I guess congratulations are in order as it seems I found the title of my first book above! 😁
Okay, jokes apart, it’s a new year and while I’m not really one who makes resolutions at the beginning of the year, I believe that the feeling of newness that comes with the season can help us re-route to living better in all areas.
As a wife and mom who runs more than one gig (even though one is a fitness center), I find it really hard to stick with a specific routine when it comes to exercise and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Lord knows the hustle is real right?
True! But on the other hand, it’s only when we are in good health that the hustle can really make sense. So I’m going to share 3 ways you can fit in exercise into your busy schedule.
1. Treat it as an appointment:
Yes, when you intentionally prioritize your health and wellness, you will set out time to do what you need to do. I set alarms to exercise at night because that’s when it’s most convenient for me.
Trust me, you don’t need so much time to get your heart pumping and your muscles warm. You can start with as little as 10 minutes and increase it when you can.
My company recently launched a product, Fitfam exercise games™ cards that encourages busy people like you to exercise anytime, anywhere and have fun while at it.
2. Make more active choices:
I know the “take the stairs not the elevator” rhyme sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you are too busy to hit the gym, the best you can do is to deliberately make active choices throughout the day.
Take the stairs, ditch the intercom and the intranet if possible and walk to your colleague’s desk to make that inquiry.
If you run a business, try to move around your office or shop too, don’t be the madam who just sits on the chair directing everyone else around.
3. Don’t dwell on it too much:
Am I contradicting myself? No. Here’s what I mean. Sometimes we dwell so much on failure, we refuse to move forward. You missed two days of exercise, okay. Move on and don’t miss the third.
You gorged down half a box of pizza and 3 sparkling glasses on Friday night, not good but can we just move on with a salad and grilled chicken on Saturday morning?
I hope these 3 tips will help you get more active this year as we get set to smash those money and life goals.
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Does this scenario sound familiar? You wake up in the morning, pump your fist in the air and tell yourself that today you will finally go to the gym and exercise.
As the day goes on, you’re losing energy and willpower from work demands and other activities. By the time you get home from work, you’re exhausted the last thing on your mind is to exercise.
Then, just like every other day, you curl up on the couch read a book and watch your favourite TV show. It’s been several months since you had your New Year’s resolution to get in shape, but you’re still procrastinating on it.
Luckily, there is a simple, effective strategy you can use right now to stop procrastinating and start taking action to achieve your goals.
You’re not alone
Katy Milkman, Associate Professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, had a similar struggle in overcoming procrastination. In an episode of Freakonomics, she talks about this strategy:
“I struggle at the end of a long day to get myself to the gym even though I know that I should go. And at the end of a long day, I also struggle with the desire to watch my favourite TV shows instead of getting work done.
And so I actually realized that those two temptations, those two struggles I faced, could be combined to solve both problems.”
To combat her chronic procrastination, Katy simply combined her guilty pleasure of watching her favourite TV show with her long-term goal of losing weight.
She would only allow herself to read ‘The Hunger Games’ book when she went to the gym. Her strategy worked very well, Katy soon started going to the gym regularly soon after.
This simple technique of combining things that make you feel good now with something that is good for you in the long-run is called ‘temptation bundling’.
Essentially, you bundle behaviours you are tempted to do with behaviours that you ‘should’ be doing.
Temptation bundling has been formally tested in a study done on the exercise habits of 226 students from the University Of Pennsylvania. During the experiment, students were only allowed to listen to their favourite audio books if they went to the gym to exercise
The result: students who applied the temptation bundling strategy were close to 51% more likely to exercise than the control group. (Full study, PDF)
How to use temptation bundling to stop procrastinating
Here’s a simple exercise to put all of this into action.
Draw two columns on a piece of paper.
In column one, write down the activities that you’ve been procrastinating on doing.
In column two, write down your guilty pleasures that give you that feeling of instant gratification.
Now you can simply criss-cross across both columns to match what you ‘should’ be doing with what you ‘want’ to do.
For example, whilst writing this article, I’m also listening to my favourite music and podcasts. I’ve also used a similar technique to maintain a regular exercise routine for over five years.
Here are some examples that may help:
I will only listen to my favourite music when I exercise.
I will only watch my favourite show when I work on my writing project.
I will only get a pedicure when I catch up on my backlog of emails.
“Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?”
– Michelle Obama
Temptation bundling is one of many strategies that will help you stop procrastinating and take action. Most importantly, it kick-starts a new habit by helping you to do more of the things you should be doing and not just things you want to do.
By combining your guilty pleasures with your long-term goals, you can begin to build healthy habits that will transform your life.
Do you sometimes sluggishly drag yourself out of bed on a Monday morning? To stay on your A game, you have to cultivate certain habits to increase energy and productivity for the week ahead.
These seven habits are a sure fire way to give you the needed boost to start your day right.
1. Get enough sleep
Being able to wake up early in the morning has its perks, one of which is better control over your schedule for the day. If you can wake up early in the morning – awesome! If not, that is also okay. People have different sleep patterns and rhythms. Whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, the most important thing is that you find what time you are most productive at and invest your hours into that period of the day.
The trick however, is to either go to bed early so you can wake up earlier in the morning or go to bed late and wake up later in the day, but in accordance to your schedule for the day. Some of the benefits of getting adequate sleep include a strengthened immune system, improved focus and better mood.
Overall, you want to strive for that balance where you get enough sleep while being able to do your work when you function best.
The benefits of exercising daily are innumerable. Exercise helps you fight diseases, increases your energy throughout the day and improves your mood by releasing the hormone serotonin. Biologically speaking, here is how this logic works: exercise increases your heart rate, which functions to pump oxygenated blood to your tissues and organs. A few side effect include an increased brain function and focus as well as an increased oxygen flow to the muscles providing adequate energy to do work.
Having trouble sleeping at night? Get some aerobic exercises in before bed, then thank me later. However, don’t feel you have to go overboard when exercising. A 10 minute jog, a walk, or any cardio workout will do. The key is to go slow and steady at first, then increasing the tempo over time until it becomes a habit. For starters, just grandma-shuffling through any of these also counts as exercise, as long as it gets your heart racing.
3. Pray or meditate
Prayer and meditation are a form of alternative therapy. Prayer has been in existence since the beginning of time and there is increasing evidence from decades of scientific studies that it works! Irrespective of your religion, the efficacy of prayer and meditation undoubtedly supersede the effectiveness of medications, especially when dealing with ailments of the body and mind like depression or anxiety.
Harvard physician Herbert Benson in his book The relaxation response discusses the correlation between health and prayer. At such times, the body’s stress level decreases from the lowering of the heart rate and the body’s metabolism to decreased blood pressure and a calmer and more regular breathing rate.
On a similar note, Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study of Tibetan Buddhists in meditation and Franciscan nuns in prayer where he found that prayer and meditation increase levels of the body’s “happy” hormone, dopamine. The goal is to set time aside in quietness, withdrawn from distractions to just focus on yourself and connect with a spiritual being.
4. Eat breakfast
Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day. Just as cars need fuel, breakfast also plays a similar role in helping increase alertness throughout the day.
Without breakfast, people may become irritable, lack energy or focus.
5. Drink warm water and lemon
If you’re unable to eat breakfast, gulping down a cup of water and lemon before dashing out can help you get a head start on a productive day. The warmth of the water aids in digestion and the lemon provides the body with Vitamin C, which gives the immune system an added boost, balances the body pH and clears the skin of blemishes.
So if you’re not able to have breakfast, this is a surefire way to re-hydrate and energize you before your next meal. Just don’t swallow the lemon!
6. Affirm yourself
Look in the mirror and smile at yourself for about 15 to 30 seconds. Yes, I know it sounds silly, but try it. Alternatively, if you feel embarrassed doing that, look in the mirror and speak to yourself words of affirmation like:
“I am beautiful”
“Today is going to be a great day’
‘I am an amazing individual”
“I have what it takes to succeed”.
Whatever mantra you choose to chant to yourself is guaranteed to not only boost your self-esteem, but also give you confidence throughout the day and help you overcome challenges as they come by. Words have power and can influence your mood. Choose them carefully.
7. Make a list of your top three goals
Make a list of the top three goals you intend to achieve for the day. You may have a long list of tasks that you plan to achieve, but worrying over those will get you nowhere. Narrowing down this list to three major goals will help you organize your day better, stay focused and get the most important off your list.
Habits take a while to form and require repetition. But these rituals are guaranteed to help you reach those goals no matter how difficult they may seem at first.
Every year for the past four years, I have hosted a vision board party with my friends. While I am busy cooking a meal with loving energy in the kitchen, we chat as they prepare their vision board with new hopes and wishes of love, health, travel and success. At times, I get so busy hosting that I delay preparing my vision board. So this year, I’ve decided to share my vision with you–my passion for healthy communities and my purpose of sharing the ancestral wisdom of wellness for a healthy Africa with new kitchen traditions.
As I have traveled across the African continent speaking with students, meeting with health professionals and visiting farms, and preparing traditional dishes from West to East Africa, I thought about how ripe the time is for me and all of us to create and envision a healthy kitchen that nourishes Africa.
My cooking classes through NativSol Kitchen are mostly attended by women who bring their mothers and children. And from them, I realized how “we are the ones we have been waiting for” to heal ourselves and our communities. We, as women, have been essential in the spiritual uplifting of our families and communities.
And so, we have a rightful place of taking back our power in the kitchen to continue to uplift ourselves or we relinquish our power to people who don’t have our best interest at heart. I say this thinking of the many reports of food recalls and billboards promoting junk food as a quick fix to stress and depression. That’s not love and we can do better.
I have seen it first hand: African Diasporans in America have become prey to the “convenience culture” resulting in, to no surprise, the booming rates of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and kidney disease. Even I have fallen prey to fast-food drive throughs to feed my family and ready-to-eat meals while working at the desk for 8 or more hours at times. But as Africa changes, welcoming development and opportunity, so will the kitchens transform. But in what way?
I wish to share 8 kitchen traditions with you, because I truly believe the kitchen is the sacred place providing the healing power and freedom that will make us better equipped to enjoy the fruits of a wealthy Africa.
1.Nourish and (re) new
Food should be seen as energy that nourishes the body and soul. Think about how it grew, how it was prepared and reflect on food providing more than a full belly. but good nutrition – vitamins, minerals and fiber—for the body and soul.
Remember the last time you ate junk food and wanted to sleep or be inactive, whereas eating colorful fresh fruits and vegetables made your body feel recharged to get up and go? That’s what it means to be renewed!
2. Authentically and African
Food should be whole and alive, not “fake” and dead. Or my typical expression: “Not fried, dyed and laid to the side” unless that’s what you want to be too! Do we want “fake” people in our lives? So why do we eat fake food—filled with artificial color, flavors, perspectives wrapped in package like a coffin?
Let’s be true to our food and culture as we want people to be with us.
Some habits are hard to break. So to create new traditions, try a quick litmus test of asking the question: Will it heal me or kill me?
Perhaps it’s time to create new traditions of the life you want: A life with the career you dream of, the ability to travel easily around the world, a healthy pregnancy and to see your children grow. Then healthy eating habits must be a new tradition.
Ask any one mother and she may share how her intuition grew after having a baby. Women are innately intuitive. However, in the everyday hectic cycle of life, we may forget.
We instinctively know what’s good for our body; that’s what it means to follow your gut—it’s your primal brain and the source of creation.
Creating a new set of values that are based on your beliefs, be it self-worth, sustainability, health, patience, or creativity, to navigate the course of your health and life.
The spirit of our mothers and fathers who transformed the kitchen as a sacred place preparing meals reflects the magical creation like the act of planting a seed. We have a symbiotic relationship with the world like a child to a parent.
Sustaining that relationship is key for our future and our children—that’s agape love at best.
7. Oneness and organic
Giving reverence to the Creator through mindful eating with grace before meal or making a ‘spirit/ancestor’s plate’ speaks to abundance, optimism, appreciation, recognition of the source of all life.
In the hustle and bustle of life, we can easily forget our power source and give our power to man, when God has the ultimate control. Also, equally important, is eating food that is organic, free of pesticide and toxins, that burden our bodies creating more imbalance in our health.
8. Love and local
Cooking and eating with love versus fear is a powerful intention that transfers the energy of the cook into food as energy that our body receives, and how our families receive the food as nourishment.
Sourcing our food locally is part supporting the local economy and preserving our heritage foods which promotes our African identity.
What about you? What African traditions have you ingrained into your diet and kitchen? Which ones did we miss? Share them below.