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8 Habits You’re Unaware of that Speed up Aging

8 Habits You’re Unaware of that Speed up Aging

We’re all probably aware that things like smoking and obesity shorten our lifespan, but we may not be aware of the many other seemingly harmless habits that are secretly aging us every day. Here are eight to watch out for:

1. Wearing a ‘Worrywart’ Badge

We can’t escape stress, but we can try to rein in our tendency to worry. Worrying not only make us unhappy, anxious, and mentally exhausted, (not to mention the extra ice cream and comfort foods it entices us to ingest), but it actually ages the body. The constant release of cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline literally wear us out by lowering the immune system, raising blood pressure, and interfering with sleep, memory and mood.

What you can do: Try to put worries in perspective by looking at the big picture. Take a few deep breaths when anxiety rears its ugly head. Do something physical; take a walk or do a few yoga poses. Meditation really does help, as does setting aside a regular ‘worry time.’ The key is not to let worry be a constant companion.

2. Being a Sunscreen Slacker

Sure, you remember to put on sunscreen when heading to the beach, but what about driving to work, walking the dog, or doing errands. Repeated daily exposure to the sun can actually cause significant premature aging. Researchers in Australia recently found in a study of 900 participants that those who consistently applied sunscreen daily had smoother, more resilient and younger-looking skin. So not only does skipping the daily sunscreen raise the risk of skin cancer, it also weakens skin cells and can surprisingly make us more prone to bruising and skin injury.

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What you can do: Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 15, preferably 30. Use a nickel-size dollop for the face and an amount equivalent to a shot glass to cover all exposed areas of the body every day. Once it becomes a habit, it will only take a few minutes and can save you years of prematurely leathery skin.

3. Having a Sweet Spot’ for Sugar

We know sugar can pack on the pounds, but health experts now believe that sugar is secretly aging us. Sugar damages our skin by drying out the collagen and elastin that are naturally present, resulting in dull, dry, sagging and wrinkle-prone skin. This process, known as glycation, also causes dark circles and puffiness, both of which are not only unattractive, but make us look and feel older. These effects begin at about age 35 and rapidly increase after that, according to a study published in the “British Journal of Dermatology.”

What you can do: Let’s face it, sugar is tough to eliminate completely, but trying to minimize consumption will pay off in a big way. Aim for no more than 10% of daily calories derived from sugar and watch out for those hidden sugars! Read labels and try to limit sweet treats to a few times per week.

4. You Think Exercise is Only for Weight Loss

Whether you need to lose weight or not, exercise literally helps turn back our body clock. Regular and consistent exercise—even something as simple as a daily 30-minute walk—can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve memory and concentration, increase muscle tone, and best of all, significantly reduce chronic stress. As a bonus, regular exercise will help the pounds stay off and protect our muscle mass and bone density.

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What you can do: Go for a daily walk with a friend or Fido, take up a physical hobby or join a group sport or class. Get an exercise buddy or find an event to compete in. Anything that will motivate and make exercise more fun will help keep you active.

5. You Hold a Grudge

Holding on to a grudge or anger is not only damaging to your mental health, but can age you physically as well. If you can let things go, you may be adding years to your life. Studies have shown a link between forgiveness and physical health. A study published in the “Journal of Behavioral Medicine” showed that a lack of forgiveness lowered sleep quality, increased stress-causing hormones, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar, resulting in weight gain and an increased likelihood of needing medication. In short, learn how to let go, and you may live longer.

What you can do: Recognize that holding on to anger and resentment hurt you more than the other person. Forgiveness does not mean that you need to be a victim or give trust where it’s not warranted. Learn to let things go and you may indeed live longer … not to mention happier. And that’s the best revenge anyway!

6. You’re Too Busy for Your Friends

When you were younger, your friends probably figured prominently in your calendar, but as we acquire more responsibility, demanding jobs, partners, parenting and household duties the time for friends slips away. But making time for friends isn’t a luxury. Studies have shown that sustaining friendships are better predictors of longevity than even family. Strong friendships can help alleviate depression and deal with mental stress, as well as reduce our risk of many chronic conditions, all of which age us prematurely.

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What can you do: Carve regular friend time in your schedule, even if it’s just once a week. Do it digitally if you have to. While in-person is best, communicating via email or Facebook counts too. Reach out to old and new friends and put effort into cultivating long-term relationships that nurture and support.

7. You Love the Remote

A “British Journal of Sports Medicine” study of 11,000 adults discovered that every hour in front of the TV shortens your life expectancy by 22 minutes, even more for the remote addicts among us, those who average more than six hours a day live on average five years less than non-TV watchers. It’s not so much about the TV watching, as it is the inactivity. And while you might not be able to change a sedentary job, you can control how much couch time you get.

What you can do: The simplest strategy is simply to watch less TV! But there are some tricks you might want to try. Watch TV while walking on the treadmill or exercising, buy one of those portable stepper machines and work off those chips while you’re at it. Or try getting up to walk around during every commercial break.

8. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Had Sex!

Yes, sex feels good, but it’s also fantastically healthy. Research shows that an active sex life can help strengthen your immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, relieve depression and the “Journal of the American Medical Association” now reports sex may even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. During sex, the body releases chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and other immune and mood-boosting substances that not only make you healthier and happier, but can actually make you look years younger.

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What you can do: Things like getting more sleep and exercising can increase sex drive and energy. Also, you might try reading erotic or romantic material, getting a quick massage or dressing the part to get in the mood. For the practical minded…schedule it. Swap out that favorite TV show for some extra ‘love time.’ Your body…and your partner will thank you.

Featured photo credit: delta creme donuts – lucianvenutian via flickr.com

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How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

His motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • He riles up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

Becoming the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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