10 Ways To Improve Your Outlook On Life

It’s hard to slow down these days.  There’s always something to do, and ten more after that.  If you feel like your day ends before it begins, you’re not alone.  But this isn’t healthy.  Stress increases your chances of heart attacks and creates other health risks.  But what do you do?  The first step is to slow down.  Once you do that, you can improve your outlook on life.  After that, you might find some of the things that are keeping you so busy aren’t as important as you think.

Here are some tips to get started.  These ten ideas can help slow you down.  Once you do that, you may find that you will improve your outlook on life.

Focus On Family

Your immediate and extended family are important. They will be there for you.  And, also, they need you to be there for them.  Have you played with your kids lately?  When was the last time you saw your nieces or nephews?  Even picking up the phone and checking in on a family member you haven’t talked to is important.  Family comes first.  Make an effort to let your loved ones know that they are just that.  Those connections are important and can ground you to a happier place.

Exercise

Take a walk.  Or, if you’re up for it, a jog.  Maybe a bike ride.  Whatever you do isn’t as important as getting out there and doing something.  Your heart needs to work.  The chemical release you’ll get after you finish a workout can help you feel better.  If you haven’t exercised in a while, start small.  But the important word there is to start.  You’ll feel better.

Enjoy Nature

The world around us is a beautiful place.  Many times we miss that.  We get in the car and go where we need to do.  We rush around. When all that is done, we never take a chance to look around and enjoy the world around us. Get out there and do just that!  Find a beach.  Go to a park.  Enjoy a sunrise or sunset.  When we take time to enjoy nature, we realize what a big place the world is.  That perspective is cool.

Turn Off Technology

Phones and tablets and satellite radio keeps us connected.  That’s a good thing, but it’s also overwhelming.  Many people stay so focused on all of the information those things deliver that they miss out on what’s right in front of us!  I’m often guilty of this. If you put down the technology for a while, you’ll pay attention to people and things right in front of you.  You’ll find that the information you think you need can wait.

Save Money

One thing that keeps us going is money.  We try to earn it so that we can spend it.  This cycle keeps us busy, that much is for sure!  But it often takes over our lives.  One thing you can do to counter that is to save money.  When you have savings, you won’t need to worry as much about how you’ll pay for things.  The comfort of knowing that money is where you need it can free your mind and your time for other things.  Start saving money today and it’ll pay off tomorrow.

Read A Book

The world around us can stress us out and overwhelm us.  One way to get away from that is to enjoy the other worlds out there. And there are so many!  Getting lost in a good book can take you away from your worries.  Once you put the book down, you’ll often find that the things you are worried about aren’t as bad as you think.  Opening your imagination will stimulate your brain.

Catch Up With An Old Friend

How many people do you think of that you no longer talk to?  Why? Because we don’t have enough time?  That’s the common excuse.  Well, guess what?  You’ll never get more time than you have today!  So, stop using that excuse and call an old friend.  Catch up.  Reminisce.  Laugh.  It’ll make you feel better.  If you want to improve your outlook on life, this is an easy one!

Try Something New

Taking on a new challenge is a big opportunity for many.  We often get stressed because we’ve built walls around our lives.  These walls keep us doing the same things and getting stuck in the same patterns.  Breaking free of that is important.  There’s no better way to do that than by taking on a new challenge.  Try something you haven’t done before.  Start a blog.  Learn a new language.  Take a class.  You’ll open up parts of your brain that are waiting to be used.  This can give you excitement and stimulation and improve your outlook overall.

Worship

I’m definitely guilty of saying that there isn’t time to go to church.  That’s one thing that’s different from previous generations.  In the old days, going to church was something you did, and if you ran out of time, something else got pushed aside.  Somehow we’ve reversed that.  If you, like me, are guilty of this, put some time to worship on your calendar, and stick to it!  Attend a service.  Being reminded that there are higher powers that have put us here for a reason can help put things in a vastly different perspective.

Cross Something Off A To-Do List

Everybody’s got a list of things they need to get done.  How many of those things have been on your list for a long time?  You may not realize it, but those things weigh your mind down.  They’re always there.  Nagging.  Waiting.  Making you worry and causing you stress.  So, find something that you have wanted to do, and do it!  Find the time.  Get it done.  Cross it off.  Then, enjoy the reduced stress you now have from accomplishing a goal.

These are just some of my ideas on how to reduce stress and improve your outlook on life.  We only get one chance at this.  Many people always look toward tomorrow as a chance to get started.  But, we only get so many tomorrow’s.  They aren’t endless.  Make today and tomorrow and each day after that count.  Every day we put off doing things to improve ourselves is a day we’ll never get back.    Time itself is limitless, but our time is not.  Get started.  Improve your outlook on life and guess what happens next? You’ll lead a better and happier and maybe even longer life!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Checking In On My 2017 Fitness Goals

I’ve written a few times about how I have really tried to focus on better fitness this year.  I worried about our long camping trips and how that would affect me.  I’m happy to report that things are going well.  Here’s an update on my fitness goals.

Recap of My Goals And My Plan

I wanted to lose some weight and lose some body fat.  I’d spent most of 2016 gaining 0.5 to 1 pound per month, and there was no excuse for it.  I was just lazy and full of poor decisions.

I decided to commit 2017 to make better decisions.

My goals were two fold:

  1. I wanted to lose 13.5 pounds.
  2. I wanted reduce my body fat from 21% to 15%.

My plan was pretty simple:

  1. Work out more.
  2. Cut back on calories from alcohol.
  3. Eliminate all snacking at work.

Tracking Progress

Things have gone very well.  Just as I had a steady rise last year, things have moved in the right direction in a pretty steady fashion.

Here’s a quick summary on how things were at the end of each month:

  • January – Lost 4.1 pounds total.  Body fat: 19.6%
  • February – Lost 5.8 pounds total.  Body fat: 19.0%
  • March – Lost 7.8 pounds total.  Body fat: 17.4%
  • April – Lost 8.2 pounds total.  Body fat: 17.4%
  • May – Lost 9.6 pounds total.  Body fat: 17.3%
  • June – Lost 12.1 pounds total. Body fat: 16.9%
  • July (so far) – Lost 12.3 pounds total.  Body fat: 16.3%

What this represents:

  • I’ve lost 91% of the total weight I want to lose.
  • I have lost 81% of the total body fat I want to lose.
  • Finally, I’ve lost 28% of my total body fat.

Methodology: In order to smooth out the normal fluctuations, I take measurements every day, and then use a running 7-day average on both weight and body fat.

Slowing Down

Things have obviously started to slow down.  I’ve worked around this weight goal before, and I’ve always found that the last couple of pounds are the hardest.  In fact, the one time I hit it a few years ago I only got the last couple of pounds because I got food poisoning.  I’m hoping that I don’t have to rely on that this time.

I really want to get this last little bit.  Then, the real work starts.

Right now, it’s easy to keep staying motivated on my behaviors, but if I hit the goal, I have to make sure to stay motivated so that things don’t go in the wrong direction. Just like they have in the past!

This is similar to personal finance goals.  Many people work so hard for a goal (like getting out of debt) that once they hit it, they don’t have any idea what to do next.

The key is to look ahead.  I’m already looking ahead to how I can stay motivated over the next few months.  It’s not going to be easy.

Three Major Challenges Ahead

We have three things that I really have to watch out for:

  1. Our second week long camping trip – We do two trips per summer.  I got out of the last one relatively unscathed but will have to make sure I don’t fall apart on the next one.
  2. Our anniversary trip – We are going to Cancun for a few days to celebrate our ten year anniversary.  It’s at an all inclusive resort.  I’ve never been to one but I’ve heard that they’re like cruise ships, and it’s easy to indulge.
  3. Halloween – This is my Kryptonite.  Seriously.  After Halloween people bring loads of candy into the office.  And they bring the good stuff.  Hershey Bars.  Reeses Cups.  You name it.   I have never been able to resist the jar upon jar of chocolate goodness.  If I’m going to lose my work goal, this will be how it happens.  However, since by that point I’ll have 10 full months under my belt, I am confident I can make it.

So far, I’m happy with how things are going.  Now I just need to get those last steps and then make sure it doesn’t turn and go the wrong direction.

Readers, how are your goals going?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Why I Keep Bugging My Wife About My Fitness Goals

I’ve been driving my wife a little nutty, and she has no idea why. I’m not normally one for New Years resolutions, but I set one this year.  And it’s not really a resolution as it is a goal.  Here are my fitness goals and why I keep talking about them to my wife.

My 2016 Fitness Goals Fail

I’ve had a target weight for a number of years.  I’m about 5’8″ (or maybe a little smaller as my wife says I’m shrinking).  I’ve never been muscular and I’ve never been dramatically overweight.  I hover somewhere in the average range.  My ideal weight is 155 pounds, along with a 15% body fat percentage.  I’m normally closer to 160-165 pounds, and around 20% body fat.

To start last year, I was around 162 pounds and 21% body fat.  I wanted to run regularly for the full year, and figured that I could maybe get to my target weight goals.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, I went backward.  I actually checked in a few times throughout the year, and I basically went in a straight line upward.

I only put on about 6 pounds but every 3-4 months I’d be 1.5-2 pounds heavier.

It was annoying and as I got to the end of last year, I decided it was time to offer a little more than lip service to the idea.

My 2017 Fitness Goals

My goals were simple: The same as I’ve set in the past.  155 pounds and 15% body fat.  I realize that as I get older, these are probably harder and harder to reach.  Your body just seems to add a little here and there along the way.  But, I figure at 42 I have a shot, right?

My Plan To Reach My Goals

So what am I doing to hit my goals?  Nothing drastic.  I’m not going on any big diets or embarking on any big fitness changes.  It’s a series of small things that I hope will add up for me.

Admitting I Failed

I actually spent some time looking and thinking about what went wrong.  I not only missed my goals, but I went completely in the opposite direction.  Seeing that I missed the mark throughout the whole year was evidence that I didn’t just miss my goals.  I’d failed.

Revamping My Exercise Plan

I have really enjoyed running since my wife introduced me to it a few years ago.  I do this activity primarily on the treadmill at the nearby Planet Fitness.  My problem is that I set a goal last year to run as many times as I did the year before.  So all I did was run.  I ignored all advice, both from professionals as well as my wife, urging me to do different exercises.  I never lifted weights.  I never did other cardio.  I just ran.  This year, I stopped tracking running and started tracking walking, running, weight lifting, and other activities.

Getting Serious About Cutting Back Snacking

I love to snack.  Practically every day at work, I’d reach into my drawer and pull out a Nutri Grain bar or some crackers or something else.  I’d get home from work and have something to get me through dinner.  Then, after dinner and before bed, I’d be good for something else.   Three snacks, each probably 200-350 calories.  This was a couple of thousand empty calories per week.  While I haven’t and probably won’t cut snacking altogether, the plan is to cut back my snacking intake about 80%.  So far, I’ve made the adjustment and kept up.

Reducing Calories From Drinking Alcohol

My drink of choice for the past few years has been whiskey and coke.  I’m going to try to reduce my alcohol intake but am also going to shift to what a few others around me have taken on as their drink of choice.  This is vodka mixed with La Croix.  Just changing mixers will cut at least 100 calories each time I pour a drink.  Add that together with trying to reduce my intake, and it should again cut some significant calories.

Having An Accountability Partner

As I mentioned to start the article, I’ve been keeping my wife in tune with how things are going.  When I get back from the gym, I’ll tell her about what I did that day.  If I get back from work, I’ll mention if I had any snacks or that I haven’t snacked (so far it’s only not having snacked).  I’ll make a point of saying that a drink has 100 calories less than one I would have had last year.  When the scale tells me I’ve lost half a pound, I’ll let her know.   I know this amuses her, but I do it so that I can stay accountable.

I learned last year that trying to be accountable only to myself didn’t really do a lot.  But by telling her of how things are going or what I’m doing, it keeps me accountable and keeps me more on track.  I don’t need her to do anything more than listen, but just having someone that I know is keeping track other than me (even if she doesn’t mean to), is a difference maker.

Staying Focused Is Key

So far I’ve seen some positive results.  I’m down 3.5 pounds to 165 pounds and down to 19.5% body fat (starting off at 21%).  With the fact that I’m just making small changes, I know that hitting my targets aren’t anything in the immediate future.  But, I’m hopeful at this point that I can make slow progress to at least get closer.  More importantly, I’m hoping that this year my trend doesn’t go up.  Even if, at a certain point during the year, my progress flattens, that will be a turnaround in itself versus what happened last year!

Readers, do you have any fitness goals for 2017?  Do you have a plan?  Does one of them include any type of accountability partner, whether that be a family member, significant other, or even something like a blog?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Health Updates To Finish Out 2016

It seems like the end of the year always brings health to the forefront.  Maybe because we have to sign up for insurance for next year.  It could be because we want to get ourselves ready for a healthier version to start off next year.  Perhaps it’s because we know that we have put off stuff we need to do.   Or, in our case, a combination of pretty much all of those.  Here are a few health updates in our household.

Health Update 1: Flu Shots

We all got our flu shots within a couple of days.  My employer gives them to us for free right on site (I work for a hospital system), so it just took about 15 minutes of waiting in line and I was done.  My wife got hers at Target, and took our kids after school, and all were covered 100% by our health insurance.  Hopefully we stay flu free for the season!

Health Update 2: Physical Therapy

Our son, who is seven years old, just started physical therapy.  He is a toe walker, so he goes once per week to see a therapist.  He’s done it since he started walking.  The doctor told us that many kids grow out of it, but our son never did.  They recommended therapy to try to correct his walking habits, as well as stretch out his muscles.  Since we have a high deductible plan, we’re paying this cost out of our fund balance.

Health Update 3: Ear Ache

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Putting off health items is easy but often can be costly later.

As if the flu shot and the therapy haven’t given my son enough time at the doctor office, last weekend he complained of an ear ache.  We took him in and he had an ear infection.  He’s been on antibiotics.  These costs are also going to be out of pocket, but well worth it for a healthy child.

Health Update 4: Insurance for 2017

Today starts open enrollment at our company.  Our plan is available with no coverage changes, which I’m pretty excited about.   Our employer kicks in the first $1,000 to our health savings account, which is nice.  Last year, the premiums didn’t go up, but this year we’re going to pay about 5% more, which I can’t complain about too much compared to those under Obamacare who have double digit increases coming their way.

Health Update 5: Time For Check Ups

I haven’t had a physical since 2014.  My main reason is that when we switched to the health plan we’re on now, the doctor I was used to seeing was no longer on our plan, and the idea of starting over is just tedious.  Still, I know I’m at the age where I need to be serious about getting these done, and once I start, I can push my wife to start getting annual checkups from a family doctor in addition to her OB/GYN check-ups (which she does).

Because one side of my family has a history of heart issues, I’m also going to look into getting some tests done on my heart.  It amazes me that with the amount of heart disease that blockages and problems are most often diagnosed after a cardiac event.

Health Update 6: Other To-Do Items

All of us need our second dental cleaning for the year.  It’s also been a couple of years since I have gotten my eyes checked, and I know I probably need a new set of lenses.  There’s always something to do!

Readers, what do you have left to do for health related items before the end of the year?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.