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The Health Benefits of Tai Chi

This gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.

Tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion,” but it might well be called “medication in motion.” There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.

In this low-impact, slow-motion exercise, you go without pausing through a series of motions named for animal actions — for example, “white crane spreads its wings” — or martial arts moves, such as “box both ears.” As you move, you breathe deeply and naturally, focusing your attention — as in some kinds of meditation — on your bodily sensations. Tai chi differs from other types of exercise in several respects. The movements are usually circular and never forced, the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or bent, and connective tissues are not stretched. Tai chi can be easily adapted for anyone, from the most fit to people confined to wheelchairs or recovering from surgery.

Tai chi movement

A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age. An adjunct therapy is one that’s used together with primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, more generally, to improve a patient’s functioning and quality of life.

Belief systems

You don’t need to subscribe to or learn much about tai chi’s roots in Chinese philosophy to enjoy its health benefits, but these concepts can help make sense of its approach:

  • Qi — an energy force thought to flow through the body; tai chi is said to unblock and encourage the proper flow of qi.
  • Yin and yang — opposing elements thought to make up the universe that need to be kept in harmony. Tai chi is said to promote this balance.

Tai chi in motion

A tai chi class might include these parts:

Warm-up. Easy motions, such as shoulder circles, turning the head from side to side, or rocking back and forth, help you to loosen your muscles and joints and focus on your breath and body.

Instruction and practice of tai chi forms. Short forms — forms are sets of movements — may include a dozen or fewer movements; long forms may include hundreds. Different styles require smaller or larger movements. A short form with smaller, slower movements is usually recommended at the beginning, especially if you’re older or not in good condition.

Qigong (or chi kung). Translated as “breath work” or “energy work,” this consists of a few minutes of gentle breathing sometimes combined with movement. The idea is to help relax the mind and mobilize the body’s energy. Qigong may be practiced standing, sitting, or lying down.

Getting started

The benefits of tai chi are generally greatest if you begin before you develop a chronic illness or functional limitations. Tai chi is very safe, and no fancy equipment is needed, so it’s easy to get started. Here’s some advice for doing so:

Don’t be intimidated by the language. Names like Yang, Wu, and Cheng are given to various branches of tai chi, in honor of people who devised the sets of movements called forms. Certain programs emphasize the martial arts aspect of tai chi rather than its potential for healing and stress reduction. In some forms, you learn long sequences of movements, while others involve shorter series and more focus on breathing and meditation. The name is less important than finding an approach that matches your interests and needs.

Check with your doctor. If you have a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition — or if you take medications that can make you dizzy or lightheaded — check with your doctor before starting tai chi. Given its excellent safety record, chances are that you’ll be encouraged to try it.

Consider observing and taking a class. Taking a class may be the best way to learn tai chi. Seeing a teacher in action, getting feedback, and experiencing the camaraderie of a group are all pluses. Most teachers will let you observe the class first to see if you feel comfortable with the approach and atmosphere. Instruction can be individualized. Ask about classes at your local Y, senior center, or community education center.

If you’d rather learn at home, you can buy or rent videos geared to your interests and fitness needs (see “Selected resources”). Although there are some excellent tai chi books, it can be difficult to appreciate the flow of movements from still photos or illustrations.

Talk to the instructor. There’s no standard training or licensing for tai chi instructors, so you’ll need to rely on recommendations from friends or clinicians and, of course, your own judgment. Look for an experienced teacher who will accommodate individual health concerns or levels of coordination and fitness.

Dress comfortably. Choose loose-fitting clothes that don’t restrict your range of motion. You can practice barefoot or in lightweight, comfortable, and flexible shoes. Tai chi shoes are available, but ones you find in your closet will probably work fine. You’ll need shoes that won’t slip and can provide enough support to help you balance, but have soles thin enough to allow you to feel the ground. Running shoes, designed to propel you forward, are usually unsuitable.

Gauge your progress. Most beginning programs and tai chi interventions tested in medical research last at least 12 weeks, with instruction once or twice a week and practice at home. By the end of that time, you should know whether you enjoy tai chi, and you may already notice positive physical and psychological changes.

No pain, big gains

Although tai chi is slow and gentle and doesn’t leave you breathless, it addresses the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning. Here’s some of the evidence:

Muscle strength. Tai chi can improve both lower-body strength and upper-body strength. When practiced regularly, tai chi can be comparable to resistance training and brisk walking.

Although you aren’t working with weights or resistance bands, the unsupported arm exercise involved in tai chi strengthens your upper body. Tai chi strengthens both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.

Flexibility. Tai chi can boost upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength.

Balance. Tai chi improves balance and, according to some studies, reduces falls. Proprioception — the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. Tai chi also improves muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make you more likely to fall; some studies have found that tai chi training helps reduce that fear.

Aerobic conditioning. Depending on the speed and size of the movements, tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits. If your clinician advises a more intense cardio workout with a higher heart rate than tai chi can offer, you may need something more aerobic as well.

August 20, 2019

 

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11 Ways Tai Chi Can Benefit Your Health

What is tai chi?

Tai chi is a form of exercise that began as a Chinese tradition. It’s based in martial arts, and involves slow movements and deep breaths. Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety and depression and improvements in cognition. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases, such as fibromyalgia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

1. Reduces stress

One of the main benefits of tai chi is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, though most evidence is anecdotal.

In 2018, one study compared the effects of tai chi on stress-related anxiety to traditional exercise. The study included 50 participants. The researchers found that tai chi provided the same benefits for managing stress-related anxiety as exercise. Because tai chi also includes meditation and focused breathing, the researchers noted that tai chi may be superior to other forms of exercise for reducing stress and anxiety. However, a larger-scale study is needed.

Tai chi is very accessible and lower impact than many other forms of exercise. The researchers found it to be safe and inexpensive, so it may be a good option if you are otherwise healthy and experiencing stress-related anxiety.

2. Improves mood

Tai chi may help improve your mood if you are depressed or anxious. Preliminary research suggests that regularly practicing tai chi can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s believed that the slow, mindful breaths and movements have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood-regulating hormones. Further research is being done to establish a clear link between tai chi and improved mood.

3. Better sleep

Regularly practicing tai chi may help you to have more restful sleep.

One study followed young adults with anxiety after they were prescribed two tai chi classes each week, for 10 weeks. Based on participant reporting, the individuals who practiced tai chi experienced significant improvements in their quality of sleep compared to those in the control group. This same group also experienced a decrease in their anxiety symptoms.

Tai chi can improve sleep for older adults, too. In a study published in 2016, researchers found that two months of twice-weekly tai chi classes was associated with better sleep in older adults with cognitive impairment.

4. Promotes weight loss

Regularly practicing tai chi can result in weight loss. One study tracked changes in weight in a group of adults practicing tai chi five times a week for 45 minutes. At the end of the 12 weeks, these adults lost a little over a pound without making any additional lifestyle changes.

5. Improves cognition in older adults

Tai chi may improve cognition in older adults with cognitive impairment. More specifically, tai chi may help improve memory and executive functioning skills like paying attention and carrying out complex tasks.

6. Reduces risk of falling in older adults

Tai chi can help improve balance and motor function, and reduce fear of falling in older adults. It can also reduce actual falls after 8 weeks of practice, and significantly reduce falls after 16 weeks of practice. Because fear of falling can reduce independence and quality of life, and falls can lead to serious complications, tai chi may offer the additional benefit of improving quality of life and general well-being in older adults.

7. Improves fibromyalgia symptoms

Tai chi may compliment traditional methods for management of certain chronic diseases.

Results from a 2018 study showed that a consistent tai chi practice can decrease the symptoms of fibromyalgia in some people. Participants in the study who practiced tai chi for 52 weeks exhibited greater improvements in their fibromyalgia-related symptoms when compared to participants practicing aerobics. Learn about other alternative treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms.

8. Improves COPD symptoms

Tai chi may improve some of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In one study, people with COPD practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, they have improvements in their ability to exercise and reported an overall improvement in their quality of life.

9. Improves balance and strength in people with Parkinson’s

In a randomized, controlled trial of 195 participants, regular practice of tai chi was found to decrease the number of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi can also help you to increase leg strength and overall balance.

10. Safe for people with coronary heart disease

Tai chi is a safe form of moderate exercise you can try if you have coronary heart disease. Following a cardiovascular event, regular tai chi practices may help you:

  • increase physical activity
  • lose weight
  • improve your quality of life

11. Reduces pain from arthritis

In a small-scale 2010 study, 15 participants with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) practiced tai chi for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the participants reported less pain and improved mobility and balance.

A larger, earlier study found similar results in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, 40 participants with knee OA practiced 60 minutes of tai chi, two times a week for 12 weeks. Following the study, participants reported a reduction in pain and an improvement in mobility and quality of life.

When compared to physical therapy, tai chi has also been found to be as effective in the treatment of knee OA.

Always talk to your doctor before starting tai chi if you have arthritis. You may need to do modified versions of some of the movements.

Is tai chi safe?

Tai chi is generally considered to be a safe exercise with few side effects. You may experience some aches or pains after practicing tai chi if you’re a beginner. More rigorous forms of tai chi and improper practice of tai chi are associated with increased risk of injury to joints. Especially if you’re new to tai chi, consider attending a class or working with an instructor to reduce your risk of injury.

If you’re pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.

How to start tai chi

Tai chi focuses on proper posture and exact movements, something that is difficult to learn on your own. If you’re new to tai chi, take a class or get an instructor.

Tai chi is taught in studios all over the United States and other countries. Larger gyms, like the YMCA, sometimes offer tai chi classes as well.

Choosing a tai chi style

There are five different styles of tai chi, and each style can be modified to suit your goals and personal fitness level. All styles of tai chi incorporate continuous movement from one pose to the next.

  • Yang style tai chi focuses on slow, graceful movements and relaxation. Yang style is a good starting point for beginners.
  • Wu style tai chi places an emphasis on micro-movements. This style of tai chi is practiced very slowly.
  • Chen style tai chi uses both slow and fast movements. This style of tai chi might be difficult for you if you’re new to the practice.
  • Sun style tai chi shares a lot of similarities with Chen style. Sun style involves less crouching, kicking, and punching, making it less physically demanding.
  • Hao style tai chi is a lesser-known and rarely practiced style. This style of tai chi is defined by a focus on accurate position and internal strength.

How does tai chi differ from yoga?

Tai chi emphasizes fluid movement and has roots in Chinese culture. Yoga focuses on posing and originated in Northern India.

Both tai chi and yoga are forms of exercise that involve meditation and deep breathing, and they have similar benefits, such as:

  • relieves stress
  • improves mood
  • Improves sleep

Takeaway

Tai chi is an exercise that can benefit both healthy adults and adults living with a chronic condition.

The benefits of tai chi include:

  • better sleep
  • weight loss
  • improved mood
  • management of chronic conditions

If you’re interested in trying tai chi, an instructor can help you get started. Classes are offered in specialized studios, community centers, and gyms.

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What’s The Key to Achieving Workplace Happiness?

So many of us overlook the direct relationship between our body and our mind, according to Yu Dan Shi, author of the book, Come Alive – Live a Life with More Meaning and Joy.

The truth is that when our body isn’t performing well, it’s unlikely we can feel well at an emotional level, added Yu Dan.

Yu Dan cited 2017 research from Australian National University which shows that working longer than 39 hours a week puts your health at risk if you also spend more than 28 hours a week in caring or domestic work.

These people will more likely experience mental illness and symptoms of distress, such as feeling nervous, anxious or down.

“Given many professionals and business owners work more than 40 hours a week, what this tells us is working more is not the answer; we need to work smarter,” said Yu Dan.

“Work-life balance is not a new topic. However, what we seldom explore is the fact that it’s not easy for people to achieve work-life balance – unless they have been taught how.

“We are creatures of habit. We can’t change the way we work or live overnight. It’s a skill.”

The reality is the majority of the workforce has never been taught how to work in a healthier way or how to perform at an optimal level, according to Yu Dan. Most of us have only ever been taught how to work harder.

“I was so burnt out in 2008 that it took an emergency operation to force me to look at things differently. My doctor explicitly told me that my life-threatening illness was the result of stress,” she said.

“To the outside world, I was a positive, strong, resilient mother and leader, but I suffered internally and lacked the tools to manage the situation. I see this happen over and over through my coaching practice, how talented individuals find difficult to cope due to unhealthy working habits.”

Worryingly, the majority of employees have never been taught how to work in a more authentic fashion

According to Yu Dan, there is a limit to how much and how hard we can work. Like a fuel tank, our energy needs to be topped up, or they will run out.

When people work long hours, there is not enough time for rest and renewal. In reality, the faster we know how to recover and renew ourselves, the faster and more consistently we reach the optimal performance. Elite sports people have mastered this approach.

Yu Dan added that over the past 10 years, sleep has become the secret weapon of more and more Olympic competitors. Dr Mark Rosekind, who has helped gold medalists optimise their sleep, explains in an interview with the Huffington Post that science has shown our performance will suffer if we don’t have enough rest.

“Once we understand slowing down creates better performance, I have found people are much more willing to improve how they work and live,” she said.

Yu Dan outlined four daily habits that can make a huge difference to energy, wellbeing and happiness:

Stop reacting
Many people jump into the reacting mode from the moment they get up. If most of our hours are spent reacting, we are likely to feel exhausted and out of control. I have often suggested my clients begin their day with the things they want to achieve first, instead of simply reacting.

Learn to rest
Have you ever felt that two hours of good work is better than 20 hours of poor work? It’s likely that you were rested to do the work. If you feel less motivated to do something, it might be an indication that your energy is running low. Instead of blaming yourself for lacking perseverance, take a break.

Be in nature
Research shows that being in nature refreshes us and increases our cognitive performance. It can be as simple as including a daily walk in your routine. I have often suggested my clients have meetings outside their office, whether in an open café or turn a sitting meeting into a walking meeting.

Do something fun
Research has shown that having fun reduces stress, keeps us energetic, and increases more job satisfaction. When I play with my dog silly at the park, I always walk home feeling much more energetic and happier. On the surface, some activities seem non-productive, when in fact, they provide vital recovery time.

We all want to succeed. But we don’t have to sacrifice our happiness and wellbeing in the process. Once people learn to work and live in a more optimal way, not only they become happier, but also they sustain success for much longer.

21 May 2019
 


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Connecting the Dots Between Physical and Emotional Health

There’s a link between your emotional health and your physical well-being, so take time to nurture both.

To be completely healthy, you should take care not only of your physical health, but your emotional health, too. If one is neglected, the other will suffer.

What’s the Connection Between Emotional and Physical Health?

There’s a physical connection between what the mind is thinking and those parts of the brain that control bodily functions. According to Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine in New York City, the brain is intimately connected to our endocrine system, which secretes hormones that can have a powerful influence on your emotional health. “Thoughts and feelings as they are generated within the mind [can influence] the outpouring of hormones from the endocrine system, which in effect control much of what goes on within the body,” says Dr. Goodstein.

“As a matter of fact, it’s very probable that many patients who go to their physician’s office with physical complaints have underlying depression,” he says. People who visit their doctors reporting symptoms of headache, lethargy, weakness, or vague abdominal symptoms often end up being diagnosed with depression, even though they do not report feelings of depression to their doctors, says Goodstein.

While unhappy or stressed-out thoughts may not directly cause poor physical health, they may be a contributing factor and may explain why one person is suffering physically while someone else is not, Goodstein adds.

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How Exactly Does the Mind Affect the Body?

There are many ways in which the mind has a significant impact on the body. Here are a few:

  • Chronic illness and depression Depression has been shown to increase the risk for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, according to an article published in 2013 in the Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. A review of studies on diabetes and depression, published in August 2015 in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, found that depression put people at a 41 percent higher risk for the condition. Researchers aren’t yet clear on how mental health influences physical health, but according to a study published in September 2017 in the journal Psychiatria Danubina, it may be that depression affects the immune system, and that habits associated with depression, such as poor diet or lack of physical activity, may create conditions for illness to occur.
  • Depression and longevity According to a review published in June 2014 in World Psychiatry, many major mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of death. Another study, published in October 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests that those with depression may have life spans from about 7 to 18 years shorter than the general population.
  • Physical symptoms of emotional health distress People who are clinically depressed often have physical symptoms, such as constipation, lack of appetite, insomnia, or lethargy, among others.
  • White-coat syndrome This is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure increases the minute they step into a doctor’s office. In white-coat syndrome, anxiety is directly related to physical function — blood pressure. “If you extrapolate from that, you can say, what other kinds of anxieties are these people having that are producing jumps in blood pressure? What is the consequence of repeated stress?” asks Goodstein.

And on the other hand: “Those individuals who have achieved a level of mental health where they can manage better the inevitable conflicts of human life are more likely to prevail in certain kinds of physical illness,” says Goodstein.

How Should You Care for Your Emotional and Physical Well-Being?

It’s hard to do, but slowing down and simplifying routines can go a long way to strengthening your mental and physical health.

  • Eat right. A healthy, regular diet is good for the body and mind.
  • Go to bed on time. Losing sleep is hard on your heart, may increase weight, and definitely cranks up the crankiness meter.
  • If you fall down, get back up. Resilience in the face of adversity is a gift that will keep on giving both mentally and physically.
  • Go out and play. Strike a balance between work and play. Yes, work is a good thing: It pays the bills. However, taking time out for relaxation and socializing is good for your emotional health and your physical health.
  • Exercise. A study published in October 2017 in Reviews in the Neurosciences shows that exercise improves your mood and has comprehensive benefits for your physical health.
  • See the right doctor, regularly. Going to the right doctor can make all the difference in your overall health, especially if you have a complicated condition that requires a specialist. But if your emotions are suffering, be open to seeing a mental health professional, too.

Total health depends on a healthy mind and body. Take time to nurture both.

By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Kathryn Keegan, MD
11/14/2017


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If you’re going to do one thing for a healthier 2017, choose one of these

Welcome to a new year filled with hopes for a healthy, happy 2017. The same resolutions are thrown around each year – lose weight, save money, and spend more time with family, for example.

Canadians from coast-to-coast may want to lead a healthier life, but don’t know where to get started. Global News asked leading health experts and organizations to pick the top priority they’d like Canadians to focus on for the year ahead.

Focus on your behaviours, not the numbers on the scale

Hide the scale. Losing weight and keeping it off is always a challenge. However, simply focusing on improving your diet, increasing your physical activity levels, getting enough sleep and feeling better about yourself can lead to important health improvements even with no – or very little – weight loss.

But remember, it is easier to achieve and sustain behavioural goals when they are specific, realistic, and measureable.

Also, it is better to focus on changing one behaviour at a time rather than trying to change everything at once.

– Arya Sharma, scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network

Get a pulse on your mental health and well-being

Mental health is key to well-being. It affects every single aspect of your daily life. Maintaining your mental health is a lot like staying physically fit: it requires a little effort, but the rewards are worth it.

Get into the habit of learning to recognize and express your emotions – without awareness it’s difficult to pinpoint why you are so stressed or having problems coping.

– Patrick Smith, national CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association

Break a sweat

A healthy lifestyle helps prevent 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke – leading killers of Canadians. The easiest way to reduce your risk is to get moving. Walk, dance, play a sport, take the stairs – make it fun! Even if you don’t have extra time, short rounds of exercise add up: 10 minutes is enough to get real cardiovascular benefits. Over time, you’ll work up to 30 minutes of daily physical activity at a moderate intensity. Repeat five days a week.

– Diego Marchese, CEO of Heart & Stroke

Think of the mental health of your loved ones

Operate on the statistically safe assumption that someone you know – a family member, friend, neighbour, fellow student, or coworker – is currently struggling with some form of mental illness. Take a moment to think about who that person is and then reflect on how you have responded to their experience of illness. Ask yourself if your response was different than it would have been if he or she had a broken leg or a cancer diagnosis. And if there is indeed a difference, then consider how you might support them differently.

The reality is that mental illness can be an isolating, even humiliating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Connecting makes a difference and enriches a relationship – it can relieve the sense of being alone and provide comfort, help and reassurance.

– David S. Goldbloom, senior medical advisor at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Add healthy cues to your environment

Look around your workplace, car or anywhere you might be eating. Are there cues like candy bowls and cookie jars? Redesign your environment to nudge yourself towards nourishing choices. For example, put a bowl or fruit or cut up vegetables on the counter and keep all other foods in the fridge or cupboards. Keep a reusable water bottle on your desk so it’s ready for sipping instead of sugary drinks.

– Andrea D’Ambrosio, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitians of Canada

Plan your meals

Meal planning is a vital part of healthy eating and makes you happy as there will be less stress around weekday meals. It saves time by eliminating the deliberation when you’re trying to decide what’s for dinner. It will also save you money as you’ll only shop for ingredients you need on your plan. Finally, it saves calories.

When you arrive home from work, you’re less likely to mindlessly munch when you know what is planned for dinner. Keep menu planning simple – set aside 30 minutes before grocery shopping to survey the family. Bookmark favourite meals and reuse them weekly.

– Jaclyn Pritchard, registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Canada in Toronto

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Schedule quality time with your family

Spending time with the family is essential to the health and well-being of both children and adults. Focus on your children by playing their favourite games with them, encouraging conversation by asking about their day at school, and showing interest in their ideas and activities. Share mealtime as an important way to connect and unwind at the end of a busy day.

Even when family members are off in different directions with school, work and activities, be sure to come together at the table at least once a week.

Decide on specific times when everyone’s electronic devices will be turned off. When you’re unplugged, get active – play games like tag, go for a walk, or sled in park.

– Staff at the Canadian Paediatric Society

Reduce your alcohol consumption

Lower your long-term health risks by staying within average levels of alcohol consumption. For women, the recommended daily serving is less than 10 ounces. With today’s wine glasses, your pour should be less than a third of the glass. For men, if you like to try the latest craft beers, keep it to two tall cans.

Always have some non-drinking days each week to minimize tolerance and habit formation.

– Dr. Granger Avery, president of the Canadian Medical Association

Quit smoking for one week

Quit smoking for a week, and then a month, and then a year and beyond. But start with that first week. Setting that small goal can help you with your longer-term goals, and everytime you quit – even if you don’t succeed – you learn more about how to quit successfully. Research shows that if you can quit for one week, you are nine times more likely to quit for the long haul. In some provinces, it could even win you $500 from the Smokers’ Helpline’s First Week Challenge Contest.

Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health. Within 10 years of quitting, an ex-smoker’s overall risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.

– John Atkinson, director of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers’ Helpline

Don’t fall for gimmicks

Rather than fall prey to this year’s crop of fad diets, or worrying about a particular probiotic, nutrient or scary sounding chemical, focus instead on the bigger picture. Set a goal of cooking more from fresh whole ingredients and eating them around a table free from distraction. Reduce your restaurant usage. Aim for better nights’ sleeps. Cultivate healthy relationships with your friends and family. Don’t drink alcohol to excess and reduce your consumption of all sources of liquid calories. Do those things well and avoid news about the latest fad diet.

– Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute

Feed your brain

Do more physical activity, not for your waistline but for your brain. It gets blood pumping which helps your brain to function as well as possible. The increased blood flow nourishes your brain’s cells with nutrients and oxygen. It also encourages the development of new cells, all factors in reducing your risk of stroke.

Your brain is like your heart. They’re both muscles that need to be given a workout to stay healthy. Challenge your mind with exercise training, learning a new language or joining a book club, as examples.

– Larry Chambers, scientific advisor for the Alzheimer Society of Canada

Take a small step, master it, then take on another

Many of us are familiar with the best intentions of starting off the year with lofty goals when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle – followed by the enthusiasm of resolutions declining a few weeks after.

Take a step back and think of something you can realistically and comfortably accomplish when it comes to exercise, your diet, weight management or stress – and you will be more likely to stick to it.

Try incorporating 15 minutes of physical activity to your routine just a few days a week, and as you progress, move to 30 minutes. When you’ve made that into a habit, remove sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet, for example.

– Joanne Lewis, director of healthy eating and nutrition programming at the Canadian Diabetes Association

Ease your mind and treat yourself

Pace yourself at work. Try not to check your work emails after hours, truly disconnect.

Just like the 12 days of Christmas, practice 12 days of self-care in 2017.

Go for a walk, ski or snowshoe in the woods, treat yourself to a latte, book a massage, take a yoga class or volunteer. Don’t forget that doing something for others not only makes them feel good, but can lift your spirits.

– The Mental Health Commission of Canada

By Carmen Chai
National Online Journalist, Health Global News
carmen.chai@globalnews.ca
source: globalnews.ca


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What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t

When asked the question: “Do you take care of yourself?” most of us will answer yes — we’d even think, “What kind of question is this? Of course I care about myself.”

When asked, “In what ways do you take care of yourself?” — well, that’s where the tricky part begins.

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although it’s a simple idea in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also keep to a good relationship with oneself and others.

What isn’t self-care?

Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. As Agnes Wainman defined, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”

Self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering our needs; it is rather about knowing what we need to do in order to take care of ourselves, being subsequently, able to take care of others as well. That is, if I don’t take enough care of myself, I won’t be in the place to give to my loved ones either.

In a few words, self-care is the key to living a balanced life.

Where do you start? Well, there are 3 golden rules:

  • Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.
  • Self-care needs to be something you actively plan on, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.
  • What I often emphasize to my clients is that keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels and what the outcomes are.
Healthy-Lifestyle

Although self-care means different things to different people, there’s a basic checklist which can be followed by all of us:

  • Create a “no” list, with things you know you don’t like or you no longer want to do. E.g. Not checking emails at night, not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during lunch/dinner.
  • Promote a nutritious, healthy diet.
  • Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Exercise. In contrast to what many people think, exercise is as good for our emotional health as it is for our physical health. It increases serotonin levels, leading to improved mood and energy. In line with the self-care conditions, what’s important is that you choose a form of exercise that you like!
  • Follow-up with medical care. It is not unusual to put off checkups or visits to the doctor.
  • Use relaxation exercises and/or practice meditation. You can do these exercises at any time of the day; in the morning, when anxious, before going to sleep.
  • Spend enough time with your loved ones.
  • Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether this is taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding yourself.
  • Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking or meeting with friends.
  • Look for opportunities to laugh!

Set up a 15-day self-care routine and see how you feel before and after. And never forget: As with everything, self-care takes practice!

 By Raphailia Michael, MA

About Raphailia Michael, MA
Raphailia Michael is a licensed Counselling Psychologist, qualified in Cyprus, Slovenia and the Netherlands. She runs an online practice working with people from all over the world, as well as a practice in Cyprus where she offers face-to-face sessions, workshops, skills groups and group therapy. Raphailia works with a variety of symptoms in a humanistic and integrative way, drawing on the perspectives of Person-centered approach, Narrative therapy, CBT, DBT, and Mindfulness. Her goal is to help her clients through their journey towards self-empowerment, self-acceptance and a more fulfilling life. More information can be obtained through www.raphailiamichael.com.


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9 Things Success-Oriented People Do

It’s a long journey. Here’s how to get started.

Posted Aug 08, 2015

Each of us can probably name an “overnight” success story, but most successful people actually spend countless hours nurturing and caring for their beloved projects. Many people assume that most successful people have things handed to them or that it comes with little effort. What is less obvious, however, is that they more typically become successful because of what they practice.

Here are 9 things that success-oriented people practice:

1. They are prepared for the journey. And they know the journey is an expedition rather than a stroll. Along the way, they encounter obstacles that no one warned them about, walk down poorly lit paths and discover a great deal about themselves.

2. They see everything as an opportunity. They even see rejection as an opportunity for personal and/or professional growth. Their strength comes from knowing that rejection is not the end of the world, and understanding how to use it. This is why success-oriented people don’t panic when they see an obstacle; they have confidence that they will work through the challenge.

3. They ask important questions. And the questions they ask themselves are far more important than the ones anyone asks them, questions like: Who do I want to reach? Is this goal serving a higher purpose? Who can I ask for honest feedback? What keeps me motivated?

4. They practice balance. They know they are on a journey and that self-care is critical. They realize that things can began to go sideways if they focus too much on just one issue. Going back to the expedition metaphor, success-oriented people know that if they use all of their energy to climb one hill and don’t properly pace themselves, they will run out of “fuel” to complete journey. In other words, they take breaks and participate in non-work related activities.

goals

5. They know that the core values of determination, discipline, perseverance, and hard work produce golden results. Many people want instant results, but it’s thoughtful, well-planned intentions that carry successful people to the finish line.

6. They are fully aware of their blind spots. They are open and ready to ask for help in areas that they haven’t mastered. They know that others can see things they can’t, and that sharing different perspectives provides new opportunities for growth.

7. They are always a student. They may be reading, doing independent research or engaging in new conversations, but their Number One goal in these activities is to learn. They know that they are responsible for laying the foundation for their success, and this growth comes from broadening their knowledge base.

8. They are not caught up in labels or status symbols. They know that golden opportunities are sometimes the ones others overlook or don’t see as popular. Success-oriented people know that a brand name isn’t always the best value for their business. They know what is the best fit.

9. They practice gratitude. They adopt this practice as part of their daily habits. They are grateful not only for career accomplishments but also for any help that they receive along the way. They are quick to say a sincere “Thank you” to those who offer them support.

Success comes in many different forms
and opening your perspective about
it can shape your path.

Kristin Meekhof is a licensed master’s level social worker. She graduated from Kalamazoo College with a major in psychology and completed the master in social work program at the University of Michigan. She is the author of the forthcoming book, “A Widow’s Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice for the First 5 Years.”


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12 Commandments for a Happy Life and Soul

Posted: 08/18/2015    Elyse Santilli

1. Choose happiness. Radiate it.

Happiness is a choice and an energy you can cultivate on a daily basis. Do your best to live in high vibration energy like love, peace, fun and joy — for your own wellbeing and fulfillment, and for the positive ripple effect it has on those around you and the entire world. Bring a sense of play, delight, awe and enthusiasm to your daily life and tasks. Decide that no matter what happens, you will keep your heart open.

2. Enjoy the pleasures of life.

You are the Universe experiencing itself through you. Show it a good time. Give it to yourself to enjoy earthly pleasures. Get up early and watch a sunrise, swim in the ocean, devour fresh salads and juices, put on your favorite tunes, throw a dinner party, try a new recipe, relax in the park with a great book, have a second coffee, and do the things that make you feel fully alive.

3. Make empowered choices.

You don’t have control over everything in life but you do have control over your choices. Make choices that are loving and kind to you. Feel good about your choices. Make them with the right energy – wholeheartedness, joy and permission. Use permissive verbs – I can do this; I choose this.

4. Live in gratitude.

Gratitude is deceptively simple yet incredibly powerful. It makes what you have today enough, while also attracting more great things into your life. Say thank you numerous times a day. Thank you for fresh air, blue skies, rain drops, nourishing food, warm clothes, loved ones, and life itself.

5. Own your gifts.

You are the only you in the history of humankind. There will never again be anyone else like you – with your unique and magical blend of talents, passions, quirks, ideas and energy. When you think of how many sliding doors moments and events in history had to happen for you to be here today, you may realize for a moment how incredibly precious and worthy you are. Shine your light. Own your gifts. Share your true authentic self with the world.

6. Listen to your heart.

Become less centered in your circling thoughts and more centered in your heart and soul. When you can listen to your own soul instead of the noise of the world, you’ve mastered your life. Your inner guide will always tell you where to go, what to do, what to say, and to whom. Your soul knows exactly what is needed for your own highest good, growth and happiness. Following your bliss is a reasonable action plan for your life, because when you do, you open the floodgate to ideas, energy and inspiration.

7. Be creative and curious.

Make time for soul journaling, dancing, art, creating, adventuring, and solo dates to get to know yourself better. Mix up your routine, try new activities, walk the untrodden path, and open your circle to new people. When you do, you become more present and alive, because you can no longer rely on your default autopilot half-asleep mode. Have endless curiosity towards life, and positive expectations.

namaste

8. Take care of yourself.

You are a worthy, divine spiritual being. Treat yourself accordingly. The more you take care of and support yourself, the more you can take care of and support others. Nourish yourself with nutritious foods, water, movement, meditation and sleep. Fill your cup until it overflows onto others.

7. Commit to self-love.

Your relationship with yourself is the most important one of your life. How you treat yourself will have a profound impact on your relationship with others, as well as your level of success and happiness. Treat yourself like you would a best friend or loved one. Place your hand on your heart daily and tell yourself you are loved and accepted. Remind yourself ‘I love you’ whenever you are feeling anxious, ungrounded or inadequate. Remember you are always enough.

8. Be present and mindful.

The only time you can truly experience life is now. Leave those circling thoughts, worries and daydreams alone for a minute and check out what joys and opportunities are surrounding you in the present moment. Give each task your full love, energy and attention. Connect with your senses throughout the day as a window into the present. Drop into your being and make presence your natural state. Give yourself wholeheartedly to each moment. Hold nothing back.

9. Remember measure and balance.

The sage walks the middle path, away from the extremes. There is a time for action and a time for rest. A time for giving and a time for receiving. A time for speaking and a time for silence. A time for indulging and a time for holding off. Balance the areas of your life – calling and career, love and relationships, wealth, leisure and lifestyle, wellbeing and spirituality – in line with your values.

10. Creation over reaction.

You are a powerful creator. Spend less time complaining about how things are and more time deciding how you would like them to be — and then take inspired action to make it so. Embody the energy of having what you desire in advance of it arriving. Act, dress, walk, talk and make decisions as your ideal self. Keep your eyes on your vision, not the illusions around you. They are yesterday’s creations.

11. Adopt Namaste consciousness.

Bless others and soul-salute them as you pass by. Remember the light within you is the same light within them – we’re all just souls wearing different costumes. We’re also operating at different levels of consciousness, so show compassion and practice forgiveness. See everyone as a flower — unique and beautiful in their own way. Replace judgment with acceptance, respect and love.

12. Think give.

Wake up and ask yourself: how can I serve today? How can I embody love? How can I bring joy? How can I leave this world a better place? Have a spirit of service as you go about your day. Be a blessing, good company, an inspiration to others. You get more of what you give, so if you lack love, joy or abundance, find a way to help others find it. It will return to you a hundredfold.

Elyse is a writer, life coach and happiness teacher at NotesOnBliss.com and the creator of the Beautiful Life Bootcamp online course. She teaches people to align with their inner spirit, design a life they love, and expand their happiness and inner peace.