthy living.
Add the psychological components of knowing how to create positive emotions, being engaged fully in the flow of enjoyable daily activities, developing and appreciating healthy relationships, finding meaning in your life, and taking pride in your accomplishments, you’ve got it all right for a life that’s healthy, fit and happy!