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Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to Trick Your Brain to Create a New Healthy Habit

I thought this was a great article. 

How to Trick Your Brain to Create a New Healthy Habit

Have you ever started a diet or exercise program but didn't stick with it? If you're like millions of other people, you've set out with the best intentions but failed to keep the momentum going. Here's why relying on motivation and willpower doesn't work (and what works instead).

When you begin any new self-improvement program, your enthusiasm is high and you're motivated by the pleasure of what you want or the pain of what you don't want. But motivation naturally diminishes with time.

When your motivation wanes, you rely more on willpower. But no one has an endless supply of willpower. It's a resource that gets "used up." Every time you will yourself to do something that you don't really want to do, you use up some willpower. It's as if every temptation you pass up depletes your willpower reserve. By evening, you may find you have no willpower left. That's why most people blow their diet in the evening after eating healthy all day. If motivation and willpower aren't working for you, there's another way!

95% of our life is dictated by the subconscious mind, the part of our brain that runs our lives on autopilot. This is why you can do everything from brushing your teeth to driving a car without thinking about it. By consciously deciding to create a new habit, you can harness the power of your unconscious to create a new neural pathway. Once a new habit is established it becomes easy to do—motivation and willpower are no longer required.

Here are seven steps to turn any desired new activity into a habit. Once a habit is established, you'll find yourself doing it effortlessly. These techniques can be used for any habit you want to make or change—diet, exercise, meditation, stress reduction, sleep habits, etc.

Set Small Goals

Setting big goals is exciting but starting with small, boring goals is more likely to lead to success. A small goal, for example, would be to meditate for 10 minutes, or replace one unhealthy snack with raw veggies, or walk 15 minutes per day. Taking small actions tricks your brain. Your subconscious likes to be in control—it doesn't like change. A big change often sets up subconscious resistance, but you can sneak a small change by it.

Use Triggers

A trigger is something that leads you to automatically doing something else. Many smokers, for example, are often triggered to smoke after a meal. Use triggers to your advantage. If you commit to always meditating after breakfast, then after a few weeks you'll automatically think about meditating after your morning meal. Visual triggers work well, too. Laying your workout clothes on the bed in the morning will encourage you to work out when you get home from work.

Do It Early

Exercise or meditate in the morning when your willpower is high, and you'll reap the rewards all day. Make a healthy dinner ahead of time (I love my crockpot!) so you don't come home starving, with nothing to eat.

Be Prepared

Make sure you have everything you need to ensure your success. If you want to start a walking program, get comfortable walking shoes and a pedometer. (People who wear a pedometer walk 27% more than those who don't.)

Make it Convenient

The more difficult and time consuming it is to take an action, the less likely you will do it. This is why so many people who buy gym memberships drop out—it's just not that convenient. Get everything you need ready ahead of schedule so that when it is time to take action, you can, as Nike says, "Just Do It."

Make it Fun

If you don't enjoy doing something, you aren't going to stick with it. Find ways to make your lifestyle change as enjoyable as possible. Exercise with a friend, learn to cook healthy foods that are delicious, or find a meditation program that really resonates with you.

Don't Break the Chain

When Jerry Seinfeld was an unknown, he created the habit of writing new material daily using a wall calendar and a red marker. Every day that he managed to write, he would put a big red "X" on the calendar. He didn't want to see any blank days that "broke the chain." Use this technique for one month and you'll find your new habit will largely be formed.

By using these steps to create a habit, you're tricking your brain into creating a new neural pathway. Once the habit is formed, you can use it to serve as a gateway to bigger changes that can truly change your life. A journey of a thousand miles really does begin with a single step.

How to Trick Your Brain to Create a New Healthy Habit | Pick the Brain

Deane Alban is co-founder of BeBrainFit.com and author of Brain Gold: The Anti-Aging Guide for Your Brain. She has taught and written on a wide variety of natural health topics for over 20 years. Her passion is teaching others how to rejuvenate their brains and overcome the common, but avoidable, problem of midlife mental decline.

Want to see your work on Lifehacker? Email Tessa.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Statins and their risk/benefit

  • A recent large Meta-analysis (a study which combined the results of 135 randomized trials) has shown that statins did not significantly increase risk for myalgia (muscle pain), myopathy (muscle weakness), rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown) or cancer as compared with control treatment. There was a slight increase in the risk of diabetes. 

    I remain a strong believer in the benefit of statin therapy to reduce heart attack, strokes and death in patients with known heart disease and in those at intermediate-to-high risk for heart disease. See my prior blog posting explaining my rationale. I have also previously written about ways I help my patients assess their risk of heart disease. 

    Below is an excellent editorial based on the recent trial I cited above which I wanted to share with you:

    "At a time when the major trials continue to support substantial benefit from statin use, especially in patients with known atherosclerotic vascular disease, this study provides important information that the risks of long-term therapy with statins is relatively low.

    But, like all medications, there are benefits and there are risks. We are not at a point at which statins should be placed in the water. We need to be careful that when we recommend statin therapy for primary prevention of CVD we do so with the knowledge that the patients for whom the therapy is recommended should be at increased risk and have their risk identified as a guide to therapy. In the future we will see increasing emphasis placed on the risk-benefit of statin therapy for patients in primary prevention who have not yet experienced an event. There is no doubt that with secondary prevention the benefits of statin therapy far outweigh the risks. From this very interesting study of almost a quarter million patients, we can see that those risks are quite small.

    Recently, the FDA warned that simvastatin at high doses should not be used in most settings. Across the board, we are learning that the problems with statin side effects tend to occur with higher doses. It is important to be careful that we still have a good way of assessing risk and identifying those who will truly benefit from long-term therapy with statins.

    • Sidney C. Smith Jr., MD, FACC, FAHA, FESC
    • Professor of Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
      Past President, AHA
      Previous Chair of the ACC/AHA guidelines committee"

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy 4th of July

Happy Independence Day

No work - what a great day to get out and exercise!!! Go for a walk. Go for a run. Go swimming. Go for a hike. 

Along with all the hot dogs and hamburgers, remember to fill up on salads and fruits. 

Stay away from regular sodas

Try not to drink too much alcohol

Have fun but be healthy