Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Leave a comment

The Neuroscience of Bad Habits and Why It’s Not About Will Power

Why are bad habits so hard to break? What if the bumper sticker “Just Say No!” actually works against us? If willpower were the answer to breaking bad habits then we  decisionswouldn’t have drug addiction or obesity. There’s something going on in our brains where we literally lose the ability for self-control, but all hope isn’t lost.

Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls the phrase “Just Say No!” “magical thinking.”

It appears that dopamine is one of the main chemicals regulating the pleasure center of the brain. At the most basic level, it regulates motivation — it sends signals to receptors in the brain saying, “This feels good!”

Whether you’re a heroin addict and you see an association to heroin, you’re a caffeine addict and you see a cup of coffee, you’re a Smartphone addict and you see another person pick up their phone, or if you’re hungry and you see some good-looking food, your brain rushes with dopamine and that is now caught on brain-scanning machines.

The fascinating thing is that Volkow has found that  the images alone affect the rise of dopamine in our brains. So if we pass a McDonald’s and see the arches, our brain associates that with a tasty hamburger (for some) and shoots up dopamine. That good feeling will unconsciously drive the motivation to go in and get a Big Mac. It’s a conditioned response. The same goes for anything including most likely our relationships to our phones.

A blue button with the word Change on it

What can we do?

It makes sense why more and more addiction centers are integrating mindfulness into their curriculum. Mindfulness practice has been shown to activate the prefrontal cortex and cool down the amygdala. This gives us the ability to widen the space between stimulus and response where choice lies and access possibilities and opportunities we didn’t know were there before. This is crucial when it comes to our addictive behaviors to take a step back, “think through the drink” and recognize the various options that lie before us.

We can learn to step into the pause, notice the sensation of the urge that’s there and as the late Alan Marlatt, Ph.D. said, “surf the urge” as it peaks, crests and falls back down like a wave in the ocean.

One place to start is to just get curious about the pull you feel to whatever you think you’re compulsive with. An easy one besides some of the arguably more destructive habits (drugs, alcohol) is our phones.

Today, be on the lookout for what cues you to check your app. Do you see someone else doing it? Are you waiting somewhere and there’s something uncomfortable about waiting? Is it a certain time of day or place?

Training your brain to recognize this cue can help you get some space from it to ask, “What do I really want to pay attention to right now? What matters?” As we get better at recognizing that space between stimulus and response and making the choices that run alongside our values, like riding a bike, it will start to come more naturally.

Just because our brains have been altered by our compulsive behaviors, doesn’t mean we’re destined to fall into the same habits. With the right skills, community and support we can learn how to break out of routine and into a life worth living.

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. 
 
Advertisements


4 Comments

8 Things Mentally Healthy People Do Differently

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is importance at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” – U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Most times when we hear something, anything, being discussed about mental health, the context is usually negative. For example, we’ll often watch news anchors explain that some violent act was committed by someone known to have “mental health issues.” Less frequently discussed are the positive aspects of mental health – something that we’d like to focus on today. We believe this to be important, as research shows a steady increase in the proliferation of mental health problems.

More specifically, we discuss how mentally healthy people think.

The rationale for this article is to provide a common set of psychological traits in “mentally healthy” people; traits which can then be used as a sort-of “benchmark” for gaining potential insight into our own mental health.

First, three important side notes: (1) nobody is perfectly healthy, neither physically or mentally, (2) this piece is written for entertainment purposes, and (3) should you believe that you suffer from a psychological disorder, it is recommended to seek out help or talk to someone.

HERE ARE EIGHT THINGS MENTALLY HEALTHY PEOPLE DO DIFFERENTLY:

1. THEY HAVE A POSITIVE SOCIAL CIRCLE

Steven Joyal, M.D., and vice president of scientific affairs and medical development at a non-profit mental health research institute, states: “The idea that social interaction is important to mental and physical health has been hinted at and studied for years.”

Per a meta-study conducted at Brigham Young University, which analyzed 148 studies of over 300,000 subjects, a positive social circle has a direct effect on mortality. Researchers concluded that this positive correlation is a direct reflection on the intangible benefits of an active social circle – namely, a circle that counteracts stress through comfort and companionship.

2. THEY ARE PROACTIVE, RATHER THAN REACTIVE

The inclination to consistently improve oneself, as opposed to simply reacting to environmental stimuli, is directly connected to mental health. Having a proactive mindset displays self-awareness and a willingness to work towards a long-term goal.

In short, a proactive mindset manifests into a positive mind state, while a reactive mindset demonstrates a lack of self-control – a trait that often evolves into problems with mental health.

3. THEY CARE FOR THEIR BODY

Understanding that one’s body is directly connected to one’s mind is a vital piece of knowledge. A physically active lifestyle is an ubiquitous tendency among those with a healthy state of mind.

Combining a physically active lifestyle with healthy dietary habits is a clear indication that one is mentally healthy. Those that lack either are more prone to mental health issues.

woman universe

4. THEY POSSESS GOOD EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is simply the ability to understand emotions and their subsequent impacts on mind and body. Capably interpreting what’s going on inside your mind and body subsequently enables you to do something about them.

5. THEY ARE SELF-GUIDED AND PRODUCTIVE

Being able to guide yourself in a positive way is a surefire sign of mental health. People with mental health problems are often a “victim” of their circumstances. In contrast, mentally healthy people are able to understand their situation and make something positive happen.

If you’re setting goals and making them part of your daily life, you are likely both disciplined and mentally-healthy. Giving way to instant gratification and/or always feeling lethargic may indicate a problem.

6. THEY’RE IN CONTROL OF THEIR BEHAVIOR

The rare ability to resist most temptations and negative impulses is a sign of mental health. Why? Because to do so requires self-knowledge, resilience, and willpower; three attributes commonly absent within those with a mental health problem.

Furthermore, you’re able to consistently adhere to a positive routine. This is important, as a positive routine is often an indication of a positive state of mind.

7. THEY ACCEPT THEMSELVES FOR WHO THEY ARE

Sadly, many people with a negative self-image often succumb to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Having a positive (not necessarily a “high”) sense of self-worth often indicates a healthy state of mind.

It’s important to understand that we all have things we wish to improve upon. The difference lies in the reaction to such desires. Mentally healthy people will devise a plan, whilst those not so healthy will remain in a static state of mind.

Which leads us to the final item on this list…

8. THEY HAVE EXCELLENT SELF-REALIZATION SKILLS

The current “situation,” whether good or bad, great or terrible, is more astutely interpreted in those with a healthy state of mind. It’s not altogether more uncommon for a mentally healthy person to find themselves in a bad scenario; they just recognize it sooner and take the appropriate, more productive actions.

Those in a negative state of mind – be it “mentally ill” or whatever – are less likely to realize the adverse situation and do something about it.

SOURCES:
CASSERLY, M. (2010, AUGUST 24). FRIENDS WITH HEALTH BENEFITS. RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 06, 2017, FROM HTTP://WWW.FORBES.COM/2010/08/24/HEALTH-RELATIONSHIPS-LONGEVITY-FORBES-WOMAN-WELL-BEING-SOCIAL-ISOLATION.HTML
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?. (N.D.). RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 06, 2017, FROM HTTPS://WWW.MENTALHEALTH.GOV/BASICS/WHAT-IS-MENTAL-HEALTH/


3 Comments

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone, Now

By: Jordyn Cormier     June 5, 2016

We all strive for comfort constantly: softer chairs, bigger cars, more easily prepared meals. But our endless quest for comfort is harmful. Over time, the fortress of comfort we build around ourselves begins to strangle our happiness.

When we fall into the security of comfort—be it a cushy job, an intimate relationship or a steady routine—we gradually begin to lose that vibrancy, that creative spark that drives us to seek out new experiences. But life, at its core, is about experience and energy. It is what drives us. Would you rather spend your adventure on this planet safely watching a fancy television or would you rather do something memorable and amazing that makes you a little uneasy?

Stop claiming you’re too busy.

Experience is one of the greatest gifts life has to offer. But, so many of us shy away from them out of fear or uncertainty. We are afraid to leave the pink, fuzzy walls of our comfort fortress.

Work and ‘busyness’ are too often utilized as a veil to protect us from anything new and uncomfortable. In fact, each of us almost certainly has something we have wanted to do, only to keep putting off until the perpetual tomorrow because we are too busy right now. Busyness is an excuse to stall your hopes and dreams. Your schedule should not control you. You control your life.

Maybe you want to take dance classes, but feel too out of shape for an open class. Perhaps you want to go back to school, but feel too old. Or, you want to travel to Patagonia and fly fish for a month… Guess what, you’re not too busy, old or out of shape for anything. And once you push past the fear of novel discomfort, you’ll begin to enjoy yourself and thrive.

comfort-is-the-enemy-of-achievement

Embrace discomfort.   

Speaking of the concept of comfort, I write this from inside a crunchy, frost-glazed tent, in the middle of the Rocky Mountains at around 11,000 feet. This is my latest location on my solo cross country road trip. Considering comfort, one thing is for certain—I am currently, in every sense of the word, not comfortable. I am shivering much more than I’d prefer (a classic form of physical discomfort, although not necessarily what we are discussing here. It’s nothing some hot black coffee won’t fix in the morning).

More importantly, this adventure fills me with discomfort on a very regular basis. Every new city I visit fills me with a sense of uncertainty as I scramble to find lodging and friendly faces. The start of every new experience makes me question every decision I’ve made. Every time a mass of clutter spills out of my hatchback makes me miss the days when I had a closet and wasn’t so dependent on my car for survival.

But, even now, beneath my flimsy sleeping bag and six layers of wool and down, breath coalescing into tiny clouds around me, I feel an empowering sense of fulfillment. Yes, I long for a warm bed and a good night of sleep. But, I do not long for the monotony of routine. I’ve met incredible people, seen breathtaking landscapes and done things by myself I never thought I would have the courage to do in a zillion years. Being a little cold and a little uneasy—in other words, embracing discomfort—is a small price to pay for the pure joy of living life.

Take the plunge. 

I am absolutely not saying you have to go pitch a tent in the mountains, strategically set up between plops of frozen Grizzly bear poop. That is not for everyone. But, it is important to allow yourself to drift outside of your standard comfort zone so that you can continue to grow as an authentic human being.

Stop hiding behind your busyness and take time to think about what you want out of life. A lot of us drift through our days on autopilot, which is much easier than pushing yourself and confronting your insecurities. I urge you, push your perceived boundaries. Go do that thing you’ve always wanted to do… today! Go sign up for a month of dance classes! Go make time in your schedule for that trip you want to take! Go see that new movie even though you have no one to go with! You’ll walk away with a more enlightened perception of your life, and, most importantly, a sense of empowerment and joy.

The best experiences in life make us uncomfortable at first. But, when that discomfort subsides, that is when true, passionate living begins.


1 Comment

10 Everyday Habits To Make You A Calmer Person

Have you ever taken the time to observe a naturally calm person?

They’re a sight to behold — the way they glide through the day with ease, not rushed and exuding quiet confidence. I imagine you envy them as I do.

Truly calm people are a rare and exotic species that you can learn a lot from. Learn their common behaviors and attitudes, and you too can become an expert in responding to everyday stress and frustrations.

Here are 10 habits of naturally calm people:

1. They choose to walk.

To meetings across town, the shops up the road or to exercise their dog, calm people walk every day.

Get off the bus or train a stop early if you have to. This simple leg-stretching, head-clearing activity is mandatory for serenity.

2. They forgo rushing.

They leave plenty of time to get where they’re going, and they don’t cram too much in. If misadventure strikes, they drop something off their list, reschedule it, or they get there when they get there and apologize graciously.

Rushing disturbs the peace and has no value. Be determined to quit this noxious habit.

3. They prioritize self-care.

Sufficient sleep, good nutrition and physical activity are nonnegotiable for them. These essentials are not sacrificed for a deadline or anything else.

Make them the backbone of your day and you stand a good chance at the composure you crave.

4. They use routines.

Calm people minimize the strain on their working memory by doing some things the same way every day. Morning rituals, weekly wardrobe, meal plans or whatever, much of their day is predetermined.

Operating on autopilot will minimize decision-making and ease day-to-day pressure.

patience-is-the-calm

5. They practice being in the moment.

Most calm buffs meditate, do yoga, tai chi or other formal meditative practice. Others are able to pay attention and be fully present in their own chosen mindful activity.

Choose surfing, gardening or reading with your kids, but be diligent and practice regularly to get the stress reduction effect.

6. They use their phones judiciously.

Calm people are not at the mercy of their phones. They relegate them to their appropriate use as an intermittent tool for work and communication, maybe a source of music or news.

You will not achieve peace or poise in your life while your phone continues to dominate your day.

7. They self-regulate and exercise healthy boundaries.

They are self-aware and responsive to their mental, physical and emotional state. They take breaks, stretch and snack, or let off steam as required. Self-discipline and assertiveness enables them to say no, to ask for help and to stop work at a reasonable hour.

Practice tuning in and asserting your needs within yourself and with others, and enjoy feeling more in control.

8. They expect things to go awry.

Their unflappable nature comes from a deep knowing that life is unpredictable. They do not expect things to go to plan and they are ready to adjust to whatever the day throws their way.

By all means have a plan but be ready to change it at any moment.

9. They connect with the world authentically and meaningfully.

The calm person engages at some point each day in activity that is not about success, money or mere time-passing. An exchange with a stranger, a call with a parent, somewhere, there will be worthwhile connection. In cooking, gardening, any creative pursuit (including parenting and relationship development), somewhere there will be passion and care.

Remember what matters to you and honor it daily.

10. They embrace their small place in the world.

Their greater contentment is borne of their knowing their tiny place in the universe. They remain aware of the world beyond themselves — this prevents self-absorption.

They take their work and responsibilities seriously, but not themselves. They do not carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Along side meditation, service to others (through work, volunteering or caring for another) is a common way to gain this healthy perspective. It breeds self-compassion, gratitude and resilience.

Dedicate a good portion of your day to focusing on others and emulate their steady outlook.

All of these behaviors and attitudes are within your grasp, even though it may not be easy to make them a habit tomorrow — start small and start now and enjoy all the calm you deservedly achieve.

by Jacqueline Stone      March 5, 2015        source: www.mindbodygreen.com


1 Comment

5 Ways to Ensure Your Vibration Stays High

JULY 30, 2015 

Once we attain our goals we feel fulfilled. Finally our dream has been achieved. But what do you notice ….

It slowly starts evaporating once we touch it. You want more, right? Newer, bigger, better, faster, different. That is our motto. Your mind constantly dangles a carrot in front of you with the promise of future satisfaction.

But as soon as you bite it, another one pops up that seems even more delicious than the first one. The self-perpetuating play of chasing your desires. And so the eternal search continues … If only we could keep that cherished feeling a bit longer.

But how is it that we are never satisfied with what we have over a longer period of time?

Hedonistic adaptation

The answer lies in what in ‘hedonistic adaptation’. Hedonistic adaptation is the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable base level of happiness, despite major positive/negative events.

Hedonistic adaptation has an evolutionary origin. We humans adapt fast. That used to be a good thing.

Imagine yourself being thrown back to the cavemen –era, thrown in the wild with little protection and constant danger. It was more useful then to pay attention to new things, stimuli and changes in the environment which could be potentially life-threatening.

It didn’t really pay off to only appreciate and reflect on the things you have and sit down in perfect bliss. That would NOT be an ideal strategy back then.

That’s why our brain is wired to focus on novel things and change in the environment and short-term strategies to survive.

Hedonistic adaptation has an upside (we can get over bad things quickly), but also a downside (but also the good things). It follows that appreciation, satisfaction and gratitude often doesn’t come automatically for us, but takes conscious effort. But why is this so?

Social comparison

Humans are social creatures. The rating your give your happiness is in large part made in comparison to others. Humans don’t have a set happiness point.

Suppose I give you two options:

a) I give you a raise of 300 dollars and your colleges 100 dollars or

b) I give you a raise of 400 dollars and your colleges 500 dollars.

Which one would you choose?

Well … the logical thing would be to choose for the last option. You actually earn more than in the first option.

But researchers have actually tested this and came to the conclusion that people are happier in the first scenario. We compare ourselves to the average in our environment. You judge from the environment where you live right now.

We are happy … but in comparison to others.

This also explains why income inequality is a bigger predictor of unhappiness than the gross national product once a basic level of basic survival needs is reached.

So how can you make happiness last longer?

#1. Reflect on where you already are

If you reflect on good things that you have and gained, it automatically cultivates more optimism and a positive mood. You see the bigger picture and notice things that by now you have taken for granted. We start framing our reality in a new way.

It’s the same thing what a lot of painters do. They see the extraordinary in the ordinary. They bring forward elements and focus our attention on things that we normally don’t notice anymore, because we are used to it.

raise_your_vibration

#2. Look back at the progress you’ve made

We look at ourselves through the situation at the present moment. The current standards and beliefs we hold. The goals we achieved and the progress we’ve made.

When you first start out lifting weights, you advance a lot. You quickly raise the bar higher. You immediately notice the changes, feel good and proud about yourself.

But if you see yourself in the mirror each day …. you fail to notice the results. You’re thinking from the perspective of the person who you are right now, instead of the person who you’ve been. Although that person would be enormously grateful with how you look right now.

It takes an old friend who you haven’t seen for a while to realize how much you’ve changed. You are constantly pushing your limits. Focusing on a new point and a new horizon. But you never look back to notice what you already achieved. We keep on looking forward … toward a future that never comes.

Change mostly comes gradually. Day by day, step by step. But if you take a step each day and do that over a long period of time, you’ve traveled a long way.

But to see that you have to pause and reflect on the growth you achieved and the lessons you learned along the way. You can see the beauty of the path that guides you along your hero’s journey.

#3. Gratitude

Gratitude cultivates the act of appreciation. There is a lesson to be learned from everything. Every closed door opens a new door.

You need the bad to appreciate the good. Without that contrast you wouldn’t be able to judge experiences. There is no right belief. It comes down to choosing the most empowering beliefs that work for you, without hurting others.

Have gratitude towards others. You know how hard it is to give yourself gratitude. Imagine how you would feel when someone would give it to you.

When you start looking at life through that lens, life will have more meaning and possibilities. Problems can be viewed as obstacles … or challenges. How would you learn without making any mistake?

If we put our focus on what we do have, life doesn’t seem so bad. Shelter, tasty food and water, safety and a good health were once the things people prayed for. At the end of the day ask yourself the question ‘does this truly matter’?

Tip: Keep a gratitude journal. I write down the things I am grateful for just before I go to sleep. It brings peace to my day just before bedtime.

#4. Celebrate

Celebrate the (small) victories you’ve made. Pause for a second. Let it sink in. Sit back and enjoy. You have finally realized what you want. Isn’t that a reason to be happy?

It’s time to give yourself some congratulations and throw a party with some friends.

#5. Find variety and novelty in repetition

Humans are the only animals that are bored. Animals live in the present. Humans have the gift of self-consciousness with an ability to reflect on the past and the future.

To be happy, you have to find pleasure and variation in repetition. Because you easily get used to circumstances and activities it is very important to keep alternating them.

So you’ve got to use a timing that hinders habituation and to connect with the only moment that ever exists … the now.

By: Filip Van Houte


Leave a comment

8 Psych Tips For Changing Yourself And Other People

Psych tips for how to promote change in yourself.

Interested in a psychological tune-up — either for yourself or someone else?

Here are 8 tips from recent psych studies covered here on PsyBlog.

The first four tips below are about how to promote change in yourself.

Click through to page 2 to find out how to change other people (link at the bottom).

1. Self-affirmation opens the mind to change

When given advice about how to change, people are often automatically defensive, trying to justify their current behaviour.

A very simple exercise — self-affirmation — can open up people’s minds to behaviour change.

A self-affirmation exercise simply involves thinking about what’s important to you — it could be family, work, religion or anything that has particular meaning.

When people feel self-affirmed, they find it easier to accept the possibility of change.

2. The growth mindset

Believing it’s possible to grow and change is a vital step in promoting change.

In addition the researchers found that those who more strongly endorsed the idea that people can change also reported:

  • less stress,
  • lower anxiety,
  • feeling better about themselves,
  • and they were also in better physical health.

Psychologists call this a ‘growth mindset’.

3. Can your personality really change?

For many years personality psychologists gave the same answer as any pessimist: no, people’s personalities don’t change.

In the last 15 years, though, this view has shifted.

Instead of personality being set in stone at 30, now evidence is emerging that there is some change.

This study confirmed that people’s personalities do change, even over a two-year period.

Indeed the degree of personality change in those two years was equivalent to shifts in other demographic variables such as marital status, employment and income.

4. Just say ‘stop’

Here’s a little habit-change tip…

It may be possible to deliberately ‘forget’ long-standing habits, according to recent experiments carried out at Regensburg University in Germany.

They found that merely telling yourself to forget about a habit after performing it may prove helpful.

Habits

5. Three steps to help someone else change

Firstly, the person has to be open to the possibility of change.

People can be very defensive about their habits; behaviours or patterns of thought may have taken years to develop.

Secondly, be warm and supportive.

Remember you’re a helpful friend who is interested in their well-being but is still accepting who they are.

Thirdly, help them develop self-awareness.

A central feature of habits is that people perform them unconsciously and repeatedly in the same situations.

A vital step in changing a habit, then, is identifying the situation in which it occurs.

You can help other people identify the situations by gently pointing out what seems to prompt them to perform the habit.

[The full article is here.]

6. Let people convince themselves

Changing someone’s mind is just as hard as changing their behaviour.

But one useful tip is to use self-persuasion.

Let people talk themselves around to your point of view.

In this recent study, people were more convinced by a talk when they gave it themselves than when they merely heard it passively.

This suggests that we really are persuaded more strongly when we make the argument ourselves, even if it isn’t in line with our own viewpoint.

The same trick works with attitudes to smoking.

People are more put off smoking when they deliver an anti-smoking message than when they passively receive it.

Can you encourage someone to convince themselves to change?

7. The confirmation bias

One major psychological barrier to changing the mind is the confirmation bias.

The confirmation bias is the fact that people search for information that confirms their view of the world and ignore what doesn’t fit.

The way to fight the confirmation bias is simple to state but hard to put into practice.

You have to try and think up and test out alternative hypothesis.

Sounds easy, but it’s not in our nature.

It’s no fun thinking about why we might be misguided or have been misinformed.

Try to point out facts that don’t fit to the other person.

8. Eight steps to changing minds

Changing people’s minds isn’t just about telling them they are wrong; if only it were.

To be convinced people need to hear an alternative account.

This alternative needs to be short and sweet, it needs to be repeated, you need to attack the source of any misinformation and more…

→ Read all 8 ways to change people’s minds here.

source: PsyBlog