15 Unique 30-Day Challenges Guaranteed To Make You A Better You

15 Unique 30-Day Challenges Guaranteed To Make You A Better You

Today’s post is brought to you by Jeff Boss, Contributor on Forbes.com

The appeal of 30-day challenges is they offer just enough time for a new goal to be palatable yet long enough to be challenging. While many people wait until January to set their new year’s resolutions, the window of opportunity is always open for those who want to set new goals. In fact, the window never really closes because anytime is the right time to conjure up new aspirations and strive towards improvement.

To help spur new ideas for personal optimization, here are fifteen 30-day challenges designed to help make you a better You:

1. Avoid words with contractions for 30 days. What contractions do is highlight the negative, such as words like “can’t,” “won’t,” “shouldn’t.” Instead, flip the focus of that sentence around such that you focus on the positive rather than the negative. Here’s an example:

“I don’t want to go to dinner there” (negative) versus “I would rather go to dinner elsewhere” (positive). The purpose of this is to retrain your brain to look for the positive in everything rather than default to the negative.

 2. Set a “no expectation” rule for 30 days. What expectations do you have of yourself? Of others? What new views would you have if there were no expectations? What are the beliefs that constrain your expectations? How would your relationships with others change if you didn’t have expectations of them? Expectations are formed based on personal life experiences, upbringing, culture, religion, etc… When you suspend judgment for the moment, you open your mind to entirely new possibilities.

3. Start exercising within two minutes of [insert activity here] for 30 days. This could be anything ranging from waking up and putting on your running shoes immediately to checking into your hotel room and heading immediately for the gym. The goal here is to “rest later” by not giving yourself the option to procrastinate.

4. Create daily white space in your calendar for 30 days. What would you do if you had just an hour to yourself every day? Read a book? Exercise? Play with the kids? More so, how would that single hour impact your life for the better? The point here is that everybody has the same amount of time every day but not everybody has the same priorities. So how, then, do other people seem to have more time and get more things done? The answer is they know what their priorities are and how to stick to them. Make it a goal to set time for yourself and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel—and how much more you get accomplished as a result.

5. Eliminate sugar. This was extremely hard for me because sugar is in everything (and it tastes so good!). Studies indicate that sugar rots the teeth, impedes mental acuity, adds to obesity, increases chances of depression and serves as a stepping-stone towards diabetes. How’s that cupcake sound now?

6. Read everyday. While time is always a constant struggle (see #4), technology isn’t. Wait let me rephrase that. Technology abounds as does time, so leverage the accessibility that mobile apps and e-readers provide by downloading newspapers, magazines and books to your smartphone and reading whenever you can. Waiting in line for Starbucks? Read. Waiting in line for anything? Read. In other words, look for the little slivers of time throughout your day where you can optimize.

7. Listen intently for 30 days. Let your mind wander during conversation (but not in the “I’m no longer listening to you” way) rather than thinking of what to say next.

8. Keep a Quid Pro Quo log for 30 days. Keep track of how much you “give” versus how much you “get.” Aim to increase the former.

9. Journalize your decisions. This is a great way to build emotional intelligence as doing so will shed light on three different areas: 1) what leads to good or bad decisions; 2) what causes you to be decisive; 3) the emotions wielded as a result of your decisions.

 10. Change your taste buds in 30 days. No, the veggie tofu sesame wrap with sprouts doesn’t sound good—nor does it taste good—but there are significant health benefits (mental and physical) to eating for performance versus eating what tastes yummy. Taste buds can be trained; they’ll adapt to whatever you want them to like through repetition.

11. Keep a surprise journal. Along similar lines of #9, when you record surprises you reveal blind spots; lapses in vision or erroneous judgment. These are extremely valuable as you can reflect upon these surprises and ask yourself, “how could I have anticipated this sooner?”

 13. Increase your happiness in 30 days. Studies have shown that sharing positive moments at least three times a day will turn that frown upside down—for the long term. The Happier app allows you to do just this as well as learn from others what makes them happy.

14. Become a better speaker in 30 days. When you’re speaking to an audience and feel an “uh” or “mmm” coming on, take a breather. Just pause, slow down, and wait for your mind to catch up with your mouth (or vice versa). Taking this extra second will also instill greater confidence as a speaker.

15. Exercise for 30 days. No, not a 30 day boot camp of non-stop training but rather a month of planned exercise routines. Common exercise schedules are to follow a five days on, two days off or a three days on, one day off schedule.

Jeff is the author of Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty in Uncertain Situations and former Navy SEAL. 

www.ScullyFit.com

It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising!

Today’s post is brought to you by Harvard Health

It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising!

Exercise can ward off chronic disease and help you maintain your independence and mobility. But the older we get in the United States, the less active we are, according to a study published Sept. 16, 2016, in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers analyzed data from a 2014 national health survey, focusing on adults ages 50 or older. Over all, about 28% of those people had not exercised in a month. But inactivity increased with age: non-exercisers amounted to about 25% of people ages 50 to 64, about 27% of people 65 to 74, and about 35% of people 75 or older.

The good news? “It’s never too late to become physically active! We have research studies showing that changing from being inactive to active—whether occurring in your 40s, 50s, 60s, or even 70s—is beneficial for health,” says Dr. I-Min Lee, a Harvard Medical School professor. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking. If you’re unable to meet that goal, remember that any physical activity will provide health benefits, so do what you can manage based on your ability and your doctor’s advice.

Exercise Tips for Beginners

There are a variety of simple exercises you can do to build strength without leaving your home. Below are a few examples Healthline.com recommends to help you get started on your new path to fitness.

Abdominal Contractions

To increase strength in abdominal muscles

Take a deep breath and tighten your abdominal muscles. Hold for three breaths and then release the contraction. Repeat 10 times.

Wall Push-Ups

To increase strength in chest and shoulders

Stand about three feet away from a wall, facing the wall, with feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward and place your hands flat on the wall, in line with your shoulders. Your body should be in “plank” position, with your spine in straight, not sagging or arched. Lower your body toward the wall and then push back. Repeat 10 times.

Pelvic Tilts

To strengthen and stretch muscles in the lower back

Take a deep breath, tighten your buttocks, and tilt your hips slightly forward. Hold for a three-count. Now tilt your hips back, and hold for three seconds. It’s a very subtle movement. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

To strengthen postural muscles and stretch the chest

Sit up straight in your seat, rest your hands in your lap, and squeeze your shoulder blades toward one another. Focus on keeping your shoulders down, not hunched up toward your ears, and hold for three seconds. Release and repeat eight to 12 times.

Toe Taps

To strengthen lower legs

Sitting in a chair and keeping your heels on the floor, lift your toes high enough that you can feel the muscles along your shin working. This helps keep blood circulating in your legs and also strengthens the lower leg. Repeat 20 times.

Heel Raises

To strengthen upper calves

Sitting in a chair, keep your toes and the balls of your feet on the floor and lift your heels. Repeat 20 times.

Knee Lifts

To strengthen thighs

Seated in a chair, with your arms resting but not pressing on the armrests, contract your right quadriceps muscles and lift your leg. Your knee and the back of your thigh should be two or three inches off the seat. Pause for three seconds and slowly lower your leg. Complete eight to 12 repetitions and then repeat with the opposite leg.

Shoulder and Upper Back Stretch

To stretch the shoulders and back

Bend your right arm, raising it so your elbow is chest level and your right fist is near your left shoulder. Place your left hand on your right elbow and gently pull your right arm across your chest. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite arm.

Ankle Rotations

To strengthen calves

Seated in a chair, lift your right foot off the floor and slowly rotate your foot five times to the right and then five times to the left. Repeat with the left foot.

 

www.ScullyFit.com 

5 Morning Habits That Shape Your Whole Day

5 Morning Habits That Shape Your Whole Day

These practices will change your state of mind and routine for the better.

What you do in the morning contributes greatly to the tone of your day. When we roll out of bed after hitting snooze 15 times and neglect to plan for what’s ahead, we throw up a prayer for chaos into the ether… and more than likely, chaos is what we will get.

There are plenty of posts about the habits of the most successful people, but there really is a reason the way they begin their days impacts how well it goes. Not only on a functional, logical level (you have your ducks in a row, you have a schedule and a plan, you have organized the essentials for things to run smoothly), there’s something psychologically very powerful about beginning your day in a way that says, “I am a competent human and, man, do I have this day on lockdown”.

From getting on top of the logistics to the positive psychology tricks you can employ, here’s how to leap out of bed on the right foot—and stay on it until you get back into bed at night.

1. Make your bedquilt-layered-on-bed

Sounds pretty simple and probably something your mom would remind you to do, but there’s a reason making your bed in the morning sets you up for success. This simple act of organizing—sheet, sheet, cover, pillows—and leaving your bedroom in a presentable condition reinforces to your highly impressionable, half-asleep brain that order and calmness abound. More calmness equals less stress, and less stress equals better mood, more productivity and (hopefully) a better day.

2. Hydratehydrate

Your cells have been without water for several hours, so reintroducing water before any other substance (yes, that includes coffee) is key to prepping your GI tract for efficient work throughout the day. It’s an easy way to rehydrate your body if you do it on autopilot. Plus, if you sip water throughout the morning, you may end up consuming two of your eight recommended glasses for the day. Set the tone for great hydration first thing.

3. Plan your dayplan_your_day

 A simple list of the three big things you’d like to accomplish in the short term (i.e. before noon, before the end of the day) can go a long way in terms of helping you move calmly through the day. Putting it on paper or in your phone takes away the stress of remembering and can serve as a helpful reminder of your goals. Even if it’s “pick up dry cleaning, find birthday card and make quinoa,” a few small tasks to keep you on track will make for better time management all day. As they say, those who fail to plan plan to fail, so prioritize the big things to make the rest of the day run even more smoothly.

4. Play music you lovelisten-to-music

Regardless of your morning plans, a soundtrack of uplifting, energizing tunes will help prime your mind for positivity all day long. Pick whatever makes you happy and use it to get through your must-do’s for before you leave the house. Bonus: Great music makes a long commute way less stressful.

5. Movetrail-running-w-dog-jpg-html

Want to feel better mid-afternoon? Make time in the morning to get your body in motion. Whatever it is—gentle stretching, walking the dog, going to CrossFit—starting your day with movement revs your metabolism and stokes your energy for the day. Plus, you’re more likely to make better food choices if you’ve done something positive for your body earlier in the day. You’ll get that great workout in (it’s harder to make excuses first thing) and you’ll reap the benefits for hours afterwards. It’s a win all around.

This post was originally published on ClassPass’s blog.

www.ScullyFit.com