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Your Brain Needs Water

In order for our brains to function optimally we need to ensure we stay hydrated.  Brain cells need water (amongst other things) to operate or they will quickly lose efficiency when the balance is lost. 

Drinking water is not just about quenching thirst.  Studies have shown that dehydration can actually cause the brain to shrink, linking to declining memory, difficulty thinking clearly and doing complex tasks (like a crossword). 

The good news is, having a glass of water quickly brings the brain back to normal. Other studies have shown that students who drink water before an exam can do up to three times better than those who had none.  

Water could also be the answer to those who wake up grumpy. On a typical night’s sleep, there’s up to 10 hours without water.  We sweat and breathe out moisture and therefore can be dehydrated when we wake , which can affect mood.  

If you want to be on top of your game or avoid that afternoon slump, try water to maximise your thinking, focus and mood.

6 signs you could be dehydrated:

  1. You’re tired
  2. You’re hungry
  3. You have a headache
  4. Your skin is dry
  5. You feel hot
  6. You’re grumpy

Our guideline is 30ml of water for every Kg of body weight (eg 30ml x 56kg=1,680ml or rounded to 2 litres water).

We are lucky we live in a part of the world that has access to clean water.  It’s something to be grateful for.  Consider donating to a charity such as https://thewaterproject.org/give-water to help those struggling without water.

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Talk to alleviate stress

There are many ways to deal with stress.  Exercise, mindfulness, spending time in nature are all effective ways to manage your stress. There is another way to manage stress which is very simple and incredibly effective – talking.

In military settings, research has shown that soldiers of war who talked about the stress they experienced suffered less PTSD than those who didn’t talk.  Talk therapy has also shown to be a powerful treatment for people suffering depression or anxiety and can often ease symptoms when used alongside medication.

Talking alleviates stress in many ways.  You may not be seeking the answers to what is stressing you, but just giving voice to your concerns can allow you to see the wood from the trees and even discover solutions for yourself.

Alternatively, you maybe wanting feedback or advice from another person. Bouncing ideas off someone and getting their input can often help you see your problems in a different light.  We are innate social beings, so it’s natural and normal to reach out to others for advice.

Family and friends can be a great to talk to (providing they are not the problem in the first place). A trusted work colleague or even relevant online forums can be a great resource. It’s important we don’t bottle our stress up, which, over time, can affect our health.  

How to approach tough conversations

If the thought of having a tough conversation with someone is stressing you out, a great model to follow is the SBI model – Situation, Behaviour, Impact.  For more on this watch our video or print out the SBI model framework

Simply talking can take the weight off our chest and help alleviate the symptoms of stress.

 

 

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Make Stress Your Friend

Our lives are busy juggling work, finances, marriage, kids, family, friends – the list goes on. We are constantly hearing from health experts that stress is bad for us and that we need to be less stressed which, ironically, often makes us feel more stressed. This is making us sick and people are even dying from stress-related diseases.

What if it’s not the stress that’s killing us, but instead it’s our responses and  perception of stress that’s killing us? Research is showing that it’s in our body’s natural mechanism to cope with stress, and our reaction and belief around whether stress is a good or bad thing, that is the most harmful to our health.

A popular TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, a Health Psychologist,  “How to make stress your friend” is about approaching stress as helpful rather than being the enemy.

She based her talk on a study of 30,000 people in the US over eight years.  They were asked questions such as “How much stress have you experienced in the past year?” and “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?”.  Interestingly, those who expressed a great deal of stress but didn’t view it as a harmful experience had the lowest risk of dying, whereas those who said they had experienced a lot of stress and viewed it as harmful had a 43 percent increased risk of dying.

McGonigal says if change our mindset and view our responses to stress as helpful to our performance, we will be less stressed out, less anxious, more confident. That pounding heart? It’s preparing you for action. Your increased breathing rate? It’s simply getting more oxygen to your brain. Your body will naturally manage the stress response and calm the nervous system down, as long as you don’t allow yourself to get worked up over a stressful situation.

There’s even a term for ‘good’ stress – Eustress, pronounced YOU-stress. It is the type of stress we feel when we are out of our comfort zones, but working towards something bigger or feel excited or challenged in a good way. Eustress provides us with an energy boost to perform challenging activities – especially where we need to focus and put in extra effort. So, what if you were to consider all stress as Eustress? There’s no difference between Eustress and Distress, other than our reaction to it.

As you can see, how you think about stress matters. The next time you are stressed, stop, take a deep breath and say to yourself “This is my body, rising to the challenge.”

Watch the full Ted Talks here: https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

 

 

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Move Snacks

Most of us think we need to sweat it out at the gym or go for a long run to be active and if we miss those opportunities due to our busy lives, we beat ourselves up.  What counts as exercise has been institutionalised to the point that if it’s not a dedicated chunk of time in a dedicated place, it doesn’t count. There are a lot of ‘should’s’ going on – I should exercise, I should go to the gym.  It’s these ‘should’s’ that can set us up to fail, over and over again.  Sound familiar?

At Ritualize, we  want to challenge the notion of what being active is and change how we view exercise.

What’s important is you find something you enjoy, not something you ‘should’ be doing.  The research is showing that if you enjoy your choice of activity, you are more likely to stick with the healthy behaviour over the long-term.  

A great way to rewire your brain around what counts as exercise is to discover what we call Movement Snacks.  If you don’t like exercise or are simply too busy to get to a gym class, you will be surprised how active you can be throughout the day.  Some suggested Movement Snacks are:

  • Housework (it counts!)
  • Meet for a coffee and a walk rather than sit in a cafe
  • 30 second on the stop sprint
  • Gardening
  • Running around with the kids
  • Squat while brushing your teeth
  • Have a walking meeting rather than in a boardroom
  • Walk while you talk on the phone
  • Park the car in the furthest car park from the shops
  • Ritualize ZUU workout at home

Of course, if you love your gym classes or your runs, keep doing it. I love to run because it makes me feel good, but if you are someone who doesn’t like it, don’t do it.  Choose something you actually enjoy.

I love this approach to how we think about physical activity because it allows those who think they are not active to discover they either are or they can be.

Think about what Movement Snacks can be incorporated  into your daily life and make them count.

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6 motivational quotes for inspiration

If you need some words of wisdom to inspire you, motivate your mind, achieve your goals, or overcome your fears, read on…

 

It can be overwhelming trying to make lifestyle changes. Your goal can feel so far away and almost impossible to achieve, and this can dissuade you from staying on your journey. Thoughts in your head are telling you “this is too difficult”, “you’re not strong enough for this”, “what’s the point”, “I don’t have the time”, “I’m too old”.

 

Instead of letting this negative thoughts cloud your mindset, find quotes that inspire you. Jonathan Fader, psychologist and motivation expert says the message that someone else believes you can achieve what you want to achieve can be a powerful incentive to try harder. “There’s a little bit of implicit coaching that’s happening when you’re reading [motivational quotes]. It’s building that self-efficacy in that kind of dialogue that you’re having with yourself,” Fader says.

 

Here are some of our favourites:

 

 

  • “It’s not about perfect, it’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs” – Jillian Michaels, Well-known American Personal Trainer, author and presenter.

 

 

 

  • “Little by little, a little becomes a lot” – Tanzanian Proverb and a bit of a mantra of ours here at Ritualize. Think of change as small steps you repeat over time to that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

 

 

 

  • “Become a priority in your life” – Lori Bregman – Author of  The Mindful Mom-To-Be: A Modern Doula’s Guide to Building a Healthy Foundation from Pregnancy Through Birth

 

 

 

  • “When life puts you in tough situations, don’t say “Why me?”, say “Try me!” – John Assaraf, spiritual entrepreneur, philanthropist and teacher.

 

 

 

  • “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” —Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

  • If you quit once, it becomes a habit. Never quit— Michael Jordan 

 

 

Do you have a favourite quote? We’d love to read them, so share them with us in the comments below!

 

Thinking about your why can also be a motivation to reach your goals. More on that in our next blog post…

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Being grateful makes us happier

Be Grateful

Imagine feeling thankful and full of joy on an ongoing basis.

A major step in that direction is through a daily gratitude ritual.

Each day expressing thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of your life for both the big and small things alike means you concentrate on what have, not what you don’t have enough of.

Here are a few hints to develop a daily gratitude ritual:

  • Wake up every day and tell yourself (or someone else) what you are grateful for
  • Get each member of your family to say one thing they are grateful for at the dinner table
  • At the end of the day list the 3 things you are most grateful for
  • Start a gratitude journal – Write down all the things you are grateful for every night.
  • Recognise and be grateful for the positive things you have done in in your life, no matter how big or small
  • Let others know how grateful you are for who they are or what they have done.

Being grateful has shown to make us happier and healthier and even help marriages work! The physical and psychosocial benefits of this simple rituals are quite amazing.

Try adopting a gratitude ritual each day. If you’re on the Ritualize app, you can enter what you’re grateful for on your ritual board and either let others know through the Ritualize feed or keep it private.  Either way, you will start feeling the benefits for yourself and others around you almost straight away.

Watch our video on Gratitude for more information!

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Binge-watching before bedtime…

Are you guilty of it?

Since the introduction of streaming companies, such as Netflix and Stan, the era of scheduled programming has seemingly come to an end. Everyone can watch the content they like when they like. This unprecedented access has introduced a new viewing style: Binge Watching. Binge watching is defined as “watching multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen, be it a television, laptop, computer or tablet.”

Prior research has indicated that media bingeing was associated with more anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Binge viewers also reported higher levels of loneliness and depression. In more recent studies, conducted by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, it was reported that binge-watchers had more fatigue, insomnia symptoms, poorer sleep quality, and feeling more alert before going to sleep. Those who binge-watch before bed had 98% more chance of having poor-quality sleep than those who didn’t.

Looking at bright screens, especially at night, can wreak havoc on your biology, because it is one of the cues that helps maintain our circadian rhythm, or body clock. When it gets dark, our bodies start to prepare for sleep, but bright lights can trick our brains into thinking it’s still daytime and it reduces our ability to secrete melatonin, which makes it not only harder to fall asleep, but also reduces the amount of sleep you get once you do fall asleep.

While we don’t expect you to stop watching shows, there is a way to help combat the binge-watching addiction. Dr Robert Oexman, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says the best way to do it is on the weekend, and earlier in the day instead of the late evenings. Ideally, binge-watching should occur before 6 pm, and if that’s not possible, you should at least stop watching shows an hour before you start getting ready for bed.

For more tips and information on how to help improve your quality of sleep, check out our Ritualize app!

 

References:

https://www.google.com.au/amp/variety.com/2017/digital/news/binge-watching-health-risks-netlfix-1202447516/amp/

http://jcsm.aasm.org/viewabstract.aspx?pid=31062

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/tv-binge-watching-can-damage-your-health-2017-9

 

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Reprogram your genes
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5 Steps to Reprogram Your Genes

There are fixed, heritable genes (such as skin and eye colour) and there are genes that can be influenced daily according to our lifestyle. These genes are continually directing the production of proteins that control how your body functions at every second of the day. Genes turn on or off (sometimes at a rapid rate) only in response to signals they receive from the surrounding environment – signals that you provide based on the food you eat, the exercise you do (or don’t do!), your quality of sleep, sun exposure and so on. Genes are like light switches that turn on and off and influence every element of body function. So, you are in the drivers seat to take control of your genes expression. Here are some tips for you:

  1. Awareness Start thinking about your everyday lifestyle and how your genes may be responding to it. Each day your genes will respond positively or negatively depending on how you are living your life.
  1. Exercise – The activity level of skeletal muscle modulates a range of genes that produce dramatic molecular changes, and keep us healthy (Neufer & Booth, 2005). Even one single vigorous workout can set off a chain reaction of health benefits through activation of key genes. Exercise can suppress the expression or genes that contribute to chronic diseases, whilst up-regulating healthy gene expression almost immediately. So, next time you’re sweating it out in a workout, know you are having a positive affect on your genes. It maybe the motivation you need to go that extra mile!
  1. Nutrition Studies have shown that different intakes of food can affect your gene expression through a process called methylation. Methylation reactions are critical for many bodily functions and need significant amounts of methyl groups from food to function optimally. We have known for many years that certain foods which are high in B vitamins help with methylation, such as cooked vegetables (especially green vegetables & beets), unprocessed meats and quinoa – but we also need other foods to make up a healthy, balanced diet.

CARBOHYDRATE AND GENE EXPRESSION

Recent research from the University of Science and Technology in Norway has shed light on the gene, expressing effects of certain types of diet. “We have found that a diet with 65% carbohydrates, which often is what the average Norwegian eats in some meals, causes a number of classes of genes to work overtime,” says Berit Johansen, a professor of biology at NTNU.

This has significant implications for people who follow recommended dietary guidelines and eat a diet that has 55-65% calories from carbohydrate.

“Genes that are involved in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer respond to diet, and are up-regulated, or activated, by a carbohydrate-rich diet,” says Johansen.

The researchers concluded that both high and very low carbohydrate diets were wrong, but carbs should be capped at 40% calories.  “A healthy diet shouldn’t be made up of more than one-third carbohydrates (up to 40 per cent of calories) in each meal, otherwise we stimulate our genes to initiate the activity that creates inflammation in the body.”

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

The Ritualize 80/20 food pyramid will give you a great balanced diet that is lower in carbohydrate and higher in fat and protein than traditional government guidelines. Eat plenty of fresh, locally grown vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit, as well as grass fed, free range meat and chicken, sustainable fish, legumes, nuts and seeds and drink plenty of water. Most of your fat should come from extra virgin olive oil and avocado, with moderate amounts of coconut oil, dairy and other animal fats as well as minimal amounts of processed fats and commercial vegetable oils. The big key is to avoid processed foods and eat mostly stuff that has been alive. Home cooking is always the best, but for the time poor, there are more and more healthier choices in supermarkets and grocery shops for a quick, easy meal.

  1. Stress – we have known for many years that chronic stress can have detrimental effects on your health, and we now know the biochemical pathways behind such negative effects. Even negative thoughts can stimulate the production of genes that increase our chances of chronic disease, but we need to understand the ‘Goldilocks effect’ of stress – we need a certain amount of stress to stimulate us and help us to adapt. This process is known as ‘hormesis’ and enables us to develop stress resistance. Just like an athlete can either under-train or over-train, we can get too little or too much stress. Athletes optimise their training by paying close attention to volume, intensity and duration, and so should we. During a period of prolonged and more intense stress, our recovery needs to be optimal – just like an athlete.
  1. Psychosocial – a number of other areas are emerging that can affect gene expression. We know that being socially isolated or rejected can up-regulate genes involved in dangerous metabolic inflammation, but being socially connected can have a positive effect on our wellbeing. Meditation has recently been found to suppress inflammatory genes and can even increase grey matter density and the practice of gratitude can enhance your mood and wellbeing. Doing a daily gratitude ritual, practicing a few 1-minute meditations throughout the day and taking time to connect socially will pay huge dividends over time.

The bottom line is that a range of interacting lifestyle behaviours affect our gene expression and our overall health. Eating well will give you the energy to exercise and exercising regularly will help you to manage stress and enhance your focus, as will regular 1-minute meditations and a daily gratitude ritual. This will put you in the right frame of mind to cultivate social relationships, which will make you more positive – a very positive lifestyle loop!

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