Hey there! How’s your mojo doing these days? You know, your mojo. Have you checked yours lately? Let’s take a look together.
It’s a natural law, and it goes like this: Be good to your mojo and your mojo’ll be good to you. If you want your mojo all up and running—and occasionally working overtime—then you’ve got to feed it and feed it right. After all, your mojo is what puts the sparkle in your eye, the bounce in your step, and the lilt in that bee-yoo-tee-ful voice of yours. It’s the first thing people notice about you, and when you’ve got it, you’re on it. And when you haven’t got it…well, let’s just not go there.
So, from your personal psychologist’s point of view (that would be me), what’s your mojo want from you, anyway? Peace, love, and understanding? Yes, definitely. And a few more things, to boot.
Here’s my list of the top six resources for feeding your mojo:
1. Get some (quality) sleep. Yes, you, the busy person who doesn’t have time for such nonsense. But let me tell you the honest truth about sleep. You, just like every other mammal (yes, you’re a mammal), need the amount of sleep you’re programmed to need in each 24-hour period. Want to take a guess at how much sleep felines need? Around 15 to 18 hours! (And possibly my college-age sons, too.) Equines need around 2.5 to 3 hours. Opossums need 18 hours. And humans: 8 to 9. It’s a biological programming thing, and you can’t cheat Mother Nature. You need all of your sleep, every night, for a contiguous 8 to 9 hours.
Sleep allows all sorts of good things to happen. For example, your body repairs itself, big time, when you’re sleeping. You grow new white blood cells to fight off infections. Your heart rate decreases, thus giving your hardworking heart muscles a tiny break. Your eyeballs relax and rehydrate. You dream, which is essential to your mental health. Your brain decides what to send to long-term memory and what to discard from the day’s activities. The research is extensive on this topic, and it’s indisputable. So hit the hay tonight and your mojo will reward you for it tomorrow.
Bonus tip: to the best of your ability, go to bed at the same time and sleep the same amount of time each night. (I said to the best of your ability, okay?)
2. Make sure you’re properly fueled. There’s so much info out there these days about what we should and shouldn’t eat—no wonder so many of us throw in the towel (or more likely, the kale) and head for the Cheetos. However, if we think logically and listen to reason—and to our bodies—we know, almost intuitively, how to navigate through the grocery store or the buffet line. It’s not so difficult: each and every day, you need to eat some protein, carbohydrates, and (yes) fats. They’re all essential to your health.
A few super-simple rules of thumb:
a. Stick to either plant-based proteins or lean proteins and low-
glycemic carbs as much as possible and avoid all trans fats.
b. Weight gain, loss, or maintenance is a simple formula tha you already know: to gain weight, you must eat more calories than you burn; to lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn, to maintain your weight, you must eat the exact number of calories that you burn. We like to pretend it’s not that simple, but trust me, that’s how caloric intake/output works.
c. In your heart of hearts, you know that if you can’t pronounce the stuff that goes into your frozen TV dinner or your QuikTrip
microwave burrito, it’s probably not really a food, and you probably shouldn’t be eating it.
So, calm down about all the crazy diets and the what-to’s and the what-not-to’s, and just eat sensibly. You already know how.
3. Get some exercise. Again, you can become overwhelmed with all the often-conflicting information about exercise, but just like diet, exercise doesn’t have to be that complicated. If you can’t do anything else, move! Move around. A walk would be nice. Some stretching, yes. Perhaps some weightlifting (and carrying small children and groceries does count). And before you tell me why you don’t like getting all sweaty or you don’t have the time, let me make it simple: Yes, there are recommendations for how much and what type of exercise you should get, but generally speaking:
a. Get some aerobic exercise and some weight bearing exercise each and every week (five days a week is a nice goal).
b. Any amount of physical activity is better than none!
So just get out there and do something—you’ll feel better, you’ll have more energy, you’ll sleep better, you’ll reduce your chances of developing a myriad of nasty diseases like Type II Diabetes and Congestive Heart Failure, your mood will improve, and you’ll live longer, to name just a few benefits.
4. Calm your inner chatterbox. You don’t have to be the Dalai Lama to meditate. You don’t even have to learn a “formal” meditation method to benefit from quieting your mind. All studies confirm the following: much like exercise, doing some amount of mind-calming practice in some form is better than doing nothing at all. Yes, people will tell you it must be done in the morning. Others will tell you that 15 minutes per day is optimal. But I worry that those sorts of “rules” simply lead to easy excuses for not trying—i.e., “I’m way too busy in the morning,” or “I simply don’t have 15 minutes to devote to meditating.”
Instead, here’s what I suggest (and the research backs me up on this):
a. Just find a quiet place, if possible (although you can also do this in Grand Central Station if you have no other choice), sit down (on the floor, in a chair—don’t worry about where) and close your eyes if you wish (it actually doesn’t matter).
b. Commit to two to three minutes of “mind-calming” per session. (Don’t even call it “meditation” unless you want to—you don’t want to get all hung up on the name and then decide you don’t have the skills to pull it off.)
c. As you relax, rather than “thinking thoughts,” put your mind “in neutral.” To do this, you can repeat a favorite word (either silently or aloud), like “love,” or “peace;” say a calming phrase, like “I am bathed in a healing light;” or slowly count from one through ten, over and over (or one through thirty, or say the alphabet—again, it doesn’t matter). Counting, or using a word or phrase, is sometimes called your “mantra.”
d. Know ahead of time that your mind will wander around and cook up all sorts of interesting things to think about—and that’s perfectly okay! It’ll happen, but that doesn’t mean you’re not reaping the benefits; it simply means that you have a human brain, programmed to stay in active mode until you allow it to take a breather. When you notice that you’ve moved into “thinking a thought” mode, simply return to “neutral,” by going back to your mantra.
See what you can do to practice mind-calming every day—and if you miss a day, or a week, or even a year, you know what to do: just love yourself and start again. The benefits of this practice are amazing! Among them are lower blood pressure, better focus, increased IQ (!), mood improvement, better sleep, and reduced illness/disease.
5. Hydrate. Talk about conflicting research. That old “eight glasses per day” is pretty much out the window, but don’t even bother to look up what’s replaced it—you’ll walk away confused. So, let me throw some light on the subject and untangle a few things.
First of all, a few facts remain true: your body is made up of 60% water. Literally every system in your body needs water to function. If you become dehydrated, all sorts of bad things can happen, from headaches, to constipation, to kidney stones. Water helps to regulate your body temperature, it improves your cognitive functioning, and it lubricates your joints. You need to increase your water intake when you exercise, if you’re in a hot climate, or if you’re at an altitude of greater than approximately 8,000 feet.
But how much water should you be drinking? Here’s what most research shows for average adults:
Women: approximately 72 ounces/9 cups per day
Men: approximately 104 ounces/13 cups per day
The key word is “approximate.” After all, we’re all different shapes and sizes and ages. And it’s definitely different for children, older adults, and pregnant or breastfeeding women, so check with your health care practitioner if you fall into one of those categories.
Now, are you ready for some good news? You’ve probably heard this alarming warning, told to you by a well-meaning newscaster: “If you’re thirsty, you’re already seriously dehydrated.” What? Why wouldn’t our bodies tell us sooner? Well, that’s now been disproven. And when you think about it, if our bodies were this maladaptive, we would have gone extinct a long time ago. Happily, it turns out that our bodies are smart and clever, and they know when we need water—and they tell us by becoming thirsty! So, the next time you realize that you really need a drink of water, don’t panic and assume you’ve blown your health routine—just find some water and have a nice long drink. You’ll be just fine, I promise. (And do your best to stay ahead of the curve by drinking water during your waking hours.)
6. Smile! This is probably my favorite resource for the care and feeding of our mojos. Smiling is simply one of those things our bodies love to do. Laughing, too. When you smile, a cascade of wonderful chemical fireworks goes off in your brain and your body. Neurotransmitters, called endorphins, are released when your facial muscles position themselves into a smile. And it doesn’t even have to be a “real” one: your brain doesn’t really distinguish between whether you’re playing with a puppy or you’re fake-smiling at your annoying next-door neighbor. When your brain senses your facial muscles moving into smile position, it releases the endorphins—just like that. Amazing!
Here’s another thing: the more you smile, the more endorphins are released, and the happier you feel. And endorphins are also stress reducers and natural painkillers—some studies show that endorphins literally work better than ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Next, when you’re smiling, while your endorphins are on the uptick, an unpleasant (and dangerous) stress hormone is on the downturn. You’ve probably heard of cortisol. It’s associated with anxiety, panic, headaches, muscle pain, exhaustion, and heart disease, so reducing it is definitely a good thing. Smiling puts cortisol at bay.
And if all this good news isn’t enough to make you smile, studies show that smiling people appear more attractive, approachable (you might’ve guessed those two, but wait for the punch line)—and intelligent! Are you convinced yet? Okay, then here’s my final lure: research also shows that it’s nearly physically impossible for people to look at a smiling person and not smile themselves. So smiling is quite literally contagious.
So why not share your health-wealth around by smiling? You’ll make the world a better place, and everyone’s mojos will flourish.