How to Avoid the Winter Blues


It is believed that the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), impacts millions of people in the United States. It can negatively impact people of any age, even children. December 21 is the December solstice, marking the darkest day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, giving people in New York just over 9 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight, and people in Anchorage, Alaska fewer than 5 and a half hours of sunlight.

With short and cold days in the North during the winter months, people tend to get a bit depressed. If you think that you are suffering from seasonal depression, it is a good idea to seek professional help, but there are also a few things you can do to help make yourself feel better.

First, go for a walk as soon as you wake up after the sun comes up. Taking advantage of this light will help regulate your circadian rhythm and ensure that you are getting high-quality sleep at night. It will also allow you to get some physical exercise. Just a 30-minute walk in the morning can help increase your happiness in the winter.

It is also important to stay active and stick to your normal schedule. Don’t skip the gym after work just because it is cold and dark. Stick to the same schedule all year round to keep consistency in your life. Exercise a vital natural antidote for depression and can help ease anxiety at any time of year.

Make an effort to see your friends during the winter. While people may prefer to stay home, keep your appointments with your friends so you can continue to connect. If you wish, you can just stay in together and reconnect at someone’s home.

If your symptoms of feeling down are so bad that you feel like you are unable to live a normal life, go see your doctor to get some medical help. Being cold all of the time can easily make you feel depressed. If you are able to stay bundled up during the winter months, you have a better chance of beating the winter blues. Make sure to warm yourself up by drinking hot drinks and keeping yourself wrapped up in warm clothes. Also, make sure that your house is nice and warm so you are not always cold when you are at home.

A healthy diet will also help to boost your mood, provide you with more energy, and prevent you from gaining weight during the winter months. Try to trade in your craving for carbohydrates like pasta and potatoes with a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. Celebrate the vegetables that are in season and make a flavorful and warm dish with wintery spices.

Some people choose to use light therapy to help treat their winter blues. You can either do this by purchasing a light box for the inside of your house or making sure that you are working by a window for the majority of the day so you can see the sunlight.

Lightboxes emit a very bright light that is at least 10 times stronger than a light that you would typically find in your home or office. These can enhance your feelings of wellbeing during the darkest days.

Finally, take up a new hobby or do something to keep your mind off of the weather. Is there something that you have been wanting to try but just haven’t found the time yet? Maybe there is a class you want to take or a new skill you want to learn? Look into picking up a new hobby that can keep you occupied and happy for the few months before spring comes.

Remember, there is light at the end of winter’s tunnel. While the months after the holidays can be bleak, it is important to remember that the sun will come out again and the flowers will start to bloom. It just takes a little time to get there.

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Some Fights are Healthy for Couples


Everyone has that friend who claims that they never, ever fight with their partner. While this seems ideal, it is likely not true. Every couple argues, which is a natural and normal process to go through. The difference comes in when you factor in how a couple chooses to argue and how they resolve their disagreements.

It is always important to remember in a fight that it is a good idea to communicate more than you probably think you should. When you think you are getting frustrated, say something right away to prevent an argument from happening. Address your concern as soon as it comes up so your partner will know what is bothering you and then the two of you can work together to come up with a solution. This will help prevent you from getting on the defense to try to protect yourself from being angered even further. After this, you can stop and listen to your partner’s response to help you explore your feelings.

To help you get through the normal disagreements, here is a list of fights that are the most likely to come up in any relationship and what you should do to handle them when they arise.

Money

While he may have his eye on a new smartphone, you could be looking into new investment options. Or maybe he wants to buy a brand new car that has all of the most updated features and you just want something that will get you from point A to point B. Having different financial priorities is totally normal, but it is important to communicate about money so you don’t become resentful.

Make an effort to understand why your partner wants to spend or save money like they do. Sometimes it is best to validate their point of view and come up with a compromise. Also, help your partner understand your point of view so you can be on the same page.

Chores

Everyone has their own way of doing things, from loading the dishwasher to running the laundry. These differences can drive another person crazy. The important thing here is to pick your battles. Think about the long-term effects of your partner taking out the trash in a different way than you might choose to do so. Is it really a big deal? If something is really important to you then explain it to your partner. Otherwise, let it go.

Sex Drives

Sex isn’t usually a problem in the beginning of a relationship, but after the honeymoon stage is over, usually one person is left wanting more than the other. It is important to find a balance with your partner so you are both satisfied and neither one of you feels resentful. Make sure to acknowledge your partner’s desire when you aren’t feeling it and make it up to them when the timing is better for you both.

Social Schedules

A lot of couples have different ideas of how much time they want to spend together. This is best to address early on in a relationship so it doesn’t lead to resentment. Let your partner know how the amount of time you are spending together is affecting your level of connection. Make sure that you are supporting your partner’s goals and lifestyle but also let them know that you don’t want to lose your connection with them. Communicate with each other about how you can stay connected while still living your own lives.

Cleaning the House

One person’s idea of clean is another’s idea of a disaster. If your ideas of cleanliness are different, it can lead to an argument. In this case, make sure that you do not blame or shame your partner for their preferences. Don’t tell them that they are a bad person for leaving their shoes and socks on the floor, instead, help them understand how their organizational habits have an effect on you. This will prevent your partner from being embarrassed or angry.

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Homemade Odor Neutralizer Spray


The concept of store-bought odor eliminators is great. No one wants their home to smell like their pets, mold, or dinner that was made last night. Sprays such as Febreze and other odor eliminators that you can buy are made to freshen up your house and get rid of these offensive scents.

However, these synthetic air fresheners have toxic chemicals in them that are even more harsh than the odors that you are likely attempting to cover up. These fragrances and dyes can lead to diseases such as cancer and respiratory problems, especially if you or someone in your household is already susceptible to such ailments.

If you are used to reading labels on products, you might be upset to learn that a lot of the chemicals that are used to make air fresheners and other commercial products are not always listed. This is because a lot of companies keep their fragrance ingredients a secret, claiming that it is their own confidential business information and part of the secret of their product that they do not want other companies or people to reproduce.

Omitting scent ingredients happens in products where synthetic scents are found, such as in perfumes and cleaning products. This is especially appalling when it comes to odor neutralizers because these ingredients make up the majority of the product.

One of the harmful ingredients that is often put into these products is phthalates. This chemical is a hormone disruptor and it has the ability to numb the nerves in your body that help you smell. It does this by blocking your olfactory nerves. This is what allows these products to mask bad odors in your house.

The Environmental Protection Agency describes these chemicals as being neurotoxic, hazardous, and potential causes of nervous system damage. Also, these chemicals are absorbed into the human body very quickly once they are inhaled, which leads to that lightheaded feeling that you may get when you smell these products.

However, these products are what the majority of American people use to keep their houses clean. But the truth is, companies are not required to disclose all of the ingredients that they put in their products and there is no true way to determine the ratios that these companies are using.

So, what can you do to eliminate odors safely? Make your own neutralizer spray! Doing this is an inexpensive and safe way to keep your house smelling clean and fresh without spending too much money at the grocery store on products that are not good for your health. The best thing is that you only need a few ingredients that are probably already at your house to create your own spray and eliminate pet, baby, and musty home smells without using a spray that is full of chemicals.

Here are some recipes to get you started.

RECIPE #1:

This is a great recipe to double if you have a spray bottle that is large enough to hold twice the amount of liquid that this recipe calls for.

You will need:

  • 12-15 drops of pure essential oil, such as grapefruit, orange, lemon, or lavender (choose a scent that you enjoy, these are just some suggestions for commonly used essential oils for eliminating odors)
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups of distilled water

Thoroughly mix these ingredients into a spray bottle and use it in any room that needs a refresher. You can also make this spray stronger by adding more vinegar and increasing the drops of essential oils to 20 drops. If you want, you can also put this solution into a diffuser and allow it to diffuse in your house throughout the day to keep the scent consistently going. You can also spray this mixture onto furniture to freshen it up if it is beginning to smell bad.

RECIPE #2:

This recipe is very easy to make and can be made quickly if you are in a pinch. You will need:

  • 4 Tbsp of natural and eco-friendly fabric softener
  • Distilled water

Fill your spray bottle with these two ingredients and mix them up very well until they are fully incorporated. Spray this on anything that needs a bit of a refresher such as rugs, couches, and in bathrooms.

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Exercise May Positively Affect Memory

It is commonly known that exercise is one of the best preventive drugs for a lot of health conditions, spanning from mental disorders to cardiovascular disease. Did you know that your risk of losing your hearing due to age can also be reduced with exercise? Physical fitness is linked to cognitive function and the importance in the fight against dementia.

In fact, studies now show that exercise promotes neurogenesis, which is a process in which your brain can adapt to changes and grow new brain cells. Exercise also promotes cognitive health by regulating insulin resistance and increasing dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, GABA, and glutamine.

Recent studies have shown that high-intensity workouts help improve memory by improving the function of the hippocampus. This finding could be an important prevention strategy for Alzheimer?s disease, which is the most serious form of dementia. Studies have also shown that aerobic exercise increases brain volume, which benefits certain memory functions.

There are a lot of health benefits of high-intensity exercise, and increasing memory is just one more benefit of this activity. These findings might have an impact on the aging population due to their struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies have found that doing 6 weeks of high-intensity interval exercise for 20 minutes each session, which is short periods of intense exercise followed by a short break, showed major improvements in high-interference memory, which is the type of memory that allows people to distinguish different objects that are very similar, such as different breeds of dogs.

The interesting thing is, this study was performed on young adults and the results came quickly. This means that it does not take long to improve your memory by increasing your exercise. While some people may believe that it would take months or years, it actually may only take a few weeks to see an improvement.

They also found that people in the study who were able to greatly improve their fitness also experienced larger increases in their brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a protein that helps brain cells grow, function properly, and survive.

These findings may also help explain why there is a previously established link between academic performance and aerobic exercise. Elderly people can even expect to see greater benefits with their memory impairment that is brought on by aging conditions like dementia.

Ninety-five participants participated in this study and were split into three groups. Some completed six weeks of exercise training that was also combined with cognitive training, some did exercise with no cognitive training, and the control group did neither exercise nor cognitive training and the remained sedentary. Findings showed that both the exercise group and the combined exercise and cognitive training groups improved their performance on a high-interference memory task, however, the control group did not.

Researchers looked at the changes in aerobic fitness and neurotrophic factors and memory before and after the study. Results show that there is potential for exercise and cognitive training to change and improve memory, and shows that the two of these together can work alongside each other through complementary pathways of the brain to increase one’s high-interference memory.

Researchers have started to study elderly adults to see if they will have the same positive results as the younger adults with the combination of physical exercise and cognitive training.

Because this kind of memory tends to decline with age, one hypothesis is that there will be greater benefits for elderly adults. However, it is not known if the decline of neurotrophic factors with age may have an impact on the synergistic effects of exercise and memory.

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The Downside of Blood Pressure Medications


Everyone knows that your diet, exercise regimen, and even the quality of the air you breathe has an effect on your overall health. Making small changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference for the future. This also goes for the decisions that you make that are unhealthy. While having one soda every now and then will not have a huge impact on your life, drinking several each week can be very harmful to your health.

Your everyday choices also impact your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease and stroke. About 75 million Americans have high blood pressure, making the cost associated with blood pressure treatment over $46 billion each year.

The American Heart Association recently announced that nearly half of Americans may have high blood pressure, and the treatment that is often prescribed can raise one’s risk for cancer.

In a recent study, researchers found that one of the most popular drugs used to treat high blood pressure increases your risk of skin cancer by seven times. In this study, the researchers showed that there is an association between the popular medication and forms of skin cancer.

The researchers looked at alternative antihypertensive medications but have not found them to be linked to skin cancer. Researchers knew that hydrochlorothiazide made skin vulnerable to damage from the sun, but the new factor to this is that using this blood pressure medicine for a long time can lead to a very significant increase in one’s risk of developing skin cancer.

Other professionals have found similar results in patients where thier only risk factor aside from sun exposure seems to be taking hydrochlorothiazide. While squamous cell carcinoma does not come with a high mortality rate, the treatments present a risk of side effects and the potential for cancer to spread.

Researchers are continuing to study this risk of skin cancer because it has to be weighed against the fact that this drug is an effective treatment for many patients. However, the results should make doctors reconsider prescribing hydrochlorothiazide.

The technique doctors use to measure blood pressure can have an impact on the reading. Inaccuracies that occur in blood pressure measurements may be associated with many factors that can be controlled in the doctor’s office.

You can perform a noninvasive blood pressure test at home by doing an evaluation of your waist-to-hip ratio. Research shows that the size of your waist may effectively assess the risk for hypertension that is associated with obesity. Your waist-to-hip ratio is the comparison of the weight you carry around your hips versus the weight in your waist.

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, look in a mirror to find the widest part of your waist. Then measure the circumference with a tape measure. Then measure the circumference of the smallest part of your waist. With these measurements, calculate your waist-to-hip ratio by dividing the measurement of your waist by the circumference of your hips.

It is currently estimated that almost half of American adults might be diagnosed with hypertension. With new guidelines, it is estimated that the number of men with hypertension under 45 will triple and the number of women under 45 will double. These new guidelines are meant to encourage people to control their blood pressure early in life.

Health experts believe that Americans can lower their blood pressure through a proper diet, exercise, and drug therapy, which could drive down the rate of heart attack and stroke. While not all doctors are convinced that these lower guidelines will have a great impact on the health of Americans, it may be a step in the right direction to get some on track to better health.

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The Benefits of Vanilla Beans

Vanilla is a flavor that most everyone grows up eating, whether it is in ice cream or some other kind of dessert. While some people may consider vanilla to be a boring flavor when there are so many flavors to choose from, it is actually one of the most classic flavors and you can really never go wrong with it. Vanilla extract is one of the most popular ingredients in dessert recipes because of this, it adds a sweet and warming flavor that goes well with almost anything that it is added to.

If you have ever had the chance to eat a dish that is made with real vanilla beans rather than an extract, then you know that the flavor is rich and delicious. However, did you know that vanilla bean isn?t just a flavor to enjoy in desserts? It is also a very healthy ingredient that has a multitude of benefits.

Vanilla beans are long and thin and originate in places such as Madagascar, India, Puerto Rico, and Indonesia. When the pods are opened, they are waxy, dark, and filled with little brown specks.

The beans have no smell or flavor when they are planted, but once they are picked and fermented, they emit the smell that we are all used to. Vanilla beans can be sold just as they are or can be made into a powder or a paste. Bean paste is made by scraping out the pod and infusing the insides into a sweet, thick syrup that is made with sugar, water, and a thickening agent. Vanilla bean powder is made without any added sugar or alcohol and just comes from dried and powdered vanilla beans.

Most people only associate vanilla beans with their pleasing smell and taste, but vanilla beans also have health benefits. Vanillin, which is the chief component in vanilla, has been linked to several health benefits, including lowering cholesterol and alleviating arthritis and inflammation.

Vanilla beans also contain antioxidants that help prevent the breakdown of cells and tissues, stimulate the regrowth of cells, and fight free radicals due to its content of potassium. The antioxidants also boost the immune system, decrease stress, and reduce recovery time from injuries. Vanilla beans also have traces of calcium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and iron.

Vanilla beans also have vitamins from the B complex, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help enzyme synthesis, boost the function of the nervous system, and regulate the metabolism. Vanilla beans can also help decrease your appetite and increase metabolic efficiency.

But, here is the deal with the nutrition in vanilla beans: you should use the whole bean and scrape the powder out or buy vanilla bean powder (which is just pre-scraped beans). While vanilla extract will still help boost your mood due to its natural mood-enhancing scent, however, it is not a good nutritional source because it is diluted and processed.

If you want to save money, vanilla beans can be inexpensive if you buy them whole. Buying the pre-scraped powder is easier and more convenient, but is also more expensive.

If you want to try to grow vanilla beans at home, you will need a pole support (or a tree), neutral soil, a well-draining area of land with high humidity, and bright light with filtered shade.

Once your vanilla is planted, make sure that the soil is moist evenly throughout the area, but make sure that you do not overwater the plant. You can lightly fertilize the plant in the warmer months. Keep in mind that your plants will not produce vanilla beans for at least three years, and in the meantime, the plant will display trumpet-shaped flowers.

Once these flowers bloom, they stay open for only one day and have to be pollinated immediately. Once they are pollinated, the vanilla pods will grow about 9 months later. The vanilla beans can be harvested when they are at least 5 inches long and are light-yellow in color. The pods should be briefly blanched in boiling water before being sweated and dried until they are shriveled under the sun.

Cheap vanillas are for sale at grocery stores, but it is best to buy and use the real thing or make your own. Many vanilla extracts have added ingredients that are unhealthy and will not give your food the full flavor that you are looking for.

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What Should You Look for in Produce?

Everyone is familiar with those people in the produce section at the grocery store who pick up every fruit and vegetable, smell it, squeeze it, and inspect it before adding it to their cart. Often, people get a little too up close and personal with their produce, but might this be a good idea?

When you are looking at peaches, for example, it is best to get up close and look at the whole bunch to choose your best option. So, what characteristics should you be looking for?

First, you should inspect the general appearance of the produce. Each variety of fruit and vegetable has different and specific things that should be noticed. For example, you should be looking for dark spots on peaches. While you may assume this is where the peach has been damaged, it is actually known to be a “sugar spot,” which is where the sun has hit the peach just right and increased its level of sweetness.

Continuing with the example of peaches, look for a stripe across the stem. Peaches with these stripes were left to ripen longer on the tree, allowing them to grow up against the branch of the tree and richen their flavor.

Moving on from peaches, melons have other characteristics that you should be on the lookout for. First, look for a well-defined ground spot. If a melon is lacking a ground spot, it probably was not left on the vine long enough to properly ripen. You should also make sure that your melons have a withered stem. This means that the melon is probably ripe. One trick for melons is to knock your knuckles on it. If you knock and it sounds really hard, then it is under ripe. However, if it sounds soft, it is probably too ripe. Look for a melon that sounds like you are thumping on your chest to determine the perfect level of ripeness.

You also want to make sure that the food you are buying is in season. Late summer and early fall is a great time for lots of fruit, but you should still check to see what is in season because it will make a difference in the taste.

Some produce, like bananas, are fine to buy before they are ripe. Bananas are climacteric fruits, meaning they keep ripening after they harvest. Other produce, however, is nonclimacteric. This means no matter how long you allow a strawberry to sit in your refrigerator, it will never become ripe if it is green.

You should also consider where your produce originated. As a rule of thumb, it is best to buy your produce locally. Ask the people working in your grocery store where they buy their produce because you may be surprised at how far it has to travel before it gets to your table. Buying produce that is grown nearby means you will get the ripest bunch of the harvest.

If you are not sure what?s in season, do some research to get a list of fruits and vegetables that are ripe in your local area. To make sure you get the most flavorful produce that provides the best nutrition, gather your produce when they?re fresh and in season.

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How Often Should You Focus on Your Glutes?

Your glutes are your body’s most powerful muscle group. These large muscles contract to move your hips in every direction, allowing you to move your body up, down, forward, backward, and to each side. Because these muscles are so big, working them out on a regular basis can help increase your metabolic rate.

We spend a lot of time sitting these days, which causes our glutes to become weak and undertrained. There are a lot of reasons why you should work out your glutes, mainly because they help keep your hips loose and your pelvis stable, helping prevent injury. Also, working out your glutes will ensure that you have a healthy and attractive derriere.

Whatever your reason is, it is important to create a strategy for your glute workout because doing squats all day is boring and won’t necessarily give you the sculpted muscles that you are looking for.

It is best to do heavy compound lifts such as deadlifts, squats, and hip thrusts twice or three times each week. To make sure that you are getting a well-rounded glute exercise regimen in throughout the week, add in two or three other exercises that are specifically targeted to your glutes so you are able to get maximal muscle recruitment.

It is important to note that doing these exercises two to three times each week is enough. The time spent in between your exercises are your recovery days, which are very important for glute strength. The recovery time that everyone needs is different, depending on what kind of exercise you are doing and your level of intensity and experience. However, a general rule of two to three times each week is good for heavy compound lifting. This allows your muscles the time that they need to recover and rebuild after the strain that is put on them during the exercise.

Make sure to pay attention to how you feel after you exercise and look for any noticeable decreases in strength between each workout. If you think that your strength is lower on your second day of heavy compound lifting, take an extra day of rest between workouts for the next week to see how your performance changes.

A common mistake that people make when doing workouts is failing to focus on exercises that are specifically targeted to glutes. It is easy to assume that some tough lower body moves automatically target your butt muscles, but they may just be working out other muscles that are in that area. If your goal is to increase your glute strength, and you only do leg presses, leg extensions, or work on the curl machine, you are not targeting your glutes, rather you are only focusing on your quads and hamstrings. While this is also important, it will not give you the results that you are looking for.

If your priority goal is your glutes, you need to do exercises that work all three of the gluteus muscles, which are the minimus, the medius, and the maximus. A lot of glute exercises will also work your quads and hamstrings, but adding two specific moves will help keep your emphasis on your glutes.

1. Sit on the floor in front of a bench with your upper back resting on the bench. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips up, forming a straight line from your chest to your knees while resting your upper back on the bench. Stay here for 5 seconds before returning to your original position. Do this 12 times.

2. Hold two dumbbells with an overhand grip while standing, and bend at your hips and knees. Brace your abs and keep a slight arch in your lower back. Pull back your torso and move your hips forward while you stand up with the dumbbells. Do this move while squeezing your glutes. Lower the dumbbells to the floor. Do this 10 times.

Next time you do lower body workouts, focus more on your glutes specifically in order to really gain muscle in this important area of the body.

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Using Mindfulness Meditation to Improve Your HIIT Workouts

Mindfulness meditation is very popular these days and is known to help reduce stress and allow people to live in the moment. It helps people learn how to do every move with a purpose and accept the present moment for what it is without passing any judgement.

The calm process of meditation and the intensity of a HIIT workout might seem like complete opposites. When you are trying to work out at your maximum level of effort, it is not likely that you are also focusing on being as calm as possible. While you may be noticing your deep and heavy breathing, it is not in the same way that you do during meditation.

However, there are some lessons that are taught in the world of meditation that can help with your high-intensity interval training workouts. Meditation is all about keeping yourself focused and committed to the task at hand. Learning how to stay calm and control your breath are very important in meditation and are also a critical part of effective HIIT training.

During training, being able to take control over your breathing and your pace is essential for improving your athletic performance and increasing your gains. If you lose control of your breath or your pace, you are likely to get out of rhythm and have to keep taking breaks to get back on track. This can take away from your workout.

During the practice of meditation, the breath is used to help focus the mind and relax the central nervous system, which has an effect on your physiology and psychology. If you can bring your focus to your breath during HIIT training, you will be able to achieve a greater rhythm of pace. Once you achieve a proper pace, it will be easier to get into the groove of a workout and continue it until it is complete. It is important to learn how to properly pace an intense workout.

Meditation can also teach athletes to focus on their performance so they are able to track their results and measure their progress. This will help athletes avoid plateaus or stick with doing the same routine for several weeks without changing it up at all. HIIT is more effective if you are able to focus and intentionally calm yourself down to a place of meditation during times of extreme movement. Research has actually shown that athletes who practice daily meditation are able to improve their attention and performance when they are doing their high-intensity work.

Meditation also teaches people how to use their breath to control their heart rate. It allows people to correct shallow breathing by taking deeper breaths and getting more oxygen to the cells and blood, which increases energy. It can also change your mindset to beat negative and self-defeating thoughts during exercise and channel that energy into positive thinking. HIIT is a mentally challenging thing to do, so learning to control your focus and recognize self-doubt can certainly change the outcome of a workout.

To bring mindfulness meditation into HIIT, you can do some meditation before heading to the gym or once you are at the gym and about to get on the floor. Keep your awareness on your breath throughout your warm-up and into your workout routine. After your workout, do some stretching and sit for 60 seconds to practice some more mindfulness, focusing on your breath to center yourself and appreciate your hard work. Be sure to practice mindfulness meditation outside of the gym as well so you can perfect the art. This will carry over into your workouts at the gym and help you achieve greater success in muscle gains and physical fitness as you use mindfulness to get you through even the toughest workouts.

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