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Five Minute Stress Meditation for Busy People

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This strange green guy looks pretty chilled out doing meditation.

Meditation is one of those things that many people say they should do, or want to do, but never really get around to it. You know you should do it. It just seems too complicated or not really “you”. You’re not the kind of person that sits around cross-legged chanting. You’re not into that spirituality stuff.

My busy, stress-out friend…allow me change some of your misconceptions about meditation.

You need it.

If you’re honest with yourself you know you do.

It doesn’t have to involve anything spiritual, religious, or complicated.

Why Meditate?

Meditation has been shown to reduce cardiovascular mortality, and improve conditions such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and high cortisol levels.

Meditation reduces stress, improves concentration and focus, reduces depression, and improves sleep quality.

Pretty good, right?

Most studies find results after a 6-8 week intervention and you’ll probably notice subjective benefits of relaxation and well-being much sooner than that.

My Background with Meditation

I started martial arts as a kid and a brief meditation at the start and end of every class was common in most of my karate classes. I don’t know if I ever really understood the benefit back then, but it was part of the ritual of training.

Martial arts are about discipline and concentration. Being able to meditate and be calm and quiet for a period of time is an excellent skill to learn early in life. Actually, just getting young kids to kneel and close their eyes for a few minutes is quite a feat!

As a karate competitor for 14 years, I often used meditation and visualization as part of my preparation for tournaments. When I studied Sports Psychology, I learned many relaxation and concentration tools that athletes use to give their best performance.

Mindfulness-Based Training 

Probably the most important shift in my thinking about meditation came when I was pregnant and read the book “Mindful Birthing” to help me cope with a challenging pregnancy and to mentally prepare for a drug-free labour.

This book introduced me to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). He created a full program of Mindfulness Based Training (MBT) that has been shown to help treat a variety of psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. Some research is also showing positive effects for treating fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome.

And you thought you were just going to reduce your stress levels!

Mindfulness Meditation 

The interesting thing about mindfulness meditation, and what really connected with me after years of trying different kinds of mental training, is that you don’t try to do or think anything in particular.

“Clear your mind” is a familiar refrain with many kinds of meditation, but mindfulness doesn’t use that concept. Mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts, observing them, and moving on.

Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

The non-judgemental part is important. Have you ever tried to meditate and clear your mind and you keep thinking about that meeting at work or what you’re going to have for dinner? Then you say to yourself,

“Hey dumby, you’re supposed to be meditating! Stop it. Oh bugger. I’m thinking something again. Why can’t I clear my mind? My head’s itchy. Am I allowed to scratch? I’m an idiot”.

This little conversation goes on for the duration of your session and by the end you think you’re a failure at meditation.

Mindfulness meditation allows you to be aware of those thoughts and just let them pass by. You can even scratch your head, if you need to. You just want to be aware of what you’re doing and thinking while you’re scratching.

Being in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, is also key with mindfulness. Being in the moment can be incredibly calming and freeing.

No worries about the past or future…you’re just sitting here chilling in a quiet place. Sweet.

How To Meditate!

I want to break this meditation down as simply as possible because I actually want you to do it. Overcomplicating the process often makes people give up before they get a chance to notice the benefits.

1) Sit down in a quiet place in a comfortable position.

2) Set a timer for 5-10 minutes.

3) For 5-10 minutes, just focus on your breathing. Feel what’s happening in your body during each exhale and inhale. Every time a thought comes by (and there will be plenty!), just acknowledge it and go back to focusing on your breath.

How Easy Is That?!

When you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to do your meditation in the same place, at the same time of day. This helps you to establish the habit and develop a positive, relaxing association with the process.

Once you get used to the meditating and you’re able to keep focused on your breath without very much interruption, you can practice mindfulness meditation anywhere, whenever you need it (ie. when you’re feeling particularly stressed).

Practice…But Not To Be Perfect

Meditation is a practice and that means that you have to do it regularly. Every day is best because it becomes part of your routine (like brushing your teeth or showering).

Although it becomes easier to maintain focus over time, you don’t need to start off meditation with any particular goal in mind. You don’t get “good” at meditation. You just keep practicing.

The benefits of meditation start immediately and increase over time. I hope I’ve given you incentive to at least try it out. Once you give it a good shot, you’ll wonder what you ever did without your daily meditation.

Ivana Chapman

References:

Ong, J.C. et al. A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for chronic insomnia. Sleep. 2014 Sep 1; 37(9): 1553–1563. 

Keyworth, C. et al. A mixed-methods pilot study of acceptability and effectiveness of a brief meditation and mindfulness intervention for people with diabetes and coronary heart disease. Behav Med. 2014 Apr; 40(2): 53–64.

Basu Ray, I. et al. Meditation and coronary heart disease: A review of the current clinical evidence. Ochsner J. 2014 Winter; 14(4): 696–703.

Lakhan, S.E. et al. Mindfulness-based therapies in the treatment of somatization disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2013; 8(8): e71834.

Is Yoga a Waste of Time?

Is Yoga a Waste of Time?

Hi. My name is Ivana Chapman and today I’m gonna answer the question “is yoga a waste of time”.

Well, that all depends. I’ve done yoga in the past and I do incorporate a lot of yoga let’s say into my stretching exercises at the very end of my work out. However, it all depends on how much time you have. If you’re very, very pressured and you only have three days a week to work out and get that physique that you want and that’s your primary goal is to have a great physique, I don’t think yoga is the way to get you there.

I really think you need weight training to get the muscle where you need it to be and to get that fat burning going. Yoga can be absolutely wonderful for a stress relief and relaxation for increased flexibility, perhaps reducing injuries. It’s also a wonderful balancing exercise for all the hard stuff. So say you’re doing sprinting and weights and martial arts and a lot of heavy stuff and contact stuff or perhaps you’re even in contact team sports, something like rugby or football. Yoga can be a great balance and can give you some recovery from that so mental and physical recovery from those types of activities, but if you’re focused on having a great physique and you’re short on time, really focus on the things that are gonna give you the most bang for your buck so that’s gonna be your weight training. Weight training sessions of maybe 45 minutes 3-4 times a week, that’s the easiest and most efficient way of getting a great physique. So in that case, yoga would be a waste of time. Sorry.

And now if you’re looking to get lean abs, which most of us are, check out my lean abs guide below for plenty of tips and tricks on how to get those abs and keep them there and also check out my website IvanaChapman.com for all things related to health and fitness. See you next time.

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Benefits of Changing Your Attitude

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Changing your outlook can have amazing effects on your success.

Yesterday I went for a walk and I saw a large group of teenage girls doing an after-school run down the path.  The girls were running as a large pack, but most were keeping pace in pairs or threes. As they passed by I managed to hear snippets of conversation.

One girl was clearly not enjoying herself and she said to the girl next to her, “Slow down, who cares?”.

“I do!”, the second girl replied. She was slightly ahead and turned around to shout the words enthusiastically before continuing her run forward.

Then I saw another pair of girls discussing track and field tryouts. The first girl said, “Try out with me!”. “Why?” her companion asked without any enthusiasm.

“Cause it’ll be fun!” was the reply.

Attitude and Enthusiasm

Those two conversations got me thinking about how important it is to have a positive attitude and a passion for life. One girl in each pair was clearly on the right track, showing enthusiasm for participation. The other two girls made me think of the classic sullen teen who can’t be bothered with anything and doesn’t want to make any effort. I can picture the futures of those girls who showed enthusiasm and it looks a lot more exciting than the future of the other two girls. Think about the girl who wants to try out for the track team. Think about the girl who thinks it’s important to do well.

Doesn’t it seem like the world holds a lot more opportunities for her?

Changing Your Attitude

So which of these two sets of girls do you most resemble? Does exercise feel like too much of a chore and you can’t be bothered to leave the comfort of your couch every evening? Do you tackle tasks at work with gusto, or do you put them off until the last minute and then barely complete them? Then you might as well be a sullen teen. If you want to succeed at what you do in life – and bring people up with you, rather than dragging them down – you need to be that upbeat individual and bring an energetic spirit to everything you do.

Think about who you want to be and how you want to influence others.

Be a positive force and bring your best attitude forward every day.

Ivana Chapman 

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Take a Hike! Walking for Stress-Relief and Inspiration

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 “The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk.” Thomas Jefferson

Let me start off by saying that this isn’t going to be a blog where I debate whether walking is a good form of cardio, or how it compares to jogging or weight training.

When you want real physique results, you know what to do: weight training and eat a good diet.

The simple fact is that our bodies are designed to move and our modern lifestyle, with its tied-to-a-desk mentality, isn’t do us any favours.

Daily walking could just be the solution.

Walking for Everyone

Walking has the lowest barrier to entry of any activity. Practically anyone, from age about 1 to 101, can benefit from regular walking. It’s often prescribed for the elderly as their primary exercise (I also recommend weight training for this age group!), but many a harried executive has seen the benefits of adding walking to his/her daily routine. Sometimes all it takes is a brisk 10-15 lunchtime walk to clear your head and get pumped for an afternoon of productivity. A post-dinner walk instead of camping out in front of the TV, can be a major life change for many people.

Mental Health Benefits

Walking is often suggested as an initial intervention for mild to moderate depression. You don’t need to be facing a mild mental disorder from the practice though. Walking regularly (3-4x per week) helps increase brain connectivity and cognitive performance. You’ll be a brighter bulb in no time! combat the effects of aging. Walking on a treadmill is ok if the weather is unbearable, but research has also shown benefits from being outdoors surrounded by nature so try to get outdoors as much as possible.

Taking a walk with your family on the weekends is a great way to spend quality time your loved ones, as well as modelling healthy behaviour.

Clear Your Mind, Creative New Brilliance

I’ve always found long walks to be my most creative time. The first ten minutes or so can sometimes feel like a chore, but when I get going it feels like I never want to stop. My mind feels clear and free to create brilliant new ideas. After a long walk, I’m refreshed and full of inspiration.

If you’re struggling with an important decision, taking a walk might clear away the distractions of the day-to-day world that prevent you from finding the right choice. It’s such a simple trick that it’s easy to forget how beneficial it is. Just put one foot in front of the other and you’ll be moving forward with your life in the best way.

Ivana Chapman 

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Minimize Your Nutrition Stress

woman staring unhappily at chocolate

Is that bar of chocolate really worth worrying about so much?

“I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened.”

Mark Twain

We all have a tendency to worry occasionally and nutrition is one of those areas that cause people stress. The rules seem to change constantly and it’s tough to keep up. What should I eat? How often should I eat? What if those chocolate chip cookies grow legs and follow me from the kitchen?

It’s time to relax about your nutrition plan. It will never be perfect.

Move On

Ten years from now you might find out that the way you thought you should be eating didn’t do you any favours. I spent many, many years on the recommended “healthy” high-carb/plenty of whole grain diet that the mainstream told me to follow before I discovered that it was causing me damage. Do I worry about all those years now that I’ve found the right diet for me?

Absolutely not!

I’m happy to have found the right diet for me and I’m grateful every day for the benefits it now provides me.

Nutrition Anxiety

A few nutrition errors in your lifetime aren’t going to kill you.

You know what will kill you? Worrying every time you go out whether it’s ok to have the beef if it isn’t grass-fed. Trying to figure out if an apple is 80 or 85 calories (because each of your 2 nutrition apps say something different) will cause undue anxiety. That type of constant worry will put you in your grave faster than a truckload of pizza. If the excessive stress doesn’t give you a health issue, then someone might “accidentally” push you into oncoming traffic because you’re driving them crazy with your pickiness.

Most of the time it just doesn’t matter

There are certainly times in our lives when we need to be strict with ourselves, like before a fitness competition or when we’ve really let ourselves go and need to reign ourselves back in, but living your whole life that way will inevitably lead to unhappiness. You know that scene in romantic comedies when the uptight heroine finally let’s loose and realizes that she’s been unhappy throughout her hyper-controlled life? Maybe you’re also using control to mask dissatisfaction with other aspects of your life.

Does it really matter if you eat 2200 or 2000 calories today? Probably not, but a lifetime of 2200 calories a day compared to 2000 calories could certainly make a difference.

Long story short?

You need to be on the right path in the right direction to produce changes in your physique, or your life. You need to make the right “small steps” consistently to move towards your goal. If there’s a bump – or two – in the road, you’re better off getting back on track and not beating yourself up minor setbacks.

Just keep moving forward and you’ll get to your destination.

Ivana Chapman 

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Starting Your Morning Off Right

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Getting your morning off to a great start starts with a simple ritual

Rise and shine superstar…it’s time to take on the world! Every day you wake up to a world of possibilities. You have an amazing day ahead of you; during which you get to eat, work, exercise, and make your dreams come true.

So how do you make sure that this is the day that’s the start of something big?

Eat Breakfast

You’ve probably heard this one a thousand times before, but it needs to be repeated. What you eat (or don’t eat) first thing in the morning can affect you for the whole day. The problem is that most breakfast foods are starchy junk that you should only be having occasionally.

Cereal, toast, pancakes, muffins, and danishes are full of sugar and are the worst thing you can have in the morning. And don’t believe those silly cereal ads that tell you that their cereal is high in protein. Ten grams is not much protein; and protein is what you want to keep you full for longer during the day.

Read Something Inspiring

If you want to get your mind started off on a positive note, read a few pages of something inspiring. Choose a self-health book, an inspiring quotation site, or a fitness & lifestyle website (like this one!) that interests you. Make sure you’re reading something that you’re passionate about and that inspires you. Reading something with a powerful message that speaks to you will get your mind on the right track.

Take a Breather

Meditation is a great idea first thing in the morning, but if you don’t feel you’re ready for that commitment yet then try ten full deep breaths. Relax, close your eyes, breath out by drawing in your belly, hold for 3 seconds, and then release your breath by letting your belly move outward. Repeat ten times. It’s a fast, easy way to get focussed first thing in the morning. It’s also great to repeat throughout the day whenever you get stressed or overwhelmed.

Smile!

Sometimes it’s hard to get a smile going when it’s 6am and you’ve had only 5 hours of sleep the night before, but nothing gets you in a positive frame of mind more than forcing yourself to smile when you don’t feel like it. If you’re feeling especially weary, try smiling at yourself in the mirror in the morning (sounds cheesy, but it works!). If you’re feeling particularly brave, smile at the first person you see in the morning, whether it’s you’re spouse or a random stranger on the train.

Workout

Not everybody is a morning person, but if you can manage it then working out first thing in the morning will get you charged for the day. You also won’t have to deal with the “I’m too tired after work” excuse. Starting off your day right is all about having an inspiring, energizing routine that you can follow each morning. If you commit to a few easy steps, your whole day will change and the world you’re living in will better than it was before.

Ivana Chapman