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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Are you a victim of your own life?

In my work I am very lucky to consult with some high level executives and sportsmen and women. Top of their game when it comes to business or sport, observation shows that such high achieving individuals view life and the opportunities it presents us with on a daily basis very differently to the average Joe.

The average Joe generally sees life as pretty tough, and anything extra added or requested of them as an effort. Feeling overwhelmed, although often a result of poor personal choices, leads to a general air of resentment of any requests that require the individual to give or do more than they are already doing. Over time, such a low energy approach to life sees health and mood suffer and eventually living life is replaced with tolerating it, and just making it through.

You know these people – they are the ones who drain you, are hard work and see every opportunity as more work for them, adding to their complaints that things are already hard enough and they are already tired, stressed and overworked.

High functioning individuals could not be more different. They see every opportunity as a chance to do better, be better, and give more back. Nothing is too much trouble and as a result they fully embrace the life they have been given. Such high energy people are inspiring to be around, embrace every opportunity are also generally the ones who are happy to give back anything they can.

Just this week an athlete who has competed at international level came to do some health reprogramming after a long injury bout. This athlete does not need to ever work again, but knows he has been blessed with an amazing talent and if it now means he will have to go alcohol free, lose 10kgs and train for many hours each day to get back to his best, he will do it, no questions ask– because quite frankly, why wouldn’t you?

The victim on the other hand will go on feeling sorry for him-self, probably for years, and continue to see a potentially amazing life, waste away.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Using food as a reward?

Many a diet regime or article that writes of diet strategies to incorporate “treat” foods such as chocolates, cakes, lollies or even cheese has spoke of the use of foods as rewards for sticking to certain regimes. A wine at the end of a day of healthy eating; a chocolate bar once a week or a coffee and banana bread after a heavy gym workout. While any diet regime that emphasizes the importance of balance rather than an “all or nothing “ approach is a good way to approach sustainable behavioural change, there is also evidence to suggest that rewarding with food may actually prime the brain to look for these food rewards more and more.

In fact, brain scans have shown that if the brain has been programmed to think of rewards, whether they be food or drink based, or physical rewards such as doing something pleasurable, the chemical dopamine is released. Dopamine makes us feel really good, and as such, once you get some, you naturally want more. So, if you are rewarding yourself with a chocolate bar for “being good on your diet”, you are going to be looking for this sensation chemically pretty soon again afterwards.

Knowing this, rather than using food as a reward for perceived good behaviour, a better approach may be to pay more attention to the cues your body is giving you about what you really feel like eating at any point in time. Often we eat simply because we have given ourselves permission to do so rather than building a baseline healthy diet and including higher fat foods for special occasions or at times we may really feel like a chocolate bar or some cheese and really enjoying it as a result. Food and eating is one of life’s greatest and simple pleasures, the sooner we allow ourselves to enjoy treats in moderation, the sooner we will achieve long term weight control and get to eat the foods we love, in the right amounts, at the right time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The art of acceptance

How often in life are things exactly as we want them to be? We want to be thinner, or lose weight without effort or hard work. We love those who don’t love us or covet a profession other than the one we have chosen. We go away only to wish we were back at home again.

Happiness and wellbeing research would suggest that while a feeling of dissatisfaction in life is actually the key force that allows humans to move forward, those individuals who are able to accept the cards they have been dealt rather than ruminate on the “what if’s” are those likely to be much happier.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT); an entire discipline within psychology dedicates its work to helping individuals reaching this state of acceptance, whether people seek acceptance in their relationships, work or even in regards to what they need to do to lose weight.

ACT writings suggest that rather than spending time and mental energy debating the pros and many more cons associated with actively engaging in the act of weight control via dietary control and regular exercise, long term outcome is much more likely if we simply accept that in order to control weight, we need to eat less, feel a bit hungry and uncomfortable and train hard. Once we accept this as what we need to do, we are then able to focus on the end goal, which leads us to outcome. Accepting that things will be hard at times, or that we may have to feel uncomfortable for certain periods of time are simple a natural, part of life. Or, put more simply, “it is, what it is, and as simple or complex as you want to make it”.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Finding your authentic self - the first step towards complete health and well being

Angelina has it, as does Brad but Jennifer Aniston still hasn’t found hers. Anna Wintour oozes it, as does Michelle Obama. Hugh Jackman embodies it as does Jamie Oliver, Seal and Heidi Klum – authenticity.

Authenticity is one of my most favourite words – the ability to truly reflect ones self; to break free from the roles created for us and stay concrete and honest no matter what the situation or relationship we find ourselves in. Few individuals master their own authentic soul - the very nature of modern life and our relationships seeing us mould and manipulate our authentic selves into the person we hope to be, or doing what others want us to rather than embracing what is true and real for us as an individual.

Our emotions as well as the body are both exceptionally good at telling us when we are on track with our authentic selves. Frustration, irritability, uneasiness or an underlying sadness just some of the emotional states we may experience. No matter what field of work you are in, or how much money you earn, these powerful emotional indictors are signs that you are not on the right personal path. While the physical signs of poor sleep, weight issues, regular sickness and injury are further indicators that you are not nurturing your soul.

The first step in rediscovering your authentic self is to consider at which point in your life you lost it. Was it when you married or had children; did you never truly embrace who you were after coming from an intense family or was it simply because you lost your way after entering your adult life with little path or direction, or without the confidence to aggressively pursue what it was you knew would make you happy?

One of the key characteristics of authentic people is that they always put their own needs before those of others. Not in a selfish uncaring way, but they know that without love for self, they cannot love others truly, madly, deeply.

Identifying their own core needs and practicing self care and love on a daily basis is central in the lives of authentic souls. So this week I ask you – what it is it that you know both your mind and body need to truly nurture your soul? Is it simply time to be, good food, exercise, time with your passions or time to identify them? Is it creating a home or bedroom that is a reflection of your heart and soul? Or spending time in nature without modern technology and communication regularly to commit to your own personal rediscovery? Embracing your own authentic self is the first step in building the life that you want and ultimately the one you deserve.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sacred Sundays

There are few things more precious in busy lives than time. Time alone, time for family, time to relax, time to get life administration completed, time to sit, time to just be. As we become more and more efficient and attempt to cram more and more into our days, it becomes more and more apparent that we could easily fill many more hours if they were handed to us on a plate. The reality is that every one of us has 24 hours in a day, and some of us manage to do much more with that time than others. Or, looking at things from a different perspective, some of us are very mindful of the way we spend our time, and far more of us let it fritter away.

A useful strategy employed by a close friend of mine is to declare Sunday sacred time – a day in which nothing really is planned; a day in which she can let her body and mind recover and spend quality time with family and those closest to her. Rushing to social gatherings, to family engagements or anywhere at all really quickly makes the weekend very similar to our frantic weekdays. Once we find ourselves among many people and traffic, making it difficult to unwind and really relax before the Sunday night blues hit. So, why not start making your Sundays sacred too? You may just find that Monday does not seem to be so bad after all.