You Are Stronger Then You Think You Are. Don’t let thinking trap you in a negative cycle.

We live in a society where strength is valued.  Our culture values physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual strength.  According to Ran Zilch (2010), strength means having physical power, having great mind and moral power, and having resources.  In the extreme culture we live in we see the strongest, the smartest, and the richest as the most successful and powerful.  As a result those of us that are normal and are not Dana Lynn Bailey,  not Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg, or are not Donald Trump believe we are not enough.

If this what we think then this is what we will start to believe.  If you believe you are not strong enough you will feel not strong enough.  This is not because you are weak it is because of automatic negative thoughts.  Every single day you engage in behaviors and make decisions, all of which require thinking.  Because of automatic thinking most decisions and behaviors are performed with ease and minimal effort.  Imagine how your life would be if it took great thought to brush your teeth, drive to work, or have a conversation with a friend.  Automatic thinking keeps us functioning from day to day (Epstude & Roese, 2011).  Negative automatic thoughts develop when we compare our realistic situation to our expectation.  Here is an example of how negative automatic thinking works, “If I am feeling depressed then I must not be emotionally strong enough” (Byrne, 2005).  This thought will develop in the mind with minimal effort and because your evaluation of the situation seems true to you, this thought will stick. Negative thinking can cause isolation and depression.  Because we value strength it can seem shameful to share these thoughts and feelings to someone else.  You may think something like, “if I say how I really feel people will think I am weak”.  People think that negative emotions means they are flawed.  Therefore people tend to keep these thoughts and feelings quiet. Research after research study cites the importance of support to improve health and accomplish goals.  However if we are letting our negative thinking get in the way then we are not allowing ourselves to accept support from others.

Negative thinking can be corrected.  It takes effort but using support from others will help correct harmful negative thoughts.  When in doubt, when unsure, when scared, when sad, and when upset one of the best things to do is reach out for support.  Here are some common negative thinking patterns that cause depression, frustration, and emotional upset and how you can use support to challenge the negative thinking to feel better.

  • “Should”‘ing all over yourself.  Thinking things that include “I should”, “I must”, “I ought” only cause us to feel guilty.  Thinking this way increases shame, frustration, and is a form of self-punishment.  Escape this messy trap by sharing this thinking with a trusted friend or loved one.  Allow yourself to be open to their feedback and listen to what they have to say.  Their perspective will eliminate your guilt and remind you do not “have to” do the thing you think you “must, should, or ought”.  Allow your loved one to tell you it is OK to break the rules from time to time.
  • What we feel must be true.  In other words if you are feeling sad and lonely you believe no one wants to be with you because you are a depressing person.  However research shows that interacting with people daily influences thinking (Lakey & Tanner, 2013).  If you want to counteract your negative thinking  encourage your family members to focus on the positive.  Or spend more time with people that are full of energy and positivity.
  • Focusing on only the negative aspects.  There are situations, circumstances, and trials in life that cloud the daily good things that happen.  Rather then recognize the positive things that can happen daily people become focused on only thinking about the bad and ignore the good.  To overcome this thinking trap try using capitalization.  Capitalization is the process of sharing the daily positive things that occurred with a loved one (Otto, Laurenceau, Siegel, & Blecher, 2014).
    Believe it or not, more positive things happen in a day then negative things (Gable & Haidt, 2005).  One study found that when women with breast cancer shared the positive daily events with a partner they experienced increased positive emotions and improved relationship satisfaction (Otto, Laurenceau, Siegel, & Blecher, 2014).  If you are struggling to see the good start a daily journal where you write all the good and all the bad things that happened in a day and share with a close friend or partner.

Resources:

Byrne, R.M.J. (2005).  The rational imagination: How people create alternatives to reality.  Cambridge, MA: MIT. Epstude, K & Roese, N. (2011).  When goal pursuit fails.  The functions of counterfactual thought in intention formation.  Social Psychology, 42(1), 19-27.

Gable, S. L., & Haidt, J. (2005). What (and why) is positive psychology? Review of General Psychology, 9, 103–110. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ 1089-2680.9.2.103 Lakey, B. & Tanner, S. (2013).  Social influences in negative thinking and affect.  Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37(1), 160-172.

Otto, A., Laurenceau, J., Siegel, S., & Blecher, A. (2014).  Capitalizing on everyday positive events uniquely predicts daily intimacy and well-being in couples coping with breast cancer.  Journal of Family Psychology.  Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/fam0000042 Zilch, R. (2010).  Building inner strength. What does it mean to be strong?  Psychology Today.  Post published August 17, 2010 in Confessions of a Techie.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/confessions-techie/201008/building-inner-strength

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Fail to Plan; Plan to Fail

No matter what your goals in life it is very important to plan.  Developing a plan helps you stay consistent, establish a routine and helps maintain focus.  Planning requires evaluating goals and identifying steps to help keep these goals on track.  

I am not a planner, naturally.  I am what most would call “a rebel without a cause” and I definitely “do what I want, when I want”.  Planning has a way of limiting spontaneity, which is something that is needed or an exciting and thrilling life.  However as I became more focused on my goals, I found I was more willing to plan.  Perhaps it is maturity, but planning helps me be more successful.

Although I value and urge each of you reading to find balance, planning is a necessary evil.  Planning is needed to:

  • keep goals in perspective
  • stay focused on goals
  • limit excuses
  • reduces anxiety
  • develops success

I am currently preparing for a vacation with my family to New York City.  Despite my excitement about this trip I am 5 weeks away from my first bodybuilding competition and there is no room for error or mistakes.  Planning for my trip is essential to my success when I step on stage on July 5.  I had to plan ahead.  Here are the steps I took to plan for my trip.

  • Found an accountability partner.  I have notified my coach of my trip.  There will be lots of eating good and “dirty” food and there will be lots of activity and visiting with loved ones.  I notified my coach of the days I will be working out.  I plan to wake up early to complete my workouts for the day.  My coach is aware of this plan so that he can check-in and ensure that I did what I said I would do.  
  • I did research.  I needed as much information as possible to determine how I would work out, when I would work out, and what food I could bring with me.  I researched my hotel and I called the hotel to request a refridgator.  I also inquired with the hotel about the workout facilities available.  I know arriving in New York I will have a way to keep my food cool and a place to work out.  I also asked what equipment was available in the workout facility so that I knew what workouts would be available to me.  I researched the TSA so that I knew how to prep my food and what food I can carry with me on the plane.
  • I have prepped all my meals for the week.  Meal prep really does not take very long.  1-2 hours max.  I have prepared all my food for all 6 meals for all 7 days.  Solid food is OK to carry on the plane.  Each meal is placed in a small Ziploc bag.  Each Ziploc bag is placed in a tupperware.  I have pre-cooked my chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes, turkey burgers, and asparagus.  My breakfast makes great waffles, so I have made all my waffles for the week and each day is placed in a Ziploc bag.  Protein powder can be carried on to a plane as long as the Ziploc bag indicates “Protein powder” and flavor on the bag.  I have scooped each days worth of protein into an individual Ziploc bag and then all will be placed in Gallon Ziploc bag.  The same was done for supplements.  I have labeled each bag with the day.  I purchased a Six Pack Fitness bag.  This will carefully hold all my food for the week.  Condiments and liquids cannot be carried onto the plane, however I purchased a couple of things I could not live without, like Stevia for example.  Unopened containers will be placed in the bag that I check.  All I will have to do each day is grab the food labeled for the day, and go.  I have packed a bag large enough to carry my food, but comfortable enough to tote around the city.

All this preparation has eliminated my excuses.  I know I have a gym to get my workouts in.  I know I have enough food for each day.  I do not have to worry about being hungry, stuck in a show, tour, or museum, and that I am hungry.  I will have my food on me.  I have asked my coach about eating out while on vacation.  I know what is on my meal plan and will check the menus of restaurants.  I can still enjoy the food but know what I can and cannot have.  I am not worried about what I will eat.  I am not worried that I will not be able to continue to prep for my competition.  A couple phone calls, a couple internet searches, and a little time will keep me 100% focused on my goal.  And this will allow me to have fun and enjoy the city and my family.  I will not have to feel guilty that I missed a workout or that I ate off plan.  I can relax.  I know that my preparation will help me stay focused and lead me to success for my goal.

A little planning is all you need for your success.  Planning is necessary for success with any goal, not only fitness or weight loss goals.  Know what you want.  Research how to get it.  Tell a friend/coach/professional about your goal and elicit their expertise and support and ask they hold you accountable.  Read and learn what others have done and follow their path.  

When Eating Becomes Normal

“Normal” eating really is a challenging issue for most. First of all, I do not like the term “normal” because everyone is so different. With so much variety there is no normal. Being unique and individual opposes the term “normal”.  Yet most want a way to eat. Most are looking for a plan, a way, or a method and often fail to consider their individual needs, desires, and goals. Sticking to a diet denies us from being individual, unique, and special. Eating a meal plan based on what another says or does makes us more like that person, and less like ourselves.

“Normal” earing is a challenge secondly because there is a barrage of healthy eating theories, philosophies,  and practices. For the average person how to eat “healthy” or “normal” is confusing. We wonder if we should eat “clean”, “paleo”, “Atkins”, “weight watchers”, etc.  It is hard to decide which “diet” is best. Each boasts impressive weight loss stories and claims it is evidence based to give the best results. And we all probably know someone telling us to eat a certain way because that is worked best for that person. And everytime we try the “diet” we are left unsatisfied, hungry, and confused.

For most the issue is emotional eating. Anyone can follow a meal plan or a diet, for the most part. These plans become a problem when we feel sad, bored, stresed, overwhelmed,  excited, lonely, angry, or tired. Scientifically we eat to fill psychological needs and no diet can help us plan or manage that. We need to eat according to our individual needs, desires, and wants.

Know it is OK to eat. Eat fun food. Eat healthy food. Eat food with carbs and fat. Eat something that makes you feel good. Eat to feel full. It is important to eat healthy fruits, vegetables, and proteins, but it is also important to eat a treat. Identify how you feel before, during, and after eating certain foods by writing it down, if necessary. This can help you learn which foods satisify, avoid, reward, or derail you. It is normal to eat. If you are curious on what to eat for your body to achieve certain goals, or if you need guidance on how much to eat, consult a professional. Be sure to find someone that is qualified, just because someone is fit or appears healthy does not mean they are qualified to tell you how to eat. Every one is different just like every body is different. Therefore we will all have different nutritional needs. Consult your physician, dietician, and your body to discover what is best for you.

The morale of this story is, eat. Eat well, enjoy food, and fuel your body.

Striving for Ordinary

I believe that every single person on this planet has a great purpose.  I believe that all humans are on Earth to do wonderful things and touch lives.   As humans we have a basic need to connect with others and to develop a healthy self-esteem we need a sense of community and belonging.  According to Abraham Maslow (1954) in order for a person to  reach their full potential and live a fulfilled life, a person must first find love and belonging.  To consider that love and belonging is a more essential human need than self-fulfillment means that as humans our purpose is to connect to others.

Many may struggle with the notion of “serving a purpose” or many may struggle to understand their purpose.  I think this idea seems overwhelming because as a Capitalist society we are programmed to see “purpose” as something large, powerful, and meaningful.  It seems that “purpose” means more money, more success, more fame, and more power.  I know I once believed that.  For years I believed I needed to touch and dramatically change the lives of thousands.  I believed I had to do huge things to serve my purpose.

However we do not need to move mountains, save and impact the lives of thousands, or accomplish fame and fortune to serve a purpose.  We can impact the world simply by being ordinary.  In my early attempts to be “great” and live my purpose I spent a great deal of time and energy thinking globally.  This caused me to neglect the people  immediate world and I lost time doubting myself.  I failed to see how I could impact the lives of my clients, my co-workers, my friends, and my family.  I felt I needed to reach more, do more, and be more to serve my purpose.  Rather than finding fulfillment and joy in my interactions with others, I started to feel burned out and tired.

I do believe that anyone at any time can impact the world and reach to positively change the lives of others.  However when this becomes our focus we fail to see how powerful we are in our everyday lives.  We do not need to be extraordinary to change the world.  Your ordinary self has the power to impact another and change a life.

You impact the lives of people every single day.  How you interact with people has power.  What you say to a person leaves a legacy.  In your small world you have great power.  You can set in motion a positive or a negative experience for others, and ultimately yourself.   Stop doubting your skills.  Stop seeking extraordinary.  You have the potential to do extraordinary things today in your ordinary life.  The extra things you do to better your life or the life of a loved one is what makes your ordinary extraordinary.  As you strive to create love, joy, and positivity in your life and the lives of others around you, you will be able to look back and see your ordinary life has become extraordinary.

You Don’t Have to Always Hustle to Be Successful

I read a blog this morning about the behaviors of emotionally strong individuals.  Initially I asked, “what is emotional strength?”  Emotional strength is the ability to experience positive feelings.  There are some studies to suggest that certain personality traits are linked to greater emotional stability, an indicator for emotional strength (Guswell & Ruch, 2012). A particular study by Guswell and Ruch (2012) suggested there are innate characteristics that can either support or hinder a person’s ability to manage emotions.  In other words some personalities have an easier time managing emotions and remaining positive.  Although research claims it may be easier for some more than others it is not likely that only certain individuals with certain personality traits are allowed happiness.  All people are allowed happiness and all individuals can have a happy disposition despite character, experience, or previous thought patterns.

Individuals can learn emotional strength.  If you struggle with something in life you can learn to improve; you can learn to emotionally improve, as well. Your emotions do not control you.  Your thinking does not control you.  (It seems that way most of the time because turning “off” thinking and emotions is challenging).  The source behind the thinking and the emotions is YOU and the one in control of you is YOU!  I understand my posts talk a lot about choosing to be happy positive and I understand this can be very frustrating to most.  But, that truly is the issue; choice.  How you think and how you feel is up to you!  It is that simple.  The hard part is applying the skills, tools, and techniques to make that choice stick.

There are lots of tools and behaviors one can apply to increase emotional strength.  One behavior that stood out to me as a read the blog on emotional strength was ,”They (emotionally strong people) are not afraid of slowing down”.  This really stuck with me and caused me to ponder.

Emotional strength equals success.  Early research clearly demonstrated that people with an ability to evaluate their emotions, identify their emotions, and rationally handle their emotions are better able to reach and achieve goals (Allport & Allport, 1921).  To consider that emotionally strong people can slow down and relax challenged the belief that successful people are “go-getters” and “busy-bees”. Success coincides with work.  So many of us are chasing dreams, aspirations, and goals.  Motivation is inspired and we are challenged to keep going, keep pushing, and work daily to achieve success.  Then why is slowing down a sign of success and emotional strength?  How does rest and slowing down accomplish goals?

When we slow down we can LIVE.  It is so easy to be caught up in pursuing goals and achieving success and to lose sight of daily life and the little miracles that occur.  I am no exception.  My goals and aspirations in life require me to have daily goals and a daily plan.  The drive to be successful causes me to become acutely aware of my daily goals and I can spend minutes of my day, hours of my day planning, working, building, doing, and analyzing.  What happens if I just stop?  What happens if I just slow down and approach the day as it comes?

When we can slow down we are left with seconds, minutes, hours, even days for freedom and to live.

  • Slowing down means we can be content with our present moment and our present blessings.
  • Slowing down means we can be thankful for what we have.
  •  Slowing down allows us to experience love and support of family and friends.
  • Slowing down means taking a break.
  • Slow down means we have time to do something else (perhaps read a book, talk with a friend, or sit in silence).

Today I challenge you to stop!  Stop planning and stop working.  Take time away from your “to-do” list and do something else.  You do not need to always be working on something and you do not need to always be focusing on your goals.  I challenge you to take a step back, slow down, and enjoy the moment and the people you are with.  When you slow down to live you will restore your heart, your brain, and your soul.  This renewal of mind, body, and spirit will help you achieve goals, accomplish tasks, and lead you to success.

 

 

References:

Allport, F. H., & Allport, G. W.  (1921). Personality traits: Their classification and measurement. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, 16(1), 6-40.

Guswell, A. & Ruch, W. (2012).  Are only emotional strengths emotional?  Character strength and disposition to positive emotions.  Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 4(2), 218-239.

Burn Calories All Day with This Leg Workout

Happy Friday y’all! I hope it has been a great one.  What muscle group did you train today?  This morning I trained legs.  It was intense!  I was drenched in sweat because it kept my heart rate up, my breathing rate was increased, and it challenged me. As a result of my workout this morning I have been STARVING all day.  I am generally always hungry (life of being a bikini fitness competitor) but it is more so today.

My metabolism was increased today because this leg workout not only worked out a large muscle group but the high intensity kept my body working hard.  Try this workout below to keep burning calories all day long.

The key is to keep moving.  You want no rest between exercises and little rest between sets. I just rested long enough to catch my breath, motivate myself, and set up for the exercise.

Try a challenging and heavy weight, however do not sacrifice form.  You want the weight challenging enough to make the set difficult but light enough to complete the set safely.  For example I could have squatted heavier but because I wanted to go for higher reps I kept my weight a bit lower.  No need to be a super hero – you will feel like a warrior when you are done, though! My advice – start out lighter, you can always add weight as you go.

Set 1

Lying Leg Extension

Leg Extension

Split Squat (12 reps each leg)

5 sets with 15 reps

Set 2

Barbell Squats (first 2 sets I completed 15 reps) – (I increased weight on barbell every couple of sets – the last set was heaviest and I could get in 10 reps)

Single Leg Hack Squat

Glute Push-Down

5 sets with 12 reps each

Set 3

Stiff Leg Deadlift (I increased weight after 2 sets)

Lying Leg Press – feet high and wide

Lying Leg Press – feet high and narrow

Seated Calf Raises

5 sets with 15 reps each

By the end of this workout you will be hungry and you can be sure your metabolism will have a burst to burn extra calories throughout the day.  Don’t use that as an excuse to overindulge, so be careful with hunger cravings.  Be sure to eat a small meal every couple of hours that includes a protein, a fat, and a carb.  I expect some Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) the next couple of days because this workout gave a great burn!