5 Healthy Habits to Adopt in the New Year

You can probably think of a daily habit you perform—perhaps it’s checking Twitter first thing every morning or taking a shower before bed. Whatever the habit may be, it is typically automatic, meaning you don’t give it much thought, if any at all.

Luckily, as a human, you have the ability to choose which habits you’d like to adopt and which ones no longer serve you.

You are also capable of committing to healthier habits, even though it may require a great deal of patience. According to research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take, on average, 66 days for a habit to become automatic. In the study, it took participants between 18 and 254 days, depending on a variety of factors such as personality and the behavior itself, to create a new habit.

According to a 2014 article published in Society for Personality and Social Psychology, studies show that 40 percent of people’s daily activities are carried out in almost the same situations every day. In other words, almost half of your day is spent performing the same actions as the day before.

Since these habitual responses make up a large portion of your day, why not develop habits that are healthy and beneficial? And no better time to do this than the beginning of a brand new calendar year.

Below are five healthy habits to adopt in the New Year:

1. Set a Fitness Goal

A popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight or get fit, which explains why gyms become overly crowded in January. But when you aren’t specific enough in your goal setting, you’re less likely to stick with it.

The solution? Set a specific fitness goal, including the steps necessary to achieve it. Whether it is to lose 10 pounds in six months or run a marathon by June, write down your specific goal along with a detailed plan that will help you meet it. Be as specific as possible.

Once you meet your first goal, set a second one, and so on. Meeting fitness goals can be immensely satisfying—use this as motivation to stay committed to them.

2. Add Some Color to Your Plate

Another popular New Year’s resolution is to eat healthy, which again, sounds pretty general and doesn’t provide specific direction. Having unrealistic expectations and setting rigid goals, such as replacing all junk food with vegetables for a year, can backfire as well.

Rather than adopting a restricted diet that can be difficult to maintain or depriving yourself entirely, begin by incorporating more of the good stuff into your diet. Often when you make healthier food choices (e.g., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and organic meats) and note how much better you feel, you are usually less inclined to indulge in processed food, alcohol, and other food that can be damaging to your body.

A great way to stick to a healthier food plan is to add color variety to each meal. Add brightly colored fruits and vegetables to your plate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can also add them to your list of midday snacks. Eventually, you can add in healthier proteins and whole grains, too.

3. Make Time for Peace and Quiet

Daily life can be busy and chaotic. It can feel as though there just aren’t enough hours in the day to complete everything. With this mindset, downtime is viewed more as a luxury than a necessity.

But the truth is, when you give yourself permission to decompress and rejuvenate, you reenergize your body and mind, allowing both to work more efficiently. So, while relaxing activities may feel unproductive at the time, by performing them, you are actually enhancing productivity in the long-run.

Morning is a great time to relax as it can set the tone for the rest of the day. However, some people may prefer evenings. Choose a time that works best with your schedule when you can be alone and free of any distractions. Start small, perhaps 10 minutes a day of quiet time, and gradually work your way up to at least 20 minutes. Preferred amount of downtime will vary from person to person.

Here are some ideas of relaxing activities:

  • Read
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Take a warm bath
  • Listen to calming music
  • Cook
  • Color
  • Take a nature walk
  • Practice yoga
  • Focus on breath

4. Breathe Mindfully

Breathing is perhaps your most automatic habit. But rarely do you actually pay attention to the air entering and exiting your lungs. As research shows, being mindful of your breathing process has numerous health benefits, such as:

  • Reduced stress
  • Slower heartbeat
  • Stabilized (or lowered) blood pressure

Mindful breathing can be practiced while performing a variety of relaxation exercises, including:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Focused breathing with a mantra

Try out a variety of exercises to find out which one works best for you. To get into a steady routine, practice once or twice a day, preferably around the same time every day, for at least 10 to 20 minutes.

If you are just starting out or looking for a simple way to practice mindful breathing, follow these steps:

  • Sit comfortably or lie down.
  • Close your eyes (if preferred) and place one hand on your belly.
  • Take a long deep breath through your nose, feeling your belly rise.
  • Then, breathe out slowly through the mouth, all while focusing your attention on the breath.

Tip: You may want to incorporate this practice into your daily downtime routine.

5. Practice Gratitude

According to research, a strong correlation exists between gratitude and happiness. Studies show people who practice gratitude report feeling more optimistic and generally better about their lives. Being grateful can also lead to better sleep, healthier relationships, and stronger immune systems.

Gratitude can be practiced in a number of ways:

  • Start a gratitude journal: Write down three things you are grateful for before you go to sleep or first thing after you wake up.
  • Keep a gratitude jar: Use small pieces of paper to record what you’re grateful for and place them in a jar. Empty the jar once it’s full and review everything in full. This is an especially great exercise for parents to do with children.
  • Write a letter of gratitude to someone: Express your gratitude to a loved one. Even if you don’t send it, you’ll benefit from reflecting on all you have to be thankful for.
  • Give back: In addition to being grateful for what you have, you can also be grateful for what you have to give. Use your talents and skills to help someone out, whether it’s a family member, friend, or complete stranger.
  • Watch your language: People who are grateful don’t try to hide it; they talk about their blessings and good fortune. Instead of dwelling on what they lack, they speak in terms of abundance.

Remember to be patient and gentle with yourself as you incorporate these healthy habits into your daily routine. Forgetting to perform a habit every now and then will not undo the habit formation process. Don’t beat yourself up for “failing” once or twice; instead, have a strategy in place for when a mess up occurs and move forward. You deserve a year filled with happy, healthy experiences.

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This article was written by Emily Holland, a certified Health Coach and freelance writer passionate about sharing what she has learned about lifestyle changes with others.

Change a Habit by Setting Goals

If you’ve decided to change a habit-whether it’s quitting smoking, lowering your blood pressure, becoming more active, or doing something else to improve your health – congratulations! Making that decision is the first step toward making a change.

1. Have your own reason

Your reason for wanting to change a habit is really important. Maybe you want to quit smoking so that you can avoid future health problems. Or maybe you want to eat a healthier diet so you can lose weight. If you have high blood pressure, your reason may be clear: to lower your blood pressure.

You need to feel ready to make a change. If you don’t feel ready now, that’s okay. You can still be thinking and planning. When you truly want to make changes, you’re ready for the next step.

It’s not easy to change habits. But taking the time to really think about what will motivate or inspire you will help you reach your goals.

2. Set goals you can reach

When you are clear about your reasons for wanting to make a change, it’s time to set your goals.

  • Long-term goals: These are large goals that you want to reach in 6 to 12 months.
  • Short-term goals: What are the short-term goals that will help you reach your long-term goals? Short-term goals are the small steps you take, week by week, to improve your health.
  • Updated goals: To help you stay motivated, track your progress and update your goals as you move forward.

Try these tips for setting goals.

  • Focus on small goals. This will help you reach larger goals over time. With smaller goals, you’ll have success more often, which will help you stay with it.
  • Write down your goals. This will help you remember, and you’ll have a clearer idea of what you want to achieve. Use a personal action plan to record your goals. Hang up your plan where you will see it often as a reminder of what you’re trying to do.
  • Make your goals specific. Specific goals help you measure your progress. For example, setting a goal to eat 5 helpings of fruits and vegetables 5 days a week is better than a general goal to “eat more vegetables.”
  • Focus on one goal at a time. By doing this, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed and then give up.
  • When you reach a goal, reward yourself. Celebrate your new behavior and success for several days and then think about setting your next goal.

3. Prepare for slip-ups

It’s perfectly normal to try to change a habit, go along fine for a while, and then have a setback. Lots of people try and try again before they reach their goals.

What are the things that might cause a setback for you? If you have tried to change a habit before, think about what helped you and what got in your way.

By thinking about these barriers now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen.

There will be times when you slip up and don’t make your goal for the week. When that happens, don’t get mad at yourself. Learn from the experience. Ask yourself what got in the way of reaching your goal. Positive thinking goes a long way when you’re making lifestyle changes.

4. Get support

The more support you have for making lifestyle changes, the easier it is to make those changes.

Try these tips for getting support:

  • Get a partner. It’s motivating to know that someone is trying to make the same lifestyle change that you’re making, like being more active or changing your eating habits. You have someone who is counting on you to help him or her succeed. That person can also remind you how far you’ve come.
  • Get friends and family involved. They can exercise with you or encourage you by saying how they admire what you are doing. Family members can join you in your healthy eating efforts. Don’t be afraid to tell family and friends that their encouragement makes a big difference to you.
  • Join a class or support group. People in these groups often have some of the same barriers you have. They can give you support when you don’t feel like staying with your plan. They can boost your morale when you need a lift. You’ll also find a number of online support groups.
  • Give yourself positive reinforcement. When you feel like giving up, don’t waste energy feeling bad about yourself. Remember your reason for wanting to change, think about the progress you’ve made, and give yourself a pep talk and a pat on the back.
  • Get professional help. A registered dietitian can help you make your diet healthier while still allowing you to eat foods that you enjoy. A trainer or physical therapist can help design an exercise program that is fun and easy to stay on. A psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker, or your doctor can help you overcome hurdles, reduce stress, or quit smoking.

 

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This article was written by WebMD, known primarily as an online publisher of news and information pertaining to human health and well-being.

How To Create Your Own Self-Directed Learning Plan

The persistent problem of the human condition is that very few of us actually follow through on our goals and live our dreams, particularly when faced with constant obstacles and difficulties. Studies show that 95% of people never set clear goals for achieving their dreams by committing to them and writing them down.

A big reason that so many people fail in online learning is because they don’t set clear goals for learning and they don’t have a self-directed learning plan. Fortunately, you don’t have to be one of those who in the words of legendary self-directed learner Benjamin Franklin “fail to plan and plan to fail”.

The reality is that learning a new skill is difficult and it requires a lot of focus and determination to succeed, particularly when you’re doing it on your own. Without defining exactly what you want to accomplish, the process or plan you will follow to achieve it and the deeper purpose for why you want it, your changes of failure will be very high.

In this instructional guide, I’m going to take you through the process of creating your own self-directed learning plan:

1. Start with why you really want to learn a new skill.

This is a really important first step that is overlooked by most people. When you’re a self-directed learner, you don’t have an authority figure that has created a system of rewards and punishments to motivate and grade you.

This means you have to be intrinsically motivated, which means you are self-motivated by your own internal sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose.  When you define your purpose for learning and how achieving your goal matters will make you feel emotionally, it becomes much easier to stay motivated for a long period of time.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to uncover your why:

Do you want to do more meaningful work? To feel more fulfilled and happy.
Do you want to get a higher paying job? To feel more respected and influential.
Do you want to build a change you want to see in the world? To feel you’re making a difference.

To stay on course when I’m feeling tired and distraction, I practice visualizing the outcome I want to achieve with an extra focus on how it makes me feel knowing I will inevitably achieve it.

2. Set clear goals about what you’re planning to learn.

I like to use the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting framework to set really clear, actionable goals. Here’s how it works:

Specific: The first step is to get really specific about what you want to achieve. Write down a single sentence that identifies exactly what you are committing yourself to learn.

Measurable: You need to make sure you can easily measure your goal. A good place to start is committing some time each week to pursue your goal without interruption or distraction.

Achievable: You need to be realistic. If you’ve struggled in the past with online learning, you need to set the bar low to build the initial habit and then work your way up to more time and effort as your confidence improves.

Relevant: You need to make it relevant to your life, this is where “your why” comes in. You want to commit to this goal because you have thought deeply how it will impact and improve your life and well-being.

Timely: You need to set a time window so you have a milestone to celebrate when you’ve achieved your goal. I recommend initially setting short-term goals for learning that can achieve in less than 30 days.

3. Structure your time and schedule your learning sessions.

This is crucial step is you want to be a successful self-directed learner. Going to school forces you to structure your time because you have to show up for class. When you’re learning online, you need to create a similar structure by committing yourself to a weekly schedule.

I recommend using a tool like Google Calendar, MyStudyLife, or even a more advanced project management tool like Asana or Trello. You should set aside blocks of time where you can spend time learning without any interruptions. Ideally, set aside 2-3 hours at a time and take short breaks every half hour or hour. You should also set reminders to review your notes and memorize key information you will need later.

To stay focused when you’re learning, I recommend using a Pomodoro Timer like Be Focused Pro for iPhone and Mac OS X, or Productivity Challenge Timer for Android.

It also helps to set up a time at the end of each week so you can review your progress and make sure you’re on track to achieving your goal. If you’re not on track then you may have to adjust your self-directed learning plan to be more realistic.

4. Find a learning accountability partner or start an online study group.

The key to building a self-directed learning habit is to make yourself accountable. For most of us, being accountable to ourselves simply isn’t enough to be successful. So that’s why I recommend committing to learning a new skill with a close friend, colleague or family member.

If you don’t have someone to learn with, join a popular online course or membership-based learning community with other students who are committed to learning. You can also start your own Facebook Group or weekly Zoom Hangout so you can talk about what you’re learning, ask questions and help each other succeed together.

5. Apply what you learn by building your own digital portfolio.

If you want to learn a new skill, you need to apply what you learn by building something with it. We live in an age where a resume or degree doesn’t matter nearly as much as a digital portfolio that shows exactly what you have done. Ideally, your digital portfolio should have detailed case studies to show off the value you offer and the business results you have achieved for others.

This means you need to build a personal brand to differentiate yourself and your own professional-looking website with a digital portfolio section that shows off what you can do.

A good place to start is with your own self-hosted WordPress website that allows you to customize the look and feel with a professional-looking WordPress theme from a marketplace like Themeforest. If you’re not technical, you can have your own WordPress website up and running in 20 minutes using a plug-and-play service like Bluehost.

Now take action and start learning!

The future belongs to the brave and curious so if you’re serious about learning something new, follow these steps and you’ll be on the path to achieving your dreams by making your goals a top priority in your life.

The path to doing what you love and mastering valuable digital skills starts with spending more time learning, creating your own online projects and sharing them with your social networks.

If you follow these steps to create your own self-directed learning plan, you’ll have a strong foundation to learn and master new skills throughout your life.

Good luck!

 

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This article was written by Kyle Pearce, who teaches people how to build location independent careers and use flow psychology to make a living doing work they enjoy. 

How to Use Meditation to Visualize Your Goals

One of the most inspiring and powerful things you can do as a human being is to visualize what it is that you want to manifest, and then make it happen. The power of the mind is astonishing and, when coupled with mindfulness-based practices like meditation, you can increase your ability to make leaps and bounds toward creating the life you truly desire.

Goal setting is the catalyst for making this happen. The purpose of setting a goal is to achieve a desired result. When applied carefully with intention, action, momentum, and focus, setting and achieving goals gets you from where you are now to where it is you want to be. But first you have to know where that is. The “where” begins with your vision.

The first step is to start with the end in mind and work backward. The end result is your highest vision for a given area of life—be it health and fitness, relationship, family, career, or finance. Once connected with your vision, you then need to set specific goals that will aid you in actualizing the vision.

Many people mistake the goal for the vision thinking the goal is the end result. They set a goal without thinking ahead to what that goal will allow them to be, to do, or to have in the long run. To make the most out of your goal-setting process, it’s important to link it up to the quality of lifestyle you ultimately want to be living. For the purpose of creating some clarity, let’s outline the key differences between a vision and a goal.

Your Vision vs. Your Goal

Your vision isn’t something that needs to be created—it already exists within you. You just need to get in touch with it. Your vision is the big picture of your desired outcomes. It’s an internal representation of what is most important to you; it’s exciting, inspiring, compelling, and filled with positive emotions.

A goal, on the other hand, is a specifically designed milestone that requires completion if you are to get to the end of your yellow brick road. The downside is that a goal may not necessarily provoke positive emotions. Goals are simply stepping stones on the path that lead you to your ultimate destination.

A popular and effective way to set goals is to use the acronym SMART, which stands for specific (clear and precise), measurable (you can quantify or measure progress), achievable (meaning, it’s realistic), resources (you have the resources needed and you aren’t relying on divine intervention or other people), and time (there is a start and end date).

Using highly detailed, vivid imagery is an extremely powerful way to train the mind to go after—and get—what you want. Professional athletes use mental visualization to help them become more agile in their game. For example, Tiger Woods has been using visualization techniques to improve his game since he was a teenager, and World Champion Golfer, Jack Nicklaus, was quoted as having said, “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.” Former NBA All-Star, Michael Jordan, used mental imagery to get into what he referred to as “the zone” to make his game-winning, three-point shots. Many public speakers practice anchoring themselves to a state of motivation prior to taking the stage in front of their audiences.

If professional athletes and stage presenters use visualization techniques to enhance their ability to be the best of the best, you too can utilize this approach to making your own dreams come true.

10 Meditation Steps for Achieving Your Goals

Try the following steps to practice a guided visualization on putting a goal into the future:

  1. Begin with an area of your life in mind. Choose an area where you have been struggling or would like to experience some transformation.
  2. Now begin to imagine the highest possible outcome that you would like to be living in this area of your life 6 to 12 months from now. Imagine living your life the way you would envision if all your hopes and dreams were to come true. What is your ultimate reality? Try not to get hung up on limitations or negativity; instead, just allow yourself to get carried away with your wildest aspirations.
  3. Next, connect with one goal you would like to achieve in the next three months. Make it a good one. If you choose a goal that doesn’t carry a lot of weight or isn’t all that meaningful, the end result (if you even bother getting there) won’t feel all that special. So be sure to choose something that is big enough that, once you’ve carried out this goal, you will be left with a high level of accomplishment and feeling super motivated to set your next goal. Run the goal through the SMART acronym to make sure it meets all the proper criteria. Then, you’re set!
  4. Now that you’ve connected with your goal, imagine what your life will be like once you have completed it. Create a picture or movie in your mind and step inside the visual representation as if you are inside it and looking through your own eyes. Adjust all of the qualities of sensory perception (taste, touch, sight, sound, smell) to create the most positive and most real feelings. Who is there with you? Where are you? What is happening around you?
  5. Next, step out of the image you’ve created and imagine floating up in the air above where you are now, taking the mental image with you. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, use your breath to energize the image, filling it with positive energy and intention. Do this five times.
  6. Now it’s time to imagine floating out into the future and visualize dropping the internal representation of your goal down into your life below you at the date and time you’ve set for this goal to reach completion.
  7. Notice how all the events between then and now re-evaluate themselves to support you in accomplishing your goal. Visualize this process to make it feel real.
  8. Once you feel complete, come back to now and, with your eyes still closed, consider what action steps you will take in the next week to move you closer to your goal.
  9. Take a few deep breaths to ground yourself before opening your eyes. Write down your list of action steps and do any journaling about your experience.
  10. Last, you must take action and maintain your focus. Every single day, do something that moves you closer to realizing your goal and living your dream.

Do this process once a week or upon completion of your action steps so that you continue moving powerfully forward toward achieving your goal and living your vision. Seeing is believing, so use your mind to create your most compelling future.

 

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This article was written by Tris Thorp, Vedic Educator and Lifestyle & Leadership Coach.

10 Ways To Jump-Start Your New Year’s Resolution!

Don’t wait until next year to start achieving your fitness goals. Get the drop on your New Year’s Resolution now with these 10 pro tips!

Resolution time is creeping up faster than you think. What goals will you be making this time around? Build muscle to fill out some medium-large shirts? Get a grip on your love affair with the office donuts and lose weight? Or maybe transform into an overall healthier, better version of yourself?

Whatever your goal happens to be, get a head start now on making a firm resolution today rather than waiting for the clock to strike 12 on December 31st. After all, there’s no such thing as the “perfect” time to start. What’s important is simply that you start!

Sure, it’s a little cold out, and you’ll have some holiday temptations to thwart, but here are 10 expert tips from shredded BodySpace members to warm you up for the coming fitness endeavors ahead.

1. SET PERFORMANCE-RELATED GOALS

If you’re always striving for a certain look, it might do your self-esteem and perspective wonders to instead think about performance and strength. “Oftentimes, focusing solely on physical results can lead to discouragement and frustration when those results don’t come fast enough,” says personal trainer Lindsay Cappotelli.

“I recommend setting performance goals in the gym, such as getting your first pull-up done or reaching a certain number of push-ups,” she says. “Having something besides just the mirror or scale to focus on will help keep you more motivated and consistent with your workouts.”

A major upshot of knocking out performance and lifting goals is that your physique will typically start to improve, as well. Set goals for your major lifts, mile time, and more—just don’t wait until January 1st to do it. Start today!

2. BUILD YOUR FOUNDATION

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your dream body won’t be, either. “Take baby steps to lay a foundation for the goal at hand,” recommends trainer and MuscleTech athlete Ed Honn. “If you go from 0-60, the change could be too abrupt to ensure long-term stability.”

Instead of concentrating on a massive, far-off goal, focus on smaller changes you can transform into habits that contribute to long-term success. Examples include eating enough protein to support muscle function and your goals, replacing soda with green tea, or, as Honn likes to suggest, “Adding more quality food to your diet, taking steps to be more active throughout the day, and making sure your program is tailored to the goal at hand.”

You can’t progress without progression, and baby steps ensure steady progression.

3. CHANGE IN STAGES

Just as you need to lay down your foundation to hustle toward your goals, you also need to prepare yourself for every stage of the journey. “For any change, most people will go through a cycle of precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and then possibly relapse,” explains trainer Nick Twum. “As a personal trainer, I focus on each stage individually. You must first recognize why you want to change in order to combat the denial that you likely feel, as well.”

For some individuals, taking that first step is the hardest. “Once my clients have made the decision to prepare a plan of action and have been working to keep things motivated,” Twum says, “I help them be aware of the chance of obstacles or a sudden stop, which could lead to lack of results.”

When you can recognize what your goals are on a micro level, you will have an easier time making a plan and putting it into action at each stage. As a result, you will feel more in control over any changes, increasing the likelihood that you stay consistent and eventually reach your desired destination.

4. MOTIVATE YOURSELF WITH PROGRESS PICTURES

While we’re on the subject of motivation, one great way to keep motivation high is to take progress pictures, even if you dislike taking pictures of yourself. You don’t have to show anyone; just keep them for yourself. Or, if you want even more accountability, post them to a supportive fitness community like BodySpace.

“There’s nothing more motivating than seeing how far you’ve come in the last year,” explains bodybuilder Jesse Hobbs. “By taking pictures now, when this time rolls around every year, you can reflect back on how far you’ve come and how much hard work you’ve put into changing yourself for the better.”

Plus, long-term change doesn’t show up in the mirror as clearly as it does in photos. For accurate comparison, aim to take your progress pictures at the same time in roughly the same clothes so that you get a true representation of the changes you’ve made.

5. EDUCATE YOURSELF

When it comes to getting fit, knowledge really is power. Arm yourself with the appropriate knowledge and continually strive to stay atop the latest happenings in fitness. It’s a fast-moving industry that regularly comes out with new information.

“There’s so much free information out there pertaining to your diet and ways to improve your workouts,” says physique athlete Jimmy Everett. “Take the time to research and find a logical program that fits your needs.”

You can find the best program in the world, but if it’s not something you will enjoy and stick with, it’s probably not the program for you. There’s no one perfect way to approach fitness and nutrition; you just have to educate yourself and find the things that work for you. Bodybuilding.com’s Find a Plan section is the perfect place to start.

6. BUDDY UP

If you’re really struggling to stay committed to your workouts throughout the holiday season because you’d rather be sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace, find a gym partner and buddy up! If you can find someone who’s stronger or more fit than you, that’s a major bonus because he or she will push you harder.

“Having a friend to train with will boost your confidence,” says fitness model Danielle Beausoleil, “but will also increase your odds of sticking with your regimen because you won’t want to let the other person down. Plus, exercise is way more fun when you have someone to train with. If you are married, try training together as a couple and watch your relationship grow.”

So grab a co-worker, a friend, the cute supermarket cashier, or whomever, and make a promise to keep each other accountable!

7. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE

Perhaps one of the most overlooked strategies for staying on target is to simply make sure you are well-hydrated. “Most of us don’t drink enough as it is, but drinking a lot of water, especially before a big meal, helps with the feeling of being full so that you are less likely to take in so many calories,” explains MuscleTech athlete James Pulido.

Not in the mood for plain water? Try simply adding a slice of lemon or lime, or some cubed watermelon, to a large pitcher of water. You’ll find it more refreshing and a lot more palatable. Soon, you’ll be chugging down the whole pitcher!

“Make drinking ample water a habit right now and practice it every day, all day,” says James. “Consistency is key.”

8. HIRE A TRAINER

If you’ve never worked with a trainer before, it’s important to find the right trainer for you—someone who sees eye-to-eye with your goals and meets your budget. Some trainers can be more expensive than others, but the right one can be well worth the investment.

“There is something to be said about having someone in your corner, making sure you follow through with your goals,” says cover modelDave Dreas. “A good trainer can set you up for success by keeping you motivated, on task, and accountable.”

A strong support network and a great coach are some of the most underrated drivers of fitness success, but if you’re not sure you want to part with your cash, heed this pro tip: “The months of October, November, and December are slow months for everyone in the fitness business, as most clients are out shopping, partying, and going about their holiday activities,” says James Pulido. “This means you can take your time and shop around, ask plenty of questions, and get an amazing deal on personal training sessions.”

Gyms usually boom in January as people commit to their resolutions, so use the holiday season to your advantage to find the best trainers in the business at an affordable price.

9. THROW OUT YOUR SCALE

You read that right. If you’re really frustrated by your weight and have a tendency to weigh yourself frequently, just toss the scale.

“I think the most important tip is to trust the process and stop measuring yourself strictly by body weight,” says personal trainer and competitor Katie Miller. “It’s not about how much you weigh, but about how much stronger you feel and where your confidence stands.”

10. DON’T PROGRAM-HOP

It’s tempting to jump ship when you’re 4 weeks into a program and feel like the results are less than ideal. However, strong results often take more time than 4 weeks to start showing. Stay the course rather than hopping around from one fitness program to another.

“Realize that there are multiple ways to approach your fitness goals, but it’s important to use just one method at a time,” says Miller.

“Think of fitness as a chocolate chip cookie recipe,” she suggests. “There are several recipes to make a pretty delicious chocolate chip cookie, and if you follow each recipe until the end, they will most likely turn out perfect. But if you mix recipes together, you will end up confusing yourself and end up with something that doesn’t even resemble a cookie.”

Trust in the process and try to stick to your chosen plan for at least 6-12 weeks. If you don’t get what you wanted, it might then be time to re-evaluate the program along with your overall approach.

Instead of constantly reading the numbers on the scale and sending yourself into a panic attack, use other measurements like body fat, strength, mood, waist circumference, and progress pictures to gauge your progress.

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This article was written by Shannon Clark, a freelance health and fitness writer located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

A Harvard Psychologist Reveals the Biggest Reason People Don’t Achieve Goals

Shooting for the moon is a worthwhile goal if you’re NASA.

But as Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in a recent Big Think video, the average person will probably find more success (and happiness) if they shoot for just down the block — at least at first.

The biggest mistake a lot of people make in setting goals for themselves, Cuddy says, is that they focus only on the outcome, not the process.

Cuddy is an expert on human behavior and the author of “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.” She’s conducted loads of research into tiny triggers that cause us to either take pride in our accomplishments or look back on our failings with regret and disappointment.

She’s found that people often get down on themselves because of unrealistic or poorly planned goals.

“They’re so big. They’re so distant,” Cuddy says of moonshots such as losing 40 pounds or getting a dream job. “They require a million little steps in between, and each of those little steps is an opportunity to fail.”

The smarter approach is to learn to embrace the process.

On its face, that may seem counter-productive, like you’re taking your eyes off the prize. But Cuddy emphasizes the power of using long-term thinking for short-term planning. You won’t lose all the weight overnight, so your best option is to focus on making each day the best it can be. Chop up the big goal into a string of daily or weekly goals that are easier to accomplish.

“A lot of research is showing us that we do much better when we focus on incremental change, on little bits of improvement,” Cuddy says.

That’s how you go from a couch potato to a marathoner. You temporarily ignore the fact you need to run 26.2 miles several months from now, and focus only on running one mile today. And since that goal is much easier to achieve, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once it’s complete.

In turn, that creates the extra motivation you need to move onto a second and third run, and, ultimately, the race itself.

“Eventually, in aggregate, you get there,” Cuddy says. “You may not even realize it, until one day you turn around say ‘Wow, this thing is much easier for me now than it was a year ago.”

 

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This article was written by Chris Weller

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