Week 7 Spark Insight: Gratitude

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Critical Concept:  Gratitude is a choice, not a feeling.
The best description of the optimal wellness mindset is ultimately peace of mind.  Individuals who enjoy peace of mind do not necessarily experience fewer challenges or opposition in their lives; they simply choose healthier responses.

Our ability to choose our response to a situation is a learned skill.  Like a muscle, it requires time and practice to develop strength and coordination.  Our inherent emotional reflexes are primal in origin and are rooted in our deepest survival mechanisms.  They are neurological remnants from a time when threats to life and limb were a constant companion.  Historically, they served us well by protecting us from predators.  In the modern world, these ancient reflexes often cause worry and anxiety personally, and conflict and defensiveness in our relationships.

On a personal level you get to choose your attitude.  Your attitude is a set of beliefs that are developed over time.  Your attitude reflects your chosen belief system and dictates your behaviors and feelings.  In any given situation you have the ability to choose your attitude and therefore your response to it.

Too often we become totally associated to our outcomes.  In any given venture we have an objective (what we want to create), a process (how we do it) and an outcome (what we get).  If we tend to associate too strongly to our outcomes, our lives will be an emotional roller-coaster, vacillating between elation and depression. 1 To combat this cycle, we must anchor ourselves to our Vision first, our Process second and our Outcome third.  We simply cannot “do” an outcome.  Our influence is found in our process, and that is where our focus should be.

To maintain this focus we must leverage gratitude.  If our attitude reflects the belief that every circumstance provides an opportunity for growth, we can maintain a state of gratitude.

In every situation there is the possibility of receiving support or resistance.  We can choose the perspective that promotes gratitude by recognizing that every source of opposition, challenge or struggle strengthens us.  We can choose to be grateful for the opportunity to learn and develop.  In these situations we can choose to allow stress to build in our hearts and minds or let gratitude fill our growing minds and spirit.

Conversely, if we experience support, we must choose to recognize it and be grateful.  We should be careful not to take it for granted and miss the opportunity to recognize others for the support.  A Bonfire best practice is to role model gratitude, recognition and appreciation in our relationships.  Show others how we wish to be treated.  Be deliberate and discuss this openly with the people you care about.  Having clear standards for communication is as critical in our personal relationships as our professional ones.

Healthy people choose to fill their hearts and minds with gratitude at every opportunity like a traveler filling a canteen for a long journey.  As James Macdonald says, your heart is like a bucket that you fill with your attitude.  You never get to see what’s in the bucket until you bump it and its contents spill out.

On this journey called life there will be plenty of bumps.  What will spill out of your bucket?

Week 7 Air Insight: Community

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Critical Concept:  We are communal beings who thrive and prosper with social support
There are three critical steps to adopting exercise as a permanent fixture in the landscape of your life:

1.  Deeply own the significant benefits of fitness to your overall health and life.

2.  Equally understand the devastating consequences of not exercising.

3.  Surround yourself with as many committed, motivating supporters as humanly possible.

Man has always hunted in a pack and gathered in a group.  We love to be part of a greater whole on a quest for a mutual goal.  A group of like-minded others successfully completing a task creates a “vicarious experience” that gives us confidence to embark on a new activity or break a four minute mile.  The power of the group can pick you up and carry you along when motivation is low.  And the influence that others exert on our experience can create extraordinary performance in the name of excitement, camaraderie, competition or good old pride.

A group can be as small as just you and someone else. The Buddy System is one of the most powerful Influence Strategies that you could possibly employ.  Want to increase your compliance, frequency of workouts or bottom line results?  Simply coerce a friend to join you.

A best practice is to get friends to join you on Bonfire. The only thing more gratifying than embarking on a personal journey back to optimal health is taking others with you.  Share this link (Bonfire Health) with friends and tell them that if you’re going to get fit and live longer, you’d love to have them along for the ride with you.

No friends?  No problem.  Hire one.  A personal trainer or coach is a great way to get the double whammy of Influence Strategies.  A coach will give you clear standards, accountability, feedback and with any luck – encouragement.

A best practice is to follow the Bonfire Workout of the Day with friends.  Organize groups at work, get your whole family moving, or organize a Bonfire Workout at a local beach or park.  Find a qualified functional training facility such as CrossFit.  The spirit and energy of these communities are exactly what is needed to get you to the gym, through a great workout, and back for more tomorrow.

Misery loves company – and apparently so does wellness.  The easiest way to make fitness fun is to share it.  Make new friends, build a social life around activity (not just food and drink) and create a community of healthy minded people (like you) who will support and promote the wellness lifestyle.

Show me who you’re spending your time with, and I’ll show you who you’re becoming.

Summary Checklist

  • Add activity every day in every way
  • Calculate Energy Balance
  • Add Functional Training
  • Use variety in your workouts
  • Focus on the Intensity of your workouts
  • Gradually progress to a higher intensity
  • Adopt the Buddy System

Week 7 Fuel Insight: Appropriate Physiological State

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Appropriate Physiological State

Critical Concept:  Create Calm Before You Eat
Your nervous system is designed to operate in one of two modes at any given moment:  “Rest Mode” or “Go Time.”  The Autonomic Nervous System regulates your organ systems (including the heart) and certain glands.  This part of the nervous system functions to organize the processes that are needed to navigate a typical day’s activity.  Digesting a meal, taking a nap, running down the street, or giving a presentation at work all require various levels of involvement by different systems.  The autonomic nervous system acts as an air traffic controller that helps you relate to your ever-changing environment and its demands.

This system is sub-divided into two parts, the “Brakes” (Parasympathetic System) and the “Gas” (Sympathetic System). The Brakes are applied when it is time to slow down - for rest, repair, digestion and reproduction.  The Gas is engaged when it’s time to move.  Known as the “Fight or Flight” system, the Gas is activated when we are stressed and need to act.

These physiologic states are opposites.

Your state can be altered by a stimulus.  A stimulus can come from your external environment, such as the smell of garlic or a charging rhino.  Sometimes the stimulus may come from inside your body or mind, like a pleasant memory or a disturbing thought.  The input is registered, and your body responds readily and appropriately to the stimulus.

The body response is associated with the appropriate hormonal changes.  Hormones are powerful chemicals produced by our bodies that influence organ functions, prioritize focus and energy distribution, and even affect our thoughts and feelings.

There are hormones that excite us and hormones that calm us down.  When we sit down to eat, we should be in the calm state.  We want the Brakes System engaged.  When we are in “Brakes State” our body is able to enjoy, digest and process foods appropriately.

Too often, we live in the “Go Mode.”  Our lives are incredibly fast paced and demanding, and this keeps our Gas System at full throttle.  This chronically stressed state creates constantly elevated stress hormone levels. Stress hormones impact every facet of our bodily functions – especially digestion.

One of the key stress hormones is cortisol.  This fight or flight hormone will keep our muscles flexed, our blood pressure elevated, and our digestive tract slow and sluggish.  This makes a lot of sense in the context of survival.  If we are acutely stressed (chased by a lion) and need to focus our body on escaping real danger, we do not want to spend energy on digesting lunch.  We are trying to avoid being lunch.  When the Go System is active, your physiology is geared to run away from a lion, not stop and eat – or go to the bathroom, for that matter.  All processes of digestion are upset.

Insulin is also a potent stress hormone.  Insulin is known by the moniker “The Fat Storage Hormone.” If insulin remains elevated – you remain in the fat storage mode.

So if you find yourself struggling with indigestion, reflux, weight gain or constipation, consider your state at meal times.

Are you stressed out, under the gun, and eating on the run?  No wonder you’re having difficulty.

Healthy people slow down to eat.  We practice mindfulness when eating.  Sit down and slow down, don’t chow down.  A best practice for changing state before eating is changing your location.  Don’t eat at your desk or in the car.  Sit at the table; don’t stand at the breakfast bar.  Stop multi-tasking.  Research supports the fact that mindless eating is a sure path to indigestion, overeating and obesity.  Besides, you’ll want to enjoy the flavors of the Bonfire Café Menu.

A vital behavior for achieving the desire state for digestion is deep breathing before meals.  Take 3 deep, diaphragmatic breaths before eating.  This discipline will reset your physiology and move your body toward the ideal state for digestion.

Breathe, relax and enjoy your lunch.  There is no lion, I promise.

Summary Checklist: At this point you should be….

  • Drinking an abundance of water
  • Eating plants first
  • Eating lean cuts of high quality protein
  • Consuming high-fiber, whole food carbohydrates
  • Increasing your healthy fat intake
  • Taking your Bonfire Essential Supplements
  • Taking 3 deep breaths before you eat to reset your state