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 

8 Metabolism Secrets That Help You Blast Calories

Today’s post is brought to you by Health.com

8 Metabolism Secrets That Help You Blast Calories

Discover how to torch more calories every day and boost your metabolism in this complete guide to your body’s fat-burning engine.

Your metabolism

It’s no wonder metabolism is a subject of fascination and speculation: The process that turns food into fuel powers all that we do. “Even when you’re sleeping, your body requires energy for things like breathing and repairing cell damage,” says Donald Hensrud, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. The number of calories you need to perform such basic functions is called your resting metabolic rate (RMR)—and it can affect everything from your waistline to your energy level. Read on to learn how to keep your metabolism revved so your body is operating at just the right speed.

metabolism

Dieting can lower your metabolism

“Whenever you cut calories, your metabolism slows down, often by more than you’d expect,” says Kevin Hall, PhD, an obesity researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Studies have found that formerly obese people have a 3 to 5 percent lower RMR than people who’ve never had to lose weight. But such a drastic slowdown isn’t inevitable. Other research has shown that regular exercise can counteract the effect. And a gradual weight-loss strategy can help keep your metabolism humming. A good rule of thumb: Reduce caloric intake by no more than 500 calories a day, and torch roughly the same number through exercise. A 1,000-calorie daily deficit should help you lose about 2 pounds a week. greens

Chronic stress slows your burn

Wigged-out and gaining weight? No, it’s not in your head (unfortunately). Research suggests that when you’re totally frazzled, your metabolism stalls. One reason: Chronic stress stimulates the production of betatrophin, a protein that inhibits an enzyme needed to break down fat, per a University of Florida study. Other research found that women who experienced a stressful event the day before eating a single high-fat meal burned 104 fewer calories over the seven hours following the meal than their more chillaxed counterparts. “The stressed women also had higher insulin levels, which contributes to fat storage,” says study author Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, a professor at The Ohio State University. These effects could lead to a gain of 11 pounds a year, she says.

stress

Intermittent fasting may help

For the most part, experts have advised against cleanses and other trendy fasts. But research now shows that alternate-day fasting—which entails eating without restriction one day, then consuming about 500 calories the next—can trigger weight loss without mucking up your metabolism. Women who followed this plan for eight weeks lost an average of 13 pounds, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “When we compared the change in their resting metabolic rate to that of subjects who lost weight by consuming 25 percent fewer calories overall, we didn’t see any differences between the two groups,” says study author Krista Varady, PhD.

What’s more, after the first few days, most of the women in the alternate-day fasting group didn’t report feeling hungry. But Dr. Hensrud cautions that further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of this strategy. If you’re tempted to try it, do so under a doctor’s supervision.

fasting

Lift weights the right way

There’s no question that strength training is a good way to combat the drop in metabolism that comes with age. But new research suggests that when you’re lifting weights, the ideal strategy is to go slowly. Resting for two to three minutes between sets may actually promote more muscle growth than a shorter rest interval, according to a U.K. study published this year. “The most important thing is to just do it, two or three times a week,” stresses Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body-for-LIFE for Women. To reap the most benefits, add your strength training to a HIIT workout (like a boot camp class), she says.

lift-weights-the-right-way

Protein is key

You’ve probably heard that the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn. And you know protein is essential for muscle growth; it helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue that happens as you get older and when you cut calories, says Caroline Cederquist, MD, an obesity specialist in Naples, Fla., and the author of The MD Factor Diet. But the trick, she adds, is to divide your intake evenly throughout the day. “You can utilize only 4 to 6 ounces of protein at a time. If you consume more than that at one sitting, it will get stored as fat.”

Research backs up her advice: A 2014 study found that people who took in 30 grams of protein at each meal had 25 percent better muscle protein synthesis than those who ate 90 grams in a day in irregular portions (10 at breakfast, 15 at lunch and 65 at dinner). As for the best sources of the nutrient, study author Emily Arentson-Lantz, PhD, a scientist at University of Texas Medical Branch, suggests lean meats, seafood, legumes, eggs, dairy and nuts.

protein-is-key

You can blast calories all day long

6 A.M.: Work out. You can melt up to 20 percent more body fat by exercising in the morning on an empty stomach, according to a 2013 U.K. study.

7:30 A.M.: Have the right smoothie. Swiss research found that folks who consumed whey protein at breakfast burned more calories throughout the morning than folks who ate a high-carb meal.

11 A.M.: Refill your water bottle. In a German study, drinking 17 ounces of H2O increased metabolic rate by about 30 percent for more than an hour.

1 P.M.: Add some sweet red peppers to your salad. They contain a metabolism-boosting chemical called dihydrocapsiate.

3 P.M.: Take a call on your headset and go for a walk. Small bursts of activity like this can torch up to 350 calories a day, found Mayo Clinic researchers.

7 P.M.: Turn off your iPad before dinner. Exposure to blue-enriched light (the kind emitted by electronic devices) during the evening meal increases insulin resistance, according to a 2016 Northwestern Medicine study.

7:15 P.M.: Enjoy some carbs. A 2014 study showed that people who saved most of their daily carbs for nighttime burned more calories after lunch than those who ate their carbs early on.

9 P.M.: Turn down the heat. Sleeping in colder temps ramps up your body’s production of brown fat, a type that burns calories, per a study in Diabetes.

conshohocken restaurants, local table market fresh cafe smoothie

Certain health problems can affect your metabolism

Thyroid disorders: An overactive thyroid (called hyperthyroidism) can cause your metabolism to speed into overdrive, while an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can make it slow to a crawl. Fortunately, both conditions can be controlled with medication.

Prediabetes: This condition elevates insulin levels, which inhibits fat metabolism, explains Dr. Cederquist. But lifestyle measures such as exercise and a low-glycemic diet can help repair metabolism.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: Neither condition affects metabolism directly, but both can make exercise painful—and not exercising enough can lead to muscle loss and a drop in metabolism, explains Dr. Cederquist.

Polycystic ovary syndrome: Women with this hormonal imbalance are at higher risk of developing insulin resistance, which can in turn impact metabolism. Possible treatments include birth control pills to regulate hormone levels and the diabetes drug metformin.

www.ScullyFit.com