Category: Health & Fitness

Happiness is a Decision

Happiness is a Decision

Of all the emotions we humans experience, happiness seems to be the most illusive. All of us, or hopefully most of us, have experienced moments in life that we feel truly happy. For many people these moments fade  quickly when they are confronted with the next obstacle, tragedy or dilemma. Just to be clear, I am not a doctor, psychologist or expert on human behavior. What I am, is an observer of life. Having experienced many losses, obstacles and dilemmas of my own, I don’t consider my life experiences unique, but  rather average. You see, as humans, we all have these battles we face in life. We will all at one time or another experience loss, tragedy and struggles. It’s how we deal with these struggles that determine our overall happiness.

 DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF By looking at the big picture and taking time to appreciate the many blessings that each one of us has in life we can shift our perception of overall happiness. If you spend your days focused on your daily struggles instead of taking time to appreciate things like your health, your family and your friends, than your chances for overall happiness drop significantly.  Each one of us needs to take a few minutes each day to focus on one or more positive things in his or her life. By doing this you are making a conscious decision to be happy.

I HATE MY JOB It is a well documented fact that many Americans are unhappy with their current job or position at their place of employment. Being unhappy at your place of employment is similar to having a chronic illness. There are only two solutions to this problem. In order to determine which solution is right for you need to consider the source of your unhappiness. If you like your position and what you are doing, then most likely, the source of your unhappiness is in your work environment or perhaps the process you are required to follow. By first identifying the source of the problem and then making a rational list of possible solutions you will have the necessary tools to confront your employer to initiate positive change. If you simply confront your employer with a blanket statement of  “I’m unhappy and I don’t know what to  do”, you can expect a response that is very similar to your statement. By taking the time to examine possible solution you will, at the very least, be able to start an open dialog to initiate  a solution.

 The other possible source of your unhappiness is that you simply have grown tired, lost interest or simply had a different perception of what your job was going to be like. One of the biggest questions facing everyone is ,”What do I want to be when I grow up?” Many of us choose a career based on financial successes. Too often we overlook the most important question when choosing a career path and that is ” How will this position fulfill my personal goals, dreams and passion?”  The solution to this problem is a bit more complex and requires a lot of self-reflection. By focusing on what you are truly passionate about you will be able to define a clear picture of possible career paths.  Here is a basic scenario. You spent many years going to nursing school, get a job in a prestigious medical practise and after a few days, weeks, months or even years, you suddenly realise that you hate nursing!  You could just suck it up and carry on with your initial career path, or if you really want to be happy you can take action. Perhaps you like painting or riding horses or camping. What ever it is that  you find comfort in, has the potential to become a successful career path. Take a serious look at these passions and consider all the possible ways you could take these interests and support your self  by doing what it is that you already love doing. I’m not recommending that you immediately quit your job as a nurse and jump blindly into the horse breeding business. Rather I’m suggesting that you try new things, experiment with these passions  in your spare time. Most importantly, what I’m suggesting, is that you make time for yourself to try these new things.

OVER COMING FEAR Fear is the number one obstacle that prevents most of us from achieving true happiness. The fear of failure often stands in the way of us trying new things. In order to over come this fear you need to be willing to accept the possibility of not succeeding on your first, second or even 100th attempt. It took Thomas Edison 1400 attempts to invent the lightbulb. Imagne if he gave up after only a few tries.  Failure is a necessary step in success. The important thing is to learn from your failures as well as the failures of other. Research your passion. Talk to others in the field. Don’t be afraid to ask what you may perceive as a dumb question. The only dumb question is the one not asked.

THE JOY IN HELPING OTHERS Sometimes it’s the little gestures in life that can change your day. Holding a door for a perfect stranger or spending time with an elderly neighbor can brighten that person’s day as well as your own. Consider how you can use your talents to help others. Write a blog, paint a picture, lead a class field trip. You will find that perhaps the most rewarding thing in life is spreading happiness to others. Be conscious of people around you. Happiness can be contagious, help spread some today…. One Grain at a Time!

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Sand Sculptors Take Notice; Your heart is a muscle too!

Sand Sculptors Take Notice; Your heart is a muscle too!

I’ve always considered myself to be relatively fit. After all, prior to my life as a professional sand sculptor, which is quite physically demanding in itself, I spent 22 years as an auto mechanic. My measure of personal fitness in those days was how large of an engine block I could lift. I never really considered any type of endurance exercise or cardio training. I thought that being on my feet all day and working the physically demanding job of an auto mechanic was enough to keep me fit.

This same philosophy followed me in to my second career as a professional sand sculptor.  I was under the assumption that  because the art of sand sculpture requires the artist to move tremendous amounts of sand by hand that I would be getting plenty of exercise while working on my many projects. It wasn’t until one summer back in 2006, while working on a project that I realised that I could not have been more wrong.

It was early morning and the sand had been delivered to the work site the day before. Without my knowledge the client had doubled the sand order. Because it was still very early none of the equipment operators were on site yet. I decided that I would just move the sand, all 40 tons of it, by hand. After all I was perfectly fit, right? WRONG!  Sure the first few minutes were fine but then my heart rate sky rocketed. My whole body was on fire and I felt like I was ready to pass out.  Fortunately for me the rest of the crew showed up and were able to move the sand in time for the project.

That project was a huge wake up call for me. Since then, I have incorporated a fitness routine into my daily schedule. I realised that If I wanted to continue pursuing my passion in this physically demanding art form that I need to train my body to be able to take the occasional abuse I was exposing it to.

Cardio Fitness

 The most effective way to moniter your cardio fitness is to purchase a heart rate monitor. Almost all models consist of a chest strap and sensor and a display unit, typically in a wrist watch unit.  Once you enter some basic information into the monitor, it will do the rest. Most models store the information and allow you to track your progress  over a span of time. You can use it to monitor your pulse, how many calories you are burning or my particular favorite, heart rate zones. Heart rate zones are the levels at which your heart is working. Zone one is light to moderate exertion. It builds basic endurance and helps in recovery. Zone one includes your warm up and cool down time during a typical workout. In Zone one your heart rate is at 60 –  70% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is basically determined by the number 220 minus your age. Other factors are considered such as your weight , height and gender. Zone two is 70 – 80% of your maximum heart rate and works to improve aerobic fitness. Zone two is recommended for training sessions of moderate length. Finally, zone three, which is 80 – 90% of your maximum heart rate, works to increase your maximum performance capacity. This zone is only recommended for fit users for short training durations. It is not recommended to exceed 90% of your  heart rate for any great length of time.

By focusing on cardio fitness and monitoring my heart rate closely, I have been able to develop a fitness routine that has allowed to achieve my fitness goals while increasing my cardio endurance. This has been a huge benefit for me on all of my projects allowing me to be more productive and  confident in getting the projects done on time without  the threat of injury. Many times when  we think of someone that is physically fit we think of exterior muscle tone and definition. Let’s just not forget that the heart is also a muscle, perhaps the most important muscle we have.

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