Tag Archives: exercise

Scientifically Proven Healthy Habits- Get Back On Track!

Scientifically proven healthy habits: Stress, anxiety, and general unhappiness are all caused by an imbalance in our lives. In other words, a balanced life is a happy life. What are the healthy habits that you want to carry into the future? Love, friends, work, and family are the basic pillars of happiness, but there are other areas that play an important role as well. Exercising, eating well, spirituality, nature, altruism, and down-time are all important “secondary” areas that need to be full and thriving in order to feel the “happiness” that we all strive for. What are the 7 keys to happiness?

Healthy habits

In modern societies, our daily habits are directly related to the four most common causes of death- cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. The WHO (2008) warned about a global epidemic of obesity throughout the world and the costs that would come with it. Correcting just one behavior -drinking, smoking, physical exercise, or diet- ensures that you live a longer and better life. Do you feel trapped in your bad habits? Do you have a hard time finding happiness outside of drinking, going out, eating, and other potentially dangerous habits? It might not seem like it, but healthy doesn’t always mean boring, and not everything good is unhealthy!

Changing your daily habits can have countless benefits on your physical and mental health. Unlike medication and therapy, there is no extra cost, no doctors appointments, and no stigma attached to making lifestyle changes. Healthy habits can also be “neuroprotectors” and help reduce the possibility of cognitive deterioration caused by aging.

Therapy, however, is a great option for many people, especially if it seems like the problems they’re having are more serious than lifestyle changes can help. If you’re thinking about going to therapy, it’s important to know if you should see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, as they have different specialties. Due to financial and institutional pressure, it’s become more common to have “express therapy” sessions, where the psychiatrist will prescribe more medication and spend less time treating the possible psychological symptoms that the patient is suffering from. Before seeing a psychotherapist, try to make some healthy habit changes and see where it takes you.

6 Healthy habits that improve well being

1. Exercise

This healthy habit can help reduce the risk of a number of diseases and is therapeutic for a number of physical alterations from prostate cancer to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

A number of studies have shown how exercise can help reduce the risk of depression and some neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Anxiety, eating disorders, and depression have also been shown to be reduced through exercise, as well as chronic pain and some symptoms of schizophrenia.

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise are effective, and it seems that sessions of 30 minutes or more of high intensity workouts are most beneficial.

This healthy habit provides benefits due to its varied effects, like the release of serotonin, which improves sleep, and endorphins. The psychological effects of exercise include improved self-esteem, self perception, interruption of negative thoughts, and relaxation.

2. Diet

There is scientific evidence that proves that a healthy, balanced diet can improve well-being. The ideal diet would be made up of the following:

A diet with a mix of multicolored fruits and vegetables
Fish like salmon has omega-3 acids. Avoid fish with high mercury levels like shark, tuna, etc.
Reduce caloric intake

There are some foods like fish, vegetables, fruit, and a variety of reduced animal fats that are neuroprotectors. There are currently studies being done to test how Vitamin D, folic acid, S-Adenosyl methionine, and fish fat supplements.

healthy habits-Eating

3. Nature

For thousands of years, people knew how to use nature as a source of health and wisdom. Shamans searched for places with abundant nature, yogis delved into the jungle, and Native Americans had their visions in nature. There have been studies conducted about how being in nature can improve subjective, cognitive, emotional attention, and spiritual well-being.

Nature also offers us silence that cities and highly populated areas can’t. The constant movement of human presence has cognitive, emotional, and psychosomatic consequences, which can produce chronic stress, attentional difficulties, and sleep and cardiovascular difficulties. Nature provides with the peace to find ourselves.

4. Social Relationships

Social relationships are a healthy habits that is central to physical and mental well-being. Rich relationships have been shown to reduce health risks from the flu to stroke, death, and multiple other pathologies. Good social habits are associated with happiness, higher quality of life, resilience, cognitive capacity, and even knowledge and wisdom.

These conclusions are based in the field of social neuroscience, which shows that we are independent creatures, made to relate and empathize with others, and equipped with brain systems like mirror neurons.

This healthy habit of maintaining healthy social relationships is very important, and our society today makes us more isolated than every. For example, Americans spend less time with their family and friends, fewer intimate relationships, and are less involved in groups and communities.

5. Recreational activities

Participating in activities just for fun is a healthy habits that helps improve well-being. From a behavioral point of view, people with mood disorders don’t show interest in recreational activities, and participating in these activities has been shown to raise interest. So, the lower you feel, the more important it is to do something you enjoy!

These activities can be anything, from playing games to seeing friends. It also helps improve social relationships and maturation in children. Better sense of humor, reduced stress, and improved mood and immune system are all consequences of taking part in activities that you enjoy.

6. Relaxation and stress management

While stress is universal and often impossible to avoid, there are ways to manage it. Activities like Tai Chi and Qui Gong are becoming more and more popular in modern societies, and have been associated with physical and psychological benefits related to depression and anxiety. Some western stress management techniques are self-hypnosis, visualization, and progressive muscle relaxation. Other competitive techniques like yoga and meditation are practices by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, showing a variety of therapeutic effects.

Tips to promote healthy habits

  1. Do some kind of exercise and get some rest. You don’t have to go out an run a marathon, but getting moving for a few minutes each day will help you make it into a daily habit. And, who knows, maybe you’ll even start to like it!
  2. Reflect on your habits. Do you do anything too much (eating, drinking, etc.)? How do you feel after binging? Balance is key, and there’s time for everything.
  3. Slow down! Stress is the biggest cause of anxiety. If you’re starting to feel stressed, take a break and practice some stress relief techniques.
  4. Do something you life. Our passions are what keep us going, and your life can’t get in the way of having some time just for you.
  5. Spend time with family and friends.

Any questions? Feel free to leave me a comment below 🙂

References

Clark, C., & Stansfeld, S. A. (2007). The effect of transportation noise on health and cognitive development: A review of recent evidence. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 20, 145–158

Deslandes, A., Moraes, H., Ferreira, C., Veiga, H., Silveria, H., Mouta, R., . . . Laks, J. (2009). Exercise and mental health: Many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology, 59, 191–198

Gu, Y., Nieves, J. W., Stern, Y., Luchsinger, J. A., & Scarmeas, N. (2010). Food combination and Alzheimer disease risk: A protective diet. Archives of Neurology, 67, 699 –706

Hamer, M., & Chida, Y. (2009). Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: A systematic review of prospective evidence. Psychological Medicine, 39, 3–11

Jetten, J., Haslam, C., Haslam, S. A., & Branscombe, N. R. (2009). The social cure. Scientific American Mind, 20, 26 –33

Pryor, A., Townsend, M., Maller, C., & Field, K. (2006). Health and well-being naturally: ‘Contact with nature’ in health promotion for targeted individuals, communities and populations. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 17, 114 –123

Stathopoulou, G., Powers, M., Berry, A., Smits, J., & Otto, M. (2006). Exercise interventions for mental health: A quantitative and qualitative review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 13, 179 –193

Sui, X., Laditka, J., Church, T., Hardin, J., Chase, N., Davis, K., & Blair, S. (2009). Prospective study of cardiorespiratory fitness and depressive symptoms in women and men. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 43, 546 –552

Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. (2006). The meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61, 227–239

This article was originally written in Spanish by Xabi Ansorena

Brain Gym: 16 Activities That Will Help Your Brain Stay Younger

Brain Gym for a healthy mind. A few years ago, we started to learn about the importance of training our brains. Today we know that in order to enjoy life to the fullest, our brain needs to be in shape as well. Find out the 16 brain gym exercises that will help your brain health.

Life expectancy has risen, and as we age, our brain starts deteriorating. A few good habits can help slow down cognitive aging and help keep the human brain in shape. In this article, we’ll talk to you about different brain gym strategies that will help you build new neural connections and boost your cognitive reserve. Lifestyle and our habits play an important role in the physical changes that our brains undergo. The sooner you start training your brain, the longer it will stay in shape. Sign up for your brain gym!

CogniFit Cognitive Brain Training adapts to your specific cognitive needs. Train your cognitive skills with this popular tool.

Is it really possible to improve a specific cognitive skill by training with a brain gym routine? Sometimes you may find yourself wondering if a brain gym routine will actually make it possible to improve our memory, planning, spatial orientation, processing speed, reasoning, creativity, etc. While there isn’t any magic recipe to keep cognitive aging at bay, you can start some exercises to slow it down and improve cognitive reserve. Take your brain seriously and try some of the brain gym exercises that we have below.

Brain Gym can your brain plasticity. The brain has the amazing ability to adapt and change depending on our experiences. Brain plasticity is what makes this adaptation easy, and is what allows us to help mold and adapt our brains to different circumstances or surroundings.

There is one notable type of brain plasticity, called functional compensatory plasticity, that causes a small group of elderly people to achieve almost the same amount or higher cognitive activity than their younger counterparts, despite their age. If we think of the average aging individual, we can expect their cognition to slowly decline as they age. However, in the case of functional compensatory plasticity, the brain actually compensates for the lack of cognitive activity, ultimately activating more brain parts than others of their own age or supposed cognitive state.

Brain gyms help the brain adapt, which we have shown is an essential part to brain health, especially as we age. Changing some simple habits and practicing mentally stimulating activities can help keep the brain active which makes it easier for the brain to create neurons and connections. Take a look at our suggestions and put them into action.

Brain Gym: 10 ways to keep your brain sharp

Exercising these powerful cognitive skills helps regenerate neural connections. Brain gyms can help slow down cognitive decline, which can delay the effects of neurodegenerative effects.

1. Brain gym while you Travel

Travelling stimulates our brains, exposes to new cultures and languages, and helps us learn about the history of a new place. According to a study, having contact with different cultures gives us the ability to learn about different cultures, which helps improve creativity and has important cognitive benefits.

Brain Gym: If you have the resources to travel, do it! Visit new places, emerge yourself in the culture, and learn from the natives. If you can’t travel, make an effort to surround yourself with different cultures and people, and visit new places right in your own city.

2. Brain gym while you Listen to music

Listening to music can be a great activity because music is a powerful stimulus for our brains. Certain studies have shown how listening to music activates the transmission of information between neurons, our ability to learn, and our memory. Listening to music can also slow neurodegenerative processes (this effect was only present in those who were familiar with music).

Listening to music can also positively affect our mood and activate almost all of our brain, which makes it a great way to stimulate the brain.

Brain Gym: You can add music to so many parts of your day. Turn on the radio when you’re cooking or driving in the car. Play your favorite “cardio” or “pump-up” playlist when you’re at the gym… and remember, it’s never too late to learn how to play an instrument! There are tons of video tutorials on YouTube that can help you get started.

3. Brain gym while enjoying nature

The best gym is being in nature. It helps us disconnect from our daily routines and obligations, and reduces stress and anxiety. According to this study, being in nature, whether it be out at a park or seeing trees from the window, helps reduce attentional fatigue. Living in areas with gardens or trees improves attention and inhibits our impulses. Being in nature also gets us moving and helps us increase the amount of physical exercise we do.

Brain Gym: Being in nature is good for our health and well-being. You don’t need to go live in the countryside to get these benefits- talking away in green areas, or even hanging some pictures of nature, can give us some of these benefits. Try to get away on the weekend and go to the mountain or beach. Find a great hiking route and make it a weekend activity. You’ll get some exercise and it’s a great brain gym!

4. Write things by hand and train your brain

Take handwritten notes rather than typing on a computer or tablet. Writing by hand is a brain gym exercise because it helps boost memory and learning, according to this study. Writing also helps us process and integrate learned information.

Brain Gym: Leave your laptop at home and get yourself a notebook. You can also think about getting a tablet that allows you to write and later turns your words into text.

5. Brain gym: Physical exercise

According to many studies like this one, doing and enjoying exercise created new neurons within our brain, improves learning, cognitive performance, and boosts neuroplasticity. A recent study established that starting physical exercise when there are already signs of dementia might not be that a beneficiary as starting while being completely healthy. Therefore, you should start exercising as soon as possible.

Brain Gym: According to studies, aerobic exercise is the best for us. Get out and run, dance, swim, skate, or even just walk around. Getting started can be difficult, but just think about the pay-off!

Brain gym and exercise

6. Brain gym: Keep your work area clean and organized

A recent study has shown that doing work that doesn’t challenge your brain, as well as working in an untidy environment, can actually cause damage to your brain health in the long-run.

Brain Gym: A clean work environment makes us feel calm, which allows our brain to work better. Throw out papers and things that you don’t need. Clean up your desk and the space around you.

7. Learn a language and exercise your brain

According to a study, speaking two or more languages helps protect from cognitive deterioration. The study discovered that bilingual people had a higher IQ and received higher points in the cognitive tests compared to others in their age group. This can happen even after learning a language as an adult.

Brain Gym: Sign up for a class in French or Spanish or Portuguese or any other language you’ve ever thought about learning! Try to watch movies in their original languages (with or without subtitles), you’ll start to pick up the sounds and your brain will get a great workout. Today, we have access to great resources online, all it takes is a little searching!

8. Brain gym: Sleep

According to a study, sleeping too much or too little is associated with cognitive aging. As an adult, it has been shown that less than 6 or more than 8 hours of sleep leads to worse cognitive scores as a consequence of premature aging in the brain.

The right amount of sleep is vital for the proper function of our bodies, as well as our well-being. Both sleeping too little and sleeping too much can have negative effects on cognitive performance, response time, recognizing errors, and attention.

Brain Gym: Try to keep an adequate sleep schedule by creating a routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up everyday at the same time. If your one of those people who tends to sleep too little, try going to bed a little earlier over time. Put your phone, TV, computer, etc. away at least 30 minutes before bedtime to reduce any symptoms of technological insomnia. Make sure your room is a comfortable temperature, there’s not too much light or sound coming in, and that your room is clean and ready to be slept in. Doing this can even help you become a morning person!

9. Brain Gym: Read

People who don’t read a lot have been shown to have lower cognitive performance compared to avid readers, according to a study. Those who don’t read often receive lower scores in processing speed, attention, language, and abstract processing.

According to researchers, this low performance in subjects who read little affects their brain’s ability to adapt after suffering from brain damage. More highly educated people use their brain’s resources to compensate for the cognitive deterioration due to aging. In others words, they have a higher level of functional compensatory plasticity, as we mentioned before. This can be applied the same was for people who read often.

Brain Gym: If you like to read, you’ve got it pretty easy. If you don’t like reading and it doesn’t appeal to do, don’t worry! There are tons of different genres to try out. You’ll find that some things are easier to read, like graphic novels. You can read magazines, newspapers, etc. about anything you like, and you’ll still get all the benefits of reading. It’s just a matter of keeping your brain active.

10. Brain gym: Practice yoga and meditation

Meditation can have long-term changes in your brain, according to this study. People who have been meditating for years have more gyri in the (ridges in the brain that are used in quickly processing information). This is also another proof of neuroplasticity, as our brain can adapt and change depending on our experiences.

According to another study, practicing yoga for 20 minutes improves speed and precision in working memory and inhibitory control (the ability to inhibit behavior when it’s necessary) tests. These measurements are associated with the ability to pay attention, and hold on to and use new information.

Yoga and meditation help us use our mental resources more efficiently, and helps us reduce stress and anxiety, which improves our performance.

Brain Gym: Meditation and yoga are “in” right now, so it shouldn’t be hard to find classes and get started. If you don’t want to go to a class, there are tons of instructors on YouTube to show you how to meditate and do yoga, without having to leave the house.

11. Brain gym: Eat well and avoid drugs

What we eat affects our brains. Eating well helps keep our brains young and prevents cognitive decline. We already know that there are “superfoods” can work together to help keep our bodies healthy. However, a diet of varied fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and few processed foods, can also greatly improve our overall health. A healthy diet doesn’t only help prevent a large number of diseases caused by diet, but it also helps slow down physical and cognitive aging. Brain Gym comes also from the consumption of different nutrients. Watch below to discover how food affects your brain.

Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs all contribute to an increased risk of suffering from different types of diseases and contributes to premature aging.

Brain Gym: If you want to learn how to eat well, you should talk to a nutritionist or doctor who can best guide you to the best diet for you. Don’t trust “miracle diets”, they don’t work and can be dangerous for your health. Choose fruits and vegetables over sweets and whole grains over white bread. Keep an eye on how much sugar and fat your eating, and cut out as much alcohol as possible. It can be hard to get started, but ask for stop smoking tips if you need it!

12. Brain Gym: Control your stress levels!

Take care of your mental health! Mental health issues and constantly thinking negatively affects our overall well-being. However, this study has shown that it also affects our brain in the long-term. Having suffered from depression or anxiety disorders increases the risk of having dementia.

Brain Gym: Control your stress levels with some relaxation techniques. Listening to relaxing music helps relieve stress, and practicing yoga or meditation can also help keep stress at bay. If you’re not sure if you have a mental health issue, get in touch with a mental health specialist.

13. Brain Gym: Try new things

New studies have shown that immersing yourself in new hobbies that require some kind of mental challenge helps improve and maintain cognitive function and can help prevent cognitive deterioration.

Brain Gym: Take the time to try to learn new things. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at them or not! The important thing is that you have fun and you challenge your brain. Try learning how to play chess, how to sew, take on a DIY project, draw, write, learn how to play an instrument, etc.

14. Brain Gym: Spend time with your family and friends

Social relationships stimulate our brains, which helps keep it active and younger for longer. Socializing also helps reduce stress and improves our mood, which helps with our overall mental health.

Brain Gym: Spend more time with your loved ones (especially those who transmit positivity), meet new people, make new groups of friends, etc.

15. Brain Gym: Use your brain whenever you can

“Use it or lose it”, kind of. The best way to make sure your brain keeps working the best that it can is to constantly use and challenge it. We have access to new technology, which makes our lives easier, but it also makes our brain lazy. Before, we had to make an effort to learn and remember something. Now, many tasks have become computerized, which makes our brains go on autopilot. Try to give your brain the chance to work before reaching for the calculator or the GPS or Google.

Brain Gym: Try to solve math problems without a calculator, limit how often you use your GPS, and try to remember information on your own.

Memorize a list of words. For example, try to memorize your grocery list before leaving the house and time how long it takes you to remember it.

In the following video, you’ll see how you can help your brain work well and stay young. We can help our brains create new neurons, even as adults. Sandrine Thuret explains how we can help create new neurons.

This post was originally written in Spanish by CogniFit psychologist Andrea Garcia Cerdan

Why Does Your New Year’s Resolution Fail And What To Do About It

As the new year approaches, many people find themselves tallying up all of the things that they didn’t accomplish this year, and making lists of the things they hope to change in the coming year. “Eat better, lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, drink less, get organized…” The list can go on and on, but as the year goes on, where do these lists end up? Come February, many people forget their new year’s resolution to cut back on junk food and order a large pizza on the weekend. It’s happened to everyone, so how can be make these New Year’s resolutions last?

New year’s resolution

According to a study, 77% of people kept their resolutions for a week, but only 19% of people were able to keep up the good work over two years. Why is it so hard for us to keep our New Year’s resolutions? How can you make it last?

Why aren’t you keeping your New Year’s resolutions?

It’s always hard to make a lifestyle change, but it’s easy to keep a habit.

  • You want to change too many things at once
    Would you try to run a marathon after never having run in your life? Probably (and hopefully) not. The same goes for your New Year’s resolutions. It’s not impossible, but you would probably find it very difficult to quit smoking, eat better, and start exercising all at once. If your goal is too difficult, you’ll feel like it’s impossible to achieve and will get demotivated. Choose one thing and stick to that, and you’ll probably see how the other ones follow.
  • You’re not being realistic
    You’ve probably been told to shoot for the stars? Well, you might want to think about bringing those goals back down to Earth. If you give yourself a crazy goal, like trying to lose 30 lbs in a month, it’ll be unattainable and you’ll feel badly when you don’t reach it. Now sure how to start working out?
  • You’re not motivated
    A lot of people think that you have to find your motivation, when really you have to build it from zero. Motivation isn’t something that someone else can impose on you, and it doesn’t magically happen. You feel motivated when you make yourself feel motivated!
  • Your resolution ready
    If you’re trying to lose weight, but you have sweets, junk food, and your favorite frozen meal in the freezer, you’ll probably have a much harder time keeping your resolution. If you’re trying to drink less alcohol but have cans of beer in the fridge, you can see how it might make you want to have a drink when you get home from work.
  • Social norms and society in general isn’t on your side
    Quitting smoking is usually a big New Year’s resolution, so how does society keep us from kicking the habit? People are pretty conscious of how bad smoking is for you, and prices have gone up considerably, which does make it difficult to smoke, but going out also implies that you’re with your friends who likely share the same vices you do. You might have your group of “smoking buddies” who go outside and smoke together, but if you quit smoking, why would you go with them? Losing weight is even more difficult. How can you eat “healthy” if you’re constantly receiving contradictory information about what is healthy and what isn’t? Why would to do extra work if technology makes it easy to do everything? Why go out and get food when you can order in?

Get some stop smoking tips here

  • Your friends and family don’t “get it”
    “Come on, one drink won’t hurt you!” Substitute that for whatever your resolution is.. “grab a little piece of cake! One cigarette isn’t the end of the world..”.These are just some of the obstacles that we face when trying to create new habits. Not everyone will be trying to get you to fall back on your promise to yourself, but some close friends or family members might not take it seriously, and some might put their own pleasure above yours.
  • Characteristics of the habits
    Most people fall into bad habits for one of two reasons: They give us short-term pleasures, or the negative effects only appear in the long-term.

The factors that most influence our behavior when it comes to learning are those that give us automatic feedback or consequences, not those that take months or years to see a change. Think about working out, for example. You won’t see any major results in the first few weeks, or maybe even months, which is one of the reasons why it’s so hard to keep motivation high.

According to a study, some types of neurotransmitters that make us feel pleasure, like serotonin and dopamine are released when we perceive something that previously gave us pleasure, which makes us more prone to succumbing to it. Once a positive connection is made in the brain, it becomes harder to resist the temptation.

New year’s resolution

How can you keep your New Year’s resolution?

The part you’ve been waiting for.. how can you make your resolution stick?

1. Make one New Year’s resolution

Start with just one New Year’s resolution and give yourself the whole year to make the habit and stick with it. You can also add other resolutions to your list, but make sure you put them in the order that you want to achieve them! For example, 1. Quit smoking. 2. Eat better. 3. Work out, etc.

2. Change your environment

To really make a change, you need to change your environment. If you want to quit smoking, hide or throw out all of your lighters and ashtrays. If you want to eat healthier, don’t buy junk food. If you want to exercise more, put your sneakers by the door.

There are always little changes that will help you keep your New Year’s resolution.

3. Make realistic goals

Start little-by-little. If you want to start exercising, start by parking further and walking more. Don’t set out to lose 10 lbs a week and run a marathon 2 days later. Go little-by-little and set realistic, attainable goals for yourself. This way, you’ll stay motivated and will improve your habits!

4. Think of a goal that makes you happy without worrying about others’ opinions

You might be tempted sometimes to make a New Year’s resolution that is more in line with what other people want than what with you really want for yourself. Think about what you really want. Do you want to get more involved with your favorite hobby or set a goal to read a new book each month? Don’t feel pressured to follow the typical resolutions of losing weight and getting healthy. If you can’t commit to it 100%, set your sights on something that you really want to do. And remember- you don’t have to share your goals with anyone! You can make it as personal as you want.

5. Reward yourself

Rewards are a great way to keep you motivated, especially in the beginning when your new habit isn’t automatic. If you haven’t had sweets all week, congratulate yourself and really mean it! Maybe you need a little extra reinforcement? Take yourself on an outing! Go bowling or to the movies, or spend the day in your favorite park. But remember- don’t reward yourself with healthy eating by buying yourself a donut, and don’t smoke and extra cigarette because you didn’t smoke yesterday! Keep moving forward, not backwards.

6. Be aware that you might have some slip ups, and that’s OK

If you’ve ever tried making a lifestyle change, you know how hard it can be. You might find that one week you don’t make it to the gym, or that you have some pizza when you’re out with friends. This is normal and OK! If you punish yourself for every little slip up, you’ll end up exhausted and frustrated with yourself. Try not to be too critical of yourself and remember that you’re human!

If you do slip up, don’t dwell on it. Focus on how you’re going to do better next time. Didn’t go to the gym? Start planning next week’s workout and make yourself excited about it.

7. Make a resolution with a friend

Trying to make a change on your own isn’t easy, which is why employing the help from friends is a great way to stay focused and motivated. If you and your partner both smoke, try quitting together. If you and your best friend usually go out, cut back on drinking together! You’ll see how the sense of responsibility to one another can be a great motivator, and you’ll always have someone to talk to through the temptations.

8. Share your resolution with your closest friends and family

Letting your close family and friends know what your resolution is can be helpful, especially in situations where you might be tempted to break it. If you’re at a party or a bar, your friend can step in when others are pressuring you to drink, and your family won’t be pushing the extra piece of cake on you. You don’t have to tell everyone you know what you’re doing or what the purpose is, but you can subtly say that you’re no longer interested in x. For example, rather than having to awkwardly say “my New Year’s resolution is to lose 50 pounds this year” you could say something like “Thanks for the offer, but I’m actually staying away from donuts” (or cake, or bagels, etc.).

9. Plan for the difficulties

Keep in mind that just like some slip ups, you’ll probably be faced with some particularly difficult situations. If want to quit smoking, read up on what possible side effects are so that you’re prepared if you feel them. If you’re trying to drink less alcohol, plan for birthday parties by bringing your own cider or soda that you’ll be drinking for the night.

Think about writing down a list of all of the difficulties that you might think could happen. Parties are especially difficult for dieting and quitting smoking and drinking. Make a plan of action that you’ll follow. You’ll have a little bit of cake, and make sure to load up on salad and fruit, or you’ll keep yourself busy when your usual group goes outside to smoke. If you have a plan for these situations, you’ll feel more prepared and have a better chance of staying on track.

10. Write down the reasons for your New Year’s resolution

Having a written list of why you’ve chosen your New Year’s resolution will help build your motivation. Think about things like: using your time better, feeling healthy, playing with your kids, feeling stronger, improving your life in someway. These kinds of internal motivations are really powerful, and are the ones that will help you when you’re having a particularly hard time keeping your resolution. Put them somewhere you’ll see everyday and remember why you started in the first place!

What are your New Year’s resolutions this year? Leave me a comment below!

This article is originally in Spanish translated by Molly Minchew.

Exercise and the Brain: Does Running Longer Mean Better Brain Health?

A recent article from The New York Times brings up a question that many of us have been asking ourselves for years. What kind of exercise is really best for my brain? With the introduction of new fitness routines, namely high-intensity interval training (HIIT), more and more people have been shying away from traditional cardiovascular exercises like running and cycling to HIIT exercises, which involve short intervals of sprints or heavy lifting. So, when it comes to exercise and the brain, which is more beneficial?

A study carried out by the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland and published in the Journal of Physiology brings a new meaning to the term “gym rat”. By injecting rats with a substance that allowed scientists to track the neuroregeneration, or creation of new neurons in the hippocampus of the brain, they were able to accurately see the changes that different exercises have on the brain. The study used four different groups of rats- a control group (sedentary), a running group, a weight-lifting group, and a HIIT group.

Exercise and the Brain:

The Study- Exercise and the Brain

Over the course of seven weeks, each of the groups were given exercises to do. The running group had treadmills and running wheels to jog on, and ran up to a few miles a day. The weight lifting group had weights tied to their tails and climbed up walls. Finally, the high intensity interval training group was made to run sprints for a certain period of time, recover, and continue with a sprint, repeating this process for 15 minutes at a time. The neurogenesis of each of the groups was tracked to find which one had the most positive change in their hippocampal tissue.

After the course of the study, the running group had a noticeable increase in brain-derrived neurotrophic factor, a substance that regulates neurogenesis. Even more, the further that the rat ran, the more new neurons its brain had. This shows that there is a direct correlation between the amount of distance they ran and the amount of new neurons they generated.

The animals that followed a regimen of high intensity interval training, while showing significantly less neurogeneration than the runners, still increased neurons much more than the sedentary control group.

The final group, the real gym rats that practiced a weight training program, showed no neurogenesis. While they were clearly working out and improving other parts of their body, their hippocampal tissue looked like the control group that had not exercised at all.

What’s the Take Away?

This study answers some interesting questions and brings up even more. Does this mean that Crossfit is bad for you, or that your weight-loss regimen could be damaging your brain health? Not at all. Keeping an active lifestyle, especially as we age, is very important. This active lifestyle doesn’t only extend to physical health, but to mental health as well. Neurogeneration keeps our brains fit. It helps prevent many of the memory problems that come with aging and keeps our entire body working well.

So, you don’t have to give up your weight-lifting, but think about adding some running or long-distance endurance training into your weekly routine.