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That Post-Vacation Feeling, GMOs, and Ronda Rousey (Sunday Reads #17)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Could our gut microbiome be affecting our mood?  Making us happier?  Possibly.  And there may even be an evolutionary reason for it: “happy people tend to be more social. And the more social we are, the more chances the microbes have to exchange and spread.”

How do you hang onto that post-vacation feeling as long as possible?  Plan, Reminisce, and Retreat according to an interesting New York Times Travel article.

I love this stretch.  In less than five minutes, hit the hip flexor, shoulder, and back.

Top 6 Kettlebell Exercises for Building Mass.  While I’m not as into “building mass” as I was in my 20s, I know these double kettlebell exercises will pack on muscle like no other.

How the “war against GMO” is mislead and full of lies.  Warning: this is an epically long article.

I love what Juliet and Kelly Starrett are doing to bring standing desks into the classroom.  I’m anxious for my kids’ school to take this approach as well to increase overall fitness and attention in the classroom.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

July 19th, 2015 at 8:46 pm

States of Mind, Resiliency, and Cognitive Performance (Sunday Reads #16)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  As it’s been several weeks since I’ve posted, some of these links may be a few weeks “old” – but given that we’re looking at mostly timeless information, that shouldn’t matter much.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On High Performance Work

How much does your state of mind matter during the work day?  Quite a bit.  94% of leaders reported that Calm, Happy and Energized (CHE) are the states of mind that drive the greatest levels of effectiveness and performance.

Humans are meant to move a lot during the day, and most office workers are unlikely to do so. WellnessFX has 5 mobility hacks to improve your morning routine.  Get moving.

A positive mood allows your brain to think more creatively.

Being happy at work matters.  People want a meaningful vision of the future, a sense of purpose, and great relationships.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

June 21st, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Dark Chocolate for Focus, Exercise for a Long Life (Sunday Reads #15)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

This week I’m posting it on Monday because… well… Memorial Day.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Creativity and Focus

Creativity can reduce stress and become a habit.  “Productivity on meaningful work encourages engagement with that work, and this engagement fosters creativity.”

A new study has found that a Mediterranean diet with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts was associated with improved cognitive function in older adults in Spain.  The control group ate a low-fat diet.

Dark chocolate can boost attention.  At least a few times per week I substitute an afternoon coffee or tea with some sipping chocolate (85%) – not only is it incredibly tasty, it helps me focus.

A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating.  I’m on Day 21 of the Headspace program and I already feel a noticeable difference in my overall stress levels, clarity of thought and ability to focus.  I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

May 25th, 2015 at 12:30 pm

The Power of Nuts, Routine, and Decluttering (Sunday Reads #14)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Prelude: Two weeks ago I participated in the StrongFirst Level 1 Kettlebell Certification event.  It was three full days of learning, training, coaching, and being put to the test.  While I was pretty nervous going in, it turned out to be an incredibly rewarding experience – even the day of testing, which included a brutal 5-minute timed snatch test (100 overhead snatches with a 24kg kettlebell in 5 minutes).  It took me almost a full week to start training again – and when I did, it was with a newfound appreciation for the power of the kettlebell.  I’m now part of the StrongFirst family as a certified instructor and will start training for Level 2 later this year.

strongfirst-cert

At some point, I will likely write about my training protocol over the long months of preparation, along with some of the strange things I did that I found to work… including “straw breathing”, voodoo flossing, and regularly using a micropedi on my callused hands.  But that’ll have to wait.  For now, onto the links!

Nuts are a nutritional powerhouse according to a study conducted among more than 200,000 men and women in the Southern United States and Shanghai, finding that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates from all causes.

In Why Exercising is a Higher Priority Than My Career, the author makes the case.  In my own life I’ve found that exercising is my master habit – it improves my mood, my energy levels, my work output, my relationships, and increases my confidence.  While I occasionally have to sacrifice it for work, I don’t let this itself become a habit that lasts more than several days.  Work will always fill the time you give it, so as the author says, “exercise must come first, or it’s unlikely to happen at all.”

Find focus with just 18 minutes each day according to Harvard Business Review writer and published author Peter Bregman.  This simple program takes 5 minutes in the morning, 1 minute each hour, and 5 minutes each evening.

Scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus or process information.  This is why I quickly straighten up my office at the end of each day.

Why you need the combination of grit, routine, and vision to live life as an adventure.  You are what you do most of the time, not some of the time.  The author references a few apps that may help you, and being the app geek that I am I’m listing them here: Way of Life, Full, and Balanced.

I also talked about a fun new meditation app a few weeks back (Buddhify).  And now that I’m regularly using Headspace, I can highly recommend it if you’re interested in learning how to meditate.  It’s fantastic.

Here’s a blog post on life that I really appreciated: The Days are Long but the Decades are Short.

If you’re not already subscribed to Refocuser updates, research shows you’ll be a much happier person just by reading more inspiring stuff.  Subscribe now.

Written by Mike Torres

May 9th, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Cheat Meals, Bacteria, and Prioritizing Experiences Over Things (Sunday Reads #13)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last two weeks; my family and I were traveling (without opening a laptop!) Next week there won’t be a Sunday Reads either as I will be participating in the StrongFirst Instructor Certification for three full days (Fri, Sat, Sun) – wish me luck!  Sunday Reads will be back the following week (May 3rd).

On Fitness, Nutrition, and Sleep

Greatist asks if cheat meals are hurting your health – or at a minimum being positioned incorrectly as something that is ‘bad for you’, resulting in guilt.  My personal experience is that cheat meals are a gateway drug that eventually opens the door to cheating more often – so I very rarely allow myself to have a complete cheat meal or a cheat day any longer (I’ve had two “cheat” meals since September).

Metabolic slowdown effects are seen when sleep is reduced by only a few hours.  In other words, you don’t need to miss an entire night’s sleep for your metabolism to be affected, all it takes is a few hours missed.

An apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away based on a new research study.  But I will keep eating one because they’re tasty.

Dan John tackles what it takes to get stronger.  For those who don’t know of Dan, he’s one of the best strength coaches in the industry.  I listen to what Dan has to say.  I love this quote from Brett Jones in the article: “Absolute strength is the glass. Everything else is the liquid inside the glass. The bigger the glass, the more of everything else you can do.”

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

April 19th, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Flexible Work, Boredom, and Protein Powder Drama (Sunday Reads #12)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Work-Life Balance, Boredom, & Creativity

In Work-Life Balance Is Dead, author Ron Friedman says that “providing employees with more control over their schedule—to the extent that flexibility is possible—motivates them to work harder, produce higher-quality work, and develop greater loyalty for their company.”  Anecdotally, this feels right to me.

Finding ways to cope with boredom may help make you more creative according to a recent study. In this study, participants who had been asked to complete a boring writing task were more creative afterwards than a control group who had done more interesting work.  In other words, being bored may prime your brain for creative work.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

March 29th, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Embrace Grit, Enjoy the Journey, and Always Be Reading (Sunday Reads #11)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Getting Creative Work Done

If you struggle to declutter your magazine pile, a technique called ABR – Always Be Reading may be for you.  As someone who spends many hours a week focused on helping people read more (with a Kindle preferably) this approach sounds interesting, and is actually pretty aligned with what I personally do.

Are you a manager?  Your late-night or very early-morning emails may be hurting your team.  Being always-on hurts team results in a big way.  I’ve been in the habit for years of delay-sending the email I write after 6:30pm on Friday or over the weekend until late Monday morning.

If you’d like to form successful habits, you need to know what motivates you.

A recent study showed that heavy cellphone users report higher anxiety levels and dissatisfaction with life than their peers who use their phones less often – and another showed a correlation between stress levels and the barrage of alerts and notifications.  This app automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone or iPad each day and helps you set limits.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

March 22nd, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Creativity Myths, Decision Fatigue, and Gluten-Free Fanatics (Sunday Reads #10)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Creative Work

If you still think you couldn’t possibly be creative, the 5 Creativity Myths You Need to Stop Believing should help.

One of the most important thing you can do for lifelong learning & creativity is to read a lot.  According to Warren Buffett, knowledge builds up like compound interest and reading is the mechanism to enable it.  This article introduces the 10% Rule; a new system for reading more books on Amazon’s Kindle.

Omar Shahine tells us how to hit Inbox Zero every time you check your email.  I bounce at zero daily most days, but I haven’t tried this approach yet.

Children are natural born mindfulness practitioners.  So perhaps you could learn mindfulness by watching a child.

Great write-up on Farnham Street on Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset research.  If you’re a parent, you need to read this.  Everybody else should as well 😉

A short analysis of INTJ, a specific Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that I just happen to be.  “They tend to be both methodical and perfectionistic, and they have the drive to put their ideas into action and the persistence to realize their dreams.”  I’ll take that.  There are articles on other personality type indicators linked from that article as well.

Could your company have 9-5 hours, a full hour for lunch every day, 5-7 weeks of annual vacation, and zero email on nights and weekends… and still thrive?  Tony Schwartz believes so.

Keep reading this »

Habit Triggers, Krill Oil, and Eliminating Neck Pain (Sunday Reads #9)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Work/Life Balance, Anxiety, and Habits

A new study in the Journal of Marketing Research: “Emotions such as guilt about where time is being spent or fear over loss of income both generate stress, and make a person feel more pressed for time than they actually are.”  I’ve always been of the opinion that work/life balance and “lack of time” isn’t the problem, it’s the underlying feeling of trading off the things that matter most to you. Missing your daughter’s piano performance for a mind-numbing meeting evokes feelings of guilt and resentment regardless of how much time you’ve spent at work or with family.  So what do you do?  One tip from the study is to pause to breathe more often.

Being mindful about anxiety can help to reduce it.  “The solution isn’t identifying why you’re anxious in the first place (though that knowledge has its place), but recognizing the signs of anxiety before nervousness, panic and rapid breathing hijack your emotional wellness.”

Using quotations from others can help improve your self-talk.  For almost 15 years now, I’ve been working on my own self-talk as I realize how important it is to overall well-being.  Here’s one of my favorites from this list:

The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join in the dance. —Alan Watts

Great post by James Clear on habit triggers, something I’m a big proponent of.  Using Time and Location triggers have been instrumental in a number of my own personal habits, including a new one to “do at least 10 minutes of mobility work every day” thanks to Kelly Starrett’s new book, Ready to Run.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

February 28th, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Eating Organic, Deadlifting, and Smiling (Sunday Reads #8)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Fitness, Food, Sleep, and Smiling

Are organic fruits and vegetables actually healthier and more nutritious?  The British Journal of Nutrition crunched data from 343 studies and found that organic fruits and vegetables deliver between 20-40% higher antioxidant activity and “lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues”.

“Researchers have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Instead of a structured program focused on changing poor sleep habits and a nighttime routine, older adults improved sleep quality through mindfulness meditation.

Keep reading this »

Written by Mike Torres

February 22nd, 2015 at 3:15 pm

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