How to Boost Your Mood and Improve Motivation

Many of us have heard (or read on the Internet) the following quote:  “Exercise is the most under-utilized anti-depressant.”

We nod our heads and click “like” on Facebook, but do we really realize the significance of that little statement?

Depression, long term or short term impacts more of us than you might think. One study showed that the estimated number of people impacted by depression globally is roughly 350 million.  If you think that number is high, think again. It’s estimated that depression contributes to $80 billion dollars worth of health care claims and costs in one year alone.

With those numbers, it seems kind of a no-brainer that if we were feeling depressed, we’d want to take a non-expensive route for treatment – especially knowing results are proven to help or alleviate depression, low mood and lack of motivation.  But we don’t. We know exercise is good for us. Still, the last thing we want to do, when feeling TIRED and UNmotivated is to exercise. Seriously, who wants to jump on the elliptical or the treadmill or hit the trail when we feel so BLAH…?   The answer:  NO ONE.

It’s one of life’s paradoxes:  The last thing you want or feel like doing is probably the best thing for you. Exercise has proven time and again to have a helpful and positive influence upon mental wellbeing.  Still, if you’re feeling like your “get up and go” just got up and left you… alone… for awhile now, rigorous exercise can seem overwhelming.

Here’s the good news: Exercise doesn’t have to be vigorous for you to benefit from its mood boosting effects.

Sure, vigorous cardio work and exercise releases endorphins (which some call the “feel good hormones”) but even calm to moderate exercise increases serotonin, which lifts your spirits, helps your mood and can counteract insomnia.

One of the easiest things you can do: Take a quick, brisk walk.  Walking has been shown time and time again to help mutliple issues in our lives. Alleviating depression, and low morale are just a couple of the concerns walking can address.

If you or a company you know of could benefit from a corporate walking program, be sure to visit the Walkingspree website for further details. If you haven’t followed us on Facebook, we’d love to see you there.

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3 Easy Ways Eliminate to Mental Fatigue and Improve Focus

There are three quick and easy things you can fix that will help eliminate mental fatigue, lethargy, lack of focus and even headaches!

1. Eat Breakfast. So often we are tempted to skip this meal.  Many of us just “aren’t hungry that early in the morning.” But the reality is: studies and research have shown over and over that eating breakfast can improve memory, especially short-term memory and your attention. Students who eat breakfast are shown to perform better. So…why not you? Want to do better at work? Focus and get more done in your daily life? Try eating breakfast. If you aren’t sure what to eat opt for high fiber whole grains, fruits. Don’t forget omega-3 fatty acids are critical for brain health. Diets high in omega-3 have been linked to reducing dementia, stroke risk, Alzheimer’s and more. Many parents swear by omega-3 citing it as a key factor in their children’s ADHD treatment.

2. Stay Hydrated! This is an often overlooked critical component when trying to improve focus and concentration. Did you know that human brains are 80% water? When you are dehydrated your brain tissue loses water which causes your brain to shrink (Yikes!) and pull away from your skull. That could certainly impact focus but it also triggers some of the pain receptors that surround your brain. Yes, you guessed it: This can lead to a nasty headache. Everyone knows that a persistent headache is not only painful and annoying but it leads to mental fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Research has also demonstrated that our brain cells need twice the energy than other cells. That beautiful liquid, H2O delivers this oomph better than any other substance you could imbibe! When you give your brain enough water, it will be able to think with more speed, be more focused and productive!  So, drink your water. It’s good for you in more ways than you might have guessed!

3. Go for a Walk. That’s correct. Taking a short walk, even for just a few minutes has been shown to improve concentration, make you feel more energized and alert. Walking is also a mood booster! Many studies demonstrate the effectiveness of exercise on depression and anxiety – two of the biggest culprits affecting concentration, focus and attention.

So there you have it. Three super easy tips to better focus and eliminating mental fatigue.

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5 Ways to Trick Yourself Into a Morning Workout

5 Ways to Trick Yourself Into a Morning Workout

by Clarissa Mayse, Social Media Director, Walkingspree

We all know those morning fitness types and sometimes we hate them. Those of us who hit the snooze button ten times before hauling our drowsy, sleep filled brains out of bed cannot understand how some people wake up all bright eyed and ready to lift weights, do squats, or just go for a walk. How do they do it? We shake our heads in bewilderment.

Personally, I’ve often wondered if it is safe for me to workout in the mornings. Seriously, I’ve been known to run face first into the bathroom door because my brain wasn’t awake yet. Then there was the time that I poured an energy drink in my son’s oatmeal instead of hot water. And don’t forget that my communication skills are on par with your average caveman. It’s a good morning if you can get more than a couple of grunts or one word answers out of me. My kids have become experts at keeping it simple until Mom has her caffeine.

Like many others, I would love to get my workout over and done first thing. I am not a fitness nut and view exercise as a necessary evil.   I value it because it is smart, healthy and good for my body and personal well-being. All that said; I have a serious struggle with waking up happy, alert and chipper. So, after some searching, I found a few “tricks” that might be helpful. For this week’s “Move Monday” post, I decided to share what I found.

5 Ways to Trick Yourself Into a Morning Workout

1. Wear Your Workout Clothes to Bed. This is my favorite of all the tips I found. It’s a step that takes too much time when a groggy brain attempts it. I’m not the sort to lay my clothes out before I go to sleep. This results in using the reasoning of ‘I’ll just lay here and think about what to wear to workout in’ as an excuse for hitting the snooze button…. 5 times… So, going to sleep in your workout clothes is actually a great idea. It eliminates another excuse immediately. When the alarm goes off, you are ready to roll – or fall – out of bed, whichever applies to your own personal situation.

2. Inhale Peppermint Essential Oil. I love this tip! Because it works so well! For a safer alternative to energy drinks, take a few whiffs of peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has been shown to boost energy, increase concentration and focus.  It’s also known to help with sinuses, headaches and digestive issues. Place a couple of drops on your palms and rub together. Next, breathe in.  Ahhhh…

3. Put Your Shoes Next to Your Bed. You’re already wearing your workout gear. Complete the outfit and put on your shoes as soon as you get out of bed. Some recommend putting your shoes next to the front door. I’m opting for beside the bed because if I put them on right away, I’ll be less tempted to climb back into bed with my shoes on!

4. Drink a Glass of Cool Water. Cool water can help you fire up your metabolism and rehydrate. If you’re trying to kick an energy drink habit, as some of my co-workers are, it will also have a slightly filling effect and possibly stall your craving.

Tip: Add ice and put water in a thermos beside your bed before you go to sleep. This way – when you wake up – it will be right there and you won’t even have to balk at the idea of making the trek to the kitchen!

5. Set a Crazy-Funny Alarm. That’s right. We’ve all heard the so-called “trick” of setting your alarm and placing it across the room, right?  I, personally, despise that trick. It never worked for me and I think a person who has never had trouble waking up must have invented it. The only thing it ever did for me was put me in a crabby mood.  After hauling my rear out of bed to shut it off, the last thing I felt was all rosey, bright-eyed and chipper! Most certainly, I was not in the mood to workout.

So, I decided to try making myself smile at something goofy or rather someone goofy – ME.  I downloaded an app called SpinMe Alarm Clock. It makes you stand up and spin around twice before it will turn itself off. I tried it here in the office and I ended up laughing so hard I almost fell over.  My co-workers just looked on in confusion. (I know.  I’m easily amused.) After spinning (and laughing), I felt happier and thought it would make a great way to wake up.

I also noticed another app called Walk Up Alarm Clock.This one is perfect for Walkingspree members! It promises to wake you up with its anti-snooze feature and getting you to walk. You tell it the number of steps and the amount of time you want to take stepping those steps. The alarm will not turn off until you’ve completed your steps. It looks like you can set it for a few steps, 30 steps or more. You decide.

We, at Walkingspree, hope that you’ll find these tips valuable. We’d like to know what you think. Have you tried any of these?  Do you have another tip that you think would help others?

Did you find this article using a search engine and would like to know more about how your company or your employer can learn about the Walkingspree program? Feel free to visit our contact page.

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Eat These Foods to Sleep Better and Lose Weight

Eat These Foods to Sleep Better and Lose Weight

When trying to eat right, be fit, manage your weight and just be healthy, there are numerous variables we are asked to take into consideration.  When you think about it, we are hit from every possible angle.   Reality shows have overweight participants going through boot camps promoting rigorous work out routines.  We stand in line at the grocery store mesmerized by tabloids either insulting one celebrity for his/her weight gain or praising another for promoting a certain diet.  Login to Facebook and you’ll see your friends promoting the latest weight loss gimmick.  On Instagram, someone is promoting calorie burning mini videos.  It never ends.

Sure, great nutrition and healthy exercise will help you manage or lose weight.  We all know that.  Still, one glaring variable that many people forget to consider is sleep.

Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain.  For some, it may be stress keeping them up at night.  For others, it could be chronic pain.  Either way, when you cannot sleep at night, it negatively impacts your daily routine.  If you are constantly tired, not only does performance and concentration suffer but you’re likely to be less active and too tired to think about exercise.

It just makes sense that we should take action where we can in order to increase our own level quality sleep.

Two things that you can control easily, when it comes to helping you sleep better, are the use of electronic devices and choosing sleep friendly foods.  That means turning off your gadgets and learning which foods to remove from your diet and which ones to add in.

A recent news article on sleep concerns says “…..the first step toward good sleep hygiene is establishing a consistent sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at consistent times each day. In the hours before bed, start shutting off the TV, cellphones and other electronics in the house and create a relaxing environment by doing things such as taking a shower or bath, and/or dimming the lights in the house. It is also important to monitor what you eat and drink before bed. Avoid drinking a lot of fluid before bed, as this will likely cause you to have to get up several times during the night to use the restroom. Spicy foods and substances such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can also make sleep extremely difficult—these should also be avoided before sleep time.”

Five Foods that Help You Sleep Better

There are numerous studies out there showing that food choices can help you with your sleep. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid required for overall growth and development, making niacin, and making serotonin in the body. Serotonin is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood.  The following sleep promoting foods are easy to find, contain tryptophan and many of them are already in your kitchen.

Milk

Research has proven that warm milk can make you sleepy, but did you know that almost any dairy product can promote relaxation?  Calcium assists the brain in using tryptophan (which is found in many dairy products) to create melatonin.

Nuts

Nuts are high in both tryptophan and magnesium.  Not only can those two ingredients be calming but they can make you want to doze off. Sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews and walnuts all contain more than 50 milligrams of L-tryptophan in a one-fourth cup serving.    One interesting note: walnuts possess their own source of melatonin.

Cherries

Cherries are naturally high in melatonin.  Drink some cherry juice or grab a cup of cherries for a bedtime snack. Studies have shown that really tart cherries naturally increase levels of melatonin. Cherry juice has even been used in insomnia studies.

Honey

Honey’s natural sugar slightly increases insulin and lets tryptophan enter the brain more easily, according to nutritionists.    So, apparently a spoonful of honey not only helps the medicine go down but could also help facilitate a better night’s sleep when taken at bedtime.

Bananas

Bananas are filled with potassium and magnesium, two minerals that encourage muscle relaxation and what’s better than making sure you are relaxed when trying to fall asleep?

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How to Build an Exercise Habit (when you hate exercising)

How to Build an Exercise Habit (when you hate exercising)

Are you someone who really doesn’t enjoy exercising?  Does the idea of exercising make you want to take a nap?  Maybe you’d rather chill out and drink a glass of wine when you get home from work as opposed to throwing on your running shoes and whipping out a 5k?

You are not alone.  We know we should exercise.  We know it’s good for us.  We know the statistics say we’ll live longer and that our health conditions will improve.  The studies, the Internet, doctors, our friends, even our dogs all want us to get up and just MOVE.  Be active.  Be fit.

Still the truth is: Knowing the facts doesn’t always translate into desire and motivation.

Let’s look at why a habit of exercise can be difficult:

The first thing most people do when they set an exercise goal is say something like:

  • “I’m going to exercise for an hour everyday.”
  • “I’m going to exercise for 45 minutes every weekday”
  • “I’ll get on the treadmill for 30 minutes every single day so I can lose weight and stay healthy.”
  • “I commit to working out and lifting weights for an hour, three times a week.”

What do statements like this have in common?  Well, sure, they are all very worthy goals.  Yet, they have something else in common:

For people just getting started or getting back to exercising: 30 minutes a day can be overwhelming.

30 minutes a day doesn’t seem like a lot, does it?  But your brain is more than likely hearing “30 minutes a day for the rest of my life! Holy Moly!” Or  “Lifting weights for an hour, three times a week for the next 5 years is impossible with my schedule!”   And “Exercise for 45 minutes a day every weekday?  There goes my lunch hour for the rest of my days…”

How to Build an Exercise Habit (when you hate exercising)

Often your brain already doubts you’ll stick to the goal before you ever start because you’ve tried before and something always happens.  You forget to exercise one day, you get sick, the kids get sick, you don’t sleep all night so you’re too exhausted to exercise the next morning and so on.

The point is:  30 minutes a day or even every other day might be daunting to your subconscious.  Even though you know that 30 minutes isn’t really a long time, you are smart enough to realize the commitment involved, right?  In real life, with real schedules, that’s a pretty serious chunk of your schedule.

So, start small and build up.  Five minutes a day may seem like it’s not worth your time.   But, dear reader, it truly is.  Because you can take those 5 minutes and build on them when you are ready.  Make “mini-goals” for your progress.  You can exercise for 5 minutes each day.  Eventually you’ll want to add to it.  One way to do this is by “graduating” every week.   For example, you might decide you are going to exercise for 5 minutes a day for one week.  Then the following week you add 5 minutes to the routine.   Or not.  Maybe your pace is more suited to adding 2 minutes to the routine.  Your end goal might be 30 minutes or 45 minutes on the days that you choose to exercise.

Your brain knows that you can do anything for 5 minutes a day.  So, start small.  Build up to a habit one minute, one heartbeat, one breath at a time.    Before you know it, you’ll reach the goal that once seemed impossible.

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