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Stress as Good And Bad

March 18, 2017 by  
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This week I want to talk about stress. I am even a bit stressed about getting this written in time to post it! There is a lot to stress about. Because of that people have come up with all sorts of ways and methods to reduce stress. However, stress can be good because it can push you to get more done and try harder to reach your goals. And, get this, you can actually learn how to make it so that even a ton of stress doesn’t hurt or ruin your health! I think you will be surprised and delighted to learn how to do this, as I was. But let’s examine how we think about stress for a minute.

As most people know, stress seems to be caused, for the most part, by our thinking and worrying about some future event–near or far. There is, however, two bits of really good news about stress. We all know that if we wanted to be a better or even a great tennis player, golfer, singer, writer, public speaker, etcetera, there are ways to become just that. One of the best methods is the “10,000-hour rule” as explained in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. (If you haven’t read the book, I think it’s a must.) It says you need to put in 10,000 hours at something to become world-class in that field.

From my experience and from what I read, we as humans can do “work outs” and do lots of “practice sessions” with and for our brains, just like we can invest those 10,000 hours to become the best at something. Part of the good news is that, when it’s needed, it doesn’t take 10,000 practice hours to reduce stress.

So, before I get to the good news about how stress isn’t always bad for you and your health, let me just list a few simple techniques that are easy to do to reduce or eliminate stress when you know it isn’t doing you any good:

  1. Take a walk outside.
  2. Take a run in a new neighborhood.
  3. Take a Hike.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Go to a yoga class.
  6. Share your problems or stress with others.
  7. Get a massage.
  8. Take a hot bath or jump in a hot tub.
  9. Do a good deed for someone else.
  10. Give or get hugs and kisses from friends and relatives.

These simple things are easy to do and are well known to work.

Okay, that is all well and good but what about the big shocker I’ve been hinting at? This is something that hit me hard. It has to do with changing a person’s thinking and how what they believe changes their health and life span. It is pretty amazing and I will cover it next week. But in the meantime, de-stress as needed and start getting used to the idea that it’s not always bad to be stressed. Then tune in next week to see what I mean!

The Staying Young Secret: Keep Body and Mind Moving

November 18, 2016 by  
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My dear wife gave me a Fitbit on my last birthday and that little tool has truly helped me get in better shape, just a little ‘bit’ at a time. Last week I broke my all-time record for steps and distance by walking and running just over 186,000 steps or 71.9 miles for the week. Wow … did that ever make me feel good and young again. And it’s now just a few months before my 73rd birthday.

Fitbit … what a great name for that little device that propels, persuades and motivates people to compete with themselves to keep moving and hit bigger and bigger numbers. It gets you fit a bit at a time.

An additional way to feel and stay young is to work on the top of our body–that would be by being kind to your mind. You have to keep the brain moving too and there are lots of ways to do this.

One way is to put a little bit more strain on the brain or, in other words, push yourself to think more, read more, and a do a bit of writing to others or in a personal journal. These kinds of activities have been proven to expand and improve the human mind.  You might even push yourself to write a book.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t get someone to publish your book–I couldn’t initially get published with my first book. You can do what I did instead–I published it myself and later Bantam books decided to publish it.  Don’t know what to write about? You can start by writing an autobiography or memoir type of book. Remember, it’s not only good for your brain but just think of what you’ll be passing on to your kids and grandkids. They’ll love it and will probably still be reading it long after you check out of this life.  It’s a win-win … you end up helping your brain and, no doubt, the brain of others.

It’s really a shame that so many people, as they age, begin to give up on physical and mental movement.  I’m not saying that it is easy but most things in life that are really worthwhile take effort and even a bit of pain.  But at the end of the day or the end of life the rewards are so very worth it!

So why not set some goals to read more books and write one yourself and at the same time? Get up off the sofa and go for a walk or a run and do it every day. And one other good brain builder is to have good, deep conversations with other people. So, let’s all go out there and create permanent good habits for the brain and the body so you can feel younger for many, many years to come.

 

Baby Steps and Gentle Nudges

January 7, 2016 by  
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Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been very big on setting goals including New Year’s Resolutions which are pretty much at the top of my list. At years’ end, I’ve always been surprised and often disappointed by how many goals I failed to accomplish or fell short of accomplishing during that one year. I’ve always thought that I just needed to set bigger goals and try much, much harder. And yes, I would end up berating and beating myself up for my failures. But now I am learning from Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence, that there is growing evidence and research indicating that most of us having been going at the goal setting and resolutions thing all wrong.

Under the section entitled, “Many Popular Self-Change Approaches Fail–And Even Backfire”, Amy says, “For one thing, New Year’s resolutions are too ambitious. Setting big goals such as getting straight A’s in school or working out three times a week is a positive step in theory, but these goals are not designed in a way that actually allows us to build toward them.  They’re reliant on the success of hundreds of smaller changes and they don’t come with step-by-step instructions showing us how to get there”.

I will say, as I do in my preaching on goal setting and what I almost always do myself, we all need to break down our goals into small steps. But Amy goes further saying we need to break our goals down into ‘baby steps’ and gently ‘nudge ourselves’ along.

Additionally, Amy says, “One of the biggest culprits, as least in the United States, is the repeatedly dispiriting New Year’s resolution, which is riddled with psychological traps, that work against us.”  The problem with big goals, with a time frame that is way in the future, is that we really can’t easily visualize the end results and so it’s easy to get down on ourselves and give up along the way.  Quoting Amy again, she adds “focusing on process encourages us to keep working, to keep going, and to see challenges as opportunities for growth, not as threats of failure.”

In other words, take lots of baby steps.  Amy mentions her ambition to be a runner which at one time in my life I thought I wanted to do also. The problem is, when we set big goals, like maybe running a marathon in 6 months or doing a 3 or 4 mile run our first or second time out, we usually get totally exhausted very early on and we give up or become very discouraged.  I’ve talked to many runners who have had a similar experience. However, if I start with very small goals—baby steps—such as saying to myself, “I’ll just run for 10 or 12 minutes,” or “I’ll just go down to that mailbox or tree,” then when I’ve reached that very small objective I can say, “Hey, I want to see if I can just run another 5 minutes or just to that house down there.”  That approach is such a hugely different experience and it sure seems to fit what Amy Cuddy is discovering in her study of goal setting and resolutions.

So I would challenge all my readers to give more thought to your goals and objectives as we begin this wonderful new year. Think ‘baby steps’ and ‘gentle, small self-nudges’ and we all might find that we stop beating up on ourselves for thinking we have failed and instead find we have made some very big gains in our physical, family, social and financial life.