Category Archives: health

A Neuroscientist And A Psychologist On How Our Ancient Brains Work In A High-Tech World

GUEST HOST: DEREK MCGINTY

A woman uses her smart phone as she walks on 47th Street November 13, 2014 in New York.   AFP PHOTO/Don Emmert        (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman uses her smart phone as she walks on 47th Street November 13, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Don Emmert (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

We all do it. Walking down the street–a quick check of the phone to see who emailed. Watching television–why not send out a tweet, too. Sitting at dinner with family–it will take only a second to read that text. Even when we know we should resist the temptation, it’s so hard to ignore technology. We pay for it in half-completed tasks, near accidents, and disjointed conversations. Why is this? It turns out our brains are not very good at driving away distraction, and technology has only aggravated it.

Did you know the blue light from your phones ‘fight’ or stop melatonin (Melatonin is a hormone that helps you fall asleep.) So when you look at your phone before or while in bed, you may be resetting your melatonin for ‘awake mode’, making it harder to sleep properly. Suggestion: stop looking at your phone 30 minutes or more before bed and don’t look at it until you wake up in the morning!

Guest host Derek McGinty talks to neuroscientist Dr. Adam Gazzaley and psychologist Dr. Larry Rosen about our ancient brains in a high-tech world.

Guests

  • Dr. Adam Gazzaley professor of neurology, physiology, and psychiatry at UC San Francisco; founding director, the Neuroscience Imaging Center; director, the Gazzaley Lab, a cognitive neuroscience laboratory.
  • Dr. Larry Rosen professor and past chair of the psychology department, California State University, Dominguez Hills

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2016-10-19/a-neuroscientist-and-a-psychologist-on-how-our-ancient-brains-work-in-a-high-tech-world

Always Hungry? Your Fat Cells May Be to Blame

Great info if you want to lose weight or just eat better….

Always Hungry? Your Fat Cells May Be to Blame

http://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/always-hungry-your-fat-cells-may-be-to-blame/

Pop quiz: What raises your blood glucose and insulin the most, calorie for calorie? A baked potato, ice cream, or pure table sugar? Contrary to what you might think, it’s actually the baked potato. In his new book Always Hungry, Dr. David Ludwig writes his own guidelines on what to eat to satisfy your appetite without piling on pounds. His one-line mantra? “Forget calories. Focus on quality. Let your body do the rest.” Read an excerpt from the book here.

Segment Guests

David Ludwig

David Ludwig is author of Always Hungry (Grand Central, 2016). He’s a practicing endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts.

The following is an excerpt from Always Hungry? by David Ludwig.

In our weight-obsessed culture, it’s common to disparage the fat in our bodies. But body fat (scientifically termed “adipose tissue”) is a highly specialized organ, critically important for health and longevity.

Among its many functions, fat surrounds and cushions vital organs like the kidneys and insulates us against the cold. Body fat also signifies health, conferring beauty when distributed in the right amounts and locations. But critically, fat is our fuel tank—a strategic calorie reserve to protect against starvation.

RELATED SEGMENT

Always Hungry? Your Fat Cells May Be to Blame

Compared to other species our size, humans have an exceptionally large brain that requires an enormous amount of calories. The metabolic demands of the brain are so great that, under resting conditions, it uses about one of every three calories we consume. And this calorie requirement is absolute. Any interruption would cause immediate loss of consciousness, rapidly followed by seizure, coma, and death. That’s a problem, because until very recently in human history, access to calories had always been unpredictable. Our ancestors faced extended periods of deprivation when a hunt or a staple food crop failed, during harsh winters, or when venturing out across an ocean. The key to their survival was body fat.

If we go for more than a few hours without eating, the body must rely on stored fuels for energy, and these come in three basic types, familiar to anyone who reads a nutrition label: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The body stores accessible carbohydrate in the liver and protein in muscle, but these are in dilute forms, surrounded by lots of water. In contrast, stored fat is highly concentrated, since fat tissue contains very little water. In addition, pure carbohydrate and protein have less than half the calories of pure fat, making them relatively weak sources of energy. For these reasons, liver and muscle contain only a small fraction of the calories in fat tissue (less than 600 compared to about 3,500 per pound). In the absence of body fat, even a muscular man would waste away in days without eating, whereas all but the leanest adults have enough body fat to survive many weeks.

And these fat cells aren’t just inert storage depots. Fat cells actively take up excess calories soon after meals and release them in a controlled fashion at other times, according to the body’s needs.

Fat tissue also responds to and emits a multitude of chemical signals and neural messages, helping fine-tune our metabolism and immune system. But when fat cells malfunction, big problems ensue.

HUNGRY FAT

We generally think that weight gain is the unavoidable consequence of consuming too many calories, with fat cells being the passive recipients of that excess. But fat cells do nothing of consequence without specific instructions—certainly not calorie storage and release, their most critical functions.

Insulin: The Fat Cell Fertilizer

Many substances produced in the body or contained in our diet directly affect fat cell behavior, chief among them the hormone insulin.

Insulin, made in the pancreas, is widely known for its ability to lower blood sugar. Problems with the production or action of insulin lead to the common forms of diabetes, specifically type 1 (previously called juvenile diabetes) and type 2 (a frequent complication of obesity).

But insulin’s actions extend well beyond blood sugar control, to how all calories flow throughout the body.

Soon after the start of a meal, insulin level rises, directing incoming calories—glucose from carbohydrate, amino acids from protein, and free fatty acids from the fat in our diet—into body tissues for utilization or storage. A few hours later, decreasing insulin level allows stored fuels to reenter the blood, for use by the brain and the rest of the body. Although other hormones and biological inputs play supporting roles in this choreography, insulin is the undisputed star.

Insulin’s effects on calorie storage are so potent that we can consider it the ultimate fat cell fertilizer. For example, rats given insulin infusions developed low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), ate more, and gained weight. Even when their food was restricted to that of the control animals, they still became fatter. Conversely, mice genetically engineered to produce less insulin had healthier fat cells, burned off more calories, and resisted weight gain, even when given a diet that makes normal mice fat.

In humans, high rates of insulin release from the pancreas due to genetic variants or other reasons cause weight gain. People with type 1 diabetes who receive excess insulin predictably gain weight, whereas those treated inadequately with too little insulin lose weight, no matter how much they eat. Furthermore, drugs that stimulate insulin release from the pancreas are also associated with weight gain, and those that block its release with weight loss.

If too much insulin drives fat cells to increase in size and number, what drives the pancreas to produce too much insulin? Carbohydrate, specifically sugar and the highly processed starches that quickly digest into sugar. Basically, any of those packaged “low-fat” foods made primarily from refined grains, potato products, or concentrated sugar that crept into our diet as we single-mindedly focused on eating less fat.

Our Fat Cells Make Us Overeat

All this is just Endocrinology 101, well-established information every first-year medical student should know. But it leads to a stunning possibility. The usual way of thinking about the obesity epidemic has it backward. Overeating hasn’t made our fat cells grow; our fat cells have been programmed to grow, and that has made us overeat.

Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently

Too much refined carbohydrate causes blood glucose to surge soon after a meal, which in turn makes the pancreas produce more insulin than would have ever been the case for humans in the past. High insulin levels trigger fat cells to hoard excessive amounts of glucose, fatty acids, and other calorie-rich substances that circulate in the blood. It’s like those floor‑to‑ceiling turnstiles you might see at a ballpark or in the subway.

People can pass freely in one direction, but horizontal crossbars prevent movement the other way. Insulin ushers calories into fat cells, but restricts their passage back out. Consequently, the body starts to run low on accessible fuel within a few hours, more quickly than normal.

When that happens, the brain registers a problem and transmits an unmistakable call for help—in the form of rapidly rising hunger. Eating is a sure and fast way to increase the supply of calories in the blood, and processed carbohydrates act the fastest. The brain exploits this fact, making us crave starchy, sugary foods, more so than anything else.

What would you rather have when your blood sugar is crashing: a bowl of fruit, a tall glass of full-fat milk, a large chicken breast, or a cinnamon sticky bun (each with the same number of calories)?

As usually happens, we give in to temptation and have the sticky bun, or the myriad other formulations of processed carbohydrate so readily available today. But this solves the “energy crisis” only temporarily, sets up the next surge-crash cycle, and, over time, accelerates weight gain.

 


Excerpted from the book Always Hungry? by David Ludwig, MD, PhD. Copyright © 2015 by David Ludwig, MD, PhD. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

Mindful Mantras For Weight Loss

Jean Kristeller's 10-week program in The Joy of Half A Cookie is designed to curb overeating, help you feel your hunger and trust your taste buds.

Jean Kristeller’s 10-week program in The Joy of Half A Cookie is designed to curb overeating, help you feel your hunger and trust your taste buds.

iStockphoto

Every now and then, a Julia Child or Michael Pollan come along and changes the way we eat.

Could Jean Kristeller, America’s leading mindful eating researcher and the author of a new self-help book, The Joy of Half a Cookie, published Tuesday, be next? I’m of a mind to say maybe.

Back when Kristeller, now a professor of psychology emeritus at Indiana State University, was a grad student at Yale in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she had a compulsive overeating problem. She had been meditating for years, and decided to apply what she was studying about eating regulation and the mind-body connection toher overeating. As she writes, it was transformative. Once she got a handle on it, she developed a mindfulness training for a variety of eating issues called Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training, or MB-EAT, and set out to test its effectiveness.

The Joy of Half a Cookie
The Joy of Half a Cookie

Using Mindfulness to Lose Weight and End the Struggle With Food

by Jean Kristeller and Alisa Bowman

Hardcover, 278 pages

In several studies, Kristeller has shown that the practice of mindfulness meditation and mindful eating effectively decrease binge eating and increase an inner sense of control overeating.

She’s also been exploring MB-EAT for weight loss in a study which began in 2004 and compared MB-EAT to a widely used meditation program (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) and a standardized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has yet to publish this study, but the preliminary data show that MB-EAT’s added calorie-cutting suggestions and healthy eating strategies dofacilitate significant weight loss in the short-term. (The study subjects — 225 obese men and women binge eaters — lost about a pound a week on average.) Whether or not the training facilitates significant long-term weight loss (at the 18-month follow up) is still to be determined.

The 10-week plan involves a combination of mindfulness meditations and mindful-eating practices, healthy eating and calorie-cutting strategies. More specifically, it’s designed to curb overeating, help you feel your hunger, trust your taste buds and become deeply satisfied with the quality, rather than quantity, of food.

If I hadn’t seen the transformative effect of Kristeller’s proven practices in my own practice as an eating disorder therapist, I probably wouldn’t bother reading yet another mindful eating book. (I’ve read many.) But I had, so I did, and I’m thrilled this research psychologist has transformed her group training into a do-it-yourself plan.

I put Joy of Half a Cookie up there with Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Omnivore’s Dilemma because I’ve seen the measurable and pleasurable difference Kristeller’s plan has made to me and my clients. Although she and I have traversed the same territory for decades, the one time I heard the describe her training, it forever changed the way I work with the range of eating issues.

Still, I had some concerns and questions I wanted to run by Kristeller. What follows is an edited version of that recent exchange.

Before you discovered mindful eating, you describe being trapped in a vicious cycle of under-eating by day, overeating by night. How did you discover that mindfulness could break that cycle?

My first transformative eating experience was inspired by Susie Orbach’s Fat Is a Feminist Issue. For one week, I permitted myself to lunch on high-fat, high-sugary foods [as recommended by the book]. The first few days, I savored snack machine chips and cookies. They tasted pretty good, but I didn’t crave more after dinner. When the packaged snacks lost their appeal, I went for fresh croissants one day, a few pizza slices the next. By week’s end, I was starting to tune into my hunger, fullness and food enjoyment with what I would now call “mindfulness.”

You say MB-EAT isn’t a diet, but you recommend weighing and measuring portions and other dieting strategies. What’s the difference?

Diets prescribe certain foods and amounts of food for relatively rapid weight loss. They bear little relationship to a flexible, sustainable eating approach. Yet calories do “count.”

I don’t recommend aiming for a certain number of calories per day. Rather, I encourage a more exploratory approach to calorie content — noticing the amount of cereal in your bowl, butter on your toast, meat on your plate. Like a budget, you wouldn’t shop without looking at price tags. And, if your income dropped by 25 percent, you’d need to cut expenditures, but not watch every penny or always spend exactly the same amount.

Given that caloric restriction can be a recipe for overeating, if not disordered eating, for some people, why do you challenge readers to cut 500 calories per day, forever, from their diet?

Most diets drop caloric intake by at least 1,000 calories per day. The 500-calorie challenge is about finding sustainable ways to cut calories, which is neither overly restrictive nor, in our experience, does it trigger overeating. Rather, I encourage people to cut “mindless calories”: forego extra servings, refrain from cleaning your plate when full, swap higher calorie snacks for enjoyable lower calorie ones.

Nowhere do you mention how much weight study subjects lost. How muchdid they lose?

Average weight loss was relatively modest — about one pound per week or seven pounds. Some lost over 20 pounds, and some lost little, but, unlike our first NIH trial, which focused on binge eating, not weight loss, none gained weight. However, even in that study, a third of participants lost weight just eating mindfully.

According to a recent systematic review, mindfulness training decreases binge and emotional eating, but fails to facilitate significant weight loss. So why do you prescribe mindfulness for weight loss?

Mindfulness greatly decreases the struggle with food. Weight loss happens slowly, as is appropriate. Although some effects can and do happen quickly, learning to apply them in range of situations takes time and an ongoing sense of discovery.


After some hemming and hawing, my conclusion is as follows: If you want to lose weight and end the struggle with food, by all means, dive into Kristeller’s practices for cultivating inner wisdom.

But can you achieve long-term weight loss with this? Only time and the results of her follow-up research will tell if, in fact, her approach works.


Jean Fain is a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist and the author ofThe Self-Compassion Diet.

Diet soda

i love diet soda but I know that it isn’t a good thing

I just saw this on msn.com

-© Nicholas Liby/ flickr

On a recent unseasonably warm day in New York City, I, like many of my fellow cube farmers, headed outside to eat lunch in the sun. The park’s tables were packed with slender, natty finance dudes digging into take-away salads, turkey sandwiches, and tortilla-less burrito bowls from Chipotle. What amazed me were all the Diet Coke cans studding this giant sea of otherwise healthy tabletops.

A quick and extremely unscientific survey of these gents revealed that these guys, like you, already knew regular and diet soda are packed with artificial crap, are bad for teeth, and lead to obesity and diabetes (yes, even the sugar-free stuff). So, WTF?

Not surprisingly, most were downing it for the caffeine to counteract post-lunch food coma. But after digging deeper, I learned that what most guys were really avoiding was an afternoon coffee, fearing the extra caffeine found in a cup of joe would do more harm than good.

So these guys chose Diet Coke because they thought it was healthier. [ Cue palm-to-forehead slap. ]

It isn’t. Still .

Yes, a tall iced coffee from Starbucks can pack twice the jump juice as a can of Diet Coke, but it won’t keep you up at night or increase your risk of hypertension or ulcers. (A single Illy espresso has about the same caffeine as 12 ounces of Diet Coke, FYI.)

With coffee you not only get the feel-good focus buzz—a 2004 study in the Journal of Nutrition argues the black stuff is one of the largest sources of life-extending antioxidants on the planet.

Soda, on the other hand, may provide a burst but only ups your risk for bad things. In fact, just this month, a 28-year study of 43,000 men found those who drank soda had a much higher risk of stroke than those who sipped coffee.

So be a (healthier) man and skip the soda. You know better.

HERE IS A GREAT ARTICLE THAT CAN STAND ALONE AND SPEAK BY ITSELF. NOTHING MORE THAT I CAN REALLY ADD OTHER THAN PLEASE READ AND USE IT !

From Psychology Today Magazine………

Fulfillment at Any Age

    How to remain productive and healthy into your later years
    by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.

Giving thanks: The benefits of gratitude

      Why gratitude is good for your mental health

We all like being thanked. It’s a great feeling to have someone, especially someone who doesn’t stand to gain, tell us that we made a difference in their lives. In the past few weeks, I’ve had the good fortune of receiving some heartfelt thank you notes from students, pausing as they got ready to leave campus for the summer, or perhaps for good, to take a moment and let me know that something I said or did proved helpful to them. I’ve also had the good fortune of having favors done for me by people who went out of their way to help me solve a problem, fix something, or in fortunately only one case- return a lost cellphone. Being thanked and having reason to thank others are two sides of the same gratefulness coin. Both exemplify the positive in human behavior and provide us with a positive charge that boosts our emotional balance.

On the surface it seems like gratitude has everything to recommend it. There are a few gratitude traps, though. Some people feel uncomfortable about being thanked. They get truly embarrassed, dismissing the thanker by insisting that “it was nothing” (though clearly the thanker felt otherwise). There are also some uncomfortable aspects about thank-yous when it comes to thank-you presents that are overly generous or could be interpreted as bribes.

If you’re at the receiving end of a thank-you, you may feel unsure about how to reciprocate. Does a thank-you present require a thank-you note? What about thanking someone who’s helped you? Do you reward a person who returns a lost item with cash or just allow your relieved face to serve as its own reward? Then there’s the guilt factor: What if you let a few weeks slip by without sending a thank-you note for a birthday gift? Does it look worse to send a belated thank-you note or just to forget the whole thing and hope the gift-giver won’t notice? Thank-you notes inspire their own particular forms of angst, as was pointed out in one particularly insightful Social Q’s column of the New York Times (for the record: this column is a treasure trove of psychological insight on quirky behaviors).

It might be reassuring, then, to learn that the expression of thanks can be its own reward. Being the recipient of a favor can also make the favor-giver (if there is such a word) feel good too. Everyone benefits when thanks are freely given and just as freely acknowledged. 

There are always exceptional circumstances involving acts of extreme altruism. Heroes are known as the people who put the needs of others above our own. These cases put in bold relief the fact that a hero doesn’t expect thank-you notes or little gift baskets as acknowledgement of his or her sacrifice.

Many real-life heroes also do not expect thank-yous. Yet, when we benefit from the labors that others put out for our sake, we feel internally driven to and want to express our gratitude. And that’s a good thing, in more ways than one.

Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough point out that gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research. They point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.

Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. In a review article published this past March (see below), researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.

Now how can you apply these ideas to your own life? Here are some suggestions to boost your own, shall we say, GQ’s (“gratitude quotient”):

1. If someone thanks you, accept the thanks graciously. Let the person know you appreciate being thanked. That’s all you need to do. Really.

2. If you find that difficult, think about why gratitude makes you uncomfortable. Do you not feel worthy of being thanked? In my study of personal fulfillment in midlife, I identified a subgroup of people whose own fulfillment was hampered by their lack of faith in their own worth. Chronic feelings of inadequacy can make it difficult for people to benefit from any thanks that come their way.

3. Look for small things to be grateful for. Not all acts of kindness have a capital “K.” A driver who lets you ease into a busy highway deserves a wave just as much as someone who holds open a door when you’re loaded down with packages. A smile will boost your GQ and make both of you feel better.

4. Don’t fret about gratitude infractions. If you forget to send a thank you note don’t worry about it and certainly don’t use elapsed time as an excuse to avoid the task altogether. Send a quick email and then get to the real thing. If you’re a chronic forgetter, though, you might try to figure out why. By the same token, if someone forgets to thank you, don’t ruminate over it, thereby raising your BP if not your GQ.

5. Keep your thank you’s short, sweet, and easy to write. One reason people procrastinate about writing thank you’s is that they want them to be original and not seem hasty, insincere, or ill conceived. This doesn’t mean the thank you should be one that is short enough to tweet but if you don’t build it up in your mind as having to be a magnum opus you’ll be less inclined to put it off. Whatever you do, don’t make excuses or lie about having sent a thank you that you never did (for more on lying and excuse-making, check out my previous post).

I’ll close by saying thanks in advance to anyone who chooses to add their comments to the discussion or wishes to forward the blog link. It’s the least I can do!

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, “Fulfillment at Any Age,” to discuss today’s blog, or to ask further questions about this posting. 

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2010

How to Make New Habits Stick for Good –

How to Make New Habits Stick for Good –By James Clear

Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits.

  • How in shape or out of shape you are? A result of your habits.
  • How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits.
  • How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits.

What you repeatedly do (i.e. what you spend time thinking about and doing each day) ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray.

But what if you want to improve? What if you want to form new habits? How would you go about it?

Turns out, there’s a helpful framework that can make it easier to stick to new habits so that you can improve your health, your work, and your life in general. Let’s talk about that framework now…

The 3 R’s of Habit Change


1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)

2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)

3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

I call this framework “The 3 R’s of Habit Change,” but I didn’t come up with this pattern on my own. It’s been proven over and over again by behavioral psychology researchers. I first learned about the process of habit formation from Stanford professor, BJ Fogg.

More recently, I read about it in Charles Duhigg’s best–selling book, The Power of Habit. Duhigg’s book refers to the three steps of the “Habit Loop” as cue, routine, reward. BJ Fogg uses the word trigger instead of cue. And I prefer reminder since it gives us the memorable “3 R’s.” Regardless, don’t get hung up on the terminology.

+ It’s more important to realize that there’s a lot of science behind the process of habit formation, and so we can be relatively confident that your habits follow the same cycle, whatever you choose to call it.

What a Habit Looks Like When Broken Down Before we get into each step, let’s use the 3 R’s to break down a typical habit.

For example, answering a phone call…

1. Your phone rings (reminder). This is the reminder that initiates the behavior. The ring acts as a trigger or cue to tell you to answer the phone. It is the prompt that starts the behavior.

2. You answer your phone (routine). This is the actual behavior. When your phone rings, you answer the phone.

3. You find out who is calling (reward). This is the reward (or punishment, depending on who is calling). The reward is the benefit gained from doing the behavior. You wanted to find out why the person on the other end was calling you and discovering that piece of information is the reward for completing the habit. If the reward is positive, then you’ll want to repeat the routine again the next time the reminder happens.

Repeat the same action enough times and it becomes a habit. Every habit follows this basic 3–step structure.

How can you use this structure to create new habits and actually stick to them? Here’s how…

Step 1: Set a Reminder for Your New Habit- If you talk to your friends about starting a new habit, they might tell you that you need to exercise self–control or that you need to find a new dose of willpower. I disagree. Getting motivated and trying to remember to do a new behavior is the exact wrong way to go about it. If you’re a human, then your memory and your motivation will fail you. It’s just a fact. This is why the reminder is such a critical part of forming new habits.

A good reminder does not rely on motivation and it doesn’t require you to remember to do your new habit. A good reminder makes it easy to start by encoding your new behavior in something that you already do. For example, when I wrote about the secret to sticking to little healthy habits, I said that I created a new habit of flossing by always doing it after brushing my teeth. The act of brushing my teeth was something that I already did and it acted as the reminder to do my new behavior.

To make things even easier and prevent myself from having to remember to floss, I bought a bowl, placed it next to my toothbrush, and put a handful of pre–made flossers in it. Now I see the floss every time I reach for my toothbrush. Setting up a visible reminder and linking my new habit with a current behavior made it much easier to change.

No need to be motivated. No need to remember. It doesn’t matter if it’s working out or eating healthy or creating art, you can’t expect yourself to magically stick to a new habit without setting up a system that makes it easier to start.

How to Choose Your Reminder

Picking the correct reminder for your new habit is the first step to making change easier. The best way I know to discover a good reminder for your new habit is to write down two lists.

In the first list, write down the things that you do each day without fail. For example…

•Get in the shower. •Put your shoes on. •Brush your teeth. •Flush the toilet. •Sit down for dinner. •Turn the lights off. •Get into bed.

You’ll often find that many of these items are daily health habits like washing your face, drinking morning tea, brushing your teeth, and so on. Those actions can act as reminders for new health habits.

For example, “After I drink my morning tea, I mediate for 60 seconds.” In the second list, write down the things that happen to you each day without fail. For example…

•Traffic light turns red. •You get a text message. •A commercial comes on TV. •A song ends. •The sun sets.

With these two lists, you’ll have a wide range of things that you already do and already respond to each day. Those are the perfect reminders for new habits. For example, let’s say you want to feel happier. Expressing gratitude is one proven way to boost happiness.

Using the list above, you could pick the reminder “sit down for dinner” and use it as a cue to say one thing that you’re grateful for today. “When I sit down for dinner, I say one thing that I’m grateful for today.” That’s the type of small behavior that could blossom into a more grateful outlook on life in general.

Step 2: Choose a Habit That’s Incredibly Easy to Start

It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to make massive changes in your life. We watch incredible weight loss transformations and think that we need to lose 30 pounds in the next 4 weeks. We see elite athletes on TV and wish that we could run faster and jump higher tomorrow. We want to earn more, do more, and be more … right now.

I’ve felt those things too, so I get it. And in general, I applaud the enthusiasm. I’m glad that you want great things for your life and I want to do what I can to help you achieve them. But it’s important to remember that lasting change is a product of daily habits, not once–in–a–lifetime transformations.

If you want to start a new habit and begin living healthier and happier, then I have one suggestion that I cannot emphasis enough: start small. In the words of Leo Babauta, “make it so easy that you can’t say no.” How small? BJ Fogg suggests that people who want to start flossing begin by only flossing one tooth. Just one. In the beginning, performance doesn’t matter.

Become the type of person who always sticks to your new habit. You can build up to the level of performance that you want once the behavior becomes consistent. Here’s your action step: Decide what want your new habit to be. Now ask yourself, “How can I make this new behavior so easy to do that I can’t say no?”

What is Your Reward?

It’s important to celebrate. We want to continue doing things that make us feel good. And because an action needs to be repeated for it to become a habit, it’s especially important that you reward yourself each time you practice your new habit.

For example, if I’m working towards a new fitness goal, then I’ll often tell myself at the end of a workout, “That was good day.” Or, “Good job. You made progress today.” If you feel like it, you could even tell yourself “Victory!” or “Success!” each time you do your new habit. I haven’t done this myself, but some people swear by it.

•Floss one tooth. “Victory!” •Eat a healthy meal. “Success!” •Do five pushups. “Good work!” Give yourself some credit and enjoy each success.

Related note: Only go after habits that are important to you. It’s tough to find a reward when you’re simply doing things because other people say they are important.

Where to Go From Here

In general, you’ll find that these three steps fit almost any habit. The specifics, however, may take some work. You might have to experiment before you find the right cue that reminds you to start a new habit. You might have to think a bit before figuring out how to make your new habit so easy that you can’t say no. And rewarding yourself with positive self–talk can take some getting used to if you’re not someone who typically does that. It’s all a process, my friend.

[Ed Note: James is a writer, photographer and avid weightlifter. His mission is to help as many people as he can by showing them simple but effective ways of changing their habits.  ]

Caffeine: The Silent Killer of Success

Caffeine: The Silent Killer of Success

BY Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.- posted on LinkedIn- September 08, 2014
This week’s tip for improving your performance is the most simple and straightforward method I’ve provided thus far. For many people, this tip has the potential to have a bigger impact than any other single action. The catch? You have to cut down on caffeine, and as any caffeine drinker can attest, this is easier said than done.

For those who aren’t aware, the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. These individuals are skilled at managing their emotions (even in times of high stress) in order to remain calm and in control.

The Good: Isn’t Really Good

Most people start drinking caffeine because it makes them feel more alert and improves their mood. Many studies suggest that caffeine actually improves cognitive task performance (memory, attention span, etc.) in the short-term. Unfortunately, these studies fail to consider the participants’ caffeine habits. New research from Johns Hopkins Medical School shows that performance increases due to caffeine intake are the result of caffeine drinkers experiencing a short-term reversal of caffeine withdrawal. By controlling for caffeine use in study participants, John Hopkins researchers found that caffeine-related performance improvement is nonexistent without caffeine withdrawal. In essence, coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.

The Bad: Adrenaline

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight or flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyper-aroused state, your emotions overrun your behavior.

Irritability and anxiety are the most commonly seen emotional effects of caffeine, but caffeine enables all of your emotions to take charge.

The negative effects of a caffeine-generated adrenaline surge are not just behavioral. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that large doses of caffeine raise blood pressure, stimulate the heart, and produce rapid shallow breathing, which readers of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 know deprives the brain of the oxygen needed to keep your thinking calm and rational.

The Ugly: Sleep

When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, focus, memory, and information processing speed are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Your brain is very fickle when it comes to sleep. For you to wake up feeling rested, your brain needs to move through an elaborate series of cycles. You can help this process along and improve the quality of your sleep by reducing your caffeine intake.

Here’s why you’ll want to: caffeine has a six-hour half-life, which means it takes a full twenty-four hours to work its way out of your system. Have a cup of joe at eight a.m., and you’ll still have 25% of the caffeine in your body at eight p.m. Anything you drink after noon will still be at 50% strength at bedtime. Any caffeine in your bloodstream—with the negative effects increasing with the dose—makes it harder to fall asleep.

When you do finally fall asleep, the worst is yet to come. Caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep when your body recuperates and processes emotions. When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with an emotional handicap. You’re naturally going to be inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel better. The caffeine produces surges of adrenaline, which further your emotional handicap. Caffeine and lack of sleep leave you feeling tired in the afternoon, so you drink more caffeine, which leaves even more of it in your bloodstream at bedtime. Caffeine very quickly creates a vicious cycle.

Withdrawal

Like any stimulant, caffeine is physiologically and psychologically addictive. If you do choose to lower your caffeine intake, you should do so slowly under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. The researchers at Johns Hopkins found that caffeine withdrawal causes headache, fatigue, sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating. Some people report feeling flu-like symptoms, depression, and anxiety after reducing intake by as little as one cup a day. Slowly tapering your caffeine dosage each day can greatly reduce these withdrawal symptoms.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

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