The habits and patterns we develop in life play a significant role in shaping who we are and where we end up. Some of them are positive and help us achieve our goals, while others can hold us back and even negatively impact our health. As a healthcare professional, I find it fascinating to observe and analyze patients’ habits and patterns to help them identify what might be causing their health issues. Often, small changes can make a significant difference in their overall wellbeing.
Reflecting on our patterns can be an eye-opening experience. Celebrating the areas in which we excel is just as important as identifying areas that need improvement. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative aspects of our lives, but acknowledging our successes can help us build on them. On the other hand, recognizing unhealthy patterns is the first step towards breaking them. We should view our habits as fluid and adaptable, constantly reassessing and modifying them as we move through different phases of our lives.
When we set out to change our habits, it’s easy to get carried away and attempt to make significant changes all at once. However, research shows that making small, incremental changes is more effective in creating lasting habits. I encourage you to think of these changes as pebbles rather than boulders and to implement them gradually over time. We often abandon New Year’s resolutions because we set unrealistic goals for ourselves that we can’t maintain.
One book that has helped me and many others in understanding habits and how to make lasting changes is Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book offers practical tips and strategies on how to develop good habits, break bad ones, and achieve your goals. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to live a more fulfilling life.
Habit and patterns shape our lives and are a crucial part of our overall wellbeing. By reflecting on them, celebrating our successes, and making small changes over time, we can create positive habits that help us achieve our goals.
If you have read Atomic Habits or any similar books that you think I might enjoy, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Have you heard of Soul Health before? Some of you may have heard me talk about my Health Wheel. The Health Wheel is based on different “versions” of stress in our lives. If these stresses are not managed, over time they can lead to chronic health concerns, e.g. cardiovascular disease. The wheel is a way to self-assess how you are doing in certain areas of stress in your life and figure out how well you are managing that stress.
At the center of the Wheel is Soul Health, surrounded by four main components:
Soul health is located as the center point of the health wheel because I believe it is the focal point to our overall wellbeing. I have witnessed and heard story after story about people who were terminally ill yet still had a joyful spirit. Their physical health was completely in shambles, yet they remained upbeat, and full of life. I believe that is because their soul health was strong and healthy.
So, what is soul health? The way I look at soul health is: we are living in a spirit of gratitude, we see every opportunity and life experience as a learning and growing experience, we find joy in the simple things, and we have confidence in what happens when we die. Chalk it up to a positive MINDSET and always looking for the opportunity to grow, help others, or find the good in every situation.
Look into the eyes of someone that has a strong soul health and you will see a twinkle, or bright spirit in their eyes. Look in the eyes of someone who is struggling in their soul health and you will see a lack of life in their eyes. I think that soul health happens when life is more in balance, and someone learns to take time to enjoy the simple moments in life. They have more of a sense of inner peace no matter the circumstances in their life.
How does someone get soul health?
This is a hard question to answer. Here are some of the things I do to improve my soul health:
Slow down enough to stop and recognize my blessings in my everyday life.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
Make life more about others and less about myself.
Spend time with people that seem to be joyful and fill my cup rather than empty it.
Have a belief in something bigger than myself. For me that is God, and I have peace in knowing that I will go to heaven someday. Not because I was good enough but because I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I was given the gift of grace.
Do things that charge my battery.
Live in the moment.
Enjoy the relationships in my life. I meet with a 75 year old man every 2 weeks and he gets tears in his eyes every time he talks about how life is more about relationships than any other thing. He often says, “I have never heard anyone dying say that they wish they worked more, but they often say they wish they would have spent more time with the ones they love.”
Managing your stress is the first step in trying to reduce it. Simple things done over time lead to change. You can do it! It’s ok to stop and enjoy the simple moments that life brings. If you’re not sure how to promote more soul health, ask me at your next appointment and I will try to guide you in the right direction.
We are all thankful that the days of “Stay at Home Orders” have expired. But often we can take positives from negative situations. All things considered I wanted to share some of my thoughts about what I learned on a Facebook Live, and wanted to share these insights on my blog.
10. Life doesn’t need to be so complicated – especially with activities. We have been able to slow down a bit and make things less complicated with our family scheduled. I think life was meant to be simpler, and we are practicing that.
9. I’m not my kid’s best teacher. I give myself a solid “C” for Stay at Home. We definitely need our teachers and education system, and I’m grateful for all the educators who are still working hard to help support the parents at home.
8. Breathing in a mask during my workday is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’m often out of breath during the day, and definitely dehydrated because I’m not drinking as much water as usual. Thank you to the health care workers who are wearing masks throughout the day. It’s not easy. I feel very tired at the end of the day.
7. Commutes are much easier when less people are going in to work. I’ve spent considerably less time in my car, to-and-from work. Although, this also means I have less “me time” in the car where I spend prepping for my day, so I have had to adjust a bit. Also, the shorter drives are great.
6. Humans are good at adapting to their current situation. Also, it’s amazing to see how people have been adapting: possible loss of jobs or job location changes, adapting to children being home, being teachers of children. Humans are incredible! Think of all the things we have overcome throughout time. Keep making positive choices and adapting.
5. Another key point is finding new routines and patterns. I have had to reflect on my patterns to see what still works and what needs to adapt. Being home more I have also had to work to keep the old routines that are healthy, even though it is more work.
4. Needing to be intentional about things and spending time with people. I don’t think I’m alone in being distracted by things at home, like my phone notifications and responding to things that I might not need to address immediately. This causes me to miss out on opportunities with my wife, or kids, or neighbors. I’m trying to be intentional to be present and focused.
3. Life is about simple joys. This is a hard truth and it’s easy to get caught up in all the craziness and big moments. The little things are what makes life: a simple run, a hug, a smile, a great conversation, beautiful weather.
2. It is good to pause. As a result I am learning to slow down. Even prior to COVID-19, I have noticed patients being more stressed and moving at a faster pace than ever before. In my line of work, I get an opportunity to talk with many people, from many walks of life, and it seems lots of people are stressed out. It doesn’t have to be this way.
1.People and relationships are number one. Above all, when you take away the activities, events, and other things that we have had to omit during Stay at Home, it makes it clear how important relationships are. Life is truly about the people who matter in your life.
Sleep. Every knows it is important, but how does it impact us?
Sleep allows us to get what I call the “3 Rs”: Rest, Repair, and Recovery time. We all need REST from the busyness that has taken over our culture. During sleep our body is also REPAIRING from the physical stresses we placed on our bodies the previous day. Aside from the physical stress, sleep also allows us to rest our minds. Not enough sleep can make it difficult to focus and/or cause our bodies to not repair and be prepared for the next day. RECOVERING from the physical and mental stress allows us to feel more refreshed and ready to tackle the next day ahead.
We are all different so figuring out how much sleep you specifically need to thrive is the most important. Oversleeping can also backfire and cause someone to be more tired throughout their day. Here is a link to a chart from the Mayo Clinic on recommended sleep by age group. These are general rules for hours of sleep.
If sleep is important, why aren’t people getting enough? Here are a few things that can be part of the problem.
Stress is certainly a big factor
Working too many hours, or not turning off the work brain
Being in front of a screen before bed can stimulating brain activity
Alcohol or caffeine prior to bed can be disruptive
Sleeping is a full-time job – about 6-10 hours per day. For the same reason ergonomics at a “workstation” are important, your “sleep station” (bed set up) is also important. An old mattress, or pillow can make people not rest as well due to being uncomfortable, or not supported well. A sign you might need a new pillow or mattress may be restless sleep or waking up stiff/sore.
What can you do to help get better sleep? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few of my recommendations.
The body likes routine. A simple way to get better sleep is to have a similar sleep/wake cycle. That means goes to bed and wake up at the same time each day. This helps program the body to get into a pattern.
Try not drinking too close to bedtime, whether it be alcohol or regular liquids. This will decrease the need to use the bathroom, and no alcohol/caffeine also will improve the chances of more quality deep sleep. However, some herbal teas (decaffeinated) can be relaxing before bed.
Reading before bed has been helpful for me to get my brain distracted from the day; I typically fall asleep easier.
Try turning off any screens about one hour prior to bed. This reduces stimulation should make it easier to fall asleep.
Make your bed for sleep and intimacy only. Doing things like work, watching tv, and being on the phone or other screen time confuses the brain when it is time to sleep. Training your brain to know that bedtime means sleep time is important.
Staying cool. My body tends to run on the warm-hot end by nature and can interrupt sleep when I get too hot. I purchased a Chili Pad (not an endorsement, but I like it) which keeps me cool at night. Turning a fan on or setting the temperature to stay cool in the room may also be helpful.
Magnesium before bed can also help people sleep or may decrease restless legs.
Take time to relax: Epsom salt baths, calming yoga, deep breathing, meditation, prayer, or a gratitude journal before bed. Lavender scent can also be calming. (My wife loves this smell; I do not, but it works for many.)
One of my new favorite things to do before I fall asleep is what I have named “little joys.” I don’t know about you, but my kids can make bedtime exhausting and put me in a bad mood at times. Sometimes my day had some hard moments. I have realized this can sometimes make my brain think the entire day was negative. What I have started to do is before I fall asleep is to do a mental movie of my day. I go back and relive some of the good moments or look for the “little joys.”
The day is full of them, but many get forgotten due to the frustrations of the day. This helps me end my day on a positive mental note, makes me have gratitude about my day, and helps me go to sleep not thinking about the 5-10% of my day that may have not been the best.
I hope you find the information helpful. And if you find yourself with a stiff neck, or ever needing chiropractic services. I encourage you to call me or schedule an appointment at the clinic!
We are in winter now. With another couple of snow falls under our belts in 2021-22, and the end of year holidays… There’s no turning back now! The winter can be a difficult time to think healthy. In Minnesota, lots of us want to hunker down for the season. It can be tempting to give in to all the comfort foods, especially around the holidays. That’s why I thought it was important to talk a little bit about healthy snack options. My big advice for healthy snacks is to keep it simple. There’s no need to go out and spend a ton of money on snacks or ingredients in order to eat healthy. Here are a few simple ideas that are go-to snacks in our house:
Plain nuts are healthy snacks
These are a great option, if you aren’t allergic. Look for these raw nuts, and make sure they aren’t loaded with salt or sweeteners: almonds, cashews, pistachios. Nuts are good fats, and a great source of protein. They are actually better for balancing your sugar levels so you won’t get quite as hungry as quickly after eating them.
Homemade granola snacks can be healthy snacks
These are simple to make and most people have all the ingredients on hand. Just take oats, peanut butter, and honey (you can add your favorite nut in, too) and roll them in a ball. Then, let them sit in the fridge to set-up. Sometimes I even add a little chocolate! We like to make these in our house – they are easy, delicious, and healthy.
Vegetables are healthy snacks, too
Yes, this is an obvious choice. We like to cut up carrots, but you can really use any vegetable you have available. Hummus is widely available these days and it’s a great addition to your veggie snack. Some veggies pair well with peanut butter, like carrots or celery. You can even make “ants on a log” with celery, peanut butter, and raisins.
As adults we may think some of these snacks are just for kids, but they are actually easy, healthy alternatives to the other junk out there marketed to adults. I’d love to hear your go-to healthy snacks. Comment below!
Sometimes being active takes motivation. There are some tips and tricks I use to help motivate myself and my family into an active lifestyle.
You might be wondering, “Is it even possible to motivate yourself?” The big thing I have to do is ask myself what activities I actually enjoy spending time doing. I am more likely to engage in movement when I enjoy the activity. So, if you don’t like running, setting a race day as motivation may not be what you need. Maybe you’d enjoy hiking or yoga more. In that case, setting a goal around those activities could be more motivating.
Accountability is important. One tip for accountability that helps me is participating in 30-day challenges with friends. Each day we check in via text to let the others know we did the daily challenge or ask how they are doing on their goals. Having someone to answer to can really increase motivation! Another tip is working a fitness program where you can check off the “boxes” of activities. This helps me stay on track while feeling like I am accomplishing something. Somehow, checking off the box helps the goal to feel more tangible.
In the winter, I am motivated to stay in shape from the fitness activities I’ve done over the summer. I don’t want to lose the results of the hard work from the season. So, in the winter, I try to shift my activities inside (or gym-based activities), like strength and weight training. Staying in shape is the motivation, and I must alter my activity to achieve my goal.
A lot of times, in order to motivate kids to be active, we have to model the behavior and invite them along. This summer, I had goals for my own running. What I did to involve my kids was invite them along to bike with me while I ran. They liked it because they didn’t have to go as fast on the bike; at the same time, they were able to help me run faster. We were doing separate activities together, and the kids seemed to have fun with it.
Another tip for motivating your family to be active is to create little hunts along the way when you are running, biking, hiking, or skiing. We will pick something and count how many we can see along our route. In the winter, you could pick how many snowmen you see while out for a walk, or how many people wearing red jackets while skiing. The options are endless.
Just like for yourself, you can ask your family what types of activities they like doing and then participate with them. I’m talking about movement-based activities here – playing sports, hiking, running. My son likes to play football, so I’ll spend time with him in the yard running drills or playing catch. The point is, the more interested they are in an activity, the more likely they are to do it. These are some ideas for motivating yourself and your family to stay active. What else works for you?