Thursday, August 15, 2013

Simple Ways to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

You hear a lot about living a healthy lifestyle, but what does that mean? In general, a healthy person doesn't smoke, is at a healthy weight, eats healthy and exercises. Sounds simple, doesn't it?
The trick to healthy living is making small changes...taking more steps, adding fruit to your cereal, having an extra glass of water...these are just a few ways you can start living healthy without drastic changes.


One of the biggest problems in America today is lack of activity. We know it's good for us but avoid it like the plague either because we're used to being sedentary or afraid that exercise has to be vigorous to be worth our time. The truth is, movement is movement and the more you do, the healthier you'll be. Even moderate activities like chores, gardening and walking can make a difference.

Just adding a little movement to your life can:

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes
  • Improve joint stability
  • Increase and improve range of movement
  • Help maintain flexibility as you age
  • Maintain bone mass
  • Prevent osteoporosis and fractures
  • Improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Enhance self esteem
  • Improve memory in elderly people
  • Reduce stress

So, even if you opt for small changes and a more modest weight loss, you can see the benefits are still pretty good. One study has found that just a 10% weight reduction helped obese patients reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and increase longevity.

Simple Ways to Move Your Body

You can start the process of weight loss now by adding a little more activity to your life. If you're not ready for a structured program, start small. Every little bit counts and it all adds up to burning more calories.

  • Turn off the TV. Once a week, turn off the TV and do something a little more physical with your family. Play games, take a walk...almost anything will be more active than sitting on the couch.
  • Walk more. Look for small ways to walk more. When you get the mail, take a walk around the block, take the dog for an extra outing each day or walk on your treadmill for 5 minutes before getting ready for work.
  • Do some chores. Shoveling snow, working in the garden, raking leaves, sweeping the floor...these kinds of activities may not be 'vigorous' exercise, but they can keep you moving while getting your house in order.
  • Pace while you talk. When you're on the phone, pace around or even do some cleaning while gabbing. This is a great way to stay moving while doing something you enjoy.
  • Be aware. Make a list of all the physical activities you do on a typical day. If you find that the bulk of your time is spent sitting, make another list of all the ways you could move more--getting up each hour to stretch or walk, walk the stairs at work, etc.

Eating Well

Eating a healthy diet is another part of the healthy lifestyle. Not only can a clean diet help with weight management, it can also improve your health and quality of life as you get older. You can use the new MyPlate to determine how many calories you need and what food groups you should focus on or, if you're looking for smaller changes, you can use these tips for simple ways to change how you eat:

  • Eat more fruit. Add it to your cereal, your salads or even your dinners
  • Sneak in more veggies. Add them wherever you can--a tomato on your sandwich, peppers on your pizza, or extra veggies in your pasta sauce. Keep pre-cut or canned/frozen veggies ready for quick snacks.
  • Switch your salad dressing. If you eat full-fat dressing, switch to something lighter and you'll automatically eat less calories.
  • Eat low-fat or fat-free dairy. Switching to skim milk or fat free yogurt is another simple way to eat less calories without having to change too much in your diet.
  • Make some substitutes. Look through your cabinets or fridge and pick 3 foods you eat every day. Write down the nutritional content and, the next time you're at the store, find lower-calorie substitutes for just those 3 items.
Find more ideas for healthy foods with this Healthy Foods Grocery List.

Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn't have to mean drastic changes. In fact, drastic changes almost always lead to failure. Making small changes in how you live each day can lead to big rewards, so figure out what you can to be healthy today.

How to Make a Grocery Shopping List

A grocery shopping list can simply include fresh foods and ready-to-eat snacks, along with the additional ingredients you'll need for upcoming meals. Some foods will need to be replenished every few days and others might last for months. You can make your own grocery shopping list just a few minutes before you go to the store, but I prefer to keep a pre-printed grocery list in my kitchen. That way, whenever I run out of something I can mark off how much of that food I need, and when I'm ready to go shopping, so is my list.

What foods go on the list? Vegetables and fruits should make up the largest part of your grocery list. They're rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, and they are usually low in calories. We all need at least five or more servings every day. Choose a variety of green, orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Most of your grain and cereal products should be made from whole grains, not from refined flours. Whole grains are important for vitamins, minerals, and for fiber, which is often lacking in modern diets. This part of your list includes 100-percent whole grain breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals. Read labels to look for 100-percent whole grain or 100-percent whole wheat to be sure you are getting whole grain products.

Your protein and meat choices should consist mostly of fresh fish, poultry and lean meats. Eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes are also good protein choices. Choose fresh and frozen unbreaded meats and fish. Avoid breaded, deep-fried convenience foods that you put in the oven. They are high in fat and sodium.

Keep beverages simple. Water, low-fat milk, juices and herbal teas are all good choices. If you opt for soft drinks, choose diet sodas and soft drinks to avoid extra sugar.

Dairy products should include low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. If you do not want cows' milk, choose soy and rice beverages, calcium-fortified orange juice, or goats' milks and cheese.

Be careful with dressings, cooking oils and condiments. They are sneaky sources of refined sugar and poor quality oils. Read labels to choose dressings made with olive oil,canola oil or walnut oil. Choose low-fat mayonnaise for your sandwiches and choose canola oil and olive oil for cooking.

Frozen foods are a convenient way to keep vegetables on hand. There are also prepared meals that you can pop into the microwave or oven. These can be convenient and healthy if you choose low-fat versions with good portion sizes. Read labels and chose frozen foods wisely. Avoid frozen pizzas, pocket-sandwiches, deep-fried appetizers, and breaded foods.

Foods in cans and jars are also very convenient. Look for low-sodium soups, vegetables and sauces. Avoid high-fat gravies and high-calorie foods like canned spaghetti and ravioli products.

For sandwiches, choose peanut butter or other nut butters, low-fat turkey slices or sliced roast beef. Avoid processed lunch meats, sausages and hot dogs.

Don't load up on high-calorie treats and desserts. Choose fresh fruits, healthy nuts, seeds and whole grain crackers for snacks.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Do's and Don'ts in Meditation

Meditation is something that different people use for different things. Some use it to try and achieve a kind of ‘enlightenment’ in the hope that they can reach some kind of higher level of consciousness. Others try and use it to think – to ‘meditate’ on a subject and hopefully come away with a great deal of understanding. Some use it for prayer in a variety of different religions. Others use it just to relax and to try and feel better about themselves. In cognitive behavioural therapy, ‘mindfulness’ is a form of meditation used to try and not shut out thoughts, but to take a step back and listen to their content in an attempt to better understand yourself. In Tai Chi meditation is something you aim to do while in movement. With all these different types of meditation and all these different uses, one would be forgiven for thinking that there could be no hard and fast rules to abide by and that it is very much a personal experience that you can choose to engage in a variety of different ways.

And in thinking that you would be very much correct; it is fair to say that there are no real ‘set’ rules when it comes to meditation. However what’s also important to bear in mind is that in all these types of meditation there is a common theme – you are trying to direct your thought. Whether that means silencing your inner voice, listening to it, or applying it to solving a specific puzzle of problem. Meditation then is the conscious effort involved in directing your thought and in tightly controlling the content of your mind. And of course there are certain things you can use to improve your ability to do this.

First of all then, it is important to make sure that you are in a comfortable environment and that you have as close to silence as possible. At the same time, you should try to avoid distracting thoughts and focus on what you are trying to meditate on. However what you mustn’t do is to place too much emphasis and thought on the act of meditating. The thing is here that by placing too much stress on things being perfect you become stressed and less able to relax. For example, the minute you think ‘I mustn’t get an itch’ you will find you become covered in them. Some people will even mistakenly believe that they have to be completely still and thus will not scratch the itch – it is very hard to concentrate or achieve enlightenment when all you can think about is your nose. Allow yourself some time to settle in to your meditation then, and do not worry too much if your thoughts wonder a bit, or if you start to itch. Just do what you have to do to stay comfy.

Do not be too comfy however as this can create another problem – falling asleep – which is definitely in the category of meditation ‘do nots’. If you fall asleep then you will not be achieving a new brain state, but will instead just be achieving one that you are very familiar with and that you in fact spend half of your life in – sleep. This is one reason that many who practice meditation use the lotus position – as it prevents them from being able to drift off and also gives them something physical that they can concentrate on in order to focus their thoughts, while slightly numbing their legs. You can achieve something similar by sitting on a wooden chair, or even just on the floor, but not lying back on a sofa or bed in the dark. If you are really dedicated you could even make yourself a one legged stool – these force you to stay away and to concentrate as you need to balance on the stool to prevent it from falling.

Another meditation do not is to expect too much from your session too soon. Many people come away saying that ‘nothing’s happened’... and this is really missing the point rather. Enlightenment, or what was once known as enlightenment, is achieved by allowing your brain areas to shut down while keeping your conscious awareness about you. However this takes years of practice. If you just sit down for a bit and clear your mind it might not feel like much, but in fact it will have lowered your stress levels, increased concentration and generally have had a lot of very positive effects on your mind and body.