5 Steps to Changing Your Behavior

Know Yourself

Explore the possible origins of your unwanted behavior, as well as your motivations for change, through keeping a journal, mindful awareness, or talking with a partner. Be realistic about who you are and how you operate. We cannot change every little thing about ourselves, so a little self-awareness can save us a lot of stress and frustration. Pick your battles, and know what motivates you – and what doesn’t.  Work out with a friend if you’re more motivated by spending time with others than going to the gym alone. Feeling competent reinforces healthy new behaviors, so do what works for you. Work with, rather than against, your strengths, abilities and natural disposition.

Be Prepared

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers.

Now that you know yourself a little better, learn to anticipate your triggers – and avoid them! The easier you can make it for yourself to succeed, the easier it will be to create new behavioral pathways in the brain. Be prepared for obstacles and challenges. Avoid places and people that may sabotage or tempt you.

Accentuate the Positive, Minimize the Negative

Unfortunately, biology doesn’t always help us.  We can’t get rid of all negative signals – we need some for survival – but us modern humans can minimize our negativity bias by intentionally focusing on the positive. Write down three positive things that happened to you this week and call them to mind often. Keep a gratitude journal. Be your own cheerleader. Become aware of negative self-talk and counteract it with positive affirmations.

Practice Acts of Self-Care

Unwanted behaviors are usually attempts to manage stress, anxiety, and overwhelming emotions. Sometimes our attempts turn into problems rather than solutions, but guilt, shame and self-punishment do not help. In fact, they usually create exactly what we are trying to avoid: stress, anxiety and discomfort. Stress-reduction and good self-care are essential components to long-lasting behavior change. Become aware of your mind-body vulnerabilities. Most of us resort to unhealthy behaviors when we are tired, hungry or emotionally triggered. Reduce your stress by slowing down, doing yoga, meditating, gardening, exercising, laughing, helping others, and/or seeking support from positive friends and family.

Be Patient and Persistent

Change takes time and persistence. It took a long time to entrench your unwanted behaviors, so it takes a little while to undo them (perhaps 30 days for lasting change, but you can start to feel a healthy shift sooner, if you’re consistent).  When you are consistent and persistent, though, the muscles get stronger, and it becomes not only easier and less painful to work out, but part of your muscle memory. Give yourself permission to go slow, and know that setbacks are part of the process (but less likely if you pace yourself). We may have to do the opposite of our urges for a while, and fake it until we make it, but the human brain is much more plastic than previously believed.

Are your Sleep Habits Sabotaging Your Health?

While a person is resting, it gives the brain time to process information that was taken in throughout the day in preparation for receiving more on the following one. When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, it pushes the brain to work even harder. This can cause individuals to suffer from memory impairment, and it can also delay motor skills. In other words, you need sleep in order to properly function, even when it comes to working out. If you’re lacking adequate rest, it can make you groggy, irritable, and slower when it comes to moving at your regular daily pace.

Canadian researchers tracked how sleep patterns affected weight over a six-year period.  People who slept 5 to 6 hours per night, as well as people who got 9 to 10 hours of sleep, were more likely to have gained 11 pounds at the end of six years. The scientists speculate that getting too much or too little sleep disrupts appetite control by stimulating the production of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite, while reducing leptin, a hormone that dulls the appetite.

What Happens

Optimal Sleep for Optimal Health

When you don’t get enough sleep, there is a hormone in your body known as leptin that drops; at the same time, another hormone known as ghrelin rises.

Ghrelin triggers the appetite. Without enough sleep, you go throughout your day eating food, but never really feeling satisfied. The research done at Stanford showed that there was a 14.9% increase of ghrelin in those patients who slept an average of 5 hours versus those that got an average of 8 hrs of sleep. Not only that – the results were the same regardless of gender, body type, eating habits, or exercise programs.

If you have too little leptin in your system, it tells your body that you are starving, and increases your appetite. When researchers studied the effects of sleeping habits on leptin hormone levels, it showed a 15.5% decrease in the same studied patients who slept an average of 5 hours as compared to those who slept consistently for 8 hours.

Another consequence of sleep deprivation has on your appetite is that if you didn’t sleep well the previous night, you usually will gravitate toward foods and drinks with lots of caffeine and sugar content.

These findings show us that we ought to be thinking about ways to incorporate sleep hygiene into standard weight control programs. So, the next time that you hear someone say that they’ll sleep when they’re dead, perhaps you should share this article with them. It’s not so much a cliché, but a declaration of a series of potential health risks. Sleep, ironically, helps you to live longer and healthier. And who doesn’t want that?

Trans Fat Funk

Are you often mesmerized with that pint of chocolate ice cream, that makes you feel completely happy and excited for the moment? But then are you ready to trade in short-term pleasure for a long-term increased risk of depression?

Everyone looks and feels better with a smile.

Trans fat intake is one of the main causes of unwanted weight gain. Fast-food chains and ready-to-cook or preserved foods for meals contain trans fat, thus making people overweight and unhealthy. A habit of healthy eating must be applied and planned to avoid purchasing foods that contain trans fat, preparing meals should be well planned and checked for nutritious content and absence of trans fat, this could lead to a healthier and depression-free living.

New research suggests eating too much trans fat, long known to raise heart disease risk, can also boost your risk of depression. Depression is the illness that involves your body, mood, and thoughts, and greatly affects the way you eat, sleep, and feel towards yourself and others. It is well known that high trans fat intake is the risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and people with cardiovascular disease are often depressed.

A study put forth by the Universities of Navarra and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain have found that diets rich in trans-fats — like the kind found in most fast food meals — increase the risk of depression by 50 percent. Even in Europe, where trans-fat consumption is far lower than in the U.S., depression rates are considerably higher among trans-fat-consuming populations.

On the other hand, participants that consumed healthy oils like olive oil and fish oils had a “lower risk of suffering depression,” according to the study. Researchers say that lack of healthy oil consumption and excessive consumption of unhealthy oils continues to increase rates of both depression and cardiovascular disease around the world.