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Health is Wealth: 8 Reasons Why Exercise is Important To Your Brain and Body

Let’s face it, some days working out isn’t something you want to do. Motivation and willpower won’t always ensure that you make it to the gym. 

But what’s the point of working hard and becoming successful only to sacrifice your health?

Sometimes you need cold hard scientific facts to motivate you to exercise even when you’d rather skip it entirely. Think about some of these reasons the next time you feel like skipping a workout.

8 Reasons Why Exercise is Important To Your Brain & Body

1. Longer Lifespan

According to the CDC staying fit is the key to living a longer life. If you exercise more than seven hours per week you are 40% less likely to die young compared to only exercising 30 minutes or less each week.  

Health is Wealth: 8 Reasons Why Exercise is Important To Your Brain and Body

2. Increase Good Cholesterol and Lower Bad Cholesterol

High cholesterol can increase plaque that builds up in your arteries. Over time this plaque can lead to developing heart disease.

Exercise helps both your cholesterol levels by increasing the good kind and reducing the bad kind.

 

3. Decrease Stress Levels – Exercise is Important To Your Brain & Body

How many times have you went to the gym angry or frustrated only to feel better after a good class or long workout? Exercise has shown that it can drastically reduce your stress and anxiety levels.

If your stress has turned to depression it can also help you get out of your slump as exercise has also shown to help lower depression as well.

Health is Wealth: 8 Reasons Why Exercise is Important To Your Brain and Body

4. Increases Happiness

Yes, exercise will make you happy. Sometimes its hard to think about it during a long run or tough workout but afterward don’t you feel better? Maybe even happier?

Exercise increases your happiness because of the endorphins right when you finish. Post-exercise is when you are in peak state and a great time to work on setting your goals.

 

5. Stop Getting Sick – Exercise is Important To Your Brain & Body

Are you always getting sick or having to take time away from work, family or friends? If so, start exercising more!

According to Medline Plus,Physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may reduce your chance of getting a cold, flu, or other illness.”

Exercise causes changes in your antibodies and white blood cells (WBC) which are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. WBCs circulate more rapidly, so they could detect illnesses earlier than they might have before.

 

6. Increase Self-Confidence

As Tim Grover said, “The mind controls the body, the body doesn’t control the mind.” While reading is the equivalent of exercising for your body, regular exercise also helps your brain too.

As the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said, It also can affect how well you do your tasks, and even how pleasant you are to be around. That’s partly because physical activity gets your brain to make “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins.”

Health is Wealth: 8 Reasons Why Exercise is Important To Your Brain and Body

7. Lower Your Risk of Cancer

If you’re not feeling like working out read this stat over and over again. One-third of all cancers in the United States are linked to lack of exercise and poor diet according to the American Cancer Society.

 

8. Helps You Sleep Better

Lastly, exercise can also help your sleep patterns. If you feel tired but can’t sleep or stay up tossing and turning try exercising to help.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.” Make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to sleep.

The next time you think about skipping a workout to sleep in or binge Netflix use these reasons why exercise is important for your brain and body! 

Remember, exercise isn’t just for your body it’s as much for your mind. Plus, you will feel better, perform better throughout the day and even sleep better.

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Healing Chronic Pain Is an Inside Job

“Time is not a cure for chronic pain, but it can be crucial for improvement. It takes time to change, to recover, and to make progress.” ~Mel Pohl

Let’s face it, living with any kind of physical pain is a challenge. I understand that completely. In the fall of 2007, I contracted an extremely painful and debilitating condition, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a structural collapse that compresses the muscles, nerves, and arteries that run between the collarbones and first ribs.

Yet, as most of us do, I believed my condition would, naturally, clear up soon and the pain would leave. That’s what happens most of the time for most of our physical ailments. Pain arises because of an illness or injury and disappears as we heal over the following days or weeks. We might lay low for a while, take some medications to ease the discomfort, and then we’re back into the swing of things. No problem.

Except when it doesn’t work that way.

What happens when pain becomes a fixture in our lives and no amount of medication or treatment or therapy can eradicate it? What do we do then?

Our usual response is to fight. We put on our battle armor and spend every day in an effort to overcome pain so it won’t take over any more of our lives. We search for the right therapies and the right medications, trying one approach after another, with the attitude of defeating a mortal enemy.

If nothing works, we eventually exhaust ourselves. We wake up one morning with our anti-pain armor in a heap on the floor and find we have no more reserves to fight, so we leave it there. We just don’t have the energy to go into battle anymore.

So, we swing to the other end of the spectrum, deciding that the best thing to do now is to ignore the pain we’re living with. This is just the way it is right now, we say to ourselves. These are the cards I’ve been dealt and I’m going to have to live with the situation. We put on our best face and try to function despite the pain, doing our best to ignore its insistent cries for attention.

We may even decide the doctor is right if s/he tells us that the reason we’re still in pain isn’t because our condition won’t heal, but because our brain is misfiring. Okay then, I’ll put the blame on my brain and pretend the pain doesn’t exist, we say.

But the pain stays and stays and stays.

Neither of these extremes usually works very well for chronic pain. Fighting pain is exhausting. It creates stress and tension not conducive to healing. Fighting causes us to tighten and contract in the body, also not great for healing. Acquiescing, on the other hand, can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness over time. If pain isn’t improving, one day we might find ourselves looking up from the bottom of a dark well, filled with despair.

Are these really our only choices? Isn’t there a middle path that might offer something less fatiguing than constant battle and less hopeless than acquiescence or denial?

What do we do? What can we do?

I spent years swinging back and forth between the two poles, finally settling into a kind of stoic silence until one day I couldn’t stand it anymore. I just couldn’t face a life sentence of living in unremitting pain. I decided there had to be a different way to live, to find more ease and grace even in the midst of pain.

So, I decided to turn my belief about what pain is and how I was dealing with it on its head. I changed the way I perceived pain and the way I responded to it. I found ways to shift my relationship with pain into a more positive, constructive one and, after many years of having no perceptible change, began to finally experience some relief.

Here are three important ways I shifted my relationship with pain and thereby began to experience more healing in my body.

Making Friends with Pain

It helped me a great deal to understand that pain is not an enemy but a signal and a message that tells us that the body is trying to heal. Pain is a voice from within that announces that something is out of harmony and is trying to put itself right. Instead of experiencing pain as torture, I began to understand that it was a natural communication from my body. In a way, it was me talking to me. A part of me was hurting and asking for attention.

Since fighting pain only seemed to make things worse, I asked myself, what if I imagined that pain wasn’t an adversary, but had a positive purpose? What if pain wasn’t trying to put me through hell, but was simply trying to get my attention? How could I make friends with it instead of opposing it?

I began to ask pain what it needed, what it was asking for, what I could give it and do for it to help my body heal. I understood that it was asking me to slow down, both on the outside and on the inside. Pain needed me to be with it just as it was, to stop pushing against it, and to listen to it.

What I learned from pain was that, instead of offering it my anger, denial, or hate, it required a very different kind of attention. The pain, the signal from my body, was asking for a different approach to healing, a softer approach.

I understood it to be asking for the kind of compassion and understanding you would offer a small child who is hurting. I found that when I turned a more loving ear toward it in an effort to listen to it, respect it, and offer it kindness, my whole body relaxed, my breathing shifted, my stress lifted, and my pain began to decrease.

Finding Positive Ways to Express Pain

I began to journal about living with pain, which helped me see it differently. I wrote about my emotional responses to living with pain. I wrote about the loss and the loneliness, the shame and the frustration. Then I read what I wrote out loud to pain, and to myself. We both listened. Something shifted. We both relaxed. Pain started to move.

I then went a step further and found someone I could trust to hear my pain story. I asked them to please not offer any advice, to not try and fix me, but just to listen with an open heart and mind. I told them about the sadness and the terrors, the loneliness and the shame. I told them things I had never told anyone because I was simply trying to hold it all together from one day to the next.

Having someone simply witness me in my pain without asking me to be any different, but allowing me to be in the pain I was in and really seeing it and acknowledging it was hugely healing. And pain relaxed a little more.

Allowing Pain the Time it Needs

I also discovered that pain was asking for time. Healing simply wasn’t going to be rushed. My body didn’t respond well to being hurried or pushed, and healing could not be approached as another goal to be achieved. Pain kept its own timetable.

Allowing pain to take the time it would take rather than trying to hurry it out of my body allowed for a healthier emotional and physiological response that was far more conducive to healing. My body became more relaxed around the pain and I began to release stress, tension, and contraction. I breathed more freely, moved more slowly, approached everything in a more relaxed manner, and stopped obsessing as much about my healing.

I stopped pushing against the pain and pushing against the situation and began to trust the healing process. Paradoxically, when I allowed pain all the time it needed to heal, it began to release. When I demanded that it leave immediately, it dug in its heels, but when I related to it soothingly and with patience and love, I felt relief more rapidly.

I have found over my years of living with chronic pain, that these approaches are fundamental to creating more ease and grace on a daily basis, to releasing stress and tension in the body, and to relieving long term pain. None of them are guarantees of becoming pain free overnight, but all can offer relief, hope, and positive shifts almost immediately and, as those of us who have been living with pain for a long time know, any movement toward relieving pain is cause for major celebration.

I’ve gained valuable insights from my journey with pain as well. I’ve learned to find a place deep within myself, a clear place at my core that is resilient and eternal, a place I can draw on for strength and comfort in any situation. I’ve learned how to be kinder to myself and to others. I’ve learned how to find new appreciation and satisfaction in simple things and to celebrate the small joys in life.

Pain, then, has become something of a spiritual mentor over time. It has, in the end, taught me how to live more deeply, more authentically, and more wisely. Living with pain has not only helped me understand what really matters most to me in life, but how much I matter to myself.

About Sarah Anne Shockley

Sarah Anne Shockley is the author of The Pain Companion. In the Fall of 2007, she contracted Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) and has lived with debilitating nerve pain ever since. She has been a columnist for Pain News Network and is a regular contributor to The Mighty, a 1.5 million–member online community for those living with chronic illness and pain. Visit her online at ThePainCompanion.com.

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30 Self-Care Tips: How to Avoid Sickness, Burnout, and Exhaustion

“Remember, you are your own best investment. Invest in yourself and your lifestyle. Quality of life is a key component in finding joy and maintaining self-confidence.” ~Akiroq Brost

Do you ever sacrifice your own well-being to take care of others? If this sounds like you, chances are you are doing more harm than good.

Think about when you get on an airplane. What’s the first thing they tell you?

“In case of a loss of cabin pressure, please put your own oxygen mask on first and then assist your children or other passengers.”

They tell you this because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you will pass out and die! You can only help others and save lives after you meet your own needs—not just in an emergency scenario, but also in your everyday life. This is where self-care comes in.

I used to think it was selfish to prioritize my needs over the needs of others.

I thought showing love for others meant that I had to continuously give of myself and put their needs ahead of my own. As a result, I constantly felt drained, fatigued, and exhausted. I had given all of myself away and there was nothing left for me.

Not only was I working a highly stressful job in finance, I was also launching my personal training business, which required a combined eighty-five hours per week.

To add insult to injury, I was pushing my body to its physical limits in the gym seven days a week and sleeping only four to six hours per night. As if this wasn’t enough, I was also trying to balance having a boyfriend, a social life, a family, and a kitten.

At this stage in my life it was a common occurrence to collapse on top of my bed, clothes on, after a long day only to get up and repeat the cycle all over again. Eventually depression started to creep in, and I completely stopped doing anything for the sake of enjoyment; everything became goal oriented.

I forgot who I was. I forget how to be happy. I didn’t see the value in taking time for myself to recharge, get in touch with my inner being, and assess what I really wanted out of life.

I was solely focused on making money and pleasing others, trying to buy the love I didn’t deem myself worthy of on my own. It’s called the disease to please, and it will kill you if you let it.

I kept this pace up for a period of two years with no vacation and few days off until I had no choice but to pull the brakes.

My immune system suddenly shut down, and a barrage of illness and infection ensued. My goals of being the epitome of perfection and efficiency came to an abrupt halt. The disease to please had finally caught up with me.

First I developed a potentially life-threatening case of pneumonia. Immediately after that I developed a staph infection in my neck that was literally the size of a golf ball! I then became so lethargic that getting out of bed became a huge challenge.

This lasted for months.

I had never felt so low in my life, and I knew I had to take this unfortunate series of events as an opportunity to grow and learn; otherwise, it would all be for nothing!

This was a huge kick in the pants telling me to SLOW DOWN TIM, TAKE SOME TIME FOR YOURSELF!

Finally I had gotten the message, and I knew it was time to take a step back to re-evaluate my lifestyle choices, motivations, and habits.

How could I expect to help others when I wasn’t taking care of myself? I was putting myself last. And that helps no one!

I knew it was time to stop sacrificing myself and start practicing some serious self-care.

Stop Extreme Burnout and Exhaustion Before it Stops You

If you neglect yourself for an extended period of time you will experience extreme burnout. This is when you push yourself so hard that you literally can’t go on anymore and you just collapse.

If you are concerned about extreme burnout, here are some signs you might be at risk:

  • You are so completely exhausted by the end of the day that you collapse on the couch and fall asleep without realizing it.
  • By the end of the week you are so fatigued you can hardly get out of bed in the morning.
  • You sleep an inordinate amount of time during the weekend just to feel normal again.
  • No matter how much sleep you get, you wake up exhausted.
  • Caffeine is a necessity to wake up and get through the day.
  • You often work so hard you forget to eat.
  • You have extreme cravings for junk food and eat excessive amounts of sugar for energy.
  • You binge on Netflix and other distractions to avoid being alone with your thoughts.

If you find you are at risk of burnout, or just feel you want to take better care of yourself, self-care is the answer you are looking for.

What Exactly is Self-Care?

Initially I had a lot of misconceptions about self-care; I thought it was about being eternally happy all the time. Then I realized it’s actually impossible to be happy all the time and suffering is a necessary part of life that is required for personal growth.

True self-care strengthens and deepens our connection with ourselves so we can understand how to meet our needs met from a mental, emotional, and physical standpoint.

Self-care builds your connection with who you are at the core of your being so that when the tides of life get rough, you are anchored and don’t get swept away.

It helps you to not sweat the small stuff and prevents burnout and exhaustion. Ultimately, a self-care practice will allow you to understand yourself, find your passion and purpose, and take you on the path to live a fulfilled life.

It’s not easy to break bad habits, especially if you’ve spent years putting other people’s needs before your own. Here are some tips on how you can start to treat yo’self!

Self-Care Ideas for Mental Health

  • Relax and allow yourself to do nothing (no cellphones allowed!)
  • Meditate
  • Read an educational book with a focus on personal growth
  • Listen to an educational podcast (news is not included as educational)
  • Play with your pet
  • Cuddle your significant other
  • Do something that makes you smile
  • Create something artistic or play an instrument
  • Listen to music you love
  • Practice gratitude with a gratitude journal

Self-Care Ideas for Emotional Health

  • Forgive someone you have been holding a grudge against
  • Do something that’s scared you that you’ve always wanted to do
  • Focus on your own needs and goals instead of comparing yourself to others
  • Practice compassion for yourself
  • Take a break from social media
  • Allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of running from them or distracting yourself
  • Read a fictional book that lifts your spirits
  • Take a break from technology—unplug
  • Help someone and don’t expect anything in return
  • Practice positive affirmations (Example: You are enough just as you are right now in this moment.)
  • Write down a few things you appreciate yourself

Self-Care Ideas for Physical Health

  • Practice deep breathing
  • Move to music you love
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Lift weights
  • Walk
  • Play a sport
  • Go outside—get some sunlight on your skin
  • Try yoga or another mindful movement practice (also good for your mental health)
  • Eat healthfully (i.e.: fruits and veggies, unrefined foods)
  • Look in a mirror and love your body as it is right now, without judgment

How a Daily Self-Care Practice Changed My Life

Self-care saved me from extreme burnout. It wasn’t easy to slow down and find time for myself throughout the day, so instead, I get up early and devote one hour of time to myself.

I created a daily self-care routine that starts my day off on a positive note. This positivity bleeds over into other aspects of my life, and it’s been life-changing.

I used to be miserable getting up for work in the morning. Now getting up is enjoyable because I have something to look forward to like going to the gym, listening to a podcast, or meditating. I’ve noticed I’m generally happier and filled with a sense of gratitude for my blessings in life.

I also lost twelve pounds in eight weeks, even after reducing the amount of time I spent in the gym, by reducing daily stress triggers and practicing healthful eating. Previously, I’d put a lot of stress on my body with my lifestyle and excessive working out. This stress created a hormone response in the body that actually made me gain fat instead of losing it!

My big weight loss secret: stress reduction, moderate exercise, and mindful eating! It also helps that I’ve shifted my mindset; whereas I used to work out just to look hot, I now focus on my health and aging gracefully.

My gratitude practice is another important part of my daily self-care routine. By practicing gratitude I’m able to find more moments of joy in my daily life and I’m much more attentive to those I love. With mindfulness and meditation practice I experience less anxiety, stress, and negative thinking.

Self-care has allowed me to be aware of the constant neurotic thought patterns I’ve developed that hold me back and make me feel inadequate or like I don’t measure up. I can see more clearly how these patterns are essentially bad habits.

And just like any bad habit? They can be broken! It’s been a huge confidence booster.

Mindfulness helped me identify and overcome fear and self-doubt and work up the courage to start following my passion of writing and helping others after years of telling myself I wasn’t good enough.

And here we are today!

If you are like me and you take care of everyone in your life except for yourself, I implore you to try some of the thirty self-care tips I shared above. It really is of the utmost importance not only for your own health, but for the health and well-being of everyone you care about as well.

I know it’s hard to find time for self-care; that’s why I recommend scheduling one hour of time every single day just for you. Self-care might seem silly or frivolous, but it literally saved my life.

And it just might do the same for you!

About Timothy James

Timothy is a personal trainer and self-care expert focussed on using simple mindfulness strategies to build habits and achieve weight loss goals. Click here for his FREE self-care course and discover how to stop anxiety, kill stress, and eliminate exhaustion with simple mindfulness strategies you can use today! Follow him on Instagram here!

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