The Power of Setting and Achieving Goals

Many people think goal setting is something that only business and professional people need to do. But the fact is, goal setting can benefit literally everyone on the planet. In fact goal setting is part of the natural order of life, and we all naturally engage in the first step of goal setting every day.

Here’s a simple example:

You get in your car in the morning to drive to work, and it won’t start. You think to yourself, “I wish I could afford a new car”. That wishing is actually the first step in setting and achieving the goal to get a new car. Unfortunately, like many of us, you stop after that first step. Your primary focus at the time is getting to work by any means possible, then getting that car repaired so your life can settle back to normal. Lost in the whole process is the notion of getting that new car you wish you could have because you don’t have twenty or thirty thousand dollars just lying around, or even enough to make the down payment on a new car.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

By taking just one step beyond just wishing for something – turning your wish into a goal – you can set things in motion that will get you that new car, or whatever else you might wish for. Of course, just setting a goal won’t achieve the goal. You need to follow a goal achieving process. Here is a simple, but effective, process for achieving your goals:

Decide on your goals – What do you really want to work toward? What do you really want to be, do, or have in life? Make sure these are things that you want, not things that other people want for or from you. Size doesn’t matter here. The only real difference between big goals and small ones is the amount of time and effort it might take to achieve them. Having said that, it’s wise to start with a relatively easy goal, as long as that goal stretches you. Achieving such a goal will keep you motivated as you start working on larger goals.

Write your goals down – Writing a goal down in great detail increases the likelihood that you’ll achieve it. The more specificity, the better. You should also include a target completion date.

Tell someone about your goals – Telling someone you know about your goals also increases the likelihood that you’ll stick with them. This is especially true if that person is someone who will hold you accountable for your ongoing progress and overall achievement of the goal.

Break your goals down – This is especially important for big goals. Breaking a goal down into smaller intermediate goals will give you a greater sense of accomplishment along the way. For example, if your goal is to save $3,000 for a down payment on that new car by next year at this time, you could have 12 sub-goals to save $250 per month. As each month passes and your savings grow, so will your motivation to keep saving. You may even find yourself saving more some months and achieving your goal faster.

Plan your first step. The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu, said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Well, the same is true of goals. And the sooner you take that first step, the sooner you’ll reach your goal. Even if you don’t know where to begin, you can still take the first step by researching how to start. Between asking friends who might know, finding a book on the subject, or Googling “how to…” you can get the information you need to continue.

Stay focused and persistent – Working toward your goals will sometimes be challenging and frustrating, but you must persevere. If something you’re doing isn’t working, think of something else you can try that will move you forward, even if only a tiny bit. Another option is to ask friends and associates for ideas on what you might try. A different perspective is often all you’ll need to get yourself back on track.

Celebrate your victories – Whether it’s completing an intermediate goal, or achieving your end goal, celebrate it. Reward yourself in some way, even if it’s just an ice cream cone. This seemingly small celebratory gesture will keep you motivated to start working on your next goal.

Conclusion:

Yes, you should start work immediately on your next goal. If you don’t already have another goal to start working on, make it your next goal to create and prioritize a goals list. The longer that list, the better; and continually adding to your goals list is best. You see, making and working toward achieving goals throughout your life gives you great power in all facets of your life.

How to Capture Your Inner Dialogue Through Journaling: 9 Steps to Self-Awareness

Self-esteem is your sense of self-worth. It is defined by Merriam-Webster.com as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself” or “self-respect” but how does this sense of self-worth occur and how can it be built?  More importantly, how does your inner dialogue define your sense of self?

According to Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Woody Schuldt, in his article, The Benefits of Mindfulness, self-reflection and mindfulness are the key. If we can focus on who we are, quiet the chaos and express our thoughts, desires and experiences in a judgment-free medium like journaling, we can hone in on who we are and begin to improve the areas where deficiencies are noticed.

As we begin to discover ourselves, it can help us open up, refreshed, in a whole new way.  In order to journal effectively, sometimes the hardest part is getting started. Actually putting pen to paper is first place to start. It may seem easy to get wrapped up in details and to focus on what you should say. By writing down everything that comes to mind, writing in a “stream-of-consciousness style” can be surprisingly easy and it captures the inner dialogue on paper. To make the most of your journaling experience, consider the following tips to get started.

9 Steps To Capture Inner Dialogue While Journaling:

  1. Write everything. You can always reflect more deeply on what you were thinking in the moment when you review.
  2. Make mistakes. Because this is designed to be self-reflective, there is not an emphasis on spelling, grammar, sentence construction, etc. and it is more about getting the ideas on paper and letting your thoughts flow and take you from one idea to the next in a fluid motion.
  3. Don’t edit. Getting the information on the paper is cathartic in and of itself because it allows room for processing through thoughts as you go and the act of penning them and forming them into words makes your interpretation of them more transparent.
  4. Don’t forget to focus on a balance of positive and negative things equally where possible. We don’t live in a vacuum so to accurately reflect yourself on paper, don’t pretend part of your life doesn’t exist. Life is messy but it is also full of little surprises, happy moments, tearful memories, and powerful emotions – both good and bad and this helps to gain perspective.
  5. Be truthful to yourself. You are not writing for someone else’s benefit, judgment, or approval. In order for your writing to mean something to you, write in your own voice using idioms and idiosyncratic tendencies that are meaningful in making you who you are and embrace your individualism in your own “voice”.
  6. Embrace opportunity. Use this activity to think about “what ifs” or consider pros and cons about things you are thinking about trying, new projects you have coming up, or challenges foreseeable in the near future and let that take you in any new direction your mind wanders while you write.
  7. Consider different formats. Some people find songwriting or poetry to be their prose of choice and others find solace in paragraph form, lists, or drawing. There is no right or wrong way to express yourself.
  8. Make time. You have thoughts all the time and sometimes they may be deep or sometimes superficial. They might be word associations or memory invoking, life changing events.  Spend as much or as little time as needed to capture and delve into these moments. Five minutes or an hour – it’s your call.  Fit it into your schedule where you can but don’t feel like it has to be for a set period of time.  You might have more to say one day and less another but try to make time at least once a day.  On days you have less to say, it is a great time to reflect on past entries to see your thought progression and how much your inner dialogue is changing as you grow and experience life.
  9. Review at a later time. After writing down your thoughts, consider this a single snapshot in time – where you are at in that particular moment on that particular day. Every time you journal, what you write will be different as we are constantly thinking about new challenges we face, reflecting about new obstacles in our life, and worrying about new personal struggles. Look for whether patterns emerge over time that might require some additional mental attention, i.e. if you notice consistent themes such as work stress or nervousness in specific situations try to reflect on what is making you feel that way and how you can change.  Likewise if you notice passions high and favorite topics that excite you, maybe you have hit on something that should be explored more in depth.

Inner dialogue is the conversations that we have with ourselves and it is what we are thinking, feeling, experiencing, or how we interpret each human interaction. Journaling to discover your self-awareness doesn’t have to be complicated. Self-esteem is who you are and journaling is one way to express and be more comfortable with yourself. What better way to express that to yourself than by reflecting on parts of your own life, recognizing how far you have come and what new adventures await with some quiet time, a pen, a notebook and your thoughts. Enjoy getting more acquainted with yourself.

Essiential Oils Primer: Basic Oils And How To Know Real From Fake

The use of essential oils is far removed from the hippie days of peace, love and Flower Power or the  province of massage therapists and practitioners of alternative medicine. Essential oil traces were found in King tut’s tomb, and their use stretches back as early as 3000 B.C. The global market spending on essential oils is closing in on nearly $12 billion annually. But before you spend your money, here are two important topics to consider when it comes to essential oils:

Which oils are the best ones for my basic collection?

There are a number of essential oils that play a role in good health; here are five starter oils and what they do:

Lavender: Known for its sleep-inducing properties, lavender is also used as an analgesic, antifungal and antiseptic. The best lavender, Lavandula angustfolia, comes from Bulgaria, though other varieties are grown in France, England and Spain. Put a few drops on your pillow before going to bed as a sleep aid, or in your body lotion to help heal dry, cracked skin.

Peppermint: The amazing smell is usually associated with the winter holidays, but the aroma is a brain-booster and tonic for an upset stomach or headache. It’s pain-relieving properties also work well for muscle soreness after a hard workout.

Lemon: The clean, purifying scent is perfect for creating organic DIY household cleaning products. Use these products on kitchen counters, sinks, cutting boards, knives or any surface that comes in contact with raw foods. A drop of lemon essential oil on each temple clears your mind and banishes fatigue and exhaustion, too.

Tea tree: Its antibiotic, antifungal and antiseptic attributes make this oil useful to speed healing of wounds and scar tissue. If you have a cough or cold, a few drops of tea tree oil on a cloth compress placed on the chest or throat helps loosen and expel mucus and lessen the cold’s duration.

Rosemary: A few drops of rosemary in your shampoo or conditioner will improve the thickness and strength of your hair. A rosemary oil scalp massage will easy a dry, flaky scalp. And like tea tree oil, rosemary oil can help with the respiratory issues associated with a cold.

Is my essential oil the real thing?

Here’s how to know if what’s in the bottle is pure or extended with nut, seed or vegetable oil:

The feel: Put a few drops between your fingers and rub them together. Most oils should feel a little slippery, but not slick or greasy; there should be no resemblance to cooking oil, baby oil or petroleum-based products.

The price: Some of the more common oils, such as lavender and rosemary, are decent bargains because they are abundant. But the more hard-to-find oils, such as lemon balm, jasmine and rose will be expensive, and a cheap price tag is likely a sign that what’s on the label and in the bottle don’t match.

The spot test: Place a single drop of oil on white printer paper and let it dry. If you see a ring on the paper, that’s a sign of adulterated oil. The exception to this rule would apply to very heavy essential oils, such as sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and chamomile; these four will leave a ring because of their consistency, not because of added ingredients.

The language on the label: Know your Latin names and look for them on the label. Just seeing the common or English name may be a sign that the contents are nothing more than a perfumed essence, rather than the real thing.

The container: True essential oils are packed in dark blue or amber glass, to shield the contents from sunlight and prevent the scent from impacting anything else stored with it. And note the temperature of the store selling the products: it should be cool, since heat also degrades essential oil quality.

The pour and the seal: You should find a reducer plug under the cap when you open the bottle. This prevents air from getting inside the bottle and allows only a small amount of essential oil for use each time you pour.  When it comes to true essential oils, less is better and a little does go a long way.

The origin: Look for the USDA seal, try to buy organic and if possible, find a dealer offering “wild-crafted” products. This label indicates the plants used were wild-harvested rather than farmed, and less likely to contain pesticides.

Open Eye Wellness offers pure health and wellness products from Nature’s Sunshine, Nerium International’s incredible skin products, Zyto Compass Scanning for a complete and accurate picture of your health issues and comprehensive consultations for weight loss, healthy eating and exercise to reach and maintain your optimal health.

5 Science-Backed Uses for Tea Tree Oil

If you could pick just one essential oil for your medicine cabinet, tea tree oil is the one you should choose. Why? Tea tree oil is an incomparable multitasker. Here’s a run-down on what tea tree oil can do for you–and the scientific research to back up these claims.

What is Tea Tree Oil?

Tea tree oil, also called melaleuca oil, comes from the leaves of the Australian tea tree. Unlike many essential oils, tea tree oil’s fragrance isn’t exactly pleasant and does take some getting used to. Its power lies in its scientific properties. Research has shown tea tree oil to be antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. These properties make it uniquely qualified to tackle a host of health and beauty problems. Here are 5 science-backed uses for tea tree oil.

1. To Treat Acne

Acne isn’t just for teenagers. An estimated 60 million people in the U.S. suffer from this embarrassing skin condition. Luckily, tea tree oil is an effective natural acne treatment. A 2007 study found that a 5 percent solution of topical tea tree oil gel effectively treated mild to moderate acne in study participants. The next time you get a pimple, try dabbing it with a little tea tree oil. Those with sensitive skill will benefit by diluting tea tree oil before applying it to their face.

2. For Foot Infections

If you’ve ever had athlete’s foot or a fungal infection of your toenails, you know how annoying and embarrassing these problems can be. A 2002 study showed that applying a tea tree oil solution twice daily for four weeks effectively treated athlete’s foot. Another study on toenail fungus showed that tea tree oil was as effective as the antifungal cream clotrimazole. To get rid of fungal infections in your feet, either apply undiluted tea tree oil to the affected area twice daily or soak your feet once a day in a diluted tea tree oil solution.

3. For Hair Health

Many shampoos now contain tea tree oil as an ingredient. One reason for this is because tea tree oil is effective in treating dandruff and dry scalp. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that using shampoo with 5 percent tea tree oil effectively treated mild to moderate dandruff for study participants. If you suffer from dandruff or dry scalp, try a shampoo with tea tree oil, or add a few drops to your normal shampoo.

Tea tree oil may also help with head lice. A 2007 study showed that hair treated with tea tree oil seemed to repel lice. There is some evidence for tea tree oil as a treatment for head lice, particularly with lavender. In a study from the University of Queensland, a product containing tea tree oil and lavender was shown to effectively suffocate head lice.

4. For Oral Hygiene

Tea tree oil shouldn’t be swallowed, but it can be used for oral health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of Americans have periodontal, or gum, disease. Gingivitis is one of the most common types of periodontal disease. A 2004 study found that brushing your teeth with a tea tree oil gel twice daily helped to treat chronic gingivitis. Some brands of mouthwash and toothpaste now contain tea tree oil as an ingredient.

5. To Treat Wounds

Since tea tree oil is a powerful antiseptic, it stands to reason that it would be a good wound treatment. Current research shows that tea tree oil effectively kills infections such as Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). To treat wounds with tea tree oil, place a little diluted or undiluted tea tree oil on a cotton ball and dab it on your wound before applying a bandage. Do this several times daily to prevent infection and speed up healing.

Tea tree oil is a true multitasker. Its scientific properties make it one of the most effective and versatile essential oils. If you only use one essential oil, it makes sense to make it tea tree oil.

Dealing With Depression? Try Yoga

If you or a family member suffers from depression, you likely know how emotionally painful it can be to deal with the negative feelings created by it. Unfortunately, these negative feelings can lead to lack of motivation, decreased energy, and other symptoms that may decrease your quality of life.  An early 2017 study conducted by Boston University found that yoga may help to ease people’s depression.

The Study

The study involved 30 people between 18 and 64 who had been diagnosed with clinical depression. The people were split into two groups. The one group was assigned to do three 90-minute yoga group classes weekly and four 30-minute sessions at home each week. The other group did two group sessions weekly and three at-home sessions each week.

Study Results

After about three months, most of the people in the study had lowered their scores on a depression-screening questionnaire by at least 50 percent. While those with three classes per week had lowered their scores more than those with only two classes, both groups benefited from their new yoga routine. Because of the time commitment involved with taking three classes per week, researchers suggested sticking to two weekly classes.

One of the reasons the yoga classes may have helped those suffering from depression was its focus on deep-breathing techniques. The classes the participants took involved 20 minutes of slow, gentle breathing. According to Dr. Chris Streeter, lead author of the study, yoga and deep breathing help to balance the autonomic nervous system, which then helps the rest of the brain work better.

Other Support

Of course, this is not the only study that supports the use of yoga for treating depression. Over the last few years, other studies have also supported the idea that yoga can help to reduce the symptoms of depression. Exercises, such as yoga, increase a person’s serotonin levels, which helps to increase a person’s well-being and overall happiness. Yoga can also help with other symptoms of depression, including stress, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety. Energy levels and a person’s self-esteem may also increase. Other studies have also shown that yoga helps those with depression, as well as other conditions, to relax and concentrate better.

Staying Motivated

While yoga is beneficial to those suffering from depression, it can be difficult for those who have depression to motivate themselves to participate in yoga or other forms of exercise. They know it will help them feel better, but pushing themselves to be motivated to get started might be the most difficult part of their yoga exercise routine. A U.S. News and World Report article from December 2017 discussed some of the ways that those with depression can push themselves to stay active. Some of the suggestions include:

  • Don’t wait to feel motivated. Instead of waiting to feel motivated, just go for it. Once you have started to exercise, whether it’s yoga or another form of exercise, you will start to feel better. Waiting may just lead to being less and less motivated to start a regular exercise routine.
  • Make it consistent. Even if it’s only two or three times a week, stick to that routine. Ideally, try to do yoga (or another exercise) at roughly the same time of the day. When possible, pick the time of day when your mood is the brightest.
  • Be patient. You may not feel great about your yoga routine after the first or second workout. Give it time. It might be a while before you start to feel your depression symptoms decreasing.

Supplementary Treatment

If you are already undergoing medical treatment for depression, yoga should likely not replace your current treatment. In some cases, though, it could be a supplemental treatment and could lead to less reliance upon other methods of treatment for depression.

Of course, yoga is not the only exercise that provides benefits for those suffering from depression. Other forms of exercise, including walking, are also being studied. Often, the key to finding the right exercise routine is finding one that you enjoy and sticking with it.

2 Paleo Diet Cookie Recipes Good Enough to Convert Your Friends

Diet trends are something that has been a part of our society for decades. There’s fruit and juice diets, diets that ban carbs, diets that emphasize one or two super-foods, and diets that have a specific health goal in mind. However, one of the things that’s recently become popular are diets that go hand in hand with a lifestyle as well. Among the lifestyle diets, the Paleo community is by far one of the largest and fastest growing, in part because the focus is not losing weight.

Rather than encouraging its members to obsess over body image and scale pounds, the Paleo diet is all about eating the foods your stomach evolved to process by thinking about eating from a ‘caveman’ perspective. Meat, nuts, berries, and root vegetables are staples of this trend because they, far better than processed flower, sugar, and fat packed packaged food, ensure you get all the nutrients, healthy oils, and dietary fiber we need. But what about snacking?

If you’re dedicated to staying paleo this year, you’ll need a plan to deal with sugar cravings and, worse, friends tempting you with non-paleo sweets. When it comes to a diet, often the best defense is an amazing, sugar-packed offense in the form of specialty desserts. To fight the temptation of processed sugar, bleached flower, and partially hydrogenated corn syrup, consider breaking out the recipe book and wowing your friends with a few delicious paleo cookie recipes.

Paleo Gingerbread Cookies

Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean that gingerbread cookies are ‘out of season’. Simply that you can now cut them into any shapes you want without the obligation to make and eat little people. Of course, nothing’s stopping you from using your gingerbread man cookie cutters either and delighting in biting off little heads and feet if that’s still your favorite part of the gingerbread cookie. While you may have given up grains, you can still have some amazing cookies (in moderation) made from scratch at home.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Blanched Almond Flour
  • 2/3 Cup Arrowroot Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 4 Tablespoons Maple Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses
  • 3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

To Make the Gingerbread Cookies…

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together
  • Boil molasses in a saucepan, then stir in oil
  • Pour molasses and oil into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed
  • Sprinkle arrowroot flour on a piece of parchment paper
  • Roll out Dough onto parchment and cut circles or shapes
  • Carefully peel away the excess dough and place the gingerbread men on a greased cookie sheet
  • Bake for 10 Minutes
  • Re-roll the dough and repeat until gone.
  • Final dough can be pressed into circular cookies

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are one of the most integral desserts in our culture and has quite possibly topped apple pie as the top national sweet. However, seeing as the paleo diet does not include grains, it’s fallen to us to figure out how to replicate that amazing soft gooey experience following a new set of recipe rules. Among all the possible paleo chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, this one is sure to convince your friends and family that your paleo diet might just be a good idea after all.

Ingredients

  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Smooth Almond Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil – melted and cooled
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Blanched Almond Flour
  • 1/4 Coconut Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Fine Grain Seas Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Chips

To Make the Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Preheat the Oven to 350 F
  • Beat the egg, almond butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth
  • Combine the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients until a dough is formed
  • Roll the dough into small balls and press flat
  • Place flat dough cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes

This year, you can defeat the temptation for off-diet treats with a platter of each of these two classic treats. Your family won’t be able to believe that you made them completely without grain or dairy following the paleo rules. They might even be willing to try some of your more alien-seeming raw recipes after trying a few bites of gingerbread arm or your paleo chocolate chip cookies.

4 Tips to Make Your Body More Comfortable to Live In After 40 (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second half of our two-part article on how to enjoy your body after turning 40 despite what media and possibly your own instincts are telling you. Just when you’re starting to feel like slowing down is the perfect time to find a routine that works well for keeping your body healthy and comfortable. Last time we talked about the importance of walking and swinging your hips in general, as this both works out a large variety of muscles and moves your digestive system forward, along with the benefits of hot baths on aches though society has turned to showers. Let’s pick up where we left off at the right foods for a pleasant experience.

3) Eat Rabbit Food

One of the last things anyone in their 40s and 50s wants to hear is another person pushing them to change their diet but we’re going to talk about diet anyway. The way your digestion treats you will depend a great deal on what you eat. As the computer crowd likes to say “Trash In, Trash Out” and this absolutely applies to your diet as well. Now I’m not saying that you need to give up the burgers and steak altogether, just think about what you’re mixing together and how that will bond in your belly.

The key is to sneak vegetables, rice, and other forms of natural roughage into your diet whenever possible. This is actually easier than it sounds. Try including half a bowl of oatmeal with your regular breakfast. If you tend to live on instant noodles when really getting to work, throw in a handful of dehydrated vegetables. Eat a side of rice and a side of steamed and seasoned vegetables with your steak, eat a salad with your burger, and consider putting together raw veggie dip platters for your desk snacking. Your digestion will thank you.

4) Build Up Muscle

Finally, now is your last best chance to build up muscle before your body decides that it’s time to retire and no, it’s not about looking good. Most of us by 40 have accepted that our body shapes aren’t likely to change very much without extreme effort and that, for the most part, we just don’t have the time for the hours of exercise and mood swings involved in seriously cutting. On the other hand, being strong is incredibly useful and something you’ll value in your later years. Strength itself isn’t about appearance, it’s about the ability to do things. Being strong means that you can lift and move furniture at will, get household tasks done quickly,  and open jars for smaller and younger people. You also start losing muscle mass when your body finally decides that you are official “old” so you’ll want plenty stored up to help you stay strong for a good long time.

This means that right now, while you’re still “In Your Prime”, is the perfect time to build up and maintain muscle through regular exercise. If you don’t want a flight of stairs to take out you and don’t want to become frail in your old age, muscle now is the key to independence and capability later. Plus, you get the bonus of admiration for gaining extra strength today while you’re still frequently asked by friends and family to help move heavy furniture or open jars.

Being healthy isn’t about impressing anyone or looking like you’re 20 again, it’s about being as comfortable and capable as possible in the body you have today. When you treat your digestion, joints, and muscles correctly, they’ll carry you through retirement with far greater comfort and reliability. With these 4 tricks, you’ll enjoy being 50 possibly even more than you enjoyed being 35.

4 Tips to Make Your Body More Comfortable to Live In After 40 (Part 1)

While media plays down the natural aging cycle, most people start to feel their years somewhere around 30. While you may still officially be “In Your Prime”, what this means is that you’re at a plateau of personal energy and that, after your ‘prime’, things will start to slow down. Everyone handles the transitions from young adulthood to mid-adulthood to older adulthood differently. Some people are possessed by the need to stay fit and become those whip-thin older people you see out jogging every day but, for the most part, we tend to settle into our jobs, accept the reality of a spare tire, and stop worrying too much about health and fitness. After all, we all get older and rounder with time and there’s no point in getting stressed out about it, right?

Unfortunately, there are also more than a few negative side effects to becoming complacent with the slow natural deterioration of health and fitness that comes with getting older. Sitting too long at your day job, for example, can give you blood clots and heart problems. Eating unhealthily can make you sick and cause unpleasant digestion, while simply gaining weight can wreak havoc on your joints, and this isn’t even taking into account the usual aches and pains of aging. The fact of the matter is that many people turn to fitness techniques simply to be more comfortable in their own body.

Getting into exercise may be a big step for you, but here are four tips that can at least make it more enjoyable to live in the body you have.

1) Swing Your Hips

The vast majority of people in their middle to late adult years have painful and unpleasant digestive experiences. Being ‘blocked up’ is a common result of two things that are like epidemics in our society: inactivity and dehydration. If you’ve been finding that your digestion varies wildly and uncomfortably toward one or both of the extremes, then it’s time to take charge of your health. What your body is telling is that you’re both eating the wrong things and not making sure that everything gets shaking through your body at the right pace.

This kind of intestinal discomfort and misbehavior are exactly what your hips are for. The hips, specifically when you’re walking or running, turn the “gears” of your intestines. In other words, the more you walk, the more smoothly your digestion will run because of the way your hips work. With each step, you make it easier for your stomach and intestines to process things quickly and efficiently, soaking up nutrients where they can and moving everything along down the line. This is exactly why people in previous era s had a tradition of post-supper perambulation.

The more you ‘walk off’ your meals, the more easily they will digest and the more comfortable you will be. If you can’t get out for a long evening walk, treadmills will do but both stationary bikes and running in place won’t have as beneficial an effect.

2) Soak Your Bones

Do your joints hurt? Do you have one joint in particular that aches when a storm’s coming or when the weather turns cold? This is incredibly common for most people in their 40s and 50s and you don’t have to be an old-timey sailor to earn the right to a creaky knee that can predict the weather. Joint pain is just another natural part of aging as the pads and cartilage in your knees, elbows, and other joints wear down over time. Some people are dealing with a past injury, others are dealing with arthritis, but almost universally getting older involves a few achy joints.

Fortunately, the solution is universal and quite enjoyable. At least once a week, draw yourself a nice hot bath. I know, guys don’t normally do the whole ‘bath’ thing and these days they’re building houses without bathtubs at all, but take my word on this one. Soak your bones. Heat relaxes muscles, eases pain, and promotes blood flow which means that your achy joints will be able to simultaneously warm up, relax, and float without pressure for a while. You may be surprised how good you feel afterward.

Join us next time for the second half of this two-part article where we’ll talk about how you eat and how to prepare your muscles for a long and happy life of moving furniture and opening jars at will.

Six Things to Remember When You’ve Lost Your Determination

Life is tough. There is no getting around that fact. And you have two choices: you can either run from the hardship, or you can embrace it. At Open Eye Wellness, we have realized that only when you face up to life’s difficulties do you really truly live. We understand that you may be feeling down. And believe us, you are not the only one. Everyone has their days – or weeks, months, or years – when they feel lost and weak. Everyone knows what it is like to lose sight of their goals. But a few people know what it is like to push through the gloom and come out on the other side. It is going to take some grit. But we know you can do it! Whatever you are going through, here are six things to remember that will help you regain your lost determination.

1. I will not be satisfied with average. Anyone can be average. And sometimes we try to get away with just doing what is expected of us and no more. But it is the people who are willing to work harder, stand taller, and fight longer that get the gold. It is the people who are willing to go above and beyond that reap the rewards.

2. The pain I feel today is the strength I will feel tomorrow. Sure, we may be going through some painful experiences. And it is not easy to keep on our feet. But remember the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”? There is actually truth in that, even if it is overused. If you can make it through the pain today, you will find yourself stronger and more beautiful when the sun rises tomorrow.

3. I have come too far to quit. Do you even realize how much you have accomplished already? Whether you have taken one step or one hundred, you have done too much to quit on yourself now. Don’t leave your work unfinished. Don’t come close to your goal, but never actually reach it. You are better than that! You have survived so far, so face life with a smile and keep pushing.

4. Improvement is defined by what I used to be, not by what other people are. We are tempted to compare ourselves to others on a daily basis. The people around us are the ones who define our successes or defeats in our mind. This gives us and unreal and unhealthy view of who we are! We need to remember where we are and where we came from. If we are a better person in some small way than we were before, that is a victory! It doesn’t matter how other people look at you. Just keep climbing.

5. I will win or I will learn. Too often, we view ourselves as either winning or losing. But the truth is that what we may consider a loss is actually an opportunity to learn and grow. Sure, things may not turn out like we expected them to. But if we learn something in the process, the effort was not wasted.

6. My future begins today. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, after all. You may not get to decide the circumstances of your future, but you can decide what to do about them. Do you want to reach a specific goal? Do you want to become a better person? Remember that today is what shapes your future. The decisions you make will be massively important years down the road. So choose to be strong!

Being strong doesn’t mean you never feel weak. It means you hold your head high, even when you don’t feel your best. So, chin up, champion! Look tomorrow in the eye with a smile on your face.

Make Muscle Memory Work for You

As much as we wish to see ourselves as unique individuals in control of our lives, there is more automation to our bodies than meets the eye. Muscle memory is the best example of the machine that our body is capable of becoming.

Your Brain and Your Brawn

While muscle memory is a popular term to use for motor learning, the phrase is more than just a catchy image. It is the cerebellum, located in the back of the brain, that is responsible for tapping into and activating muscle memory.

It makes sense that the cerebellum would be the locale for establishing muscle memory. The cerebellum is also responsible for helping you to maintain your balance and equilibrium, in addition to coordinating your voluntary muscle movements.

Memory in Motion

There is a certain artistic beauty to memory in motion. Think of the experienced pianist who can daydream about mundane duties to be performed later on, all the while playing a complex work that demanded hours of dedicated practice.

Similarly, the gymnast who spends years learning how to get into a handstand and then to maintain it as naturally as standing upright. The many hours of frustration, shaking shoulders, and lost balances ultimately morphs into a posture that appears to be as normal as sitting in a chair or relaxing on the couch.

This is the idea of taking an action or motion and learning it so deeply that it becomes a memory, something easily and readily performed without conscious control beyond the decision to start.

Trusting Muscle Memory

Whether it involves arts, sports, or even daily activities, muscle memory goes to work without us realizing it most of the time. Interestingly, when we learn to trust muscle memory, we become more efficient beings than when we insist upon relying upon brute force and manual control.

The easiest way to throw off another person is to ask them to think about what they are physically doing at any given moment.

Try to consciously control your breathing. Decide when you will inhale and when you will release that breath. Commit to being aware of breathing for just five minutes.

Are you surprised to find yourself unable to focus upon such a simple task as breathing for merely 300 seconds? Did you instead start making shopping lists, think about last night’s dinner, and make plans for the upcoming weekend?

If so, congratulations! This proves you are completely human, with a perfectly functioning mind that wanders like a kitten in a room filled with catnip toys.

The reason your mind went on vacation is that breathing is a natural function. Of course, we can hold our breath, take in large gulps of air, and perform other fantastic feats of breath control. We just do not need to control it, because we trust our body to do an outstanding job of that on its own.

The Benefits of Muscle Memory

We like to believe that multitasking is a fairly new concept. The truth is that most animals are amazing at managing more than one job at a time.

In the wild, a prowling tiger is approaching a prey while also calculating the possible paths of escape its intended victim may attempt. It also needs to “know” the terrain it is running across, making slight adjustments for boulders, shrubs, trees, and hills it will encounter.

Meanwhile, the tiger has likely not eaten for a week or longer. So it is hungry and in a weakened state. It has one primary focus: to find sustenance and gain much needed proteins.

None of the above are conscious thought processes of the tiger. It is a condition of being aware of providing for its basic needs. She is in an automatic mode of operation, a state she goes into regularly.

Whether or not she succeeds this time, she knows it is the only way to survive. That is the core benefit of muscle memory.

The Gift That Muscle Memory Bestows Upon Humankind

It is generally agreed that humans are the most intelligent creatures on Earth. (At least among humans there is this consensus!)

Being conscious offers many benefits, as is evidenced by the incredible advances our species have made in our short history. We travel across the surface of our planet faster than any other animal, we communicate globally using sophisticated equipment, and we imagine and create different realms of reality (think books, music, and film).

But beyond this magical component of being human is the still and always miraculous capacity of muscle memory. We can even say that it is thanks to our muscle memory that we have freed out minds to truly soar and discover worlds beyond our imagination.

Because our bodies are subconsciously serving our basic needs, we became creatures of leisure. And this extra time turned us into creatures of curiosity, excited at the wondrous discoveries waiting to be uncovered.

Meanwhile, our bodies keep on ticking, in unconscious gratitude to our muscle memories.