Happiness

Shawn Achor, an American author of the best seller book “Happiness Advantage” made his career on studying “happiness”. Shawn believes that as a society we have focused our attention on productivity and completely forgot about the meaning of our lives along with happiness.

According to Shawn traditional formula of happiness: “I will be happy when I achieve or get something” is fundamentally wrong. We should be able to be happy in a present moment, content with what we already have while still working on our goals.

So what is the recipe for a happy life according to the advocate of positive psychology? Let’s take a look.

1. Grateful for today

Every night, before going to bed, spare at least 5 minutes to write down 3 things you are grateful for today. What happened throughout the day that made you happy? The idea is to condition yourself to see new things to be grateful for every single day and never repeat them.

2. Duplicate a positive experience

Think about a positive thing that happened in the last 24 hours. Spent several minutes “re-living” the moment by talking about it and try to find at least 4 details about it. When you go through the particular situation one more time (positive or negative) the brain begins to magnify the significance. The more details you include in the description of the positive moment the more positive emotions you are going to receive at the end of the exercise.

3. Happy 15

Science has proved it many times, exercise makes a positive impact on our psychological state. The good news is that you don’t have to “live at the gym” 7 days a week. As little as 15 min of exercise a day can positively affect your emotional state. Take your dog for a 15 minute walk, go for a short jog, or do a simple bodyweight circuit at home.

In addition, Achor adds that out brain looks at the completed exercise activity as a victory that spreads to other actions throughout the day.

4. Meditation

Spare couple of minutes every day for doing absolutely nothing, but seating still, turning off your brain and watching your breath.  Even a very short conscious break can help you to lower your stress and bring you to the more calm and happier state.

5. Acts of kindness

Doing good for other people simply because you can is a great simulator of happiness. Try sending a positive message to a person you know in the morning, buying a coffee for a next person in line or holding a door for someone. Little things add up and they do make us happier.

6. Social connections

Social connections affect success, happiness, and even life longevity. Besides, the feeling of social support is extremely important for our happiness. That doesn’t mean we always need to be surrounded by people (some of us are introverts after all). But rather be in connection with friends, family, and people that are important to us.

Happiness is something we all have to work on. If you are currently in not so happy place – you have nothing to lose. So give these tips a try and let me know what you think.

Best wishes,

GymKat

“How to Squat” in Simple Words

There are numerous articles on the web and tons of literature on how to squat but many of them are in a pretty complex language that may be difficult to understand for most. A squat is one of the most basic movements that most people tend to do wrong 90% of the time. The purpose of this post is to explain the “Why and How” in simple words so that you were able to immediately apply and correct your own technique if necessary.

 Let’s start with the list of the most common mistakes:

  1. Forward lean

  2. Heels come off the floor

  3. Knees falling inwards

  4. Not going below parallel

Let me begin by saying that most of these mistakes can be fixed by only two moves:

  • Putting your feet slightly wider than your hips

  • Turning your toes out to 30-45 degrees angle

Now stand up and give it a try? Feel the difference?

The main reason for that is the anatomy of our hips, the hip joint in particular. In my practice I train people of all fitness levels and ages, so far I can recall only several clients that were able to squat properly with their feet pointing straight forward.

When it comes to your skeletal anatomy there are several major factors that will determine how you move. The hip socket itself is positioned differently in all people (higher/lower, more towards the front or the back of your body), so the angle and depth of the hip socket, the length of the femoral neck and the angle of the femoral neck in relation to the femur will greatly determine how your body moves. That will also determine whether you going to have a so-called “butt wink”.

Your skeletal anatomy cannot be changed, however, there is another important thing to consider. Your flexibility. Flexibility is something that you should work on a regular basis (if not every day then at least 4-5 times a week). Lack of flexibility in any muscle group will lead to compensation from other muscles and as a result, a wrong technique of the squat. Remember, everything in our bodies is connected and depends on each other. If one link is off, something else has to assume and distribute the load in order to perform the task. So put some work in and stretch on!

Most of you have heard that when you squat you shouldn’t go below parallel and that your knees should not go forward. I am honestly, not sure where this came from and how it ended up and many personal trainer educational books. What I do know, is that this advice is not appropriate for most people who have no pre-existing conditions that can be worsened by squatting low. Here is why.

First of all, our knees designed and meant to move beyond the toes when you squat. It’s literally impossible to squat properly without your knees going beyond the toes line. I mean look at the squat of the baby and tell me where their knees are going? Additionally, if you stop your knees beyond the toes, it will require you to lean forward in order to keep the balance, which under the load (like a barbell on your shoulders), will create more pressure on your back and may result in a back pain.

Considering you don’t have any pre-existing conditions that affect your knee joint, and correct technique of the squat, you should not feel any pain in your knees when you go below parallel. If you do feel the pain, it is most likely due to either lack of flexibility in one or several muscles (quads, calves, hip flexors or IT band) or weak tendons and ligaments (that need to be strengthened).

Now let’s look at why you should squat below parallel. The tension put on your knees during the descending part of the squat increases as you go all the way to 90 degrees angle and starts to decrease once you pass that point. In other words, you are putting a lot of pressure on the knees without giving them a chance to release the pressure by passing the parallel mark.

Of course, there are cases when squatting to just parallel or slightly above is the only option due to injury or other physical limitation. However, most people should be able to squat low as it not only will strengthen your knees and back, but also provide better activation for your glutes.

Now let’s try to sum it up and go through the major points of the squat step by step

  1. Start with your feet slightly wider than your hip width (find a comfortable position that feels natural)

  2. Point your toes out to 35-45degrees and bring your heels in slightly

  3. Keep your chest up and lower your hips as if you are trying to sit on the chair behind you

  4. Keep your weight on the heels the entire time but do NOT lift your toes off the floor

  5. Press your knees out so that they follow your toes

  6. Keep a constant tension in your upper and lower back (try to arch – not round)

  7. Without bouncing at the bottom reverse the movement while keeping your body as upright as possible.

  8. Ta-Da! That was one rep, let’s do ten more 😉

When done correctly, you shouldn’t feel pain in your back, knees or ankles. A squat is a great move that should be incorporated in some form in any well-rounded fitness program. Learn how to do it correctly and you are going to rip the benefits.

I hope this clears up some confusion and will help you build a better, stronger body (and booty). Stay strong and active my friends. Let me know if you have any questions and I will talk to you soon!