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Happy 2019! If you are like most people, the New Year comes with resolutions for change. Unfortunately, most resolutions fizzle out within weeks and the only lasting result is disappointment. This year can be different with a little planning and a new approach to change. Whether you are trying to lose weight, quit smoking, find a new job or relationship or some other goal that is important to you, developing a plan that will succeed happens in several steps.

9 Questions to Consider to Reach Goals

  1. What exactly do you want to change and WHY? Be specific. Instead of a broad goal like I want to lose weight, decide how much and what losing weight will give you that you don’t have now. I want to lose 20 pounds so that I can have more energy to play with my children. Or I want to find a new job that is more aligned with my education and interest so that I can feel more engaged at work.
  2. When would you like to reach the goal? Make the goal time-related. This will keep you on track and allow for a careful plan. If you want to lose 20 pounds by May, you will need to lose about a pound a week. I want a new job by April, so I need to work on my resume by January 15th and apply by February 1st.
  3. What do you need to get started? Prepare! There is a saying if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. This is most likely true. For example, to lose weight, preparation includes removing tempting foods from your home, buying healthy food and prepping it so it’s ready when you are hungry among other things. Many a diet fails when there is no healthy food convenient and the tempting foods are lurking in the cabinet. Preparation is true for all goals and part of the preparation is to plan for obstacles.
  4. What will get in the way of success? Plan for obstacles. Most goals have obstacles, or we would have most likely already done it. Common obstacles are not enough time or money or support. This might require giving up something else to find time or money. This is also a time to check your true desire for change. Change is hard, so you want to make sure this is something you really want. Perhaps list the pros and cons to weigh your desire.
  5. Is this goal realistic? Make sure your plan is attainable. If you plan to lose 20 pounds by next week, that is unrealistic. An unrealistic goal sets you up to fail! This is not to say you should not challenge yourself, but make sure the steps within reach.
  6. Who will help, encourage and applaud you along the way? Find support. It’s far easier to make lasting change when you have a support system. Find a friend, family member, coach to help you stay on track, remind you of the benefits and cheer you on when you hit inevitable setbacks.
    Also, who won’t support you? Even though most people will be encouraging, there are always those who try to sabotage our plan. Usually the sabotage is just a well-meaning attempt to let you off the hook but keep your eye open and have support on speed dial!
  7. How will you be accountable and to who? Accountability is necessary to stay on track. This is a personal decision. Sometimes something as simple as a tracking app will do the trick. More often checking in with a person (ask them reach out if you don’t!) will keep you moving forward.
  8. Who will know what you plan to do? Go public with your goal. Goals are more likely to succeed if you tell others that you are going to do so. For example, I have a goal to run a ½ marathon in April. I have been telling people because I know it will keep me going when I want to give up training through the cold winter months. It has been a goal for many years and this year I am following these steps to make it happen.
  9. How will you stay motivated and encouraged? Celebrate success! Part of your plan needs to be how you will celebrate completion of steps along the way in addition to once you reach your goal. Whether it is words of congratulations, a treat like a movie or dinner with friends, a massage or hike in the woods, make a list and celebrate each milestone.


One last thing to consider is whether January 1st is the right time to start the process. Since it is an arbitrary date, it might not be the best time for you. Not that I am encouraging procrastination! Instead, decide what the best time is for you and tell a trusted person. This will help you stay accountable. Wishing you much success!

The post It’s 2019! Resolve to Try a New Way to Reach Your Goals appeared first on Be Well Life Coaching.

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No doubt about it, December is a busy month! Planning and celebrating the holidays, rushing to finish year-end projects… added to our regular routine can add a level of stress and feeling of overwhelm.  Yet many abandon their self-care routines due to time restraints unfortunately at a time when stress relief is most needed.  Overwhelm results from the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to get it done.  Fortunately, there are ways to take care of yourself and reduce stress which can be done in 10 minutes or less.  Consider giving yourself these simple (and free) gifts this holiday season.

One minute or less
  • Stop, breathe and relax. When your stress level is rising, physically stop, take a breath and relax your shoulders and jaw.  This quick break will give your body and mind time to reset before proceeding. This will give you time to respond and not react.
  • Take a quick walk around the block or the office. A short burst of exercise will get the blood moving, increase energy and shift your focus.  If walking is not an option, try jumping up and down (which will make you laugh) or even swinging your arms a few times.
  • Stand up and stretch. Doing a few stretches to loosen the tension in your muscles can relieve tension in your mind as well. Taking a quick break to stretch will keep you flexible and reduce the chance that tight muscles will develop into painful knots.
  • Write down any thoughts that are weighing on your mind. Holding thoughts in our heads takes a great amount of energy and makes it hard to focus.  Whether it is a list of things to do or a problem you are trying to solve, put it down on paper to reduce the stress on your mind.
  • Say no! Think about your “should” list and evaluate why each item is important and what would happen if you said no.  Saying no takes less than a minute and can free us from doing things that will leave us feeling resentful or tired.

 

Five minutes or less
  • Go for a walk. Taking a walk gets the blood moving and can help shift perspective and clear the mind.
  • Watch a funny video. Humor is a great way to shift our energy from negative to positive in a short amount of time.
  • Step outside midday to capture sunlight. The days are shortest in December and the decrease in daylight can have a negative impact on mood.   A few minutes of midday light will help lift mood and will also provide fresh air.  If you can’t go outside, sit by a window and take in the sunshine.
  • Meditate or sit quietly. Even if your mind is racing as you sit, taking a few minutes to meditate or sit quietly will calm the body which will help calm the mind.

 

Ten minutes or less
  • Call a supportive person. Taking a few minutes to connect with a supportive person can help with perspective.  Often sharing our thoughts with someone we trust helps alleviate stress and gain insight into any challenge we are facing.
  • Read something fun. Read an interesting article or chapter of a book for a quick break to refocus your thoughts.
  • Go to bed ten minutes early. Give yourself a little extra time to relax in bed especially if you are having a hard time settling down at night.  Getting in bed will send a signal to the brain that it is time to slow down.
  • Get up ten minutes early. Adding an extra ten minutes to the morning can help start the day without feeling rushed.  Often when we start the day rushed, the feeling follows us throughout the day.

My gifts to you are two free stress reducing giveaways.  Download the free E-book 7 Days to a More Mindful Life and a free 45-minute Gentle Yoga session .  Both are designed to help you slow down and relax.  And while you are thinking about it, schedule a complimentary session for January!

I wish you all a healthy, joyful and relaxed Holiday Season!  Please email me liz@bewelllifecoaching.com with questions.

The post It’s December!  Stress Less, Enjoy More This Holiday Season appeared first on Be Well Life Coaching.

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Thanksgiving is a few weeks away and is a wonderful time to remember and acknowledge our gratitude for the blessings in our life.  On the first Thanksgiving in 1621 the English settlers and the Native Americans celebrated with a feast to show their gratitude for the first successful harvest. Since then gathering together with family and friends to share a meal and reflect on what we are grateful has become a wonderful American tradition.  Almost 400 years later we now know that practicing gratitude not only makes you happier but also healthier.  Research shows that gratitude makes you feel better both physically and emotionally and the good news is it is a simple practice to cultivate.

What is gratitude?

According to Robert Emmons, a lead researcher in the field, gratitude is composed of two parts.  First the acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life and second, the recognition that the source of this goodness lies at least partially outside of one’s self.  This may come from other people, a higher power or nature.  While many are naturally more inclined to be grateful it can be cultivated through of a number of simple practices.

What are health benefits?

Researchers have discovered that practicing gratitude reduces stress, improves sleep quality, helps with trauma recovery, depression and anxiety.   In addition, showing gratitude has been shown to be fundamental in improving relationships. Gratitude improves our outlook and can help people when they are dealing with crisis or adversity.  Here are some simple ways to increase your gratitude and enjoy the benefits.

4 Ways to Increase Gratitude

Write down what you are grateful for each day.  Studies have shown that people who write down three items that they are grateful for at the end of each day will sleep longer and more deeply and will wake up in a better mood.  Keep a journal or pad of paper by your bed and jot down those blessings before you fall asleep.  Even if you can only say “I am grateful I am in my bed” it begins to change the way the brain is automatically wired to go negative or what is wrong thoughts.  It also teaches us to look for good things throughout our day and acknowledge them.

Look for opportunities to thank others.  As children we all learn that saying thank you is good manners.  Research now proves that appreciating what others do for us and thanking them for even little things goes a long way toward improving relationships.  Thanking others is a way to show we are not taking what they do for us for granted and also makes us feel better about ourselves.  Be specific about how the action was helpful and be genuine in your appreciation.

Write a detailed thank you note – deliver and read it to the recipient.  We all have people in our lives who have done something for us that has given us an opportunity to grow.  It might be a teacher, a boss, a friend or relative.  Research has shown that writing a very specific thank you note or letter to that person listing how they helped you and then delivering and reading it to them boosts the level of happiness in both the recipient and the person who writes it.

Create a family gratitude ritual.  Expressing gratitude as a family will improve family dynamics and help the family see their shared blessings.  Some families do so verbally around the dinner table and others do so at the end of the day.  Writing the blessings down on slips of paper and putting them in a jar to be read on New Year’s Day is another fun way to cultivate gratitude as a group.

The post How Simple Gratitude Improves Your Health appeared first on Be Well Life Coaching.

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Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer as children return to school and family vacations come to an end. The slower pace and longer days of summer usually provide more time for play and exercise. In September, that time gets replaced by homework and other school and work-related activities. The decrease in daylight hours also makes it more challenging to get outside in the light. Research shows why exercise should be a top priority for both children and adults as the fall begins. It is common knowledge that exercise improves our physical health in many ways, keeps us fit and helps manage weight. Here are 7 more compelling reasons you need to keep or start exercising this fall.

7 Reasons to Get Moving

1. Exercise sharpens the brain. For children this translates to better focus and concentration in school. For adults this helps us continue to learn as we age. When we do aerobic exercise, our heart rate rises and we breathe faster which brings more oxygen and nutrients to our brain.

2. Exercise that requires coordination further builds the brain “muscles” because it stimulates neuroplasticity which means the brain is forming new neural pathways. The science of neuroplasticity shows us that the brain can grow at any age when challenged with new challenges. If possible, do a variety of different kinds of exercise to get the maximum benefit. Consider different forms of dance, Tai Chi or Yoga, or similar activities. If it’s hard at first, don’t be discouraged. If you keep trying, you will build better coordination and balance over time.
There has been interesting new research on the benefits or riding a bike and learning. Studies have shown that the quality and integrity of the “white matter” of the brain for both children and adults. This improvement in quality of white matter means a greater capacity for memory, attention span and cognitive efficiency. One interesting study showed that those who rode a stationary bike while reading and learning new material had an easier time mastering the material and retaining it longer.

3. Exercise lifts mood. This is very important as the fall days get shorter and the lack of sunlight can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Research shows that as little as 15 minutes of regular aerobic exercise is as effective as many anti-depressants for many especially older adults. Exercising outside provides greater benefits because it gets you out in the fresh air which increases oxygen consumption and allows you to absorb sunlight which is important. This can be achieved with an activity as simple as a walk around the block at lunch, walking your dog after work or riding a bike after school. The “runner’s high” feeling comes from increase in endorphins which kick in as we raise our heart and breath rate sending more oxygen to the brain during exercise.

4. Exercise helps you sleep better. Poor sleep causes difficulties in learning, work productivity and increased stress. The greatest benefit for sleep is morning exercise. However, if nighttime is your only option, make sure your exercise is done at least 2 hours before bed or that the exercise is relaxing like yoga or Chi Gong. A walk around the block after dinner serves to help you digest better which will also allow your sleep to be better.

5. Exercise decreases stress. Regular exercise, whether aerobic, dancing, yoga or walking will help relax you naturally and can help you break unhealthy habits. Often people turn to excess eating, drinking, smoking or illegal drugs to reduce stress. Exercise provides natural stress relief. Often, a quick walk around the block can help us put problems in perspective.

6. Exercise helps you connect to others which is also beneficial to the brain. Whether you go to a class, walk with a friend, ride bikes in the neighborhood or go on hikes with a club, the combination of exercise and connection is uplifting to mood and can increase productivity. Consider a “walking meeting” if you are faced with meetings that could be done on foot. Team sports are also a great way to bond with others while reaping the benefits of exercise.

7. Exercise improves confidence for people of all ages. One word of caution is you need to set realistic goals when you start. Celebrate progress not perfection. Each step you take today that you did not yesterday is a step in the right direction!

The post Want to Improve Your Performance at Work or School? 7 Reasons to Keep Exercising! appeared first on Be Well Life Coaching.

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.

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With the unofficial start of summer at the end of this month, many begin to think about starting to exercise before putting on a bathing suit and hitting the beach or pool.  Exercise is of course helpful for weight management and building muscles and can improve physical appearance.  What is not as well known are the other physical, mental and emotional benefits of incorporating exercise into your daily routine.

In addition to weight management, other physical benefits of exercise include improvement in our cardiovascular system functions.  Aerobic exercise can help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and stokes.  Other forms of exercise can help prevent arthritis, osteoporosis and can help improve balance to prevent falls.

What is equally as impressive are the benefits to mental and emotional health when exercising on a regular basis.  Exercise improves not only focus and concentration but also enhances mood as well.  In fact, studies have shown that 15 minutes of aerobic exercise was equally as effective as an antidepressant for some forms of depression.  Walking around the block often shifts perspective and helps reduce stress.

Joh Ratey MD, who studies the benefits of exercise has suggested that if the positive effects of exercise could come in a pill form, it would be the most widely prescribed medication.  Since that is not possible, how do you incorporate exercise into your busy life when you already feel pressed for time?

Ten Tips to Sneak Exercise into your Day

Don’t like or feel like you have time to go to the gym?  The good news is exercise does not have to involve getting on a treadmill or pumping iron at the gym to be effective.  It can be relatively low cost and not a huge time investment.   However, before you start, check with your doctor if you have not exercised in awhile or if you are pregnant.  Also, make sure you are wearing proper footwear for your activity.  Many joint or back injuries are caused by wearing old or worn-out shoes.  Here are ten ways to get moving:

  1. Park away from your office, trip to the store or school and walk. These small walks add up through the day.  In fact, studies have shown that small bursts of exercise throughout the day are more effective than one long burst.
  2. Take the steps instead of the elevator. If you are going between floors, walk up the steps.  Need a quick break in the afternoon – walk up and down a few times.  Exercise will revive you much more than a trip to the coffee machine.
  3. Wear a fitness tracker and measure your steps. There are many inexpensive trackers as well as more sophisticated and pricey devices but even the inexpensive will give you data on steps.  Set a goal and stick to it.  For the first few days, wear it without changing your activity.  Once you create a baseline, add 500 to 1000 steps per day to it each week.
  4. Use apps to get inspired. Studies have shown that like fitness trackers, individuals who utilize apps are more successful at sticking with an exercise program.  There are apps like 5K that inspire and lead you from couch to 5K.  My Fitness Pal and ActivX are a few other popular fitness apps.
  5. Sign up for a charity walk or run and use it to inspire you to get moving. Whether it is 1mile, a 5 or 10K, it gives you a goal and a deadline to work toward.
  6. Grab a buddy or two. People are far more likely to stick to a routine if they have another person who is going to do it with them and hold them accountable.  Making fitness social gives the extra benefit of connecting with others.
  7. Have a family or office challenge. It does not have to be a competition, but it can be a way to cheer each other on and keep everyone involved in a common goal.
  8. Try a new activity like dancing, hiking, swimming or a fun group exercise class you have always been curious about.
  9. Make fitness a weekly family activity. Go on a hike, bike ride or walk around the neighborhood.
  10. Household activities like gardening, cleaning or other projects can be great chances to get the blood flowing. Put on upbeat music to keep you moving energetically.
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The road from the late teen years to adulthood is sometimes windy and maybe even rocky.  As a parent this can be difficult or frustrating to witness.  There are many transitions that can be challenging for young adults including getting out of high school, choosing a college or vocation, staying in college, finding a job or successfully living on their own.   Many factors can affect the process like ADHD, involvement with alcohol or drugs or just not knowing what they want.  There are however, effective ways to help.

Identify What is Happening

Often, it’s hard for the young adult to verbalize what the problem is.  They might not know what the problem is or why they are stuck.  Also, when feeling overwhelmed, especially at a young age, it can be hard to even imagine a way forward.   Parents can help by asking non-judgmental and open-ended questions designed to help with clarity.   A calm approach will help your child sort through the issue and clarify the problem.

Brainstorm Solutions

As parents, we have the perspective of life experiences and often want to give advice or fix the problem for our struggling young adult.  Unfortunately, this usually does not work for a few reasons.  First, if we always fix the issue they will never gain the experience of learning how to do so on their own.  Also in their quest for independence young adults might be naturally resistant to advice.  Try instead brainstorming solutions together to create possible ways to move forward.  Without getting attached to any one idea, throw out any possibility you both can think of and see what sounds like a good first step.  If one way does not work, try another.

Getting Help for the Young Adult

Fortunately, there are many professionals who can help with appropriate resources.  Academic support tutors can help with school, therapists can help with emotional issues, and teachers and guidance counselors can also provide school support.   Life coaches who work with young people can also help with life direction and managing transitions.  A coach can provide an objective assessment to help a young person either prior to college or after graduating to see what career choices might be best for them based on strengths and interests.  In addition, life skills such as budgeting, time management and organization can be part of the plan. For those with ADHD, an ADHD coach can help with issues stemming from ADHD.

The Path is not Always Linear

Most young people do not go from high school to living independently without any bumps in the road.  Knowing that there will be ups and downs along the way can make the process easier to experience and witness.  Moreover, not everyone goes from high school to college directly or at all. It might not be the right choice if the young adult is not ready.  Often, taking a year or so to work and mature is a great option as well as attending community college or apprenticing in a trade.

What’s Normal and What’s Not

Many parents worry about whether what their child is experiencing is “normal” or if it’s a problem.   For example, is their alcohol use a “phase” or is it abuse?  A doctor who knows your child or a guidance counselor or advisor can provide guidance in this area.

Get Support for Yourself

When you are worried about you child, no matter what their age, it can be scary.  It can also be lonely when you perceive that your child is the only one having these problems. Having a supportive, non-judgmental person to talk to can help alleviate the worry and loneliness.  In addition, reaching out to professionals who can help you gain perspective and find resources, will be beneficial in finding the best way forward.

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When we think of the first day of April, April Fools’ Day comes to mind.  April Fools’ Day is the traditional day of the year to play practical jokes on friends and family, with the intent of good fun and a few laughs.   What is not as commonly known is that laughter and humor are good for our physical, emotional and mental health.   According to the Mayo Clinic laughter has both short and long-term health benefits.  However, many adults find humor and laughter to be an indulgence or have lost their sense of humor and playfulness for a number of reasons.   Adding humor back may be just what the doctor ordered.  Let’s explore not only the reasons why, but also how to lighten up.

 Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine— Lord Byron

Based on recent medical research, Lord Byron was on the right track.  A good laugh has many short and long-term health benefits.  In the short-term  a good laugh, increases the amount of oxygen we take in which in turn stimulates our internal organs as well as our circulation.  In a way similar  to aerobic exercise, the rise in oxygen when laughing also increases the endorphins released in our brain which makes us feel more positive.  In addition, our muscles relax from the increase in circulation which leads to a more relaxed physical state.

Long term benefits are impressive as well.  Laughing has been shown to improve our immune system.  Just in the way that negative thoughts and stress cause a decrease in immune function, positive feeling can reverse this and benefit our health.  Laughing can also decrease or relieve pain due to the increase in endorphins.  Laughing can even increase the amount of calories burned and lead to weight loss.

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh. — W. H. Auden

Not only are there many physical health benefits from laughing, but also many positive mental, emotional and social benefits as well.  Humor and playfulness reduces stress and anxiety, improves your mood and enhances relationships. Of course, this applies to good natured humor and laughing, not sarcasm or laughing at the expense of another.  Those kinds of humor are damaging and are not beneficial.  Positive humor attracts others toward us, allows for better teamwork and can reduce conflict.

Laughter is an instant vacation.- Milton Berle

In the words of the great comedian Milton Berle, laughter is an instant vacation. If you feel like your life is lacking good healthy humor and playfulness or zest, the good news is it is easy to add it back.  Here are ways to increase your laughter and joy and make every day seem like a vacation:

  • Start with a smile.  Smiling is contagious and makes you feel more positive both when you smile and when other’s smile back. Don’t feel like smiling?  Try this experiment:  put a pencil between your teeth and hold for a minute.  It’s the same as smiling and makes you feel instantly more positive.
  • Watch humorous television shows, movies, video clips or read the comics. Visit websites that focus on humor.  Keep things you find funny or make you smile around as daily reminders.  Sign up for a joke of the day email or buy a calendar featuring humor.
  • Humor grows when shared. Tell funny stories, recall humorous events or enjoy laughing with others.  It lightens the mood, bonds people together and improves relationships.
  • Find the humor in situations. Change your perspective by laughing about situations that frustrate you.
  • Surround yourself with playful or joyful people whenever possible. Again just like negativity, joy is contagious.
  • Spend time with children – children naturally love to play and laugh. Pets are also fun loving and enjoy play.
  • Laugh at yourself instead of taking yourself so seriously. Sometimes it’s hard to do in the moment but it is a healthy way to let of self-righteousness.
  • Just as it’s important to look for gratitude, it’s important to find humor. Ask yourself or family and friends to share what the funniest thing is that happened to them today is and laugh about it.
  • Do fun things that encourage play and laughter. Play games, go to a comedy or improv show, sing karaoke or any activity that will be upbeat and light.

I would love to hear what makes you laugh.  Please share by emailing me at *protected email*.   I have a FUN prize for the best story shared during the month of April.

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