Tag Archives: habits

10 Common Habits That Get You Hooked

hook-485885-mYou probably have activities that you love to do. What you may not realize is that normal hobbies and habits can turn into an addiction.

When you hear the word addiction, your mind may automatically think of dependence on a substance, such as drugs or alcohol. But, the definition of addiction may surprise you. According to Wikipedia, “Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.

That means you can also become addicted to “behaviors.” Something that starts out as fun turns into a habit, and then becomes a compulsion.

Here are 10 surprising things you may be addicted to:

The Internet
You may think that browsing the internet is just a fun way to pass the time. However, studies have shown that internet addiction actually alters the brain in ways that are similar to the affects of drug and alcohol addiction. An addiction to the internet involves loss of control, as well as negative consequences at home and at work.

Smartphones
Smartphones are another new habit that can become an addiction. You keep it with you all the time and check it every few minutes. You ignore in-person interactions to catch a text or a post from someone you haven’t seen in years. You work too much because you’re constantly checking your phone. Put the phone down and have a conversation!

Coffee
You may not realize that caffeine is a drug. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I want coffee. I am on edge without it and will get a headache from caffeine withdrawal. Coffee, soda and energy drinks can all be overused. As long as you don’t overdo it, your caffeine habit can be harmless.

Sugar
Many people get sugar cravings. Foods high in carbs, fats and sugar can affect your brain just like drugs do. You may be craving a chocolate candy bar or an ice cream cone. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re addicted, but your sweet tooth can get out of control and contribute to other health problems.

Shopping
I admit it. I have a shopping addiction. I love clothes, shoes, kitchen gadgets and more. I just enjoy the act of shopping. When you shop, it may lift you up when you’re feeling down or just make you happy. That’s because your brain actually releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine. Chronic shopping may also mean you have impulse-control problems or anxiety issues. Shopping too often can also lead to financial, social or deeper emotional problems.

Tanning
You can become addicted to the sun. The ultraviolet spectrum of sunlight releases chemicals in your body called endorphins. They make you feel good. You may also feel like you’re never tan enough no matter how tan you get. This may be a sign of an obsessive-compulsive or body dysmorphic disorder.

Gambling
Of the behavioral addictions, gambling is the one most closely related to drug and alcohol addiction. Gambling lights up the same areas in the brain as drug addictions. You may bet on an office pool, gamble online or gamble more seriously at slot machines, poker tables, or off track betting. If you’re not lucky, betting can wreak havoc on your finances, job and family life.

Work
As I sit here writing this on a Saturday morning, it’s possible that I am addicted to work. While most of the work world looks forward to weekends, those who have an addiction may find themselves working nights and weekends. While we joke about being a “workaholic,” it can jeopardize a person’s health and relationships.

Videos games
Can’t put down the video game console? Do you think about playing games while doing other activities? Research shows that boys and men most commonly have a video game addiction. If you’re shirking responsibilities, work or social activities to play video games, you may be addicted. With games becoming more realistic and challenging, it’s even harder to separate fantasy from reality.

Food
Food can become a problem if you’re eating to ease emotions, overeating while alone and then feeling guilty after the binge. While food can seem like a drug for people with eating disorders, it’s not considered a true addiction. It’s important to develop healthy eating habits and avoid issues with food.

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Any activity or habit can become an issue if it begins to control your life. It’s important to find balance in everything you do. If you discover that you’re hooked on a behavior and it’s having negative consequences, it may be time to make a change!

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10 Habits That Are Zapping Your Energy

too-tired-1752-mAre you tired of being tired all the time? That’s how I’ve felt for the past few weeks. I feel like I’m slogging through the days and fighting to stay awake.

It comes as no surprise to me that many of our habits that can drain our energy are also the same habits that cause us to feel like our lives are out of balance. We need to get back to the basic foundation blocks of living a balanced life.

Feeling tired not only robs you of your productivity and pleasure, it can also make you no fun to be around. The good news is that fixing your fatigue and lack of ambition may be as easy as making a few, simple lifestyle changes.

Here are 10 ways you can change your habits and put more pep in your step and energy back in your day:

Drink more water
We all know we need to drink more water, but how much to drink is more difficult to determine. Even if you’re not dehydrated, you can still experience the negative effects of not drinking enough water. Being tired and cranky can be a sign that you need to drink more. Water flushes out toxins, keeps tissues hydrated and increases your energy level. If it’s difficult for you to drink water all day, mix it up with 100% fruit juices, nonfat milk or unsweetened tea (preferably herbal or decaffeinated).

Eat smart
If you feel that your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day, it may make sense for you to eat five or six small meals a day. This strategy can help your blood-sugar level remain constant and give you a steady amount of fuel all day. Just remember that you still need to maintain the same calorie intake for the day, simply spread it out over smaller meals. You will find that your energy level stays more balanced.

Cut the sugar
While sugar gives you a quick energy boost, it also drops you back down hard when it runs out. Then, you start craving that energy high again. Along with eating small meals a day, try to avoid the sugar rush and keep healthy snacks on hand. By combining a few ounces of protein with complex carbohydrates, you can keep your blood sugar more stable and boost your energy levels. For instance, snack on whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, fresh fruit, lean turkey or chicken, or nonfat yogurt.

Watch the caffeine
Caffeine increases your energy levels, but it also takes away more energy than it’s giving. Like eating sugar or big meals, caffeine will boost your energy, but too much can cause a rebound effect and lead to fatigue. The best option is to quit caffeine by gradually reducing your intake However, if you can’t cut out caffeine completely, at least stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evenings.

Get more sleep
The need to drink caffeine during the day can also be the result of not getting enough sleep at night. Getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep at the same time every night will put you on track for being rested and alert. Make it a habit to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. You can strengthen your sleep patterns and get a better night’s sleep.

Lose the clutter
Being disorganized or having clutter in your home or workplace can make you feel lethargic, as well as lacking in enthusiasm and optimism. Trying to remember where things are and searching for lost or misplaced things can be a huge drain both emotionally and physically. It’s important to cope with clutter so you can be more productive and quickly move on to doing more fun things.

Stop stressing
Trust me, I know it’s easier said than done. Conflict and stress can quickly deplete your energy and rob you of your ambition. Managing your stress levels is the best option. When you make time to take care of your inner self, you will find that you are able recharge and boost your energy. Relaxation takes different forms for different people. For you, it may mean sitting in silence, taking a walk and appreciating nature, working out or taking a bubble bath.

Move your body
With fitness, there are actually two ways to zap your energy. First, you can simply not exercise. Physical activity can energize us physically, emotionally and mentally. Without it, we are naturally more sluggish. Exercise also releases endorphins that make you feel good and enhance your mood. On the other hand, too much exercise can also cause problems. Over-training depletes your energy reserves, breaks down muscle, and makes you weaker not stronger. Find a balance by creating a healthy, fitness routine.

Say no
Do you say yes to everything? Spending time doing things you don’t really want to do can be another energy drainer. Think about how you spend your time each day. Do you do things that fuel you? Or do you spend your time on activities that deplete you? If you raise your awareness of where your energy is going, you can learn to say no to the things that deplete your energy. Then, energy can flow back into your life.

Make time for yourself
One of the ways to bring energy back in your life is to make time for yourself. Do things that make you happy and energize you. For instance, read a good book, go on a date night with your spouse, spend time with your kids, hang out with friends, focus on the good things, meditate or get a massage.

You can keep your energy levels in balance by creating more healthy habits that also will bring your life as a whole into balance. You can regain and maintain your missing energy!

6 ways to beat stress for better health

Stress juggling too many responsibilitiesWe all deal with stress. It can be a juggling act to balance all of our responsibilities. Your boss just dumped a bunch of work on your desk on Friday afternoon. The car battery died. One of the kids is sick. The property taxes are coming due.

Sometimes everything piles up at once, and you feel overloaded. You may not be able to keep all the balls in the air, and it seems like too much to handle. You can’t avoid stress. It’s just part of life. However, you can control how you deal with it.

Stress can cause you to gain weight and can even shorten your lifespan. By learning to manage stress, you can live a much happier, healthier and more productive life.

Here are 6 ways you can make changes in your life now to help you beat stress for better health:

1. Balance your lifestyle
How you live your life affects your stress level. If one aspect of your life is out of balance, it can lead to stress and dissatisfaction – not only in that area of your life but also in other areas. For instance, if your work schedule has become extremely hectic, it will impact your personal life. Your spouse may wish you could spend more time together. You may miss your kids’ sports or school activities due to work.

Here are some areas to work on to help you find more balance and reduce stress:

Look at your schedule. It’s important to create a balance between your personal needs, work, and your family and friends. Our relationships with others are an integral part of our happiness. Start by looking at your commitments. Maybe you need to adjust how and where you spend your time. Make more time for you. Or plan more activities with your family or friends. There may be things you don’t need to do at all. Sometimes just saying no when you’re feeling overwhelmed can be the greatest stress reliever.

Get enough sleep. Your body uses sleep to rest and re-cooperate from the stresses of the day. Your body and mind need sleep for many other healthy reasons, too.

Eat healthier. By eating healthier you have more energy, may lose weight or maintain your weight, and will feel better about yourself. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and protein can also help boost your immunity. Staying healthy is one of the best defenses against stress.

Make the time to exercise. If you can work exercise into your daily routine and make it habit, you will feel healthier and reduce stress. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, can help lower your stress level.

Find a sense of purpose. You may feel stressed if you aren’t doing anything that’s meaningful to you or that you truly enjoy. You may find a sense of purpose through your family, friends, a hobby you love, work or by volunteering. Your purpose should make you happy to get out of bed in the morning and fulfilled at the end of the day.

These are a few of the areas in your life that can get out of balance. It is also important to make sure you are financially and spiritually balanced. You may find it helps to set goals and improve your habits in order achieve more.

2. Get organized
Being surrounded by clutter can also contribute to stress. If you feel you are constantly searching for things or simply feel overwhelmed by all of the “stuff” in your life, then take the initiative to clean up the clutter and reduce your stress.

You can also improve your time management skills. I know I am often guilty of procrastination. I put things off or do unimportant tasks to avoid what I should be doing. The next thing I know, I haven’t gotten anything worthwhile done. By managing your time more effectively, you can prioritize what is urgent and what can wait. You can also get more things done in a shorter amount of time. That leaves more time to do the fun things!

3. Change your mindset
It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking. Situations that are out of your control or not even your fault suddenly start to cause you unnecessary stress. Negative thoughts can trigger your body’s stress response. Changing your mindset to more positive thinking can help you cope with stress more easily.

4. Learn to relax
When you feel stressed, take time to relax. It may mean simply closing your eyes, breathing deeply and thinking positive thoughts for a few minutes. You can envision yourself in a place that makes you happy and relaxed. Sit outside and soak up the sun for a few minutes. Go for a quick walk and let your mind wander. You can also use different types of relaxation techniques to help you reduce tension.

5. Disconnect
We live in a plugged-in world. While all of our high tech devices – TVs, cell phones, computers, tablets – can help us stay connected and make work and life easier, they keep us connected all the time. Turn off the computer and cell phone and take a break from technology every once in a while. Spend time with family and friends without the distractions. Go outside and do nothing. Enjoy just being.

6. Reach out
If you start to feel too overwhelmed, reach out to friends and family. Simply talking to someone and venting your frustrations can help you feel better. You can talk to people you know from church or a religious leader. You may reach a point when you want to talk to a counselor or therapist. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help when you need it!

You can beat stress and live a more balanced, healthy and fulfilling life. How do you cope with stress?

14 habits that will make you happier

Habits that will make you happierAs I’ve gotten older, I have come to realize that I am in charge of my own happiness. I decide how I react to the people and events in my life.

You can choose to be positive and focus on the things in life that bring you joy. You can also create habits that will make you happier in general. Even a few minor changes to your daily routine can make a major difference in your life.

Here are 14 small changes you can make in your daily routine that can help increase your overall happiness:

Make lists
At the beginning of each day, go over your goals for that day as well as long-term goals you may have for the week, the month or even the year. I know from experience that lists can be intimidating. However, having a to-do list for the day will actually help you get more done and feel more satisfied at the end of the day. Just be realistic about your goals so you will be more likely to accomplish them. And, you may have something unexpected come up that derails your plans. That’s okay. Simply set new goals for the next day.

Try something new
Sometimes your routine can become, well, routine. Mix it up every once in a while. If you feel like you’re in a rut, try something new. Take a class. Experiment with a new hobby. You may find a new passion and meet new people. It’s good to keep learning and growing as a person.

Value your friends
Take time for your friends. We have written before about the 7 reasons we need friends. Our friends help us relieve stress, try new things and simply give life more meaning. Make sure you are spending time with positive friends rather than friends who tend to be negative, needy or dramatic. Over time, they may wear on your mood and your happiness.

Take a nap
As we have mentioned in past blogs, naps are good for your mind and body. They can help improve your concentration and lift your mood. Taking a 10 – 20 minute nap in the middle of the day can give you all the boost you need to enjoy the day.

Plan for vacations
Give yourself time to plan for vacations. Half the fun of taking a vacation is planning where you’re going and what you’re going to do. Studies have shown that taking a vacation – rather than buying expensive material items – can give you a greater sense of happiness.

Savor your food
It’s unavoidable that some days you will be eating in a hurry or on the go to the next meeting or errand. When you have a chance to sit down and share a meal with friends or family, enjoy your food. Take time to savor the tastes and the time you spend with others. Of course, do your best to eat healthy foods as well.

Make exercise a priority
Exercise should be a non-negotiable habit. Trust me, I know how hard it is to get into and maintain an exercise routine. I struggle with it every day. However, exercising regularly may be the single most important habit to your overall well-being. Exercising helps you control your weight, fight disease and simply increase your happiness. So, get moving and keep moving.

Assume the best of people
We don’t really know why people do or say the things they do. For example, a coworker snaps at you when you ask a question. You may assume they are mad at you for some reason, and then you’re in a bad mood. In reality, maybe the boss just reprimanded them. Maybe they found out a family member is very ill. You should assume the best of people and try not to internalize someone else’s mood or actions.

Turn off the electronics
Take a break from the TV, smartphone, tablet, MP3 player, etc. Go outside and enjoy the sunshine. Talk to a friend. Spend some time on a hobby you love. While our electronic devices serve a purpose, they can also suck away our time and leave us feeling a little sad and dissatisfied.

Meditate
Take a mental break from time to time. It can be as simple as going for a walk or listening to music. You can also use some relaxation techniques to help you unwind. The important thing is just to allow yourself some time to relax. You will feel more refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to take on your daily routine.

Stop comparing
It’s human nature to make comparisons. We compare ourselves with others. We think about what we have and don’t have. Happy people are happy with what they have and where they are in life. Of course, you need to have goals to continue growing and improving, but remember to appreciate what you have right now.

Let loose
Sometimes you need to just let loose and be silly. That may mean dancing along with the radio, or trying out your moves on the Wii. Run through the sprinkler with the kids. Blow bubbles or draw with sidewalk chalk. Being carefree and simply living in the moment is a great way to inspire happiness.

Do what you love
I find that I spend all of my time working and taking care of my house, my husband and my kids. I spend very little time doing what I want to do. Figure out what you love doing and make time to do it. I used to enjoy sewing quilts and scrapbooking. I simply stopped making time for those things and made my family’s needs a priority. Yet, to be happy – and be a better wife and mom – I need to take time for myself, too.

Share the happiness
Happiness can be contagious. Greet people with a smile – even strangers. Give a friend or coworker a compliment. Hug your family. Cheer others on and encourage them. You will find that sharing your happiness with others will not only make them happy but lift your mood as well.

How a budget can help you create balance

balanced budgetEvery January, I panic over the amount of money I spent for Christmas. I start looking at the bills coming due and our monthly income, and I panic even more.

After a more careful review of 2012, I know that we have over spent and could live more frugally and responsibly. Why does it matter?

First, we can live without some of the things we buy. We don’t need all the “stuff.” Second, I have noticed that my kids seem to feel a sense of entitlement. If they want something, we should just go out and buy it for them. It would be good for them to understand the importance of living within a budget.

In addition, if our finances are out of balance, we will feel out of balance. It can affect relationships, stress levels and sleep habits. Here are a few more reasons to establish a budget, balance your finances and live a balanced life:

Uncover waste
When you create a budget, you see – in black and white – where your money is going. For example, without a detailed account of your spending, it’s easy to ignore how much money you are paying for meals at restaurants and on take-out. After working on my budget, I was shocked to see how much we spend on fuel (gasoline and diesel) in a month. I know I have to do a certain amount of driving, but it makes me think about planning my trips and grouping my errands together.

Reduce stress
As the person who pays the bills, I know when our funds are tight for a particular month. It stresses me out. I lose sleep at night. By having a budget in place, I can be more prepared for the bills and unexpected expenses that come up. I won’t be guessing if we have enough money for a large purchase, or if we need to wait a few months. And I will know that we have the money available to pay all the bills.

Guide spending
Your budget can help you see where you can reduce spending on extras you may not need. At the same time, you may be able to put more funds toward eliminating debt and into savings.

Eliminate debt
There is good debt, and then there is bad debt. How can debt be good? Your home mortgage is a good debt because you are building equity in real estate, which has value. Your car loan is good debt if your loan payment is reasonable. Credit cards are considered bad debt. If you have outstanding credit card balances, creating a budget can help you pay off these debts. You may also be able to put extra funds toward mortgage or car payments to pay down the loan principal and reduce the amount you pay in interest.

Set priorities
A budget helps you get a big picture view of your finances. Your spouse may have different financial goals than you do. You may want to reduce debt, and your spouse may want to save for a vacation. By seeing your budget on paper, you can discuss the priorities you each have and find a way to align your priorities with your budget.

Build new habits
By working within a budget, you can develop new spending habits. You may think about that pair of new shoes or – in my husband’s case – new power tool before you buy it. With the big picture in mind, you realize that your budget plan is more important than these items.

Grow savings
Savings can include your emergency fund or the money you invest for retirement. If you think about saving from every dollar earned, it becomes easier to put the concept of savings in perspective and increase the amount you set aside. You can add your emergency fund and retirement contributions to your budget and make them as important as the house payment and the electric bill.

Give back
Making donations to your church or a favorite charity should also be a part of your financial plans. If you add it to the budget, then it is top of mind and is included in your monthly finances. You’ll feel good knowing that you are improving your financial situation and helping others.

Now that you know WHY it’s important to establish a household budget, next week we will write about HOW to create a budget. Do you have other reasons for living within a budget? Do you have tips for making a budget? Let us know!

Staying on the Path to a Balanced Life

path to balanced lifeWe all live in a crazy, hectic, fast-paced world. We are bombarded with different obstacles and challenges every day. It is a lifelong journey to become the best version of ourselves we can be.

There are temptations at every stage of your life that will pull you from the path to a healthy, balanced life. It may be as simple as taking a detour, or you may end up going down the completely wrong road.

As you prepare for a new year, it’s a good time to reflect on the changes you can make in 2013 to help you achieve a more balanced life.

Where are you on the path to balance?
What can you do to find balance now and create more balance in the future?

Depending on your age and the stage of your life, you will face different challenges and obstacles. You can adjust your priorities and your goals to find a healthy balance at each stage:

The Roaring 20s
In our 20s, we can be tempted to stay up too late, party too hard, take our families for granted, and neglect our finances and overall health. We want it all and think we are invincible. We have plenty of time to become grown-up and responsible. Yet, the habits we develop at this age will be the hardest to break as we grow older. Now is the time to develop healthy habits that will stick with you and help you maintain your balance as your life changes.

  • Start a regular exercise routine
  • Develop relationships that will stay with you the rest of your life
  • Create a financial plan now that will guide you into a comfortable retirement
  • Establish good habits now and avoid bad habits later

The Thrilling 30s
When you reach your 30s, you may have a spouse, young children, sleepless nights, a mortgage, and a dog. It’s even harder to keep everything in perspective. You may be working at a job you don’t especially like, but feel you have to keep it so you can buy all the things you want. You may feel a little lost and not really sure how you got to this place. Staying on the path to a balanced life can help you put it into perspective and get you back to living your best life.

  • Think about what is important to you – do you need to have all the “stuff” that everyone else has?
  • Learn to manage stress now – for your future health and sanity
  • Focus on getting enough sleep to improve your physical and mental well-being

The Fabulous 40s
By your 40s, you may have moody teenagers who are testing their boundaries and your patience. You are worried about paying for college. You may be eating poorly and struggling to find time to exercise. You are stressed out and running from one place to another – trying to squeeze in all your commitments and doing everything for everyone. This is a crucial time to keep on the path to a balanced life. Now more than ever, you need to:

  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Continue to challenge yourself to make exercise part of your daily routine
  • Reconnect with your friends and nurture those relationships
  • Take time to do things that make you happy

The Freeing 50s and 60s
The kids may be grown up and out of the house. Now, it’s time to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. You may want to reconnect with your spouse, or you may find you have more time to help others.

  • Spend time getting to know your spouse again
  • Find a cause that you are passionate about and volunteer your time, provide your unique skills, or donate money
  • Evaluate your goals and think about what you want to accomplish in this phase of your life

To learn more about staying on the path to a balanced life at any age, check out the interactive book, A Completely Balanced Life, published by Remember Your Health.

How to say NO to holiday stress

holiday stressAs I sit here glaring at the lights on my Christmas tree, I can’t help but think they  shouldn’t be irritating me this much. I have replaced the top string of lights twice this year. Guess what, it’s not working – AGAIN!

I need to wrap presents, clean my house, get my brother’s gift in the mail, bake cookies for school, and address my Christmas cards. Oh wait, first I need to buy Christmas cards.

The holidays are one of the most magical times of the year. It’s a time to gather with friends and family. Memories are made. Traditions are created. We count our blessings and rejoice in the reason for the season.

The holidays can also be one of the most stressful times of the year. We feel obligated to say “yes” to every request and every invitation.

Say “no” to the stress and “yes” to a happy, healthy holiday season:

Keep your healthy routine
It’s easy to drop our healthy eating habits and exercise routines when we become overwhelmed with holiday tasks and commitments. Make it a point to continue eating right. You can indulge in tasty treats while at events and gatherings, but keep up your good habits at home. Find time to exercise. Not only will it help you relieve holiday stress, you will feel good about staying on track.

Shop online
I do almost all of my holiday shopping online after my kids go to bed. You can find good deals and free shipping on most of the items you want. You avoid the stress of malls, crowds and traffic. And it’s so exciting when a delivery shows up at your door!

Give thoughtful gifts
Part of the holiday stress is spending beyond your means or financial budget. Think of gifts you can give that may be less expensive but have more meaning for the recipient. Or, suggest a gift exchange for family members or a group of coworkers. It is the spirit of the season that truly matters, not the material things.

Stay home
If you feel like you are running from one commitment to another, choose a few parties and say no. Spend time at home instead doing something fun as a family. Start a new tradition of having sappy holiday movie night or board game night. You may not remember all of the holiday parties, but you will remember the memories you make as a family.

Get some sleep
When you get enough sleep, your body can rest and be ready for the next day. You will be less sleep deprived and more ready to cope with whatever holiday crises come your way. You will just feel better.

Do something nice
Give your neighbor a hand putting up his lights. Offer to help a stressed-out friend with her holiday cooking or cleaning. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, collect toys for a toy drive, or take homemade goodies to the nursing home. Your generous spirit can brighten the holidays for others in need.

I am constantly reminding myself that these moments are fleeting. My kids will probably tell their kids about the year I couldn’t get the Christmas tree lights to work. They have found it quite humorous. It will make a great story… some day.

It’s the little moments, the memories, and the spirit of the season that make the holidays special. So, say “no” to some of your commitments this year and say “yes” to a relaxing, memorable holiday season.