Tagged: emotions

Smile Away!

I have never been a very “smiley” person. It’s not that I’m mad, sad or hostile, I just do not walk around smiling. Perhaps it’s my childhood inherent shyness still lurking beneath the surface, or the fact that I’ve always been self-conscious of my teeth (five years of braces will do that to you), but even if I’m feeling happy and carefree, my face doesn’t display it. I’ve heard from others who have joined me in complaining about strangers who walk up to us saying smile pretty lady, why so serious? This has happened at the gym or grocery store on more than on occasion, and I know I’m not alone in this. I usually find it to be quite annoying, as it sounds a tad demeaning, not to mention that they really have no clue what’s going on in this woman’s world – maybe there’s a very good reason why she’s not smiling!

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But recently at the gym as I pondered my smile-less demeanor, I simultaneously noticed how many women wouldn’t smile at me as I passed by and made eye contact. My initial reaction was one of defensiveness – what’s wrong with them, are they threatened by me or feeling superior? Then I realized how many people must think the same thing of me. These other women could be shy, could be seriously focused (as I usually am), or could be suffering from a bad day or some sadness I could never know about. I also reflected upon some of my friends who are very “smiley” people, and how they’re always quick to smile and say hello, and consequently receive a lot of friendly acknowledgment back.

Having heard for years (from doctors to yoga gurus) that smiling had huge health benefits, I did a little research and found a myriad of “benefits” cited out on the internet. Here are the most common and compelling:

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  1. LOWERS YOUR HEART RATE.  Smiling slows the heart and relaxes the body. This lets the heart work without overworking. People who smile and laugh often are less likely to develop heart disease. Smiling also temporarily reduces blood pressure.
  2. LOWERS STRESS, IMPROVES MOOD, BOOSTS IMMUNE SYSTEM. There is a definite lowering in physical tension when we smile as smiling releases endorphins that counteract and diminish stress hormones while also lifting your mood. Endorphins also are natural anti-inflamatories which help to reduce pain in our bodies (another reason we might not be smiling). The reduction in stress also allows our bodies to be more ready to fight infections or viruses, thus boosting our immune systems.
  3. ENCOURAGES TRUST.  Studies show that we are more trustful of others when they smile and smile genuinely. Trust is an important aspect of our social health when dealing with people, whether loved ones, co-workers, or even strangers.
  4. CONTRIBUTES TO SUCCESS.  Smiling makes us appear confident, self-assured, and approachable. Those who smile are more likely to earn more money through tips and raises, and are more readily approached with business ideas and other career opportunities or advancements.
  5. LOOK YOUNGER.  Smiles naturally lift the face which studies have shown can make people look younger (around 3 years younger on average).

There were many more smile-benefits listed, but I figured these five were strong enough. So I decided to run a test – I would smile randomly throughout my day, with a specific attempt to make more eye contact with people while I smiled.

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The results … first off, my workout was more relaxing and thus effective. I had fun working out while smiling at my fellow “gym rats,” and left feeling more satisfied, both physically and emotionally. My interactions at stores and restaurants were far more pleasant and I received better service and prices (grocery checker offered me several coupons just because she had them). At the end of the day I looked less tired too (i.e., younger).

Based upon this, I say smile away people! You might have to force yourself initially (though don’t force the smile – those look creepy and fake), but once you garner a few positive reactions it becomes easier. Just find something to think about that puts a smile on your face and you’ll look (and be) sincere. The benefits will follow. Please feel free to share your test results with me and my readers!

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Break Up With Food.

All creatures on earth, whether human or animals, need food to live. But only humans have taken that need and turned it into an obsession. Of all the idiosyncrasies of food addictions, the one I find the most detrimental is that of “comfort food.” The idea that food is anything other than nourishment is again, exclusive only to humans.

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The joy that some of us feel from food preparation and savoring of flavors (the artistic side of cuisine) is undeniably one of the most wonderful uses of some of our five senses (taste, smell and even vision). The flip side of this is that somehow society at large (pun intended) has equated certain foods to that of providing comfort.

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There’s no question that all of us have childhood memories (and other situational sense memories) that are directly tied to food. A special recipe your mother created when you were sick, or on birthdays, as well as dishes we ate when we were “happy” or “in love” become go to foods when, as adults, life is not where we want it to be. While it’s true that certain foods create a chemical reaction that can elevate moods, the idea that food can fill up a painful hole within our hearts is a slippery slope. What makes this worse is that traditionally most “comfort foods” are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.

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I have many a client and friend that spends days or months being diligent about their nutritional intake, only to blow it all away because they had an emotional disturbance that they responded to by eating “comfort foods.” How many movies have shown women sitting in front of the TV crying while shoveling in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or how many nights are lonely bachelors depicted scarfing down fast food take out after a night of drinking? These movies reflect real life – raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.

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As I always say, everything’s okay in moderation – including pints of ice cream and multiple Taco Bell indiscernible meat tacos, but the problem here is that a lot of people have a regular routine of eating these “bad for your body” foods every single time they’re upset, frustrated or sad.

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If this behavior resonates with you, then I offer this advice: break up with food! Stop “dating” food to make you feel better, especially when in reality, it does just the opposite. Repeated indulgences in comfort food is no better for you than that guy or girl who belittles your self-esteem.

See nutrition as a tool that allows your body and brain to function and deal with life. I use the Car analogy – most people put medium to high-grade gasoline in their car, see to regular oil changes, and keep all fluids and tire pressure to their peak levels. If you do not, your car will not drive well, handle huge hills, stay safe on wet roads, and eventually stop running completely. Well guess what, your body is the same.

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If you find it difficult to walk away from food when you’re emotionally upset, then at least make better choices – find a healthier “comfort” – or keep the quantities of the unhealthy choices to a much smaller amount. Better still, deal with the feelings that you’re hiding from, and once they’re faced, you’ll undoubtedly not even need the food for comfort. One last choice to consider is exercise. I’ve had some of the best cardio sessions when I’ve been angry. When the day before I was bored and tired after 10 minutes on the treadmill, suddenly when fueled by a situation / conversation that left me hot-headed, I ran for 30 minutes straight!

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Whether your goal is fat loss or just improved health and fitness, breaking up with comfort foods is an essential step to reaching your goal and staying there.

Neutral Perspective

As a life coach I find that my most used strategy in helping a client create a better and happier situation for themselves (whether relationships, career, or their emotional health) is to guide them to see a problem from a different perspective. We tend to approach all problems from the same angle with the same emotional perspective that is our “go to view” based upon our baggage and inherent personality traits. Quite often, that approach results in a failure to change the situation for the better.

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Although it’s difficult to see a situation through foreign eyes, it is essential to breaking patterns that are detrimental to your life. I call the strategy “neutral perspective.” In a sense it’s about seeing the FACTS (factual evidence is generally indisputable) from an unemotional viewpoint. Once you look at the issues that are tangible and real and remove your own issues from the equation, a clear solution always presents itself.

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A long time ago I heard a psychologist on the radio share a wonderful modern-day fable that perfectly demonstrates neutral perspective. It is the story of Three Men and a Naked Lady (bet you didn’t see that coming)! It goes like this:

Three men are sitting in a car at a stop light. Suddenly a completely naked woman walks in front of their car through the cross walk.

The driver views her with contempt for so brazenly taunting him and deems her a sinner and whore.

The front passenger views her with lust and admiration, knowing with certainty that she would welcome his advances and that perhaps he should follow her.

The back passenger though at first quite shocked, realizes that something is amiss and this poor woman needs help. He jumps out of the car, drapes his coat around her, and offers her a ride. She is beyond grateful. Turns out she was a kind and very wealthy woman who after being kidnaped and robbed, managed a daring escape albeit without her clothes. After accompanying her to the police and seeing to her safe return home, a week later the woman repays the man’s kindness with a lovely dinner and within a year they are married and live happily ever after.

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This is a perfect example of emotional vs. neutral perspective. The first man felt inadequate in his relationships and had a negative view on women in general. The second man had learned to cover up his insecurities with arrogance and false bravado. The last man was emotionally balanced enough to look at the tangible facts in a situation and act accordingly. He saw a naked woman with bruises on her arms, crying and looking quite scared. He knew this had nothing to do with him.

So whatever it is in your life that is bringing you strife, stress, and/or heartache, perhaps it’s time you viewed the situation with neutral perspective. Once you can see clearly what the problem truly is (through factual evidence), a solution will clearly present itself. Then you just have to face implementing that solution – which is very often not easy but if the stakes are high enough to you, anything can be made better!

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If you are interested in some life coaching help, http://www.danelifefitness.com.

Shake It Off

When someone says or does something that hurts your feelings what do you do? Do you keep silent while letting it fester? Do you speak up hoping to get an apology? Or do you just shake it off? I suspect a majority of you do the first option, a handful do the second, and very few shake it off.

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I bring this up because I find that one of the largest stumbling blocks I encounter when coaching/training a person is their inability to get past something that happened IN THE PAST. We’ve all had hurtful comments lobbed our way on the school yard, or had a sibling poke relentless fun at our weaknesses. Many of us have some kind of baggage about our parents that comes into play when we ourselves become parents. For some it’s a lack of support or good communication from loved ones. But whatever the issue is, we keep analyzing, rehashing and refocusing of our mind’s microscope onto the hurt instead of fixing it so we can move on.

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This becomes a big deal when you’re trying to get into shape, i.e., lose body fat that has accumulated because of your reactions to past hurts or your choice to play the martyr and not put your physical needs into the priority column. I can teach you how to eat, I can teach you the most effective way to perform cardio so as to burn fat, and I can work your muscles to the point of calorie burning exhaustion. What I cannot do is keep you from negative thoughts and behaviors (like emotional eating). That tasks lies solely on your shoulders.  Raise your hand if you’ve skipped a workout or had a bad workout because you were too focused on an emotional issue.

Okay, so how do you do it, you’re asking your computer right now? Well keeping in mind that I am NOT a licensed therapist/psychologist I can only offer this sage wisdom:

Shake it off!

(I could say Let It Go, but that seems to provoke people to spontaneously start singing Frozen!  Wink.)

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Obviously I am a huge proponent of speaking up (lovingly) when feelings are hurt so as to clean up that figurative spilt milk immediately and move on with a cleaner (healthier) relationship. But sometimes these issues that sabotage our successes are old and weather-worn. Those issues are the ones that as adults our best and quickest path to happiness is to simply let them go. Shake them off. Move on! We cannot change the past. Staying stuck because of something that happened (and that undoubtedly would happen again proving that we could not have changed it anyway) is a waste of precious time.

I reminded myself of this very lesson today. My 9 year old daughter did something last night that really pissed me off. I dwelled on it, stewed over it, held it tightly in my angry fist, and consequently did not sleep well. In the clearer light of day I was able to remind myself that she’s only 9, it’s past and cannot be changed, and I just need to shake it off and get on with being her happy, albeit tired, Mom. The lessons I can teacher her are far better received when I’m teaching through positive action instead of harping on her immature choices and their consequences.

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So the next time you find yourself reliving angry or hurt emotion over something that happened either yesterday, or years ago, either fix it immediately, or shake it off and move on. Your body and mind will be healthier for it. (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Ms. Taylor Switf’s song Shake It Off is firmly implanted in my gym playlist and I played this morning in the car as a reminder.  Thanks for the great and catchy song, Ms. Swift!)

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