The secret to happiness

We must keep growing!

Everything in life either grows or dies, relationships, businesses, and anything else.

If you don’t keep growing you’ll become frustrated and miserable no matter how much money you have in the bank (or rather invested in stocks and shares).

So the secret to happiness, according to Andrew, can be summed up in one word.

Progress.

Progress equals happiness!

Even if you are not there/where you want to be, but if you are making progress with the things that matter you will start to feel more fulfilled.

The second principle, if it were, is that you have to give to feel truly happy.

If you don’t give you’re limiting your happiness. You’ll never feel absolutely alive.

‘You make a living from by you get, you make a life by what you give!’.

– W. Churchill.

Sharing your gifts, your knowledge and experience to help others taps into the true nature of a human being. It isn’t to be selfish. We are driven by our desire to contribute, we want to share, it makes our lives richer to share.

If you don’t have that sense of contribution you’ll never feel truly fulfilled.

It’s also worth reminding ourselves of the obvious truth that becoming financially rich isn’t the key to fulfilment.

People often chase after money in the delusional belief that it is some kind of magic elixir that will give joy and meaning to their lives.

But money alone will never give you an extraordinary life.

I know millionaires that are miserable.

And if you’re not happy you you can’t have a magnificent life no matter how big your net worth.

Remember money doesn’t change people it just amplifies their nature.

If you have a lot of money and you’re sad and mean money will exacerbate that.

But if you have a lot of money and you are generous you’ll naturally give more.

Now there is one thing to point out here. If you are are someone that contributes to the world and gives a lot to others. There is something to be cognisant of.

That is; making everyone else happy but yourself!

You know the safety instruction the flight attendant gives you on an airplane:

‘Fix your own safety mask before helping others‘.

Well, it’s worth thinking about!

Unless you help yourself first how can you help others?

You can’t! You’ll be in trouble and you wont be able to help the people you care about!

So in order to help others, you must first help yourself. It’s imperative that you are fit, strong, and healthy so you have the energy to keep on doing what you do!

The weigh in

On your weight loss journey, there are many ways to keep tabs on your progress.

If you’re going to be stepping on the scales to gauge your progress keep reading, I’ll tell you how to do it so you get it right!

Firstly, stop weighing yourself at every possible opportunity. After a workout at the gym, when at the pharmacy, at random times of the day, or any time you see a set of scales!

There are so many variables that go into the number you see on the scales.

Weight might be down if you’ve been sweating a lot. Weight might be up if you’ve eaten a lot. Weight might be up from water retention if you’ve had a meal high in sodium or carbohydrates.

So to cut out these variables weigh yourself at the same time of day. I would advise that be first thing in the morning after going to the toilet. In minimal clothing and before you have anything to eat or drink. This weigh-in should be the only one you record.

Then it’s on you to resist the urge to step on the scales at other times of the day! As these readings will be irrelevant.

Next, when it comes to the frequency of weigh-ins I’d recommend you go for daily. Making it part of your routine. The reason being is; I don’t want you to miss a new low!

And the most important thing to bear in mind is that you will see fluctuations daily. Up one day, down the next. Going forward you are looking for a trend, a new low each week! Not each day! This will mean that what you are doing is working!

I wish you all the best with your progress.

Look! Something shiny!

Have you ever thought about having a super power??

I’m sure you have (mine would be the invisibility one).

But what if I told you that you could actually have a superpower?! What I’m getting at is in today’s world, sustained attention may be a superpower!

We are pulled in all directions, half-attending to everything that’s going on, and don’t know what is important or valuable.

Perhaps you’ve been in that situation: What to do first? Let me Google it! What about this blog / article / social media drama? Oh hey, look over here!

Or, you find yourself saying to someone; How about this plan? What about that plan? I did Plan A for 2 days while reading about Plan B then I jumped to Plan C and oh by the way, did you hear about Plan D?

The problem isn’t ‘not enough information’. We have more information than we know what to do with! But rarely are you going to change based on information alone.

People still smoke knowing full well it’s not a good idea!

It’s not information overload; it’s filter failure. Without a strong ‘focus filter’ (i.e., I am choosing to pay attention to THIS now), we experience the mental/cognitive stress of:

  • too much information; and
  • the effort required to pull our attention away from “shiny things” (i.e., irrelevant distractions) and keep it honed in on what matters.

Problems focusing and paying attention tend to come with other problems too.

For instance, struggles with attention may have you wondering why you procrastinate. Or why you’re so disorganized, impulsive, or sensitive.

You may have a pattern of launching into “life transformation” projects with great enthusiasm, but soon run out of steam. Making you feel quite discouraged.

Now, our information-rich, device-driven society isn’t to blame. We didn’t overnight become zombies because we got smartphones.

It’s because as human beings we want to escape undesirable states, like being bored or irritable. And now, we have infinitely more ways to do that. Plus nobody’s teaching you the skills to do otherwise.

Unfortunately, distraction is not actually replenishing. It doesn’t actually decrease our cognitive stress.

For goals we want to accomplish, what we need is traction — choosing an activity, and then staying on track.

Mental and cognitive recovery thus involves building the skills of:

  • filtering and prioritizing; and
  • focused, deliberate attention.

A state of mind called ‘soft fascination’ may help restore our attention.

‘Soft fascination’ is when our attention is held by a less active or stimulating activity. Like reflection or introspection. It’s particularly powerful in natural environments. Such as when we’re gazing at a beautiful mountain vista, or watching a river run past.

This might not be at all surprising to you. People have always documented that time in nature seems almost magically replenishing.

Think about it, it’s how we all lived for millennia before the invention of agriculture. And well into the 20th century, when most people in the world lived in rural areas.

So I’d like you to consider exploring doing something in a natural environment. A local park or garden maybe?!

Surf the wave

When it comes to dieting reducing your calories through reducing portion sizes, or omitting a snack or meal (to create an energy deficit; the only way fat loss will occur!) is an easy way to achieve this.

Yet there will be something to consider during your dieting periods. Hunger!
Along with emotional eating and boredom, hunger is another test you will encounter on your health drive.

Not only is it one of the most powerful diet disruptors but it is also the most misunderstood.

The concept of stress eating and boredom eating are very straight forward. Stress levels are high, we eat something (usually fun food) and it temporarily makes us feel better. And boredom eating fills a void / gives us something to do during periods of downtime. Simple.

But hunger is a different animal. Our body brings about feelings of hunger (due to elevated levels of a hormone Ghrelin).

The common misconception is that as we go longer and longer without food our hunger levels increase.

So it makes sense to ‘flatten the curve’ by eating something. The hunger sensation is notable so we look to remedy this by eating something asap. This urgency sees us bypass mindfulness over what we choose to supress this pang! Making it hard to keep to our targets for our diet.

But, what actually happens (and this is prudent to recall during periods of hunger) is that our hunger levels come in waves.

You have condition these waves to peak and trough with your eating habits overs time. So you will feel hungry at the time you usually have a meal/snack.

So if you are cutting out a meal or snack to reduce your calories. Know that during the time where you would have had this meal/snack you will feel hungry. This is the peak/crest of the wave.

It’s your job to ride the wave, embrace the sensation, accept it and surf the hunger wave. The wave will die down/pass.

Dieting is much like surfing, you have to appreciate the waves if you want to be good at it.

If you would like to know how to reduce the intensity of these hunger wave check out my blog. How optimising ‘protein density’ can help you maintain muscle and stay full whilst dieting.

Confirmation danger

I’m going to talk to you about Dave.

Following the decadence that is this time of year Dave has been considering doing something to get in better shape in the new year.

As part of his new health and fitness drive Dave wants to lose a few pounds. So he makes a decision to try a diet that one of his work colleagues is doing.

He checks progress on the scales every morning. If he has lost weight he pats himself on the back and considers the diet a success. If he has gained weight he writes it off as a normal fluctuation and forgets about it.

For weeks he lives under the illusion that the diet is working. He tells himself ‘it must be the fact that he’s started exercising and that all the muscle he’s developed is offsetting the weight loss’. Because he knows muscle weighs more than fat.

More weeks pass and even though his weight remains constant. He’s not seeing any changes to his body but he tells himself he just needs to double down on what he’s doing.

More time passes. Dave still hasn’t seen any movement on the scales and his clothes are still just as tight.

‘It must be more muscle growth and water retention’ he tells himself.

Sound familiar? I hope not!

What’s happened is that Dave has fallen victim of a confirmation bias. Albeit a harmless one, but it has been costly to him as he’s wasted a lot of time.

The confirmation bias is the mother of all misconceptions. it’s the tendency to interpret new information so it becomes compatible with our existing beliefs.

We filter out any new information that contradicts our existing views disconfirming evidence. It is a dangerous practice; ceasing to acknowledge that facts exist because they are ignored!

Yet, we do exactly that! What human beings are best at is interpreting new information so our prior conclusions remain intact. Hiding the presence of disconfirming evidence.

It is incumbent on you to fight the confirmation bias. So whenever observations contradict your theory take them seriously do not merely brush them aside! Lean into them, test your beliefs.

And do it sooner rather than later as the brain does a very good job of forgetting disconfirming evidence after a short time!

The more certain you judge your belief to be, the more active you should be in looking for contradictions!

Your recovery Rockstar

Did you know that getting adequate and good quality sleep has a significant impact on hormone balance and muscle protein synthesis.


Outside of muscle growth, sleep deprivation has also been directly linked to an increase in appetite and as a result an increase in body fat. Because when you are not getting enough quality sleep hormones called Ghrelin and Leptin are affected and can effect our hunger levels.


Poor sleep will also lead to detrimental effects on your immune system
Because sleep helps T cells, a key part of our immune system, get to other places. Having enough T cells around to keep an eye on things means that we’re better able to start an immune response as needed.


But that’s not all. Remember that sleep helps us learn and remember? Well, it works for immune cells too.


Sleep boosts the immune system’s ability to ‘remember’ particular antigens, such as viruses. And more effectively produce antibodies or specific defenses against a particular antigen.


The most beneficial phases of sleep are the 2-3 hours of deep sleep we should experience each night. Deep sleep is very restorative and is where our stress hormone cortisol is at its lowest. And other hormones that support muscle growth are at their most potent.


Phases of sleep and the circadian system affect our immune and inflammatory responses. During this period there are changes to levels of various hormones.


These hormonal changes help boost the adaptive immune response. By helping it learn and “remember” antigens. When we sleep, our immune system is transferring what it’s learned about specific antigens (such as viruses) into its ‘long-term memory’. Which helps it recognize and respond effectively to the same antigens in future.


Cortisol is a stress-response and steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of vital body processes. And, it plays a crucial role in our sleep.
Under normal circumstances, cortisol follows a strong circadian rhythm. It’s highest when we first wake up, and decreases throughout the day.


When we don’t get enough sleep, we see less variation in the circadian rhythm of cortisol. We don’t get the highest highs in the morning, nor does cortisol drop as much in the evening.


This means that we often end up with higher measurements of cortisol after poor sleep because it doesn’t decrease like it should. On top of that, not getting enough sleep is stressful, too!


So, does it matter if we get a bad night’s sleep, or if our cortisol is too high, or both?


Yes.


Some research has suggested that cortisol could be the factor that links poor sleep to the development of depression. These things often go together.


For instance, a hallmark symptom of depression is changes in sleep. Including more awakenings in the night, difficulty falling asleep, and less deep sleep. Unsurprisingly, people who have depression often also have higher concentrations of cortisol.


If we’re able to improve our sleep and reduce our cortisol levels (i.e., deal with our sleep and stress), it will likely also help us better take care of our emotional, psychological and social well-being.


You can get started on improving your sleep quality by:

  • increasing darkness in the bedroom
  • have a regular time for going to bed
  • remove electrical equipment from the bedroom
  • maintain a cool temperature in the bedroom
  • use an alarm that will wake you up in a light sleep phase

Dealing in absolutes

Dealing in absolutes isn’t a good idea. When we use terminology such as good or bad or ‘always’ and ‘never’ it creates a false dichotomy.


Which is an informal fallacy based on a premise. That erroneously limits what options are available. The source of the fallacy lies not in an invalid form of inference but in a false premise.


And limiting options is not a good thing. Especially when it comes to methods of improving your health.


You may have asked ‘is this good for me?’


And the answer will likely be – it comes down to the amount!


One doughnut will not make you unhealthy just the same as one salad will not make you healthy.


We as human beings always look to simplify things. But when it comes to sleep, stress, food and exercise it’s not applicable.


To simplify and state that all stress is bad would be ignorant. As a certain amount of stress is beneficial to us (the amount depends on the individual).


To say that sugar is bad and you should never have it would be extreme and irrelevant. As it offers benefits both physiologically and psychologically.


Claiming that only sleep under certain conditions is good, also erroneous.


When we strive for these extremes and perfections only to fall short it can quite often be damaging. That’s why I propose you don’t!


Instead of being inconsistently perfect with your diet, exercise, stress, and sleep. Aim for being consistently alright. That is when you’ll start to notice improvement.


To do this, rather than thinking in switches (‘on’ or ‘off’) think in dials (1-10). It adds flexibility and sustainability when gauging the health practices in your life.

Peanuts

I’m going to share with you a story from when I was working in a Health Club.


I was delivering a seminar and afterwards a couple came to speak to me. They told me they had tried every fad diet and product that I had slammed in my talk. And they still were struggling with fat loss. I could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, they were desperate, at the end of their tether. We spoke briefly and they booked in for a consultation the following week.

When we met they brought with them their food diaries which I had asked for. As I reviewed their diaries I had to refrain from laughing at the bickering between them. As I went through one persons food diary the other would throw in dispersions and judgements. ‘I don’t know why you eat that crap’, ‘I told you not to eat that!’


What was confusing to me was that on reviewing their diaries, their diets looked pretty good. They were far from the best I had ever seen but far from the worst. The judgements and condescension from their partner were definitely unwarranted. It wasn’t evident understand why they were in the predicament they were.


My train of thought went to recording inaccuracy, which is very common. People underestimate their true calorie intake by astonishing percentages. I’m talking about possibly 45 percent! Depending on factors like age, sex and body composition.


I asked them in a polite way if they had recorded everything. And how accurate they thought they had been. It looked like they were very thorough. because things like takeaways and alcohol had were on there (plus the amount). Which some people tend to omit out of fear of judgement. There were even some corrections to amounts in their recording.


At this point it was a case of delving a little deeper into where things were going array. As the calories they were consuming were at an amount where they should be losing weight. I went through in detail each of the foods on their diaries to confirm amounts. And then we made a breakthrough.


I identified on both their lists a bag of peanuts. I knew the energy content of a bag of peanuts and confirmed with them it was just a bag. To throw more confusion into the mix they told me that sometimes they didn’t finish the bag. Befuddled by their congruence with what they had told me I sat there perplexed. Until a thought popped into my head.


‘Trust but verify’.


Maybe it was my assumption that had caused my confusion?!I loaded up on my phone images of different bags of peanuts. To my amazement they pointed at the bag they had been ‘snacking’ on was a kilo bag! Yep 4,300 calories per bag!


The reason for which was because they had heard that nuts were a ‘healthy’ snack. So they worked on the premise that it would be healthy to have a lot.
I explained that whilst nuts are a good source of nutrients it was the amount that was the issue.

Unless you are a heavyweight boxer or artic explorer it was unlikely you would need that much energy. Especially with their sedentary lifestyle. From here it was a simple switch to a small bag of peanuts. The most straight forward resolution I’ve ever made to improving someone’s health.


This simple change to their diet saw her close to 5 stone, and him nearly the same. But more importantly it has hugely improved the quality of their lives. They are more active, they have more energy and yes they still enjoy the odd peanut 🙂

Immediate gratification

I know the process of exercise doesn’t feel good, in fact, it’s quite the opposite at the time. Being hot, sweaty, uncomfortable it’s quite an ordeal.

The same goes for food choices, it’s effort to cook a meal that will be better for you than a takeaway.

And getting to bed at a reasonable time rather than staying up for some more down time is tough.

Putting time aside to journal or meditate is also a challenge. Because at the back of your mind you know you’ve got a lot on your plate and you could be tackling some of that.

Doing these things gives us a short lived sense of achievement. From knowing that we’ve done something good for our health, but it’s negligible.

Everything else in our lives we get immediate gratification from. A take away meal or fast food gives us a big wave of dopamine. A cigarette gives us a nicotine hit, an alcoholic beverage gives us a buzz. Ordering something online arrives next day (sometimes the same day, thanks Mr Bezos)

It’s hard because we live in a world that caters for immediate gratification. Yet, these acute immediate gratifications are short lived. And some even come with remorse!

They’re very easy to fall into the habit of doing. When you’re busy with work and kids you might not be prepared to eat that well. Also, eating the stuff that’s not so great for you feels good when you’re stressed (thanks alot dopamine).

It’s easy not to go to the gym because ‘you haven’t got time’ or ‘you’re not feeling up for it’

It’s easy to watch another episode and stay up late because your day hasn’t included any time for you. It’s been all work, work, work.

With exercise, sleep, your diet, stress management there isn’t an clear or immediate feel-good association. Only the pat on the back you give yourself.

This immediate gratification is what you are fighting against in order to make a change.

Not giving into the things that feel good now but doing the things that will pay off later. Delayed gratification. The gratification that comes from achieving confidence from looking and feeling good. That feeling of being stronger, healthier, energised takes a bit of time.

But, imagine waking up every day feeling good, happy with what you see in the mirror. Thinking ‘you know what I’m going to change my social media profile pic to not just a headshot’.

‘I’m going to get those jeans from that store’.

This gratification will not be short lived! This will be with you for the foreseeable future, long-term happiness.

The blame game

The big mindset switch for me, the thing that has helped me the most, was from when I was studying psychology.


It was something that resonated with me and has been so important in my perspective of life. Thinking about it today it’s almost like a secret that I’m so glad came to hear about.


This secret, this Bastian of power is taking responsibility. No longer believing that other things were to blame. It was down to me. Thinking this was flipped the narrative and meant I took charge of my life.


I believe that no matter what happens to me I created it on some level. I am responsible for it. It it’s not there because of my physical actions it’s there because of my mental action. Thoughts of things which I’ve attracted.


And here is why you might want to adopt this belief system, because the alternative is scary! Let me explain. If you’re not in control of your life, you’re not responsible. If you blame others or circumstances, you’ve got a big problem! Because you have no power to change it. You are impotent.


But with the belief system I’m proposing to you. the belief that you are not a victim of circumstance. If you believe that whatever has happened is down to you generating it on some level. Then if you don’t like it you can change it!


Do you see where I’m going with this? My point being that I’m not trying to make you feel culpable. But I’m empower you, so if you don’t like how things are going you know you can change them.


In victim mode the following things or circumstances are responsible for your health:


Carbs

Thyroid/slow metabolism

Big bones

Lack of time

Body type


When you take control /responsibility what you’ll see is that your poor health and fitness is down to:


Lack of self control

Unaware of energy balance

Overestimating your calorie expenditure

Rewarding yourself with food

Poor food choices

Poor stress coping mechanisms


Now I know it’s easy to play the blame game. I’ve been there. The universe, him, her, this, that and everything else but myself, was to blame for why I wasn’t where I wanted to be.


But once you take responsibility for everything, good or bad. You can take credit for the wins. But you must also take responsibility when it doesn’t go your way. Knowing that you can change it!


You are 100% in control of your health and fitness!