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Why Healthy Habits Fail (And How Yours Can Succeed) by Paige Johnson

By now, many people have either forgotten about their New Year’s resolutions or just given up on them. Pledging to be more healthy this year is a great idea, especially if it’s what you really want. Then why is it so hard to get on a healthy kick? More importantly, what can you do to get healthy habits that can last a lifetime?

Image Source:  Pixabay

Image Source:  Pixabay

Why Habits Fail

The problem is that many people expect to make a huge change in their lives without much effort. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “Yeah, I’ll just hit the gym a few times a week this year,” then you know what that sounds like. Here are a few reasons why such a change is hard to do.

Too much focus on a goal: Sometimes, being healthy is so enticing that you forget to plan how to get there. If you’re thinking about losing 25 pounds to look awesome in that wedding dress, that’s a great motivator — but it’s not a plan. It’s a goal. You still need to change your unhealthy habits or you’ll never get there.

Going too far at the start: Often, people go too far and try to change everything at once. You might think that you need to make an extreme change, and that could be true. But any plan that includes dropping all snacks and desserts when you’ve been enjoying both every day for years is doomed to fail. Your mind isn’t ready for such a drastic change.

Tricks To Getting Healthy Habits

Don’t worry, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You just need to focus on three tricks to help get those healthy habits to stick around.

Start with small, concrete changes to your daily routine: Don’t worry about the goal yet. That will happen if you follow the right steps to get there. Instead, create a list of concrete, actionable tasks. Don’t bother with vague plans like, “I’ll eat fewer calories,” because what does that mean in your day-to-day life? What changes are you able to make that leads to fewer calories?

If you can mentally mark off a checkbox with it, then it’s more likely to become a habit over time. “I will stop ordering that 600-calorie frappuccino and get a plain, unsweetened cup of coffee instead” is something you can clearly see and do. (Or not do, as the case might be.)

Focus on your most unhealthy habit: Have you ever tried carrying in every bag from a huge grocery store trip? Even if you manage to not drop stuff, it's probably not good for your back or hands. That’s why you need to stop trying to change all your unhealthy habits — it’s just too much to do at once. Instead, pick your worst habit and change it.

If your goal is to be happier, don’t try cutting out everything that makes you sad. Find the one thing that really gets in the way of happiness and change that. Wait until the change sticks, then move on to something else.

Spend more time with people who already have healthy habits: Doing something occasionally is not a habit. You need to do it repeatedly over time or it’s not a habit. But that gets hard to do when the people around you are doing the exact opposite.

If drinking too much beer is the unhealthy habit you want to change, hitting the bar with your drinking buddies is a bad idea. You don’t need to stop being friends with people, but at least until the habit is established, spend more time with those who already have those healthy habits. Let peer pressure actually work for you.

Remember that you already have unhealthy habits. You’re not starting with a blank slate. That’s why getting healthy habits is tough. By staying focused on actionable changes, targeting your worst habit first, and surrounding yourself with supportive people, you can make those New Year resolutions turn into lifelong, healthy habits.

Paige Johnson calls herself a fitness nerd. She prides in doing strength training, cycling, and yoga. She is a personal trainer and regular contributor to LearnFit.org.

Jenifer Costigan guest speaker on "Love, Sex and Religion"

We are proud to announce one of our therapists, Jenifer Costigan was invited as a guest speaker and appeared on the "Love, Sex, and Religion" podcast.

To listen click on the link below: 

 https://soundcloud.com/lo…/sex-therapy-feat-jenifer-costigan

Forming New Habits

 

With the new year merely hours away, many people are considering making healthy changes for 2016.  Some choose to take up a cooking class or go skydiving, but on average most of us focus on making a health conscious effort to work out, stay away from processed foods, or quit smoking.  The latter is most difficult for us to conquer since these types of behaviors have become part of our lives for too long.  When attempting to make changes there are two things to consider in helping you reach your goals:  establishing a support system & changing your environment.

First of all, what is a habit?  It can be defined as something that we do often enough that eventually becomes automatic.  We make an association between the behavior and the goal.  “When I do this, I get that.” A pattern begins to emerge and in turn becomes a habit.  So, we eat a bag of cheesy popcorn after a long day at work.  It provides us with a sense of relief.  The next time we suffer another grueling day, we are more likely to turn to that bag of gold to cheer us up.  After a while, we learn that eating cheese spray popcorn makes us feel better.

Now you want to break the bad habit.  

  1. Support System -  Get a buddy system set up.  A research study reported that couples who supported each other and committed to making the same changes together were more successful than those who did not.  Holding each other accountable can be helpful in staying on track.  Also, it can be nice to know that you can relate to each other and have a good understanding of the level of difficulty you may each be experiencing.  Having someone join you while working at a new behavior can also make it more fun than going at it alone.  Set small, realistic goals, and celebrate as you accomplish each one.  Ask your partner or find a friend who is looking to make similar changes to increase your success rate!

  2. Change in Environment – When dealing with an old habit, chances are you are stuck in a routine or pattern.  In order to tackle this problem, it may be necessary to change your surroundings.  Cues exist in a pattern to elicit the old habit.  These cues serve as reminders to perform the habit.  You can trick and alter the cue by changing your environment.  Research has demonstrated that moving to another city or going on vacation are great ways to form new habits since the same environmental cues no longer exist, so pay attention to when and how the habit occurs.  For instance, if you find that you need comforting after a hard day at work, put that cheesy popcorn on the highest pantry shelf!  Place more desirable products at front and center.  Basically, make it easier to do the things you want to do and harder to do the things you no longer wish to continue.

Changing a bad habit into a good habit will take time and patience.  Studies have shown that new habits can take anywhere from 15 to 254 days to be fully established.  The key is to repeat new behaviors until they become as stable as the ones prior to them.  At the same time, allow for slip ups.  Habits are not easy to break and you may find yourself guilt-ridden over the cheese spray coma you are experiencing.  It is okay.  Give yourself a break.  You will start again the next day.  

Good luck!  I wish you the best! And have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

How to Turn Up the Heat!!!

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Are you and your partner stuck in a sexual rut?  Are you getting bored with your mundane sex life?  Have you been together so long that you feel like you’ve run out of new and exciting things to try?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, let me take just a few minutes of your time to tell you about some of the many ways you can heat up your bedroom during these cold winter nights!  

  • Start with Foreplay:  This means instead of just getting straight to business, build up the excitement and anticipation.  This can be done in ways such as kissing, exploring each other’s bodies using your hands and mouth, and stimulating each other’s genitals manually and orally.  For those of you who may need a little help in the “how to do foreplay” department, you can start your foreplay by using a pair of sex dice.  With this type of game you each take turns rolling a pair of die and it instructs you what to do (suck, lick, kiss, blow, etc.) and what body part to do it on.  

  • Initiating Sex:  It can get pretty boring, and possibly even frustrating, if one partner is the one who is always responsible for asking for sex.  Switch it up!  Both partners should be responsible for keeping your sex life alive.  

  • Be Spontaneous:  When was the last time you and your partner were out in public when you got the urge for a quickie in the bathroom stall?  Or even right in the middle of the kitchen?  I’m not talking about all the time—or else it wouldn’t be spontaneous, right?!  However, every once in a while, amongst your busy schedules, being spontaneous sexually can heighten your, and your partner’s, interest in sex.  It can also increase the intensity of orgasm.  

  • Introduce Toys:  There are so many sex toys out there now that your possibilities are seemingly endless!  Shop together and pick out the toys you think will be best for the both of you.  There are solo toys specifically for men and women that can be used during masturbation, while being watched by your partner, or even handed over to your partner to use on you.  These types of toys include male masturbators (aka strokers) or vibrators and dildos.  There are also a lot of toys the couple can use together, such as vibrating penis rings, “U” shaped vibrators, and penis sleeves.  

  • Explore Each Other’s Fantasies:  There’s not much out there that can connect you and your partner more than knowing each other’s deepest and darkest sexual secrets.  By talking and acting out each other’s fantasies you will learn more about your partner than you ever thought possible.  This will allow you to please your partner based on their desires and directions, and it will help you find new ways to turn your partner on the next time you want to initiate intimacy.  

  • Maintain Eye Contact:  By this I don’t mean have a staring contest!  I just mean lock eyes from time to time, especially during orgasm.  This may be awkward for some because most people are used to closing their eyes during the big release.  However, if you look into each other’s eyes during these moments, you are allowing your partner to connect with you and see just how much pleasure they can make you feel (and who doesn’t want that boost to their ego!).  Don’t worry either, no matter how silly you may think your “O” face is, that’s probably the furthest thing from their minds!

Remember, these are just a few ways you can crank up the heat in your sex life; there are a lot more out there.  Some of these suggestions may not be for everyone, but as long as you go into any sexual experience with an open mind and trust in your partner, you’ll never know what you may discover together!  

 

 

What is the ratio in your relationship?

Can you remember the last time your partner made a positive comment about you? Or do you feel regularly criticized by your partner instead?  When negative interactions outweigh the positive ones in your relationship it may be hard to even recall the positive qualities in your partner. Although there are no quick fixes to ensure you will live a fairy tale relationship with only positive interactions with your partner, there is a strategy I will discuss in this post that can lead to a happier, more stable and connected relationship. 

Dr. John Gottman, researcher and clinical psychologist, has studied couples for many years to find out what makes marriages successful or end in divorce. He found that expressing fondness, encouragement, and admiration toward one another could go a long way in maintaining a strong marital relationship. This may seem obvious, but in addition he found that happy and stable couples share more positive feelings and actions than negatives ones even when facing conflict. Happy and stable couples may continue to experience some negative interactions, yet the key is in the balance. According to Gottman, the magic ratio is 5 to 1. This means that for every 1 negative feeling or interaction between partners, there must be 5 positive feelings or interactions. 

So if you feel that your relationship is not practicing the magic ratio, here are some things to help you start increasing positive feelings or interactions. 

Show Affection

  • Hold hands, hug, kiss
  • Offer a back rub or foot rub
  • Sit together while watching TV
  • Say “I love you” 

Show care and concern

  • Buy your partner his or her favorite dessert while out on an errand
  • Write a short email, send a card, or a thoughtful text message to your partner
  • Write a note of encouragement 
  • Let your partner know it matters to you when they are concerned
    • Example: “it sounds like you had a really rough day at work today.” 

Show thankfulness

  • Recall and share with your partner ways that they have been helpful or caring
  • Thank him or her for what he or she does for you
  • Compliment your partner
  • Point out positive qualities you genuinely appreciate and admire

Listen to understand

  • Be aware of your verbal and non verbal expressions when listening to your partner
    • Example: nodding your head and maintaining eye contact
  • Tell your partner how you understand his or her perspective
  • Listen carefully and completely to your partner before commenting
  • Avoid providing advice too quickly, listen completely first

Be respectful

  • Acknowledge your partner’s opinion and let them know you think it is important
  • Avoid name calling or being sarcastic towards your partner’s comments
  • Be open minded with your partner even when you do not agree

Lighten up!

  • Be playful 
  • Engage in activities in where you both can laugh 
  • Joke around with each other, but avoid jokes that are sarcastic or hostile towards your partner
  • Share memories with your partner about when you first met
  • Share your feelings with your partner when you feel good or happy, especially when they have been brought up by your partner

Aim for the magic ratio and watch your relationship blossom! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Storytime!

One of my favorite pastimes is reading.  When I was a young girl, I would check out the maximum allowed books at a time and then return for more before the given due date.  Then as a new mom, I discovered my passion for reading to my kids.  This type of reading is very different from reading alone.  It’s more interactive and can be very entertaining.  I found that reading was a great way to connect and bond with my children, and at the same time, it provided my girls with the foundation for learning and building creativity.

There are many benefits to reading, for both kids and adults.  Reading can help us overcome stress, protect us from memory decline, increase empathy, and improve comprehension and language skills. Some studies have shown that keeping our minds active by engaging in a stimulating activity, such as reading, can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  Therefore, it’s important to instill a love for reading at an early age so that we can reap the benefits for years to come.   And it’s fun!     

Here are some tips to make reading enjoyable for you and your kids.

  • Start reading to your kids at an early age.  Young children won’t have a long attention span, but short picture books will suffice.  As they get older, reading time can increase.    

  • Provide a positive home reading environment.  Express a good attitude towards reading.  Let them know how much you find it to be rewarding.  Expand their horizon and vocabulary by supplying your child with various types of books.        

  • Make it a routine.  Bedtime is a favorite!  It’s a great way to decompress after a long day and spend quality time together.  These are memories you and your child will treasure for a lifetime.  

  • Be curious.  Get kids thinking by asking what they suppose will happen in the next page or two.  Will the mouse get the cookie?  What do you think he’ll want next?  The more interested you seem, the more intrigued they become.

  • Use funny voices.  Use a variety of voices for different characters.  I personally loved Charlie and Lola by English writer, Lauren Child, since it gave me a chance to perfect my British accent!  And in a kid’s voice at that!  

  • Point and sound out words.  Recent research shows preference for sounding out words like C-A-T, rather than memorizing the whole word.  Pointing helps children learn the process of reading from left to right and top to bottom.  Reading aloud and pointing is a great tool in guiding kids to make the connection between letters, words, and meaning.

As the weather cools, snuggle up and read a good book with your kids.  Or if you feel the need to get out and interact with others, story time at a local bookstore is a great way to meet other parents and children of similar age. Kids grow up way too fast, and they’ll be reading on their own before you know it.  So take the opportunity while you can!  You’re building memories with your kids and making a difference in their overall well-being and health.         

 

What's Really Up with Herbal Viagra!

I’m sure you’ve all read about, or at least have heard about, the big sex scandal that is surrounding Lamar Odom.  Before we begin, let’s do a little recap.  Mr. Odom had a four-day stay at a legal brothel in Nevada where it was reported that he had been mixing alcohol, cocaine, and herbal Viagra pills.  On the fourth day there, Mr. Odom was found unconscious in his bed.  In a few of the articles I have read, the brothel owner stated that Mr. Odom had taken about 10 of the herbal Viagra pills within his four-day stay there.  This trending story has inspired me to write this blog for you guys on the benefits, as well as the health concerns that come with taking any herbal Viagra supplement. 

There are numerous pills out there that are labeled as male sexual enhancement pills, all which are not FDA approved.  The main reason why the FDA does not approve these is because they contain an ingredient, which is not listed on the package, called sildenafil, or more commonly known as Viagra.  Sildenafil is never listed on the packages because one has to have a prescription from a doctor in order to obtain Viagra; whereas anyone can simply buy an herbal Viagra pill from a gas station or their nearest sex shop. 

Lets start with the good news, the advantages to taking an over the counter Viagra.  Due to the main ingredient being sildenafil, it will work just like Viagra does.  These pills will help increase blood flow to the penis, resulting in a stronger, firmer erection.  These pills will also increase the girth size of the penis, again, because the blood vessels running along the shaft are dilating, allowing more blood to flow through.  These pills are also known to help increase a man’s stamina; therefore he will be able to last longer than he normally does.  Also, after the man ejaculates, these pills will help him regain another erection in less time than it usually takes.  

Now on to the bad news…these pills do come with some health and safety concerns.  All of these pills are vasodilators, meaning they help the blood vessels expand, which in turn lowers a man’s blood pressure.  Most of these pills come with a warning on the back stating that the user should talk to their doctor about taking the pill prior to using them; especially men who are already dealing with high blood pressure, have heart problems, and/or have diabetes.  Mixing any other medication, especially pertaining to these health concerns, can be very dangerous, if not fatal.  Most of the pill packages even advise not to take more than one pill within a 72hour period—which Mr. Odom exceeded.  

All in all, I hope the Lamar Odom scandal didn’t scare anyone away from trying any of the over the counter herbal Viagra pills.  I do, however, hope that it has shed some light onto the risks and consequences that can result from not paying attention to the warning labels and not talking to your doctor first.  These pills can, after all, help boost a man’s confidence and liven up your sex life!

Coping Skills With Our 5 Senses

Coping Skills are those strategies that we use to deal and process life stressors, conflict and emotions. Coping skills can range from positive and healthy to negative and unhealthy, all depending on how they are used. Do your current coping skills help you overcome and manage stress and emotional turmoil? Or do they hide issues and emotions that are usually not worked through? Using healthy coping strategies on a regular basis will help provide balance in your overall mental health and provide support when life gets harder. If you already use coping skills on a regular basis, congratulations, keep adding and refreshing more skills to your coping spectrum!

Being in the mental health profession, I have been able to observe coping skills that have been effective for many of my clients. Provided below are some of these coping skills that I have either utilized myself or seen to be helpful for others. Read the ideas below and explore what unique combination of coping skills could help you today!
 
Physical
• Chew a piece of ice or eat some ice cream or drink cold water
• Breathe! Take 5 deep breaths: think about releasing tension and negative thoughts each time you exhale.
• Move Around: stretch, take a walk, exercise
• Take a shower, feel the warmth and imagine your anxiety washing away
• Hug a friend or a family member

Visual
• Watch your favorite movie or comedy show
• Allow yourself to daydream for 10 minutes
• Look at pretty things: flowers, art, or study the sky
• Paint, draw or doodle
• Look through old pictures
 
Olfactory
• Peel an orange or lemon and notice the smell of the oils
• Place a fragrance that is pleasant for you on your wrist: lavender, peppermint of favorite perfume
• Do some baking-enjoy the mixture of aromas and soothing movements of mixing ingredients
• Make herbal tea and focus on the smell while you enjoy your drink
 
Hearing
• Listen to music that helps soothe you
• Read a quote or favorite scripture out loud
• Sing
• Pause and listen to 3 sounds you hear around you (Ie..rain drops, wind, laughter)
 
Speech
• Have a conversation with someone who listens and you can trust
• Name 5 positive things in your life
• Write yourself an “I love you because…” letter
• Make a to-do list: focus on top 3 to decrease feeling overwhelmed
 

Pre-engagement vs Pre-marital counseling? What's the difference as long as you go?

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   At first the comparison of Pre-engagement and pre-marital counseling can seem so similar and unimportant. Yet considering the differences, pre-engagement counseling may provide many dating couples additional benefits to the relationship and confidence in making a lifelong commitment!  Here are a few  IMPORTANT  factors to consider in regards to pre-engagement counseling:         Engagement/ Pressure:  Proposals, shinny new engagement ring, and the excitement of telling everyone the great news, can really compromise the objectivity of the relationship. The priority of working on the relationship may easily turn into planning the wedding day instead of working on and finding a resolution to the conflict that may be remaining within the relationship.           Time Constraint:  Couples seeking pre-engagement counseling do not have the same time crunch as couples that have already set the wedding date. Pre-engagement counseling can allow dating couples to openly share fears and hopes in sessions without worrying about how emotions will interfere with the couple’s timeline. In some cases, couples may need more than 8 sessions to resolve or practice new skills they are learning. Rather than couples that have a short engagement, which may not have sufficient time or desire to address issues prior to the wedding.         Confidence in your Decision:  Attending pre-engagement counseling can provide both the couple and each individual the time and place to explore such an important decision with a trained professional. A couple can also benefit from expressing their thoughts and feelings to a professional who is trained in marriage and relational issues and will remain an unbiased third party. It is important to consider the motivation and readiness each person has to make such a commitment. By taking the time to explore your relationship in counseling, individuals can discuss expectations for the marriage and find a compromise if necessary prior to making the commitment.  So whether you are currently in a serious relationship or questioning if you and your partner are ready for marriage, please consider pre-engagement counseling! Pre-engagement counseling may seem as an unromantic plan or unnecessary, yet with staggering divorce rates this is just another way to invest in your relationship!

At first the comparison of Pre-engagement and pre-marital counseling can seem so similar and unimportant. Yet considering the differences, pre-engagement counseling may provide many dating couples additional benefits to the relationship and confidence in making a lifelong commitment!

Here are a few IMPORTANT factors to consider in regards to pre-engagement counseling:

      Engagement/ Pressure: Proposals, shinny new engagement ring, and the excitement of telling everyone the great news, can really compromise the objectivity of the relationship. The priority of working on the relationship may easily turn into planning the wedding day instead of working on and finding a resolution to the conflict that may be remaining within the relationship.

        Time Constraint: Couples seeking pre-engagement counseling do not have the same time crunch as couples that have already set the wedding date. Pre-engagement counseling can allow dating couples to openly share fears and hopes in sessions without worrying about how emotions will interfere with the couple’s timeline. In some cases, couples may need more than 8 sessions to resolve or practice new skills they are learning. Rather than couples that have a short engagement, which may not have sufficient time or desire to address issues prior to the wedding.

      Confidence in your Decision: Attending pre-engagement counseling can provide both the couple and each individual the time and place to explore such an important decision with a trained professional. A couple can also benefit from expressing their thoughts and feelings to a professional who is trained in marriage and relational issues and will remain an unbiased third party. It is important to consider the motivation and readiness each person has to make such a commitment. By taking the time to explore your relationship in counseling, individuals can discuss expectations for the marriage and find a compromise if necessary prior to making the commitment.

So whether you are currently in a serious relationship or questioning if you and your partner are ready for marriage, please consider pre-engagement counseling! Pre-engagement counseling may seem as an unromantic plan or unnecessary, yet with staggering divorce rates this is just another way to invest in your relationship!

Sex Therapy FAQs

Typically, when people ask me what I do I tell them that I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist-Associate and that I am working towards specializing in Sex Therapy.  Once that cat gets out of the bag, in come the questions!  I have found that there are a lot of misunderstandings as to what it really means to be a sex therapist and what exactly happens during a session focused on sex therapy.   So, I have compiled a list of the most common questions that people tend to ask.  

Q: “Does a sex therapist have sex with their clients?”                                                       A: NO!!! Definitely not!  Sex therapy is just like any other type of psychotherapy; all you do is talk. 

Q: “Does the couple have sex with each other in front of the sex therapist?”                     A:  Again, NO!!! There is no touching of any kind, nor are any sexual acts played out. However, the therapist may encourage the couple to go home and try an exercise that was discussed during the session, if they are comfortable with it.

Q: “Do you have to be in a relationship to go to sex therapy?”                                         A: Not at all!  Although sex therapists typically see couples, there are times when an individual is dealing with sexual problems of their own.  

Q: “What type of issues does a sex therapist help with?”                                                 A: Sex therapists generally help discover different emotional issues that are creating sexual problems between the couple. Sex therapists also help people who are dealing with issues such as: lack of desire, difficulty achieving orgasm, difficulty getting and/or maintaining an erection, premature ejaculation, pain during penetrative sex, unwanted fetishes, and sexual addiction.  

Q: “Does a sex therapist ever get embarrassed or uncomfortable during session?”             A: Due to the sex therapist’s extensive knowledge in the field, nothing you say will embarrass the therapist, nor should it embarrass you!  Just like any other therapist, your issues will be treated with compassion and understanding.  (And don’t worry, your sex therapist has probably already heard of anything and everything there is to do with sex at least once!)

Q: “Is my relationship ruined if my partner and I have to go see a sex therapist?”             A: Absolutely not!!! Even though most people tend to wait too long to seek professional help, seeing a sex therapist, by no means, implies that there is no hope for your relationship. In reality, coming to therapy shows a lot of strength in the relationship; it shows that your relationship is something worth fighting for.  Seeking help from a sex therapist can allow your sex life to flourish and liven up like you’ve never seen it before (and who doesn’t want that!).

I hope this entry has helped broaden your view on what sex therapy really is and I hope it has helped fight any stigma that may be keeping you, and your partner, from getting the help you really need and deserve from a sex therapist!