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Every year, come about April or May, we see that the resolutions we set for the “new us” during the beginning of the year are basically crumbling because of our lack of focus and discipline. First of all, don’t be hard on yourself, WE ARE NOT PERFECT! This time, I want you to focus on taking steps to be the best version of yourself, instead of trying to set unrealistic expectations.

How to Be the Best Version of Yourself

Now, I do believe in pushing yourself to reach the goals you set this year, but make sure those goals align with your own personal growth. You are your biggest competitor; push yourself to be better than you were the day before. Every year we fill our list up with the usual resolutions (for instance, lose more weight, work out more, eat healthier, etc.).

All of those things are important to our physical state of health, however, we tend to forget about resolutions that will contribute to our mental health. So this year add more “ME TIME” to your list. Sometimes, we work so hard managing our day to day lives that we never make time to really unwind and relax. Of course, everyone has their own ideas of what “me time” may actually consist of, but here are some non-negotiables that I believe should be on your list:

More time and activities for relaxation.

We need to make time to mentally check out from our busy lives and give our bodies a chance to rest. You can do this by cutting time out of your schedule to book a facial to feel refreshed and energized after a workout, or even a deep tissue massage to work out those knots and kinks you might have from sitting at your desk at work all day. Making time for the things that bring you fulfillment.

UNPLUG!!

We need to cut our screen time in half! Try to monitor the time you spend watching tv or scrolling through your social media timelines.

Being aware of the state of your mental health.

Your mental health is just as important as you physical health. Sometimes days can get hard and things and get stressful, so this year let’s focus on how to turn those lemons into lemonade. Try getting a journal to write down your ideas, goals, or whatever comes to mind or cutting at least 5 minutes a couple of times out of your day for meditation. Meditation is the key to clarity – those moments of solitude and stillness can fill you with so much inner peace and ease.

Related: want to start practicing mindfulness and meditation but don’t know how? Here are some easy tips to follow!

Adding affirmations to your life.

Affirmations are used to train our subconscious mind to believe things about ourselves and create the reality we want. This is also called the law of attraction – the idea of your thoughts becoming things. The energy you put into the universe, you shall receive. When you see your mind indulging in the negativity, your more than likely to experience some sort of negativity in your life. Affirmations keep us mentally disciplined and focused.

They key to writing effective affirmations is making sure that they are written in first person, that they are positive, emotionally charged, and in a present state. So for a example, “I am healthy and strong, I love when my body feels energized and renewed when I make healthy choices.

Keep those things in mind when creating your own personal affirmations for yourself this year. Feel free to change them weekly, monthly, yearly, etc. Do whatever you feel is best for you!

Our future is filled with so much promise, let’s take advantage of it! Here’s to personal growth and development!

Post written by FFC contributor.

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Mindfulness is often associated with seated meditation. This is a very traditional and useful practice, but in many of our lives it can become difficult to find time to sit down and “do nothing” (or what may seem like doing nothing.) However, you can practice mindfulness every day in many forms and during everyday activities – as practices, exercises, or games. At first, finding peace and joy within can be difficult with all the mental chatter. However, like everything else, it is through practice that we get better. Here are some simple, introductory-level ways to practice mindfulness every day and reap its benefits in our day-to-day lives.

Mindfulness In Walking

As you walk from room to room or place to place, a first step may be to notice your breath and choose to bring more awareness to it. You may then notice the weight in your feet as you take each step. You can count the number of steps you take for each inhale and exhale.

You might then begin to think: how do the hips and arms move? Do they swing? Am I hunched over? Can I make my collar bone wide and look further down the road? What can I do to make myself more aware of my body?

Mindfulness In Eating

Taking your attention from your phone and social media, move it to the food before you. How does it smell? Are there a variety of textures and tastes? Are you eating fast or slow? Can you slow down? Begin to find space to breathe during or between mouthfuls as you chew thoroughly. Savor the flavors. Chewing slowly is an effective way to prevent overeating. What can I do to be more mindful of what I eat?

Related: check out this post for more tips on eating with mindfulness.

These practices can be done for as little as one breathe, or as many as 50. For 1 minute or for 5. The most important thing to see results is to have the intention to practice consistently.

What are some of your favorite ways to practice mindfulness? Leave them in the comments below or share them with us using #FFCChicago! If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and relaxation techniques or schedule an appointment with Alejandro, contact him at asalinas@ffc.com or schedule an appointment here!

Post written by FFC Union Station Massage Therapist Alejandro Salinas.

If you have heard anything about Pilates, you have probably heard it makes your core stronger, gets you toned and increases your flexibility. Something you may not have heard is that Pilates makes you smarter – as in more intelligent, improved cognitive function! Pilates can make you smarter by increasing your attention, motivation and your ability to achieve more. It may also improve your overall mood and reduce your stress, anxiety and fatigue. Who knew you could be physically and mentally stronger just by practicing Pilates?! Check out these 4 ways Pilates makes you mentally stronger and why you should try it.

The 6 Principles of Pilates & Why They Matter

Many of the six principles that serve as the foundation of Pilates relate back to the elements of human cognitive function and can aid in the improvement of these functions. The principles are as follows:

  • Concentration – focus on the mind-body connection to establish more mental and physical benefits from the workout
  • Centering – use your core (Pilates Powerhouse) muscles to help your body’s muscles function and develop more efficiently
  • Control – make precise, controlled, correct movements for maximum benefits
  • Breathing – control your breathing to include full exhalations as each exercise is performed helps with muscle activation and helps with mental focus
  • Precision – work toward the ideal execution of the exercise
  • Flow – ensure that each motion is smooth

Related: not only can Pilates help increase cognitive function, but it can help with muscle imbalances and chronic pain! Check out this post.

Pilates Can Reduce Anxiety & Increase Attention, Motivation & Achievement

So how does regularly practicing Pilates and the principles of Pilates help decrease anxiety and stress and improve your attention, motivation and overall cognitive function – making you “mentally stronger”?

Pilates helps reduce your anxiety by:

  • Increasing your body energy
  • Increasing sleep quality
  • Making your body more comfortable
  • Encouraging proper breathing
  • Improving blood and oxygen circulation flow to the brain
  • Relaxing your muscles

Pilates helps increase your attention by:

  • Increasing the principles of concentration and precision
  • Perfecting the controlling of body movement by the brain
  • Increasing memory-processing speed

Pilates helps increase your motivation by:

  • Improving total mood by performing positive habits and encouraging breathing that helps control emotions
  • Increasing vitality and body energy
  • Offering satisfaction for the basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness)
  • Improving psychological well-being
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Encouraging the release of a certain neurotransmitter which helps to alleviate physical and mental pain

Related: try a Pilates session at FFC on us! Click here to sign up.

Pilates improves achievement by:

  • Generating new neurons (the foundation of the nervous system)
  • Increasing neurotransmitters
  • Aiding in the better survival of the neurons responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking

If you would like to be increase your cognitive function, become mentally stronger, and more productive, you should consider incorporating Pilates into your regular exercise routine. Your brain and body will thank you!

Post written by FFC West Loop Pilates and personal trainer Tsedal Ashby.

FFC West Loop Pilates and personal trainer TsedalAbout Tsedal

Tsedal is a certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer at FFC West Loop. She enjoys teaching people who are new to exercise as well as challenging more experienced athletes. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her directly at tashby@ffc.com!

 

 

 

Winter weather gets a bad rap for also wreaking havoc on your health. Common questions we hear all the time include those such as “what’s the best way to boost your immune system before cold season?”, “what should you take to help prevent getting that icky bug that’s been hitting everyone?”, “what’s the best germ fighter around?” and “how do you fight colds faster?”

The answer is easy, simple, and my personal favorite: a healthy diet!

A healthy diet chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber is your best dietary weapon against the common cold. How to fight colds faster? Never get one in the first place!

How to Fight Colds Faster

Giving your immune system everything it needs to operate at full capacity on a daily basis is far more effective at preventing illness than nursing reactionary fizzy vitamin C drinks or popping zinc lozenges during cold and flu season.

Far more goes into making a healthy, fully-functional immune system than just vitamin C and zinc (which are two of the most commonly supplemented over-the-counter cold home remedies for immediate or after-the-fact treatment.)

Related: don’t forget to hydrate! Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated.

We need a whole host of vitamins and minerals just to have functional enzymes in our immune system, let alone all the other dietary components that go into making all facets of the immune system. So, the first and most important thing is to maintain a healthy and very well-balanced diet.

Vitamin C & Zinc Can Still Help

That being said, vitamin C and zinc supplementation may yet have their merits. While no definitive research exists to support the use of these supplements to reduce the incidence of the common cold in otherwise healthy individuals (in fact, it’s supposedly just the opposite: a quick perusal of current literature reveals that study after study has found neither vitamin C nor zinc to significantly reduce the number of times a person gets a cold), researchers are now looking into the efficacy of these products once you have already contracted a cold.

The data is mixed, but some studies have found an association between zinc and/or vitamin C supplementation and a reduction in the either the severity of symptoms or the duration of illness. More conclusive research is certainly needed, especially to clarify timing and dosage, which are both still very unclear.

Even though the jury is still out on some facets of cold remedies, one thing is for sure: a healthy diet sure is a tastier and simpler method for staying healthy all year long. Check out some of these delicious recipes for a fast nutrient fix when you’re feeling especially run down and need to fight colds faster or just when you’re in need of a health-kick.

Related: click here to sign up for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

30-Minute Recipe: 3 Quick Cold-Busting Picks

Open-Faced Veggie-ful Breakfast Bagel

½ whole grain bagel topped with 2 tbsp cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, sliced cucumbers, and spinach with several slices of chicken or turkey.

Healthful Lunch Bowl

Top ½ cup black beans + ½ cup corn kernels with 1 serving fajita seasoned chicken, chopped tomatoes and sautéed bell pepper + onions (sliced and sautéed in 1 tsp olive oil). Additional toppings can include 1-2 tbsp light sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded cheese, and/or ¼ cup pico de gallo.

Bonus: this meal is easily made ahead of time in batch for a whole week’s worth of lunches that will keep you health and help you fight colds faster!

Lean Mean Mediterranean Dinner Salad

Toss 2-3 cups spinach with ½ cup chickpeas, 4 oz shredded chicken, and as much sliced cucumber, diced tomatoes, and diced red bell pepper as you like then top with 1 oz crumbled feta cheese; make a dressing from ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp olive oil, as much lemon juice and spices (try dill and a little garlic!) as you like.

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.