HWH007: Happiness: Being Intentional About Unloading Stress.

If you’re human then you’ve experienced stress. Stress can come from all sorts of different areas of life: from work, from home, and everything else that we find ourselves doing. We’ve all experienced it and sometimes too much stress can build up. On the other hand, I believe stress in a small amount can actually be a good thing. I think of when I feel challenged at work or when I’m working out at the gym there is a mild level of stress there. However, too much stress for too long can bog us down and depleted the happiness from our lives. From my experience when stress and burnout hit at the same time that’s when I feel the most defeated and this is obviously something that should be avoided.

We can’t always control the things that happen at work or in our personal lives and therefore stress is something that we’re going to encounter. The good thing is that we can control how we diffuse stress and if we do this we can avoid the negative impact from stress and use small healthy amounts of stress to our benefit as a way to keep us motivated and engaged in different areas of life.

Here’s 5 ways of letting go of stress.

One way to be intentional about reducing stress is making time for yourself. I know that you parents out there with young kids are saying “Yeah, right, time to myself, huh? What’s that?” But even just taking 15 minutes to have to yourself in the middle of a busy day can be extremely helpful. This could be some quiet time to read a book, mediate, or just sip some hot coffee on a Saturday morning. For me, I like my quiet time. I’m totally an introvert and being around a lot of people makes me feel stressed. After being around a lot of people I enjoy just being alone and having some quiet time to myself. The same is true for me at work. On my lunch break I enjoy finding a quiet place to be by myself. I have found that more and more when I’m driving by myself I turn the radio off and just drive in silence and focus on relaxing and letting go of the stress.

Another way to reduce stress is to hit the gym. There’s something about going to the gym and getting a good sweat on that feels good and helps reduce stress. I’ve read and heard from several people that exercising releases endorphins which are chemicals that are naturally produced by your body that help you to feel good. Also, exercising on a regular basis can increase your metabolism which can help you to feel like you have more energy to conquer the challenges that you face day to day. This will help you to feel ready to tackle the things that you would normally dread. Having a better attitude because you have more energy can help you to feel more confident and less stressed.

Another great way to relive stress is prayer. Sometimes we don’t always have someone to talk to about the stressful things that are going on in our life, or sometimes we don’t want to burden the ones that we do have to talk to with all of our own stresses. The great thing about prayer is God always has time to listen to us. He’s always there willing to take the burdens from our lives. Asking God to help you through that hurdle that you’re facing can help you to let go of the stress by realizing He is for you and with you every step of the way.

Eating right can help you deduce stress . When I’m stressed it’s easy to eat junk food as a quick treat that temporarily makes me feel good. I get a huge smile on my face when I think of stuffing my face with a bunch of glazed donuts. But junk food is only a temporary fix that has really bad side effects. Eating junk food is bad for our health and the longer-term effects are just going to make you feel sluggish. As I’ve learned in the past all those donuts might be tasty right when you eat them but the upset stomach and the energy crash they cause you will only bring you dissatisfaction. Also, drinking lots of water can help us to avoid dehydration. For me, a lack of water means that my mind isn’t as clear as when I’m fully hydrated and eating clean. Also, try to eat on a regular basis. We’ve often heard of the word “hangry” which is a combination of the word hungry and angry. Some of us get upset when we don’t eat and this can add to our level of stress.

The final tip for reducing stress is to get good sleep. We’ve all been sleep deprived at some point where it feels like we’re running on fumes, our body feels like it’s dragging, and our mind seems foggy at best. Sleep can make a huge difference on our energy levels and how we react to stress. To get a good nights rest try to go to bed and wake up at consistent times. For me, if I stay up way too late, like on a weekend night, it takes me at least a couple days to get back into my sleep rhythm. When I get out of my sleep rhythm, from either over sleeping or under sleeping, I start to feel sleepy and groggy and it’s hard to be productive when I feel this way. So, try to keep your sleeping times consistent. Also, avoid caffeine late in the day. I found that when I stopped drinking caffeine after 1pm I was getting better sleep and feeling more rested.

In summary, a little stress is good but too much stress can really take a toll on your life. Be intentional about reducing stress in your life if you want avoid hitting the “red zone”. Believe me, reducing stress in your life will bring more happiness to yourself and those around you. So remember, take some time for yourself, get some exercise, make some time for prayer, eat right, drink enough water, and get some good sleep. If you do these things you’ll be able to fire on all cylinders and tackle whatever the day throws your way.

HWH005: Health: Tips For Running

A lot of us enjoy running, I know that I certainly do, and I’ve done my fair share of it. I don’t do as much as I use to but I still love to get out and burn those calories and get the heart pumping. If you’ve been running for a while now or you’ve been thinking about trying running to get fit you might take into consideration these tips for avoid injuries and get the most out of running.

The first tip is to have a good pair of shoes. If you’ve been running for a while in the shoes that you have and they’re starting to lose the cushion it’s time to get a new pair. If you’re someone who is considering getting into running I highly recommend getting a good pair of running shoes instead of using the old sneakers that you have already laying around. Having good shoes is important for several reasons. First, your shoes absorb a lot of the shock from your foot striking the ground during each stride that you take. Your joints that would normally absorb this shock are your ankles, knees, hip, and back. To save yourself from discomfort later in life with these body parts pickup a good pair of shoes that will take some of the shock out of each step. From my point of view it’s a much less expensive to buy a good pair of shoes now and then it is to pay for medical costs to address the injuries you’ve obtained later from running. If you can afford it you might even consider buying two pairs of running shoes and rotating them. I’ve heard that when you run in a pair of shoes it can temporarily squish the padding down. Think of a wet sponge that you swish down and it slowly regains its shape. Running a long distance in a pair of shoes can swish down the padding and by rotating your shoes it can allow more time for your shoes to regain the full cushion. I haven’t scientifically tested this theory but it makes sense to me. For my running shoes I have a pair of trail running shoes and a regular pair of running shoes and I try to rotate the when I work out.

The second tip is to make sure to ease into running. If you’re new to running or if you’ve been thinking about getting back into running make sure to start slow and build up the mileage and difficulty levels over time. There have been a few times in my life where I was running on a regular basis and I felt really confident in my running abilities. It was easy during these times to go out and do pretty challenging running workouts. Having this capability gave me a confidence that can be a little dangerous. This is because, on the other hand, there have also been many times that I had not been running very much and my body was not in as good of shape. Whenever I get back into running, like when I decide to start training for an upcoming event, I have to remember to start back into it slowly in order to avoid injuries like pulling a muscle. If I try to try to jump back into doing the interval workouts that I was doing when I was in excellent shape after not running for a long period of time, I will expose myself to a higher level of possible injury. Doing too much running at a high difficult level too fast will get you injured. Ease into it and build up over time.

Another tip for avoiding injuries is to cross train. If you’re someone who is training to do a 5k or 10k or something even longer and you are just getting back into running or haven’t ever really been a runner before then cross training can help you to develop the repertory system and endurance without as much pounding that running alone inflicts on your joints. A couple of things that you can do to cross training are swimming and bike riding. A “brick” workout is where you combine a run and a bike ride. Doing this type of workout can help build your endurance but introduces more low impact exercising into your workout from the bike riding portion of the exercise. In the winter time I enjoy doing more of the stationary biking indoors. This way I can avoid cold temperatures but also avoid the icy roads and sidewalks that can present slipping hazards. Obviously different exercises use different muscles so the muscles that you use for running will not be as exercised as much when you do something like ride a bike, for example, however, I believe that the rest that you give your joints from cross training can help you to avoid injuries. You can also try the machines like the Elliptical, the stair stepper or the Versaclimber if you’re looking for a great exercise that avoids excessive impact to your joints.

The fourth tip involves the things that you eat and consume. Something else that you might try if you plan on getting into running is taking supplements. There are tons of supplements like multivitamins, fish oil, probiotics, and glucosamine based products that are available that can help you in different ways. From the research that I’ve seen there isn’t always documented proof that some of these supplements do what they are sold to do however if you can find room in your budget for some of these supplements I figure it can’t hurt. I’ve always been a firm believer in making sure that my body is getting the nutrients that it needs to perform and in my opinion it will get there when I give it quality supplements. In addition to supplements, eating clean will help you to give your body good fuel. When I eat junk food I tend to feel sluggish and the energy that I get doesn’t seem to be as lasting as when I eat healthy. Eating junk food seems to give me a short-term burst of energy but then I crash. I want something that’s going to help me to have an even amount of energy throughout the day. If you want an even level of energy throughout the day you might try moving to 5 medium meals per day in lieu of 3 large meals per day. While we’re on the subject of consumption make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day as well. For me, if I don’t drink enough water, and I become start to become dehydrated, I feel sluggish and my mind just doesn’t work as well as it usually does. If I’m feeling sluggish, then I’m not going to be motivated to go running and workout.

Doing a warm up run followed with some stretching before your actual running workout can help loosen up your muscles. I’ve been in the habit of doing this ever since I started putting on the miles. My cross-country coach, Mr. Mattson had us warm up and stretch before every practice and I believe it helped the team avoid injuries. When I go running I’ll typically run about 800 meters at a nice-and-easy pace and then stretch. After I stretch I’ll start my actual running workout.

To recap: the first tip was to get a good pair of running shoes. The second tip is to ease into running, don’t jump into difficult running workout too fast. The third tip is to cross train when you can. Go for a bike ride or hit up a cardio machine at the gym. For the fourth tip take a look at the supplements available. Do you think any of these can help you? Also, try to eat clean. I know this is a tough one for me but it is really important if we want to feel good and perform at our highest level possible. And lastly, do a warm up run and some stretching before hitting your actual running workout.

HWH004: Trifecta: Discipline – Success in Health, Wealth & Happiness

Hey guys! This week I’m going to talk about a characteristic that people can have that will help them in health, wealth, and happiness. This is somewhat of a special post that I call Trifecta. What is a trifecta? One definition of trifecta from Dictionary.com says “Any achievement involving three successful outcomes”. In most of my blog posts and podcast episodes I focus on just one of the subjects, health, wealth, or happiness, but in the Trifecta posts and episodes I’m going to talk about what it takes to be successful in all three subjects.

This week’s trifecta characteristic is discipline, a.k.a. self-discipline. This is something that you need if you want to be successful at anything in your life. Yourdictionary.com defines self-discipline as “The ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track and do what is right.” The key word that I like in this definition is “control”. You must have control over your life if you want to reach your goals. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Of course I have control over myself. I’m the one who controls my own life and no one else.” And you would be right, we do have control over ourselves. But far too often we allow ourselves to get off track. For example, if I set a goal for hitting the gym at least three times a week and then after going only two times I decide that I rather go eat a cheeseburger and a milkshake in stead of working out that is a loss of self control and a lack of discipline. If you want to reach your goals you must learn to have a high level of discipline. This means that you do what you say you’re going to do even when there are other things out there tempting you.

So what does discipline look like when it’s applied to health? This would be staying true to your health and fitness goals. Like my prior example maybe you’ve set a goal for going to the gym on a regular basis or maybe you’ve set a goal to eat healthier. You need to make sure that you go to the gym as you planned or that you don’t eat a bunch of junk food so that you reach your “eating healthy” goal.

Ok, what does discipline look like when it’s applied to wealth? This could mean that you keep a budget of you monthly expenses and every other week or so you go back to that budget to review your progress and update different costs or amounts. Staying true to your wealth goals means not going out and making spontaneous purchases that are not in your budget. If you want to buy something that ok just fit it into your budget so that you can still reach your financial goals while also buying the things that you want. For example, there are always new things that I want to buy but I don’t just go out and buy them. First, when I find something that I absolutely want, I look at my budget first and see if I will have enough room in my budget to buy the item that I want. I make sure that I will have enough to cover all of my expenses, fund my retirement, and pay a tithe to my church, before I use my money to buy a “want”. Creating a budget is a must if you want to be intentional about building wealth and self-discipline is what you need to have if you want to stay on budget and reach your financial goals.

Finally, how does self-discipline relate to my happiness? At first glance you might say that self-discipline isn’t really related to happiness but when you take a closer look, you’ll realize that it is very related. I believe that if we want to be successful in any area of our life then we must be intentional about personal growth in that area. When we apply self-discipline to happiness we are intentional about creating happiness into the lives of others and our self. This means that we do not talk bad about someone unless it is to give someone constructive feedback that they can grow and learn from. It means that we’re intentional about complementing others in a genuine way. It means finding forgiveness when others have crossed us, even when they don’t deserve it. When we have self-discipline in the area of happiness we do these things and these things are going to be what brings more happiness into our life.

The thing that I want you to take away is that self-discipline is incredibly important if you want to be successful in the areas of health, wealth, and happiness. You can apply self-discipline to different areas of your life in order to be intentional about reaching your goals. In general, one of the key benefits of self-discipline is that it helps to keep us on track and doesn’t allow us to wander off the road that takes us to reaching our hopes and dreams.

Takeaway points:

  1. In what areas of your life do you need more self-discipline?
  2. In the area of health, do you need to cut back on eating that junk food so you can reach your health goals?
  3. For the area of wealth, maybe you need to create a budget or review the budget that you’ve already made in order to get on track to reach your financial goals.
  4. Maybe for happiness you need a little more self-discipline when it comes to creating more happiness in the lives of others which will create more happiness in your own life.

Why Your Health And Fitness Goals Need To Be SMART Goals

Ok, so we’ve all been guilty of this, we say to those around us that, “we’re going to lose weight” or that “we’re going to get into shape”, but we don’t make a specific goal other than this general statement. We use this statement because maybe we’ve been slacking on going to the gym lately or we’ve been eating junk food and we can feel ourselves falling further away from where we want to be in health and fitness. So, why is this general statement bad? Well, it’s not necessarily bad, I mean, it’s actually good that we can identify that we need to improve our health and fitness levels. The part that’s wrong with this statement though is that it is not specific, which means that we can’t measure it, which also means we don’t even know if it’s attainable or if our goals are even going to be relevant to what we’re wanting to accomplish and we don’t have a time component to the goal so we don’t really have a way to estimate how close we are to reaching our goal. This is why our goals, including our health and fitness goals, need to be SMART goals. SMART goals are far superior than the generic blanketed statement goals like, “I’m going to lose weight” because they don’t have a quantifiable aspect to them and if you don’t have something to measure how do you know if you’re making progress or how do you even know if its attainable?

SMART is an acronym used for goal setting and I’ve seen the acronym stand for different words. There are different variations of the SMART acronym but in our health and fitness matters let’s use the following words for the SMART acronym. The S is going to stand for specific. This means that our goals need to be specific and cant just be a generic statement. The M stands for measurable. This means that your goal must be able to be measured somehow. For example, I’m going to lose 15 lbs as opposed to “I’m going to lose weight”. The A stands for attainable. This is where you need to ask yourself, “Will I be able to accomplish my goal with the level of time and resources that I’m willing to put towards it?” This can be a tough question because it involves a little mental estimating. The R stands for relevant. Now, this gets more into the strategy of reaching your goal. For the R you need to ask yourself, “Are the things I’m doing helping me reach my goal?” In other words, are they relevant to helping you accomplish what you set out to accomplish? Finally, we come to the T. The T is going to stand for time. Our goals need to have a time component. For example, I’m going to lose 15lbs over the next 5 months.

When you’re creating your health and fitness SMART goals I recommend talking to a personal trainer or someone that can help you get a specific training program that will help give you direction on how to reach your health and fitness goals. You personal trainer might even be able to refer you to someone that can put a meal plan together or they might have the knowledge to help you themselves. I’m a complete believer that if you have goals that you’re serious about you need to consult with the pros. They can help you nail down your smart goals and can help create a road map on how to achieve your SMART goals. Surrounding yourself with a good team is important for all of your health, wealth, and happiness goals. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for advice and information.

Take the time to write down your SMART goals on paper and hang it up by your computer or somewhere that you’ll see it regularly. Also, you can use apps such as OneNote on your phone to list your SMART goals. This way they are easy to review and to measure your progress. As you start on your path towards your goals, remember one of my favorite quotes by Lau Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Start small and remember to keep pushing forward. If you get a little off track put your mess-up behind you, don’t let it get you down, and keep stepping forward. When it comes to goals it’s not always a straight line from where we start to the point we’re trying to get to, there’s ups and downs. You can do it! Your potential is greater than you know!

Life Lesson From Chopping Firewood

In the summer of 2015 I went with my good friend Sam to cut fire wood. Being someone who grew up around plenty of apple wood I never had chopped firewood before because apple wood was small enough that it didn’t need to be split. After Sam fell an old dead tree, we got out the axes, and it was time to start splitting. I remember thinking to myself before I started how easy it was going to be, I mean, all you have to do is slam the axe into the wood right? Wrong. I chopped and chopped and chopped and I couldn’t get the wood to split. After about 16 swings and no success Sam stopped me and said “You’re doing it wrong”. At this point I was a little frustrated and I thought to myself, “How do you chop wood wrong? There’s only one way to do it.” Sam took the axe from me and as I curiously watched he brought the axe up over his head and slammed it down with every ounce of energy he had and sure enough the wood split. After watching Sam, it hit me, to split the wood you had to swing as hard as you could, and if you didn’t, then the wood wouldn’t split. Sure enough, when I put every ounce of energy into my swing, the firewood split. Later, I realized the same is true in life, if you want to be successful you have to give it everything you’ve got – every time – otherwise you’re just chopping at wood that will never split. Often in life we become complacent in our level of effort and then wonder why we’re not achieving our goals. If you’ve ever feel like you’re not getting where you want to be in life, maybe it’s time to look at your level of effort and choose to start swinging like Sam.

Takeaway Questions:

  1. Are you contributing enough energy towards your goals in order to achieve them?
  2. Do you need to cut out unnecessary things from your life in order to give you more time and energy to focus on your goals?
  3. Are you goals clear? Are they SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based?
  4. Are you holding yourself accountable for reaching milestones that will help you reach your goals?
  5. Are your goals helping you to reach your dreams?