Fat Loss Weight Loss 

The Weight Loss Motivation Bible: How To Program Your Mind For Sustainable Fat Loss

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Start YOUR 90 Day Challenge to accomplish your 2012 New Years Resolution. www.La…

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Amanda's Secret to Losing Over 100 Pounds Wasn't a Diet

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/130-Pound-Weight-Loss-Story-37209787

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Our next Before & After story comes from Amanda Fraijo-Tobin, who blogs about life after losing 130 pounds on her blog Friday Love Song, which is part of our POPSUGAR Select Fitness network. Below, she shares how she lost the weight and how she keeps it off.

Amanda: Before

Growing up, I wasn’t severely overweight — sure, I had a pudgy stage, but a lot of people did! My weight wasn’t something I thought much about being a kid (as it shouldn’t be). My parents had good intentions, like most, but we certainly did not grow up eating very healthy. Snacks, soda, meals prepared without nutritional aspects considered. Soda became a very bad habit for me, especially as I got into my teens and didn’t have anyone stopping me from drinking so many.

Fast-forward to high school — like most high school girls, I thought I was fat. Even though, in retrospect, I clearly wasn’t. I didn’t let it consume my life, though I was a little on the chubby side (so I thought) and I was OK with that. Looking back, I think senior year is when the trouble began for me. Stress, changes in my life, poor eating, and not exercising (hello, gym-class-not-required-after-ninth-grade!) led me to pack on some weight. Again, I already felt like a “fat girl,” so I kept going with the mind-set of “This is me — this is who I am.” I was married young, had my first child at 20, and of course, packed on more weight. Divorced, remarried, and two more babies later — more weight.

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My weight wasn’t something I paid attention to. I never weighed myself. The only time anyone took my weight was maybe once or twice a year when I had a doctor’s visit — and even then, I didn’t think much about it. This is me — this is who I am . . .

Amanda: Before

My husband is a type 2 diabetic. He had already been on tons of medications for several years to control his blood sugar and other problems associated with the disease. He got to the point of having to add insulin injections to his enormous list of meds. His doctor kept urging him to consider weight-loss surgery, telling him that, if he lost some weight, there was a possibility he may be able to stop taking some of his medications. This seemed like a great solution to my husband — I, on the other hand, disagreed. I told him repeatedly, this wasn’t the solution. If you don’t break bad habits that got you to a certain point, you could not possibly make a real change.

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Insert light bulb moment. Pot calling kettle black. Even though it wasn’t something I monitored, I was surely at the heaviest point of my life. I was waking up to get my son to school and collapsing on the couch for a nap once he was off. I was having random pains in my foot. I felt gross. I knew I needed to start making changes. I needed to make changes for myself, but also for my husband, for my kids. I needed to be a better example. This wasn’t about vanity. This was about life, making a better life for myself and my family.

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. I had packed on the weight over the course of 10 years. I knew it was going to take some time to take it back off. I knew there would be times I would feel like quitting. But from the start, I adopted a “Today I will do what I can” kind of attitude. This went for exercise as well as eating habits. I knew all my bad eating habits were not going to disappear overnight. Slowly but surely, I made mental lists of things I was doing that were awful for my body and thought of ways to change them. Drink more water, read labels of items I was eating, etc. I had been having such severe pains in my heel that some days I could not even walk on it. Some days, I may not get through an entire workout like I wanted to — that’s OK. Today I will do what I can.

Amanda: After

I chose not to be vocal about my weight-loss journey from the start. I didn’t mention it to friends. My husband and my father were about the only people who knew what I was trying to accomplish. There were many days of whining on my part to my husband about aches and pains from making my body do things it wasn’t used to doing. I admit I have no idea for sure what my starting weight was. I have a general idea based on the last time I had been weighed at the doctors — but my journey began about six months, and what I’m guessing, may even be more pounds later. I did not start out with a goal weight in mind. I didn’t want one. I wanted to be healthier. Period. Healthy is not pounds on a scale. This is not a short fix; this is a change I will continue to make for the rest of my life.

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How Did I Do It?

This is common sense, things we have heard a million times again and again. Change the way you eat. Exercise. Repeat. It’s amazing to me when people want to know my “secret.” I have no secret. And I find it even funnier when people feel let down by my answer. There is no magic pill. I have not dieted. I have not counted calories. I knew from the start that was not the way I wanted to live my life. This is a lifestyle change. Know that it’s going to be challenging, but have faith that you can make the changes you want to.

Amanda: After

About two years later now and around 125 to 135 pounds down, here I am. Still chugging along. Still making it part of my life to make better decisions for my own as well as my family’s health. Honestly, I still feel a little silly writing this. I have had people tell me that they think I am an inspiration, which blows my mind. But I am here to tell you: if I can do this, you can do this. All it takes is a true commitment. Am I a superfit person? No, of course not. But every day, I strive to be a little better. I am a real person who did this. I am a mom to three children with a full-time job, a husband, two dogs, and a million other things going on. It takes work. It takes time. But you can do this. Start today, one small change at a time. This is me — this is who I am. Today I will do what I can. Will you?

Do you have an inspiring Before & After story to share? Message us on Facebook, and give us a few details about your journey. We might even profile you on the site, like Amanda!

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Strong Abs Start With This 7-Minute Workout

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Get the printable version of this seven-minute HIIT workout here!

When it comes to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), the pros definitely outweigh the cons. While it may feel unpleasant to push your body to go faster and harder for that short time period, the rewards are worth it: HIIT helps you blast more belly fat, save time, and burn way more calories (even after your workout is long over) than a lower-intensity workout alone. A study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal found that a few minutes of training at almost your max can accomplish all of this in way less time than a traditional workout. How much less? Try just seven minutes total.

The ACSM’s interval workout consists of 12 exercises, which should be done at an intensity of eight on a scale of 10; each exercise lasts 30 seconds, with a 10-second rest in between. Repeat the circuit if you’d like a longer workout. Keeping the intensity up — and the rest periods short — is key, so keep reading to learn the moves and then get going! You’ll need a mat and a chair or bench.

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This 12-Month "I Am Strong" Challenge Is Better Than Any New Year's Resolution

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/How-Feel-Strong-42830535

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While New Year’s resolutions are often well-intentioned, the sad truth is that they usually fall out of focus sometime around February. Have you been there before? We certainly have. So what’s a more actionable way to meet your goals every month? Mix it up and have a clear objective month by month, rather than for the year overall.

This year’s mantra for us is “I am strong.” Do you need some strength in your life? Are you hoping to feel more empowered, more in control, and more self-loving? Take a look at the 12 ways we’re instilling this positive affirmation and living our strongest lives yet in 2017. You can mix up the months and customize your schedule and even fill in things that make YOU feel strong in particular.

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Each day of 2017, make it your goal to say, “I am strong” and live your life accordingly. These 12 unique monthly challenges will help you remember the end goal: self love and a happier, better life.

January Challenge: Try a New Workout

Pick a new style of workout, and commit to it all month long. It has to be something you’ve never done before! If you’ve never run before, give yourself a goal of running a mile without stopping by the end of the month. New to yoga? You’ll be amazed at how strong you get by committing to a few classes a week.

February Challenge: Compliment Yourself More

Make it a goal to give yourself five compliments a day for a month. These are words of affirmation that will build on your inner strength and self love, and they can be big things like, “I’m so intelligent,” or smaller ones like, “My hair looks fabulous!” (We picked up this tip from the inspiring health coach and fitness fashionista, Joanne Encarnacion.)

March Challenge: Set a Strength Goal

You don’t have to complete your goal in March, but you definitely have to set it and start working toward it. What strong thing do you want to accomplish this year? Complete a pull-up? 50 push-ups? Your first half-marathon? Maybe even a triathlon? Summit a mountain? Decide now what your goal will be, when you’ll complete it, and create a plan to work toward that goal.

April Challenge: Pack Your Fitness Schedule

This month, plan five workouts each week for the whole month. They can be at-home videos, group fitness at a studio, a run, a dance class, or personal training. Pick a way to move each day at the beginning of the month, and stick to your schedule.

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May Challenge: Gratitude Journal

Find a journal or notebook, and each day in May write down five to 10 things you’re grateful for. You’ll be mentally and emotionally equipped to handle anything!

June Challenge: Strong-Body Diet

This is your month to learn about macronutrients and focus on getting more protein to nourish your strong muscles. Make it a goal to learn four to six new protein-rich recipes and eat them throughout the month. When you feed your body the right foods, you’ll feel strong.

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July Challenge: Kickass Combat

Try boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing, or a similar style of workout. You could even sign up for a self-defense class! Plan out your month and go at least four times.

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August Challenge: The Buddy System

In August, find an accountability partner. Whether it’s your best friend, sister, or co-worker, find someone in your life who wants to feel strong, too. Go to healthy lunches together, plan workouts, and shower each other with empowering and meaningful words of affirmation. “You’re so strong!” is always a good one. You’ll be stronger together, and sharing your strength with another person will make you feel incredible.

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September Challenge: Meditation and Affirmation

While we’re hoping you’ll tell yourself “I am strong” every day this year, September is your month to really drive that home. This month, try a 10-minute meditation practice each morning right when you wake up, before the day gets away from you. Body-positive superstar and Movemeant Foundation founder Jenny Gaither says she creates a new mantra for herself each week, like, “love continues to flow in and out of me,” for instance. Repeat your daily, weekly, or September mantra to yourself as you clear your mind through mental-strengthening meditation.

October Challenge: Learn a New Skill

While fitness is a surefire way to create a sense of strength, you can find it in other ways, too! By learning something new and challenging yourself, you’ll feel so empowered. This can be as simple as, “I’m going to learn how to poach an egg,” or “I’m going to learn five phrases in Italian this month.” If fitness is the only way for you, then loop back to the challenge from January, and pick up a new kind of workout, or an exercise move you’re trying to master — maybe a Turkish Get-Up?

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November Challenge: Heat Things Up

As the weather gets chilly, choose workouts that make you really, really sweaty. Whether it’s hot yoga or an intense indoor cycling class, bring on the sweat! Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure you’re completing your strength goal from March.

December Challenge: Give Back

Choose a charity, cause, or nonprofit to focus your efforts on. You can even commit to a random-act-of-kindness challenge. Adopting more charitable habits, giving more of yourself, and doing something to help others will help you feel strong — especially when you know someone else needs a little extra strength. The power you’ve created all year long is ready to explode and impact the world in a great way. You did it!

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It May Be Freezing, but Here's How 1 Girl Makes Winter Workouts Happen

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‘Tis the season to lose all fitness motivation . . . I’m serious! Once the cold weather hits and the holidays are in clear sight, my healthy eating goals go out the window, and so do my workouts. And with more hours of dark than daylight, just getting out from under my comforter can seem like too much effort. Luckily, I’ve learned my lesson — if I can get my butt to the gym or out the door to start a run, I can accomplish it — it’s just finding the motivation that’s truly a struggle. These seven tricks have helped jolt me back in to my routine, so give them a try!

Related: Hate Morning Workouts? You Should Probably Read This

Let There Be Light

When it’s dark in the morning, my first inclination is to just keep hitting snooze until I finally drag myself out of bed. To combat my early morning laziness, I’ve found one trick that seems to really work: turning on my light. As soon as my first alarm goes off, my arm shoots up and flips the switch, forcing me to be bathed in a warm glow. Soon, I’m out of bed and ready to get outdoors.

Warm Up Indoors

If I’m headed out on a run when the temperatures have dipped down, I wake up my mind and body with a quick warmup in the lobby of my apartment building. Sure, it looks a little silly if a neighbor catches me doing a few jumping jacks and high knees, but it’s well worth it.

Related: Reasons to Exercise Outside in the Winter

Gear Up

Most of the year, my go-to outfit is shorts and a t-shirt. But when I’m struggling to make it out in the chilly weather, cozy clothes make everything just a little bit better. Stylish outerwear built for the cold like warm jackets (with reflective strips if possible) or even running gloves make my time spent outdoors much more bearable.

Plug In

OK, this may seem like cheating, but on days when I’m struggling to get myself off the couch and into the gym, I’ll treat myself. I tote along my phone and play a favorite Netflix show while I hit the bike or elliptical. Getting engrossed in a favorite series is a foolproof way to distract you from a workout, and it’s a great way to get yourself up and off the couch — no watching unless your feet are moving!

Get Set to Sweat

I’m always cold during the Winter, so the one thing I really look forward to is getting toasty. Whether it’s hitting up a Bikram yoga class or just spending a few extra minutes in the sauna post-cycling class, just the thought of basking in the heat is enough to get me going.

Lug Your Gym Bag to Work

Winter nights are the death of evening workouts. When I leave the office in the pitch dark, all I can think about is curling up under my covers with a hot chocolate in one hand and a book in the other. But if I make sure to tote my gym bag to the office, I’ll know that the entire walk home I’ll have a constant reminder that the gym is just a quick walk away.

Recruit a Buddy

Yes, I know I’ve shared my love for running alone in the past, but desperate times call for desperate measures. During the Winter, one of the biggest tricks you can pull is recruiting a buddy to hit the gym with you. No matter what you do or at what time of day, enlisting a partner will mean that the moment you start to drag your feet on the way to work out, you’ll have no choice but to make it there anyway.

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Repealing The Affordable Care Act Could Be More Complicated Than It Looks

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After six controversial years, the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may be on the way out, thanks to the GOP sweep of the presidency and both houses of Congress Tuesday.

“There’s no question Obamacare is dead,” said insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski. “The only question is whether it will be cremated or buried.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) confirmed Wednesday that repealing the law is something that’s “pretty high on our agenda.”

But promising to make the law go away, as President-elect Donald Trump did repeatedly, and actually figuring out how to do it, are two very different things.

“Washington is much more complicated once you’re here than it appears to be from the outside,” said William Pierce, a consultant who served in both the George W. Bush Department of Health and Human Services and on Capitol Hill for Republicans.

For example, a full repeal of the health law would require 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Given the small GOP majority in the Senate, “they would have to convince six or eight Democrats to come with them to repeal. That seems highly unlikely,” Pierce said.

Republicans could—and likely would—be able to use a budget procedure to repeal broad swaths of the law. The “budget reconciliation” process would let Republicans pass a bill with only a majority vote and not allow opponents to use a filibuster to stop movement on the bill.

But that budget process has its own set of byzantine rules, including one that requires that any changes made under reconciliation directly affect the federal budget: in other words, the measure must either cost or save money. That means “they can only repeal parts” of the law, said Pierce.

Republicans have a ready-made plan if they want to use it. The budget bill they passed late last year would have repealed the expansions of Medicaid and subsidies that help low- and middle-income families purchase health insurance on the law’s marketplaces, among other things. President Barack Obama vetoed the measure early this year.

That bill also included, as Vice President-Elect Mike Pence promised in a speech last week in Pennsylvania, “a transition period for those receiving subsidies to ensure that Americans don’t face disruption or hardship in their coverage.” The bill passed by the GOP Congress at the end of 2015 set that date at Dec. 31, 2017.

Delaying the repeal date could work in Republicans’ favor, said Laszewski. “Then they’ll turn to the Democrats and say, ‘Work with us to replace it or be responsible for the explosion,’” he said.

But Tim Westmoreland, a former House Democratic staffer who teaches at Georgetown Law School, said that strategy won’t work. “I don’t think people will see the Democrats as responsible if it all blows up,” he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans have only the broadest outlines of what could replace the law. Trump’s campaign website has bullet-point proposals to allow health insurance sales across state lines and to expand health savings accounts—which allow consumers to save money, tax-free, that can be used only for health care expenses. House Republicans last summer offered up a slightly more detailed outline that includes creating “high-risk pools” for people with preexisting health conditions and turning the Medicaid program back to state control through a block-grant program.

Yet even Democrats are convinced that Obama’s signature accomplishment is on the chopping block. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, they can’t really mean it. They wouldn’t really take health insurance away from 20 million people’” who have gained it under the law, John McDonough, a former Democratic Senate staffer, said at a Harvard School of Public Health Symposium last week. “How many times do [Republicans] have to say it before we take them seriously?”

One possibility, according to William Hoagland, a former GOP Senate budget expert now at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank, is that Republicans could use the budget process to combine tax reform with health policy changes. “And a reconciliation bill that includes reforms in Obamacare and tax reform starts to become a negotiable package” that could attract both Republicans and potentially some Democrats, who are also interested in remaking tax policy.

But if Congress does pass the GOP’s “repeal” before the “replace,” it needs to make sure that insurers will continue to offer coverage during the transition.

“Are [Republicans] going to invite insurers in and listen?” said Rodney Whitlock, a former House and Senate Republican health staffer. If there is no acceptable transition plan, “insurers can say the same thing to the Republicans that they’ve been saying to Democrats,” said Whitlock, which is that they are leaving the market.

That’s something that concerns insurance consultant Laszewski, who says that already there are more sick than healthy people signing up for individual coverage under the law. With probable repeal on the horizon, he said, that’s likely to get even worse. “A lot of [healthy] people will say, ‘Why sign up now? I’m going to wait until they fix it.’”

And if that happens, he said, there might not be any insurers offering coverage for the transition.

 

This article originally appeared on KHN.org

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Don’t Worry, Be Gloomy: Negative Feelings Have Benefits Too

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It’s been 53 years since the smiley face—that bright yellow circle with the schematic grin and black-dot eyes—first appeared.

Hundreds of millions of “Have a Nice Day” buttons, T-shirts, and coffee mugs later, it’s as iconic as the red, white, and blue. (And why not? After all, the “pursuit of happiness” is front and center in America’s Declaration of Independence.) 

In the digital age, the smiley face morphed into the emoticons and emojis that pop up everywhere. And with each advance—or, some might say, regression—in our consumer culture, in which marketers hustle to fulfill desires we didn’t even know we had, the blissed-out state of Mr. Smiley becomes ever more the Holy Grail, the organizing principle of our existence. 

Wait a minute. Isn’t happiness why we’re here? Isn’t happiness good for us?

Given a choice, we’d probably prefer to be slaphappy all the time, and there are advantages to that pleasurable state. More “positive” emotion is linked to a lower risk of various psychological illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. 

Positive emotions also drive us to success, help us make better decisions, reduce the risk of disease and allow us to live longer. In some cases, they even help broaden how we think and act by directing our attention to new information and opportunities. They help build vital social, physical and cognitive resources that lead to positive outcomes and affiliations. 

Considering all of this, you might presume happiness ranks right up there with food and sunshine in its contribution to human well-being. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing—to not only be too happy but also experience the wrong types of happiness, and to go about trying to find happiness in the wrong ways and at the wrong time. 

I’m not saying it’s better to go around in a funk all the time. But I hope to get you to keep the pursuit of happiness in perspective, and to see your “negative” emotions in a new and more accepting light. In fact, I strongly submit that describing them as “negative” only perpetuates the myth that these useful feelings are, you know, negative. 

RELATED: How You Answer This Question May Say A Lot About Your Happiness

The downside of happiness

When we’re overly cheerful, we tend to neglect important threats and dangers. It’s not too big a stretch to suggest that being excessively happy could kill you. You might engage in riskier behaviors like drinking too much (“A fifth round on me!”), binge eating (“Mmm, more cake!”), skipping birth control (“What could possibly go wrong?”), and using drugs (“Let’s party!”). An excess of freewheeling giddiness and a relative absence of more sober emotions can even be a marker for mania, a dangerous symptom of psychological illness. 

People with high happiness levels sometimes exhibit behavior that is actually more rigid. That’s because mood affects the way our brains process information. When life is good, and when the environment is safe and familiar, we tend not to think long and hard about anything too challenging—which helps explain why highly positive people can be less creative than those with a more moderate level of positive emotion. 

When we’re in an “everything is awesome!” mood, we’re far more likely to jump to conclusions and resort to stereotypes. The happy more often place disproportionate emphasis on early information and disregard or minimize later details. This typically takes the form of the halo effect, in which, for example, we automatically assume that the cute guy we’ve just met at the party is kind, just because he wears cool clothes and tells funny jokes. Or we decide that the bespectacled, middle-aged man with a briefcase is more intelligent or reliable, say, than the 22-year-old blonde wearing hot pink Juicy Couture shorts. 

Our so-called negative emotions encourage slower, more systematic cognitive processing. We rely less on quick conclusions and pay more attention to subtle details that matter. 

(OK, the guy is hot, and he seems into you, but why is he hiding his wedding-ring hand behind his back?) Isn’t it interesting that the most famous fictional detectives are notably grumpy? And that the most carefree kid in high school is rarely valedictorian? 

“Negative” moods summon a more attentive, accommodating thinking style that leads you to really examine facts in a fresh and creative way. It’s when we’re in a bit of a funk that we focus and dig down. People in negative moods tend to be less gullible and more skeptical, while happy folks may accept easy answers and trust false smiles. Who wants to question surface truth when everything is going so well? So the happy person goes ahead and signs on the dotted line. 

The paradox of happiness is that deliberately striving for it is fundamentally incompatible with the nature of happiness itself. Real happiness comes through activities you engage in for their own sake rather than for some extrinsic reason, even when the reason is something as seemingly benevolent as the desire to be happy. 

RELATED: 9 Simple Steps to Happiness

Striving for happiness establishes an expectation and confirms the saying that expectations are resentments waiting to happen. That’s why holidays and family events are often disappointing, if not downright depressing. Our expectations are so high that it’s almost inevitable we’ll be let down. 

In one study, participants were given a fake newspaper article that praised the advantages of happiness, while a control group read an article that made no mention of happiness. Both groups then watched randomly assigned film clips that were either happy or sad. The participants who had been induced to value happiness by reading the article came away from viewing the “happy film” feeling less happy than those in the control group who had watched the same film. Placing too high a value on happiness increased their expectations for how things “should be,” and thus set them up for disappointment. 

In another study, participants were asked to listen to Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” a piece of music so discordant and jarring that it caused a riot at its 1913 debut. Some participants were told to “try to make yourself feel as happy as possible” while they listened to the music. Afterward, they evaluated themselves as being less happy compared with a control group that was not chasing Mr. Smiley. 

The aggressive pursuit of happiness is also isolating. In yet another study, the higher the participants ranked happiness on their lists of objectives or goals, the more they described themselves as lonely on daily self-evaluations. 

Happiness also comes in a variety of cultural variations that open up the possibility of being happy in the wrong way. In North America, happiness tends to be defined in terms of personal accomplishment (including pleasure), whereas in East Asia, happiness is associated with social harmony. Chinese Americans prefer contentment, while Americans with European backgrounds prefer excitement. Japanese culture is built around loyalty, with its connection to guilt, whereas American culture embodies more socially disengaged emotions, such as pride or anger. To be happy within a given culture depends more than a little on how in sync your feelings are with that culture’s definition of happiness. 

In short, chasing after happiness can be just as self-defeating as brooding and bottling up your emotions. It’s yet another coping mechanism for discomfort with “negative” emotions and our unwillingness to endure anything even remotely associated with the dark side. 

RELATED: Your Guide to Positive Thinking

Good news about bad moods

While it’s certainly not healthy to constantly stew in negative emotions, there are some positive things that sadness, anger, guilt, or fear can do. 

Help you form arguments. You’re more likely to use concrete and tangible information, be more attuned to the situation at hand and be less prone to making judgment errors, all of which lends an aura of expertise and authority that can make you a more persuasive writer and speaker. 

Improve your memory. One study found that shoppers remembered much more information about the interior of a store on cold, gloomy days when they weren’t feeling so exuberant than they did on sunny, warm days when life felt like a breeze. Research also shows that when we’re in a not-so-good mood, we’re less likely to inadvertently corrupt our memories by incorporating misleading information. 

Encourage perseverance. When you already feel great, why push yourself? On academic tests, an individual in a more somber mood will try to answer more questions—and get more of them right—than he or she will when feeling cheerful. 

Up your generosity. Those in negative moods pay more attention to fairness and are more apt to reject unfair offers. 

Boost your ability to reason. In a study of people with strong political opinions, those who were angry chose to read more articles that opposed their positions instead of practicing confirmation bias, the common tendency to seek out info that supports what we already believe to be true. After exploring these contrary views, they were more willing to change their minds. It seems that anger produces a “nail the opposition” mentality that encourages us to explore what the other guy has to say in order to tear it apart—ironically leaving the door open to being persuaded.

 

From Emotional Agility by Susan David, published on September 6, 2016, by Avery, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright :copyright: 2016 by Susan David. 

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Your ‘Sixth Sense’ May Keep You Safe While Driving—Except When You’re Texting

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Whether it's kids squabbling in the back seat, work stress, or your phone constantly pinging, countless things can distract you when you're driving. But are certain distractions riskier than others? 

That's what researchers from the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute wanted to find out. In a new study (funded in part by the Toyota Class Action Settlement Safety Research and Education program), they observed how drivers coped when distracted by absentminded thoughts, emotions, and text messages. 

The authors noted that while many studies have explored the dangers of texting and driving, there's less research on how other kinds of stressors can affect your behavior at the wheel. But their results indicate that the worst kind of distraction may indeed be checking your phone. 

The researchers found that people who drove while absentminded or emotional benefitted from a "sixth sense" instinct that helped them navigate safely. Meanwhile those who were texting while driving did not experience the same protection.

RELATED: This Smartphone App Blocks Teens from Texting While Driving

For the study, 59 drivers navigated a simulated stretch of highway four times: once under "normal conditions," once while they were asked cognitively challenging questions (think math problems), once while they were asked emotionally charged questions, and once while they were distracted by texts. Each time the researchers measured the sweat under the drivers' noses (an indicator of their stress level), how jittery their steering became, and whether or not they drifted out of their lane.

The three types of distractions all increased the drivers' perinasal perspiration levels, and caused them to be more jittery. But when the drivers were asked cognitively challenging and emotionally stirring questions, they were able to maintain a straight course; while texting led them to veer out of their lane.

Lead researchers Ioannis Pavlidis, PhD, and Robert Wunderlich speculate that the driver's trajectories remained straight under cognitive and emotional stress thanks to the intervention of a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which provides a "fight or flight" reflex. "For sure, there is corrective action precipitated from some brain center, likely the ACC, when we are distracted while performing a routine dexterous task, driving in this case," Pavlidis says. "When this distraction is purely mental, this corrective mechanism works well."

RELATED: Constantly Reaching For Your Smartphone? You May Be Anxious or Depressed

But to do its job, your ACC requires eye-hand coordination: "It appears that an eye-hand feedback loop is needed for the brain to be able to accomplish these corrections," Wunderlich explains. And that feedback loop is disrupted when you look at your phone. 

"When there is a physical distraction, either all by itself or in addition to mental distraction, then this corrective mechanism breaks down," Pavlidis explains. "The reason is that the corrective function depends on all the physical resources, eyes and hands in this case, to keep executing its 'auto-pilot' function." 

All of this goes to show that reading and responding to messages on the road is every bit as dangerous as you thought—and maybe more. 

 

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The 5 Steps to Quitting Anything Gracefully

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Volunteering in a pediatric playroom at a cancer hospital is a pretty good thing to do, right? So I felt downright evil for wanting to quit. I was in my 20s; I had gotten a job with long hours, which meant I sometimes ended up stuck at work and had to bail on my 6 p.m. volunteer shift. Being unreliable wasn’t fair to those kids, but I still couldn’t bring myself to resign.

A lot of us delay quitting anything—jobs, activities, relationships, fitness routines, and even bland books—because we think we should have the grit to see it through, women warriors that we are. Extreme endurance is a virtue, if not an essential for succeeding in today’s competitive work and Match.com market. Besides, most of us have been brought up to believe that winners never quit. We can do it! Even if it makes us miserable!

Quitting can be scary, but it’s vital for overall satisfaction, not to mention joy. "Life is too short to waste time and energy on things you find unrewarding or unproductive," says James E. Maddux, PhD, senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "Replace your source of dissatisfaction with something more fulfilling and you’ll find more happiness."

RELATED: The Best Advice From the Healthiest People on the Planet

So what makes us stay the course when we’re disgruntled or uninspired? It’s human nature to adapt to circumstances, as frustrating, stressful, or just plain annoying as they may be. "It’s like having a bad knee—you learn to live with it, paying attention only when it really hurts," notes Maddux. Of course, you don’t have to tough out that tempestuous neighborhood association or tepid hot yoga class. Time is not infinite, and by ending something punitive, you make room for something pleasant.

There are even health payoffs to knowing when to throw in the towel. Research has shown that people who are better at bailing on unattainable goals have lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and fewer headaches than those who have a harder time. In one pivotal study, University of British Columbia psychologists tracked teenage girls for a year. The ones who more easily stopped pursuing hard-to-reach goals had declining levels of a protein that indicates bodily inflammation, linked to heart disease.

These are the simple steps for giving the heave-ho to what’s not working and getting to a better, happier place. It’s mainly a mind shift—you focus as much on what you hope to gain as what you plan to lose from your life.

RELATED: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

1. Quit calling yourself a quitter

The word quitter is associated with failure, notes Maddux, and feeling like a loser is dispiriting, so reframe your perspective. Try this financial analogy: "Think, 'I am going to divest from this and reinvest my energy and efforts in something that will have a better payoff,'" he suggests. "Once you stop seeing yourself as a quitter, it’s easier to disengage."

2. Get real about your misery

Sometimes it’s hard to admit just how fed up or overwhelmed you are, especially if you’re the Little Engine That Could type. "Stoicism is first cousins with masochism," says Alan Bernstein, a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City and coauthor of Quitting. Whether you’re assessing how you feel about your job, your marathon training or a biography you’re slooowly reading, it helps to consider if you have "flow"—when you get so absorbed in what you’re doing that you lose a sense of time. It’s one of the purest forms of contentment around, and if it’s lacking, you’re missing out.

RELATED: Eat Your Way to Health and Happiness

3. Ask yourself one little thing

A question to ponder: Who, exactly, are you doing this for? That’s the advice from Molly Mogren Katt, 33, of Minneapolis, who left her position as a communications director for a celebrity chef—which her friends considered the coolest job—to become a writer, one she finds to be the coolest. Now she regularly interviews accomplished quitters on her blog, Hey, Eleanor! It’s named after Eleanor Roosevelt, who famously said, "Do one thing every day that scares you." "People I speak with often say they were doing things they didn’t love because they felt people or society expected them to," says Katt. "One of my favorite stories is about a makeup artist who put in so much effort to look younger. Then she quit coloring her hair at 49—and landed a job as a model for Dolce & Gabbana. Once she embraced who she was, she got a great gig."

4. See the future

The more you focus on what you’re going to do with that extra free time, the easier quitting is. "Writing down what you want next is motivating, empowering and invigorating," says Bernstein. So if you want out of a relationship, say, mull over the essential qualities you’re looking for in a future partner. True, it’s not like you can order a boyfriend off Amazon (even via drone), but you’ll feel more inspired to make it happen. As for times when there is no "next," like when you just feel like ditching your role as PTA treasurer because you’re overbooked, picture the benefits of life without it: Hello, more free time with your kids (not to mention your Hulu queue).

5. Rehearse your exit

Thinking ahead to what you’ll tell a boss or your weekend tennis partner when you end things can quell paralyzing anxiety. "Couch it in an empathic way: 'Although it may not be convenient for you…,'" advises Bernstein. "The point is to connect to the other person’s needs as well as yours." No matter how much you dread telling someone that you’re bailing, the reality may surprise you. There’s a chance that if you’re feeling it, others are, too, as I discovered the day I finally told the coordinator I had to stop volunteering. She said she knew I was headed in that direction. And then she offered to let me volunteer on holidays, which I did for years to come. Proof that I’m a quitter? Hardly—I’d call that a win-win.

Permission to quit, granted

Watch only the good seasons of Orange Is the New Black/House of Cards/Luther.
Unfriend people on Facebook who regularly post "meh" updates. Who cares if she’s powerwashing her deck?
Accept that you’ll never do a triathlon. Not now. Not next year. Not ever.
Give up making smoothies so healthy you have to hold your nose to drink them.
Forget about getting the kids to make their beds. The neat police will not descend on your home.
Quit forcing yourself to read the entire Sunday paper.
Leave your hairdresser. She will survive.
Abandon the hope of putting all your family photos into albums—iCloud for the win!

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