Better Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions to Reduce Your Stress

The end of the year is the time when everyone tries to give you advice on how to live healthier, look better, and earn more money.

It’s understandable if you find yourself lost among all the tips and opinions. Sometimes you no longer know what you truly want to achieve next year – and what’s just imposed by society.

To help you out, we’ve made this article about the things you should remove from your new year’s resolution list – instead of adding to it – to make your daily life more harmonious and peaceful.

So just make sure you cross these off your New Year’s to-do list – your body, mind and soul will be thankful.

1. Stop Buying Meaningless Gifts

We all know the sense of obligation – when we have to buy a gift for an event or celebration that’s already tomorrow, but we still have no idea of what to give.

Take these tips close to heart for all upcoming holidays, including birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.:

Stop focusing on the material objects

Instead of focusing on what material object to give, think about the emotion you want to evoke((Everyday How To: How to Prepare a Meaningful Gift for Your Partner)) in the gift recipient, and then pick a symbolic gift that can support or represent that emotion. For example, you can gift coziness by presenting a “comfort set” with warm socks, tea, candles, etc. Or give motivation by presenting a beautiful planner or notebook.

Plan gifts in advance

We know this is easier said than done. But if you try to plan which gifts you’ll need in the upcoming months (try making a list three or four times a year), ideas will more likely come to mind and you’ll avoid that last-minute shopping. Not to mention, you’ll be able to keep an eye on sales to get the best prices.

Suggest a better way

If you’re tired of exchanging gifts for birthdays and holidays, initiate a different approach. For example, draw names among family members and agree that each one only buys a present to that one person they got. Alternatively, you can agree not to share gifts among adults, and only give presents to kids of the family. Or, ask friends to donate to charity instead of buying a gift for you.

Go for common experiences instead of exchanging gifts

You can agree (with your partner or the extended family) to go on a common trip, dinner or another activity, instead of spending money on gifts.

Sometimes you’ll have to be the one who initiates breaking the rules that have been accepted in the family for years. But if you suspect that you’re not the only one in the group who’s tired of gift-hunting, you’ll surely find support for your suggestions.

2. Don’t Exaggerate with Diets and Fitness Resolutions

It’s no secret that TV shows, article headlines, and ads (not to mention our healthy diet-obsessed friends) make us feel like we need to look better, slimmer and younger than we actually are. But going on yet another diet or starting a fitness plan with the wrong motivation rarely leads to great results.

If you are like many people, you have probably signed up for an annual gym membership at least once in your life – only to drop it one month later.

How do you balance a good resolution for a healthier life without pushing yourself into commitments that won’t last?

Here’s what you can do:

Set a healthier pattern

For example, do meat-free Mondays or reduce meat consumption to three days per week (less saturated fat for you and better for the environment). Or choose to eat only healthy food at least three days a week or only on weekdays (e.g. make sure your meals contain vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products, and protein). This way you’ll already have a healthier diet while still being able to treat yourself with a snack on weekends or parties.

Get a fitness watch

Fitness watches like Fitbit or MiBand are tiny accessories that will count your steps, calories burnt and will serve as an excellent motivator to move – or to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Find a physical activity that you enjoy

Even if you are not that fond of doing sports, you can definitely find an activity that you’d do with pleasure. Think about what you’d like – from taking up Nordic walking to pilates or even exercising at home.

Try intermittent fasting

This is an alternating cycles of fasting and eating. For example, stop eating at 8 pm and restart not sooner than 12 hours later. This approach has been proven to have numerous health benefits, in addition to weight loss.

Skip cabs or driving to work and opt for cycling or walking instead

You’ll burn calories, breathe some fresh air, and save money – win-win!

3. Put a Cap on Your Daily To-Do List

In today’s busy world, planning your day in a stress-free way is actually an art in itself. It’s natural to want to be a loving parent, a diligent employee, an active member of the local community and probably several other individual roles.

But playing all these roles requires energy and meticulous planning. How not to lose yourself amidst all the appointments and responsibilities? And – most importantly – how to still find time for relaxing and recharging yourself?

These daily planning tips will help you have more stress-free days:

Leave bigger intervals between meetings

If you schedule too many appointments or chores in a day, you’ll probably end up late at some point, and as a result – more stressed. There are many different reasons why people are late, but poor planning is a major factor too.

Plan time to relax

As weird as it may sound, you should try and schedule your resting time. For example, if you only have one free evening this week, and a friend tries to squeeze in a meeting, feel free to say no. Don’t feel obliged to specify the reason for your refusal, just say that you are busy.

Try to be a little pessimistic

We’re often packed with plans or running late for errands because we tend to be overly optimistic – about the traffic, the time it takes to do things, etc. Instead, try an opposite tactic — assume you’ll hit traffic or the meeting will take longer.

Try waking up earlier

Sometimes even waking up 30 minutes earlier can give you the much-needed head start for several errands of the day. But remember to get enough sleep every night, even if it means going to bed earlier.

Plan your day the day before

Chances are your day will be much better organized if you pack a lunch and lay out an outfit before going to bed.

Designate a time for checking emails and social messages

If you start checking your messages between appointments, you risk getting lost in a sea of messages that need replies. Designate a time for this activity or do it in case you arrived early to a meeting.

4. Let Go of Unhealthy and Time-Consuming Habits

If there’s one thing we should get rid of in the new year, it’s the habits that steal our time, provide instant gratification but don’t offer any value in the long term. Or even worse, leave a negative impact on our health.

Here are some common (and pointless) habits along with tips on how to get rid of them:

Binge-watching TV series

Even if most online television platforms offer you lists of “Best TV Shows to Binge Watch”, being addicted to series is a major time-waster.

You can manage this addiction in several ways, for example, watch one episode per day (or a few per week) as a reward, only after you’ve finished an assignment or done a house chore. Or try replacing this habit with exercise or reading a book – this will be hard at first but should stick after a few weeks. You can also try to track how much time you spend on TV or movies – seeing how much of your life you are wasting might urge you to do something about it.

Running on coffee

Being a coffee addict is kind of a stylish addiction nowadays, but it’s not that innocent as it may initially seem. Besides addiction being a problem in itself, drinking too much coffee (more than 500-600 mg of caffeine a day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, and even muscle tremors.((Medical News Today: Caffeine: how does it affect our health?))

As a solution, try switching to tea or edible coffee – a more sustainable, healthy, and productivity-enhancing alternative. These solid coffee bars generate a more even energy kick throughout the day without the coffee-induced abstinence and dehydration.

Procrastination

Fighting procrastination requires some serious willpower. If it is a problem in your daily life or work, try ”eating the frog” in the morning – get over your biggest or hardest tasks first, then tackle everything else.

Alternatively, use time tracking software to monitor exactly how much time you waste on unproductive actions, websites or apps. Once you know exactly how much time you’re spending unproductively, try to limit your time on social media, for example to just 20 minutes per day.

If nothing else works, try bribing yourself — promise yourself to do something fun or pleasant when you finish your assignment.

Whichever habit you want to give up, consider using some habits building tools to make a contract with yourself and reward yourself for milestones achieved.

5. Stop over-consuming

We live in the age of consumerism – huge manufacturers with their promise of a comfortable life on the one hand, and growing environmental threats – that are the direct result of our modern lifestyle – on the other hand. There’s only one solution – try to consume less whenever and wherever you can.

Before making additional purchases, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really need it? Did I need it yesterday?
  • Can’t I buy it used or borrow it from friends?
  • Can I rent it?
  • Can I make it myself?
  • Am I buying the most sustainable version of this product?

For example, check if the brand you chose is conscious about the environment, for example, are the products they manufacture energy efficient? Do they try to use less packaging?

Also, if you often find yourself buying too many groceries, promise to buy only the amount that fits in one shopping bag (that you bring along). If you often forget to take your shopping bag with you, get yourself a 2-in-1 wallet with a built-in shopping bag for more eco-friendly shopping.

6. Learn to Unplug from Your Phone

Today’s world is crammed with information, and many people struggle to keep focus on what’s truly important. There’s just too much going on in the world – too much to read, to watch, to know, too many conversations to participate in.

But how to refuse the temptation to check the phone and start using social media in a controlled, not a compulsive way?

Some tips for managing your phone-dependency:

Spend only a limited amount of battery per day

For example, start your day with 50% battery life, and manage your phone usage so that you’ll make it till the evening.

Block distracting apps and notifications on your phone and computer

Choose one-hour, two-hour or longer blocking sessions and enjoy the positive impact this will have on your mood and productivity.((freedom matters: How Blocking Apps for a Month Improved My Mood and Productivity))

Set your phone on flight mode

When you start doing an important task that requires full focus, set your phone on flight mode so that nobody can disturb you.

Leave your phone at home or in the office when you go for lunch

You’ll see that the feeling of being unreachable for a moment is actually very liberating.

The Bottom Line

As a new year begins, we’re all excitedly looking forward to what adventures await ahead of us.

But this year, promise yourself this:

Instead of having a never-ending list of tasks and commitments, focus on the truly meaningful ones. And cross-out all the rest without feeling guilty.

Less is more. Make this year count. We’re all rooting for you.

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How to Not Be Sad When It Feels Like Everything Is Going Wrong

I can safely say that the previous year was the most challenging year I had experienced, and it emotionally broke me. After losing my grandfather over the summer, I had lost my father, and a good friend a week apart from one another later in the year. Looking back, it was almost a domino effect that left me feeling completely angry, sad, and other times transparently emotionless.

Gaining emotional balance is far different than finding physical or mental balance. Human emotions, especially, sadness, pain, depression, and anxiety, tend to arrive suddenly and uninvited. Sometimes, it may feel like the odds are stacked against your favor, which makes it harder to break through that specific cycle or see the light at the end of the tunnel.

These emotions – especially sadness – is weighed differently by everyone and may feel amplified during specific periods in one’s life. Whether it be because of a breakup, losing a friend or a loved one, feeling like a failure, or even homesickness, understand that it’s completely natural to feel a certain way about it.

So how to not be sad?

3 Things to Keep in Mind When You Feel Like Everything Is Going Wrong

1. There’s a Season to Everything

Like nature’s seasons, we also go through seasons in life. Some seasons may seem longer than others especially when it comes to dealing with emotions such as sadness, grief, sorrow, and depression. But just like nature, there is a beginning, and there is a renewal to every moment in our lives.

Take a moment to think back on the last five years. The chances are you’ve had your highs and lows, and maybe one particular year stood out more than the others. For that particular moment, event, or even year, it might have been hard to see the light or good that was to come out of it.

Trust that while it seems like everything is going against you, there is a close to every single loop in our lives. It’s also meant for your growth mentally, physically, and spiritually to have these renewal periods.

2. Embrace the Domino Effect

Other times, life will have some dominos lined up for you and there will be a time when it’ll all come tumbling one after another – or it may seem so. Sometimes, it’s the universe clearing and paving something else, but the frustrating part of it is not knowing what is coming to fill that space.

The unknown can be an exciting thing, but can also create restlessness, anxiety, and uncertainty. It’s part of trusting the process and knowing that others have, are, or will be going through similar emotions.

It’s not an end-all, but instead a reset button for what’s to come next. It’s a cleanse that we need and is also a reminder that maybe we have to switch our perceptions.

You’re also the director and screenwriter of your life and it’s time to embrace all your moments and even the ones you feel are against you. Making that simple switch in perception can make all the difference

3. Find Your Bliss

It’s time to break away from the single-minded pursuit of happiness and embrace the thing that works for you and what’s in alignment to your values. Everyone deals with sadness in a different way –exercising, drawing, dancing, connecting with friends, or spending time with family.

Be compassionate to yourself and find what makes you happy. It’s not a one-answer-fits-all, and it’s not supposed to be. Find several things you can refer back to that brings balance mentally, physically, and most importantly emotionally.

How to Go About It?

1. Start a 5 Minute Journal

Whether you’re a writer or not, try starting a 5 minute journal and write down all the things you are grateful for. Sure, it may sound tedious at first, but use those 5 minutes that you were going to use scanning through social media or watching television towards something that can help shift your emotions.

Many successful entrepreneurs start their day with gratitude, and just by listing down the simple things you appreciate daily, you begin to notice other things to be grateful for throughout the day. Here are several prompts to get you started:

  • Who made you smile in the last 24-hours and why did that person make you happy?
  • Was there a specific song on the radio that reminded you of a fun time in your life? How did that make you feel?
  • Think about what you had for breakfast and how it fueled you for the day. How did that energize you?

Once you start looking at the little things to be grateful for, it starts becoming a natural habit that then begins shifting your emotions automatically. Call it the happy domino effect.

2. Reach out to Someone You Can Connect With

Having a huge support system is a blessing, but there’s always someone you might be able to connect with on a deeper and personal level.

Everyone’s circumstances and situations are different and while you may feel that you are the only person that may be feeling a certain way about it, open up yourself to connect with others who similarly could have felt the same way.

Breakups happen for a number of different reasons, but that similar feeling of grieving that person, relationship, and entity still exists. Homesickness may be defined differently depending on a person, but it’s that mutual feeling of longing for a place or person.

Life’s not meant to go about alone, but in the company of others.

3. Change Your Perception

When my father passed away, I went through the stages of grief – as most people do. I remember texting a friend that I was angry at him for leaving, although I know that my father’s fate was not in my hands.

Once you go down that Rabbit Hole of emotions, it’s hard to come back up, especially when you feel like everything is going wrong. Here’s the spoiler alert:

There is no Wonderland or a magical place with all the answers. The tunnel never ends unless you stop yourself from free falling with your thoughts and find the willpower to climb out of that tunnel.

It’s about switching those perceptions and pushing your mental power– which includes seeing the silver lining in places that seem almost impossible.

Here are questions to help shift those current perceptions into more positive thoughts and ideas

  • Life isn’t happening to me, but instead for me. What am I learning from this and why now?
  • How can I help others with what I am experiencing?
  • Is being negative helping anyone or myself?

Keep in mind being negative and being sad are two completely different emotions. Being sad is natural and sometimes you have to ride those emotions out; but being negative sometimes stems from unaddressed sadness.

With that, I searched for the silver lining in the sudden passing of my father and saw that the beautiful thing about death is that it brings people closer in the most bittersweet way.

Changing your perception is the game changer.

4. Put Yourself First

Put yourself first and most especially during your darkest hours. Everyone is different, and there isn’t a clean cut and simple solution when dealing with sadness.

If it helps, surround yourself with people whether it be a distraction mechanism or something to bring up your vibrations. If it helps to turn off your phone for half the day and disconnect, allow yourself that time. If you’d rather be alone to let go and release any pent-up emotions, or even to be in complete silence and solitude – allow yourself those moments.

Once you show up for yourself and begin putting yourself first, you start to show up in other areas in life again.

5.Gain and Give Compassion

Compassion is not always a skill that’s given, but a sometimes it’s a skill learned. As humans, we have genuine compassion towards other human beings, animals, and nature by being kind, gentle, and observant – things that flow naturally.

Yet, there are some areas in life we will not truly and fully understand unless we have gone through it ourselves. Most times, it may be understanding traumatic experiences.

Sadness can be an all encompassing emotion, but you’re not alone.

By taking some time to be compassionate towards other people and their waves of sadness, you may feel more connected to that particular person even if you haven’t gone through that particular event. In return, compassion is a energetic wave and what you give always comes back around.

Final Thoughts

Sadness is a healthy human emotion and is something your family, friends, colleagues, and mentors have all experienced. Reach out to loved ones, especially those you have a special connection with.

Remember to put yourself first and be open to trying new things that may seem foreign to you such as starting a journal or exercising. When everything starts feeling like it’s hitting at once, know that there’s a season to all of this – even your darkest moments.

More Inspirations About Happiness

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6 Mental Exercises For Busy People To Calm the Hectic Mind

The cold hard truth is that we’ve become big, clumsy animals.

We eat too much, carry way too much weight on our torsos. We sit in unnatural positions all day, which makes our steps awkward. But worst of all, we’ve isolated ourselves from nature and now our mental and emotional wellbeing is taking the hit; despite the fact that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence that the more in harmony with nature we are, the better we feel.((Business Insider: 11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside))

One recent study found that walking among trees improved participants’ short-term memory better than walks in urban settings. Another showed that soaking up natural beauty can cure brain fatigue and improve mental health. Elsewhere, researchers found that spending time in forests lowered participants cortisol levels (a hormone used to mark stress), reduced inflammation, boosted immunity, and even reduced the risk of early death.

In other words, the benefits of connecting with nature are undeniable.

There are lots of little ways to re-integrate nature into your daily routine—even if you live in a city. As someone who has traveled the world, studied as a monk, lived the life of a fast-paced entrepreneur, and then settled into a healthy work-life balance, here are a few techniques I’ve found work best:

1. Get out in the Wild and Test Yourself

Can you build a fire? Probably not. But you’re in good company.

Most of us have forgotten how to do really basic things to help us survive in nature. We’re not out there living off the land, and we’ve turned our backs on nature at every turn. It’s also why so many of us feel unmoored in modern society. What kind of animal forgets how to survive in the very environment it evolved in?

That said, it’s not too late to learn new (old) things. Wilderness training is not only useful, but it’s also fun. The core lessons you need to learn are fire, water, food, shelter. Once you have those four, you’re alive.

And an immense sense of comfort comes when we learn how to survive on our own in the wild.

Once a quarter, I like to hike into the wilderness with my backpack and a couple days’ worth of food, sans phone or email. Unplugging increases my concentration and presence of mind, and helps me more fully invest in the experience. Just a quick reset can go a long way when you are immersed in nature.

It helps us calibrate back to our essential selves.

2. Root Down

One of the most powerful ways to tap into the earth’s energy is to practice qigong, the Chinese exercise system that translates to “energy work.”

My personal favorite is the Tree exercise, which increases leg strength, concentration, deep breathing, and energy flow. It’s designed to connect our energy field up with the earth under our feet and to keep us drawing from this abundant source at all times, just like an actual tree.

A plus is that you can do it anywhere, anytime.

Here’s how:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
  • Gently breathe through your nose, pointed toward your navel.
  • On the exhale, visualize tree roots that extend into the earth.
  • On the inhale, visualize white light coming from the roots and through your body, all the way to the top of your head.
  • Repeat for several breaths, with the roots going deeper each time until you imagine them reaching the planet’s core.

The more often you do this, the better your connection will be and the more rooted you’ll feel in your daily life.

3. Take a Silent Walk Through the Woods

In my practice with a Taoist monk, I’ve learned a powerful silent-walking exercise that yields serious physical and emotional benefits.

Here’s how it works:

Go outside and begin walking very slowly and methodically. Inhale as you raise one knee up, then slowly exhale as your foot rolls from heel to toe on the ground. Now repeat on the other side.

The goal is to slow your gait and develop balance in your step. In fact, you shouldn’t be able to hear your footsteps at all.

At first, you’ll feel shaky and awkward—that’s just your office chair talking. But once your hips start to fire up again, you’ll gain core strength, which will improve your breath. As you get better, you can try it in different areas and on different surfaces.

And when you can walk on dry foliage and not hear anything, you’ll know you’ve arrived.

Once you’ve honed the skill, apply the same dilation to observing the patterns of nature around you. Slowing down helps us all feel better and learn from the greatest teacher of all—Mother Nature.

4. Listen to What the Plants Have to Say

Plants are a renewable source of positive energy and wisdom, and they have a lot to teach us.

It may sound strange at first, but you can communicate with them and learn a great deal—as long you approach the practice with grace and intention.

Sit in a natural place with no distractions, other than a book or an app to help you identify the plants’ medicinal qualities. Pick a plant you have an affinity toward and sit or stand across from it. Start breathing into your belly few breaths and keep your gaze soft and unfocused on the plant, and reach out to connect with it.

You’ll quickly find that each plant has a distinct personality, so introduce yourself softly and respectfully. State your intentions and ask if you can learn from it. Most plants are very helpful and kind.

It may take a while to get the hang of it, but once you realize there is a symphony of life and wisdom surrounding you at all times, you’ll never be alone again.

5. Spend Some Time at Your Local Park

The primo nature experience is actually being out in the wild.

But sometimes it’s tough to get away from our daily demands, especially if you live in a city. We’ve all got jobs and other obligations and can’t just spend all our time in the woods. Everyone knows how hard it is to leave the city on Fridays after work—traffic can be hellish.

Odds are, though, that you can get to a park relatively easily. So do it.

I walk my dogs at the local park every day. It’s not Yosemite, but it’s just enough to anchor the qi and connect with some trees and grass. And it sure beats walking them on the concrete sidewalk.

Find a place to tap into the energy of nature, wherever you are, and make it a habit to go there often. Maybe bring a blanket and a book. Bring friends, your kids, or your pets.

It’s free, it’s healthy, and it’s where you come from.

6. If Nothing Else, Bring the Outdoors In

Even when you can’t manage to get outside at all, you can enjoy the peace that comes from the natural world by bringing it into your home.

Aside from being visually calming, house plants are also great for your health. They release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, cleaning the air you breathe. In fact, NASA research showed that houseplants can remove up to 87% of air toxins in just 24 hours.((NASA Research: Plants Clean Air and Water for Indoor Environments)) Beyond that, studies have shown that indoor plants can improve concentration and productivity by up to 15%((NBC News: Why Indoor Plants Make You Feel Better)) — making them perfect for your home and office alike. Certain plants, like snake plants and orchids, emit oxygen at night, making them perfect for sleep.

The Bottom Line

Surrounding ourselves with nature and purity invigorates us.

Instead of isolating ourselves from nature, we can honor her and bring her with us everywhere. From cultivating household plants to vegetable gardens to taking strolls in the park to backpacking in Yellowstone, there are numerous ways to reconnect with the earth.

When you achieve that sense of harmony and balance, it will be well worth it.

More Resources to Enhance Mental Health

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Understanding Intermittent Fasting Benefits: More Than Just Weight Loss

I’ve had extensive experience with Intermittent Fasting over the years — from utilizing it for significant weight loss, to then gaining muscle, to other health benefits as of late. When I first began fasting, the results were so exciting I felt compelled to produce a youtube video, which is now approaching 1 million views! Since then, I have produced several more videos on intermittent fasting and its benefits, and I encourage you to visit my youtube channel to delve deeper.

In the proceeding article, we will examine Intermittent Fasting (“IF”) from several perspectives including physical health, mental health, and overall well being.

What Is Intermittent Fasting (“IF”)

Simply put, it’s restricting your food and albeit drink consumption to a certain time of the day which is called your ‘eating window’. There’s another term for this approach to eating called ‘time restricted eating’. The two basically mean the same thing, however Intermittent Fasting stresses a bit more on longer fasting periods ranging between 14 hours all the way up to 48 hours in some cases.((CMAJ: Intermittent fasting: the science of going without))

Personally, I feel most people would benefit from fasting between 14-18 hours, as beyond that can be stressful on the body if you have not already established conditioning and patterns around fasting.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Intermittent Fasting focuses on keeping your body in a catabolic state; one whereby your body has no food or resources for energy, so it begins to source energy from excess fat.

This is the opposite of being in an anabolic state, which is when you have consumed food and your body is actively processing and breaking down the nutrients and fats from that food and allocating those resources accordingly.

There is a large body of evidence suggesting that fasting can benefit both the body and brain, but almost all research has been conducted on animals, such as mice and rats. Researchers, such as myself, studying fasting have been calling for and awaiting more human studies to verify the results found while examining animals.

Myths About Intermittent Fasting

Myth #1: Starvation Mode?

Over the years, I’ve heard terms like ‘starvation mode’ thrown around with a lose relationship to IF, and this term is not accurate to how the body handles fasting and time restricted eating. Some people believe that your body will go into some sort of starvation mode, and by the time you actually do consume food, it will all be allocated to fat deposits and cause you to gain weight.

I’ve debunked this myth so many times with people when having conversations about weight loss, and I’m starting to think that the myth is actually going away! In large part due to articles such as this one which are geared towards informing the general public of the benefits of time restricted eating.

Myth #2: Extremely Low Energy?

Another common myth is that energy levels are extremely low when fasting. This one spawns from the notion that your body needs food constantly for energy and to survive. Let me debunk this by stating that your body is much more resilient than that!

You can technically go several days without consuming food, as long as you are having adequate amounts of water. In my experience, over the years with time restricted eating, energy levels are sustained as long as the proper macro and micro nutrients are consumed during each eating window.

If you leave yourself deficient from each eating window by way of not consuming enough calories or nutrients, then yes, of course energy levels will be down the proceeding day.

However if your focusing on consuming high quality nutrients and hitting all your ‘numbers’ during your eating window, energy will certainly not be an issue.

How and When to Use Intermittent Fasting

All too often I hear people pushing the limits right away and going for 18, 20, 24 hour fasts within their first week of adopting the practice, and to be perfectly frank this is not a good idea.

I understand some people get overly excited about the results and the hype around intermittent fasting, however the best practice is to condition oneself by slowly easing into the process. I’ve suggested starting with 14 hours fasts, utilizing mostly sleeping time, for those starting intermittent fasting.

After a week or so of 14 hours daily fasts, gradually move to 16 hours the second week, then 18hours the third week, and if feeling really ambitious and seeing amazing results, move up to 20 hours fasts on some days. That means consuming all calories for the day within a 4 hour eating window!

Where many fall short with fasting is being able to consume the proper amount of overall calories including adequate volumes of protein, carbs, fats (macro-nutrients), and micro-nutrients. Many do not consume the correct amount of food during the eating window, or they don’t space meals out correctly.

There’s a few issues that can arise when one doesn’t consume proper nutrients within the eating window, let us examine some:

  1. The body lacking adequate energy to sustain multiple days, or long term fasting
  2. The body is beginning to lose weight from muscle because it does not have enough nutrients to sustain energy levels
  3. When not spacing out meals, the body is not having enough time to digest food properly and thus not fully absorbing nutrients

Another problem which arises from my experience is poor eating habits being carried-over to intermittent fasting.

Someone has a crappy diet and thinks that by implementing time restricted eating or IF, they’ll start leaning up like Hollywood movie stars.. this is simply poor logic!

If serious about getting results in a healthy way, the diet should be cleaned up. This is because your body only has a certain amount of time to consume food (eating window), and if that time is being clogged-up with processing junk food, you won’t be reaping the benefits of IF.

Having said this, I do admit to having fast-food during eating windows at times, and though this can be a quick way to pack daily calories, and macro-nutrients, there is a significant lack of micro-nutrients; so when I go this route, it’s critical that my vitamin and mineral intake be on point!

Lately I have been consuming more carbohydrates and generally more calories during my eating windows because for the past 2 years, my goals have shifted from weight loss and leaning-up, to building lean muscle mass.

Putting on weight and building lean muscle mass while doing intermittent fasting is a tricky en-devour, mainly because the nature of IF is one of weight loss, fat loss, and ramping-up metabolism. What’s tricky is that at this stage of my life, my body has become quite efficient at processing and breaking down foods quickly; metabolic efficiency is quite high.

It didn’t start that way, in fact it was quite slow for the first couple months, but after training steadily and implementing time restricted eating for 6 months, I was well on my way to becoming a metabolic beast.

Now after having implemented intermittent fasting for well over 4 years, my body is quite adaptive and efficient at stripping nutrients from food, and leaving me with necessary fuel (carbohydrates and fats) for training.

My current goals entail acquiring 0.5 – 1lb of lean body mass (muscle) every month, totaling around 10lbs of lean muscle per year. This is very reasonable and attainable, however it certainly is challenging when also incorporating intermittent fasting.

IF does help with the production of new muscle tissue by way of improving the production of human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone, however, it also burns up any excess fats very quickly. So at this stage I find myself consuming in excess of 4,000 calories on a given day, and up wards of 6,000 calories on training days – that’s a lot of eating!

The challenge then arises of how does one consume 6,000 calories in a 4 or 6 hour eating window? Lot’s of caloric dense foods helps, however they lack nutrients in most cases as I had noted above.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The benefits of fasting are wide ranging, from weight loss (of course), to improved muscle development, to reduced stress levels, to clearer skin, and much more!

Of course, this all comes if one is following the correct protocols for intermittent fasting as we have examined earlier in this article.

Fasting has been proven to improve biomarkers of disease, reduce oxidative stress and preserve learning and memory functioning, according to Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, part of the US National Institutes of Health. Mattson investigated the health benefits of IF on the cardiovascular system and brain in rodents, and like many others, has called for “well-controlled human studies” in people “across a range of body mass indexes”.((J Nutr Biochem 2005;16:129–37))

Mattson has contributed to several other IF studies and caloric restriction. In one, overweight adults with moderate asthma consumed only 20% of their normal calorie intake on alternate days.((Free Radical Bio Med 2007;42:665–74)) Participants who adhered to the diet lost 8% of their initial body weight over eight weeks. The participants also saw a decrease in markers of oxidative stress, inflammation, and improvement of asthma-related symptoms and several quality-of-life indicators.

In another study, Mattson and colleagues explored the effects of intermittent and continuous energy restriction on weight loss and various biomarkers (for conditions such as breast cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease) among young overweight woman.((Int J Obesity 2011;35:714–27)) They found that time restricted eating, or intermittent restriction, was as effective as continuous restriction for improving weight loss, insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers.

Mattson’s research has also been in the direction of determining the protective benefits of fasting to neurons. For instance, if you don’t eat for 10 to 16 hours, your body will seek its fat deposits for energy, and fatty acids called ketones will be released into the bloodstream. This has been shown to protect memory and learning functionality as well as slow disease processes in the brain according to Mattson. From my own person experience of intermittent fasting I can attest to increased mental alertness and acuity.

Something that most won’t consider is the ‘detox’ and ‘cleanse’ aspects to intermittent fasting. I know you must be thinking “oh man, not another cleanse pitch”.. and I hear ya! But you do actually clean up the gut and digestive tract quite a bit with fasting.

You can do this with dry fasting, or water fasting (which I’m more of a proponent of). I would only recommend dry fasting for a maximum of 24 hours – and this is done by not even consuming water during your fasting period. There are two purposes to dry fasting:

1. You deprive the body of moisture which can clean-up the gut by not allowing moisture-thriving bacteria to form or sustain existence. Any unhealthy bacteria will in essence die-off when there is no food or water to sustain it.

2. Many claim that standard or dry fasting yields mental clarity which can be beneficial for spiritual practices. Personally I have had some experience with this, where during prolonged fasting periods I feel much more in-tune with my sense perceptions, and albeit cognitive alertness.

When I perform my ritualistic meditations such as transcendental meditation in the morning, or any time of the day while fasted, I feel much more deeply connected and dialed-in with the meditation itself. This could be due to a lack of substances/external stimuli such as food or water that the body needs to allocate resources to process.

Perhaps when the body isn’t breaking down nutrients, and left to rest, it has the ability to hone-in on any given task with much more clarity and efficiency.

Conclusion

If you want to lose weight, improve mental health, and overall well being – consider trying Intermittent Fasting, but as mentioned, start gradually and work your way to longer fasting periods as time goes on.

The main benefit of fasting is arguable and varies depending on an individuals goals – Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to improve metabolic efficiency? Or do you want to improve overall energy levels? There’s lots to choose from in terms of overarching benefits.

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Do Rebound Relationships Work Out? Why They Will and Won’t

The aftermath of a breakup is traumatic, especially if it was after a long-term relationship. It can leave you with a feeling of loveless limbo.

Did you know experts indicate that 90% of the rebound relationship fails within the first three months?

So are rebound relationships are unhealthy and unproductive? Or do they actually work out for the best? Here’s what some studies and experts have to say about the two possibilities…

The Purpose of a Rebound Relationship

A study by researchers at Queens College and the University of Illinois in 2014 revealed that rebound relationships serve an essential psychological purpose.((Queens College and the University of Illinois: Too fast, too soon? An empirical investigation into rebound relationships)) The results of the research revealed that rebounds help the recently broken-hearted to move on and heal more quickly than the ex-partners who deal with their breakup in their loneliness.

According to Theresa Didonato Ph.D., people who dive in to rebound relationships get over their ex-partners quicker and feel more confident in their ability to date.((Psychology Today: The Truth About Rebound Relationships))

A rebound relationship:

  • Helps a person with high attachment anxiety to server their emotional attachment to their ex-partners.
  • Helps the ex-partner get over their anger at the ex and move on with their lives.
  • Improves the person’s well-being and self-esteem.
  • Provides solace, intimacy, and social stimulation during the healing process.
  • Prevents unhealthy reunions with the exes.
  • Gives the person an opportunity to figure out what type of partner compliments them, which is impossible to do when one is flying solo.
  • Provides companionship. A fling may be what one needs to shield them from the loneliness that comes with being newly single.
  • Helps a person recover faster because they feel more desirable.

Signs of a Rebound Relationship

How soon is too soon to get into a relationship post-split up? Are you clear about the nature of your current relationship? Are you one of the rebounds in a relationship?

To achieve this clarity, here are some signs to watch out for:

Get into a relationship soon after a breakup

Many rebound partners feel that their hurt will be soothed if they find the company of a new partner. One could, therefore, be living in the illusion of ‘moving on’ but in reality, they are stuck in the pain of the old relationship. Experts recommend waiting for at least 3 to 4 months after a breakup to recover from heartbreak.((Bonobology: How soon can you start dating again after a breakup?))

Date to make your ex jealous

Some rebounders may start showering their attention on a new partner to make their ex jealous and boost their ego. The new partner is used as a trophy to ‘show off’ to the ex.

Get involved with someone casually; purely for physical purposes

The breakup from a long-term relationship leaves one’s faith in relationships shattered. One may be left feeling that all romances end in disaster.

As such, the person will get into relationships with ‘no strings attached’ tag. They become commitment-phobic, and they get into relationships for the convenience of having sex with a current partner.

Not honest with your new partner that you have recently got out of a relationship

Are you feeling ashamed in a relationship? If you haven’t been honest about the fact that you have recently broken up, you may be in a rebound relationship.

You are in a new relationship, but all you can think about is your ex and your past relationship.

And to be honest, you’d rather be back with your ex. You feel bitter even in the new relationship, and you spend lots of time telling your current partner how life was with your ex.

If this is the case, then you need to be open and honest about your true feelings.

Not really know much about your current partner

Falling in love involves the desire to know your partner’s personality traits and the background to their past.

If you did not give yourself enough time to heal, you will find that you do not know much about your current partner. You are just happy not to be single.

Do Rebound Relationships Ever Work?

The chances of a rebound relationship having long-term potential are slim, and there are many reasons why they rarely end well. That being said, there are situations when a rebound relationship can work perfectly.

Firstly, bear in mind that in many circumstances, a relationship does not end overnight. The breakup might have come at the end of a long drawn out of process full of pain and wounds. The partners were unhappy for quite a while and the relationship was dead long before it actually ended.

The couple was probably only reluctant to pull the trigger. In this situation, the rebound relationship is not really a ‘rebound’ as the previous relationship was dead for a long time.((Marriage: What If Rebound Relationships Are the Real Deal?)) The partners are more than ready to move forward if someone with whom they can find happiness comes along.

A Rebound Relationship Will Work If…

  • A partner is open and honest with the new partner about the recent breakup and the reasons for it
  • A partner knows with all certainty that the previous relationship is 100% over. They grieve it, but they don’t dwell in grief.
  • They are fully engaged in the new relationship. If the person is dating a new person out of love and openness, and they are not reacting to the loss of the old relationship, the relationship might just work.
  • If the previous relationship ended on good terms, one has a better shot at a rebound.
  • If the person is the one who ended the relationship, the rebound is likely to work. However, if the person is the one who was left, this may affect their self-image, making them more emotionally unstable.

When the Rebound Won’t Work

Like we have already indicated, rebound relationships serve a purpose if they are handled in a healthy manner. The most significant risk for a rebound relationship is that it is sometimes used as a way of avoiding emotions and feelings bound up in the previous relationship.

A rebound can end terribly if:

  • One gets into the relationship expecting the new partner to make up for the shortcomings of the former partner.
  • One gets into a new relationship with chronic fear and anxiety that the new partner will treat them the same way the former partner did.
  • If one skyrockets the new relationship because they walk in with a false sense of urgency. They want to make it stick soonest possible so that it does not end like their former relationship.
  • If one moves into a new relationship without enough time to introspect. Every relationship offers numerous lessons, and it is healthy to take time and analyze your share of the responsibility in the failure of the relationship. If you got into a rebound too fast, there is a fair chance that you will make the same mistakes you made in the previous relationship
  • You are not really your true self. Depending on the nature of the breakup, one may enter into a new relationship an emotional wreck, and they aren’t really thinking clearly. They are vulnerable, and a new relationship will never work.
  • You get into the new relationship with too much baggage. A longtime relationship leaves a good amount of baggage that you need to clear and pack up before you can move on to something new. If you don’t confront your baggage, it won’t be long before your new partner is overwhelmed by your problems and you will be staring at another failed relationship.

Final Thoughts

If you get into a rebound relationship, it is essential that you moderate your expectations for the new relationship. Take it slow and take time to really know your new partner.

It’s also important that you are in it for positive reasons. If you still want your ex back, there are people that can help you, but a rebound relationship isn’t going to help get them back or help you move on.

Also, cut off from your ex entirely and avoid any form of communication or hook up with them. This is the only way the new relationship will succeed.

Finally, purpose to enjoy the new relationship; it is a new beginning, not a replacement of the old.

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The Importance of Deep Sleep for Your Mind and Body and How to Get It

Do you want the secret to health and wellness?

Sure you do, everyone does. Everyone is looking for the miracle supplement, workout or tip that can change their lives seemingly overnight. Well such a thing does exist, is available to you anytime, and will cost you nothing.

It’s sleep — specifically deep sleep.

The Epidemic of Chronic Sleep Deprivation

If you’re like the majority of the population, you are probably depriving yourself of it on a nightly basis.

Sleep has been called the “force multiplier” in that it has the ability to enhance, or worsen, whatever state that you’re in.

If you are eating well, controlling stress, and exercising often, then getting good sleep on top of all that will help enhance the benefits of all those healthy things that you’re doing.

On the other hand, if you are eating poorly, not exercising, are constantly stressed, and overdoing it with medications or other substances, a lack of sleep is going to compound and multiply everything.

It’s like being kicked while you’re down

And when you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including the following((Mayo Clinic: Chronic stress puts your health at risk)):

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Digestive disorders
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Irritability

How to Get the Best Deep Sleep

Deep sleep is so important for not only your body, but your mind. Here are 10 ways to get the best deep sleep possible:

1. Start Going to Bed Earlier

You’re going to bed too late each night. I get it though, there are too many distractions that can keep you up late.

First among all those is entertainment. The amount of programming through cable and streaming services could sink a battleship. It’s like there isn’t enough hours in the day to consume it all.

And let me tell you, there isn’t. When you combine this with the distraction of social media, you can find yourself still scrolling at 2 am.

You would be doing yourself a favor by putting off all those shows for another time and allow yourself to get to bed earlier. Trust me, those shows aren’t going anywhere and we’ve become content consumers, thinking it’s like an assignment to finish that next series on Netflix.

There is no assignment, those things are there for your enjoyment. So enjoy them on your on terms and don’t let them interfere with getting deep, consistent sleep.

2. Create a Wind Down Routine

This is key in getting deep sleep. Your body craves routine and responds favorably to it.

You want to create a wind down routine that you start at the same time each night and follow the order of. This wind down routine will allow your body to know that sleep is coming. This is going to allow you to fall asleep sooner and get that valuable deep sleep.

It doesn’t matter really what type of routine it is, but find out what works best for you and stick with it. It may be taking a shower and then reading or it may be some yoga and then listening to music. The key thing is that its important to create some structure for your body to help unwind with to eventually get that deep sleep.

3. Turn down the Light

Remember all that entertainment all around you? It may be seriously degrading your ability to get deep sleep.

We live in a 24/7 artificially lit world. As the sun sets, the opposite happens and your house springs into action. Lights are blaring, T.V’s are on, screens are being fully used. All this artificial light is disrupting your circadian rhythms and throwing off your ability to get deep sleep. The blue light emitted from electronics has the ability to prevent melatonin release from the brain which is crucial in your sleep cycles.((Harvard Health: Blue light has a dark side))

So turn off those electronics 1 to 2 hours beforehand and you’ll be surprised at the positive impact this can have.

4. If You Really Have to Use Those Electronics, Make Use of These Tools

There are going to be times when being on your laptop is required or you do have to use your phone. Fortunately, along with your modern technology, comes some ways to make them have a less harsh impact.

The first one is a tool for if you need to be on your lap top doing work. It’s called F.lux. This takes away that blue light from your lap top screen and gives it a more natural warm and orange glow. It can replicate the brightness all the way down to candle light and embers from a fire. Reducing the blue light is going to help you avoid the sleep disruption it causes.

I’m actually using it right now as I write this.

If you use an iPhone, you can switch on the night shift mode which also takes away from some of that harsh blue light. If you have to be up watching T.V, at least switch it into “movie” mode on your picture settings. Most T.V’s have “standard”, “dynamic”, and “movie” mode. Movie mode will give it a bit of warmer glow and cause less of that blue light disruption.

5. Keep Your Room Dark

This goes along with all this melatonin/blue light we’ve been talking about.

Just as blue light prevents your brain from secreting melatonin, darkness helps to produce it. When it gets dark, your body realizes the cycle of the day is ending and your sleep cycles should match up with that. Your sleep cycle involves this melatonin secretion so you want to help encourage it by keeping your room as dark as possible.

This can be tough in our modern world but your best friend in this situation are black out curtains. These are available most everywhere from Walmart to Amazon. They help to eliminate all that outside light to keep your environment as dark as possible. These are what hotels use and you may have noticed how dark those rooms can be compared to the amount of light that is usually prevalent outside.

6. Keep Your Room Cooler

Again, our modern environments create overly bright, overly warm living situations. This warmth is great but is not the most conducive to sleep.

Sure, warmth may make you drowsy but doesn’t promote that deep sleep you’re looking for. You want things to be a touch on the cool side to promote better sleep.

When you’re asleep, your body temperature actually drops and by creating a cool environment you can actually speed up the process of getting to sleep. Your body senses the coolness and can transition easier into sleep while also engaging in deeper sleep.

If you can control your room temperature, the sweet spot seems to be at around 5-10 degrees cooler than your average daytime temperature. At the very least, your sheets should feel cool to the touch, then you’ll know you’re in the right range.

You can check out a few more things you can do to improve your room in this article too:

Are You Sure Your Bedroom is The Best Setting for Your Sleep?

7. Don’t Eat Too Much Before Bed

It’s hard to go to bed hungry and a little snack can be o.k, but you want to avoid heavy meals later in the night. This keeps your body up digesting and doesn’t allow you to naturally wind down and get that deep sleep.

Also, just the discomfort and bloating makes it tough to get settled. At the same time, your body can think it’s in the middle of the day as the focus appears to be on digestion and absorption as opposed to sleep. This can cause some more havoc with your body clock which hasn’t been allowed to naturally do it’s thing.

If you’re up all night eating and exposed to bright lights from screens, in your bodies mind, is like being outside in the middle of a bright sunny day. Sleep is the furthest thing from its mind in this situation and it doesn’t know the difference between it being noon or three in the morning.

Scenarios like this make the ability to fall asleep, and stay in deep sleep, extremely difficult. On the other hand though, here’s some things you do what to drink and eat to promote better sleep:

This is How You Can Eat and Drink Your Way To A Good Night Sleep

8. Check out What You’re Sleeping On

There’s a bit of a science to your bed and mattress and getting it just right is pretty crucial.

If you think about the majority of purchases in your life; house, car, schooling, etc your mattress needs to be right up there. Seems kind of ridiculous but it’s where you spend 1/3 of your life – or 1/2 of it if you have teenagers – so it should be considered a significant purchase.

The usual idea is going for the softest mattress possible. There are a lot of options for that now with memory foam mattresses and super soft mattress toppers. To get the best deep sleep possible, you’re going to want to go for more of a medium-firm one. The same way I like my steaks…

If you like the softer pillow top mattresses at least go for a firm mattress underneath for better support. A firmer support will give more support and cushioning to your spine and this is important for helping you sleep.

When things are too soft there is a lack of support for you spine and body and even slight movements can be disruptive to your sleep.

Here’re some guides for you to pick the right mattress and pillow:

9. Watch out for the Caffeine

No surprise here that caffeine can keep you up but you might not know how long it can cause this to happen.

Caffeine can kick in around 10 to 20 minutes on average, and the noticeable effects can last for 2 to 3 hours in your body. If you over consume caffeine, it can take more and more of it to feel its effects to the point you’re injecting espresso.

It would seem to make sense that you want to cut caffeine out 2 to 3 hours before bed but this probably won’t do the trick. Caffeine has what’s called a “half-life” meaning its existence, and effects in the blood stream, can last longer. This half life can last around 5-6 hours,((News Medical: Caffeine Pharmacology)) so you might have to do some new math as to when it will be best to have your last coffee of the day.

10. Easy on the Alcohol

It seems like I’m taking all the fun away but caffeine and alcohol can really disrupt your sleeping patterns.

Alcohol may knock you out quick but it prevents you from getting that deep quality of sleep you are looking for. We’re looking at that body clock getting screwed up again with alcohol.

Alcohol turns on a brain pattern called “alpha activity”. This type of brain pattern doesn’t usually happen when you’re asleep but when you’re awake and alert. This now disrupts your circadian rhythms and in turn can block your REM sleep.((Sleep Foundation: How Alcohol Affects the Quality—and Quantity—of Sleep))

Add this all up and you may pass out after all those Jager bombs but your body is not going to get any benefit or deep sleep from it. All you’ll have to show for it is the inevitable hangover the next day.

Final Thoughts

In society today, many people seem to wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor. There’s this sense of “sleep being for the weak” and the desire to burn the candle at both ends.

Not only is this not a sustainable way to live, you may be causing a lot of damage to yourself while you’re at it. The ability to get deep sleep on a continuous basis is critical for your body and mind to be at their best.

In this article, you’ve seen some things that you can start doing tonight to start getting better sleep. From making a more suitable environment, to watching out for the things that you consume, hopefully you have a better idea now of how your body responds to all these.

The best part is that most of these tips are easy and won’t cost you anything but are only going to enhance your health and wellness.

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Try These Flexibility Stretches to Enhance Your Daily Workout

Having a flexible body is essential for everyday life, and particularly for exercise. Think of all the things you do throughout your day that cause your muscles to tighten or create discomfort: Being stuck behind a desk, standing for long periods of time, repetitive motions, driving long distances, and exercising without properly maintaining a limber body are all ways that keep you from having a well-balanced and efficient lifestyle.

To fully optimize your workout, it is necessary to be flexible in order to perform your exercises properly — by getting full range of motion in which your joints can potentially move. Here’s why:((Muscle Mechanics, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 166))

When we don’t stretch before and after a workout, our muscles hold onto toxins, we risk injury, recovery time takes longer, and our performance is decreased.

In order to prevent restrictive mobility, we must do flexibility stretches.((Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343)) Common areas that need stretching and/or flexibility are the hips, back, knees, and ankles. In this article, you will see why it is not only important to stretch, but to balance the planes of motion in which our body parts move.

How To Stretch

Done consistently, the following flexibility stretches will enhance your workout, you will gain greater range of motion, improve balance, and recover more quickly for your next workout.

Typically, a static stretch should be held for 20-60 seconds (International Sports Sciences Association), remembering not to overstretch which can cause injury as overstretching can cause pulled muscles and tears.

In a comfortable stretch, you should feel just a slight pull without going beyond normal range of motion. Always be aware of your breathing during a stretch.

For example, if you are doing a flexibility movement for the knee, just before you go into the stretch, take a deep breath and then exhale once you are into the stretch. Breathing is important as it relaxes the muscles and helps to loosen them.

Your body should be warm before stretching to increase blood flow. This can be a 3-minute ride on a stationary bike or slowly-controlled, 45-60 second body weight squats.

Hips Stretches

The hips tend to give us trouble when we get into our 40’s and 50’s, and the cause of pain is not always injury or over-use, but rather, lack of stretching in the hip flexor muscles.

Even if you’re not a sedentary person, you walk throughout your work day, climb stairs, or stand for long periods of time, you must keep your hips flexible to keep them from tightening which can cause other problems, like lower back pain. (Everything is connected.)

Oftentimes, people who are active tend to think that because they cycle, run, or perform other exercises that recruit the hip flexors, they don’t need to stretch because their hips are constantly moving; Not so. What people don’t recognize is that over time these and other movements create muscle imbalances, spasms, and affect posture.

When your hips are flexible, the exercises that recruit gluteal muscles, like the squat and lunge, have better control. Take a look at these 4 hip flexor stretches by Guerilla Zen Fitness:

Back/Spine Stretches

The back and abdominal muscles support the core and are necessary to have a strong gait. In order to have a strong back, you must open up your chest and sides of your back with various stretches.

Sometimes, without noticing it, we rely on our back for a variety of movements, such as looking over our shoulder to pass safely in our vehicle, rising up from a chair, reaching up high for an object, etc.

These passive movements seem easy, but without a stable core, you’re left with a weak spine and the movements can become challenging over time.

Having a flexible spine and strong core is great for exercises like crunches, torso circles, side bends, lying leg raises, and sit-ups.

Here are 3 spinal flexibility stretches by Strength Side:

You can also incorporate regular yoga practice into your daily routine as a holistic approach to gaining flexibility in your back.

One of my favorite things about yoga is that it moves energy throughout the entire body, with special attention to the spine. In addition, yoga helps to lengthen muscles and opens up the space between the ribs and vertebrae, which minimizes tension and reduces headaches and backaches.((Top Fuel Crossfit: Yoga Poses to Relieve Headaches: Lengthening the Spine))

Try these yoga poses that are not only good for flexibility but for overall relaxation. Hold each pose for 10 to 15 breaths:((Rukmani Iyengar: 5 Yoga Asanas to Reduce Back Pain))

 

Knees Stretches

The use of our legs to walk, run, swim or do any the movement that involves the legs also involves the knees. Flexibility in and around the knee joints is essential for mobility, and because everything is connected, flexibility in the knees will also create flexibility in other areas, such as the ankles, which will I will address next.

So, if the exercises you perform on machines, such as the leg extension or leg curl, which move in the sagittal plane – that is, forward and backward or up and down – are among your go-to’s when training your lower body, you must have flexible knees.

Here are 3 knee strengthening examples by Strength Side:

Ankles Exercises

Ankles run into all kinds of problems, like walking, wearing high heels or uncomfortable shoes, flat feet, trauma, improper footing when performing exercises, arthritis, and even swimming. All of these can cause tendonitis – The inflammation surrounding tendons in the lower leg muscles.

Despite what it may look like, the foot does not remain in the same position during up-and-down movements which is why it is important to maintain flexibility in the muscles surrounding the ankle joint.

Flexibility allows for various positions (International Sports Sciences Association). In addition to the following exercises, R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is also effective for relieving ankle pain. Here are some examples of how to increase ankle and foot mobility:

Planes of Motion

Balancing your body’s planes of motion is necessary, not only for weight training and other exercise, but for gaining flexibility as well.

Our body is a powerhouse because it is not limited to a single plan of motion movement, and instead has the ability to move in multiple directions – Sagittal, frontal, and transverse.

For example, when doing flexibility exercises for your back, you should also work our abdominal muscles. Similarly, when weight-training your quadriceps, you should balance them by also training your hamstrings. This creates balance, coordination, and functionality:((Kai Simon: How To Improve Your Workout: Planes Of Motion))

Bonus Tip

Keep in mind that stretching can go hand-in-hand with the use of sports medicine equipment, such as a foam roller to pre-condition tight muscles and break up lactic acid, compression apparel to maintain warmth, and even a lacrosse ball to target trigger points.((Flexibility Training, International Sports Sciences Association, “Fitness: The Complete Guide,” page 343.))

Now that you are familiar with stretches where common injuries occur, you should experience relief in multiple areas of your body and in your daily life. Tension, stress, and tight muscles can now be curtailed by effective stretching before and after your activities, and your muscles will be more relaxed and efficient, thereby increasing your performance.

More Resources About Stretching Exercises

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