If You Own A Smartphone, You Need A Mental Health Retreat ASAP

a woman Relaxing, sitting overlooking a lake and mountains

Mental health: this is a trending topic, and for good reason. 1 in every 13 humans worldwide suffers from anxiety, a rate that is even higher in the US (1 in every 5 people). Depression rates have increased 18.4% between 2005 and 2015. Somewhere in the world a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, and studies show that for every death by suicide, there are approximately 20 other attempts. Seeing a therapist has become as common as going to the dentist, and a study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) found that around 40 million adults in the United States admit to having anxiety. For perspective, that’s basically everyone living in California, or more than the entire population of Canada. These figures don’t even include those who don’t realize they are suffering from depression, stress, or anxiety, meaning the percentage is actually higher. It’s a scary time for mental health, but finally, FINALLY, society is opening a dialogue about why everyone feels as if they are falling apart, and what can be done to help. Mental health is losing its tabooness.

Smartphone Use Leads To Pessimism

Let’s get to the bottom of what’s tampering with our wellbeing. What has led us to our current mental health situation? Why is our depression and anxiety increasing? There is certainly a lot of sad news about toxic air, deforestation, global warming, garbage-filled oceans, hunger, racism, sexism, bigotry, and the list drags on, but that’s not what’s causing our depression. Genocide, natural disasters, and epidemics have always occurred. The difference today is our awareness. Thanks to our smartphones, we are constantly connected, and while having easy access to information 24/7 has its perks, such as directions to the nearest hospital in an emergency, it comes with seriously consequential downsides.

Hearing about all the bad things happening worldwide every time you open your phone creates a “sky is falling” mentality. You start to focus on disheartening events, and the weight of the world’s problems weighs on your mind ‘round the clock. The result isn’t just that you trend pessimistic, it’s that pessimism compromises your stress-management capabilities.

First, pessimists naturally dwell on stressful or negative events longer than optimists. This means your stress hormone—cortisol—levels are elevated for longer. Over-exposure to cortisol has been linked to anxiety, depression, metabolic issues, heart disease, poor sleep and weight gain, as well as memory and concentration impairment.

Second, optimistic people have been proven to be more active, eat more healthfully, and they don’t typically turn to excessive alcohol or drug use to get their kicks.

What this doesn’t mean is that you should be like an ostrich, burying your head in the sand, believing unseen danger is no danger at all; rather, it’s important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors.

The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management.Mayo Clinic

Social Media Increases Our Anxiety

Beyond the exhausting stream of negative news, social media is proving to be a menacing opponent to our mental health. It’s the perfect landscape for our insecurities and self-criticism to proliferate. Whenever we log into social media we see “perfect” people who make us doubt our self-worth. I need to be as skinny, or as muscular; I need to make more money; I need to find a way to afford expensive, trendy clothes; my job isn’t good enough; I’m not as adventurous; I need to travel more; I need to experience more; I need to be more.

Incessantly comparing ourselves to a seemingly fabricated reality quickly takes a toll on our wellbeing. We spend more time worrying about what we are not, rather than becoming who we should be, and our anxiety spikes.

Bottom line, the depressing news we receive daily combined with our need to succeed and the constant comparison game we play on social media is a recipe for anxiety. Phones keep us always “on,” prohibiting us from truly breaking away as we constantly search for the instant gratification technology brings, instead of slowing down and relaxing. We are attached to our phones and technology instead of to ourselves, others, and our surroundings, and that allows physical and mental toxicity to thrive.

We Need To Regain Balance In Our Mental Health

So what about today’s environment makes it so toxic? In short, we’re out of balance. Everyone is hyper-focused on career and personal success. We’ve stopped treating our “temples” (our mind, body, and spirit) respectfully, and, resultantly, it’s crumbling beneath us. Popular belief these days is that you have to be the hardest worker, dedicating every spare moment to your work in order to be successful. Taking the time to eat a wholesome meal or get a full night’s sleep somehow equates to not working hard enough. Pushing your body to breaking point has become like a badge of honor. Just read interviews with high-profile business people or celebrities–chances are they’ll talk, in a more braggy way, about their long work hours, lack of time to eat or sleep, and how they prioritize their career and image above all else.

But failing to give your mind, body, and spirit time to rest and recharge isn’t something to brag about, because what’s really happening is you’re functioning at a small percentage of your full potential. Crazy as this may sound, by allowing yourself to actually sleep and actually eat, you’ll be able to get more done. How? It all comes down to having more energy and being more alert. And that’s not all, once you stop comparing yourself to other people, you’ll be able to focus on reconnecting with yourself instead.

Forget “Likes”. Be Real.

Do you remember what it was like before social media and smartphones? Back then, mornings started out by getting ready for your day; nowadays, the first thing most of us do when the alarm sounds is check our phone and tap into social media. Essentially, we’re comparing ourselves to others–and consequently feeling inadequate–before we even have a chance to put our slippers on. Instagram’s test in removing “likes” is a step in the right direction. In a recent press conference, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri stated, “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, to make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and the things that inspire them.”

The hope is that removing “likes” will help users stop comparing themselves to others, thus removing the stress of being “good enough” or as liked as everyone else. This comparison game is causing many people to feel as if their anxiety is spinning out of control, but few people actually stop long enough to address the cause of the decline in their mental health and wellbeing.

Put Down The Phone

The good news is it’s not hopeless. Just because the odds seem stacked against us doesn’t mean we are helpless. We can do many things on our own to help break the trance of our phones (read our recent article on how to do a digital detox). For instance:

  • Read a novel. Find a comfy chair and put your phone on silent. You might find you can go more than two paragraphs without getting distracted when it’s just you and a good story.
  • Learn a new hobby. The practice of learning something new is extremely beneficial for our brain health.
  • Take a bath. Alone, without your phone. Light candles and watch them dance instead.
  • Spend more time outdoors. Even just 20 minutes a day has been proven to help lower stress and anxiety, decrease blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and decrease your chances of developing a psychiatric disorder.
  • Exercise.
  • Do yoga.
  • Eat healthful foods. Pay attention to the flavors as they hit different parts of your tongue.
  • Connect with other humans.
  • Volunteer.
  • Pet an animals.
  • Take a vacation.
  • Visit a spa.
  • Meditate. The use of meditation apps in adults in the US has increased from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018. Are you part of that statistic?

…this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t Do It Alone. Try A Health Retreat.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, or perhaps don’t have the time or energy to get things back on track yourself, check out a wellness retreat that incorporates mental health practices.

Mental health retreats are a great place to start—you’ll be surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you and having support from a team of professionals will ensure you stay on track.

Mental health retreats will actually help you break toxic habits and provide you with long term solutions for living a balanced life, but in case you are thinking they just aren’t for you, I’m here to tell you they are. Why? Because they aren’t one-size-fits-all.

There are many different types of mental health retreats available to suit various needs and interests. Some retreats focus on eastern healing practices, like yoga and meditation, while others focus purely on self-care (think spa: mud baths, steam rooms, massage, etc.). Some are open to everyone while others are gender-specific. Others are centered around particular activities, such as farming, clean-eating, creativity, or hiking. Many retreats emphasis connecting with nature, but, for all you indoors personalities, others don’t. And while the word “retreat” might make it sound like something only possible for wealthy people with unlimited days off from work, there are actually retreats available at any budget, for any length of time, and for any lifestyle choice.

Finding a place to unplug and reset is more attainable than it seems.

Mental Health Retreats Are About More Than Just Relaxing

While visiting any mental health or wellness retreat will do wonders for your wellbeing, starting off with one that combines many aspects of your health might be the best choice. Such retreats, like Mountain Trek, are holistic health retreats that focus on five areas of health in harmony: fitness, nutrition, stress management, sleep, and detoxification. Combining these five areas has a profound effect on your health and wellbeing, laying the groundwork to reduce social anxiety, decrease depression, and relieve stress in your life back at home.

Instead of focusing on just one area of your life, these types of holistic health retreats address each of these key areas in equal turn; after all, each one plays a role in our wellbeing and are all equally affected by the toxicity of modern society. For example, fixing your diet is a great place to start and will make you feel better, but if your stress levels are still sky-high your life will still feel toxic and unbalanced. This is why a wellness retreat like Mountain Trek is an ideal choice to get you started on your journey to a detoxified life. Every detail of your stay there is planned and prepared for you–all you have to do is focus on being present in the moment. It takes the guesswork out of trying to learn how to detox on your own.

A visit to a mental health retreat is about more than just relaxing–it’s about changing your life and giving you the tools you need so you can continue to reap the benefits long after you’ve returned home.

Prevent Burnout. Invest In Longevity.

You can only push yourself so hard before burning out. Between the go go go attitude of modern society, the negativity surrounding us worldwide, and the constant need to compare ourselves to each other, it’s no wonder our mental health is in a state of decline.

Our way of life isn’t sustainable; we need to reset our bodies and minds, beginning with purging toxic thoughts and habits. Taking time for yourself shouldn’t be viewed as a treat, but rather as a necessity. We need to take care of our bodies and souls if we want to be able to function at our best without breaking down. We only get one body, after all. Show yourself some respect and tackle the issue before it gets worse!

Visiting a mental health retreat will teach you the skills you need in order to reset and recharge by helping you cultivate valuable practices you can continue back at home. It’ll jumpstart the process and be the catalyst for changing your life and living a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically. There’s never been a better time than now to unplug and reconnect!

To learn more about Mountain Trek, and how we can help you reduce anxiety and regain your mental health balance, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Accomplish your goals with “20 for 20”

When was the last time you read 20 pages without getting distracted? Or listened to your favorite music album for 20 minutes without feeling the need to do something else at the same time? When was the last time you went 20 days without having a glass of wine after work to help you unwind? Or gone 20 seconds without a thought racing through your mind?

2020 is not just a new year, it’s a new decade–the perfect time to take a step back, refocus, and reset. But that doesn’t mean we will magically accomplish all of our goals. In fact, 92% of all goals fail, so no matter how clean a reset this decade is, we still need a lot of help accomplishing our goals. This year, we’ve come up with a framework to help you do just that:

“20 for 20”

Simply put, whatever goal you set this year, make it 20 something—seconds, reps, days, you get the gist. Seems benign, yes, but this framework is easy to remember, makes a lot of sense when you dig into it, and let’s you get creative—a potent combination for success.

20 for 20 is memorable

Who can’t remember 20 for 20? How about 20/20 vision? How about the fact that this year is “20”-”20”? Definitely helps. So right off the bat, this framework is more likely to lead to success, simply because it’s memorable. That’s massive when it comes to succeeding as your goal will stay closer to the front of your mind more of the time. This will result in more awareness, and therefore greater chance for action. With enough practice we will eventually have success.

20 for 20 is fundamentally sound

We’ve studied goal setting exhaustively over the last two decades and have learned a thing or two. First, preparation is just as important as execution. Setting the right goal is vital. Otherwise, you’re just like Sisyphus, fighting an uphill battle the entire time. One strategy we’ve seen work year after year at our award-winning health retreat is following the acronym SMART. Set your goal so it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time anchored (learn more about SMART goal setting). The 20 for 20 framework works really well with SMART goals. Take a broad goal of taking more time to pay attention to your breath. Applying the 20 for 20 framework would look something like, “20 seconds of focusing on my breath.” Applying the SMART framework would improve the goal. Making it more specific could be doing this first thing in the morning, before coffee, before checking emails. Measurable is the 20 seconds—we could use a watch or a phone timer. 20 seconds is so short it’s certainly attainable. Doing it every single morning? Perhaps that’s not realistic, so we should adjust a bit. Following the 20 for 20 framework, resolving to spend 20 seconds in the morning just 20 days per month might be more realistic. And to make this goal time-anchored, we need a deadline. Perhaps we start with a month. A SMART 20 for 20 goal would be resolving to “take 20 seconds each morning before waking to focus on my breath, 20 days of the next month”.

Another thing we’ve realized is that there are 5 main reasons our goals fail when trying to execute them:

  1. We set too many goals
  2. Our goals are too big (learn why micro resolutions are more effective than large goals)
  3. Our goals aren’t concrete
  4. Our goals don’t fit into our routine
  5. We don’t share our goals

Setting a SMART goal covers items two, three, and four; making a goal attainable and realistic usually means setting a smaller goal that fits into our routine, and making a goal specific and time-anchored makes it concrete. But what about setting too many goals, or not sharing? Setting too many is easy to fix: just set one goal at a time. But what about sharing our goals? Sometimes, it’s daunting to think about sharing our goals with a friend, but a small action like sharing our goal with a friend and giving them a weekly one-sentence update can dramatically improve our chances of success. In fact, this exact action has proven to increase the odds of success 10x! We think this small step is so powerful we’ve built a tool to facilitate it. Visit our goal tracker using the button below to share your SMART goal with the Mountain Trek team and then receive a weekly email touching base and asking for your update. Simple, yet incredibly powerful.

Increase Your Chances of Success With Mountain Trek’s Goal Accountability Tool

Unleash Your Creativity with 20 for 20

The wonderful thing about 20 for 20 is that it’s just begging for creativity and personalization. The breadth of possible goals that fall under this framework allows us to customize our efforts to our personal preferences—a final, and vital component of success. Making your goal relevant to you will significantly increase your interest in following through. For example, if you’re a big tennis player, setting a 20 for 20 goal that would in the long run improve your serve, touch, speed, agility, or hand eye coordination will be a lot more interesting than setting a 20 for 20 goal that has no direct benefit on your game. You’ll be more motivated to do the work, and you will show up more of the time. You’ll dig a little deeper and work a little harder when things are tough, because it matters to you that extra little bit. A 20 for 20 goal can, and should, break traditional molds. The usual resolutions of “lose weight,” “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” or “manage finances better” are so broad and boring—it’s no wonder that 92% of our resolutions fail each year. Make 2020 about getting creative.

20 for 20 Goal Ideas:

  • Take 20 seconds first thing each morning and just watch your breath. Follow it in and out, in and out, immediately upon waking. You might find that you spend longer than 20 seconds here because it’s such a nice, peaceful moment. But set your goal to do 20 seconds—that’s all it takes. Bonus: find 20-second moments throughout your day where you can pause, take a step back, and just focus on your breath. Transition moments throughout your day are wonderful opportunities, such as getting up from your desk to go to the bathroom, getting in the car or first sitting down on a plane, or getting off of a phone call.
  • Build a habit by doing something 20 days out of one month. We don’t have to do an action every single day to make it a habit, but we do need to create momentum in that direction. Doing something, such as waking up and immediately spending 20 seconds on your breath, 20 days out of the month, is a great step in creating a habit. It’s not shooting for perfection by doing it everyday, so we have some room for error, which is inevitable and important to embrace when building a new habit. Accepting, even welcoming, failure prevents us from catastrophically derailing the moment there’s one tiny bump in the road. Embracing failure makes us more resilient. Tip: put a physical calendar on your wall and put a big check mark over the days you successfully worked on your goal. Having this physical reminder of our progress will help momentum. Also, use the calendar to plan ahead. Look for days there’s little chance you’ll be able to work towards your goal, and acknowledge them. Preplanning “off” days will remove guilt on those day and reduce your stress.
  • Give something your undivided attention for 20 minutes each day. Two great ideas are music and reading. Listen to your favorite album for 20 minutes without looking at phone notifications or checking something off of your to-do list. Turn the volume up and really sink into the music, letting go of all of the other things you need to do once you’re done. Or find a comfy chair and just read for 20 minutes. Go into it with the same intention, to unplug from the world around you.

Now is your chance to reset, not just on the year, but on the entire decade. Start 2020 off on the right foot; give 20 for 20 a go!

Join in on the conversation on our Mountain Trek community page on Facebook. Let us know what 20 for 20 goals you are going to try and accomplish.

Why we all need a Digital Detox and 9 Ways how to do it


I’ve recently become a parent, and because of that, I feel justified in employing scare tactics to warn you of the dangers out there in the world. I’m not talking about the man in the van who looks like a clown. You heard about him waaay back. I’m talking about something that Albert Einstein saw coming 70 years ago when he said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, the world will have a generation of idiots.” HP, the company that promises, “With our technology, you’ll reinvent your world,” just surveyed over 7,500 people in North America to learn about our relationship with technology, specifically our smartphone screens. Ironic, yes; admirable, even more so.

What HP found in a recent study:

63% think our digital lives and real lives are out of balance.
50% of couples have used their phones to ignore each other.
65% think it’s ok to check their phone during dinner.
58% think it’s ok to check their phone on a date.
40% admit they use their phones in public to avoid talking to others.
63% believe relationships were closer in the past, and the same percentage believe relationships were more meaningful before social media.
60% wish they could return to a time before social media.
91% would rather have 1 real friend than 100 online friends.

I could shake these stats off and pretend they don’t apply to me, but HP also found that parenting has gone digital and that 1 in 3 parents spend over 5 hours daily on their phone, a stat that requires just too many exclamation points to bother entering them. Now that one stung…

Digital Use is Leading To Addiction, Depression, Suicide

I’m worried that if the day Einstein feared isn’t already here, it’s fast approaching. Selfies are up, relationships are down. Everyday it seems like there is more connection, but less connecting, and engaging with the *actual* world is becoming overwhelmingly intimidating. And while this certainly might lead to a generation of idiots, we’re now realizing that the staggering amount of time we spend staring at a screen is also leading to a generation of anxious, depressed, and lonely souls. Einstein had no idea the extent of what this technology dependence would do to our psyche. How could he? Who could have predicted that global depression rates would increase 18.4% between 2005 and 2015 and suicide rates in the US would rise 24% between 1999 and 2014? And that governments would have to step in and impose curfews on gaming for minors to prevent addiction?

Our digital habits aren’t just wreaking psychological havoc–they’re physically harmful too. Sitting 10+ hours a day in front of screens leads to chronic inflammation, which has been proven to be the cause of many serious ailments and diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Cell phone pings and dings distract drivers from red lights, stop signs, children running across the road, and ultimately cause 1.6 million car accidents in the US every year. That’s one every 20 seconds. By the time you get to the end of this paragraph, there’s a chance someone just died texting and driving. That’s not okay.

But I do wonder. If Einstein were to see the amount of time we spend glued to our screens scrolling through an endless stream of emails and social feeds of seeming perfection, where we inevitably compare our mundane, everyday lives to the highlights of everyone else’s, would he really be that shocked? Or would he just say we’re all idiots for not realizing this would obviously deteriorate us physically and spike our social anxiety… As a new mother, I feel it’s my duty to try and change our current course so that my daughter does not, in fact, fulfill Einstein’s prophecy.

Be aware of your current usage

Just like a dietary detox, the first step in digitally detoxing is awareness. If you want to lose weight, gain muscle, you name it, you have to look at what you’re putting into your body. Garbage in = garbage out. Same goes for your relationship with your devices. Look at how you’re interacting with your devices by building a digital diet sheet. Record how much, how often and when you’re on your phone, laptop, game console, or TV; seeing just those numbers will do half the detoxing work. Tip: start with your smartphone and enable Screen Time on iOS and Digital Wellbeing on Android. These two stock features will give you a snapshot of how you currently use your smartphone. I personally like the stat about how many notifications you get each day. Just think, each notification breaks your concentration on what you were doing, be it driving, chatting with a colleague, or playing with your child.

If you’re anything like me and the rest of the Joes and Sues and Sallys out there, you’ll see you spend upwards of hours on social media weekly, let alone daily (Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, says, “Most people check their phones every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications,”) but stop right there. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge your numbers. Simply be aware.

Technology isn’t to be demonized, by any means–it helped put a man on the moon and sequence the entire human genome–but the way it’s used today tends to keep people inside a bubble. Instead of simply inspiring or enabling us, it’s creating anxiety and tension and zombified trances. It needs to be rebalanced. Here are nine ways you can reprogram your relationship with technology.

Nine Ways To Digitally Detox:

 

Build “No Phone Zones” in your home

This could be the kitchen or the bedroom, places primed for human interaction and bond-building. Place baskets at the perimeters of these zones so you can physically leave your phone behind.

Set “No Technology Times” in your home

If you’re a culprit of looking at your phone before falling asleep or before your feet even touch the floor in the morning, leave it in the hallway when you go to sleep. Mountain Trek suggests stopping device-time at least one hour before bedtime to reduce blue light consumption, which is similar to the wavelength emitted by the sun and triggers our “rise and shine” cortisol stress hormone.

Let your friends and family know you’re taking a break from your phone

This way, you won’t feel anxious about people contacting you.

Turn off notifications

Notifications are the digital version of that person always bothering you. Mostly, they actually fuel potential symptoms of addiction by causing your heart rate to increase. Notifications let your phone control you, as opposed to how it should be, the other way around.

Turn on grayscale

By making your phone less desirable to look at, you’ll be less tempted to tap around on it. Here are tutorials for iOS and Android

Take distracting apps off your home screen

This way, you’ll have to intentionally seek out an app to use it, and, in doing so, you’ll cut down on the “accidental” time-sucks that happen when you mindlessly hold your phone.
Put a learning app like Duolingo or Elevate next to your social media apps, increasing your chance of skipping out on an hour-long social media binge. Learning is one of the best ways to satiate our mental needs.

Play phone Jenga!

When you go to a dinner party, or at least host your own, encourage the guests to stack their phones. This way, everyone will be less inclined to look at them; you don’t want to be the one who removes your device and makes the whole stack tumble down.

Set out parameters

Don’t go all or nothing, because when you starve yourself of anything, your mind wants to go to the other extreme. Instead of deleting all your apps at the same time, try deleting Facebook first, then Instagram, and the list goes on. One habit for one day, then one week, then one month. The idea is to make your change a big priority and a small step.

The most delicious things in the world don’t taste so great after a few too many bites, and the same goes for digital consumption. But it’s hard to shake ourselves out of a stupor. It’s hard to “awake” once our brains have been habituated to scrolling through images and videos on devices and apps literally engineered for addiction. Breaking the trance will be hard. But you don’t have to go at it alone. In fact, we suggest getting a friend or family member bought in on the idea as well. Or, join the conversation on our Facebook page (an example of how social media can be used for good—just don’t get sucked into your feed for two hours!). For a full digital detox, come visit us in the lush mountains of British Columbia for a week of unplugging and resetting, physically, emotionally, and digitally! For more information on our award-winning health and wellness retreat, recently named the #1 Health Retreat in the US & Canada by Travel + Leisure, email info@mountaintrek.com or contact us.

Why Sitting Is Bad For You + 5 Ways To Fix It

Most of us commute to work sitting in our vehicle, then sit all day at our office job and then sit on the couch when we get home and watch TV. In fact, most of the Western World spends the majority of their life sitting.

Why is sitting bad for you?

As the video above explains, our bodies are designed for movement. The problem with sitting, is that it leads to a sedentary lifestyle, and chronic sedentarism has been proven to be the cause of many serious ailments and diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Spending hours, days, months, all in relatively the same position not only takes a toll on our bodies in regards to our posture and musculature, it limits circulation. We all have one big organ that pumps fresh, clean blood out—our heart— but there is no organ to return this blood back to our our filtering organs; the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Our bodies rely on movement, bending, flexing, and twisting to create a mechanical pump to move this blood back through those organs. Without movement, we have no return pump. Without the return of blood, we become stagnant, and this stagnation leads to inflammation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “chronic inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression.”

We aren’t getting the habitual exercise and range of motion we need to keep us healthy, moving and fit. Integrating cardio exercise into our regular schedules is of course imperative to health, both now and as we age. We do however, still need to be realistic in our careers; most jobs are after all desk jobs, and don’t necessarily provide the opportunity to work out or go for a hike as part of our daily tasks and duties.

How to combat sedentarism

Fortunately, sedentarism is being addressed as a workplace issue by forward thinking employers, and we are seeing an increasing number of workplaces making clear efforts in addressing employee health, by affording more opportunities to move while working.

The treadmill desk is considered being ‘productive on two fronts’ according to Brown & Brown, an international Insurance consulting firm, and huge supporter of exercising while working. CEO of Priceline Group, Darren Huston, states that where possible, he will go for a ‘walking meeting’, inviting the discussion to take place while on the move in the park nearby his office complex. His reasoning: “walking clears my brain.” The late Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs was reported to be a huge proponent of the walking meeting, and even Barack Obama is said to end his day by doing a couple laps of the White House with his Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough to review the latest political issues.

The above people are certainly on to something. Research at the University of Bristol and the University of Minnesota have concluded that as we move (especially when outside in nature), parts of our brain are stimulated that we usually find stimulated when during creative pursuits and relaxation. Also, worker productivity was said to increase by ‘substantially’ (as per studies above, measured by quality of work, work output, mental sharpness and improved time management) when workers took a walking break in their work day. This shows that parking in a chair isn’t always our best way to a productive workday. Nevertheless, realistically, so much of our working lives are spent in front of the screen, hunched over the keyboard. But we don’t have to take this sedentarism sitting down!

Beyond integrating regular exercise into your routine before and after work, we certainly can make our sedentary work day a little more comfortable with a little more movement. Click here to learn some simple stretches, movements and tips to integrate into your work day:

FIVE FULL BODY EXERCISES FOR THE OFFICE

Aside from those exercises listed in the above link, you can also try a few of these:

Stretching-in-an-office

Stretch

As we bend over the keyboard, our shoulders hunch forward, thereby creating a lactic acid build up and soreness through the upper back, neck and shoulders. Another side affect from this position that we may not realize is that our upper chest muscles constrict, and often for those who do a lot of computer work, these muscles are permanently taught. Opening up through the chest is a liberating release from the keyboard hunch. Find a doorway, and place hands and forearms along the doorframe, then allow yourself to lean forward. Try to release into the pose completely, holding it for several minutes. Feel free to experiment with the pose by moving your arms higher or lower in the doorway.

Sitting-on-a-ball-in-an-office

Use a Ball

Instead of your regular office chair, switch it up by using an exercise ball to sit on. By using a ball (and therefore no backrest), you are engaging core muscles all day, without even realizing it. Core strength is so important for so many aspects of overall strength and injury prevention. As an experiment, try using a ball instead of an office chair for a couple weeks and see if you don’t find yourself standing a little taller. Be sure to find a ball that allows you to sit at the correct height for your desk. If you are concerned about rolling away, they now make stands with wheels for exercise balls, so it has all of the roll around and stability of an office chair, with all of the benefits of an exercise ball).

Take-a-break

Take a break

As per the research by the Universities of Bristol and of Minnesota, mentioned above, you will be more productive after a walk, even a quick one. And as we can all attest, it just feels really good to not be looking at a computer screen for a few minutes. If you’re having difficulty integrating a little break in your day, set yourself an alarm or enlist an office friend to come for that break with you, and you will hold each other to it. After all, it will lead to better health and increased productivity! And if 20 minutes is too ambitious, go for 10, or 5 – a little break is better than no break at all.

So stand up for your health. Fight chronic inflammation and future illness by integrating small but effective movements into your everyday sitting at work. You will be doing yourself a huge favor and may immediately notice feeling less inflamed, stiff and even less tired at the end of the day. And if you have a favorite desk stretch, please benefit us all by sharing on our Facebook page. Here’s to a less time sitting at the computer, and to a more healthy you!

3 Steps to 10x your Goal Success Rate

Peeling a banana from the bottom up.

Using duct tape to open tough lids.

Putting bars of soap in clothing drawers to give undergarments etc. a pleasant smell.

I love a good hack–they increase productivity, and turn me into an efficient, well-oiled machine. The hacks we’re excited to share today relate to goal-setting. Specifically, how three simple acts can make you 10 times as likely to accomplish your goals and dreams.

First, let’s set the stage for goal-setting, and, count yourself warned, it’s not a pretty picture. According to a recent study, 92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail. While resolutions aren’t exactly goals, they’re close enough that this stat is alarming. What if only 8% of people who resolved to go to college actually enrolled? What if only 8% of businesses succeeded? That’s not a world we should want to live in.

On the flip side, let me give you a couple statistics that’ll drop your jaw to the floor, but in a good way: you immediately become 42% more likely to achieve your goals by simply writing them down on a regular basis. We’re not making this up; Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently studied the art and science of goal-setting, and found this to be true, from a sample of one hundred and forty-nine participants. Further, Dr. Matthews found that once you’ve documented your goal, sharing it with a friend and sending weekly progress reports makes you 77% likely to accomplish that goal.

While a limited data set of 149 participants probably wouldn’t pass any honorable statistician’s  sniff test, there are other similar studies floating around the internet that give credence to the notion that documenting your goals ups your chances of achieving them. A study supposedly done by Harvard business school in 1979 that measured students prior to graduation and then again 10 years down the road found that, before graduating:

  • 84% of the entire class had set no goals at all
  • 13% of the class had set written goals but had no concrete plans
  • 3% of the class had both written goals and concrete plans

10 years later, the 13% of the class that had set written goals, but had not created plans, were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had set no goals at all.

What’s even more shocking is that the 3% of the class that had both written goals and a plan were making ten times as much money as the remaining 97% of the class! Or so the myth goes; to this day, not even Harvard psychologists can find the studies in their archives.

Myth or no myth, statistically significant or not, the fact is that dreaming about your goals is one thing, turning them into reality is another.

But let’s back it up a minute. Before you jump ahead and start frantically scribbling down your goals (to breed dragons, own a house with several secret passages, rule the world, live like a dog, you name it), you need to make sure you’re setting a good goal.

We’re not talking “good” in the sense of good vs bad, because who are we to judge the nature of your goal, but in the sense of making it SMART:

  • Specific
    • What exactly do you want to achieve and how will you get there? The more specific you are, the greater the chance you’ll accomplish your goal. If losing 10 lbs or running a marathon is your goal, break down what it is you need to do for this to happen. Ask yourself the “what, where, how, when, with whom, why” questions.
  • Measurable
    • Make sure your goal is concrete. “Being happier” doesn’t cut it; “Not downing 700 bars of chocolate a night because you’re eating well-rounded meals and balanced snacks five days per week” is.
  • Attainable
    • Go ahead and shoot for the stars–smart planning can make even the most impossible things possible–but also remember to weigh in your goal’s effort, time and other costs. If you don’t have the time or money, to name just two possible limiting factors, you may be unfairly setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • Realistic
    • Answer truthfully to the questions, “Why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that?” You could think having five cats, 10 dogs and a school of fish will make you a more productive person, but will it really?
  • Timely
    • Pick a doable date for your goal, because deadlines instill action and accountability.

These days, we tend to set big goals that immediately become overwhelming, causing us to freeze. Setting SMART goals takes the intimidation factor away, helping us focus on manageable actions–actions we will actually stick to, and form habits out of. Mountain Trek has used SMART goal-setting for the last 18 years, which has helped thousands of guests achieve their health goals.

Here’s the thing: setting SMART goals is only part of the equation; we still need to “walk the walk”.

In “Stronger Than Circumstances: 3 Proven Ways to Overcome Fear, limitations, and Procrastination, to Achieve Your Dreams,” Mary Morrissey, Life Coach and Personal Development Expert, details that those who write down their goals and dreams on a regular basis achieve those desires at a significantly higher level than those who do not.

Why does writing down your goals and dreams strongly impact your chance of achieving them? Ask your brain. No, really. You see, it all boils down to the left and right hemispheres communicating. If you just think about a goal or dream, you’re using the right hemisphere (the imaginative center); when you write it down, you’re using the left hemisphere (the logic center), so you’re physically (well, chemically) transferring dream into reality!

Write down your goals to make them a reality

Since science wasn’t really my thing and I’m trying to make this as easy as possible to understand, the gist is that when you write your goal(s) down, you send your entire being a message saying, “I want this, and I mean it, and I’m going to get it.”

Morrissey emphasizes that writing down your goals opens your subconscious to “seeing” opportunities that simply can’t be observed if you’re tied up with thinking about your goals. To help you reach that subconscious level where the magic really happens, we at Mountain Trek hand out green reminder bracelets. When you tie the bracelet onto your wrist, we ask that you set an intention. The idea is that every time you glance at the bracelet or fiddle with it (like when you’re bored in a meeting or something), you’re empowered to continue on the path toward achieving your goal.

But that’s not all. According to Morrissey, “The likelihood that you’ll transform your desires into reality goes up even further if you share your written goals with a friend who believes in your ability to succeed.” It’s what she calls “partner in believing.” At Mountain Trek, we call this process “building your allies”.

SMART goal: check. Paper and pen: check. Reminder bracelet: check. All that remains on your quest to finally making your dream a reality is to send your weekly progress reports to a friend/ family member/ whoever you’d be excited to update on your progress. According to Deb Knobelman, a PhD Neuroscientist and self-proclaimed Recovering Nervous Nelly:

Knowing that you are accountable to someone outside of yourself can be a powerful psychological push to keep you going. The next time you think it would be easier not to do the thing, or that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll remember that your accountability partner is waiting for your report, and that might be enough to get you over the hump and one step closer to making that dream a reality.

Long story short, if you want to succeed:

Set a SMART goal–something that’s smart, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Write your goal down–on paper, your phone, a sticky note, your forehead, you name it.

Share your progress with an ally–anyone from your grandma to a colleague.

In the name of no excuses, we went ahead and created an accountability tool so we can be that friend. It’s simple, yet powerful, and will let you set your goal and share it with the Mountain Trek staff, who will periodically check-in on your accomplishments. ..

Help yourself get unstuck! Join the Mountain Trek community in taking steps toward your dream. YOU are empowered. YOU can change your trajectory. Make a SMART goal, write it down, and submit it in our Goal Tracker. Next stop: results.

Creative Ways to Mother Yourself


Next Mother’s Day, we invite you to think of the word mother as a verb (“to mother”), versus a noun. Why? Mothering transcends the female–you’re mothered by anyone (or thing) who offers you acceptance, nourishment, instruction, and empowerment.

By detaching motherhood from any particular person, you’ll begin to notice where you could personally use more mothering. Ask yourself when you feel lovable or disgusting, empty or needy, stupid or ignorant, helpless or incapable. Clear answers hint you need to patch yourself together a new kind of mother that nurtures your unmet needs.

Mountain Trek does not have mammary glands, or any other physical feature of a stereotypic mother, but we mother regardless. We provide a safe and healthful environment, teach the important rules and roles of life through our lectures on stress, detox, sleep, nutrition and fitness, and we meet your emotional needs with our empathy.

The Mountain Trek program provides a space for you to not only feel deeply mothered, but to seek out the mothering you may be lacking. After my week in the program, I learned nature is my mother, and that hiking is the mothering I need; exploring trails enriches my soul in a way I’ve never before felt. The trees wake up my mind. The rivers refresh my soul.

This isn’t to say I won’t be celebrating my biological mother this weekend; rather, I’ll also be celebrating the many ways in which we are all uniquely mothered. I’ll be celebrating nourishing foods, the open spaces we play in, and the soft blankets we swaddle ourselves in with a book. I’ll be celebrating the fluidity of motherhood, and the gift we have to see mothering as more than a trait of female humans.

Kirkland Shave, Mountain Trek’s Program Director, says, “When we’re on the treadmill of life, we lose track of the wounded child in each of us, and we need to take a break to not only acknowledge our unmet needs, but to reflect on how we can self-care.” He continues, “The need to be mothered doesn’t disappear with age, and the real work is done when we learn how to parent ourselves.”

Kirkland’s top two ways of mothering oneself in adulthood are:

  1. Play and wonder. Open your senses through new tastes and activities. Experience what it’s like to try something for the first time again. Take a ballroom dancing class, or try that funky-colored fruit you always bypass.
  2. Free your emotions. Deeply connect with yourself by letting go of the notion that adults should always be strong and unaffected. The Stiff Upper Lip syndrome only leads to disconnection, and disconnection only leads to feeling lost and neglected. Laugh, cry, go in for energy-releasing body work treatments: do whatever you need to do to tap into your raw feelings.

As the grandfather of a toddler, Kirkland feels mothered when he’s playing with his grandson. Making forts out of pillows and towers out of blocks, he’s able to nurture his creativity and connect with his desire to live boundlessly.

Other ways to mother yourself are by:

  • Creating a comforting bedtime routine
  • Taking a break from social media (because the unfair comparisons are driving you nutso)
  • Getting fresh air daily
  • Eating nourishing foods
  • Meditating
  • Saying nice, encouraging things to yourself in the mirror
  • Doing puzzles, and other mind-challenging activities
  • Keeping cozy comforts easily-accessible, like a basket of fuzzy socks by the door for when you take your shoes off upon returning home
  • Journaling, in a free-flowing stream-of-consciousness style
  • Listening to uplifting music
  • Making yourself a nice drink (hot chocolate! ginger tea! sparkling lemonade!) and sipping it slowly
  • Planning a special one-on-one date with yourself
  • Building a cozy fort to relax in, equipped with a book, movie, snacks, you name it

I mother, you mother, he mothers, she mothers, we mother, they mother. The ocean mothers, and the mountains mother. Pets mother, and travel mothers. Look beyond the female who raised you to acknowledge all the different ways you are mothered, and can be mothered. Open yourself up to new perspectives and opportunities, and embrace the ability to meet your needs in a myriad of ways. Seek comfort in the potential. You are not alone. You are not stuck.

To realize a new kind of mothering, book your stay with Mountain Trek. Our program will uncover a new ability within you to grow, to heal, and to show up for your life as fully as you can.

How To Accomplish Your New Year’s Resolutions

How doing less will help you achieve more

Ringing in the New Year is supposed to be exciting. The thing is, it’s often far from it. While smearing trout atop countless cucumber rounds for the night’s festivities, we’re reminded how our New Year’s resolutions didn’t last more than a few, by which I mean maximum two, of the 52 weeks we were supposed to uphold them. We’re reminded we don’t have the willpower. We don’t have the discipline. We’re “failures”.

Just writing these words bums me out. Because in reality, we’re not powerless. We’re not negligent. We’re not a failure. If anything, we’re simply overachieving, and, in turn, we’re setting ourselves up for not accomplishing our goals.

We’ve looked at this problem long and hard (Learn the top 5 pitfalls of typical Resolutions). Let me introduce you to what will forever change not just your sentiment around the New Year, but your life: micro-resolutions. Micro-resolutions are simple, concrete actions that compound over time to achieve a goal. Tiny behavioral changes you can form into daily habits. These are the key to making lasting changes.  Micro-resolutions, even though the seem less impactful, are twice as likely to succeed as typical goals. These small wins will add up over time to be something far greater than any goal you have set in the past.

With that, I’d like to suggest that this year be about being less ambitious—about making intentions so doable they seem trivial. Because if it’s drastic, it’ll feel too foreign, and you won’t bake it into your routine. Chose a micro-resolution that can build upon an existing behavior;something specific and personal. The less abstract your goal, the easier it will be to enforce because you won’t be quite so resistant.

Here’s an example. Last year, I made the lofty New Year’s resolution to cut out all refined sugar, primarily because I thought it would bring my hormone levels into harmony. At first, the arbitrary line I drew was no desserts, cookies, doughnuts, chocolate, candy, waffles, ice cream and brownies. No sweetened yogurts, cakes, milkshakes, you name it, either. I was going cold turkey.

Not even one week later (yes, you have permission to laugh), I was tricking myself into chocolatey granola bars—they’re healthful and fibrous and good for the heart, no?—and jam-topped toast, because jam’s practically a fruit, right? My goal—no sugar, at all, ever—was too ambitious. It caused me to crumble, and quick.

This year, I’m tackling the same sugar-free resolution, but with a micro-resolution mindset. Instead of saying none, ever, my micro-resolution is: enjoy two desserts per week. Seems doable, right?  This means I can still enjoy a vanilla yogurt every now and then, and I won’t feel so painfully deprived. By moderating my sugar intake instead of ending it, hard and fast, I’ll be able to more-easily achieve  my ultimate goal of hormonal balance. Win, win.

Here are some more examples of how to turn over-ambitious resolutions into manageable micro-resolutions:

 

ResolutionMicro-resolution
To eat healthierTo cook one new healthy recipes per week
To sit for only four hours dailyTo stand at my standing desk every morning while I read my emails
To never use my electronic devices around my childrenTo leave my phone at the front door when I get home Monday through Friday
To lose 20lbsTo eat breakfast three times weekly
To exercise every dayTo go for an energizing hike, at least 60 minutes, four times monthly
To give up alcohol To only drink on the weekends, Friday included, after 5pm
To sleep moreTo get to bed at 10 pm on Tuesday of every week

 

As the author John Bytheway says, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life’s hard.” Setting concrete, actionable micro-resolutions will seem easy at first, because they are inch-big improvements, but over time will compound into dramatic, mile-sized changes.

We also discovered that actually writing down your micro-resolutions, instead of keeping your goals to yourself, dramatically improves your chances of success. This happens because once anyone else knows about your goal, it becomes more real than ever. You are no longer accountable to just yourself, but everyone who knows what you are trying to accomplish. To help you accomplish your goals this year, we’ve created the Mountain Trek Goal Tracker, a simple accountability tool that will make you ten times more likely to succeed!

I wish you the best of luck this year and hope to see you in British Columbia!

Micro Resolution Tracker

Micro-Resolution Tracker

Welcome to the Mountain Trek Micro-Resolution tracker!

Micro-resolutions are simple, concrete actions that compound over time to achieve a goal. Simply setting micro-resolutions makes you twice as likely to succeed compared to typical goal setting (learn more about that here). However, going one step further and actually writing down your micro-resolutions—vs leaving them in your head—makes you 3x as likely to accomplish your goals!

So list your micro-resolution(s) below to give yourself the best shot of success this year:

5 Reasons Your New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Avoid These 5 Resolution Pitfalls

 

Sorry to break it to you, but New Year’s resolutions don’t work. In fact, 92% of them fail. Don’t believe us? Think back to any of the ones you’ve made. Perhaps you vowed to read more, and ended up reading more of your eyelids. And maybe you said you’d eat more healthfully, and then found yourself with a salad, topped with bacon, too much cheddar and a mountain of croutons. We know because we’re in the same boat.

Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” By Einstein’s standards, we should all put on a straight-jacket before making this year’s resolutions. It’s time we break the cycle.

First, we must study our enemy. Why do our resolutions fail? What is so fundamentally flawed with setting goals on January 1st? Only once we have these answers can we give ourselves a fighting chance of success. Below are the top 5 reasons your resolutions are destined to fail, and how you can change your approach and dramatically improve your goal setting.

Fail Reason #1: You have too many resolutions.

Sure, we’d all like to start 2019 with the hope of reading one book monthly, going to the gym every day of the week, only using foot-powered transportation, eating salads 90% of the time, and sleeping 12 hours nightly, but, call me a Debbie Downer, that’s just not doable. Pick one goal, find a small way you can bake that goal into your daily life, and go from there. For example, if your goal is to read more, set the intention to read for 30 minutes three times per week. Before you know it, those three times will feel so natural you’ll be able to add a fourth and fifth reading session, no sweat.

Fail Reason #2: Your resolutions are too big.

Saying 2019 is going to be the year you drop four dress sizes is all fun and games until you find yourself in the same pair of pants at Thanksgiving. Keep it real by setting your goal to not eat desserts, including doughnuts, pancakes, muffins, and all the other sugary foods you try to disqualify as dessert because they fall outside of the post-dinner category, at least four times per week.

Fail Reason #3: Your resolutions aren’t concrete.

Arbitrarily saying you’re going to lose weight isn’t enough. You need concrete steps to take to achieve your goal. Turn the resolution “to exercise more” into “to take one fitness class three times weekly.” Once you’ve bagged your 12 fitness classes for the month, treat yourself to something, be it a massage, or a night at the movies–anything that will help keep you motivated.

Fail Reason #4: Your resolutions don’t fit into your routine.

If you’ve resolved to go for a lengthy hike in nature four times weekly, but you live in the city and don’t get off work until the sun has set, you’re doomed. Set a goal you can incorporate into your routine. Once it becomes “autopilot,” you’ll have accomplished your goal for life, and you’ll only keep improving upon it.

Fail Reason #5: You keep it a secret.

Telling the world your goals may be scary, for fear of judgement and disappointment should you not reach them, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure staying on track. Sharing your micro-resolution with your family and friends holds you accountable, and therefore makes you more likely to succeed. Don’t be nervous–be confident.

What to do instead of setting lofty goals? Set “micro-resolutions” and share them with a trusted ally.

Micro-resolutions are simple, concrete actions that compound over time to achieve a goal. Simply setting micro-resolutions vs lofty, over the top goals makes you twice as likely to succeed. Learn more about micro-resolutions.

Go one step further by writing down your micro-resolution and sharing it. Writing your micro-resolution down, instead of leaving it in your head, makes you three times as likely to accomplish your goal. Even better, sharing your goal with a trusted friend, and then sending weekly follow-ups makes you 10 times as likely to accomplish your goal! We’ve created the Mountain Trek Goal Tracker, a simple accountability tool, to help you accomplish your goals this year.

This is your year.

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