Is Your Phone Slowly Killing You?

Is Your Phone Slowly Killing You

Is your phone silently and insidiously abusing you?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson: No. It’s a phone, it doesn’t have free will.

Okay, how about this:

Are you silently and insidiously using your phone to undermine and sabotage yourself?

There’s a concept in psychology that’s found some traction in our modern discourse, especially among people having political slap fights on the Internet: cognitive dissonance.

The dictionary definition is the psychological discomfort you feel when you hold two or more contradictory/conflicting behaviors or values at the same time. An example of this can be found regularly on Rotten Tomatoes. This aggregator tool polls movie audiences to rate movies, and pairs that with an aggregate of professional critics. There’s often a sharp difference between the audience ratings and the critic’s aggregate score. Almost without exception, audiences rate movies higher than critics do. Why? There are several reasons, but one of these is cognitive dissonance.

Beliefs about ourselves that we find to be contradicted by our behavior give us the most discomfort. In this example, the audience members rating the movies believe they have good taste, and don’t spend money seeing bad movies (I mean, really, what kind of idiot would do that?). There’s a sense of embarrassment in our culture that tends to follow making a bad purchase of any kind, and movies are no exception.

The audience tends to rate the movie higher because they’ve paid to see it. Every consumer is wise in their own mind, so instead of admitting that they wasted their money, they’re more inclined to pretend to others and even themselves that they’ve made a great decision.

This is how we lie to ourselves. It may soothe our cognitive dissonance in the short term, but this kind of compromise can nickel and dime our morale and sense of integrity over time. It can slowly erode our identity and leave us feeling empty and depressed.

So here’s a more pernicious example: suppose you see yourself as a loving, attentive member of your family (spouse, mate, parent, sibling, friend, etc) and a hard worker. With those beliefs about yourself in mind, how is that reflected in your day-to-day life?

Let’s look at what you do with your time. You go to work. Okay! Not bad so far. You spend time with your loved ones on the weekends. Looking good, right? From a distance, this looks fine. But is it?

On closer inspection, we see this hypothetical you sleepwalking through the grind of your day, wasting more time on the Internet than you care to admit, doing everything you can to amuse yourself through the day. And the weekends? Seems it’s hard to leave that alone, too. Answer this honestly for yourself: when you spend time with your loved ones, is there actually a screen between you? Are you ever with them when there isn’t a screen within a few feet of you?

When you stop and look with intention at your own life, this kind of thing is impossible to un-see. And that’s good.

Why is this happening?
First, if this is you, know that you’re not a bad person. Psychology pioneer B.F. Skinner is known for illuminating how we pursue behaviors for specific rewards in his experiments with rats in cages. Skinner found that when you reward the rate with a treat after pushing a lever just once or twice reliably, you can get them to keep pushing the lever, even if a treat drops at random. We pursue a behavior even more avidly when the possible reward drops with some degree or unpredictability–like on a slot machine or when you get out your phone to check your notifications. When you get even a modest reward from those behaviors, your brain lights up with dopamine–a “feel good” neurotransmitter that shows up when you experience anything pleasurable.

Another interesting thing about dopamine, it doesn’t always show up when you’re grinding away at the job or listening to an exhuberant child’s meandering story about their stuffed animals. Do good workers grind away at the job? Yes. Do good people give children the attention they need and deserve? Of course.

And yet, in the name of the quick, seemingly inconsequential dopamine hit, these things are being neglected, or at least undermined for many of us. And yet, you’re a good person! A hard worker! You know there’s something amiss, though, and can’t put your finger on it (cognitive dissonance). So what do you do?

Some of us try to shrug it off. Some of us pursue even stonger hits of dopamine (in other words, more intense and hard-to-shake addictions and compulsions!). These are both just a race to rock-bottom, just at different speeds.

And then there are others, those who decide to live with intention.

Living with intention
You don’t have to throw your phone away. This isn’t a Lifetime original movie: your phone isn’t an abusive spouse you need to flee from, never looking back, or a stash of drugs you need to flush down the toilet. That thing you’re holding is a tool. Use it as such. Use it for what it’s good for. Use it with intention.

Are you a rat, tapping away at a lever hoping a treat will appear? Or are you a conscious, life-savoring human being putting a useful tool to its purpose? (And yes, that purpose can be enjoying cat videos. But are you doing it intentionally?)

Instead of going through the exhausting mental gymnastics of soothing your cognitive dissonance while your identity erodes like a cake left out in the rain, try bringing that cake inside and enjoying a slice.

STOP
There’s an acronym in the world of preparedness and safety-STOP, which stands for Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan. The idea is that your brain can sabotage you and cause accidents–like the rock climber who’s brain was tricked into thinking her safety line was tied because she tied her shoes. STOP is intended to prevent that.

But next time you get out your phone or click over to whatever non-productive Internet tab is your favorite, STOP.

Stop
Put your brain on pause just for a moment. Just observe yourself in the moment.

Think
Ask questions of yourself. What am I doing right now? Notice yourself noticing.

Observe
How are you feeling right now? Are you hungry, stressed, emotional, or tired? What are you about to do, and why are you about to do it?

Plan
Having observed yourself living in the real world and not in your own head, are you really on track with what you intend for your life right now?

This takes deliberate practice to develop before this becomes automatic, but it’s worth trying. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to get yourself used to thinking in this way. Be patient and kind with yourself.

It’s worth being more content, more productive, more loving, more awake.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor the marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with social media marketing, content marketing, or logo design by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

5 Massage Red Flags: When to cancel your appointment or cut it short

5 Massage Red Flags

When looking for long-term massage therapy, it’s important to look for a massage therapist and a clinic that makes your health and wellness its top priority. Massage is technically a healthcare service, but it’s also on a gray line between therapeutic care and spa service. As such, not everyone is in it to take care of people. Some view it as a commodity to be sold, or have some other intention a million miles from caring for your health. These warning signs should help you avoid wasting your time and money with a therapist or a clinic that won’t meet your needs.

You don’t like your therapist
It’s a simple thing. It sounds petty, but it really isn’t. You need to have a good personal chemistry with your massage therapist. If you are coming in for a massage treatment as part of a healing regimen, it’s crucial that you feel comfortable consenting to be treated by your therapist! You want a practitioner who will see you for the whole person you are, regardless of how much or how little healing you need. You want that person to be able to freely offer you both their skill and their compassionate care. If you’re personally uncomfortable with them, that will come through, and your care will be compromised.

If, for whatever reason, you don’t feel your personalities mesh, or if you just feel uncomfortable with a therapist, it’s best move on or try to reschedule with someone else.

Not sure if your therapist is going to be a good fit for you? We’ve provided a whole series of blog posts and videos so you can get to know the therapists of The Good Life Massage a little better.

The hard sell
You know it when you see it: it might be a coolness in the way someone sees you. Maybe your brain is unconsciously picking up on some whiff of contempt or condescension from them. If you sense this when coming in for therapeutic massage, don’t hesitate for a moment to do something about it.

 

contempt-microexpression-750x481
See this look? If you catch that look on someone’s face, even for a moment while they’re interacting with you, watch yourself. Someone who has contempt for you will do you no good as friend, business partner, lover, or even as a massage therapist. Photo: davidwolfe.com

Massage chains are notorious for this. They offer you a low rate in their window signs, but this turns out to be an introductory rate, designed to get you in so they can sell you on an annual contract.

Now, to be fair, massage chains can be staffed with dedicated professionals. Most massage therapists get into the business to truly help and heal people, not just collect a paycheck. But the nature of the massage chain system tends to promote “salesy” behavior on the part of the therapists. Sure, they’re saying you need to come in for massage x times a month. But since you’re about to be pitched on an annual contract, committing you to so many massages a month, can you be sure they’re not just trying to meet a quota?

The truth is, chains aren’t really there to sell massage: they’re there to sell memberships. If all you want is a regular, but casual experience, it might be a good fit for you. We discussed chains in an earlier post, so check that out for more information to help you make a decision.

Chains aren’t the only culprits, however. Individual practitioners or clinics of all shapes and sizes can be more motivated by the bottom line than the wellness of their clients. Watch out for the hard sell, or any sign at all that they’re more concerned with getting to the wallet in your back pocket than getting to the knots in your back.

Um … is this a brothel or a massage clinic?
Unfortunately, massage has a reputation for being a euphemism for sexual services. Since prostitution is illegal in most states, many “massage parlors” aren’t licensed clinics, and are fronts offering anything but therapeutic treatment.

Do they take cash only? Do they not give you any intake paperwork to fill out the first time? Does the massage staff seem to be exclusively female and scantily clad? Are they open late into the night with a mostly male clientele? Not only should these things have you looking up someplace else to go, you might want to notify the police. Such places operate illegally, and are often involved with rape trafficking (also known as sex slavery or human trafficking).

And certainly, if a massage therapist touches your breasts or genitals, or makes unwanted romantic or sexual advances, you should leave immediately. This can sometimes happen, even in legitimate clinics, but you have the right to stop the session short. Call the police if you’ve been sexually assaulted.

You instantly feel worse when you walk in
Any massage therapist working hard to give their clients a good massage will be conscientious about making their clients feel thoroughly welcomed and safe. Is the place dirty or unkempt? Does it feel less-than-private or unsafe?

Keep in mind that the clinic doesn’t have to be in a posh neighborhood to be legitimate, staffed with skilled, caring therapists. But if you don’t see any effort on their part to make you feel welcome, how much care are they going to offer if you’re coming in for regular treatment and healing?

As you’ll see when you come in to The Good Life Massage, we’ve worked hard to create a peaceful, healing space for all our clients. Our clinic is ADA compliant, and all our rooms are completely private. Clients have told us they feel an overwhelming sense of safety at The Good Life Massage, and that’s no accident.

They don’t listen
Say you’re having your first session. You’ve told them before you started that you don’t want your feet worked because they’re too sensitive–but they work them anyway. Honest mistake, right? But what if they do it again? Or what if, for every request, they either ignore you or forget what you’ve asked for?

Move on. Your massage therapist should be fully present with you in the session, listening to your wants and needs, and should be willing to customize the session to suit you.

They aren’t present
Are they chronically late for appointments? Do you catch them texting or using their phone while they’re working on you? A good therapist will give you and your healing their full energy and attention. Don’t tolerate a caregiver who doesn’t care. We don’t at our clinic, and neither should you.

At The Good Life Massage, we have a diverse, caring staff that show up dressed like professionals, and will treat you professionally. What’s more, our emphasis is on healing and relaxation. We train our staff to give you compassionate care first and foremost. You won’t be hard-sold on anything. So when your therapist says you need x number of massages a month, you can trust that they truly believe that’s what would benefit your health.

If you need regular massage, but need a break on the price, we offer prepaid massage packages. If you buy 5 massages at once, you get a sixth one for free. It’s simple, there’s no contractual commitment, and no expiration date.

Book your next massage with us today!

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to give your business a boost with brand and logo development, or with social media by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

What’s Your Hydration IQ?

What's Your Hydration IQ-

What do you know about staying hydrated? You might not know as much as you think.

 

1. True or False: It’s recommended that everyone should have at least 8 glasses of water every day.

 

False: This common benchmark is completely arbitrary. A number of factors go into how much water a person needs, including size, gender, activity level, age, and even weather conditions. The best rule of thumb is to drink when you’re thirsty, or when temperatures or activity levels increase.

 

2. True or False: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

 

True: Well, sort of anyway. It’s not as dire as you might think, though. Thirst is triggered by a 2-4% reduction in body fluid. Unless you have kidney problems, this is well within what your body can tolerate.

The kind of dehydration most people worry about, the kind with dizziness and fatigue, isn’t triggered until you’ve lost 5-8% of your body fluids. At that point, you passed thirsty long ago. In short, under normal conditions you can trust your body to tell you what it needs.

One caveat here: you do need to be aware of changes in your conditons. If you’re living your life in the climate you’re used to, doing the things you normally do, your thirst is pretty reliable. If those conditions change, either because you’re traveling, being much more active than usual, or find yourself in weather that’s much hotter than normal, you need to stay ahead of your thirst and be conscious of your hydration.

 

3. True or False: Staying hydrated can prevent heat stroke.

 

False: Hydration is just one factor in the on-set of heat stroke, but it isn’t the only factor. No doubt, water lowers your body temperature, but that doesn’t mean it will inoculate you from ever getting heat stroke. Again, listening to your body is important here, but don’t kid yourself that because you’re drinking enough fluids you can’t get heat stroke.

 

4. True or False: If your urine isn’t crystal clear, you’re dehydrated.

 

False: If your urine is crystal clear, that indicates that you’re more than fully hydrated, since everything you drink is just running right through you. It’s your body’s way of refusing delivery of whatever fluid you’re trying to put into it. Still, this isn’t a perfect system. Over-hydration is a real thing, and it’s very dangerous, though it’s not a major risk for most people.

If your urine is a particularly dark color or has a strong odor, that can be an indicator that you’re not drinking nearly enough.

 

5. True or False: Drinking water after a massage helps flush out the toxins released during the massage.

 

False: Water isn’t a magical elixer that flushes icky negativity or imaginary “toxins”, and neither is massage. You may have heard or read some massage therapists claiming that massage flushes toxins, but there’s no persuasive science behind the claim. Regular massage can accomplish many things, but this isn’t one of them.

Drinking water, however, does help your liver function more effectively, and improves your blood’s ability to flush waste from your system.

So why does your massage therapist tell you to drink lots of water after your session? Massage can dehydrate you slightly because it moves fluids from the soft tissues to your kidneys, which is why it’s not uncommon to need to use the bathroom after a session. That water needs to be replaced.

Also, loosening up tight muscles releases metabolic waste and brings circulation back to that area. It’s a good idea to give that healing circulation a little extra boost with a cool cup of water afterwards.

The best analogy for how staying hydrated helps your body function is like oil in a car–it helps everything run smoothly, including your body’s ability to dispose of waste and distribute nutrients.

 

6. True or False: Drinking coffee or soda is worse than drinking nothing at all because caffeine is a diuretic and it dehydrates you.

 

False: Yes, caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it causes an increase in the passing of urine. But at the doses you get in even highly caffeinated coffee or soda, you’re taking on far more water than the caffeine would cause you to lose. That said, sugary drinks, while hydrating, also include large numbers of empty calories, making simple water a preferable alternative.

 

7. True or False: Drinking water is the only reliable way to stay hydrated.

 

False: Of course, water is best. But it’s not the only source of hydration. Many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain water, and any other drink you may consume mainly consists of water, so these all factor into your hydration. Don’t count those out just because it’s not crystal clear nectar-of-the-gods flowing from a pure mountain spring.

 

8. True or False: Ice water is harder for your body to absorb, so cool or tepid water is the best way to hydrate.

 

True: Very warm or very cold water diverts your body’s heat and circulation to moderate the temperature. That said, you don’t need to be drinking body-temperature water. You want water at a temperature that will gently cool you, ideally around 50 -59 degrees, which is slightly cooler than most tap water.

So, how did you do? Did anything here surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

At The Good Life Massage, we’re committed to helping our clients build healthy habits for the best life possible through regular therapeutic massage. Book your next massage with us today.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with social media marketing and brand development by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

4 Things That Surprised Me About My Four-Hand Massage

4 Surprises from my Four Hand Massage

I don’t normally use such a personal tone in my posts, but today I feel I need to make a notable exception.

We’ve posted about four hand massage on this blog before, but now that I’ve had a taste of this epic massage experience first hand, I thought I’d pass on exactly what it was like for me.

The idea behind a four-hand massage is this: two practitioners (generally with two hands each) massage you at the same time. This is usually handled in a way that one practitioner is working on the upper body while the other works on the lower body, and then they may switch. Hypothetically, one can work on the right side while the other works on the left, but this was not my experience for this session.

If you’d like to book a four-hand massage for yourself, just let us know.

The two practitioners I had work on me were Vanessa Mabra and Tianna Hull. Both have a reputation at The Good Life Massage for being able to do both relaxation and treatment work very well. Vanessa, however is a bit stronger on the relaxation side. This was a great combination.

I admit that it was a little strange to meet my practitioner for the session and find that I was talking to not one, but two people! I’m not sure just why, but it was somewhat intimidating. There was no reason to be intimidated, of course.

They had me lie face down on the table to start. Normally I like music with my massage, but I settled for the soothing sound of waves from the white noise machine. I wanted to be particularly mindful during this session, paying close attention to what was going on with the massage and what I was feeling.

We began with Vanessa working my back, getting me settled in and warmed up while Tianna did some much-needed treatment work on my thighs and glutes. I’ve been walking and riding a bike around town a lot more lately, so it was badly needed. According to Tianna, I was pretty tight down there, which would normally mean that whatever work she did would have been somewhat uncomfortable, if not painful.

But here’s the thing:

I don’t remember and discomfort!

Vanessa was doing such an excellent job working my back and getting me relaxed that I didn’t even notice what was going on down there.

By the time Vanessa had moved up to give my neck and scalp a treat, Tianna was already working on the bottoms of my feet. I’m very ticklish there, but Tianna used just the right pressure on my feet in just the right places. Vanessa had made me feel like I was floating on a cloud while Tianna had made me feel like my feet had been replaced with a brand new set.

I had a 90 minute session, and it’s hard to imagine a better way to pack so much care into so little time.

I walked away with a lingering feeling of relaxation and well-being over my whole body I won’t soon forget. In fact, I dare say it helped me make some much-needed spiritual and mental adjustments. I found myself doing more self-care in the days that followed. I felt more connected to my body and my own needs in a way I couldn’t have expected.

If you’d like to try a four-hand massage, don’t hesitate. The cost may seem high for just one massage, and I get that, but it really is an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not just two sessions-in-one, but a form of nuclear fusion for massage–two skilled practitioners combining their expertise to maximize both care and relaxation.

Four hand massage is also the ideal way to gift someone massage. It’s the kind of thing where someone you love might feel like they would want it, but couldn’t justify spending the money, even though they would really benefit from it. Trust me: it’s a gift they’ll be thanking you for repeatedly in the years to come.

Want a massage experience you’ll never forget? Book your four hand session now.

I was about to write that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I’ll definitely be coming back for more.

Be well.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can contact him about hiring him for your social media, writing, or marketing needs at tomgunn@gmail.com

The Power of Curiosity

What's in the Box Live Video

See this box? What do you suppose is in it? It could be anything. It could contain a bar of gold big enough to set you up for life. Or it could be exactly what talk show host Geraldo Rivera found in Al Capone’s vault: nothing. You don’t know. Would you like to know what’s in there? I’ll tell you in a minute.

Maybe you’re crazy to find out (stop watching, that graphic isn’t really a live video). More likely, you don’t really care. But you’re curious, aren’t you, even if only slightly?

And that not-knowing, that feeling of wanting to know but that you could find out with a little effort, is called curiosity. And that feeling is powerful, more so than we usually give it credit for. Think about it.

Your curiosity has the power to drive you to

  • Pursue new knowledge or skills
  • Develop new habits or break old ones
  • Lead you to new, creative solutions to perplexing problems

And that’s only the beginning. Curiosity is the driving force behind the greatest minds and innovators the human race has ever seen, including people like Elon Musk, Walt Disney, even Albert Einstein. In fact, Eisntein once attributed all of his success to it, declaring “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

It’s a good buzz
Curiosity can do all this because it feels good! We’re wired to love novelty and challenge. Novelty is how our fake “live video” graphic got you to read this–a small thing, to be sure, but it’s enough to start something. When we find that the pursuit of novelty leads us to a challenge, that can be so exciting as to become addictive. Why else do you think some people become addicted to video games? Or mountain climbing?

Some have compared curiosity to an itch in the brain–one we scratch by finding the answers to our questions. It’s the reason clickbait continues to exist, no matter how media saavy society becomes, because curiosity is just that compelling.

So what?
Our hope here, today, is to make you aware of your curiosity–to get curious about it, if you will. Pay attention to it. Notice how it feels to be curious. Investigate what it is that piques your curiosity and ask why.

Mindfulness is a skill, one that might require some practice to develop, but it’s well worth it. If you want to improve your life in ways the seem difficult or perplexing, mindfulness and curiosity are likely going to be the keys to your success.

Some places to start are exercise, meditation, and regular therapeutic massage. Taken together, these good habits are the killer apps of mindfulness, establishing a stronger mind-body connection and empowering you to make whatever change in your life you would like to make.

Armed with this awareness, you can begin to understand how powerful your curiosity really is and how it might be harnessed to help you improve your life.

You can even begin to see how you can use curiosity the curiosity of others in leadership, communication, and education. But that’s a discussion for another time.

So, what’s in the box? You’ve just discovered it.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can contact him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

 

How to Start a Workout Routine–One That Sticks This Time

How to start a workout routine

Mark Twain said “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

His point is as well taken now as it was more than a hundred years ago: change is hard! The same can be said of breaking a bad habit or picking up a good one. As of this posting, we’re at that point in the year where New Years resolutions to be more active are a distant memory. Now that the weather is improving, many of us are starting to think about getting taking another crack at it.

But how do you break out of the start-and-stop cycle with your workout routine? What can you do to really make it stick this time?

You may want to begin by thinking about the common obstacles that break your routine and bring your efforts to a silent halt. All these obstacles can be described with the blanket term Resistance. Resistance comes in many forms, and appears whenever you’re trying to make a significant personal change. It swallows your initial burst of enthusiasm with unforeseen circumstances or feelings that can easily derail your efforts and leave you frustrated. Its appearance is inevitable. But if you know it’s coming, you can be ready.

You know the drill
Routine can be key in maintaining an exercise habit long term. This can work really well if most of your days have a steady rhythm. Do you leave work at pretty much the same time each day? Make that unwinding period your gym time. If before work is better for you, then do that. The key to this strategy is consistency and predictability. If your lifestyle isn’t so steady, it might be very difficult to make this strategy work for you.

Your workout won’t take much will power if it’s all part of the plan. If it’s built into your day in a way that’s almost automatic, it will be much easier to punch through the resistance phase and just do it because it’s what’s next on your schedule.

Who’s got your six?
One of the many forms the Resistance takes is the people who are closest to you. Ever try to cut back on your fat intake, only to have your spouse or significant other bring home some form of temptation along with the milk you had them pick up? Ever set a date to hit the gym only to have to cross if off the calendar to do a favor for a friend? Your loved ones aren’t intentionally trying to sabotage you (usually), but when you live with and around people with different needs, their interests inevitably clash with whatever change you’re trying to make in your life. It’s like trying to go the bathroom in an airplane: chances are, meeting your needs is going to mean someone else is going to be inconvenienced.

How do you get past this? It may not be realistic or helpful to announce to everyone in your circle the changes you’re trying to make and ask for everyone’s support. Sure, the bigger the cheering section you have, the better, but not everyone is comfortable with that. Pick at least one person who’s willing to help you be accountable. Tell them when you plan to go exercise and have them check in with you every week or every few days to see how things are going. You’re not asking a lot, and a best friend or romantic partner will probably be happy to help. Better yet, if you have a friend with similar goals, support each other! Keep each other accountable and committed.

If you’re not having fun . . .
You’re doing it wrong! If working out is a miserable experience you dread every time, you’re simply not going to be able to keep it up. Even if you’re just bored and you’re doing it just to do it, you could be in trouble. Sure, you won’t ‘feel like it’ every time, but go anyway. That’s good! The Resistance hates when you do that. But the motivation has to be there. You have to want it, not just for the promised results, but for the experience itself. Try different things! Sign up for various lessons. Find a sport or a class you truly enjoy and make it a part of your who you are. Routines come and go: passion is forever.

Practice makes perfect? No!
Actually, perfect practice makes perfect. Go into each workout with a problem solving mentality, or with a goal to improve. In weight training, that might mean improving your form or raising the amount of weight. In basketball it might mean perfecting your jump shot. Engage with the activity, not just with your body, but with your mind as well. You will see better results from what you’re doing, and skipping out or giving up will be the farthest thing from your mind.

Payoff
Make sure you’re rewarding yourself for sticking with it. Keep track and reward yourself for reaching milestones. (Wherever possible, make sure these rewards don’t involve calories, so as not to compromise your goals.) Massage, it turns out, is both a fantastic non-food reward you can treat yourself to, and a great way to take care of your body. You can even purchase the reward ahead of time as a gift card or in a prepaid package and use it whenever you’ve earned it. It’s easy to place buy a package or gift card online or by phone (425-243-7705). You can also book your appointment online.

A final thought on the Resistance …
If you’re still struggling after trying all these strategies, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror. Is there some underlying issue, some lurking thought error or negative belief about yourself that’s quietly undermining your motivation? A great first step in that direction is to look the Resistance in the eye and recognize it for what it is, no matter what form it takes. If you can name it, you can get around it.

So get out there and stay with it! This time, things are going to be different.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to handle your content and social media marketing needs by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

The Wellness-Mindfulness Connection

The Wellness - Mindfulness Connection

How are you?

No, really, how are you? Do you really have the information to answer that question? Maybe this is a question you should be asking yourself more often. Anyone experienced in meditation will tell you–answering that question thoroughly can be the quest of a lifetime, and takes more effort than you might think.

We live in a distracted time, so much so that most of us have no idea how to be anything other than distracted–bouncing through our lives like a pinball from one obligation to the next, resorting to our mobile phones or some other bad habit when even the slightest boredom or discomfort threatens our equilibium.

Is this you? If so, what are you afraid of? What’s got you running to cheap thrills every time you feel uncomfortable?

This is how bad habits and addictive behaviors take root in our lives. Some experts think addiction and compulsiveness begin way back in the development of our brains. Inspired by this prospect, a kindergarten in Germany is experimenting with a classroom in which the children are given nothing at all to play with–a room with some simple furniture and some blankets and pillows. Teachers observe, but do not interfere. The children are given no direction in what to play or what to do.

Harsh, you might say, but it’s based on an addiction study which found that, for many, addictive behaviors began in early childhood. In many ways, toys do for kids what bad habits and addicting behaviors do for us: they thoroughly distract us from our bad feelings–at least for a time. The idea is to allow the children to come up with their own games–to give them a chance to find fun in themselves and in each other. The hope is that the children will develop key skills that will help them cope with the adult world–skills like empathy, critical and creative thinking, and above all, self care and healthy self regard.

Could you use a little more strength in any of these areas? (Is there anyone who couldn’t?)

Are you trying to kick a bad habit, lose weight, or just be happier with yourself generally?

Your journey begins with an understanding of how your brain really works as it does its best to keep you happy and breathing. You’ll need a sense of curiosity–adventure, even. Mindfulness isn’t as much a destination as it is a journey into the unknown.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

First, you should understand that your brain is wired to flee pain and seek pleasure. It’s not bad. This instinct helped our ancestors survive. For example, when you find good food–especially high-calorie food–your brain goes out of its way to remember what you ate, how good it was, and where you found it. It doesn’t care that the food is cheap and easy to get, that too much of it might kill you, or that it’s filled with additives that might harm your health. Survival is the priority.

From there, it’s not a big leap to go from satisfying hunger for the sake of survival to soothing other kinds of pain or discomfort. Before you know it, there’s no bad day that can’t be made a little better with pizza or a slice of chocolate cake. The same mechanism works for other kinds of bad habits or addictions. Your body receives a visceral, memorable payoff for engaging in the behavior, and eventually you’re going to it without even thinking.

And the grownup “toys”? They’re everywhere: cheap high calorie foods, social media, alcohol, gambling, narcotics, TV, pornography, and that’s just the beginning. It’s not to say that all these things are bad all the time–there’s nothing wrong with giving a child a toy once in a while. But these distractions, if mistaken for something essential to survival, can destroy your life.

So what’s the solution? Practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?
When was the last time you ate a meal–and focused only on the food in front of you and maybe the company you’re keeping in that moment? That’s mindfulness.

Meditation is one method of developing mindfulness. The task in meditation–what makes it such a challenge for so many–is doing and thinking literally nothing. It’s tougher than it sounds. No sooner have you tried to clear your mind than a jingle for laundry detergent or a bill that needs to be paid soon comes flooding in to fill that void.

The trick is to observe yourself calmly and with a sense of curiosity. When mastered, you’ll be able to observe your body and mind working, holding your own consciousness at arm’s length for a moment.

While meditating, one way to gently dismiss thoughts is to picture yourself by a small stream with fallen leaves drifting by on the water. When an intrusive thought comes into your mind, pin that thought to one of the leaves and watch it drift away. When another thought inevitably intrudes, pin that thought on a leaf and watch it drift away.

Are you thinking “this is hokey and hippy-dippy and dumb”? Pin that thought to a leaf and watch it drift away. You can do this with sensory intrusions as well–that car alarm going off, the sound of the heat kicking on, your watch ticking, your phone buzzing at you–pin these to a leaf and watch them drift away. Set a timer and give yourself 15 or 20 minutes to practice this every day. This may feel like a waste of time; it’s anything but. It gets you ready to live in your skin for the rest of the day.

Out there in the trenches of your life, this exercise starts to pay off. You’ll find that when you get a phone notification while you’re driving, you won’t automatically have to check it. When you’ve had a rotten day at work and you suddenly crave cheese fries, you won’t automatically have to give in to it.

These occasions are opportunities to observe yourself, to be curious and collect data about how your body and mind react when a craving comes on. As you work at this, the more intense urge becomes not satisfying the craving, but curiosity about the craving to see what you can learn from it.

Even if you go for that dopamine hit, whatever form that takes for you, observe! You have an opportunity to watch your mind and body as you give in to a temptation. Pay attention to how those cheese fries really taste and how they make your body feel afterward. Ask yourself questions about whether that notification was really worth risking a car accident to check, and what you really got out of the experience. For extra credit, write down what you observe. Journaling adds an extra layer of self-awareness to the exercise which can help develop mindfulness even faster.

The ultimate payoff
Thinking in this way, over time, has a cumulative effect. Your brain is like a muscle. CAT scans of experienced practitioners of meditation show clearly that certain areas of their brains light up more than for the average person. Their ability to observe themselves has grown like a muscle after years of working out. It has an impact on their personality, and these individuals show lower incidence of compulsive behavior and addiction, better focus and concentration, and can better cope with stress.

While it’s true that meditation isn’t a one-and-done proposition, adopting it as a regular practice for even a short time can begin to show significant benefits. In this way, it’s a lot like massage: it feels great once or twice, and can have great benefits long-term, but you have to give it some time.

Honestly, this is just a toe-dip in a vast pool of what there is to know about meditation and mindfulness. There is so much to learn. What’s nice is that if you only want to take it so far, you can. This isn’t a panacea, and there are cautions to consider as you go forward, but just being more aware of your thoughts and your body’s needs is crucial to building more wellness into your lifestyle.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with your content marketing and social media by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com