Take a nap—it doesn’t mean you’re wimping out

Take a nap-it doesn’t mean you’re wimping out

Being busy is overrated. Society expects that we need to be busy, and always on the go. Well, some days you just need a nap, and it doesn’t mean that you are lazy or have a lack of ambition. It’s a very important aspect of many cultures, yet in the U.S., it’s a badge of honor. As a result, we are becoming more and more sleep deprived.

A short nap of 20-30 minutes can help improve your energy, alertness and performance. A study on NASA military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 percent and alertness 100 percent. Think of a nap as a mini-vacation, not a guilty pleasure only for young children and the elderly. Elite athletes can benefit from them, as new studies show that naps contribute to better performance results.

There have been a substantial number of studies on the benefits of short naps outside the sports sphere, and in an athlete’s daily life, they can help recovery when he or she is faced with multiple training sessions in one day.

An athlete in an individual sport is more affected by poor sleep than are athletes in team sports, and studies have looked at how circadian rhythms affect performance. This new study recently published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined the effects of a post-lunch short nap, after a full night sleep, on the athlete’s alertness and fatigue, involving 13 male karate athletes. In experimental sessions, athletes were randomly assigned to experience both nap and no-nap conditions. The Karate-Specific Test, one of the protocols used, was composed of two attacks toward a body opponent bag. Every punch and kick had to be made with the maximum power possible. Reaction times, mental rotation tests and tests involving online visual stimulus, as well as jump squats, were measured.

Karate encompasses strength, power, speed and cognitive skills needed to offend and defend against opponents. These athletes need lightning-fast decision-making and fast-reaction skills, and lack of sleep can be a major problem if they are in a competition, where they have to compete in several matches on the same day.

The 30-minute nap came out as a winner in counteracting a bad night’s sleep, resulting in significant improvements in alertness, fatigue and better overall performances. There was also noticeable improvement in response time, which can give an elite athlete an edge in high-level sports. An added benefit is that for a professional athlete, a nap has no chance of violating doping regulations.

Get the most benefit of a nap by doing it right. Twenty minutes is ideal to enhance motor skills and attention, and the best time to do so is between 1 and 3 p.m. Ninety minutes of napping offers rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, which helps make new connections in the brain and helps solve creative problems. If you take a nap too late in the day, it could affect your sleep. Also, if you are prone to sleep inertia, which is a feeling of grogginess and disorientation that can come with waking up from a deep sleep, it’s best to wait a few minutes to a half hour before doing something, well, like a karate match.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_501c5e32-3b9b-11e9-bdf4-e34818028c07.html

Handle your habits

You just come home from work. You aren’t particularly hungry, but there you are standing in front of the refrigerator.

Handle your habits

You’ve just come home from work. You aren’t particularly hungry, but there you are standing in front of the refrigerator. It’s as if unseen forces have led you there. Are you more likely to have a glass of water or go for the ice cream? What if you could see the ways in which you get caught in habitual responses, and learn to choose a fresh approach? What if that approach taught you how empowering every choice you make helps you grow?

Understanding habits can serve us really well, as they are fundamental to skill development. The good news is that your routines get things done. The brain, cites Frank Forencich in “Beautiful Practice,” is an incredibly powerful habit-forming organ. Every second of every day, he writes, our nervous system builds patterns of sensation and motor activity, always building on what came before, always seeking more efficient ways to process information into adaptive behavior. An easy action, choosing a glass of water over ice cream, creates a new and healthy behavior.

The habit loop

Habits work in a three-part loop of trigger, routine and a reward.

1. The first is the trigger that tells your brain which pattern to use. You are tired and see a pumpkin-spice triple latte advertisement. You are bored, and plop down on the couch with a remote.

2. The routine is the habit itself; you get in line at Starbuck’s. Or you’ve spent the last hour scrolling on Facebook.

3. The reward is what makes the habit persist. That could mean the boost of caffeine or a feeling like you finally get to relax after a busy day (which you deserve). To break the three-part loop means only changing one thing. You get to keep the reward, but you have to change your routine. Keep it very simple—a five-minute walk or a familiar slow stretch.

Scientists tell us that we are not one self, but multiple selves. There is a part of us that wants immediate gratification, and a part that wants to be our best self. Kelly McGonigal, psychology professor at Stanford and author of “The Willpower Instinct,” writes, “If there is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing—the power of paying attention. It’s training the mind to recognize when you’re making a choice, rather than running on autopilot.”

3 Simple Things

Here are three simple steps from James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” that you can do right now:

1. Start with a habit that is so easy you can’t say no. Want to exercise more, but always tell yourself you don’t have time? Your goal is to exercise for one minute today. That could be 10 jumping jacks.

2. Take time to understand exactly what’s holding you back, so you can begin to finds ways to interrupt your knee-jerk responses.

3. Develop a plan for when you slip and get down on yourself. Replace the guilt, stress or shame with a motto. Clear suggests making this your motto: “Never miss (a workout, good night’s sleep) twice.”

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_e70e9be8-d8a4-11e8-a572-03310d489898.html

 

Learning to sit still. How meditation works.

 

Learning to sit still-how meditation works

If you think you can’t sit still for five minutes and have absolutely no time, you aren’t alone. You might think you can’t add another “to do “list to your day, as modern life is fast- paced and stressful enough already. Sometimes you’re just pissed. So many diversions, like Facebook, or shopping online, steal our precious time. But sitting still, in meditation, can have tremendous benefits for your health and happiness. Stress levels in the US are steadily rising, with over 53% burnout across industries, (even non-profits), now more than ever, according to a Regus Group study. Antidepressants use alone has increased by 400 per cent this last decade. Meditation was once thought of as an esoteric practice, but scientists are showing that it makes you smarter, less anxious, less depressed, and increases resilience and social connection. Better yet, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. What’s important is the support and empowerment it gives to your day.

Relax a little more

In studies of happiness, says Emma Seppälä, Science Director at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, Americans are all about high intensity. Happiness is more of the “thrill’ and “excitement “ variety, with little value on calmness-that is, low-intensity positive emotions. For example, if you ask Americans to describe “happiness” they won’t say “inner peace”, says Seppälä.

When we’re stressed or angry, called unpleasant high-intensity negative emotions, we’re more likely to counter with even higher intensity doings-like running, to “ blow off some steam”. We’re more likely to turn to a myriad of distractions. Anything than sitting still. That’s where meditation comes in, as practicing sitting still helps you develop perspective and relax.

We need to take time for ourselves. We all want a purposeful, rich, and diverse world. When you take time for yourself, engage in a purposeful or idle pastime, you become more imaginative and grounded. Giving yourself space for quiet and stillness boosts happiness and encourages a healthy lifestyle. That stillness is why you need to meditate.

How to sit

There are so many ways to meditate, but one of the most profound yet simple ways is to sit tall. Sitting tall though, is really hard for most people. A bad back, inflexibility, or other physical barriers make sitting awfully uncomfortable. Aligning the spine straight and tall has an inherent subtle dynamic. Try these tips to work with posture limitations. Now you’re ready to slide into meditating:

1 .Use a pillow, or folded blankets under your sitting bones, to help tip your pelvis forward. If you don’t know what that feels like, it means your bum is a little higher than your pubis. You can also kneel with one or two yoga blocks underneath your rear, which can feel very comfortable. If you are sitting, your legs can be crossed, or more extended.

Shift your hips back a few times, to make sure you are grounded into the floor beneath you. Wiggle around a bit. Shifting or snuggling your hips back helps your spine be tall. If that isn’t comfortable, you can lean against a wall to support your back. Once you feel more grounded, feel yourself settle down. If you feel you need to just lie down to be comfortable, do it!

 

  1. Start to focus on your inhales and exhales. Let your breathing be soft and leisurely, not forced. Be leisurely about it, so you are not rushing.

Imagine your body feeling like Jell-O. When you tap Jell-O gently, it wobbles slightly, teaches yoga master Erich Schiffmann, author of Yoga-The Sprit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. That movement is your breath moving through you. Notice that you are starting to sit quietly, yet the body does have movement going on, and that movement is your breath rippling through you.

4. Stay as relaxed as you can be.

With a little time, patience, and practice, meditation gives back more than you thought possible.

 

 

 

 

 

The Key to Behavior Change-Create Tiny Habits

 

Create tiny habits every day to reach your desired goal.

It’s a given that we cling to what we’re familiar with, and change is very hard. If only you could change your behavior, reach your big goal and lose that last 10 pounds.

There are multiple tales of accidents in the Himalayas when the warmth of the snow was so inviting to the victim that they simply wanted to stay resting where they were, comfortable in the snow. Getting up, and walking around shaking out their limbs to warm up would save their life, yet they don’t, and die there in the snow. We cling to what’s comfortable. Though I’m not suggesting camping out in your backyard to test your winter survival skills, you needn’t feel like you can’t change. For instance, if weight loss is your goal, you don’t have to just wish you had more willpower.

You aren’t alone in feeling like another trendy diet might be too hard to stick with, as research shows that fewer than 5 percent of dieters can keep weight off. Keep it simple. For long-term health behavior change, learning a skill, a new tactic, can help you succeed in your goals. Acquiring a new skill is a breakthrough as it becomes an action that creates change. And that action can be as simple as saying, “No dessert tonight,” rather than saying, “Stop eating sugar.” When you take that newly acquired skill and change it into a habit, you can gain an increased ability to change. What if you took tiny steps, and were able to build those steps into your life to meet your biggest challenges?

Shrink the problem

Don’t blame your willpower or motivation if you want to create new behaviors in your life. In many cases, you need a skill to fix things. B.J. Fogg, a behavior scientist at Stanford University, brilliantly describes this as a “skill scan.” The above-mentioned “stop eating sugar” is a principle, and ultimately not very helpful over time. Saying “No dessert tonight” is an action. Take four minutes to do the skill scan.

Step 1—Set a timer, and write down every skill you can think of that you might need to accomplish what you want. Let’s say the problem is fat loss, and you’ve listed eat less, move more, eat clean, stop eating sugar and go gluten-free.

Step 2—Take a colored pencil and cross off anything that you wrote that is not an action that can go on a calendar. On my fat-loss list, all of my skills are principles. These principles are a tall order to fit in the real world, especially during the holidays. If you wrote, for example, “Don’t have bread with dinner,” you now have a viable, simple action. No bread with dinner. Fogg’s approach eliminates guilt and feeling bad about why you don’t have enough willpower. Instead, this approach shrinks the problem, by giving you a new skill, which over time, becomes a desired habit.

Step 3—Write down your new habit that you want to build into your life. Fogg’s favorite example is to ask his students to floss just one tooth, a perfect example of building tiny habits into your daily life.

 Step 4—Celebrate your success in a healthy way. Be proud of your accomplishments, as change is as natural as our world is.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas filled with happiness, hope and joy!

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express, December 22, 2017

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_8c5e8a6a-e69b-11e7-915c-6bdb90b24b3e.html

Is the 7-Minute Workout as good as it sounds?

When it comes to regular exercise, is 7 minutes all you need?  The Scientifically Proven 7- Minute Workout is a widely popular smartphone app, claims that you will lose weight, improves cardiovascular function, and has over 10 million downloads. The combination of only seven minutes and scientifically proven sounds pretty great when the number one reason people don’t exercise is lack of time.  To be healthy, you have to get your heart pumping through daily exercise, eating well, and doing things that promote your well being. By doing so, aside from genetics and age, you can save or extend your life. Yet the growing prevalence of preventable chronic disease in the United States and worldwide is alarming.  In the United States, 50 % of adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, and 48 percent of deaths can be attributed to heart disease and cancer. What we all have as a tool to promote wellness is cardiovascular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, strength training exercises two to three days a week, and a flexibility regime at least two times a week. But can 7 minutes work?

The 7 minute program is a combination of twelve 30-second bouts consisting of these exercises in the following order: jumping jacks, wall sit, push-ups, abdominal crunches, step-ups onto chair, squats, triceps dips on chair, planks, high knees, lunges, push-up with rotation, and side planks. A 10-second rest follows each exercise bout.  Tough, yes, but you can obtain substantial changes in heart rate, oxygen uptake, and blood lipid levels.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Sports and Conditioning, researchers found that big bursts of activity, like jumping jacks and wall sits, both part of the 7 minute workout, require near-maximal effort, and pass the guideline recommendations as important moderate-exercise.

Because lack of time is one of the most common barriers to exercise, it isn’t surprising that time-efficient and simple programs are popular. Bodyweight training and high-intensity interval training is the second and third top fitness trends in 2016, respectively, behind wearable technology.  High- intensity interval training, or HIIT, consists of short bursts of all-out exercise interspersed with brief recovery periods. A review of 28 studies on healthy adults show that this type of training results in superior increases in maximal oxygen uptake than moderate-intensity exercise.  Typically, HIIT is used in cycling, running or treadmill workouts, and supervised by a trained instructor. In a 10 -week program of group-based, instructor-led HIIT cycling, VO2 max improved, as well as insulin sensitivity and improved blood lipid profiles.

The question researchers are asking is that is it really “scientifically proven”? Could you reproduce that intensity, by yourself, doing jumping jacks and triceps dips for example, at home, and get the same results as from HIIT training?  It’s not, as the gains aren’t as great as true HIIT, but results are encouraging.  One study of healthy individuals doing 6 weeks of the 7-minute workout, daily, helped lower body fat and waist circumference.  Another study of active men and women showed that 24 sessions of 7 minutes led to significant increases in muscle endurance, yet no change in body fat or VO2 max.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning study concludes that this is a great workout to do at home, without special equipment and obtain substantial changes in heart rate, oxygen uptake, and blood lipid levels. If you’re timed pressed, certainly 7 intense minutes is better than nothing at all. Seven can be your lucky number.

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/is-the–minute-workout-as-good-as-it-sounds/article_67280aba-b4ea-11e7-afbf-3b5a5e42d7ee.html

Are fitness trackers motivating ?

Fitness trackers can be a good tool for helping you move more.

The Fitbit is sleek and novel, as are many of the new fitness trackers and apps, such as the Adidas or Human App, with gorgeous images, charts, and graphics. What’s not to like being called a hero for walking 30 minutes? Graphs and feedback in fitness trackers are fun and motivational. This year, activity trackers and wearable’s retained their number one ranking by the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, and an estimated 485 million wearable devices will be in the market by 2018. But do they really make a difference in terms of long-term lifestyle change?

As with any new trend, going way back to Jane Fonda workout videos, Cooper Aerobics, Jim Fixx and running, or today’s P90X, the initial novelty wears off. Dr. Michelle Segar, Ph.D., a motivational scientist at the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research Center says that they are still just tools, not the holy grail of motivation. Yes, some people love graphs and charts, but it is your relationship with physical activity that counts in the long run. Is exercise a chore, or a gift?

Studies are mixed and ongoing in showing how effective tracking apps are to help people lose weight. Research shows that only some types of trackers can help. For instance, a study of inactive postmenopausal women found that a standard pedometer didn’t help increase their activity, while the Fitbit did. Another study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed participants increased their physical activity by 16 minutes per week. However, by 6 months, 40% of the participants stopped wearing their devices, and at the year’s end, only 10 % of them were still wearing them.

The Right Why

If only a small percentage of people wear trackers after a year, where is the missing motivational link? Human nature dictates that we all want to have positive experiences and ownership of our behavior. Is your underlying reason why you would want to include more exercise is because your doctor said so, or societal pressures to be thin? When I set up exercise programs for new clients, I always ask what is the specific number one goal that they want to achieve. Your reason for initiating a behavior change has to be compelling enough that you would want it in your life. Feel better. Have more energy. Be in a better mood. All these reasons have a domino effect and can positively influence your motivation, says Dr. Segar. In her book No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness, Dr. Segar points out that physical activity that is enjoyable and makes people feel good right now is more motivating than a noble far-off goal such as “ better health “. When you focus on an immediate pleasure, like an evening walk around your neighborhood, moving more then becomes a gift. This is what Dr. Segar calls the right why.

When you enjoy something and do it willingly, you are highly motivated, autonomous. Within this theory, you’ve created a sense of ownership. Regarding exercising, you also develop a sense of self-care. The rewards are instant- perhaps your headache is gone, or feel better for doing some stretching. By taking these little steps, you reinforce the rewards of being more active. The brain begins to associate sweat with a surge of endorphins- those feel-good chemicals. Keep using your tracker. It’s a good partnership for staying motivated.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express July 25, 2017

http://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_5421f864-7312-11e7-afcb-dff831782410.html

 

 

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

Breathe out to lose fat?

Breathe out to lose fat?When you stand tall and lift your chest, don’t you feel much better? You look better also, as your posture improves. Breathing capacity improves, as your diaphragm lifts to help expand your lungs. We need to breathe to live. Breathing sustains us and can also teach us about our current physical and psychological state. You get some great news, hold your breath in anticipation, or exhale out to relax more. Our wavelike breathing is our life force, but did you know that breathing out makes you lose fat?

    The rate and depth of breathing is influenced by changing levels of carbon dioxide, oxygen and hydrogen ions in our blood. When it comes to losing weight, why is breathing so important? And where does the fat go? Does it turn to energy or convert to muscle, as commonly thought? The process is all about biology, as fat mostly converts to carbon dioxide and leaves the body through breathing. Scientists, in a report published in the British Medical Journal, explain how our lungs unlock the carbon stored in fat cells. Replacing one hour of sitting with jogging, for example, raises the metabolic rate to seven times that of resting and removes an additional 39 grams of carbon stored in fat cells. Our lungs are responsible for weight loss, via our inhalations and exhalations. The diaphragm, like a big parachute, contracts and relaxes nonstop, drives respiration and is the central breathing muscle.

Get good at breathing

  Running up a flight of stairs is one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular fitness. It’s a practical, quick and easy way to breathe hard, and gain some fitness in a busy day. But for the rest of the time, what if you became really good at breathing?

     It helps to understand just how much space the diaphragm needs to expand and fall with inhalations and exhalations. The diaphragm sits beneath the lungs and is above the organs of the abdomen. It is the major muscle that drives respiration. Respiration consists of moving gases in and out of the lungs, and circulation is the transport of these gases to the tissues.

    Like a lopsided mushroom, the diaphragm is attached to the sternum and the lower six ribs, and to the first three lumbar vertebrae, via two tendon-like structures called crura. The crura, like strings, extend down to the psoas and lower back muscles. The joints of the lumbar spine and upper back also play a part in how well the diaphragm expands and contracts, and therefore the quality and depth of breathing.

    At the top of the diaphragm, a central tendon attaches in front of the pericardium, the covering of the heart. Equally, the muscles of the abdomen and the external and internal intercostal muscles assist in drawing the ribs in and out. Normal breathing is rhythmic, driven by neuronal networks within the brain. Breathing also depends on the elasticity of the lungs; they have to lift and fall back. Breathing needs a lot of space, from the heart riding up and down on the lungs, to the spine stretching to accommodate inhalation, as well as the stomach muscles and pelvic floor. So it comes as no surprise that posture, standing or sitting tall, with the chest lifted, stomach in, can help you breathe and move better. Worth a big exhale.

Parachute breathing exercise

  Imagine the diaphragm to be a parachute. As you breathe in, the center of the parachute drops downward, the sides billow and the cords loosen. As you breathe out, the canopy expands upward as the cords become taut and anchor down toward the pelvic floor. (Adapted from the Franklin Method )

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express March 10, 2017

A single rep can change you.

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We’ve watched the incredible skill and beauty of human physicality at the Rio Olympics. In all sports and in everything we do, it takes the coordinated activity of the nervous system, consisting of billions of nerve cells working together. Of course anything performed effortlessly takes years of dedication and practice. That only happens when we repeatedly stimulate and strengthen neurons with repeated use. Our circuits fire better together. But it’s not just in sports that repetition is crucial for skill development, but in all learning. In Beautiful Practice, Frank Forencich suggests that every moment of human life is a rep.

Turns out we are always etching grooves in our brains and nervous system, Forencich says.We are always practicing something, and that very practice helps us become more of that very thing he says.

So this month, whatever you find yourself doing, be it cognitive, spiritual or physical, keep doing your reps.Start with the small stuff, like cleaning up your desk, or walking with better posture. Maybe it’s running like the wind, like Bolt, grace and beauty in every step.

Every rep you do counts for a better , more alive you. Photo|| SQNSport.com

Every rep you do counts for a better, more alive you. Photo|| SQNSport.com

A single rep is where it all starts.

New Years Resolutions-Do they work?

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Model Katie Lee holds a kettle bell pondering her New years Resolution.

Model Katie Lee holds a kettle bell   and ponders her New Year’s resolutions. Health and Fitness Specialist Connie Aronson recommends that those who wish to keep their resolutions ” wait 10 minutes” or ” write themselves a letter.” Courtesy photo of Connie Aronson.

Every year, 45% of Americans make a New Year’s Resolution, an earnest promise to be better or try harder. Call them the agents of change, as theses people are ten times more likely to attain their goals.
Last year, according to a University of Scranton study, losing weight, getting organized, spending less and saving more were the top three resolutions. Maybe the bravery of setting new goals is just too overwhelming for the rest of us. After all, change is hard.

The good news is that you don’t need a new diet or self-help book, or just plain will power. Science shows that our bodies and brains need to get on board together. We need to understand why we aren’t already doing the particular things we need to do for change to occur.

We all struggle with temptation, addictions, distractions, excuses, and procrastination. Overeating chocolate mint brittle all week long doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Our struggles are universal experiences and part of the human condition. “Our human nature,” writes Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., in The Willpower Instinct, “includes both the self that wants instant gratification and the self with a higher purpose.”

Dr. McGonigal describes our struggles with temptation and procrastination from research published in 2007 involving some chimpanzees and humans. The humans were students from Harvard and the chimps from the prestigious Wolfgang Koehler Primate Research Center in Leipzig. The challenge was to delay the gratification of an immediate snack for more food. The temptation: Grapes for the chimps, and raisins, popcorn, M&M’s and Goldfish crackers for the humans.

First, they could all choose between 2 or 6 treats, which was easy, as both humans and chimps agreed that six was better than two. Then each competitor was given the choice to eat two treats immediately, or wait two minutes for six. When they had to wait for the treat, the patient chimps won out: an impressive 72% of the time, yet the students waited only 19% of the time.

Blame it on how humans rationalize. We have all sorts of mental tricks thanks to our prefrontal cortex’s ability to rationalize bad decisions and promise we’ll be better tomorrow.

“We’re rational until we aren’t,” Dr. McGonigal writes. The same goes for when the short-term reward is staring at us in the face: we want it now. Immediate gratification.

Try either of these following tips for success in reaching your goals in 2014:

Wait ten minutes

The brain’s reward system doesn’t care about the future.

Staring at M&M’s triggers the older, more primitive reward system of dopamine driven desire, when food for survival was the reward system’s original target. But temptation has a narrow window of opportunity.

As a waitress, management taught us that dessert sales were lost if you didn’t get to the table as soon as dinner plates were removed. When temptation is visible, the warm cobbler going to the next table for example, the prefrontal cortex is really overwhelmed. If you have to wait for your waiter, or distance yourself between you and the temptation, the balance of power goes back to the brain’s system of control.

The same is true for your own trigger: put them out of sight.

Write yourself a letter

“Imagine looking back at 2014, from a place of having achieved your most important goal for the year,” Dr. McGonigal writes in “Five Things You Can Do Instead of New Year’s Resolutions.” “In your letter, thank your present self for all you did to achieve your goals—and be specific. Or give yourself some compassionate advice from your wiser, 2015 self. Research shows that connecting to your future self in this way can help you make a difficult change and succeed at your goals.”