live it active

Motivation: Creating competition v. Finding the feel good

Some people do not like the idea of competition, especially when it comes to exercise. While I find this very difficult to digest as competition is a major part of my DNA, I understand that many hate being around the ultra-competitive such as myself. We tend to be annoying, overly-confident, and aggressive (you know who you are).

Working in health promotion, I find we health promotors tend to focus on the challenge to get people motivated. Most of our recent programs and initiatives at work have revolved around the concept of competition and while we get a number of people signed up and interested, it tends to be the same people over and over (yes, these are my people and I love them, but we need to reach a wider audience if we wish to be successful).

So what can we do? How can we make any health-related activity appealing to the non-competitive and ultra-cool? This is not rhetorical, I’m looking for an answer…please.

While you write my your answers, I shall share my thoughts on a possible approach. I think we need to return to the basics, to reconsider and refocus on the feeling of exercise (or any health-related change) and what it provides us. For many, the benefit is not in the winning or accomplishing or smashing a personal best, it is the simple act of doing and enjoying. And those who are successful with sustaining a health-related goal are the individuals that focus on feeling, not extrinsic reward such as money, free gym membership, weight loss, or winning (sorry folks, the joy and chemicals associated with winning leave your body as quickly as they entered).

Sometimes competition or challenge helps us to find the feel good. In the process of doing, we figure out this s*%^ is awesome. But we lose many people when we focus solely on the aspect of competition, and therefore, many won’t get to the feel good.

So let’s get back to the feel good. Let’s promote the emotional benefits of exercise more powerfully and prominently. Let’s take a step back from our comfort zone of competition and appreciate that we need to appeal to many audiences – that we need to create inviting health promotion initiatives that speak to the competitive and the non-competitive. Let’s move away from the extreme (tough mudder, commonly known as the electic-shock-therapy-running-challenge-thing) and get back to the beauty of health and well-being.


p.s. send me your answers immediately.

Keep your goals to yourself: The Evidence

I made reference to this research in my New Year’s resolution post in 2014 and 2015, but failed to actually share the evidence. Today, I’m sharing a short clip from a TED Talk that explains the science behind this suggestion. Enjoy!

So…did you do it?

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m not typically one for New Year’s resolutions. Yet, last year, around this time, I made some and I vowed not to tell anyone until January 2015.

So it’s now January 2015, the moment I know you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath.

But what I want to to know is did you do it? Did you jot down a few resolutions? Did you keep them a secret? Do you remember where you even put the list? If yes, dig those puppies up. Take a read. Have a laugh. I sure did.

Morgan’s 2014 Resolutions:

1. Nag less. “One less nag per day (catch myself before I say it).” In my mind, I achieved this resolution without fail (like all my resolutions…), yet I enlisted my husband to provide some objective feedback on this one. Surprisingly, he thinks I did nag less which is astounding  given we also got hitched in 2014. I’m not entirely sure if I did one less nag per day (I don’t have a running nag tally or alarm to let me know when I’m getting close to the threshold), but I did catch myself, on more than one occasion, before the nag-y words spewed out my mouth. Some days were much better than others. Sometimes I met nag threshold before my husband was even out of bed. Sometimes my husband had to set a limit (e.g. “you have two more nags left so make them good”). Sometimes I didn’t have much to nag about (these instances were rare). Overall, I think I did relatively well on this, but there’s always room for improvement (just like there is room for improvement when it comes to leaving wet towels on the floor…finishing with a nag).

2. Be less emotionally demanding. For someone who cries often, being less emotionally demanding is tough. Fortunately my husband is part saint and thus, has a high threshold for general tearfulness, malaise, grump-monster-type-behaviour. Once again, I asked for honest feedback and received a fairly positive response. Definitely not a vigorous nodding of the head in agreement, more of a gentle tilt, but I’ll take it. With the wedding, I’m not sure if emotional demands were lessened, but it heartens me to know that my husband either actually believes this to be true or loves me enough to engage in a gentle white lie.

3. Reduce snacking at work. “Don’t always take something from the kitchen just because it is available.” The additional notes to my resolutions make me smile. Thank you, past Morgan, for telling me not to eat something just because it’s free and available. I sound like a food you-know-what, which I really am. It’s almost impossible for me to walk past a plate of goodies at work, samples (or “samps” as I so fondly call them) at Costco, or the free chocolates in a bowl at Ikea (yes, I always look through the wrappers to see if there are any chocolates left at the bottom). Before this moves to full confession and becomes somewhat uncomfortable, I am pleased to announce that I did not “always take something from the kitchen just because it’s available” in 2014. I exerted some self-restraint and my pants thanked me. So did my pocketbook (yes, pocketbook) as buying new pants on a regular basis can get expensive.

4. Have fun planning the wedding. “It’s meant to be joyful, not stressful”. Thanks again, past Morgan, for this upbeat quip. I was obviously in a frenzied state of wedding planning when I wrote this resolution, so wanting to convince myself that every element of planning what’s supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime-knock-your-socks-off-type-event-no-pressure-that-is-super-expensive is supposed to be joy-filled and happy happy fun times. Some parts of planning were seriously fun. The best part was putting everything into action the week prior to the big day. And the big day rocked. Yet, some of the planning down-right sucked. So for all those brides in the midst of planning your kick-ass day, know that it’s okay to not love everything to do with wedding planning.

5. Run the 10 KM in under 50 minutes. I ran it in 50.04. It’s not under 50 minutes, so I didn’t technically achieve my goal, but I’m still super jazzed. I almost puked crossing the finish line so that has to be worth something.

So what’s your list? Share if you wish. Send me an email with a few laughs.

If you didn’t achieve your goals, don’t fret. I am not certain I actually achieved any of mine, but I did think about each of the five resolutions throughout the entire year. They didn’t disappear into the abyss of resolutions past. Perhaps not telling people is the trick. Perhaps not making the goals so difficult and being more gentle with ourselves is the way to go.

I’ve already made my list for next year and I look forward to having a laugh or two with you in 2016.

Happy New Year!




The joys and woes of commuting

Together, we face the joys (of which there are so few) and the woes (of which there are so many) of commuting. We change our tires, pump our gas (if we require a motorized vehicle), pay our toll, and weather the ever-changing climate (those living close to the equator are likely less concerned about icy roads or white-outs). Commuting makes us stronger. Commuting frays our nerves. Commuting, while I’ve never thought of it this way, perhaps gives us a sense of community. I mean, we’re all in this to-ing and fro-ing business together.

Personally, being stuck behind the wheel causes my higher level cognitive functioning to short-circuit. While I call myself a good driver (funny, I mistakenly, but perhaps for Freudian reasons wrote bood; a beautiful mix between good and bad), being stuck in traffic does cause me to devolve into a terrible human. A terrible human is one that yells, screams, uses the horn, and perhaps rude hand gestures…you get the picture. I’m what they call, a bit of a road rage-r. It’s not healthy, no. It is not congruent with my “oh-yes-I-love-meditation-and-do-it-regularly” posts. I blame it on demonic possession.

Regardless of its etiology, to avoid my rage-r self, I have chosen to actively commute to work. Well, perhaps I’m just lucky and wound up living close to my work location (actually, that’s what really happened). Yet, interestingly, when presented with the option to move to a bigger home, with a massive yard and opportunity for a dog, in a beautiful Calgary community, I turned it down. Actually, both my husband and I decided to say stay put. While money was somewhat a deciding factor, the commute and freedom of getting home in 17 minutes or less had great pull. In fact, I think it was the deciding factor.

Growing up in the country, I didn’t think my bumpkin self would like living in the city. Yet, the convenience of walking to get groceries, work, the dentist and close access to awesome restaurants is unbelievably appealing. It will be almost impossible to give up (and give up we must – a one bedroom condo will not suffice forever).

Okay, so I’m finally getting to the point of this post. To track my commuting distance and feel super awesome about myself, I decided to purchase a FitBit. Also, at the time of purchase, our company was in the midst of a global corporate physical activity challenge and I wanted to win (I ended up nowhere close) so the purchase of a FitBit to track activity was a must.

The FitBit is a wrist or waist-worn device that tracks your steps, acceleration, and calories burned. These devices are a heck of a lot more swanky than the cumbersome armbands research participants were required to where for my thesis – technology has seriously advanced and thank goodness for that. No one wants an irritation rash or a big honking device stuck on their upper arm buzzing throughout the night. The new swish and swanky FitBit saves your arm and your sleep.

One of my favourite features – it buzzes when you get to 10,000 steps (it can buzz at whatever increment you want) –  thus giving you timely and positive feedback on your daily physical activity. The best days are when you’ve gone for a long hike and you’re encroaching on 30,000 steps. The worst days (of which I’ve had a few more than the best days) are the ones where the television has been on incessantly, leading to a mere 3,500 – 4,500 steps.

Walking 6,000, 10,000, or 24,000 steps is going to provide some form of health benefit and the more you do, the greater the health benefit. Reaching 10,000 steps per day is hard if you’re stuck behind the wheel to get to and from work. If you’re in need of some ideas on how to increase your daily step count, this article may help. Yet, it’s my belief that this little device (or any other device that provides objective, real-time feedback) will most definitely help. It keeps you honest. It allows your inner competitive side a time to shine (you can sync up with friends and family to compete against one another). And it’s not too expensive (okay, a $100 is a little much, but I promise it’s a good investment).

I now view my commuting time as a health investment. I rarely begrudge my walk, even in -20 weather. I appreciate not everyone has the opportunity to actively commute and thus amp up their FitBit steps, but perhaps there are opportunities to squeeze some active time into your day. And perhaps, having a little device on your wrist or waist will encourage the long route to the bathroom or kitchen or parking lot.


Speed Cleaning v. Mindful Cleaning

Cleaning is not an activity that brings me joy. Perhaps, after the deed is done, I take comfort in my small accomplishment that I get to avoid for another few weeks time, but for the most part it makes me angry. And I’m not sure if that anger is due to the bitterness I feel for having to do it regularly or is a byproduct of the way in which I clean. Perhaps a little bit of both.

Allow me to elaborate on the way in which I clean. I speed clean. I rip around my kitchen, living room and bathroom with gusto, attacking every corner with the vacuum and every dust fleck with a cloth. While this mode of cleaning often leads to a clean house in a very timely way, I am often sweaty and aggravated by the end. Picture a tornado with hair. That is me cleaning.

So this past Wednesday, after finally shifting out of denial regarding the state of my house (I hadn’t vacuumed for at least a month; I’m sorry), I decided to engage in mindful cleaning. I’m not sure if this is a legitimate practice, but you can do anything mindfully if you want to and I guess on Wednesday, I wanted to mindfully clean.

Instead of raging with the vacuum nozzle, I gently moved it across the carpet. When old habits (e.g. a too vigorous arm movement or aggressive walk) started to flair up, I brought myself back to the gentle movement of the back-and-forth-back-and-forth-of-the-vacuum-over-the-stain-that’s-never-coming-out-because-I-actually-never-tried-to-clean-it motion. I stayed in the moment as best I could and worked to quell the rage-against-the-clean voice in my head.

Interestingly, I started out cleaning in a terrible mood, but ended in a much better one (I won’t go so far as a “great mood” but it was much improved). Earlier in the day, I had spent two hours waiting at the doctor’s office for a needle that usually takes 30 seconds to administer (this is too long and boring a story to share). I had come home to my husband’s clothes and towels strewn across the floor. I was grumpy. And amazingly, I turned to the one activity that typically amplifies the grumpy state, but with my new approach of mindful cleaning, I transitioned to an improved state of mind.

I’m not sure if I will engage in mindful cleaning every time I pick up the vacuum (which is 12 times per year if I push it; gross, I know). I don’t know if I’m mindful enough to remember to be mindful while I clean. Yet, I’m going to keep trying it and let you know how consistent a tool it is. It shall be my quasi project. Perhaps by writing this article I am already priming myself to always have a better mood following mindful cleaning; only time will tell.

If you love cleaning, I don’t understand you and this approach won’t be necessary. If you are ambivalent towards cleaning, this technique may make for a better experience. If you despise cleaning like me, this tool may come in handy and your partner, or cat, or dust bunny friends will appreciate it.

Happy cleaning (I can’t believe I wrote that…)

Photo Attribution – Richard West

The 26-minute NASA nap

I rarely nap, but when I do it’s absolutely delicious. To me, there are few things better than a Sunday afternoon couch nap in the sun (perhaps I was a cat in a past life). Yet, sometimes you can wake from a nap feeling just as unrested as when you started, in fact your grogginess level can be worse. Why could a few minutes of zzzz’s lead to such feelings?

In 1995, NASA performed a study to evaluate the benefits of napping in long-flight pilots. Pilots were divided into a Rest Group and a No-Rest Group (yes, very creative names, but you get the picture) and evaluated, over the course of a series of trans-Pacific flights, on their performance and sleepiness level. Pilots in the Rest Group were given a 40-minute window of opportunity to nap as researchers wanted to reduce likelihood of pilots progressing into slow wave sleep (stages 3 & 4; I will explain why later). A whopping 93% were able to nap in the Rest Group, while those in the No-Rest Group were required to maintain normal flight activities during their 40-minute “rest” window. Pilots, on average, fell asleep in 5.6 minutes and slept for 25.8 minutes.

Not surprisingly, pilots in the Rest Group demonstrated a 16 per cent improvement in reaction time and a 34 per cent improvement in concentration relative to the No-Rest Group. Sleepiness, as measured by EEG during the last 90 minutes of the flight, was lower in the Rest-Group with 34 micro-events (physiological changes in EEG waves indicative of micro-sleeps) relative to 120 micro-events in the No-Rest Group. It’s a little frightening to think of our pilots to be this sleepy during their shift, but it isn’t surprising.

Following this study, NASA started to promote the benefits of the 26-minute nap for astronauts and long-flight pilots. Why just 26 minutes? Well, pilots in the Rest Group who slept an average of 26 minutes experienced significant improvements in performance relative to pilots who didn’t. And also because after about 30 minutes of sleep, we typically enter stages 3 & 4 of our sleep cycle, commonly known as deep sleep. Stages 3 & 4 are necessary for physiological recovery (stages 2 and REM are associated with mental and cognitive recovery) and waking from these stages of sleep is often accompanied by feelings of grogginess, fatigue, and a general malaise. The further we get into our sleep cycle (typically 90 minutes in length), the more “painful” it is to awaken.

So next time you are planning an afternoon snooze or a recovery nap, it is recommended that you set your clock for 26 minutes or 90 minutes. If you’re able to do 90 minutes, you’ll achieve one entire sleep cycle and feel ready and rested; however, most of us aren’t able to take a 90 minute snooze at work, so set your clock for 26 minutes and enjoy the benefits of some mid-afternoon zzzz’s .


Now you have a legitimate and evidence-based excuse to nap (not that you needed one).


Calm: The meditation website

My friend recently introduced me to this incredible website. As I write, I’m listening to and loving the background music. The visuals are also beautiful (but I can’t look while I type).

When you first arrive it appears this is a site of nothing (except beautiful imagery and calming music). Once you move your cursor onto the screen a column appears on the left-hand side offering you the follow options: guided meditation at different intervals, a timer to bring you back to reality after self-guided meditation, the opportunity to download the app on your phone, and information on the site.  I performed the 2 minute meditation and loved it.

I plan to share this site with colleagues, friends, family, and of course, my loyal blog readers (thank you by the way for being so awesome). It’s free. It’s beautiful. It’s user-friendly. What’s not to love?

We are all deserving of peace.

We are all deserving of kindness.

We play an integral role in finding peace and being kind to both ourselves and others.


“If your fear is about the non-existent (past/future), your fear is 100% imaginary”

I posted this video over two years ago (very hard to believe), but the message is so profound, I think it important to re-post.

live it active

This video ties in beautifully with my recent focus on mindfulness meditation.

Happy pondering.


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One month without Facebook

Today marks the one month anniversary of my not using Facebook. Some (including myself) may be concerned I will develop a holier than thou attitude about not using social media. Please don’t fear. I won’t become an anti-social-media-really-annoying-person. I can’t. I still use social media. I have been visiting my Instagram account more since leaving Facebook (but I don’t have as many friends on Instagram so it takes sometimes a day or two for something new to be added) and I use LinkedIn. So really, I can’t develop a holier than thou attitude as I would be a complete hypocrite and, well, completely annoying.

So has anything changed? Not really. I still chat with my closest friends on a daily / weekly basis. I still share pictures with my family and friends via Photostream. I read the news online and sometimes check Reddit for goodies (usually if my fiance has left the browser open, I’m not that cool). I’ve had a few weak moments (approximately 2) where I wanted to log back in or sneak on via Evan’s, but other than that it has been smooth sailing.

Yet, something has changed. I don’t waste time learning about the lives of my friends, acquaintances and friends-no-longer via the internet; if I want to know how the people I care about are doing, I call them. Not surprisingly, human contact, albeit it over the phone, is pretty nice. I have also started reading more (not sure if that has to do with Facebook or just my monthly book binge), but best of all, I have stopped watching as much television. I think quitting Facebook (sounds so intense) brought awareness as to how much screen time I was engaging in and that’s a dangerous thing, especially for children (and I want to be a positive role model someday down the road). My good friend up in Edmonton actually researches the damaging consequences of screen time on cognitive development in children, so please let me know if you’re interested in some additional reading.

I’m going to see how long I can go for. I think there are other positive consequences that I am not consciously aware of and / or will take longer to become noticeable. Only time will tell.

Have you ever thought of giving up social media, cutting down your screen time, reading more, watching less television, getting outside more? Maybe, with the weather improving, it’s time to take some serious action. And I don’t mean cut all television or only spend time reading. Absolutely not. Going cold turkey on anything isn’t always ideal (yes, it worked for Facebook) and you don’t need to in order to achieve health benefit. Think about what you’ve been wanting to do, but holding back from doing.

Happy Thursday!




Stepping back from Facebook

I quit Facebook 84 hours ago.

It’s not really been as dramatic as that sentence suggests; actually, not even close. I’ve had a few moments of weakness (e.g. clicking on the application on my phone, typing the words into the search bar), but for the most part, it’s been smooth sailing.

I have decided to quit one of my biggest social media habits in an attempt to determine its influence on my mood and spirit. I’ve felt like myself and everyone around me is on the brink of complete overload, but I haven’t been able to clearly ascertain why. For me, work has been busy, but a normal pace. Friends and family are relatively stable. Wedding planning is just fine. And yet, the feeling of stress has remained a constant. It is somewhat partly attributed to my nature; however, I know there is something else, other than my personality, influencing my mood. Hence, my reason for turning my attention to Facebook.

To me, Facebook is a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. It provides users with a sense of connection without any of the benefits. Human beings are hardwired for social (i.e. in-person) interaction. Even the most introverted enjoy and crave connection with others, they just want it with fewer people at one time (I’m marrying one, so I’ve begun to understand the way of the introvert). When we use Facebook to look at people’s most recent accomplishment, travel adventures, purchases (house, dog, baby stuff…you get the picture), we get the benefit of understanding what’s going on in someone’s life without the benefit of hearing from them in-person.The interaction leaves us feeling unsatisfied, but without an explanation of why.  As many of you will agree, we always prefer the book to the movie, so why then do we continue to watch the movie of our loved ones while rarely picking up the book and truly getting to know the characters.

So that’s why I’m quitting Facebook (don’t worry, I’ve only deactivated my account in the event I start to develop withdrawal symptoms). I don’t want to be a part of a false community anymore. I want to be a part of a living, breathing and loving community. I intend to use my recently acquired spare time to call my friends more, write them letters, engage in more in-person activities, read the books I’ve been putting off, and learn (maybe I’ll even blog more). I know there will be no issue staying in touch with the people I really want to stay in touch with.

While this is my journey and mine alone, I encourage you to think about the benefits of Facebook and social media. Ask yourself if they are truly enriching your life and making you a happier human.

Happy asking.



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