Even the most dedicated couch potato can get use out of these exercises.
HIIT training, Crossfit, and other workouts have become really popular. But they’re not for everyone. It can feel discouraging to even get started because these exercises feel like a big production. I can say for myself, all my workout clothes are gathering dust in the closet.
The good news is that all this working from home we’ve all been doing has helped show how a simple walk can be very beneficial for your health. I sometimes don’t free up my time or mental space until after 4PM. Living so far on the East coast, that means a walk at that time will be when the sun is starting to set. And walking in the dark is still effective but not as enjoyable.
But lately, I’ve come to realize there are simple stretches and exercises I can do at home that don’t require any special equipment, but are still really helpful — especially after sitting at a computer for a few hours. Working from home means I can easily do these at any time of the day without feeling embarrassed.
Here’s a list of 7 exercises that pretty much anyone can do at home.
These basic exercises are very simple. Easy to do at anytime and could do them more than once per day if desired. I do them whenever I need a quick break or with the other exercises.
Simple arm circles, forward and back, to help keep your arms toned and joints moving.
I really enjoy these. I find when I do them, my hips sort of “reset” after a few cycles. I also like to do really wide cycles, and this helps me get a little stretch in my hamstrings (back of the legs) after sitting for a few hours.
Cat Camel Stretch
I really love this one. I confess that I don’t always have the best posture while sitting at my desk. This one helps make sure my lumbar spine gets a good flex.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t embed the actual video, so I just took a screenshot for part of this exercise. As you can read by the caption, this is helpful for people who spend a lot of time on a phone or computer.
I first saw this exercise guru mentioned on Reese Witherspoon’s Instagram, while she was demonstrating what looked like a pretty easy exercise. So I checked her out for other tips. She’s the one who gave me the idea to do arm circles!
As you’ll see, advanced is a bit of a stretch. But it is possible to accidentally overstrain a muscle or joint doing these, so some extra care is necessary. I usually only do these exercises once per day. And these might require a door frame.
Take it easy with neck stretches. Neck circles, going in a full circle around, are actually considered outdated and dangerous because the movement combines stretching and movement. Doing just one stretch keeps them safe. But also don’t strain yourself if you’re feeling tight. And probably not a good idea to do these too much in a single day.
I again couldn’t embed the video (only 1 min), so again here is a screenshot. There are 4 stretches in this video and the one in the screenshot is my favorite.
I typically do these at the end of the day. My routine is 10 front, side, and back, before switching legs. Just like a dance class. I like to stand in the doorway to my bathroom because there’s a step of about 1″ giving my moving leg some clearance.
Standing in the doorway also allows me to brace myself with my arms against the door frame. This helps me to keep my torso upright and my chest open, so I’m not hunching my shoulders or leaning too far forward, especially while doing the lifts to the back.
When I do these, I’m not trying to get my legs up high. I’m just focused on getting them moving in different directions in order to use different muscles.
Correcting Poor Posture
While searching for one of the earlier exercises, I came across this video for the upper shoulder area to help correct poor posture. I might throw this one in, too.
So these are a few simple stretches and exercises to do at the end of the day, or even throughout the day, to keep your joints mobile and active. To summarize:
Easy to do in 15-20 minutes or as needed, throughout the day.
I rarely discuss politics on my blog. Actually, this is my first ever politics post! Here at the end of 2020, the United States has reached an incredible milestone and it needs to be said.
The other day I saw this video on Facebook, shared by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York. This was a hearing with members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma.
The reason for the hearing is that Purdue Pharma has been held liable for having responsibility in causing what’s been widely and unanimously called the opioid crisis or opioid epidemic. This hearing was held to examine the personal role of family members in their company’s opioid crisis and whether they acted in such a way to avoid compensating their victims.
During the hearing it was reported that politicians from the left and the right agreed that the family’s actions were reprehensible. From the Dec 17 Reuter’s article, Sacklers apologize but deflect blame at U.S. congressional opioid hearing:
Representative James Comer, the committee’s top Republican, emphasized he was pro-business.
“But there are bad actors,” Comer said. “And to the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, let me be as clear as I can be: You all are bad actors. And there is no excuse for what you did.”
It seems kind of rare to find political agreement these days. However, despite political disagreements, everyone seems to agree that there has been an opioid epidemic for the past several years. And not only that, there appears to be widespread agreement, including from left- and right-leaning politicians, that this family should be held to account for their role in creating the situation.
Sadly, so much about the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has become so politicized and there is far less agreement about who should be held responsible and what actions the government should take. We all agree that there’s an opioid crisis, yet many people still don’t take the coronavirus seriously.
The other day, I heard a program on the radio where a reporter said that while he had a visceral, emotional response to September 11, 2001, he said he doesn’t feel the same now. This is despite the fact that on some days, more people pass from the coronavirus than from the terrorist attacks. It’s like people can’t put 300,000+ into perspective.
Comparing the numbers
After I watching this video, I started thinking about how opioid deaths related to COVID-19 deaths. Right now, we’re over 300,000 lost. I just started doing a search for answers to find out the two mass casualty events compare: “opioid deaths 2019”, “opioid deaths 2018”, etc.
I went back as far as I could find numbers for individual years. Around 2010-2013, the numbers were kind of lumped together. While I don’t know what 2013 was, I know it was less than 2014. So, I took 2014 and lopped off the end for 28,000.
Here are the numbers I found:
Opioid related overdose deaths from 2013 – 2019.
Total opioid deaths: 276,431.
Total COVID-19 deaths (Dec 30, 2020): 341,000+.
In one year, we’ve managed to surpass the total number of opioid-related deaths from the past 7 years, combined. In my first draft of this COVID deaths are well over 300,000. I considered not even writing a number because it gets surpassed every day.
I find this really depressing and sad. It seems almost inevitable that someone in your family will be a victim of this situation.
I really wonder if our politicians will hold accountable the people who helped the US get to where it is with COVID, in the same way the Sackler family is being held responsible for their roles in the opioid crisis. Of course, this would require that they litigate themselves, so they probably will not anytime soon.
Anyway, I sincerely hope those who made to the end of 2020 will make it to the end of 2021. It takes little thinking about those who we’ve lost to help focus on what really matters right now.
As winter approaches and we all start spending more time indoors, maybe we should adopt koselig, the Norwegian equivalent of the Danish hygge. Stanford University health psychologist Kari Leibowitz shares what she learned from Norwegians when she moved to the Arctic Circle to find out how they survive the very short days and extremely long nights, as part of our “Hunker Down Week.”
The Finnish word for cozy is kodikas, according to Google.
There’s also another word, kalsarikannit, which translates to something like relaxing at home and enjoying drinks in your underwear.
The segment got me thinking about the photos from a Finnish friend and the images she frequently shares of her walks in what seems like a fairy landscape. She also apparently spent some time away from electricity and other devices in a cabin in Lapland.
She started sharing photos of her home after decking it out in many, many tea candles.
In the pandemic, rather than feeling depressed that the arrival of cold weather will mean you’ll be isolated indoors, try adopting a positive winter mind-set.
You can also read her research paper about it, if that’s your thing. https://internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/view/935
She has 3 tips for embracing winter:
Get outside. She talked about this in the interview. Basically, she was saying that Scandinavians view being outdoors very positively, even in bad weather. She mentioned that after spending time in Norway, she realized she’d been dressing incorrectly for winter her whole life — even though she group up in New Jersey! I’m inspired to start looking for warm snow pants and a better winter coat.
Make winter special. This is where she mentions hygge, which is also discussed in the interview. But, she said it’s more than just candles and socks. It’s like a comfort and openness to feeling close to friends. Or creating an environment in which good conversations can be had. Next time I attend a hygge, koselig, or kodikas dinner party, I’m going to congratulate the host.
Appreciate winter. I don’t know about this. Well…maybe I do enjoy all the cooking I get to do when it’s not too hot to use the stove and the oven.
My big takeaway from all of this is that I need to make sure I’m properly dressed when headed outside in inclement weather. I may invest in a new rain jacket and potentially another coat that’s more water repellant than what I have now.
Featured image credit: Heather on Flickr. https://flic.kr/p/NZYFWJ
Part two of my post on building a purposeful life. This post discusses a few of my life aims, how I came up with them, and how I have set out to achieve them.
Living a Life of Example, Living with Intention
In my last post, I discussed the concept of Be, Do,and Action goals, and how creating these help someone find and create a life of purpose. These goals help you become type of person you’d like to be. Be goals help form the central, self-organizing aim for your life – each one is a life purpose.
Be goals are aligned to our self-affirmations and life purpose. Be goals remind us why our Do goals are worth achieving. Action goals are how we achieve our Do goals. Here’s a cleaned up version of my Be, Do, and Action goals.
Two of my Be Goals included living a life of example and living with intention. (I’m not sure if “life of example” is the correct way to put it, but that’s what I came up with for now.) One way I thought of to be a good example was to be presentable; this is my Do goal.
Being presentable can mean many things, I tried to brainstorm about how to achieve this. One action I came up with was cleaning. I liked the idea of cleaning, but it was a bit vague. To create my action goal, what the professor calls a “crispy” behavior, I needed to be more specific.
What I came up with was a cleaning schedule, which has so far turned out pretty well.
I chose cleaning as helping me achieve my life purposes of living with intention and living a life of example for two reasons.
Meditation is all about being intentional and focusing your mind. Taking a meditative approach to cleaning, seemed like a great way to put that goal into action.
The other reason is that a clean home is presentable. I wanted to feel that if anyone walked at any moment, they could see I had a clean and presentable home. It was a great example and reflection on the type of person I want to be.
Cleaning and Mindfulness
The cleaning schedule borrows from the cleaning examples I found in the book A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind. The monk who wrote the book explained that his monastery uses a particular schedule for certain activities like when to shave their heads or mend their clothes.
The book, which I read twice, focuses on cleaning as a meditative practice. It gives advice on how to clear the mind when cleaning.
When I first read the book, I was obsessed with cleaning. And I did feel lighter having dusted everything and wiped everything. It’s amazing how much and where dust accumulates.
After the online course, I was able to connect cleaning with my personal values. Seeking to solidify specific actions to help me live my values. My cleaning schedule consists of 2 calendars and a separate inspiration page.
Schedules for a Clean Home and Mind
To create the calendars, I used InDesign. The fonts are Letter Gothic Std and Garamond. I created generic versions, so they can be downloaded for your own use.
Daily and Monthly Schedule
The first schedule lists tasks to be taken care of on a daily basis and monthly basis.
Day to Day Schedule
The second schedule includes tasks that track close to the advice in the book. I split the 3 and 8 days into tasks focused on increasing light and reflections.
The second set of tasks, for 4 and 9 days, includes events focused on fixing things and more cleaning activities, like vacuuming.
I thought it was important to keep in mind the mindset for why cleaning mindfully is important. The book refers to Zengosaidan which is a Buddhist concept focused on living in the moment, and not letting worries about work that is to be done or past failures weigh you down in them moment.
Put all of our efforts into each day to live without regrets. Live for today without grief for the past or worry about the future.
Eliminate the seeds that distract your mind with unnecessary thoughts about past failures and future challenges.
The longer you neglect to remove the impurities of the heart, the longer it will take to remove them.
Shoukei Matsumoto, “A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind”
Eliminate the seeds that distract your mind with unnecessary thoughts about past failures and future challenges.
The course has a 4.8 rating with over 1,000 reviews. Here is what Coursera provides in the description.
In this course, you’ll learn how science, philosophy and practice all play a role in both finding your purpose and living a purposeful life. You will hear from historical figures and individuals about their journeys to finding and living a purposeful life, and will walk through different exercises to help you find out what matters most to you so you can live a purposeful life…. By the end of this course, you will:
Understand that having a strong purpose in life is an essential element of human well-being.
Know how self-transcending purpose positively affects well-being.
Be able to create a purpose for your life (don’t be intimidated, this is different from creating “the purpose” for your life).
Apply personal approaches and skills to self-change and become and stay connected to your purpose every day.
Not only did I finish the course, I’ve started making changes. This first post covers the concepts and course topics. The next will be about how I applied the concepts and design artifacts I created to help me achieve them.
A Central, Self-Organizing Life Aim
The course focuses on helping students find a purpose in life. It’s important to point out it’s a purpose, not the purpose. A purpose in life is “a central, self-organizing life aim”; a predominant theme in a person’s life.
The lessons guide students by introducing topics in Buddhist and Greek philosophy, such as the “true self” known as atman (Hindu/Buddhist) or daimon (Greek), and connecting those concepts to brain function and the Ventro-Medial Prefrontal Cortex, VmPFC. The VmPFC is the part of the brain that is involved in processing information and our emotional response.
We return to the VmPFC often in the course, to understand our neurobiological responses to stimuli and how behavioral practices like Loving-Kindness Meditation can lead to a positive sense of self, which can help lead to positive behavioral outcomes.
“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
We also learn what it means to have a purpose and discuss concepts in existential philosophy by thinking about Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Jung, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus.
We even learn about what Stanley Kubrick, who was apparently a big fan of Nietzche, and (loosely) 2001: A Space Odyssey have to say about purpose:
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference…our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
Stanley Kubrick, 1968
Obviously, I have to have the music. 🙂
There’s a very interesting article from the Houston Symphony on Richard Strauss’ musical interpretations of Nietzche’s book and philosophy, Thus Spake Zarathustra, which has the same name as his famous orchestra piece.
In describing the music, the Houston Symphony writes, “Kubrick was not too far off the mark in using the piece’s opening to score a sunrise from outer space; Strauss indeed intended it to depict the mountaintop sunrise that opens Nietzsche’s book. The opening motif in the trumpets has been called the ‘nature’ or ‘world riddle’ motif; it recurs throughout the piece as a symbol of nature’s indifference and mystery.”
What Kind of Cook Are You?
One of the important lessons is that while it’s important to seek knowledge, it’s also important to have guidance in that pursuit. To seek knowledge with purpose.
There’s an analogy used in the course, to help compare the pursuit of knowledge with cooking. We really can’t all expect to become master chefs before we ever start cooking. But we also can’t expect to have any efficiency or safety in a kitchen with no training whatsoever. The same is true for the pursuit of knowledge. An unintentional pursuit can lead down dark and dangerous paths; meanwhile, we can’t spend all our time studying for the next exam.
The question, What Kind of Cook Are You, is an existential philosophical question about the pursuit of information that is meant to focus on the importance of intention and balance. Learn enough so that you can seek out recipes and follow them, but also learn enough that you can deviate from the recipe without ruining the food or burning down the kitchen.
I’ve often heard about The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you — either at church or Girl Scouts. And while it’s a great concept in theory, in practice, it’s kind of self-less and you end up getting mistreated a bit.
The course brought up a new version, which I think is a bit better.
TheReverse Golden Rule: Do not do to yourself, what you would not do to others.
As I mentioned above, the course often refers to the Ventro-Medial Prefrontal Cortext, VmPFC, to understand, explain, and change our how a life purpose can improve life outcomes in positive ways, from a biological, psychological, and behavioral perspectives. The course focuses on how our own thoughts and behaviors can be reinforced. However, we often we don’t achieve our goals to “do better” for 2 reasons: they haven’t been tied back to our purpose and they don’t represent what he calls “crispy” behaviors. That is specific actions to be put into practice. We often make goals that are just a little too vague.
Finding Your Purpose
These goals are called Do, Be, and Action goals. And the course helps the student think about and create them by, again, focusing on existentialism. Existentialism acknowledges human mortality, which many people don’t like to think about. However, by considering that life isn’t forever, we can use this inevitable fact to not freak out but to channel our life towards having a purpose – a central, self-organizing life aim.
There’s an app the instructor has called Purposeful by Kumanu™, to help create those Do, Be, and Action goals. I didn’t use it, I created the diagrams using a drawing program. But to get there, you start asking introspective questions about yourself, such as:
What are causes you care about?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
How do you want to be remembered?
Literally, there’s an earlier part of the course where you think about what you want your headstone to say!
Create Do, Be, and Action Goals
Ultimately the answer to the introspective questions above help to generate your Be goals. The type of person you’d like to be. Your atman, your daimon. These will form the central, self-organizing aim for your life – each one is a life purpose.
Do Goals: Next, you take these Be goals and ask what you have to do to enact those Be goals. Those are your Do goals.
Actually, the course makes a point to mention that many people start here and stop here. Rather than tying their goals to a life purpose, it becomes about achieving this goal. Like wanting to lose weight to fit into a dress, vs wanting to lose weight to fit into a dress, because ultimately the person is lonely and doesn’t want to be.
Action Goals: Finally the question becomes what action to take to enact to achieve those Do goals. These are the Action goals. And these should be specific and achievable goals.
To clarify, creating these goals is not a one-day activity. The course has the student ask themselves these questions frequently. By the time these concepts shows up, you already have a bit of a list and you’re primed to accept the ideas. I even spent time after the course completing this work.
Also a person can have more than one facet of their life in which to create their life purpose, including work, retirement, school, family, and even military service.
I highly recommend the course. As one reviewer said, “Vic is an excellent professor who just connects so well with the students even from the computer screen.” It’s not an in-depth neuropsychology course, nor is it a philosophy course. It provides enough information to support the course content, and enough to continue researching independently if that’s a goal.
As mentioned in the intro, I’ve split this post into two. In the next post, I’ll go into 2 of my Be Goals and how I turned them into crispy behaviors focused on cleaning.
This year I’ve taken some fantastic courses and I’m really excited to take something else. I’m not exactly sure I know what to sign up for — but I do want to be as excited for the new course as I have been for my previous courses.
I scribbled down this little short list of courses and it’s been sitting on my desk for weeks. I’m going to share them here so I can throw away this paper.
Even though I make these lists, I still end up taking courses that aren’t listed. I see something interesting and watch one video, and then end up in the whole course! For instance, I came across multiple courses on Islam, a business “MicroMasters” series from Bangalore, India, and two courses from Harvard. One on rhetoric and another on money and ethics. So, who know what I’ll get into. Actually, I’m already taking 2 other courses right now.
Most of the courses below have a preview video, so I’m including it.
Psychology of Activism: Women Changing the World
Smith College – SmithX
Learn what motivates prominent women such as Gloria Steinem, Loretta Ross, and others to become involved in activism in this political psychology course.
For obvious reasons this year, I thought this might be a good course to consider.
Intercultural Competency in Education
University of Iceland – UIcelandX
Do you want to learn practical skills to become interculturally competent and aware as an educator? Take this course and learn to develop strategies to deal with identities in a fairer and more coherent way.
After I took that Gender and Intersectionality course, I thought this might be another course to become more informed about intercultural issues. It’s actually more of a course for educators, but you never know when you’ll have the opportunity to teach something new.
I’m not surprised the University of Iceland has a course like this. The more I learn about Iceland, the more impressed I become!
This is a 4-course series. These XSeries of courses are meant to provide a deep exploration of a topic. They’re really a semester or a full year’s worth of education. Each individual course is broken up into like 8-10 weeks sections, so it’s pretty substantial. EdX estimated 10 months to complete all four courses, but if it’s your only course and you’re not doing anything else, you could get through it much faster.
The Medieval Iceland Sagas
University of Iceland – UIcelandX
Learn about the Icelandic Sagas, the characteristic literary genre of Medieval Iceland comprising roughly 40 texts.
I’ve put this one on a short list because Icelandic sagas came up during the Gender and Intersectionality course I took. And, I’ve decided to take as many courses from the University of Iceland as possible. (There are only 6.)
World History of Wine
Trinity College – TrinityX
Explore wine through the eyes of a historian, as you learn about the “old” and “new” worlds of wine, including how its taste and quality has changed over time.
I read a book earlier this year about world history through 6 drinks: wine, coffee, tea, spirits, beer, and cola. This seems like kind of the same thing, but specifically using wine.
World of Wine: From Grape to Glass
University of adelaide – adelaidex
Learn about the principles and practices of how grapes are grown and wine is made. Whether you’re a wine novice or a seasoned oenophile, you’ll learn to confidently describe wine appearance, aroma, flavour and taste.