How to Set Goals in Times of Uncertainty

Our everyday lives have been shifted and destabilized with the ongoing global pandemic. As we move forward in this time of uncertainty, a few experts offer their ideas on how to best make decisions and set goals.

Goal coach and speaker Jacki Carr recently wrote an article on Medium speaking directly to this common question: How do I set goals in times of uncertainty?

Here’s an excerpt:

“As we are entering a time in our lives we have never been before, some of us might be in waiting mode until things normalize until we normalize. Some of us might have a rule we set that goals can only be set when we are stable and sound in mind, body, and globe. (Author’s Notes:

We make up rules for ourselves to live by and often forget to check in to see if the rules still serve us or are even our own rules for living or someone else’s?). Some of us might feel fear and goals written in fear create more fear, they say. And some of us are relying on old goals, old ways in hope that it will all shake out.

Here is the deal, I never even wrote about the Coronavirus or COVID-19. I did not mention it up there. Because whenever someone is reading this, they are most definitely entering a time in their lives they have never been before.
Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change”.

We are always in a state of change, evolution, disruption, or expansion.

We don’t move backwards, time keeps on keepin’ on.
And so do we.

Therefore, when in our lives have we ever actually set goals in times of certainty?
I will tell you…

Never have we ever.
Because there is no. such. thing.

Take a moment to flip back in the book pages of your life. Tell me when you set a goal and had the exact road map to get there? When have you known every one of the moments that would lead to the finish line?”

A recent article in MindBodyGreen added to the conversation, recommending exchanging plans for present mindedness.

“Planning is important. It helps us organize our lives and create structures and goals for ourselves. That being said, as a society we have a habit of overplanning. We can all be guilty of this. We get focused on planning things down to a T. When we plan, we feel in control, which in turn makes us feel less vulnerable.

Moreover, sometimes the best things in life happen when we don't try to control them and instead let ourselves be vulnerable to the mysterious workings of the universe. I'm sure you can find dozens of examples of how chance and serendipity have led you to some of your happiest and most important connections in life.

So in this moment of unprecedented uncertainty, when all of your best-laid plans will likely seem foolish a year from now anyway, trying to live in the moment as much as possible is important. Let's help ourselves practice present-mindedness when we can and not take for granted the here and now by focusing too much on a planned future.”

The Best Oils to Use for Cooking

"When it comes to your health, "fat" is not necessarily a dirty word. You need some fat in your diet, and it actually performs some pretty impressive tasks like boosting energy, supporting cell growth, protecting your organs, keeping your body warm, and aiding in nutrient absorption and the manufacturing of hormones, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). And oils can be a great source of these healthy fats, but choosing the right variety is key," writes EveryDay Health.

According to experts interviewed by MindBodyGreen, canola oil should be avoided and replaced with other healthier alternatives.

"Despite some trace benefits, canola oil is often considered one of the least healthy vegetable oils because of the way it's manufactured. Most canola oils in the U.S. use chemicals, including hexane (a hazardous air pollutant) to extract the oil from the plant," wrote MindBody Green.

Experts recommend trying olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, sesame seed soil, and avocado oil.

In particular, flaxseed oil is a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of three omega-3 fatty acids (olive and canola oils also contain omega-3s). You need dietary omega-3s since your body cannot make them on its own. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and thus may help lower the risk of cancer, according to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, per EveryDay Health.

Flaxseed oil may also help reduce symptoms of arthritis, but avoid it if you’re on a blood thinner since flaxseed oil may increase bleeding, advises the Arthritis Foundation.

Owen Brady

Owen Brady.

Star Hockey Player. Resilient Teenager. Fighter.

“In November of 2018, promising prospect Owen Brady was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his left shin. After months of chemotherapy and rehab, he played his first game Friday and plans to continue chasing his hockey dream,” wrote the Hockey News.

Brady, a top prospect for the 2019 Ontario League draft, played his first game this August after almost 21 months. The 17-year-old was blindsided two years back by a cancer diagnosis. What started as a bump on his left shin while he was playing AAA midget hockey, resulted in an osteosarcoma diagnosis and a 19-hour surgical procedure, during which the tumor was removed and his shine was reconstructed.

“In the second period, I blocked a shot with my knee,” Brady said. “Got a nice bruise-slash-scar on top of my scar. But it’s all good.”

Read more about Brady’s journey here.

Marisa Harris

Coach. Inspiration. Leader

A turning point in Marisa’s life came in 1998 when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and given at most 9 months to live. In her quest to heal from cancer, she became certified in Mind-Body Medicine and as a Cancer Guide and Coach.

"Harris tapped the power within herself, as well as chemotherapy, to become a long-term survivor. Now she’s committed to motivating and supporting individuals in finding and using their power to heal their bodies, minds, and souls. Over the last 15 years, she has focused on helping thousands of cancer patients to flourish and succeed during adversity," wrote the WAMC Northeast Public Radio.

Marisa says she realized that recovering from cancer can be easier than recovering from sabotaging qualities of self-judgment and low self-esteem.

She uses skills from her 20-year experience as Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational & Performance Management at a Fortune 500 Company, and her graduate studies in Counseling Psychology at Columbia University.

Read more here. 

What You Need to Know About Healthy Fats

Fat-free and sugar-free diet fads are losing steam as more and more people wake up to the importance and benefits of integrating healthy fats into their diets.

While a fat-free diet was once thought to be an effective weight-loss method, diets such as the Mediterranean diet and the Keto diet have grown in popularity.

"We actually need fats -- can't live without them, in fact," reads WebMD.

"They provide essential fatty acids, keep our skin soft, deliver fat-soluble vitamins, and are a great source of energizing fuel. But it's easy to get confused about good fats vs. bad fats, how much fat we should eat, how to avoid artery-clogging trans fats and the role omega-3 fatty acids play in heart health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommends that adults get 20%-35% of their calories from fats. At a minimum, we need at least 10% of our calories to come from fat," reads the article.

In a recent interview with Mind Body Green, Cate Shanahan, M.D., shared what she views as the easiest way to know if something is a "healthy fat."

"If we're talking about fat that's a whole food, that's good," she explained. "That's natural fat, and human beings have been consuming it since there were human beings."

So the real key? Whole-food-based fats. Yep, when it comes to healthy fats, it's not that different from defining healthy foods: The closer something is to its natural form, the healthier it is, wrote Mind Body Green.

Read more about the different types of fats, which to avoid, and which to add to your diet, here.


Meditation Linked to Fewer Mistakes

If the prospect of a more peaceful, less reactive, and clearer state of being doesn’t get you to take a break and meditate, new research from Michigan State University linking mindfulness with fewer mistakes might persuade you.

A recent CNBC article outlined the recent study in which 212 undergraduate college students with no prior meditation experience listened to a guided meditation by Steven Hickman, a licensed clinical psychologist and the founding director of the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness.

Here’s a segment of the report: “The meditation instructed participants to notice the feelings, thoughts and physical sensations that arose in the moment and take note of them without judgment.

After meditating, participants completed a quiz on a computer that was intended to distract them and test their concentration. Throughout the experiment, participants were wearing electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, so researchers could measure their brain waves.

Researchers were looking for a specific neural signal that fires a half-second after you make a mistake, called ‘error positivity.’ They found that the strength of the ‘mistake’ signal was stronger in people who had meditated, meaning they were able to recognize and correct their slip-ups.

‘It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment,’ Jason Moser, the co-study author said in a press release.”

What made the meditation in this study unique is that instead of focusing on the breath, research participants were instructed to pay close to attention to the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that came up during the session.

“The goal is to sit quietly and pay close attention to where the mind travels without getting too caught up in the scenery,” said Jeff Lin, the co-author of the study.

Listen to the 20 minute seated meditation here.

One Powerhouse Veggie for Brain Health

Looking for an easy, tasty, and nutrient-packed green to add to anything from a smoothie, salad, sandwich, or pasta dish? With all the craze around superfoods and greens like kale and spinach, broccoli sprouts have been overlooked by most.

The immature broccoli plants, which resemble alfalfa or bean sprouts, have higher concentrations of the good-for-you compounds that have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and potentially cancer-fighting effects. They have a stronger, spicier taste that differs greatly from the grown-up version.

A recent MindBodyGreen article outlined the benefits of the small greens. “What makes them different and packs their power is a higher concentration of the necessary components to boost the production of sulforaphane.

In studies, sulforaphane has been linked to fighting against certain carcinogens, and it may support heart health and brain recovery as well. Researchers have also found it can support gut health, rounding out a pretty solid set of benefits that you may be able to attribute to these little sprouts.”

Dr. Jessica Cooperstone, Ph.D., assistant professor of Horticulture and Crop Science and Food Science and Technology at Ohio State University has focused on researching broccoli sprouts. She says that as a cruciferous plant, broccoli sprouts “contain compounds called glucosinolate, which convert into isothiocyanates when eaten and chewed,” per Refinery29. “All cruciferous veggies contain glucosinolates, but broccoli sprouts have an insane amount — about 10 to 100 times more than most cruciferous vegetables.”

She also speaks to the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts, which are especially potent, adding that “there's evidence to suggest that sulforaphane can prevent DNA damage that leads to cancer, and in studies on mice, sulforaphane seems to prevent inflammation that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease.”

To reap the full health benefits of broccoli sprouts, it’s best to eat them raw, as cooking them will deactivate the enzyme that converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates.

While you can find broccoli sprouts at many health stores, they are also easy to grow at home. This way, your grocery store run turns into a mini science experiment, as you can sprout them yourself in a little sprouting jar.

Lastly, neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D., reminds us to chew our food well for the best outcomes. "The trick here is chewing," he explained. "You've got to chew the broccoli sprouts in order to release the enzyme that then liberates, or activates, if you will, the sulforaphane."

Cardio Vs. Strength Training: Which Is Ideal for Your Fitness Goals?

While it’s important to incorporate both cardio and strength training into your exercise routine, we typically tend to focus on one or the other. Depending on your unique fitness goals, narrowing your focus may help you succeed quicker.

A recent LiveStrong article took into account insight from fitness experts to help you decide which movement is optimal to support your health and fitness goals.

Cardio, or aerobic exercise, is any movement or activity that increases your heart and breathing rate. This includes running, cycling, kickboxing, and dance classes like Zumba. Known for its ability to aid in weight loss, due to the high number of calories burned, cardio also helps improve brain health, supports healthy blood sugar levels and overall mobility, and promotes longevity -- among countless other benefits.

While resistance training, also known as strength training, was once thought to be reserved for those seeking to build muscle mass, more and more people are learning how vital it is for overall health.

"As we age, growth hormones in the body decrease, which contributes to muscle loss," says Amanda Murdock, CPT, director of fitness for Daily Burn. "Strength training helps us maintain and build muscle tissue."

Some overlooked benefits of strength training include better overall cardiovascular health, weight management, improved bone health and better quality of life as you age.

To reiterate, both cardio and strength training are important for optimal health, yet individuals with specific fitness goals and limited time may want to focus on one or the other.

For example, if you are training for a race, go with cardio, focusing on whatever form of cardio you’ll be doing come race day so that you can train the right muscles and avoid injury.

If you want to burn more body fat, pick up the weights. According to Bret Contreras, Ph.D., CSCS, author of Glute Lab: The Art and Science of Strength and Physique Training, strength training is the best workout for fat-loss in the long-term. Strength training builds muscle and increases your metabolism to help you stay leaner in the long-term, while cardio burns calories and helps with short-term weight loss.

A more obvious choice for building muscle and getting stronger would be strength training, as it builds muscle mass the fastest.

"If you want to get stronger, there's only so much stress you can put on your body just using your body weight." When you strength train, you can progressively overload your body to continue making gains,” says Contreras.

If your goal is simply to become more active, try a combination of the two. Balance is key, especially for beginners, who would benefit from full-body strength training sessions a couple of times a week, and a few cardiovascular sessions per week.

For strong bones, go strength-training, while for stress management, most find light cardio optimal. However, it’s important that each individual listens to their body and their emotional needs, and chooses based on that intake.

In order to reduce the risk of chronic disease, both cardio and strength training have been proven to offer notable benefits that protect long-term health.

New Study: Mindfulness Reduces Fearful and Anxious Emotions

With the prevalence and continued rise of anxiety and trauma-related disorders, it’s become more and more important to develop effective treatment strategies. This need is what sparked new research from the University of Southern Denmark exploring the effect of mindfulness training on participants’ ability to rid the body of negative emotions.

A recent report from MindBodyGreen outlined the study: “Researchers recruited 26 participants and placed them into either an experimental or control group. While the experimental group went through a four-week mindfulness training consisting of daily practices of short breathwork or meditation through a smartphone app, the control group did not. After the month-long training period, participants were brought into a lab to complete an experiment in emotions.

Researchers were able to condition-specific fear reactions linked to certain images by subjecting participants to a small shock after showing them the images. The association of the shock with the images created a physiological response of fear within the body. Typically, these learned fear reactions are acquired through any sort of trauma or psychological disorders and can be very difficult to forget.

The following day, participants were brought back to test their reactions to the same images. The researchers discovered that subjects who had been trained in mindfulness were able to completely extinguish the fear reactions from the previous day, showing no response when faced with the images. The results, therefore, established the link between mindfulness and eliminating fearful and anxious emotions, which is the first time a study has proved this with direct physical evidence.”

While most of us have a basic understanding of the power of mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation to alleviate stress and anxiety in the present and future, this particular research experiment shows how these practices can help those suffering from fear and anxiety due to past trauma. The research implies that things like guided meditation may be used in place of a typical psychological treatment to help alleviate trigger responses.

“We can show that mindfulness does not only have an effect on subjective experiences of negative emotions, as has been shown previously but that you can actually see clear effects on autonomic arousal responses, even with a limited amount of training,” said lead author Johannes Björkstrand. He added that the team hopes to replicate the study on a larger scale and learn more about what processes in the brain are involved.

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