Does It Spark Joy?

“People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.” – Marie Kondo

You may be familiar with the celebrity organizer, Marie Kondo. With a keen eye and clever folding skills, she is able to help people decrease the physical clutter in their life and bring them an improved sense of happiness.

The same can be done for our head space. What are you mentally hanging on to that does not spark joy? Above and beyond the physical possessions we tend to cling to for too long, what are there habits, beliefs, and rituals you continue to follow that take away from your inner peace?

The universe is a balance of opposites, we are either growing or shrinking, becoming more healthy or sicker with each day. And this same balance applies to just about every aspect of our lives from the clutter in our homes to the clutter in our minds.

Are you paying attention to what you’re focusing upon? In this age of limitless information, our minds are under constant bombardment. With television, computers, and cell phones, the constant assault of news and social media can be overwhelming. Then, we wonder why we’re unhappy, why we don’t sleep, and why we’re so stressed out all the time.

Think about what you fill your life with right now. Next, consider whether those things and ideas are truly making you happy or not.

2020 was a year of challenges to be sure, with the nearly nonstop drone of coronavirus news, lock downs, natural disasters, people getting sick and dying, and topped off by a fairly vitriolic election cycle. Moreover, we were stuck at home, unable to travel or even see our friends, yet we marvel at the fact that depression and suicide rates are on the rise.

So, here are a few simple tips to help improve your state of mind in 2021:

  1. Turn off the news – It’s very difficult, if not impossible to keep a joyful attitude and be positive when we are constantly bombarded by the details of a worldwide pandemic mixed with the civil strife of the past year. With the continuous news feed of people becoming sick and dying, riots, rises in crime, increasing unemployment, the West Coast on fire, election conflicts, and general uncertainty for the future, it’s hard to imagine that the news can contribute to your peace and joy in any way. Remember, it’s really a “bad news” business that profits on misery. Stay informed, but try to monitor your exposure.
  2. Limit your use of social media – What began as a great way to reconnect with old friends and share experiences over a distance has unfortunately become a platform for fear and hate. People will say things on social media they would never say to your face and post things that would be completely inappropriate in any other venue. For some, venting on social media feels like therapy, though often results in pointless, tense, and uncivil arguments with complete strangers who seem to go out of their way to belittle you and your ideas, and insult you personally, whenever the chance arises. So, just like sorting through the clutter in your home, sort through the clutter in your social media feed and limit your unnecessary interaction. Avoid the compulsion to respond to every negative comment you see. Perhaps even unfollow any pages which do not bring you joy and don’t make you feel at peace.
  3. Improve the environment around you – eliminate the things you no longer need or use. There is a general rule with personal organizers – if you haven’t used it in 6 months and it can be replaced in less than 20 minutes for less than $20, get rid of it. The cluttered space around you clutters your mind, and it’s nearly impossible to grow into a space that’s already full. If you truly wish to grow personally, you may have to begin by emptying your space. Remember, in the end it’s not how much we have, but who we’ve become that matters.
  4. Stop wasting time – If you don’t fill your day with high priority tasks, it will be filled for you with low priority chores. As a rule, completing high priority tasks will bring more joy, while low priority tasks bring little fulfillment or sense of accomplishment. Find useful and productive activities that bring you happiness, then focus on those tasks. Additionally, and more likely than not, your work probably isn’t as critical to your happiness as you think, at least not as important as your relationships and personal growth. Remember, every minute you trade for work takes away from valuable time you can’t get back with your family. You only have one life, and time is a dwindling commodity. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.
  5. Set time aside for exercise – The human body is not designed to sit at a desk or binge-watch television shows all day. We’re designed to be hunter-gatherers, roaming the countryside and searching for food – 12-16 hours of movement per day. Sadly, may of us get less than 12-16 minutes. Exercise not only improves your physical health, but helps boost those hormones which improve mood and deal with mental stress in a healthy way.
  6. Choose to be happy – Sounds simple, right? And sometimes the simplest option is the right one, but can be the hardest to really implement. Happiness is a ‘serious’ problem. Let it go. You don’t always have to be right or relevant. Live in the moment, concerning yourself only with the people you love and those things you can actually control. Meditate silently and alone, emptying your mind of stressful thoughts and the events of the world which do not really concern you. Find your faith and trust that the universe will sort out every problem for you. You have to first choose to be happy and allow your day to progress as it should, if you are to ever be truly at peace.

And there’s more – lifestyle, spinal adjusting, nutrition, sleep habits, whole body purification, and improved mindset can all help to help decrease your stress and bring a higher sense of purpose and joy. Be sure to do your research and speak with the people you trust about ways to find better physical and mental health through downsizing your life. Be well!

Limitless Choices: Finding The Exercise That’s Right For You

When it comes to exercise there are almost limitless options available.  With so many choices, people are often left guessing which type of exercise is right for them.  Facing this decision, there is a lot to consider, including:

1.        What are your goals?

2.       What are you physically able to do?

3.       What form of exercise will fit in your time constraints?

4.       What do you enjoy?

5.       What can you afford?

What are your goals?

This question is probably one of the most neglected when starting a successful exercise regimen.  To truly succeed and be consistent with your exercises, you must begin your goals in mind.   Which of the following is most important to you?

1.        Flexibility

2.       General Muscle Strength

3.       Endurance

4.       Overall muscle definition

5.       Core muscle strength

6.       Weight loss

Becoming clear on your goals will help point you in the direction of the exercise or exercises that will most allow you to accomplish those goals.  So, you have to consider what’s possible given the following primary exercise forms:

1.        Range of motion exercise – This form of exercise can include yoga, pilates, generalized muscle stretching, Tai Chi, or Qi Kung.  Range of motion exercises are ideal for that person who is looking to regain flexibility and decrease stiffness.  Generally, a person who suffers from stiffness or generalized soreness should include some form of range of motion exercise, though this form of motion is ideally suited for anyone.  Flexibility exercises will help lengthen tight muscles, decrease stiffness, and improve overall range of motion.  A weakness with this form of exercise is that it generally does very little to improve cardiovascular tone and may only minimally improve muscle strength.  Weight loss is also nearly impossible with range of motion exercises alone.

2.       Strengthening exercise – Building muscle strength is an extremely popular form of exercise.  Generally, this includes lifting weights (free weights or machines) and any other exercise that is done against resistance.  This form of movement is extremely effective for the person looking to boost muscle strength, produce definition in their muscles, and increase muscle mass.  Weaknesses with this form of exercise are that it produces very little cardiovascular workout unless resistance is produced with ballistic repetition (quick reps with a higher risk of injury).  Additionally, if weight loss is your goal, and it is for some, visual body changes will be a more reliable method of tracking progress than measuring weight.  Generally, resistance exercise will produce a bulky muscle mass rather than the leaner look which accompanies cardiovascular exercise.

3.       Endurance Exercise (Cardiovascular) – Probably the most important requirement for staying well is a healthy cardiovascular system.  Endurance exercises can include walking, but biking, running, elliptical, pool laps, or even calisthenics to help elevate your heart rate while boosting your exercise endurance.   This type of exercise helps to build lean muscle tone and can help to boost your metabolism, leading to increased energy.  Calorie burning is also relatively high, which can lead to rapid weight loss and generally results in a slimmed physique.  While cardiovascular exercise will help to boost your endurance, it will be more difficult to build muscle mass and short resistance to heavy load (found in strength training).  That being said, cardiovascular exercise should be a critical component of any exercise regimen as it helps to strengthen the heart and improves circulation to the extremities.  Keeping that in perspective, no one ever died of muscle weakness, but a weakened heart and circulation can kill you.

Generally a combination of all three is most ideal.  Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, I can say that flexibility exercises are the most neglected of the three major forms of exercise.  All, however, are important to improving and maintaining optimum health.   Many newer forms of exercise are emerging that incorporate aspects of all three such as cross-training, plyometrics, cardio kick-boxing, or boot camps.  There is an exercise regimen out there for you.  You just have to do it.

What Are You Physically Able To Do?

When beginning a new exercise regimen, you have to consider your own physical ability and limitations.  Not every exercise is meant for every person.  For example, a deconditioned person, not used to regular exercise, may not want to begin with a rigorous plyometric exercise.  Likewise, a person who is unable to bear weight for very long may benefit from starting with pool exercises before beginning a walking regimen.

Injuries while exercising are extremely common, usually the result of exercising beyond a person’s ability.  Two popular exercises I would also generally recommend against for most individuals are squats and dead-lifts.  Both have a very high risk of injury, usually because they’re done incorrectly, and have alternative exercises that will produce the same result with much lower risk of damage.

Exercising within a comfortable pain free range of motion is also key to preventing injury.  While the desire is to tax the tissue so as to produce a desired effect, that has to be weighed against the risk of tissue damage if you cross that line.  Exercising with proper form and being proactive about safety will give you a better workout and decrease the likelihood of having to stop your regimen due to an injury.

What  Form Of Exercise Will Fit In Your Time Constraints?

We live in a day and age where time is limited and valuable.  So, then, is your health.  With more and more people becoming more sedentary than ever before, it becomes ever more critical to incorporate an exercise regimen into your daily routine.  Simply put, you have to get moving.

The excuse I always hear is “I don’t have time to exercise.”  I need you to understand that statement is a total cop-out.  What it really means is “exercise is not important to me.”  Incorporating exercise into your regiment is a matter of priorities.  It’s always interesting how the person who “doesn’t have time to exercise” has plenty of time to watch TV, go out to dinner, sleep in on the weekends, or hang out with friends.  It’s never a matter of time.  It’s a matter of priorities. If it were important, you would make the time.

For those looking to be healthy, exercise becomes something that other commitments are scheduled around, not the reverse.  Ultimately, you will have to find an exercise that not only works for you but you can schedule your lifestyle to accomodate.

What Form Of Exercise Do You Enjoy?

It can truly be said that the best exercise in the world is the one you will actually do and do consistently.  With limitless possibilities for exercise, there is an exercise for just about anyone and there is some form of exercise that everyone will enjoy.  You just have to find it.

Whether, you have a knee replacement, back pain, or are just generally ill, there is an exercise for you.  So, what do you like to do?  Some like to hike while others prefer lifting weights.  Still others enjoy an evening run or a morning swim.  Finding what you love doing and sticking with it is a critical key to be successful at any exercise regimen you choose to pursue.

What Can You Afford?

This section should almost be a non-issue, because exercising is basically free.  You don’t need a fancy gym membership or home equipment to exercise.  You can go walking or running outside for no charge.  You can also make a ‘poor-man’s weight set’ out of some empty milk jugs.  Stretching can be performed in your living room and you can do calisthenics with no additional equipment.   You need to change your perspective on what it takes to get moving.  Unfortunately, many people use expense as an excuse not to exercise.  True, there are many amazing gyms and facilities where you can get a great workout, but don’t let the lack of a membership deter you from getting the movement you need to stay healthy.

Joining a gym does offer several benefits, however.  Exercising with your peers adds motivation and being away from home may decrease the likelihood that some form of distraction will take you off task.  Further, the classes offered in a gym may also guide you toward specific forms of exercise and help you exercise more safely.  The equipment available may further open options for specific exercises not possible at home.  A personal trainer may also add accountability and ensure that you exercise safely.

If you are fortunate enough to afford a trainer, choose one that most matches your fitness ideal and seems to represent your own goals.  So, a person working toward larger bulk muscle mass and definition should not necessarily choose a fairly slim, slender trainer, and a person looking to build a more feminine physique may not want a male body builder to train them.

Ultimately, the most successful form of exercise for you is the one you will actually do and continue with.  Oftentimes, people will give up on regular exercise because they feel like they don’t enjoy it.  Well with so many possibilities, find what you do enjoy and stick with it.  Only consistency will give you the desired results you are looking for.  Becoming healthy takes time and you have to invest in yourself to get the results you expect.