Dr. Peggy Marshall

The BEST Strategy

Living your best life is your most important journey. -Oprah Winfrey

It’s January-the time of year when many of us have made resolutions; changes that we are absolutely committed to in 2015.  Or maybe you decided that you didn’t want to make a resolution this year because you always lose momentum early and feel that you have consistently failed; yet you still want to make a change in 2015.  I am going to be discussing a strategy to help you focus on a way to challenge yourself to be successful with any change you would like to see.  The strategy is one of support for change and I have named it BEST.  My mantra is to be my BEST each and every day.

The “B” stands for blood sugar and the maintenance of stable blood sugar levels within our bodies. Nutrition has a major impact on our energy.  Erratic blood sugar levels will take us off course quicker than you can say blood sugar.  Dr. Mark Hyman in “The UltraMind Solution” states that sugar (found in processed foods) promotes high levels of insulin and impacts moods in an extremely negative manner.  When our moods shift quickly as a result of quickly rising and falling blood sugar levels, it becomes more difficult to maintain our energy and commitments to change based upon the impact on our moods.  Many times the foods that we are eating may be advertised as healthy and yet cause the fluctuations in blood sugar levels that take us off course.  These high sugar foods also known as high glycemic foods typically lack nutritional value and can actually cause cravings for more sugars.  The strategy here is to avoid the fluctuations by choosing foods that are low glycemic, along with high in fiber such as whole fruits and vegetables, proteins, and whole grains.  One other trick to maintaining blood sugar levels is to eat “light and often”, a strategy from the Human Performance Institute which advises three meals and two snacks daily spaced no more than 3-4 hours apart.

“E” represents exercise.  Ensuring that we maintain our rituals for exercise will deliver an extra punch towards the success of our 2015 goals.  Low levels of physical energy may result in impatience, unwillingness to listen, defensiveness, moodiness, irrationality, decreased concentration, decreased passion and enthusiasm and decreased commitment to your work.  When working with clients, I ask them to find exercises they like to do and can continue to do over time.  Loehr and Schwartz  in “The Power of Full Engagement” recommend three cardio sessions of 30 minutes each and two resistance sessions weekly.  If you work out in a fitness facility you could combine your cardio with resistance which would only require three separate sessions for fitness weekly.  Also, many exercises can be performed at home using body weight as resistance along with running or fast walking for the cardio. Exercise not only provides health benefits, it is also critical to reducing stress and the complications that occur in our bodies as a result of the stress response.  When we are stressed our bodies release a number of chemicals intended to result in “fight or flight”, yet in today’s society “fight or flight” is not possible so these chemicals wreak havoc in our bodies and can take our focus off our goals by making us jittery and in a state of alert not conducive to maintaining our commitments.

“S” represents sleep.  Shawn Achor in “Before Happiness” reports that sleep deprivation can have a major impact on how we see our world as the ability to stay positive towards our goals is heavily influenced by fatigue.  Sleep problems can lead to low energy, decreased mental and physical performance and irritability in the short-term which will take our focus from our goals.  Additionally, all of the latest research is indicating that the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation include the increased health risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  Most authors are recommending that we receive at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.  A couple of suggestions to help you get more sleep include: going to bed and arising at the same time daily as this helps to provide you with a routine that will set your internal clock: avoiding TV and tablets within 30 minutes of retiring (This is an issue for me as I read exclusively from my iPad so I have changed my pattern to having a book available to read each night.): taking a hot bath prior to going to bed  because the warmth relaxes and then your body cools once you leave the hot water: and keeping your bedroom cooler and darker; most experts recommend a room that is 68 degrees for ideal sleeping.

“T” stands for thankfulness and gratitude.  It is the ability to feel gratitude for the little things that opens the door to even greater things coming into our lives.  Joan Borysenko, in Louise Hay’s “Gratitude a Way of Life” compares gratitude to a gearshift that moves our mental mechanism from obsession to peacefulness, from stuckness to creativity and from fear to love.  She believes that being able to relax and be mindful flows naturally when we are in a space of gratitude.  Achor, in “The Happiness Advantage”  says that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely.  In fact, Achor offered that researchers who trained volunteers to focus on gratefulness found increases in optimism, social connections, happiness, better sleep patterns and even decreases in headaches in just a few short weeks.  Imagine what you could do if you began to include a focus on gratitude in your life! Dan Baker in “What Happy People Know” also connects appreciation to happiness believing that it is fundamental to happiness. Citing research, he offers that it is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time. He also believes that the state of active appreciation creates a process in which your brain, heart and endocrine system work synchronically to heal your body.

As you focus on your goals for 2015, think about how these four factors of being your BEST can influence your success this year and how you could tweak your routines to incorporate the principles of being your BEST!

To Your Success! Dr. Peggy