Q&A: How Do I Stop My After-Work Wine Habit?

Pretty, young woman drinking some nice red wine at home, in the evening after work on her sofa (color toned image; shallow DOF)

Q: How do I stop my after-work wine habit?

A: Making new choices isn’t easy, even when we consciously know what we might prefer to do—such as kicking the after-work wine habit (substitute any post-work relaxation habit you may wish to replace). We are wired, by our survival instincts, to hunt down carbs, fats, and salts, so it’s no wonder our taste buds are a primary means for rest and relaxation in our culture—eating tells us we’re safe. But being seduced by our tongue will often derail our evenings and, subsequently, affect our sleep and following day. If this pattern repeats we will typically wake up one day and find ourselves in a hole that is tough to climb out of. However, one of the blessings of our new work-from-home reality is that we have newfound time to cement new healthy habits. With the additional time once spent on commute and travel, we can now repeat a new action more frequently and anchor it into a healthy lifestyle habit in less time.

Know it’s a need, not a want

It’s very common to want to relax and reward our efforts at the end of the day. Come 5 pm or 8 pm, or whenever it is you get home from work, cortisol (our stress hormone) has been elevated all day, helping us stay focused and on-task with zoom meetings, calls, and a mountain of emails, we’ve made thousands of choices and decisions, and our willpower is spent. Now, our brain is craving a relaxing bath of feel-good neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—to help us let go of it all. This craving to feel good is actually a “need” we need to be conscious of if we want to make different choices at the end of the day to unwind. Our bodies need to unwind after a full day spent in a stressful, vigilant state. We are wired this way in order to regain some semblance of balance and not physically burn out (aka survive). So, whether it’s that glass of wine or perhaps some chips and guacamole, know that you are consuming these carbs, fats, and salts because of a primal need to slow down and find balance.

Rather than thinking about your post-work choice as a “should” (e.g. I should go work out, or I should eat a healthy snack), remember it’s a “need”. If you don’t proactively answer that need, your body will resort to those feel-good fats, carbs, and salts to comfort itself. Take time to honestly reflect on what need is not being met. Then you can more easily find other sources of pleasure to satiate this need.

Find Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives that could be woven into your workweek as a replacement to snacks and alcohol—proactive, healthy alternatives that will fill your need for feeling good at the end of a stressful workday, lower your cortisol levels, and bathe your body with ‘feel good’ hormones:

  • Pet an animal lovingly for 10 minutes.
  • Go for a 20-minute walk in nature. “Warm-up” your hike by spending the first 5 minutes focusing your awareness on sights, sounds, smells, and even touch. This will slow your mind down and bring it to the present moment, reducing cortisol and anxiety.
  • Meditate in a quiet nurturing place for 5 minutes.
  • Spend 20 minutes working on something creative to get into the ‘flow state’. Some great options are gardening, playing an instrument, writing poetry, or tying fishing flies—anything that captures your attention and is solely for your joy.
  • Connect your mind and body with your breath while unwinding on the yoga mat for 20 minutes.

Document Your Intentions and Experience

Make a list of 3-5 benefits that you might receive by altering your after-work routine. This will give your effort significantly more meaning. Next, write down three obstacles that could derail your efforts and match each of those obstacles with three solutions (contingency options determined in advance). Now you’re fully prepared for any curveballs.

Frequently stop, take a few breaths, and notice thoughts and feelings. Journal (before bed or after awakening is best) the insights you have noticed about your sleep, digestion, moods, mental focus, energy levels, and replacement choices. Be curious. This will help you notice and appreciate the benefits of your new habit-to-be.

Manage Cues

Cues are triggers for your bad habit. Common cues are time of day, such as happy hour, physically seeing your favorite bottle sitting on the counter when you walk in from work, your emotions, such as stress or exhaustion, and people that you may typically drink with. You should let your best friends know that you’re working on changing your habits, so when you decline their invites for happy hour, they understand why.

Create Your Own Positive Cues

Replace negative cues with positive ones. Consider setting an alarm on your phone right at 5 pm reminding you of your goals and suggesting one of your replacement actions. Write a note to yourself and stick it to your wine fridge. Put a sticky note on your office door that reminds you of your goals right as you leave work. There are so many other creative ways to help you snap out of the post-work trance and make a mindful decision on how you want to spend your evening.

Be Kind To Yourself

Do your best to be kind to yourself as you start the processes of nurturing yourself (rather than soothing or numbing) after work. Strive not for perfection, or you can certainly expect internal rebellion. Take baby steps on your journey up the mountain. Begin by setting goals that are seemingly trivial—e.g. one night a week where you have a healthy after-work activity. Then, after a few weeks of this, move on to two nights a week. Stop at no more than 5 nights a week to leave yourself room to be human.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Pros and Cons of Keto, Whole30 + Intermittent Fasting

cutting board and knife with healthy nutritious vegetables and eggs

Are you thinking about trying a new diet? Quick fixes that jolt our systems are tempting to turn to, but we encourage lasting lifestyle changes. While fad diets may be tempting, there are both pros and cons to Keto, Whole30, and Intermittent Fasting.

No diet is worth doing if you can’t do it for the rest of your life.

We asked our nutritionist Jenn Keirstead to weigh in on a couple of popular diet fads. She details how restrictive programs can lead to yo-yo dieting – rapid weight loss followed by a rebound that sees you gaining everything, and sometimes even more, back – and why you should invest in a sustainable long-term nutrition plan.

Pros and Cons of the Keto Diet

The Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates.

At its core, this is an extreme version of the low-carb diet. When you deprive your body of all carbohydrates, your body must use ketones as fuel. To put your body in a state of ketosis, around 80% of your diet must come from fat.

Pros of Keto

Promotes healthy fats

In the 90s, fat got a bad rap, but it’s crucial to our bodies. Fats, (animal-sourced or otherwise) can offer an excellent variety of fat, protein, and vitamins. However, it’s extremely important to source the highest quality. Look for certified organic, grass-fed/pasture-raised, or visit your local Farmers’ Market and talk to people responsible for raising your food.

Besides promoting a diet ample in healthy fats, there’s not much else that is terribly healthy or sustainable about this highly restrictive eating style.

Cons of Keto

Cuts out key nutrients

The Ketogenic diet is one of the most restrictive diets on the market. Your diet is limited to 15-20 grams of carbohydrates/day — the equivalent of a small handful of baby carrots. This leaves out most fruits and vegetables, which can deliver crucial nutrients.

Unsustainable

This biggest issue with this diet is what will happen once the person adds carbohydrates back into their diets. Hint: you might gain some of that weight back.

Pros and Cons of the Whole30 Diet

Whole30 is a 30-day fad diet that emphasizes whole foods and during which participants eliminate sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, soy, and dairy from their diets. Whole30 is similar to but more restrictive than the paleo diet, as adherents may not eat natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Whole30 has gained popularity due to its “challenge program” style, which is designed to restart your body and change how you think about food. This diet is described as a whole foods approach to eating, and I’m certainly an advocate of eating real food.

Pros of Whole30

Introduces a variety of whole foods

The advantage of experimenting with a diet such as this is that you’re introduced to many new, healthful foods. Whole food types of diets tend to involve more time spent in the kitchen. Cooking from home can be a wonderful way to gain more control over the quality of your food, which of course, is a fantastic advantage to your health.

Cons of Whole30

Cuts out food groups we love

The challenge is not just to eliminate processed and packaged foods from your life for 30 days — You are also instructed to avoid beans/legumes, starchy vegetables, dairy, grains, sugar (including natural sweeteners), and alcohol. From our vantage point, moderate amounts of beans, legumes, dairy, and grains are good for your body. Unless you plan on never eating them again, you risk putting the weight right back on once you reintroduce them.

Too restrictive

One of the common cautions you’ll hear related to Whole30 is how restrictive it is. It’s a diet based on highly rigid rules and “slip-ups” are unfortunately unacceptable. If you “slip” you start over. The rules may make it feel impossible to be successful on a diet like this, and like many challenges or diets, that can be detrimental to one’s self-esteem. Restrictive behaviors with food may also trigger disordered eating in susceptible individuals.

Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, or intermittent calorie restriction, is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period.

Intermittent fasting includes everything from periodic multi-day fasts to skipping a meal or two on certain days of the week. The theory is that this type of diet will help decrease appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism.

Pros of Intermittent Fasting

The body should take some breaks between eating

Fasting can be beneficial, and we believe it’s best done in the evening, continuing on throughout the night while you’re sleeping. An earlier dinner allows for 3-4 hours before bed without food, which helps support proper digestion and — as an added bonus —potentially a much deeper sleep.

You’ll feel hungry when you wake

Another benefit is you will feel hungry when you wake and therefore be encouraged to eat during the earlier part of the day when you’re more likely to burn the calories off. Studies also show that our hormones, enzymes, and digestive systems are biologically best prepared for food intake in the morning and early afternoon.

Cons of Intermittent Fasting

Can cause overeating

There’s a strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods. Your appetite hormones and the hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food.

Unbalances blood sugar levels

Restricting calories during the day can lead to unbalanced blood sugar levels, which not only promotes low energy levels but the desire to overeat at the end of the day when the body is gearing down for sleep. The idea of “rest, not digest” is a concept that assists in the digestion of your food hours before bedtime, so that your body can fall into a deep sleep on an empty stomach. This also promotes hunger in the early morning, when your body needs the calories the most.

In a nutshell, fads deliver quick results – they don’t provide long-term solutions. Rapid health resets can be beneficial, but know what you’re getting into. Find a wellness approach you can commit to, if not for life, for the foreseeable future. Learn more about our approach to balanced nutrition.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia and featuring daily sunrise yoga and night-time restorative yoga, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What is inflammation, and how do I reduce it?

Exhausted businesswoman having a headache in modern office. Mature creative woman working at office desk with spectacles on head feeling tired. Stressed casual business woman feeling eye pain while overworking on desktop computer.

Q: What is inflammation, and how do I reduce it?

A: Acute inflammation is a natural healing and protection response from our immune system. Think of your ankle swelling from an accidental roll on the tennis court. The body floods the joint with plasma and immune repair cells to inhibit movement so the soft tissue can mend. Or, perhaps you get a seasonal runny nose when pollens enter your sinus and the mucous membranes swell and release antibodies to remove the unwanted threat that your body deems dangerous. In both these instances, the immune system creates inflammation in a response to danger or injury. This is healthy.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not healthy

Chronic Inflammation is the root cause of 75-90% of today’s illnesses (according to the Cleveland Clinic). If our immune system is continuously taxed as it fights to remove incoming viruses, bacteria, antigens, chemicals or plastics, we can trigger stress on our organs and endocrine (hormone) system.

Research is now seeing Chronic Inflammation as the underlying stress leading to heart disease, metabolic disease, cancers, and even depression and anxiety. The same triggers that lead to ongoing inflammation are also seen as potential contributors to autoimmune illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism), and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBS). And, autoimmune diseases also create more inflammation as the body’s immune cells get confused and start attacking the body instead of the intruders.

Unmanaged stress from trauma, whether psycho-emotional or physical is a key factor in inflammation. Research is showing an extremely strong connection between the nervous system, hormonal system, and immune systems. Chronic stressors that come into the body through the digestive, and respiratory systems, or absorbed through the skin like toxic chemicals, food allergens, or bacteria have an easier time defeating a suppressed immune system when cortisol is continuously elevated.

It all may sound a bit of doom and gloom, but fear not! Here are a few strategies to support your immune system and lower inflammation. Some of these strategies are also beneficial to those suffering from autoimmune illnesses to support a state of remission.

How to Reduce Inflammation

  • Support the eliminatory system with a fiber and probiotic-rich plant-based diet, and lots of fresh water
  • Minimize the ‘sour 8’ foods (gluten, lactose, casein, soy, corn syrup, alcohol, sugar, nightshade vegetables) and other unique dietary antigens, after having a food sensitivity test by a certified Naturopathic ND
  • Consider mineral supplements like vitamin D and C to support immune cells and the B’s to lower stress
  • Add anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, for example, turmeric, omega 3 oil, brassica vegetables, and sauerkraut
  • Get regular exercise and target 10,000 steps a day to keep the circulatory system moving toxins out of the body
  • Sleep deeply and regularly 7-9 hrs, as deep non-REM sleep is when the immune system goes to work
  • Intermittent fast for 12 hrs between dinner and breakfast allowing cells to ‘clean-up and recycle’ via autophagy
  • Manage mental and psycho-emotional stress with meditation, nature immersion, massage, and somatic therapy
  • Avoid petrochemicals, pesticides, and plastics as much as possible, as most are considered hormone disruptors
  • Support your eliminatory system to release toxic chemistry with infrared saunas or steams, massage and chelation foods like cilantro and spirulina

We hope that this gives you a good understanding of what causes inflammation in the body and how to reduce it.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How To Reset Your Health In 48 Hours

a woman sitting on a hiking trail meditating

It’s perfectly understandable that spending an entire week eating healthfully, hiking through lush nature, sleeping well, exercising, and detoxifying will do wonders for your mind and body. But you might be shocked to hear that with the right strategy and a little bit of motivation, you can make a profound impact on your health in just 48 hours. That means that in just one weekend, you can right the ship, take the reins, and restore the balance of your health. It’s not a walk in the park (well, you actually might take a walk in the park) but your body will thank you for dedicating just one single weekend to yourself.

We’ve been running our Basecamp weekend retreats in response to the COVID crisis. Guests spend one weekend (Friday 3 pm – Sunday evening) following our program and working virtually alongside our expert team. And we have to say—the results have been absolutely amazing. Participants are feeling significantly lighter, recharged, and reset. We’ve distilled this amazing weekend into an easy to follow 4-step guide so you can reset your health in the span of 48 hours, and emerge from a healthy weekend feeling like the best version of yourself.

Step 1) Make a bulletproof schedule

The last thing you want to be doing all weekend is constantly trying to decide “what’s next”. This will prevent you from fully sinking into the weekend. Sit down and write your 48-hour schedule on a piece of paper. Make sure to include the following critical elements:

Nutrition

Eat 6 times per day, starting immediately upon waking, and consume your calories within a 12-hour window. Give your metabolism a break for the other 12 hours (Intermittent Fasting). Eat most of your calories early in the day and then taper off moving towards night-time. Eat organic, plant-based food when available, and avoid processed food, added sugar, and alcohol.

Fitness

Move your body as much as possible throughout the day. We weren’t designed to sit, so let’s try to do as little of that as possible this weekend. Time your exercise for after your meals to begin understanding the value of food as fuel, not a coping mechanism. Begin your day with yoga (after a smoothie), then after breakfast do a HIIT or other functional fitness class. After lunch, spend a long time outside in nature, walking for either 40 minutes at a vigorous pace, or 90 minutes at a leisurely rate. Then, following dinner, tackle one more functional fitness class and end your night with restorative yoga.

Sleep

After a full day of exercise and eating properly, you have some building blocks for great sleep. Ensure you not only get enough hours of sleep, but also a deep sleep. Take a warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil 90 minutes prior to bed, don’t let your phone cross the threshold of your room, ensure your room is the right temperature and is dark, and do a relaxation technique while laying down. Read our full guide to great sleep for more tips.

Stress relief/management

Make sure to include relaxation time. Mindfulness is a highly potent tool for stress relief. If you already have a practice, carve out a large chunk of time of your weekend to dive deeper than you have in the past. If mindfulness is new to you, take this weekend as an opportunity to dip your toes in. Schedule a couple of 5-10 minute guided meditations sessions, ideally early in the morning and then again before bed.

Creating a schedule can be difficult, so we’re happy to share ours. If you actually want to follow along, all of the recipes and exercises are linked (click the image first), and you can find a shopping list below

Step 2) Prepare for success

Once your schedule is in place, it’s time to commit and get ready to immerse in the weekend. There are three critical components to preparing:

Ensure you have the right equipment—for our schedule, you need the following:

  • Kitchen with basic cooking tools
  • Blender
  • Yoga mat
  • Yoga strap (could be a belt or tie, etc.)
  • Firm blanket or pillow (for morning yoga)
  • 3 large firm pillows (e.g. couch cushions—for restorative yoga)
  • Light weights (2-5lbs) or substitute (soup cans or water bottles)
  • Running shoes
  • A chair (used for stability during exercise classes)
  • Water bottle

Shop for your ingredients 2-3 days prior to the weekend

View a shopping list for our schedule

Remove as many distractions as possible

Carve out this time for you. It’s only 48 hours, so almost everything can wait. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues that you are going to immerse yourself in this experience and request they only call, text, or email if it’s an emergency. This will reduce your stress and anxiety. Get baby sitters for the kids if you have them, or make a plan with your partner to watch them for the weekend. Be selfish for just this one weekend.

Step 3) Instill accountability

We’ve talked the talk. It’s time to walk the walk. While investing in an experience like Mountain Trek and spending time with our expert staff, whether that be a full week at the lodge to really dive deep into your health transformation or just a weekend for a quick tune-up, will provide you the accountability you need to succeed, it isn’t always an option. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and tricks to instill accountability on your own:

Form a “tribe”

The best thing you could possibly do is gather a small group of your closest allies and do the healthy weekend reset together. Sharing your experience with others has been proven to dramatically increase your chances of success and will make the experience more memorable and enriching. Create a group text thread dedicated to the weekend and have nightly Zoom calls to touch base and discuss your experience and progress.

Share your intentions

If no one is able to join you, share what you are attempting to accomplish with a close friend, family member, or colleague. Detail to them what you are doing the healthy weekend and what you are hoping to accomplish. Ask them to check in with you on Sunday about how it went. Just knowing that someone else is aware of your goals will hold you accountable.

Set a reward

Completing your healthy weekend reset is a big deal and a positive experience. These accomplishments deserve rewards, not only to keep you working towards the goal but to create a positive association with accomplishing such endeavors. Write your reward down prior to beginning your weekend and stick it on the fridge as a reminder.

Step 4) Turn healthy actions into habits

Once your 48-hours are up, you need to capture the momentum you worked so hard to create to ensure your health stays pointed in the right direction. A 48-hour reset is not a justification to go binge on bad habits—it is a leveling-up, a beginning of a new chapter, a fresh start. To keep your compass pointed towards your “true north”, we need to cement your new habits so they become part of your lifestyle.

Building habits is a skill and can be tricky at times. At Mountain Trek, we follow a six-step process to build healthy habits—ones that are truly sustainable:

1. Identify your health and wellness goals

This one is easy. Just write down all of your goals. Try to be as specific as possible, however.

2. Redesign your goals to optimize for success

Make sure your goal is SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-anchored. Setting a SMART goal immediately doubles your chance of success.

3. Simplify

Pick a maximum of two goals from step 1.

4. Set a weekly target

Start small. Aim for doing your healthy action two, maybe three times each week, then grow from there.

5. Monitor your progress and adjust if needed

Write your goal down in a journal, keep a piece of paper handy with a tally, track it using your online calendar, or, you can use either Mountain Trek’s Health & Habit Building App, which will keep track of your progress for you, or our simple goal tracker. Whatever tool you decide to use, it’s important to monitor your activity, notice when you’re falling behind and congratulate yourself when you are achieving your goals.

6. Reward your intention

Whether you are successful or not, you need to reward yourself for your intention to do your best. Rewards can be small or big, simple, or complex.

You now have a proven strategy to reset your health in the course of just one weekend. We hope you take the time to invest in your health, you need and deserve it now more than ever. Be compassionate to yourself throughout the process and don’t worry if it doesn’t all go to plan. There will most likely be hiccups along the way. The important part is that you committed to a healthy weekend—to yourself—and you made your best effort.

If the above is daunting to tackle on your own, we would be more than honored to have you join us for one of our upcoming Basecamp weekend retreats, where our expert team will do all of the work listed above for you, so all you need to do is show up and give it your best.

Good luck, stay healthy, and keep moving!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How can I balance my hormones as I enter mid-life?

Q: How can I balance my hormones as I enter mid-life?

A: If you have difficulty falling asleep, managing food cravings, feel like you’re at the mercy of mood swings, are noticing muscle loss, have excessive sweating, low energy or libido, can’t seem to lose belly fat, or have unusual weight loss or gain, your hormones may be out of balance. Hormones are little chemical messengers that initiate and maintain all the systems in our body. For survival, we’ve been blessed (rather unfortunately) with an override system—a giant red panic button of sorts—that is triggered when we’re stressed or notice we’re in danger. You’ve probably heard of it—it’s our flight, fight, or freeze response—and when faced with a stressor, such as a mountain lion—or an irate client or teenage son or daughter—our sympathetic nervous systems cause a flood of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (a.k.a adrenaline), as well as various endorphins, to be released, giving us a magic jolt of power to either high tail it out of there, stand our ground and fight off the stressor, or rev up to take action (freeze). This cocktail of survival hormones is akin to downing a case of Red Bull. It ramps up energy, but at the same time, it shuts down digestion and immune functions, as these are not critical for survival at that exact moment. There’s the catch—this response is meant only for that exact moment—a finite one-time event.

Cue up today’s norm, when we have ongoing, relentless stressors bombarding us, both emotional and physical. Since these stressors are not finite, one-time events, our stress hormones have no chance of neutralizing. Herein lies the problem…

In a natural circadian day, the stress hormone cortisol rises to help us wake up and focus, allowing us to go work to bring home the calories necessary to survive (and the money to pay the mortgage). Cortisol levels naturally lower as atmospheric light changes in the afternoon, and are eventually replaced by our sleep beckoning hormone, melatonin. Without proper hormone balance, we don’t sleep correctly, and our immune system doesn’t perform well at its key tasks; fighting viruses, bacteria, cancers, and repairing damaged tissue. Sound important? You betcha.

During this same day, a series of thyroid hormones control our metabolism, while our blood sugar is managed by the hormones insulin and glucagon. The effects of these being out of balance? obesity, diabetes, fatigue, irritability, to just name a few.

Meanwhile, our sex hormones, estrogen (primarily estrone, estradiol, and estriol), progesterone, and testosterone are all being created from our youth hormone DHEA. And if our sex hormones are out of balance, the side effects are numerous, the worse case being cancer.

If we are under continuous stress (“chronic stress”), our youth hormone, DHEA—which, don’t forget, is the precursor to our sex hormones—takes a back seat to cortisol production, as cortisol is technically more important to survival—we have to survive first, so we can reproduce second! Ultimately, if we want to balance our sleep, sex, and metabolic hormones we need to manage our chronic stress. Only once we’ve lowered our cortisol levels throughout the day do our other critical hormones have the chance to balance out.

Since all of our various hormones are created from the building blocks of our nutrition, eating a balanced diet—with an emphasis on the plant kingdom—is essential to keeping our hormone production up as we age. Exercise is also critical—especially strength training to momentary muscular failure (the point at which no more reps can be performed with perfect form)—and will help slow the decline of human growth hormone production, a natural process occurring from middle-age onward, but one that we should attempt to counteract.

As we enter midlife, it’s critical to monitor our hormone levels so we can effectively manage our energy, moods, sleep, and body composition. The endocrine system is amazingly complex, so we recommend getting a thorough baseline measurement from your doctor of all of your hormones and their precursors. Since our hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the day and night, we recommend a test that takes multiple samples over a 24-hour period in order to properly map the rise and fall.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What is Positive Psychology? And can it help me during this time of stress?

Happy woman standing with her back on the sunset in nature in summer with open hands

Q: What is Positive Psychology? And can it help me during this time of stress?

A: Positive Psychology is a relatively new field of study that focuses on improving our mental health by means of “building what’s strong”—a term coined by Martin E.P. Seligman, one of the foremost advocates of positive psychology. It encourages patients to focus on positive emotions and mental states, such as happiness, joy, compassion, love, and “flow” (a state of being undistracted by thought), in contrast to the traditional psychotherapy that focuses on negative emotions, like anger and sorrow.

Although the majority of research in mental health over the last 100 yrs has focused on pathology and “fixing what’s wrong”, or identifying and treating disease and disorders, modern research is showing that augmenting the traditional psychotherapy approach with positive psychology can contribute to long-lasting peace, calm, connectedness, joy… and even longevity!

Positive psychology is also beneficial to advance the well-being and optimal functioning in healthy people. Some psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers, saw early on that there was a benefit to studying the holistic nature of our mental health and created popular theories such as Maslow’s Hierarchy, which shows a hierarchy of what makes people happy and the things that they do to achieve that happiness. Today, we continue to learn and study less clinical forms of positive psychology that can be practiced daily, and eventually formed into positive habits (learn how to form healthy habits in 6 easy steps).

Almost 25 yrs ago, National Geographic did a study on populations with a high rate of Centenarians (people who live to over 100), because not only do these populations live longer, but they are also considered the happiest people on earth. Their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, radiate vitality, calm, peace, joy, and connectedness. There is a correlation between their positivity and their longevity (to be fully transparent, there are a host of other lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and work habits). If you want to dig into this some more, the findings and the continued research can be found on Bluezones.com.

Now, each year, the United Nations rates the “Happiest Nations on Earth”, and is finding that these “Blue Zones” are constantly topping the charts. For relevance, Canada currently ranks 6th behind the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 18th. So what do these populations do differently? Below are some behaviors found in the Blue Zones that you can implement to counter mental and emotional stress, anxiety, and depression, while contributing to a deep satisfaction with ourselves and our life’s circumstances.

6 mental health behaviors for balanced wellness

Smile

It takes less muscles than a frown and is infectious. Consider making a practice of smiling at the first 5 people you see in a day. You’ll likely receive one in return.

Practice Gratitude

Finish your day by journaling 5 experiences or people you appreciated in your day… completing your day with your ‘glass half full’.

Savor

Slow down to bring as much presence as possible to a pleasurable experience. Relish in it with as many senses as possible. This builds your enjoyment of being singularly focused in the present.

Flow

Revisit or start fresh with an activity that seduces you into full engagement. It could be creative or physical. Immerse yourself so deeply that you lose track of time and self-consciousness or mundane thought.

Connect

Trade an hour of social media engagement for an hour of face to face sharing. We are wired for attachment to others through our limbic, emotional-social brain. Cues from facial expression, body language, and voice inflection are essential for all trusting relationships.

Be Mindful

Employing the same mindful presence that we use when we savor a pleasurable experience, practice 5 minutes of deep breathing while staying present, curious, and self-compassionate for any quality of thought or feeling that arises while you are still. Notice, allow, and let it go.

Exercising these positive psychology tools will deepen happiness, contentment, and peace of mind, and will enrich our lives, and those around us, with the key elements for joy and longevity.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

 

Sad woman looking out of the window in loft apartment

Q: What does isolation and loneliness do to our physical and mental health?

A: More research is confirming that physical isolation and emotional aloneness can contribute to premature death at the same rate as sedentarism and obesity. Both of which have been proven to cause a 30% increase in premature death. Eliminating social interaction entirely dramatically heightens one of our greatest fears—dying alone. This constant fear—which underpins many of the feelings, thoughts, choices, behaviors, and habits in our life—spikes anxiety and cortisol. With these hormones are chronically elevated, it decreases immune function, deteriorates sleep quality, drives emotional food cravings, and increases the incidence of depression. Consequently, say during a pandemic that mandates isolation and restricts social gatherings, a lot of news is turned to mental health.

However, it’s equally possible to turn isolation and aloneness into an opportunity for growth.

Although we are wired for relationships via our social and emotional limbic brain to mitigate the fear of dying alone, we also have a need for ‘me time’. Whether we take this alone-time to meditate, take a walk, or commune with nature, this time affords us the opportunity to build a deep relationship with ourselves. In fact, we all probably know of individuals who happily live alone, and go on to live long lives. Why? They exhibit many lifestyle traits of a positive mental attitude. Attitudes like gratitude, self-confidence based on self-appreciation, savoring life’s little pleasures, connecting to ‘flow’, and going for joy over happiness. We will share more of these traits when we discuss positive psychology and it’s findings for mental and emotional health in our next Health Talk Happy Hour.

If we invest in alone-time to notice thoughts and feelings that arise in relation to being isolated or feeling alone, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Instead, we can choose to become curious about the ways we all avoid discomfort and our deepest existential fears. Notice these hardwired habits of desire, craving, compulsion, and even addiction are tied to avoiding these uncomfortable feelings. Through compassionate (non-judgmental) self-observation, we can be curious about what is underneath our feelings and actions. This mindful self-awareness expands our sense of self and gives us the freedom to make different choices. So when we make choices that are aligned with our core values, we build a positive mental attitude that ultimately supports longevity.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

Overworked woman with back pain in office sitting on chair with bad posture

Q: My posture at work is terrible. Should I use a posture corrector or posture brace?

A: Back pain is now the second most common reason North Americans visit the doctor (after the common cold). With an estimated 80% of North Americans sitting for their work and averaging more than 11 hours per day seated, it’s no wonder that posture-related health issues are going through the roof. Humans have never been so stationary in our entire existence! But no matter how much our parents have nagged us to “sit up straight”, our bodies weren’t designed to sit, they were designed to move.

Almost all previous work involved moving constantly—bending, lifting, standing, and walking—so posture-related pain in the workplace is a relatively new thing. When our spine is chronically out of its natural alignment, the muscles that support our spine become imbalanced. Some muscles atrophy while others are in constant strain. The result is pain, lack of energy, muscle exhaustion, headaches, bad mood, osteoporosis, lack of balance, and even compromised immune function.

Recently there have been a plethora of products invented to remind us to get up and move, alert us to stretch and straighten, or brace us into a ‘neutral spine’. While these devices can give us a glimpse of correct posture, they do not fix the underlying issues—they are like bandaids, and should only be used temporarily.

6 actions that you should try to habituate to make your good posture permanent:

  • Learn what neutral spine is (get a C.H.E.K postural alignment assessment)
  • Lengthen some of our chronically tight muscles (sign up for weekly gentle Hatha Yoga class)
  • Strengthen our core and stabilizing muscles (sign up for a weekly pilates class and strengthen your back and neck muscles, not just the chest)
  • Move (functional fitness and HIIT classes), and remind yourself to stand and walk whenever you are on a phone call
  • Ergonomically adjust our workspace (standing desks, elevated computer screens, forearm supported keyboard)
  • Build your mindfulness practice to constantly scan and readjust our body posture until it becomes habituated

Once you implement the above, you will notice your back and neck pain subsiding substantially. If you’d like to read more about the dangers of sitting, read our article, Why Sitting Is Bad For You and 5 Ways To Fix It.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: My Body Feels Toxic—What Should I Do?

closeup of a label-shaped chalkboard with the text time to detox written in it, placed on the branch of a pine tree

Q: My body feels toxic—What should I do?

A: The topic of detoxification is old and new, detailed, and confusing. All modalities of detoxification are essentially supporting the eliminatory systems of the body to release unwanted substances that are taxing the body’s health and energy. Our body naturally filters chemicals and bio-toxins via the kidneys, liver, and lymphatic system. We also expel particles of waste with our breath, urine, feces, and sweat. In the modern world, we are ingesting, inhaling, and absorbing toxic chemical compounds from the food industry, our urban atmosphere, cosmetics, and cleaning products. Our filtering organs are taxed.

Here are 7 simple lifestyle tips to help your body detox naturally

1. Drink Water

Drink a minimum of 10, 8 oz. glasses of filtered plain water to help your kidneys flush water-soluble toxins.

2. Fiber-Rich Diet

Aim to get 2-3 bowel movements a day with a fiber-rich diet so that the fat-soluble toxins that the liver filters and releases into the intestines don’t get reabsorbed.

3. Breathe Deep in Nature

Go for a fitness hike or walk in a clean natural environment whenever you can to expel unwanted waste via your lungs.

4. Sweat

Enjoy a relaxing sauna or steam once a week to purge toxins through your sweat glands.

5. Natural Chelators

Include natural “chelators” into your diet like cilantro, garlic, spirulina, chlorella, or miso. Chelators bind to heavy metals and pull them out through the digestive system in a process called chelation.

6. Get a Massage or Foam Roller

Relax with a full body massage that includes lymphatic drainage to support bio-toxin removal. Stretching and foam rolling can also assist lymphatic circulation.

7. Break and Cleanse

Schedule a simple 24-hour water or juice fast once or twice a year to give the eliminatory organs a break.

Introduce some or all of these practices to help avoid the negative effects of hormonal disruption, cancer cell stimulation, and organ duress from the accumulation of excess minerals, heavy metals, plastics, and petroleum chemicals. We hope these tips help you feel cleaner, inside and out.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below: