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19 Techniques to Empower Yourself to Live a More Productive, Happier Life

19 Techniques to Empower Yourself to Live a More Productive, Happier Life

The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.”  Thomas Carlyle

When I was young, I loved the sense of adventure that went with rock hopping. Across a creek, near the beach, along a river bank I’d step, or jump, from rock to rock. Some surfaces were slippery, some unsteady, some too small, and often I ended up wet and bruised. Nevertheless, I loved accepting the challenge of making progress towards a new place. Despite some difficulties, each stone was part of the journey that led to achievement, to a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

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    In my grown-up life, while difficulties are still there to be faced, I retain the excitement of making progress towards new places and new experiences. My 19 stepping stones are tried and tested techniques that have helped me smooth the way ahead.

    Well, go on. Just try some of my 19 techniques to empower yourself. Who knows? Maybe you, too, will grasp the excitement and be empowered to live a more productive and happier life.

    1. Accept that awful stuff happens.

    The usual reaction to things not going your way is to resist and fight against them. By accepting things as they are, even though you don’t want them to be that way, you’ll develop a more peaceful state of mind. Saying a mantra will help – “I hate things being this way but I accept that this is my reality just now. I’ll work through this situation calmly and resolutely.” Slowly but surely, you will empower yourself.

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    2. Adopt a flexible attitude.

    Being flexible means you can face daily changes without creating too great a stress reaction in your body. When something’s not working, be ready to consider other ideas. Changing your approach to meet the change in circumstances is essential for a happier and more successful future.

    3. See challenges as opportunities for growth.

    Ask yourself what you can learn from challenges as they arise. Is this a chance to become stronger? By turning these situations into positives, you’ll avoid resorting to overeating and other negative behaviors – the most usual ways of coping.

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      4. Use questions to empower you.

      Instead of asking disempowering questions such as, “Why is this happening to me?” use a more positive question format. Questions that invite creative thinking are the best. An example might be, “What alternative actions could I take in these changing circumstances?”

      5. Change negative thoughts to positive.

      Negative thoughts that harbor unhelpful beliefs only hold you back from achieving. So monitor your thoughts. When you’re aware that they are negative, change them immediately into positive thoughts. You’ll be amazed at how much happier and confident you’ll feel.

      6. Relish change.

      Realize when it’s time to change direction. Often we think of change as negative. But change can be very exciting and positive. Embrace new thoughts, new opportunities and new ways of living. Even though change is difficult to initiate, sometimes it’s essential.

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        7. Calm yourself when you’re getting uptight.

        When you’re calm, you are in control. You’ll think through the problem with more clarity. Make time to listen to relaxing music, or sit quietly and visualize a place where you’ve been that evokes calm and contentment. It will help you focus on what’s really important.

        8. Believe you’re good enough.

        It’s too easy to think you’re not good enough to get through difficult situations. Look at your abilities. Tell yourself that you are awesome and you can handle anything that can possibly be thrown at you. Believe in yourself.

        9. Face reality.

        Don’t try to hide from problems that present themselves. Come face to face with them and persevere no matter what. It’s a tough thing to do, that’s for sure. Look for solutions in unusual places.

        10. Prepare yourself for busy times.

        When weighed down by being too busy, prioritize your jobs until life becomes more manageable. Sticking to a plan will help you get back on track. Start each day with the most immediate job on your list.

        11. Encourage and help others.

        Take every opportunity to be a source of hope and encouragement to others. Looking outward instead of inward gives opportunity for you to contribute to the well-being of others. Your happiness and confidence levels will rise.

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        12. Make each day sparkle.

        Instead of letting doubts, worries and fears about what might happen creep into your day, look for ways to make your day sparkle. Be positive about the fabulous things that lie ahead. You don’t know what those things might be, but that’s okay. You’ll move forward with excitement and courage. Shawn Achor’s TED Talk, How to Make the Present More Positive, includes some enjoyable ideas for staying positive and focused.

        13. Be full of thanks.

        Thinking about all those things that are going right in your life, keeps life in perspective. Be grateful for the now – for where you are at the present time. Now is the start of big things to come. Being grateful helps you see there is so much that usually is taken for granted. Gratitude improves productivity and leads to happiness.

        14. Schedule play time.

        For your body to remain in balance, you need to have work time and play time. Your brain and mind will benefit from varying what you do each day, particularly if you include some fun time in your schedule. Follow this with diligence and notice how you feel. There’ll be a spring in your step – even a lasting smile.

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          15. Get physical.

          Spend some time outdoors every day. Being physical, through aerobic activities, gives you the energy to carry you through the difficult times. Exercise will help you reach your goals. You’ll be charged with enthusiasm for all things positive.

          16. Take time out.

          Take regular mental breaks such as mindfulness. Being mindful enables you to be more accepting of yourself. Sit somewhere quiet. Breathe in to energize your whole body. As you breathe out, believe that anxiety and tension are leaving your body.

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          17. Stay connected.

          Spend time with people whose company you enjoy. It’s important to stay connected to friends and family, so you have people who can encourage you. You’ll appreciate their support.

          18. Be an optimist.

          Understand that life consists of hill and valley cycles. This doesn’t mean that you react positively to good days and feel down-in-the-dumps on the not-so-good days. It means being optimistic that the good days ahead will carry you through the very difficult days, without suffering excess stress.

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            19. Laugh often – and “live happily ever after”.

            Laughing will help you cope better with any difficult situation. Of course it’s not easy to laugh when you’re going through a rough patch. But lightening up when you see a funny sign along the way, or smiling back at someone who is happy, can do wonders for you. You’ll have a bubble and sparkle that wasn’t there before.

            Finally . . . . .

            Let the stepping stones metaphor remind you that despite life’s inevitable missteps, many rewarding opportunities and moments lie ahead. The crucial thing is not what actually happens as you travel through life, but how you respond to what happens.

            Choose to use some of these 19 stepping stones . . . . . and enjoy a happier, calmer and more productive life as you learn to empower yourself.

            Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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            Last Updated on November 15, 2019

            Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

            Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

            Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

            How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

            Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

            The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

            Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

            Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

            When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

            Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

            Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

            The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

            Shocked? Well, I was too.

            The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

            When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

            On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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            Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

            Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

            Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

            Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

            Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

            It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

            Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

            As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

            In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

            A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

            Your metabolism is like your bank account.

            To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

            Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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            What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

            That’s exactly how your body reasons:

            More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

            Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

            Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

            For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

            Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

            Foods That Increase Metabolism

            Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

            Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

            Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

            • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
              When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
            • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
            • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
            • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

            Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

            To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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            1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
            2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
            3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

            Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

            Sugars and Carbs

            Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

            Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

            Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

            Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
            • Dried fruit
            • Commercial and packaged corn
            • High fructose corn syrup
            • All sorts of candies and lookalike
            • Packaged fruit juices and purees
            • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
            Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
            • Bread and flour-based products
            • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
            • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
            • Potatoes and potato starch products
            • Oatmeals and other grains
            Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
            • All berries except strawberries
            • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
            • Sweet potatoes
            • White rice
            • All green vegetables

            Fats

            Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

            Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
            • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
            • Lard
            • Gmo oils
            • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
            Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
            • Nuts
            • Meat fat
            • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
            • Seeds
            Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
            • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
            • Avocado
            • Coconut oil
            • Butter (organic)
            • Egg yolks (free-range)
            • Bone marrow

            The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

            Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

            Proteins

            Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

            Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

            Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

            Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

            For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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            Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
            • Cheap whey proteins
            • Soy proteins
            • GMO meat
            • GMO eggs
            • Packaged meat
            Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
            • Canned tuna
            • Canned fish
            • Canned meat
            • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
            • Farmed fish
            Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
            • Free-range meat
            • Free-range eggs
            • Wild meat and fish
            • Whey protein isolate
            • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

            Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

            Other Foods and Supplements

            Cold water

            Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

            This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

            MCT Oils or Powders

            Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

            You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

            Caffeine

            Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

            Green Tea

            Green tea

            is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

            Bottom Line

            In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

            For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

            Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

            And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

            Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

            Reference

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