Deep sleep for glowing health

    Starting as early as 30, improving the quality and quantity of sleep can eliminate future risk of memory loss and a wide range of mental and physical disorders. UC Berkeley researchers think that nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep.

    If you have trouble sleeping more now than when you were younger, don’t worry that this is how your nights will be from here out. Generally, you will be able to fall back asleep as fast as you used to with a strategy. Researchers find that the aging brain has trouble generating the kind of slow brain waves that promote deep restorative sleep, called deep non-rapid eye movement. This time-out for the brain helps sort the unimportant to important information from the hippocampus, to the prefrontal cortex, which consolidates information into long-term storage.

Here are some suggestions to how you can get the sleep you need:

Daytime routine

 Caffeine: Generally, caffeine lasts for five to six hours in the body. Try to not have caffeine later than mid-afternoon.

  Naps: Naps are great, but no later than mid-afternoon.

  Late-night eating: Try to avoid eating less than three hours before bedtime or overeating at dinner.

Evening routine

 Minimize screen time: Turn off your iPhone, iPad and TV to minimize screen time.

Bedroom: Have your bedroom quiet and dark, and a cool temperature. Core body temperature drops with the onset of sleep, but then increases because of a greater blood flow to the skin, so have comfortable bedding. Around 9 p.m., your body produces melatonin, which helps control your sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the pineal gland, located just above the middle of the brain. When the sun goes down, the pineal turn on signals in the brain that controls hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us sleepy or very awake. Its transmission is better promoted in a dark environment. Melatonin level stays elevated typically throughout the night, and drops before the light of a new day. When traveling, pack an eye mask and earplugs.

    Meditate in bed: Promote relaxation by relaxing as much as you can once you get into bed. It takes practice, but focus on slow, quiet breathing. A simple breathing practice can consist of only a few minutes to reconnect to mind, body and spirit. Keep focusing on your breath, and let any thoughts go. If you start to think about things, give yourself credit for noticing that your mind has wandered, and return to gentle breathing.


 Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express May 5, 2017

More good news for coffee drinkers


More good news for coffee drinkers

Caffeine could protect against dementia

    Caffeine is one of the strongest of 24 compounds that Indiana University scientists recently identified that can protect against dementia. Caffeine boosts an enzyme in the brain, called NMNAT2, that guards neurons from stress and combats the formation of plaques due to aging. Plaques, tangled and oddly folded proteins, called tau, have been linked to debilitating neurological  disorders  such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Lou Gerhig’s diseases. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common condition, affects 1 in 9 people over age 65—almost 5.5 million people—and the numbers are expected to grow as our population ages. As scientists continue to identify compounds that could play a role in halting the deterioration of proteins in the brain, don’t feel bad about your coffee fix.

 Golf performance, fatigue, and caffeine

    From an intensity perspective, the physiological demands of playing 18 holes are half the energy expenditure of running. But competitive golfing can be mentally and physically exhausting. Critical shot-making decisions, hand–eye coordination, high-level motor and biomechanical skill and numerous maximum-effort shots all play a role in competitive golf. Caffeine is one of the most common go-to ergogenic aids for elite athletes, and that extra jolt of caffeine might help improve concentration, energy, reaction time, fatigue and overall confidence during an 18-hole round. A recent study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise suggests that caffeine-containing supplements before or during golf can improve iron club accuracy, drive distance and overall golf scores.

The buzz on health risks and benefits

    Coffee keeps us awake or makes up for inadequate sleep, and has been revered for just that as far back as the sixth century. However, caffeine’s ability to stimulate the central nervous system doesn’t hide the fact that it is still a drug. Some people are genetically more susceptible and don’t enjoy the jittery effects of it.

    But the good news is that it can be a good habit. Recent scientific studies show that coffee shines from a cardiovascular standpoint in that it can decrease the onset of type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. More so than fruits and vegetables, coffee is the No. 1 source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, having more antioxidants than blueberries, raspberries or green tea. Your morning joe (or tea, coming in second) contains large amounts of several powerful antioxidants, including phenols and polyphenol compounds that help neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress.

    The bottom line is that if you enjoy it, moderate caffeine use offers much from an overall cardiovascular standpoint and numerous health benefits.


 Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express April 7, 2017

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Coffee counts when it comes to staying hydrated

A recent study from the University of Birmingham has found no significant difference in subjects’ hydration status when they were drinking coffee versus water. Courtesy photo by Connie Aronson.

A recent study from the University of Birmingham has found no significant difference in subjects’ hydration status when they were drinking coffee versus water. Courtesy photo by Connie Aronson.

In the  wonderful ending from Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” he lists certain things that make life worth living: Groucho Marx, the second movement of the Juniper Symphony, Marlon Brando. For me, the smell of morning coffee that my boyfriend  makes first thing has to be on that list. Ah. There is now more good news on the positive effects of coffee on health, and the once held belief that coffee dehydrates isn’t so.

A recent study from the University of Birmingham has found no significant difference in subjects’ hydration status when they were drinking coffee versus water. Courtesy photo by Connie Aronson.
A recent study from the University of Birmingham has found no significant difference in subjects’ hydration status when they were drinking coffee versus water. Courtesy photo by Connie Aronson.

It turns out your morning Joe not only gets you going and boosts alertness, but is as hydrating as water. That’s good news for those 1.6 billion cups of coffee enjoyed worldwide on any given day.

In a new study from the University of Birmingham in the UK , participants drank about three and one-third cups of coffee per day for three days in a row.  Then they drank the same amount of water for three consecutive days. Controlling for physical activity and food and fluid intake, the researchers compared a wide range of markers (total body water, body mass measurements, kidney function, urine volume, and blood values) and found no significant difference in the subjects’ hydration status when they were drinking coffee versus water.

Although the study sample is small (50 adult men who were habitual coffee-drinkers), its findings echo similar previously collected data regarding the relationship between moderate caffeine consumption and hydration.

It’s important to stay hydrated and drink fluids throughout the day, and water is still a good first choice. After all, water is essential for life, as it transports nutrients, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, helps preserve cardiovascular function and aids with weight management.

A typical adult needs anywhere from 11 cups of water per day for females to 16 cups for males, according to The Institute of Medicine Water Intake Recommendation. Diet, ( i.e. that bunch of grapes, or apple, full of water) physical activity level, age and environmental conditions (such as humidity) all effect proper hydration levels. For example, colder days impact urine output, and more intense activity increases water loss.

However, during these cold months, remember not to go overboard on the hot chocolate, cream, and mocha’s just yet. It is the coffee itself, not just the caffeine, that is so unique.

Coffee contains hundreds of different chemical compounds. The Coffea plant’s roasted berries, ( they’re not actually beans), has a very strong antioxidant capacity, more so than blueberries or broccoli. It’s benefits are many, including a positive impact on memory, recently published in Nature Neuroscience. Coffee drinkers compared to non-coffee drinkers are also protected from dementia and Parkinson’s as they age, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers and stroke.

While having lots of coffee isn’t recommended for everyone, for some of us, it’s a great way to start a perfect day.

http://theketchumkeystone.org/2014/02/06/commentary-coffee-counts-when-it-comes-to-staying-hydrated/

New Apps Help Create New Habits

1. tinyhabits.com  Stanford professor BJ Fogg teaches classes about habits. ” I’m fascinated with how habits form. I believe that to design new habits for ourselves or for others, the best starting point is to do what I call “Tiny Habits”. His goal is to help you practice the skill of creating new habits.” I believe you can get better at creating new habits. Much like a pianist who practices scales, or a chef who practices knife skills, people can practice the skills of creating habits. I was hooked when BJ suggested after brushing your teeth, floss one tooth. For me, flossing is one more thing that keeps me from getting into bed sooner.The criteria is that you choose a behavior that you do at least once a day ( brush my teeth ), takes less than 30 seconds, and requires little effort. The habits don’t have to be earth-shattering, but simple ordinary things that are useful in your life. By anchoring the new tiny habit behavior after an extremely reliable habit, you succeed in creating a small change ( teeth flossed -bed sooner )

2. stickk.com This goal-setting website began with a group of Yale economists to help users achieve goals and increase productivity with commitment contracts. They point out that for many of us who want to be on time, eat less sugar, lose a few pounds, or stop procrastinating on a project, it’s not always that simple. The site is based on two principles of behavior science. 1. People don’t always do what they claim they want to do. 2. Money talks, as you put money on the line.

3. Healthmonth.com is a game where you choose your own rules for the month and compete with other players.Choices can be anything from taking a multi-vitamin a day to limiting alcohol. You’re encouraged to experiment with what works best for you and deciding on which challenges are better suited for you. You can post self-created rewards and punishments, such as donating to a charity or eating a head of lettuce if you didn’t do what you said you would. The site challenges you by asking how important or difficult the rule is and whether you think you can pull it off, so you have accountability.

Before committing to a new app or site, make sure it’s a good fit for you, so your time will be well-spent. Let them inspire you in the coming New Year.

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Health & Fitness Specialist located at the YMCA in Ketchum.Visit her @www.conniearonson.com

Nice butt! How to get strong gluteals

Who doesn’t appreciate a nice butt? The buttocks, or gluteals is a group of 10 important muscles that allow us to stand and move. Less fat located anywhere on your body, not just the buttocks, is mostly due to two primary actions on your part—eating sensibly and being physically active However, aside from  appearance, the gluteals affect your ability to walk, run, play sports, rise up from a chair and stand on one leg. In particular, the showy gluteal muscles are at the core of movements of the hip joint. The gluteals play an important role in maintaining a level pelvis, extend and externally rotate the femur, and prevent the legs  from rolling inward.
The gluteus maximus, taking up a big portion of the shape of the buttocks, and the gluteal medius, located more laterally on the outside of the thigh, are muscles worth strengthening. You are less likely to suffer from tibial stress fractures, low back pain, iliotibial band syndrome, anterior cruciate ligament injury, knee problems and leg-related strains and  pulls if you have proper alignment of the pelvis and femur. Unfortunately, it usually involves an injury that sends you to a physical therapist for rehabilitation where you learn the best exercises to improve gluteal strength.
Three top gluteus  medius and gluteus maximus exercises used in rehab stood out in a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. In rank from the highest maximum voluntary isometric contraction value to lowest, these exercises were front plank with hip extension (106 percent), a single leg squat, (71 percent) and a side plank with hip abduction (73 percent). All of these exercises require no or minimal props, and can be done at home as part of your routine.

Front plank with hip extension: Start on elbows in plank with trunk, hips and knees in neutral alignment. Lift one leg off ground, flexing the knee, and extend your hip past neutral hip alignment by bringing the heel toward the ceiling for one beat and then return to parallel for one beat.Front plank with hip extension ( Photo 1 )

Single leg squat: Stand on one leg and slowly lower buttocks to touch a chair 18 inches in height for two beats and then extend back to standing for two beats. ( Photo 2 )

Single leg squat

Side plank with hip abduction: Start in a side  plank position, keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line, then rise up to plank position with hips lifted off the ground. While balancing on elbows and feet, raise your top leg up (abduction) for one beat. Maintain plank position throughout all reps.

Side plank with hip abduction

Side plank with hip abduction: Start in a side  plank position, keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line, then rise up to plank position with hips lifted off the ground. While balancing on elbows and feet, raise your top leg up (abduction) for one beat. Maintain plank position throughout all reps. ( Photo 3 )

Photos used with permission from the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy

Aim for 10-12 repetitions for all three exercises.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine fitness specialist. Visit her at www.conniearonson.com

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express Friday March 1, 2013

Slouch No More

Over time, slouching can be a pain in the neck. At any given time, neck pain affects about 10 percent of the adult population in the U.S. Our heads can be a heavy load, so much so that many of us have lost proper alignment because our heads are too far forward from the rest of the spine. The consequences of your head hanging off the front spine, called forward head syndrome, can result in shoulder and rotator cuff problems, neck aches, headaches, back spasms and poor breathing patterns, all fixable problems.
Forward head syndrome is the first sign that muscle imbalances are present. This causes the front muscles, pectoralis and subscapularis, to become tighter and the muscles around the shoulder blades to become lengthened, both factors limiting the muscles’ functioning. You can assess forward head posture by having a friend look at your posture from the side. A neutral head is rooted firmly, like a tree, in the “ground” of the upper back with the ear aligned with the center of the shoulder.
Now face a mirror. Are your palms, or one more than the other, turned inward? If so, your shoulders are most likely slouched. Opening your hands so that the palms open in front and you can instantly correct some of your slouching.
The key to change is to become aware of old habits creeping in again.
As much as sitting in front of computers and television can be blamed for our heavy hanging heads, the root of the problem isn’t just that. Of course we would want to also look at the rest of the body to see if the cause may be coming from somewhere else. But overall, weak, tight muscles can inhibit moving well, as there is a rich dynamic inherent in the control of posture so that it is relaxed, not work. Ideal standing posture places the body’s joints in a state of equilibrium with the least amount of effort to maintain this upright position.

RX: Sitting upper-back strength exercises:
The cervical neck, seven vertebrae, blend into the thoracic region of the spine. This area supports the head and is an important attachment point for several muscles that support the middle back. You know them, as this is where stress builds up, in the levator scapula, rhomboids and the upper and middle trapezius. The following exercise can improve neuromuscular control and stabilize the spine:
Sit against a wall with your knees bent and firmly press your back, buttocks and shoulders into the wall. Pull your abdominals in to brace your core. Raise your
arms to shoulder level, bending your arms so that they are parallel to the floor and the backs of your upper arms rest against the wall. Gently press the back of your head into the wall, keeping your chin level. Exhale and firmly squeeze your shoulder blades together while
pressing the backs of your arms and shoulders into the wall. Hold for five to 10 seconds, relax, and repeat four times. You can also do this exercise lying on the floor, or advance it by combining it with a wall squat.

RX: Imagine this (sitting, standing or supine) (adapted from “Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery” by Eric Franklin )
Try resetting what standing or sitting straight feels like by visualizing the spine as a chain of spotlights. Turn on the lights and observe their focal directions. If they shine in many confused directions, adjust them so that they all focus in an even plane. Now adjust them so that they shine with equal brightness.

The key to change is to become aware of old habits creeping in again. Healthy shoulders require proper posture, good flexibility and good strength about the scapular region.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine health and fitness specialist. http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005145909#.UQyHaaXJDzJ

Visit her at www.conniearonson.com.

New apps help create new habits

 

Fitness Guru

 The new year is a perfect impetus to jump-start fitness and health goals & new apps can help you.

The new year is a perfect impetus to jump-start fitness and health goals & new apps can help you.


The new year is a perfect impetus to jump-start fitness and health goals—a fresh start. But how do you keep it simple, so you stick with it and actually reach the goals that you want? Change is challenging, and what’s missing for most of us is specifics: a SMART plan, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Today we have unprecedented instant access to good coaching, in the form of apps and smartphones. As a result of more mobile technologies, we have online communities, like Facebook with more than 900 million users, and You Tube, where more than 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute. You can find apps that charge you $5 for skipping going to the gym, like Gym-Pact’s aggressive take on motivation, or entertaining gaming and tracking sites that count calories: such as www.rexbox.co.uk/epicwin and www.myfitnesspal.com. Among the thousands of health and fitness apps, a few stand out that are lifestyle and behavior focused:

 

www.tinyhabits.com

Stanford professor B.J. Fogg teaches classes about habits.

“I’m fascinated with how habits form. I believe that to design new habits for ourselves or for others, the best starting point is to do what I call ‘tiny habits.’”

His goal is to help you practice the skill of creating new habits. I believe you can get better at creating new habits. Much like a pianist who practices scales, or a chef who practices knife skills, people can practice the skills of creating habits. I was hooked when B.J. suggested that after brushing your teeth, floss one tooth. For me, flossing is one more thing that keeps me from getting into bed sooner. The criterion are that you choose a behavior that you do at least once a day (brush my teeth), takes less than 30 seconds and requires little effort. The habits don’t have to be earth-shattering, but simple ordinary things that are useful in your life. By anchoring the new tiny habit behavior after an extremely reliable habit, you succeed in creating a small change (teeth flossed—bed sooner).

 

www.stickk.com

This goal-setting website began with a group of Yale economists to help users achieve goals and increase productivity with commitment contracts. They point out that for many of us who want to be on time, eat less sugar, lose a few pounds or stop procrastinating on a project, it’s not always that simple. The site is based on two principles of behavior science: 1. People don’t always do what they claim they want to do. 2. Money talks, as you put money on the line.

 

www.healthmonth.com

Healthmonth.com is a game in which you choose your own rules for the month and compete with other players. Choices can be anything from taking a multi-vitamin a day to limiting alcohol. You’re encouraged to experiment with what works best for you and deciding on which challenges are better suited for you. You can post self-created rewards and punishments, such as donating to a charity or eating a head of lettuce if you didn’t do what you said you would. The site challenges you by asking how important or difficult the rule is and whether you think you can pull it off, so you have accountability.

 

Before committing to a new app or site, make sure it’s a good fit for you, so your time will be well spent. Let them inspire you in the coming new year.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM health and fitness specialist located at the YMCA in Ketchum. Visit her online at www.conniearonson.com.

 

 

 




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Roots of Temptation-Just Say No?

Thanks to our brain’s complex pleasure/reward system, we all succumb to the pull of food differently. For some, the brain sometimes can’t resist the powerful influence of a fabulous bakery or a plate of French fries, yet others are able to eat a little and stop. But for millions of people, food is never far from their minds. Ever. The current trajectory of the number of obese Americans, along with related disease rates and health care costs, is on course to increase drastically in every state by 2030. The analysis findings, based on a model published last year in The Lancet, show that all 50 states could have obesity rates of more than 44 percent, with medical costs associated with treating preventable diseases soaring from $48 billion to $66 billion per year. By contrast though, according to a study released by Trust for American Health and the Robert Wood Foundation, reducing the average body mass index by just 5 percent could prevent an epidemic. For a 6-foot-tall person weighing 200 pounds, a 5 percent reduction would be the equivalent of about 10 pounds. The good news is that scientists are learning more about the cue-urge-reward-habit cycle of the human brain, so that a 5 percent loss may be quite attainable without entirely giving up your favorite foods.

Neurons and Taste

For some people, certain foods seem to exert a magical pull, writes former Food & Drug Commissioner Dr. David Kessler in his book “The End of Overeating.” The food industry works hard to create high-calorie foods with the most addictive possible combination of intense flavor and “mouth-feel.” In his book, Kessler tells how neurons, the basic cells of the brain, are connected in circuits and communicate with one another to store information, create feelings and control behavior. Tasting tantalizing food stimulates the brain neurons that are part of the opioid circuitry, which is the body’s primary pleasure system. Known as endorphins, these brain chemicals have the same addictive and rewarding effects as morphine and heroin.

The Roots of Temptation

No matter how good the intentions, avoiding fattening foods is always a challenge, and biology is a factor in why it seems so difficult to bypass a bowl of M&Ms. Brain chemicals are in more regions than previously thought. Researchers have traced an unexpected area of the brain in rats that had primarily been linked to movement. This new evidence might help explain why chocolate can be so irresistible and why we binge. Published this week in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, the research team probed a brain region called the neostriatum, causing the rats to gorge on twice the amount of M&M chocolates than they would otherwise have eaten. The researchers found that a neurotransmitter called enkephalin, a drug-like chemical produced in that same region of the brain, surged as they ate more M&Ms. The chemicals increased their desire and impulses to eat more.

“That means the brain has more extensive systems to make people want to overcome rewards than previously thought,” said Alexandra DiFeliceantonio of the University of Michigan. “The same brain area we tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes.”

It’s likely that these neurotransmitters wire us for a little overconsumption and addiction. Understanding what triggers overeating and how our neural pathways can stump us can be useful the next time you walk down the potato chip aisle.  Five percent sounds like a good plan.

 

Meal Timing, Protein and Conditioning

If you compete or enjoy working out, eating right helps you train harder, delays the onset of muscle fatigue, and aids in recovery from a workout.

If you compete or simply enjoy working out, eating right helps you train harder, delays the onset of muscle fatigue and aids in recovering from a workout. Eating proper foods doesn’t have to be complicated or rigid, and certainly no one approach fits everyone. Your body needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals and fluid to fuel it for exercise. Eating right helps your body adapt to workouts, improves body composition and strength, enhances concentration, helps maintain a healthy immune system and reduces the chance of injury. The timing of meals and snacks is equally important. At a recent American College of Sports Medicine meeting, Nanna Meyer, Ph.D., and dietician at the University of Colorado and United States Olympic Committee at Colorado Springs, told an audience, “Don’t bother lifting if you haven’t eaten breakfast.” Current research recommends Greek yogurt with some fruit and nuts, oatmeal cooked with milk, cereals or a carbohydrate sports bar pre-exercise, with an emphasis on protein, like yogurt, chocolate milk, recovery mix or a bar containing some protein as soon as possible after training.

Are you getting enough protein?

Recently, research has demonstrated that having some protein before and immediately post-workout results in greater strength gains and muscle repair. Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D., R.D., director of sports nutrition programs at the University of Connecticut, notes that increased protein, greater than the dietary allowance but within the recommended range, helps reduce body fat, maintains muscle mass and increases satiety—all positive weight management outcomes. Post-workout, research suggests about 15-25 grams of protein, found in milk (eight grams of protein per cup), Greek yogurt (15-20 grams of protein per cup) or a carbohydrate/protein mix, for example.

We also snack a lot less if we get enough protein. According to Dr. Alison Gosby, in the online journal PLoSONE, “Humans have a particularly strong appetite for protein, and when the proportion of protein in the diet is low, this appetite can drive excess energy intake. Our findings have considerable implications for bodyweight management in the current nutritional environment, where foods rich in fat and carbohydrate are cheap, palatable and available to an extent unprecedented in our history.”

It’s always a good idea to talk to a registered dietician for your specific needs. For example, the Soya Granules by Fearn is recommended for those who are lactose-intolerant. Remember also that 15 minutes to an hour after a hard workout lasting more than an hour, nutrient-rich snacks help replace carbohydrates, sodium and potassium. Less time than that, if you’re watching your weight, water is a good choice. Whether you’re training hard, or just enjoy being active, make good food choices for optimal energy and improved performance.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness specialist at the YMCA in Ketchum.

Willpower-know what you really want

Willpower is an instinct everyone has, yet it consists of much more than simply saying “I will’, or “I won’t”. As we move into the third week of the New Year, some of the lofty goals and self-control have vaporized. Don’t despair though;   self-control is only one part of willpower. The ability to remember what you REALLY want, (get out of debt, fit into your clothes, more sleep) is the ability to say “yes” to that particular goal. This is what Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., psychology  lecturer  at Stanford University, whose course, The Science of Willpower, teaches and  which her new book is based on. “To exert self-control, you need to find your motivation when it matters. This is the “I want” power, she writes.

Now Strategies

A student in Dr. McGonigal’s class, a producer, was an e-mail addict. Her behavior disrupted not only her work, but annoyed her boyfriend. The student described her email impulses almost as an itch-she just had to check her email. She was always tense. Her assignment was to catch herself before she reached for her phone. With time, she realized that her impulses had nothing to do with seeking information and was doing nothing to relieve her tension. As she began to notice how she gave in to her impulses, it gave her new control over her behavior. Catch yourself  falling  for your impulses earlier  in the process, and  notice which thoughts or situations might make it more likely that you will give in to your impulses, are strategies that McGonigal  teaches.

Stressed and Sleepless: The Enemies of Willpower

Willpower is essentially a mental muscle, but the body also needs to get onboard. The best intentions in the world can be sabotaged if you are sleep-depraved, stressed, sedentary, have a poor diet, or a host of other factors that sap your energy. Stress is the worst enemy of willpower, McGonigal writes. The  American Psychological Association shows  that 75% of Americans have high levels of stress and 76% of Americans want to improve the quality and quantity of the sleep they get. New evidence shows that poor sleep and stress contribute to poor self-control and focus. How can you harness positive willpower if you are exhausted? Inadequate sleep also contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, depression, and lowered immunity. Globally, sleep deprivation affects the quality of life of 45% of the world’s population, according to the World Association of Sleep Medicine.

A Willpower Workout

( from The Willpower Instinct. How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of it -by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.)

  • Strengthen “I won’t” Power; Commit to not swearing (or refraining from any habit of speech)
  • Strengthen ‘I will” Power: Commit to doing something everyday that you don’t already do just for the practice of building a habit and not making excuses. It could be meditating for five minutes, or finding one thing in your house that needs to be thrown out or recycled.
  • Strengthen Self-Monitoring: Formally keep track of something you don’t usually pay close   attention to. This could be your spending, what you eat, or how much time you spend online or watching TV. You don’t need fancy technology-just a pen and paper.

Above all, believe in yourself and keep your dreams alive in 2012!