Archive for December, 2013


Welcome to the resolution

According to 40-45 percent of Americans make at least one resolution for the coming year. What is the attraction so many hold for this tradition – and the ensuing tradition of breaking a new year’s resolution?

One year ends and another begins, with the new year offering a clean slate and a chance for us to make a promise to ourselves to make improvements in some area of our lives. And that, in and of itself, is the attraction.

The history of the resolution

The tradition of making resolutions for the new year began in the time of the Roman Empire. As Christianity became the official religion, it became more a time of reflection and prayer, and the resolution fell out of favor.

In America, the Puritans reinstituted the tradition by encouraging their children to reflect on the past year and contemplate on the coming year. According to Bill Petro, “These were enumerated as commitments to better employ their talents, treat their neighbors with charity, and avoid their habitual sins.” (Read more about the history of resolutions.)

Sound familiar?

The most common resolutions

People are similar in that they share common goals, with one of those being improving themselves. listed the most popular new year’s resolutions:

  1. Drink Less Alcohol
  2. Eat Healthy Food
  3. Get a Better Education
  4. Get a Better Job
  5. Get Fit
  6. Lose Weight
  7. Manage Debt
  8. Manage Stress
  9. Quit Smoking
  10. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  11. Save Money
  12. Take a Trip
  13. Volunteer to Help Others

Tips to making successful new year’s resolutions

Whether you’re making resolution deals with health, money or travel, to be successful in whatever you’re resolving, there are a few things you can do to improve the odds.

  • Be specific
  • Don’t set unrealistic goals
  • Avoid several related goals at the same time
  • Writing them out is a good reminder to stay motivated
  • Involving a friend keeps you accountable
  • Don’t let temporary setbacks derail you

Foods to help curb holiday stress

More than any time of the year, Americans experience a higher level of stress during the holidays. Schedules fill up and there’s less time to relax. We don’t eat right and are less likely to exercise regularly.

You can help fight holiday stress by stocking up on some foods that can help you fight off stress caused by the holidays.


The nuts qualify as a superfood, full of vitamin E and B vitamins, which may protect both your immune system and mood. They also have a high concentration of magnesium, which fights free radicals in the body. Magnesium deficiency can cause fatigue and trigger migraine headaches.


High in potassium, which can lower blood pressure, and everyone can use a little help there, especially this time of year. Try smearing avocado on a sandwich in place of cheese and mayo to reduce calories and increase good fats.

Blood oranges

German researchers found that those participants who had been given high doses of vitamin C before the stress-fest had lower blood pressure levels and concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol. Blood oranges are in season during the winter and have more vitamin C than regular oranges.

Chamomile tea

It almost seems like a running joke to offer someone chamomile tea at bedtime, but it does help to reduce anxiety and can help you get the rest you need to deal with – you guessed it – stress during the day.


Lentils are full of folate, which helps make serotonin and dopamine. They are low calorie, filling, and a good source of fiber.


Carbohydrates help tryptophan, which contains serotonin, reach the brain. Your brain uses that serotonin to help your mood. In addition to being high in those carbs, oatmeal is high in fiber and has been found to reduce cholesterol.


Yes, they do have that reputation. But oysters contain more than seven times the zinc per serving of any other food. Zinc deficiency can cause depression and anxiety.


The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon support healthy brain cell function, endorphin levels, and positive mood. It’s also high in vitamin D.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are high in B6 and magnesium which can enhance your mood. They are also an excellent source of lycopene, an antioxidant that improves mood by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds linked to depression.


Remember the food coma from Thanksgiving? Turkey is high in tryptophan, which produces serotonin. So if you can find a turkey recipe that uses oatmeal, you’d help improve the country’s mood quickly.


Yes, there is a chocolate that is kind of healthy. Dark chocolate increases serotonin and reduces cortisol, which is a hormone that can promote inflammation triggered by stress. You’re welcome.


Building core muscles through plank exercises

A couple years ago, planking became a phenomenon. People lie in a prone position and the object is to take a funny photo.

However, planking is also part of an exercise regimen designed to build core muscles. Anatomically speaking, the core refers to the body minus the legs and arms.

Core muscles defined

Building and maintaining core muscles are important because functional movements are highly dependent on the core. Functional movements involve gross motor movement involving the muscles of the abdomen and spine. Lack of core development can result in a predisposition to injury.

Planking benefits

Plank exercises are a type of isometric training that involves contracting muscles against stationary resistance. Common for injury rehabilitation or reconditioning, isometric exercises can help you get past plateaus. They can also help improve energy transference between upper and lower body.

Plank exercises benefit a variety of aspects of your physical fitness and general well-being.

Strength – Planking helps strengthen midsection, upper and lower-body muscles in the front of your body. It also strengthens inner core muscles that support the joints.

Flexibility – Plank exercises help increase flexibility in posterior muscle groups, including the shoulders, hips, legs and even the arches of your feet.

Aesthetic – Plank exercises benefit your appearance by improving posture, stabilize your spine and hips, among other things.

Mental – Plank exercises stretch muscles that stiffen throughout the day, which contributes to stress. If you carry tension in your shoulders, plank exercises could be very beneficial. Some studies indicate that they can suppress anxiety and alleviate symptoms of depression.

Plank exercises are deceptively simple and deceptively difficult. As always, consult a physician before starting any exercise routine. On her website, celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels has a basic plank exercise routine. (link to


What to do when you have a case of the Mondays… on Thursday

Remember the scene in ‘Office Space’ where Peter is in a bad mood and makes it all too apparent? The annoying secretary says “Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays.”

We’ve all had one of those days where we’re just in a mood that shows no sign of improving. The problem is that it can occur any day, even on the weekend.

Here are 10 things you can do to shake the Mondays, no matter what day it hits:

Crank up the mood music

Create a play list of tunes for your iPod that puts you in a good mood. A University of Missouri study found that participants who listened to cheery music noticed an improvement in their moods.

Eat some walnuts

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that omega-3 fats may make people less prone to depression. People with higher omega-3 blood levels scored 49 to 58% better on psychological tests than those with the lowest blood levels.

Stop and smell the flowers

Whether you live or work in the Flower District or know a store that has great flowers, being around flowers can shift your mood. Researchers have found their scent is perhaps more powerful than seeing them.

Let the sunshine in

We’re not talking about taking a walk outside every time you feel down, although it would probably help. Open the blinds in the office; eat breakfast near an east-facing window.

Just smile

Like yawns, smiles are contagious. Even if it’s forced – if it’s the last thing you feel like doing – smile.

Create an emergency perk-up file

For when you’re having a really bad day, keep a file of mementos with pictures, cards, letters, and copies of emails that are guaranteed to perk you up.

Random acts of kindness

According to a Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, when people make the effort to do three kind acts a day, depressive symptoms drop by 94 percent.

Support the arts

Simply walking around a museum or an art studio can increase your attention to detail and creativity.

Take a nap

If you find yourself with a case of the Mondays on a Saturday, hitting the couch for a quick nap can be the best way to shake your mood. A 10- to 30-minute nap helps improve mood, alertness and productivity.

Take a break from technology

Research indicates that being too plugged-in can have a detrimental effect on your mood. Between a cell phone addiction and sitting in front of a computer all day, you need to give yourself a break a few times a day. Leave the desk and the phone and take 10 minutes to recharge.


Many studies have indicated that a good number of Americans live in a constant state of mild dehydration. Drinking enough water isn’t just important for your physical health. Not getting enough water has been linked to fatigue and scattered concentration. How much is enough? Divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces over the course of the day.