8 Mistakes You’re Making When You Fill in Your Eyebrows


These pro tips will have your brows at their best.
Brows

I have a beauty confession to make—I take entirely too much time to fill in my eyebrows. When I say too much time, I’m talking roughly 15 minutes of my 45-minute commute to work on the train each morning (trust me, I’ve timed it out). The funny part is that whole time I’m trying to achieve that effortless, natural look. Oh, what we do for beauty!

I have no problem with my seven-plus-minute-per-side routine because by the time I step off that train, my brows are on point. But let me tell you, it took a long time for me to hone my current technique. Let’s just say, a lot of mistakes were made. To help you avoid the disastrous trial and error I went through, we’ve tapped a few experts to find out their tried-and-true methods to achieve a natural-looking brow—and their top tips on what not to do. (To be honest, I’m still guilty of some of these, like #7.)

Whether you’re a seasoned brow enthusiast or someone learning how to define your brows for the first time, you should know that brow makeup is an art, not a science. It can take a while to nail the look you want, so be patient, and be open to changing it up to see what works.

1. You’re using the wrong type of product to fill in your brows.

Looking in the brow section of the beauty aisle, there are many different options for filling in: powders, pomades, pencils, waxes, gels. You have to find the product that fits your look and skill level best.

Giselle Soto of Giselle Soto Brows in Los Angeles typically recommends that her clients use a powder if they have sparse areas, or are new to filling in their brows. “Powder helps give brows a softer, more natural look as opposed to pencils or pomades, which can sometimes look too heavy or leave harsher lines,” she tells SELF.

Pencil is great for filling in a few hairs that might be missing. Pomades are good if you’re looking to create a bold brow look or darken brows. Waxes and gels are best for women with full brows because they have a light tint and are more for keeping unruly brow hairs in place.

2. Your brow product isn’t the right shade.

Our experts suggest using brow products that are a shade lighter than your hair color. Using a tone that’s too dark may cause your makeup to look harsh or obvious, instead of natural and effortless. “Lighter tones look more natural and are more forgiving,” celebrity makeup artist Kimara Ahnert tells SELF.

“If you have dark brown hair, choose a light or medium brown powder—I feel that brows should complement the face, not overpower your features,” says Soto. For blondes and redheads, Soto uses a taupe or dark blonde color.

3. You’re applying too much highlighter under your brows.

Adding a highlight under the arch of the brow is an easy way to add lift to the eye area, but using the wrong color or formula can take attention away from your eyebrows. “If you’re going to highlight underneath the brow, it needs to be a gentle highlight,” Mally Roncal, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Mally Beauty, tells SELF. “If you are doing a highlight with concealer, it can’t be too white. My general rule is that the concealer should be one shade lighter than your skin tone. Especially if you’re doing a strong highlight on the cheekbone, you don’t want that to compete with the brow bone.”

To achieve a seamless brow highlight, Soto advises using a flat brush to blend highlight powder in a windshield wiper motion directly underneath the brow, following its natural shape. Right now, her favorite product to use on her clients is the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo ($23, ulta.com).

4. You’re using too much product on your brush.

“One of the most common mistakes that people make is using way too much product when they don’t need to. I always like to say that less is more, and a little bit goes a long way with any product that you use,” says Soto. Even if you’re dealing with minimal eyebrow hair, you probably don’t need to use as much product to get flawless eyebrows as you think you do. Instead of covering the entire brow in product, concentrate your strokes on sparse areas only. To make sure your work doesn’t look too heavy-handed, Ahnert suggests brushing through the brow with a toothbrush, brow brush, or spoolie to soften any obvious brush strokes.

5. You’re filling in your brows before they’re properly groomed.

“Sometimes people try to fill in their brows when they’re grown out which is really hard, even for me, because you don’t have that guideline,” says Soto. If it’s been months since you got your brows groomed, getting them waxed or threaded can make the entire filling in process so much easier—and faster—because the shape will be obvious. The exception: If there are just a few stray hairs, it’s actually easier to see which ones to pluck once product is already on the brow. That way you can don’t accidentally pluck a hair that helps the overall shape of the brow.

6. You’re creating a new brow shape instead of just following your own.

Many of us are guilty of filling in our eyebrows in shapes that aren’t exactly natural— aka the boxy brow. “Some of us have a more boxy brow, but none of us really have rectangle brows. You want to be able to see space between the hairs, you want to be able to see skin between the hairs,” celebrity makeup artist, Tatiana Ward tells SELF. “Some girls really do have such dense brows, but with even some of the most dense eyebrows you can still see skin in between. By trying to fill in every little space, you’ll most likely get the look of an overwhelming brow.”

Ward recommends revisiting how your eyebrows looked in baby pictures (pre-plucking/waxing/threading, etc.) to figure out what they’re really supposed to look like, and staying within those unique parameters. In other words, work with what you already have!

7. You’re trying to make your brows look too perfect.

Your brows don’t have to be perfect all the time. “I like brows when they’re a little unruly,” says Roncal. “They don’t have to be perfect—while I love makeup and I love the art of it, I think there’s something really great to be said about natural brows as well.” For quick, natural brows on the go, Roncal suggests brushing eyebrows upward with a light coat of gel to get as full of a brow as possible.

8. You expect your brows to turn out right every time.

Filling in eyebrows is not necessarily a skill that is learned in a day. It took me a few YouTube tutorials and some trial and error to finally achieve a brow look that I felt comfortable wearing on a regular basis. Sometimes I still have days when I think, “That did not turn out like I planned.” But the more you use the beauty tools you’ve acquired, the easier it will be to master your own unique brow look. “Definitely practice makes perfect,” Roncal agrees. “The more you do it, the better you’ll get.”

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The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time


According to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is an author and a journalist, writers and thinkers should stay off twitter. This is what she had to say in an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein


It wasn’t something to release on a social media forum. However, it was a call to reach out for peace.

The Importance of Silence

Coates brings to light the importance of silence in this age of constant rush and noise. He says that to generate the best of ideas and to work in your maximum potential, one needs silence more than anything else.

Famous authors, psychiatrist, and journalist use the medium silence to bring their best works into existence. They have done this after managing information flow and cultivating deep thoughts in silence. Even a government official like Jerry Brown, who is the governor of California, has stated the importance of silence.

It is however funny how you can only appreciate and understand the importance of silence when you’re amidst a crowd begging to hear your own voice.

Silence is good for restoring nervous system and also helps in sustaining energy. It provides your mind with the amount of peace and serenity to get back to equilibrium which often gets disrupted in this modern “always-on-the-go” generation. Since objects starting holding great value in our lives, we do not appreciate silence



Silence relax you

“Silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus,” says Imke Kirste of Duke Medical School. She says that silence affects the region which is responsible for storing knowledge, learning, and memory. It was also found by physician L.Bernardi that even the little moments of silence between two musical pieces seem to provide more calmness to the mind, stabilization to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than music that comes under the ‘relaxation’ section of youtube or any other music forum.

However, silence isn’t only about switching off your TV or turning your fan to a lower speed to reduce noise around you. It also means shutting your mind out from everything once in a wild.

Silence itself can be very daunting if you don’t quiet your mind in the first place. To get proper benefits of silence one needs to shut down all the thoughts racing through their minds first.

“Learn To Get In Touch With Your Silence Within Yourself And Know That Everything In Life Has A Purpose”

This 15-Minute Yoga Flow Will Reduce Anxiety, Boost Energy & Improve Sleep


Keeping your blood sugar balanced is ridiculously important: Unbalanced blood sugar contributes to energy slumps, hanger, irritability, low libido, or fat storage. One lifestyle practice that can improve your body’s response to insulin (the hormone responsible for blood sugar management) is—you guessed it—yoga.

As a diabetic health coach and yoga instructor, I try to integrate yoga into my schedule daily. I used to be the “all-or-nothing” type: I was either dedicating 60 minutes to my practice or, if I didn’t have time, not practicing at all. In recent months though, as a midday reset from being behind the screen of the computer and my phone, I give myself the space to practice right in my apartment, even if I only have time for 15 minutes.

These yoga poses have helped balance my blood sugar by helping to reduce stress, strengthen muscles, stimulate hormonal secretion of the pancreas, build up the immune system, promote better sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve energy levels.

1. Sun salutations.

Sun salutations are a sequence of eight moves strung together. It begins with standing mountain pose at the top of your mat and moving through upward salute, forward bend, half-standing forward bend, plank pose, chaturanga, upward-facing dog, and downward-facing dog. Sun salutes involve movement of the whole body, which strengthens and lengthens the muscles, ultimately helping to increase insulin sensitivity in the body. Try going through the cycle 5 times, connecting your inhale and exhale with each movement.

2. Seated twist.

Begin in a seated posture with both legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your foot on the outside of your left thigh. You can keep your left leg long or bend it toward your right glute. Inhale your left arm straight up as you turn your torso toward your right. Either hug the right knee into your chest as you twist or hook the back of your left triceps on the outside of your right knee. Lengthen the crown of your head toward the ceiling and gaze over your right shoulder. Make sure to do both sides.

3. Low lunge twist.

Plant your right foot at the top of the mat and step the left leg back, releasing the back knee to the ground. Plant your left palm on the ground, in line with your shoulder, and lift your right arm to the ceiling. If your body is open enough, you can go deeper into the pose by lifting the back knee and possibly hooking your left elbow on the outside of your right knee, bringing hands to prayer. Turn the top ribs up and away from the floor. Inhale to lengthen; exhale to twist deeper. Make sure to do both sides.

4. Tree pose.

Standing up tall with both feet on the ground, begin to distribute your weight to your left leg as the right leg comes off the ground. Place the bottom of your right foot on your left calf, or higher up on the inside of the thigh. Stand up tall and square your hips to the front of the room. Bring hands to heart center or expand to ceiling. Make sure to do both sides.

5. Bow pose.

Start lying on your belly with palms facing up. Exhale and bend both knees, bringing your heels toward your glutes. Reach back with your hands and grab your ankles. Inhale and lift the chest and thighs up off the floor, pushing hands into ankles and ankles into hands to keep lifting heart center up. Draw shoulders away from ears and gaze a few inches beyond the tip of your nose.

6. Plow pose.

Begin lying flat on your back. On the inhale, use your core to lift your legs and send them over your head, keeping both palms on your lower back for support. If your toes touch the floor, you can release the palms from your back and clasp them underneath you. Align your hips over your shoulders and keep a space between your chin and chest. To release, support your back with your hands and slowly roll legs down one vertebrae at a time.

7. Seated meditation.

Find a comfortable position, either seated with or without wall support or lying on the ground, and close your eyes. You can set a timer or try the Calm app to guide you. Feel the sensation of the breath on the inhale and exhale. Option to focus on a mantra such as, “I am at ease.”

Does Travel Throw You Out Of Whack? Bring This On Your Next Trip To Keep Your Digestion & Skin In Check


Let’s be honest, travel doesn’t always live up to our romantic expectations. Long days, unfamiliar food, too much sun, and time changes can leave our body dehydrated, our digestion totally out of whack, and our skin as dry as a desert.

So what can we do if we love to travel but also want to prioritize our health? It’s all about planning ahead and taking proactive steps to fight off those unpleasant symptoms that threaten to sabotage our globe-trotting. Here are four ways to up your self-care and protect your body for your next trip:

1. Stay hydrated.

Dehydration is SUPER common when we’re traveling by air, land, or sea. And many people don’t know that the air on planes is actually super dry (only 5 to 12 percent humidity). As tempting as it might be, this is NOT the time to turn to sugary drinks or juices. Luckily, there’s one thing you can add to your wellness regimen that will kick your hydration into gear: Liquid I.V. is a new breakthrough hydration powder that utilizes the science of Cellular Transport Technology (CTT) to deliver water and other key nutrients directly to your bloodstream for optimal hydration.

2. Sooth dry skin.

Travel can do a number on your skin. You’re likely to be spending more time in the sun, but a lot of the damage to your skin has to do with dehydration, which can lead to premature aging, wrinkles, and flaking (No, thank you!). And while you can stock up on all the topical creams and oils you want, the best way to hydrate the skin is from the inside out. Mixing one Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier packet into a glass of water provides the same hydration to your body as drinking two to three bottles of plain water! This will help protect your precious skin cells so you come back from your vacation feeling younger than when you left.

3. Be proactive about digestion issues.

It’s super common for things to get a little sluggish when you’re not in your normal environment, exposed to the many stressors that come with travel and left with little to no time to keep up with your normal exercise routine. Staying hydrated will keep things moving and regular and give the body the hydration it needs to adapt to long days or hours on a plane.

4. Fight fatigue.

Above all else, travel can make us REALLY tired and jet lagged. Liquid I.V. has five essential vitamins—like B and C vitamins, potassium, and mineral salt—that will give your body and immune system a little extra boost. The best part? They come in convenient travel-size packets that you can throw in your suitcase or purse without another thought. Now the only question left is: What country are we exploring next?

How To Exercise To Reduce Inflammation (And Avoid Creating More)


When it comes to reducing inflammation, we often turn to a healthy diet, hot baths, and nourishing massages. While there’s nothing wrong with beating inflammation using these tactics, exercise is also an effective way to lower inflammation. In fact, one study that followed 4,000 middle-aged people over a 10-year period found that those who exercise for two and a half hours per week lowered their inflammation by 12 percent.

But when it comes to lowering inflammation, which types of exercise are best? Here’s what the experts say.

Go for a walk.

When your body is inflamed, whether it’s from intense exercise or something else, a light walk is an excellent way to reset. “I tell my clients, especially the ones who tend to really push themselves, to ease up a bit and just go for a long walk when their body is really dreading a tough workout,” says Michelle Cady, health coach and FitVista founder. “Walking is a great way to let your muscles recover—it brings down inflammation by sending fresh blood and oxygen throughout your body, pumping the lymphatic system for waste removal, and gently restoring your digestive system if it feels off.”

Hike.

Want to take your walk to the next level? Immerse yourself in nature and go for a hike. “Find a safe trail, bring a friend, and go on an easy one-hour ramble through the woods,” says Cady. “Just like walking, easy hiking stimulates muscle recovery and reboots your system. As an added bonus, ‘forest bathing,’ or time spent surrounded by trees, lowers the body’s cortisol stress-response (which is linked to inflammation) by up to 20 percent.”

Foam roll.

While it does have core-strengthening benefits, foam rolling is often considered a recovery tactic, and for good reason: It helps with muscle soreness, improves flexibility, improves sleep, helps with digestion, and lowers inflammation. “To reduce inflammation with a foam roller, lie on a roller and use gravity to apply pressure to a muscle,” says Nicholas M. Licameli, physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy. “The roller is pressed into the muscle belly, and the user rolls up and down the length of the target muscle.”

Do yoga, meditate, and deep breathe.

This one probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but the power of deep breathing and yoga as an inflammation-busting tactic can’t be underestimated. “Deep, controlled breathing and meditation induce a state of physical and mental relaxation,” says Licameli. “This is incredibly helpful when you want to lower inflammation in the body.”

The Inflammation-Reducing Yoga Sequence You Need For Quality Sleep


Inflammation is one of our body’s greatest healers—but in excess, it wreaks havoc on our health. Chronic inflammation creates an environment where the immune system is focused on attacking our bodies rather than killing pathogens, and the healing of damaged tissues is stalled. Inflammation also creates issues like low absorption of nutrients, pain, buildup of plaque that leads to heart attacks, and may even contribute to cancer. Prevention and reversal of inflammation should be personalized and mindful with consideration of many lifestyle factors like what you eat and your stress levels.

The inflammation-sleep connection.

What is often overlooked is the huge impact that sleep has on inflammation. When we sleep, our bodies heal themselves and stress levels are reduced. Chronic inflammation decreases as our systems become calm and balanced. To achieve healing during sleep, we need both enough sleep and good-quality sleep.

Follow my tips to lead yourself into deep, restful sleep to decrease inflammation:

  1. Go to sleep at about the same time every night.
  2. Avoid drinking wine or other forms of alcohol before bed. We may feel it relaxes us, but it actually strongly disrupts sleep patterns and prevents us from moving through all the stages of sleep that we need to heal.
  3. Don’t eat right before bed. You want your body to be focused on healing your gut rather than working hard to digest.
  4. Add a relaxing movement ritual to your nightly routine. It will calm you for sleep and reduce tension, already beginning the process of reducing cortisol to create healing sleep.

Try this series each evening to create deep sleep and reduce inflammation:

Hamstring Stretch

Begin lying on your back with your legs straight. Bring one leg in, bending your knee toward your chest to place a band or strap around the foot. Extend the leg toward a 45-degree angle and slowly draw the leg up while maintaining a straight leg, keeping the pelvis squared. Reach your sitz bone and heel away from each other to feel an active/gentle stretch in the hamstring and calf. Breathe deeply and hold the position for 1 to 3 minutes on each leg.

Double Pigeon

Sit with both knees bent and stack the legs on top of each other creating an inverted triangle. The top foot should stack directly above the bottom knee, and the bottom foot directly under the top knee. Think of reaching the top of your head away from your sitz bones to lengthen your spine. Keeping your spine long and neutral, slightly fold forward at the hips until you feel a stretch at the back of the hips and piriformis.

Quad Stretch

Begin sitting with one leg bent under you and the other bent in front. Place your hands behind you and guide your upper body toward the mat, keeping your spine long, until you feel a gentle stretch in the top of the leg bent under you. Hold the position for 1 minute. Return to sit upright and switch the positioning of the legs to repeat on the other side.

Mindful Breathing

Sit cross-legged on the floor or on a block. Find a tall, neutral spine. Begin by naturally inhaling and exhaling. Then, direct your breath low into your pelvis and visualize your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles relaxing as you inhale and gently lift and tone as you exhale. Continue to breathe slowly with that focus and add on the feeling of allowing the back of your torso to open and expand as you inhale to fill your torso with air. From there, let your spine grow taller as you exhale. Breathe with awareness for at least one minute.

6 Evidence-Based Ways To Burn Belly Fat AND Extend Your Life


Can These 5 Ways of Burning Belly Fat Also Save Your Life?

The ongoing battle of the bulge, while once considered primarily a matter of vanity, may actually be one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dying from a multitude of causes (i.e. all-cause mortality), but especially heart attack.[1]

Some studies have even revealed that abdominal obesity, known clinically as central obesity, and which is measured by the hip-to-waist ratio, may be more important than blood lipids, i.e. “cholesterol,” in determining heart attack risk. [2]

So, with this in mind, the following 6 “diet tips,” take on even greater relevance to your overall health.

Coconut Oil Burns Fat

  1. Coconut Oil –  Two human studies now exist showing that dietary coconut is safe and effective in reducing midsection fat in both women and men.  In the women’s study, the treatment group received two tablespoons of coconut oil (30 ml), daily, over a period of 12 weeks, resulting in both a reduction in waist circumference, as well as a boost in their “good” HDL cholesterol levels. [3]  In the male study, obese men received two tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil per day, taken in 3 divided doses, half an hour before each meal, for one month. The men experienced an average of over one inch (2.86 cm) reduction in their waist circumference, with no changes in their blood lipids.  You can read the full study here.

Green Tea Burns Fat

  1. Green Tea – Green tea has been called “the medicine which grew into a beverage.”  Indeed, our project has identified research on over 200 health conditions that may benefit from its use, with obesity on top of the list.[4]  In a 2009 study published in the journal Obesity, the consumption of catechin-rich green tea was found to be safe and effective in reducing weight in moderately overweight subjects, including an over two inch reduction in their waist circumference.[5]

Sunlight Burns Fat

  1. Sunlight –  A 2011 study in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology revealed a remarkable fact of metabolism: The exposure of human skin to UV light results in increased subcutaneous fat metabolism. While subcutaneous fat, unlike visceral fat, is not considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it is known that a deficiency of one of sunlight’s best known beneficial byproducts, vitamin D, is associated with greater visceral fat.[6] Also, there is a solid body of research showing that vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity, with 9 such studies on our obesity research page.  One of them, titled “Association of plasma vitamin D levels with adiposity in Hispanic and African Americans,” and which was published in the journal Anticancer Research in 2005, found that vitamin D levels were inversely associated with adiposity in Hispanics and African-Americans, including abdominal obesity.[7] The point? Exposure to UVB radiation, which is most abundant two hours on either side of solar noon and responsible for producing vitamin D, may be an essential strategy in burning midsection fat, the natural way.

Soy Burns Fat

  1. Soy Protein – While soy has become a punching bag of sorts, for rightful (GMO/non-organic/over-consumption/exclusively non-fermented) and wrongful reasons (disregarding the positive soy research), it does seem to have value as a medicinal food in addressing subcutaneous and total abdominal fat in postmenopausal women, likely because it does have hormone-modulating properties. [8] And for those who have now become convinced that soy’s phytoestrogenic properties are a breast cancer risk, we encourage you to look at the 12 studies on our breast cancer page, indicating quite oppositely that it has potent protective effects against breast cancer initiation and recurrence.  Certainly it’s not a one, or even two-dimensional issue, but it is important that we don’t shut down discussion altogether on the potential value of soy, or any food, for our health – at least not until we have familiarized ourselves with the depth of research extant on the topic.

Fast Food Fattens

  1. Dietary Challenges: While there are likely hundreds of other chemicals that may contribute to midsection weight gain, the 3 main problematic substances we have identified are (industrially produced) Fructose, Bisphenol A and MSG.  You can view the first-hand studies we have collected on the topic under the “Problem Substances” Quick Summary on our Abdominal Obesity Research page.  Additionally, a study published in 2011 and published in the journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that weight cycling, i.e. the yo-yo diet, is associated with body weight excess and abdominal fat accumulation.[9]

Exercise To Burn Fat

  1. Exercise – This one is obvious to many, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that there is more to midsection weight loss than what you do and do not eat. In other words, move it, and you lose it.  One of the best ways to accelerate the reduction of belly fat through exercising is through increasing the intensity of your work outs.  A 2008 study in the journal of Medical & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that body composition changes are affected by the intensity of exercise training with high-intensity training (HIET) being most effective for total abdominal fat, subcutaneous fat, and abdominal visceral fat loss, at least in obese women with metabolic syndrome. [10]  There is also research that green tea catechin consumption enhances exercise-induced abdominal fat loss, as well as soluble fiber intake.

References

[1] Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet. 2004 Sep 11-17;364(9438):937-52. PMID: 15364185

A[2] Risk factors for acute myocardial infarction in Latin America: the INTERHEART Latin American study.  Circulation. 2007 Mar 6 ;115(9):1067-74. PMID: 17339564

[3] Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601. Epub 2009 May 13. PMID: 19437058

[4] GreenMedInfo.com, Green Tea Research

[5]  Effects of catechin enriched green tea on body composition. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Aug 13. Epub 2009 Aug 13. PMID: 19680234

[6] Association Between Visceral Obesity and Sarcopenia and Vitamin D Deficiency in Older Koreans: The Ansan Geriatric Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Feb 8. Epub 2012 Feb 8. PMID: 22316299

[7] Association of plasma vitamin D levels with adiposity in Hispanic and African Americans. Anticancer Res. 2005 Mar-Apr;25(2A):971-9. PMID: 19549738

[8] Effect of a daily supplement of soy protein on body composition and insulin secretion in postmenopausal women. Fertil Steril. 2007 Dec;88(6):1609-17. Epub 2007 Apr 6. PMID: 17412329

[9] Weight cycling is associated with body weight excess and abdominal fat accumulation: A cross-sectional study. Clin Nutr. 2011 Jul 15. Epub 2011 Jul 15. PMID: 21764186

[10] Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Nov;40(11):1863-72. PMID: 18845966

5 mindfulness tips to calm an overactive mind and re-access your natural state of calmness


Do you have an overactive mind? Do you also feel that this stops you from meditating and experiencing calm?

If this is the case, there’s no need to worry. Below we’ll talk about 5 ways you can properly meditate and experience more peace.

The goal of mindfulness isn’t to have an “empty mind”

We have all heard that the goal of mindfulness and meditation is to have a completely empty mind.

However, you may have experienced that there really is no way to “shut off” your mind.

When you’re trying to empty your mind, thoughts occurring can even cause you to be frustrated and wonder what you’re doing wrong or what other techniques you can use to really master this “emptiness.”

The harder you try to stop the thoughts, the faster they come.

Yet, there is some good news. Emptying your mind is actually not the purpose of mindfulness. Here are some steps to attain a realistic state of presence and peace, even with an overactive mind.

1) Accept that it’s impossible to completely quiet the mind.

Brains think whether you want them to or not, it’s their job. We don’t try to stop our ears from hearing or stop our body from feeling; the brain thinking is just a natural state. Accept and appreciate that this is what the mind does.

Perhaps Lao Tzu puts the art of acceptance best:

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

2) Don’t be judgmental of your own mind.

When you accept your mind and all of your thoughts without judging them, the mind will calm down. When you resist your mind and your thoughts, you’re actually causing yourself stress and anxiety and amplifying the distress. However, when you accept your thoughts and let them be, you can be peaceful.

Spiritual master Osho describes as creating a gap between the observer and the mind that is a crucial path to enlightenment.

“It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say “this is good, this is bad,” you have already jumped onto the thought process.

It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher.

And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty.

That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.”

3) Realize that analysis is not the same as action.

When your brain is analyzing things, it is thinking about the past and the future. When you are in action or doing things, you are in the present. When you plan ahead, you don’t need to think into the future or about the past, you can focus on what is happening right now.

According to David Rock, our brain has two different operating systems. One is called the “Default network”, which is active when you think about yourself or other people, it holds together a “narrative”.

The other network is called the “direct experience network”. When the direct experience network is active, several different brain regions become more active. This includes the insula, a region that relates to perceiving bodily sensations.

When this direct experience network is activated, you are not thinking intently about the past or future, other people, or yourself, or considering much at all. Rather, you are experiencing information coming into your senses in real time.

When you focus your attention on incoming data, such as the feeling of the water on your hands while you wash up, it reduces activation of the narrative circuitry. This explains why, for example, if your narrative circuitry is going crazy worrying about an upcoming stressful event, it helps to take a deep breath and focus on the present moment.

 

4) Focus on the task at hand.

When you meditate in the Buddhist tradition, you use a point of focus like a mantra or your breath.

This gives your mind a focal point and prevents it from doing too much wandering to think about other things.

In your life, because much of what you do is a routine and your mind doesn’t need to engage to help you complete these tasks (like brushing your teeth), your mind is free to think about nonsense. By focusing on what you’re doing, you can actually quiet the mind throughout the day.

5) Keep returning to your focal point.

Of course you will get distracted. Don’t give up! Even if you feel frustrated that you slip back into mental noise, consider it a victory that you can see this as noise and as an opportunity to start your mindfulness again.

In conclusion

Being mindful about what is happening right now and stopping yourself from being critical of your mind may be difficult at first.

However, the more your practice and the more you implement these tips into your life, the more change you will see.

Small changes will become big changes and before you know it you will be able to spend much more time in the present with a much calmer mind.

6 Evidence-Based Ways To Burn Belly Fat AND Extend Your Life


Can These 5 Ways of Burning Belly Fat Also Save Your Life?

The ongoing battle of the bulge, while once considered primarily a matter of vanity, may actually be one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dying from a multitude of causes (i.e. all-cause mortality), but especially heart attack.[1]

Some studies have even revealed that abdominal obesity, known clinically as central obesity, and which is measured by the hip-to-waist ratio, may be more important than blood lipids, i.e. “cholesterol,” in determining heart attack risk. [2]

So, with this in mind, the following 6 “diet tips,” take on even greater relevance to your overall health.

Coconut Oil Burns Fat

  1. Coconut Oil –  Two human studies now exist showing that dietary coconut is safe and effective in reducing midsection fat in both women and men.  In the women’s study, the treatment group received two tablespoons of coconut oil (30 ml), daily, over a period of 12 weeks, resulting in both a reduction in waist circumference, as well as a boost in their “good” HDL cholesterol levels. [3]  In the male study, obese men received two tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil per day, taken in 3 divided doses, half an hour before each meal, for one month. The men experienced an average of over one inch (2.86 cm) reduction in their waist circumference, with no changes in their blood lipids.  You can read the full study here.

Green Tea Burns Fat

  1. Green Tea – Green tea has been called “the medicine which grew into a beverage.”  Indeed, our project has identified research on over 200 health conditions that may benefit from its use, with obesity on top of the list.[4]  In a 2009 study published in the journal Obesity, the consumption of catechin-rich green tea was found to be safe and effective in reducing weight in moderately overweight subjects, including an over two inch reduction in their waist circumference.[5]

Sunlight Burns Fat

  1. Sunlight –  A 2011 study in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology revealed a remarkable fact of metabolism: The exposure of human skin to UV light results in increased subcutaneous fat metabolism. While subcutaneous fat, unlike visceral fat, is not considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it is known that a deficiency of one of sunlight’s best known beneficial byproducts, vitamin D, is associated with greater visceral fat.[6] Also, there is a solid body of research showing that vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity, with 9 such studies on our obesity research page.  One of them, titled “Association of plasma vitamin D levels with adiposity in Hispanic and African Americans,” and which was published in the journal Anticancer Research in 2005, found that vitamin D levels were inversely associated with adiposity in Hispanics and African-Americans, including abdominal obesity.[7] The point? Exposure to UVB radiation, which is most abundant two hours on either side of solar noon and responsible for producing vitamin D, may be an essential strategy in burning midsection fat, the natural way.

Soy Burns Fat

  1. Soy Protein – While soy has become a punching bag of sorts, for rightful (GMO/non-organic/over-consumption/exclusively non-fermented) and wrongful reasons (disregarding the positive soy research), it does seem to have value as a medicinal food in addressing subcutaneous and total abdominal fat in postmenopausal women, likely because it does have hormone-modulating properties. [8] And for those who have now become convinced that soy’s phytoestrogenic properties are a breast cancer risk, we encourage you to look at the 12 studies on our breast cancer page, indicating quite oppositely that it has potent protective effects against breast cancer initiation and recurrence.  Certainly it’s not a one, or even two-dimensional issue, but it is important that we don’t shut down discussion altogether on the potential value of soy, or any food, for our health – at least not until we have familiarized ourselves with the depth of research extant on the topic.

Fast Food Fattens

  1. Dietary Challenges: While there are likely hundreds of other chemicals that may contribute to midsection weight gain, the 3 main problematic substances we have identified are (industrially produced) Fructose, Bisphenol A and MSG.  You can view the first-hand studies we have collected on the topic under the “Problem Substances” Quick Summary on our Abdominal Obesity Research page.  Additionally, a study published in 2011 and published in the journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that weight cycling, i.e. the yo-yo diet, is associated with body weight excess and abdominal fat accumulation.[9]

Exercise To Burn Fat

  1. Exercise – This one is obvious to many, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that there is more to midsection weight loss than what you do and do not eat. In other words, move it, and you lose it.  One of the best ways to accelerate the reduction of belly fat through exercising is through increasing the intensity of your work outs.  A 2008 study in the journal of Medical & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that body composition changes are affected by the intensity of exercise training with high-intensity training (HIET) being most effective for total abdominal fat, subcutaneous fat, and abdominal visceral fat loss, at least in obese women with metabolic syndrome. [10]  There is also research that green tea catechin consumption enhances exercise-induced abdominal fat loss, as well as soluble fiber intake.

References

[1] Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet. 2004 Sep 11-17;364(9438):937-52. PMID: 15364185

A[2] Risk factors for acute myocardial infarction in Latin America: the INTERHEART Latin American study.  Circulation. 2007 Mar 6 ;115(9):1067-74. PMID: 17339564

[3] Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Lipids. 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601. Epub 2009 May 13. PMID: 19437058

[4] GreenMedInfo.com, Green Tea Research

[5]  Effects of catechin enriched green tea on body composition. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Aug 13. Epub 2009 Aug 13. PMID: 19680234

[6] Association Between Visceral Obesity and Sarcopenia and Vitamin D Deficiency in Older Koreans: The Ansan Geriatric Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 Feb 8. Epub 2012 Feb 8. PMID: 22316299

[7] Association of plasma vitamin D levels with adiposity in Hispanic and African Americans. Anticancer Res. 2005 Mar-Apr;25(2A):971-9. PMID: 19549738

[8] Effect of a daily supplement of soy protein on body composition and insulin secretion in postmenopausal women. Fertil Steril. 2007 Dec;88(6):1609-17. Epub 2007 Apr 6. PMID: 17412329

[9] Weight cycling is associated with body weight excess and abdominal fat accumulation: A cross-sectional study. Clin Nutr. 2011 Jul 15. Epub 2011 Jul 15. PMID: 21764186

[10] Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Nov;40(11):1863-72. PMID: 18845966

Best Abs Exercises: 21 Core Moves You Can Do at Home


No crunches, no weights, all core

portishead1 / Getty Images; Graphic by Jocelyn Runice

You should know by now that when you’re talking about the best abs exercises around, crunches don’t make the cut. You should also know that you don’t need fancy equipment to get a great abs workout. These 21 core moves—you’ll see lots of variations of planks, pilates exercises, and more in the moves below—will work your abs from every angle, wherever, whenever. All you need is your body and the urge to burn. Learn ’em, love ’em, do ’em. Over and over.

Quick word about abs workouts and best abs exercises, though, before you get started. These moves will help you strengthen the various muscles that make up your core, which in itself is a great goal. A strong core helps with balance and makes you more efficient at other moves. But if your goal is to lose weight or change your body fat composition—and in particular, if your goal is six-pack abs or spot-targeting your belly fat—you should know that it doesn’t matter how many pilates scissors you do or how long you can hold a plank. Even the best abs exercises aren’t going to help you accomplish those specific goals all on their own.

That’s because (say it with me) there’s no such thing as spot reduction. Also (and more importantly), weight loss and body fat loss require a concerted combination of exercise, a healthy and specific nutrition plan, and other contributing lifestyle factors, like getting good sleep and limiting your stress. There’s also the very real fact that what works for one person might not work for another, and no matter how much you work for it, a six-pack may not be possible for you—whether because of physical constraints, or because what it takes to get a six-pack isn’t at all worth it from a mental health perspective. Read Why It’s So Hard—and Sometimes Impossible—to Get Six-Pack Abs for more on this topic, if you’re interested.

So incorporate these best abs exercises into your workouts and enjoy the benefits. But make sure that your expectations are realistic and healthy. Staying sane and happy is more important than any of these best abs exercises. Remember that.

Whitney Thielman

1

Plank Tap

  • Start in a high plank with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Then tap each hand to the opposite shoulder while engaging your core and glutes to keep the hips as still as possible.

Whitney Thielman

2

Down Dog Tap

  • Start in Downward Dog.
  • Lift your right hand off the floor and reach toward your left ankle, gently tapping the front of your foot or ankle if possible.
  • Return right hand to the floor and repeat with the opposite arm. Stay in Downward Dog throughout the exercise.

Whitney Thielman

3

Plank Up

  • Start in a high plank. Bend one arm to bring the elbow and forearm to the floor.
  • Bring the other arm down so you are in a forearm plank.
  • Push back up to start, placing each hand where your elbows were.
  • Continue, alternating the lead arm with each rep.

Whitney Thielman

4

Warrior Balance

  • Stand on your left foot and lift your right knee to hip height in front of your body.
  • Reach your torso forward as you extend your right leg behind you. Keep your standing leg slightly bent as your torso becomes parallel to the floor. Extend your arms to help with balance.
  • Pause for a second, then reverse the movement. Don’t forget to do both sides!

Whitney Thielman

5

Plank With T Rotation

  • Start in a high plank with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Now rotate your entire body to the right into a side plank with your shoulder above your wrist.
  • Extend your right arm to the ceiling and continue to drive your hips up.
  • Return to center, then repeat on the opposite side.

Whitney Thielman

6

Reverse Lunge With Front Twist

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a big step back with your left foot and bend knees to lower into a lunge while twisting torso to the right.
  • Stand, switch sides, and repeat.
  • The dumbbell is optional!

Whitney Thielman

7

Plank to Dolphin

  • Start in a forearm plank with arms parallel and palms flat on the floor.
  • Lift hips up and back, creating an inverted V with your body.
  • Pause, then slowly lower back to a forearm plank.

Whitney Thielman

8

Down Dog Abs

  • Start in a Downward Dog with your right leg in the air.
  • Bring your right knee under your torso. Pause, then return to start.
  • Bring your right knee to your right elbow. Pause, then return to start again.
  • Bring your right knee to your left elbow. Pause, then return to start. Make sure you do both sides.

Whitney Thielman

9

V Up

  • Lie faceup with arms and legs extended, resting on the floor.
  • Keep abs tight as you lift hands and feet to meet over torso.
  • Lower your arms and legs back to the floor.

Whitney Thielman

10

Plank Jack

  • Start in a high plank.
  • Keeping your core engaged, jump your feet out and in (like jumping jacks).
  • If your wrists bother you, try this move on your forearms, like this.

Whitney Thielman

11

Mountain Climber

  • Start in a high plank. Draw your right knee under your torso, keeping toes off the ground.
  • Return to start.
  • Switch sides and repeat. Continue as if you’re running in place.

Whitney Thielman

12

Mountain Climber Twist

  • Start in a high plank with your wrists directly under shoulders.
  • Bring your right knee under your torso to your left elbow.
  • Return to start, switch sides, and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.

Whitney Thielman

13

Plank Hops

  • Start in a high plank, feet together.
  • Tighten your abs and jump your feet up and to the right, bringing your knees toward your right elbow.
  • Jump back to start and repeat on opposite side.

Whitney Thielman

14

Bird Dog Crunch

  • Start in a tabletop position, wrists above shoulders and knees under hips.
  • Inhale and extend your right arm forward and left leg back, maintaining a flat back and square hips.
  • Squeeze your abs and exhale as you draw your right elbow to your left knee.
  • Extend back out. Don’t forget to do both sides.

Whitney Thielman

15

Lateral Plank Walk

  • Start in a high plank with shoulders above your wrists, abs tight.
  • Step right foot and hand to the right, immediately following with left foot and hand. Take a few “steps” in one direction, then reverse direction.

Whitney Thielman

16

Forearm Side Plank Twist

  • Start in a forearm plank on your left side, left elbow under shoulder, right arm behind your head.
  • Rotate your torso toward the floor, bringing your right elbow to meet your left hand.
  • Don’t let your hips drop. And remember to do both sides!

Whitney Thielman

17

Core Roll-Up

  • Lie faceup on a mat with arms on floor above head.
  • Float arms up so wrists are directly over shoulders and begin to curl your spine off the floor.
  • Fold your torso over your legs, forming a U shape. Reverse to return to start.

Valerie Fischel

18

Boat Pose

  • Sit with your knees bent and feet flat. Grasp your legs under your thighs slightly above your knees.
  • Lean back slightly. Lift your feet so that your shins are parallel to the floor.
  • Extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height, palms up.
  • Straighten and raise your legs toward the ceiling until your body forms a V shape (as shown). Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds.

Whitney Thielman

19

Pilates 100

  • Lie faceup with your legs raised, knees bent 90 degrees.
  • Inhale, then exhale, lifting head and shoulders off the mat. Extend your legs and lift your arms at shoulder height, palms down.
  • Inhale as you pump arms up and down five times, then exhale and pump five more times. Do 10 times, for 100 pumps.

Whitney Thielman

20

Scissor Switch

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms reaching overhead.
  • Extend right leg as you curl up and reach for the calf or thigh. Stay up as you switch legs.

Valerie Fischel

21

Forearm Side Plank

  • Start on your left side with your elbow below your shoulder, feet stacked.
  • Lift your hips into the air. Keep your right knee on the floor for balance if needed.
  • Continue to press hips up while keeping your core tight. Don’t forget to do both sides.

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