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Healthy Mind – Fit Body: Fitness & Weight Loss Psychology for Optimal Nutrition and Proven Results

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FAT OFF — WEIGHT LOSS | COACHING | HEALTH | SUPPLEMENTS

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

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7 Ways to Stop Being So Clumsy

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You knock over a glass of wine. You tumble trying to put on leggings. You trip up the stairs. Sound familiar? You probably have a clumsy streak. (Jennifer Lawrence, we’re looking at you.) But the good news is you don’t have to resign yourself to a life full of of bruises and stains.

Clumsiness is related to a few different factors, including your reaction time, processing speed, and level of concentration, explains Charles “Buz” Swanik, PhD, director of biomechanics and movement science at the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences. When life gets in the way of those functions—think too little sleep and too much stress, for starters—it can throw you off balance, literally. 

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to make yourself less prone to mishaps: “We have enough evidence within psychology, neuroscience, and biomechanics research to know that people can definitely make changes and prevent accidents before they happen,” Swanik says. Below, he suggests seven ways control your inner klutz.

Know when to take a breather

A little bit of stress can be a good thing, Swanik says. “It does help you concentrate, and focus, and increase your situational awareness.” But excessive amounts of stress can slow down your processing, and even affect your peripheral vision. “You don’t know where to look, or what to attend to that may be unsafe,” he says. “You may over-focus on whatever is stressing you out and avoid seeing potential danger.”

The catch-22? Your favorite way to clear your mind may actually set you up for an accident, Swanik says. If you de-stress by going for a run, for example, consider doing a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing first—so by the time you hit the pavement you're more alert, and don't risk getting hurt.

"It's funny, because the tradition is to get athletes all psyched up before a big game, but that's actually probably the last thing we should be doing," Swanik says. "We should be trying to keep them calm and anxiety-free. They probably would think much better and be smarter on their feet."

RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Train your brain

Swanik's research has suggested that people with not-so-great memories, and slower reaction times and processing speeds tend to have more coordination problems than folks with more efficient cognitive functioning. Fortunately, there are apps for that: Swanik recommends doing a Google or app search for "brain games." You'll find many options designed to improve memory and reaction time, he says. "[These apps] can help people foster some change."

Build up your core

Several studies on collegiate athletes have found that having less core control may increase the risk of lower extremity strains and sprains, says Swanik. And research on older adults suggests core strength can help prevent injuries: “When you put senior citizens on a core strengthening program, they usually have fewer falls," he says. "Your core is the center of everything." Try adding plank variations and moves like superman and bird-dog to your regular exercise routine.

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Think ahead

“YouTube is full of videos of people who have really not weighed the consequences and the risks of a situation before attempting to do something,” Swanik says. “Thinking ahead about what’s about to happen next, as basic as it sounds, is probably the best advice we can give people.”

That’s because accidents happen fast. Like, really fast. “We probably only have a quarter or a tenth of a second where a person makes a mental mistake and has some kind of injury,” he explains.

If you're feeling especially clumsy, make an effort to be extra-aware of your actions: Standing up from your seat? Check to see if there's anything you might knock over on your way up. About to climb stairs in high heels? Slow your pace and watch your footing. “Even if it’s just crossing the street, you should be actively thinking, Is this a good time to send a text message?” Swanik says.

Monotask

Do one thing at a time, simple as that. "Once you start to multitask, you get into a more dynamic and complex environment," he explains, "and it’s increasingly difficult to be deliberate [over] any one thing that you’re doing."

RELATED: 7 Exercises to Fix Muscle Imbalances

Be patient when you're trying something new

You know those stories about amazing athletes who join a game of beach volleyball, or start fooling around on a skateboard, and end up blowing out an ankle or knee? Clumsiness is often the result of diving into a brand new activity too quickly, Swanik says. "From a motor control standpoint, if you plan to try something that requires a new set of skills, you really need to be extremely patient," he says. "Think of it as a novel environment, an unfamiliar situation where you need to really slow down and assess how your skills parallel whatever it is you're doing.”

Swanik has seen this in research on collegiate athletes who are starting a cross-training regimen. "Some athletes will be unable to negotiate the new task physically and mentally, and they have coordination problems, and boom, injury."

The takeaway: If you're a a die-hard runner about to hop on a spin bike for the first time, ease your way into the new workout, and recognize that the movements may not be what your body is used to.

Get more sleep

Though never easy, clocking more shut-eye is a no-brainer: “We know that even losing a few hours of sleep is almost like drinking alcohol," Swanik says. "The effects are so profound and fast and deleterious that I would really caution people to make sure they’re getting enough sleep to avoid any sort of accident, whether it’s just being groggy while sipping coffee and spilling it, or something much worse.”

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Even Optimists Tend to Expect the Worst

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Even if you consider yourself to be pretty upbeat, it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of dread as you wait to hear about uncertain news. As the moment of truth draws nearer, people often find themselves increasingly convinced that bad results are ahead.

These emotions may feel stressful and unhealthy, but a new study suggests they’re totally normal. In fact, this instinct to brace for the worst can actually be protective and serve as a buffer against potentially bad news, say researchers from the University of California Riverside.

In previous studies, it’s been recognized that, as individuals wait for their respective results, students become increasingly convinced they’ve failed an exam, patients become increasingly convinced they have a terrible disease, and voters become increasingly convinced that their candidate will lose an election.

RELATED: Optimism Can Help You Live Longer

Kate Sweeny, Ph.D., a psychology professor at UC Riverside, wanted to see if this was true of optimists and pessimists alike. “Intuition might suggest that some people are more likely to brace than others,” Sweeny said in a press release. “In particular, happy-go-lucky optimists would seem immune to the anxiety and second-guessing that typically arise as the decisive moment draws near.”

So she and her co-author performed nine different experiments in their lab and in real-life settings. Some involved college students anticipating rankings of their attractiveness from peers, for example, while others involved law-school graduates awaiting the results of their bar exams. All participants answered questions beforehand to determine their natural disposition.

The researchers’ findings, published in the Journal of Personality, were “counter to intuition,” Sweeny said. “Optimists were not immune to feeling a rise in pessimism at the moment of truth. In fact, not a single study showed a difference between optimists and pessimists in their tendency to brace for the worst.”

RELATED: Happy People Make Their Spouses Happier

There was a difference, unsurprisingly, in overall predictions: Optimists started out with more positive expectations than pessimists. But everyone in the study tended to shift those expectations downward over time.

This may be because not getting one’s hopes up can be a natural defense. “If you expect the worst, you can lessen feelings of shock and disappointment if things don’t go as you hoped,” Sweeny told RealSimple.com, “and you’ll be pleasantly surprised if they do.”

So if you feel down right before a big announcement, Sweeny says you shouldn’t necessarily fight those feelings. Rather, she says, we should all try to be more like the optimists in this study, and save our pessimism for these strategic moments.

“It’s generally good to be optimistic about the future,” she says. “Optimists are happier and healthier in lots of different ways, and it’s true that worrying too much or for too long can lead to anxiety and rumination. But in these final moments before you get big news, optimism can be really treacherous.”

In other words, she says, making sure you’ve done everything you can to ensure your chances of success—and then putting off your worries until those final moments—may be the best balance you can strike. And if you do feel like the world’s about to end while you wait, take heart in knowing that that’s normal, too.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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4 Ways Feeling Grateful Can Improve Your Life

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Fill your marriage with gratitude: It’s been shown to boost commitment.

Showing appreciation, counting your blessings—whatever you call it, gratitude is a key component of physical and emotional well-being. In fact, feeling thankful translated to better mood, higher sleep quality, and reduced inflammation in heart-failure patients, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association. And day-to-day perks like these make the habit all the more worth it.

RELATED: 9 Ways Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Fitter, and Richer

It improves your week

Try jotting down those “Hooray!” moments as you go through your day. A study from gratitude expert Robert Emmons, PhD, showed that people who kept weekly gratitude journals were more optimistic and happier overall than folks who recorded hassles or uneventful happenings.

It tightens our bonds

When college students who were mentoring high schoolers received a handwritten thank-you note from their mentee, they rated the mentee as having a warmer personality, found a 2015 study in Emotion. And they were more apt to give the high schooler their contact information.

RELATED: This Is the Secret to a Long and Happy Marriage, According to Research

It makes you resilient

Undergrad students who expressed gratitude—by thanking others, for example—tended to have higher self-esteem and, in turn, appeared less vulnerable to depression or hopelessness, according to 2015 research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology.

It bolsters your patience

In a study published in Psychological Science, participants who were asked to recall a time they felt grateful, then choose between getting a smaller monetary reward soon or a bigger one later, were more willing to wait for the bigger payout than those who didn’t think thankful thoughts.

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Spending Money on Experiences Makes You a Better Person 

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You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of practicing gratitude—how it can boost your mood, help you treat others better, improve physical health, and keep stress and fear at bay. Now, here’s a little trick for how to automatically infuse more gratitude into your life: Spend more money on experiences, and less on material objects.

“Think about how you feel when you come home from buying something new,” Thomas Gilovich, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Cornell University and co-author a new study on gratitude, said in a press release. “You might say, ‘this new couch is cool,’ but you're less likely to say ‘I’m so grateful for that set of shelves.’”

“But when you come home from a vacation, you are likely to say, ‘I feel so blessed I got to go,’” he continued. “People say positive things ab­­­­out the stuff they bought, but they don't usually express gratitude for it—or they don't express it as often as they do for their experiences.”

Gilovich’s new study shows that people not only express more gratitude about events and experiences than they do about objects; it also found that this kind of gratitude results in more generous behavior toward others.

To examine these patterns, Gilovich and his colleagues looked at 1,200 online customer reviews—half for purchases made for the sake of doing (like restaurant meals, show tickets, or vacations), and half for purchase made for the sake of having (like furniture, jewelry, and clothing). They weren’t surprised to find that reviewers were more likely to bring up gratitude in posts about the former than the latter.

“People tend to be more inspired to comment on their feelings of gratitude when they reflect on the trips they took, the venues they visited, or the meals they ate than when they reflect on the gadgets, furniture, or clothes they bought,” the authors wrote in the journal Emotion.

First author Jesse Walker, a psychology graduate student at Cornell, says that experiential purchases may elicit more gratitude because they don’t trigger as many social comparisons as material possessions do. In other words, experiences may foster an appreciation of one’s own circumstances, rather than feelings of falling short or trying to measure up to someone else’s.

The researchers also performed several experiments with either college students or adults recruited from an online database. In one experiment, 297 participants were asked to think about a recent purchase over $100, either experiential and material. When asked how grateful they were for that purchase on a scale of 1 to 9, the experiential group reported higher scores (an average of 7.36) than the material-possessions group (average 6.91).

In a similar experiment, participants also said that the experiential purchase made them happier than the material one, and represented money better spent—findings that echo previous research on this topic.

Finally, the researchers performed two exercises to determine how purchase-related gratitude might affect how people behave toward others. In both, participants were asked to think for a few minutes about a meaningful purchase, either experiential or material. A few minutes later, they were given a seemingly unrelated task of dividing $10 between themselves and an anonymous recipient.

Which group was more charitable? Those who had been tasked with remembering an experience or event gave away about $1 to $2 more, on average, than the material group.

Co-author Amit Kumar, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Chicago, says that this link between gratitude and altruistic behavior “suggests that the benefits of experiential consumption apply not only to the consumers of those purchases themselves, but to others in their orbit as well.”

These findings can certainly apply to individuals looking to be more grateful in their everyday lives, Gilovich says, but they may have implications for communities and governments, as well.

"If public policy encouraged people to consume experiences rather than spending money on things, it would increase their gratitude and happiness and make them more generous as well," he says. Funding organizations that provide these experiences—such as public parks, museums and performance spaces—could be a good start, he adds.

If you’re looking to express more gratitude as you spend time with family, shop for gifts, and juggle your packed schedule this upcoming holiday season, you can keep the researchers’ advice in mind.

“All one needs to do is spend a little less on material goods and a little more on experiences,” the wrote in their paper. “In addition to enhancing gratitude, experiential consumption may also increase the likelihood that people will cooperate and show kindness to each other.”

 

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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Why Songs Get Stuck In Your Head—and How to Get Them Out 

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Why do some songs stick in our heads for infuriatingly long periods of time? According to the first large-scale study of its kind, it’s all about their combination of upbeat tempos, easy-to-remember melodies, and a little something unexpected. The new research looked at some of the most popular songs with this “stick factor"—and gives advice for how to get them unstuck, as well.

Tunes that we can’t seem to shake are sometimes known as earworms, or referred to in the scientific community as involuntary musical imagery. It makes sense that recent chart-toppers that get lots of radio play are more likely to find their place deep in our brains, but that theory—and the reasoning why some songs are catchier (and stickier) than others—has not been widely examined in a scientific way.

So Kelly Jakubowski, PhD, a former psychology teaching fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, set out to do just that. Between 2010 and 2013, she and and her fellow researchers asked 3,000 people about their most frequent earworm, and compared those tunes' melodic features to other songs that were just as popular during the same time period (based on U.K. music charts), but were not named in the survey.

They found that the songs commonly cited as earworms were more likely to have fast tempos and, overall, fairly generic melodic contours. An example of a common contour pattern can be heard in Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, where the first phrase rises in pitch and the second falls, Jakubowski noted in a press release.

This rising-and-falling pitch pattern is followed in other nursery rhymes, as well, which makes them easy for young children to remember. And it's used in plenty of pop music, too, she says—like the beginning of Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger,” one of the most common earworms named in the study.

But earworms also tend to have some unique and unusual intervals, such as musical leaps or repeated notes, that set them apart from the average pop song. Jakubowski cites the opening notes of “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple, the chorus of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” or the instrumental riffs of “My Sharona” by the Knack as examples.

"Our findings show that you can to some extent predict which songs are going to get stuck in people's heads based on the song's melodic content,” said Jakubowski, who’s now a research assistant in the Department of Music at Durham University. “This could help aspiring songwriters or advertisers write a jingle everyone will remember for days or months afterwards.”

The study confirmed the idea that frequent and recent exposure to a song make it more likely to become an earworm, and that people who sing and listen to music often tend to experience this phenomenon more than others. It also found that words, images, and other associations can bring songs to mind, often from deep in our memories.

"We now also know that, regardless of the chart success of a song, there are certain features of the melody that make it more prone to getting stuck in people's heads like some sort of private musical screensaver,” said Jakubowski.

But here’s the part of the study you’ve probably been waiting for: what to do about it when it happens to you. Based on survey responses of what’s worked for other people, the authors make three recommendations:

1. Engage with the song. Many people said that listening to a song all the way through helps quiet the constant loop in their heads.

2. Distract yourself. Thinking about or listening to another song helps some people, too. In the study—which surveyed Brits—the top-named “cure song” was “God Save the Queen.” (Maybe the U.S. equivalent is the “Star Spangled Banner?”)

3. Let it be. Other people reported that the best way to get rid of an earworm was to just try not to think about it, and let it fade away naturally on its own.

Jakubowski says that 90 percent of us get songs stuck in our heads at least once a week, normally when the brain is not doing much—while we’re in the shower, walking, or doing mindless chores, for example. Further research on this topic could potentially help scientists understand how brain networks involved in perception, emotion, memory, and spontaneous thought behave in different people, she says.

The study, which was published today in the academic journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, lists the following as the most frequently named earworms. (Remember, the survey was done between 2010 and 2013.) We apologize in advance for bringing them up, as we know you’ll be humming them all week long.

Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Can't Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue
Don't Stop Believing – Journey
Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye
Moves Like Jagger – Maroon 5
California Gurls – Katy Perry
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Alejandro – Lady Gaga
Poker Face – Lady Gaga

 

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

 

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Health and fitness with Alexa Towersey

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We chat to September cover model, Alexa Towersey about all things fitness, health, career and self-love. Check out the exclusive cover story interview below!

 

ON CAREER

I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years. I’ve played pretty much every sport known to man including American football, boxing, soccer, skiing and horse-riding. I completed a Bachelor of Science in biology and psychology and went on to do a post-graduate diploma in sports management and kinesiology, and then I interned with an All Blacks-endorsed Pilates studio.

ON EXPERIENCES

When I was 27 I moved to Hong Kong, where I was the senior strength and conditioning coach at a mixed martial arts (MMA) gym. I decided to get into half-Ironman events and I took two years to qualify for the world champs. Living in Asia gave me the opportunity to travel and learn; I spent five years commuting between HK and the United States, learning from the legendary Gym Jones (the outfit responsible for training the cast and crew for the movies 300, The Immortals, Repo Men and Superman) and internationally recognised strength coach Charles Poliquin.

ON PASSION

When I was younger, I was bullied for being too skinny.  My nickname at school was Alexa Anorexia. I started going to the gym when I was 15 on a mission to create muscles and it was the first place I ever truly felt in control of my body and my mind. I want to be able to educate, empower and instil that passion in everyone I work with.

ON HEALTH

Both my parents passed away from lifestyle-related diseases – my mum from lung cancer and my dad from alcoholism.  This led to me giving up alcohol six years ago and is the reason I remain such a passionate advocate of living a healthy lifestyle.

ON DREAMS

For years, I was limited by own lack of self-belief. It wasn’t until I moved to Australia two years ago and immersed myself in a community of likeminded people that I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I truly believe that if you’re driven by passion and positivity rather than profit, then success is organic.  

ON BODY IMAGE

I think it’s a really exciting time to be in the industry as the landscape is definitely changing for the better. Women seem to be less focused on wanting to lose weight and be a size zero and more excited about getting stronger, feeling better in their own skin and wanting to develop shape.  

ON CREATING CURVES 

I love celebrating the strength of the female form. For me, as both a trainer and a female, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a woman become empowered in the gym and watching how this translates into the rest of her life. 

ON SELF-LOVE 

I have a very holistic approach with both myself and my clients. I’m a big advocate for learning to listen to your body and trusting your gut instincts. Your body is a very clever instrument and it will tell you in no uncertain terms what it likes and dislikes.

ON WHAT’S NEXT

I’m rolling out my Creating Curves workshops internationally, including Kuwait, the US and New Zealand. I’ve almost finished my second e-book program with Renae Ayris (former Miss Universe Australia). I’ve also recently started public speaking on behalf of the charity Livin, which is an organisation aimed at educating people about mental health issues and suicide prevention. I love being able to be involved in such an incredible and relevant cause. Twenty-sixteen is shaping up to be a huge year, so watch this space!

 

Alexatowersey.com // @actionalexa

Photography: Emily Abay // @emilyabay_photographer

Hair & Make-up Artist: Mae Taylor // @maetaylor_makeupartist

Dressed in: PE Nation // @p.e.nation courtesy of StyleRunner // @stylerunner

 

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