Saturday, July 7, 2018

Depression Signs You May Not Recognize

Close-up of hands pulling credit card from wallet

Shopping Sprees

Is your shopping out of control? Find yourself covering up your spending? For some people who are depressed, it is not uncommon for compulsive buying -- in stores or on the Internet -- to serve as a distraction or self-esteem booster. But "retail therapy" is a short-lived high because it doesn't address underlying depression. Also be aware that shopping sprees could also be a sign of mania, in bipolar disorder.
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Close-up of woman drinking white wine
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Drinking Heavily

Nearly a third of people with major depression abuse alcohol. If you feel that you need to drink to cope with anxiety and depression, you may be one of them. Although a drink may seem like it provides a lift when you're down, alcohol is a depressant, so overdoing it can make depression episodes worse and more frequent.
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Business man with briefcase on car roof
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Depression may be one reason for feeling foggy or forgetful. Studies show that prolonged depression or stress can raise the body's levels of cortisol. This can shrink or weaken the part of the brain associated with memory and learning. Depression-linked memory loss seems to be worse for older people. The good news: Treating depression may also improve depression-related memory problems.
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Woman using internet to excess
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Excessive Internet Use

Prefer virtual social interactions to real-life ones? Spending excessive amounts of time on the Internet? It may be a sign of depression. Studies have shown a link between high levels of depression and excessive Internet use. People who overuse the Internet tend to spend their time on pornography, online community, and game sites.
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Woman binging on donuts
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Binge Eating and Obesity

A 2010 study from the University of Alabama found that young adults who report being depressed tended to gain weight more around their waist -- a risk for heart disease. Other studies have linked depression with binge eating, particularly in middle-age people. Treating depression can help treat these problems.
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Close-up of woman stealing nail polish
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About a third of shoplifters suffer from depression. For some people who feel powerless and insignificant from depression, shoplifting provides feelings of power and importance. It can also provide a rush to counter depression "numbness." For people who shoplift because they are depressed, these feelings are more important than the item they are stealing.
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Woman holding her lower back
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Back Pain

Got a backache that won't quit? Studies show that depression may be a risk factor for chronic lower back pain. One study showed that up to 42% of people with chronic lower back pain experienced depression before their back pain started. Yet depression can often go ignored or undiagnosed because people don't associate it with aches and pains. By the same token, having chronic pain puts you at risk for depression.
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Man and woman hugging in car
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Risky Sexual Behavior

Depression is more commonly associated with lost libido than with an increased interest in sex. But some people use sex to cope with depression or stress. Increased promiscuity, infidelity, sexual obsession, and high-risk behavior such as unsafe sex can all be signs of depression. It can also reflect problems with impulse control or be a sign of mania in bipolar disorder. And they can have serious, negative effects on health and in your personal life.
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Woman screaming and overemotional at work
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Exaggerated Emotions

Often people who are depressed show little emotional expression. Other times, they show too much. They can be suddenly irritable or explosive. They may express exaggerated feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worry, or fear. Some are caught up in a sense of worthlessness or a feeling of excessive or inappropriate gult. The key is a sudden change in behavior. If a person who is usually flat with their feelings becomes hyperemotional, depression may be the cause.
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Man and dealer with gambling chips
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Problem Gambling

Gambling can make you feel excited and revved up. But if you gamble more than recreationally, you may be depressed or you may suffer from a gambling addiction disorder. Problem gamblers are much more likely than others to be depressed and abuse alcohol. Many say they were anxious and depressed before they started gambling. No matter how much of a quick rush gambling causes, it won't provide the big payoff -- relief from depression.
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Woman resting head on table with ashtray
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Having trouble quitting smoking? Being depressed doubles your risk of smoking. Heavy smoking – more than a pack a day – and having a cigarette within 5 minutes of waking are common habits among smokers who are depressed, according to the CDC. While depressed smokers are less likely to quit, they can. Quitting programs that use techniques similar to those used to treat depression, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or antidepressant medications, seem to help.
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Depressed woman dressed slovenly
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Not Taking Care of Yourself

What does fastening your seatbelt have to do with depression? Suddenly neglecting basic self-care can be a sign of depression and low self-esteem. The signs may be as small as not buckling up or brushing your teeth or as big as skipping physical exams or not tending to chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Get help for your depression and you'll likely begin to take care of yourself again.
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Inspirational Quote – July 07, 2018

Nobody else gets to live your life. You’re the artist. Paint your own picture. Dream your own masterpiece into being.”

Imagine your life as a blank canvas and what happens to you the brush you paint with. Each stroke has relevance and once imprinted on the canvas nothing can be erased or corrected. It is totally your own responsibility for each and every touch the brush makes to the canvas. Much will depend on what you accomplish while you create. The people you encounter, the difficulties and disappointments, the joys and successes, will all make their own mark as you journey through life. The brush is yours alone and nobody else is allowed access to tamper with what is imprinted. Each and every one of us is an artist in the painting of their own life so let’s strive to make it a masterpiece.

Pushing Through: A Poem for Grieving Hearts

Elaine Mansfield shares how Rilke's poem, Pushing Through, helped her to manage the grief she felt with the loss of her husband. The poem gives testament to the fact that we can push through the grief into a transformation into something larger than ourselves.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Don't Make These Morning Health Mistakes

alarm clock

Hit the Snooze Button

That extra 15 minutes will help energize your day, right? Wrong. You’ll get better rest if you get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Groggy in the a.m.? Try using a sleep tracker. This wearable device can tell when you’re in a light stage of sleep and wake you when it’s easiest to get up.
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woman opening curtains
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Stay in the Dark

It’s tempting to stay in the quiet dark of your room with the shades drawn in the morning. Don’t do it. Daylight helps your body set its clock. That helps you sleep better and helps your body fight infection and inflammation. Getting outdoors into the sunlight helps you make vitamin D, think more clearly, and exercise more. It can even make you happier. So open those shades and greet the new day.
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woman sleeping with eye mask
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Sleep Late

Sometimes it just feels so good, especially when you have the time and you’ve been short on sleep. But the best way to improve your sleep over the long term is to keep a regular bedtime schedule. That means you get up at the same time every day, even if you had a late night -- and yes, that includes the weekend.
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person getting out of bed
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Shoot Out of Bed Too Quickly

When you go from lying down to standing, gravity sends blood rushing to your legs, which can drop your blood pressure suddenly and make you feel a bit woozy. It can even make you pass out. Sit up slowly and pause at the edge of the bed to give your body a few seconds to get used to the idea, especially if you noticed some lightheadedness in the past. It’s an easy precaution that could save you from a serious fall.
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woman walking on treadmill
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Ditch Your Workout

Regular exercise helps your sleep, weight, heart, and mood, among many benefits. You may be more likely to stick with exercise if you do it first thing. It could even make it easier to control what you eat throughout the day and maintain your weight. Plan ahead and put your workout clothes out the night before.
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Skip Your Coffee

If you usually have a couple of cups of joe in the morning, skipping it can leave you groggy. You may not concentrate as well, and you might even become very tired with a severe headache, nausea, and flu-like symptoms. If you’re trying to cut back on your caffeine, do it slowly to avoid these responses.
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illustration of plaque
7 / 15

Forget Your Teeth

A sticky film called plaque forms on your teeth each night. If you don’t brush it off in the morning, it can start to harden into stuff called tartar that you can only get rid of at your dentist’s office. If plaque and tartar are around too long, they can lead to swollen or bleeding gums, cavities, bad breath, gum disease, and other health problems.
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woman brushing teeth
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Brush Right After Coffee

It’s the acid in coffee. So you really shouldn’t brush right after any acidic food or drink. For example, some people like to drink water with lemon in the morning. The acid weakens tooth enamel, and brushing too soon can remove it. Simply brush your teeth beforehand, or wait 30 to 60 minutes for the acid to fade from your teeth.
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person using a computer
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Check Your Email

If you constantly check digital devices, email, and social media, it can cause stress and anxiety. For example, you may feel more pressure to start work earlier if you check your email first thing. Take some time in the morning to stay disconnected from digital media like email. It may take some effort at first, but it can make you happier and may even help you get more work done in the long run.
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man writing in journal
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Start Your Day Without a Plan

If you start your day without a thought to why you do what you do, you may lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve and what gives your life meaning. Whether it’s work, family, or lifestyle, it’s important to figure out what’s most important to you and make sure the things you do each day help you get there. Set priorities, make a list, and check your progress at the end of the day.
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child blowing bubbles
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Dwell on the Day’s Problems

Once you’ve got a plan to tackle the day’s problems, let them go and take a moment to be grateful for the good things in your life. People who do this are often happier, healthier, and more satisfied in their relationships, especially compared to those who focus on their problems. Write it in a journal or just list them in your head -- what matters most is that you do it.
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man meditating
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Forget Quiet Time

If your day is filled with work and noise, the morning is a perfect chance to clear your mind with even a few minutes of meditation. You can simply focus on your breath and try to let go of thoughts that come up. The practice can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and may help ease conditions including anxiety, pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, and migraine headaches.
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egg avocado toast
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Bail Out of Breakfast

People who eat breakfast regularly tend to have sharper thinking and less body fat, and they are less likely to have type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They also exercise more regularly and eat a healthier diet. So enjoy a healthy breakfast -- it’s an easy and enjoyable way to get a good start on the day.
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Eat Too Sweet

Doughnuts and other sugary pastries made from white flour have little nutrition and get into (and out of) your blood too quickly. That can leave you tired, irritable, and hungry for more. Protein from eggs or cottage cheese and “complex carbs” with more fiber and nutrition -- oatmeal or other whole grains, fruits, and vegetables -- take longer to digest, satisfy your hunger, and provide a slow steady stream of energy.
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woman putting on sunscreen
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Skip the Sunscreen

It can help protect your skin against cancer and wrinkles caused by UV rays that you’re exposed to whenever you’re out in the sun, even if it’s cloudy. It’s best to put it on about 15 minutes before you go outside. That’s how long it takes your skin to absorb it. You need to put it on again after just 2 hours if you’re still in the sun, or sooner if you sweat a lot or go swimming.
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5 Ways to Manage Pain Flare-Ups

If you live with chronic pain, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to learn how to manage pain flare-ups. A pain flare-up is a substantial increase in the intensity of an underlying chronic pain problem. While the change in pain level can be dramatic, it is not a new pain, but rather a significant exacerbation of a pain problem that already exists.
Still, the sudden spike in pain can be so unsettling that you may worry that there is a new injury or problem, leading you to shift your attention from calming the flare-up to seeking a new diagnosis and new treatment for this “new pain” (which isn’t really a new pain at all). All of this misplaced effort allows pain to run amok.

Can Biracial People Help All of Us to Be More Open-Minded?

New research finds whites are more open to discussing race-related issues after exposure to a mixed-race individual.

White Americans are very good at avoiding the subject of race. “I don’t see color—I treat everyone equally” is a common way to dismiss complaints about white privilege and systematic bias.
New research reveals a large and growing group of fellow citizens are uniquely placed to break through this barrier to meaningful discussion: biracial individuals.
It finds American whites are more likely to acknowledge race as significant if they have been exposed to people from mixed-race backgrounds.
“The multiracial population’s increasing size and visibility has the potential to positively shift racial attitudes,” writes a research team led by Duke University psychologist Sarah E. Gaither. “People may be more comfortable talking about race with a biracial individual, compared with other racial minorities.”
The study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, focuses on ways to reduce “colorblindness,” which the researchers define as a strategy white Americans use “to not acknowledge race when doing so might put them at risk of being uncomfortable, or seeming racist.”
“On the surface, colorblindness seems like a good thing, since it says we should treat each other purely as individuals,” Gaither explains to Pacific Standard. “However, we know from lots of research that race influences our perceptions and treatment of others, whether we want it to or not, and that trying to ignore race effectively means trying to ignore racism, which lets the current racial inequities continue.”
In other words, you can’t deal with race if you don’t acknowledge its reality. And this research presents evidence that whites find it easier to do that when dealing with mixed-race people, as opposed to single-race minorities.
The first of its six studies featured 56 white Americans recruited online, who were separately asked whether they “have had a lot of contact” with whites, blacks, and “biracial individuals.”
To measure their approach to dealing with—or avoiding—issues of race and prejudice, they indicated their level of agreement with a series of statements, including “Talking about racial issues causes unnecessary tension” and “When I interact with other people, I try not to even notice the color of their skin.”
The researchers found those who dealt more frequently with mixed-race individuals were less likely to endorse those race-avoidance attitudes. Regular interactions with African Americans did not have the same effect.
Follow-up studies found simply showing mixed-race faces to white participants had the same effect—but only if they were specifically labeled as biracial.
“White individuals may view biracial people as less threatening conversation partners when discussing racial issues,” the researchers write. “Knowing that a biracial person belongs to two racial groups simultaneously ... may lead white people to assume that biracial people actually want to discuss race from an identity perspective (rather than) from a power-disparities perspective.”
Of course, they may be mistaken about that. But the door to honest conversation has opened.
“With fewer stereotypes or expectations, it is possible white individuals in these studies had less worry when thinking about talking to a mixed-race person,” Gaither says. “It is possible that the novelty of the biracial group creates a sense of curiosity about their racial background and experience, which again increases this comfort and willingness to talk about race relations more broadly.”
These findings are particularly interesting given the fact that a biracial American recently became a huge celebrity by marrying into the British royal family.
“For me as a biracial individual myself, Meghan Markle’s wedding marked an incredibly important time for the mixed-race community,” Gaither says. “She is an example of someone who proudly claims her biracial identity in the public.”
The new Dutchess of Sussex may not only shake the dust off the British monarchy. By acknowledging and celebrating her ancestry, she may make it easier for her fellow Americans to face one of our most uncomfortable and divisive issues.

Inspirational Quote – July 06, 2018

“Trying to make someone happy who prefers the drama of being miserable, is a guaranteed way to create your own drama of misery.”

Some people are just going to be miserable and view the world and everybody in it as conspirators’ in a plot to make their existence unbearable. It won’t matter how much you do, or put yourself out for them, or even just offering a sympathetic ear, whatever. They have no intention of budging from the misery pit they have created and dug themselves into. Trust me, there is no point in trying to pry them loose or throwing them a lifeline, they’ll resist the former and ignore the latter. You’ll only be wasting your precious time and energy so why bother? They will end up dragging you into the pit with them and perhaps get some measure of happiness because then they’ll know you’re miserable too. Learn when to walk away and leave them to it. You know it’s for the best.

Pearl Fryer's Unusual Legacy

Located on a short and quiet side street of the main road entering Bishopville, the garden sits on the left side of the road and a bank of pine trees lends shade and depth at the back of the property. An archway leads visitors to the left side of the property. It was through this archway that I stepped onto Fryer's garden for the first time. In life-sized letters cut into the grass and planted with red begonias were the words "Love, Peace and Goodwill". I felt like I had come home and tears filled my eyes and my heart began to heal from grief. There is a spiritual awakening that one feels upon stepping into this sacred space created by the union of a humble man of God and the plants that he communes with each day.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How Habits Can Get in the Way of Your Goals

Habits are key to achieving your goals—but only if you don’t get tired of them, research suggests.

Along the Pacific Crest Trail, hikers who set out to complete the entire 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada are especially vulnerable to quitting at two points: around mile 100 and mile 1,000.
Those who make it past mile 100 are the hikers who carve out new habits amid the challenge of their new lives: wake up, eat Pop-Tart, stuff tent into pack, walk. Wearing clothes clammy with yesterday’s sweat, squatting behind a tree to go to the bathroom, and eating ramen for dinner every night become the norm.
But hikers who establish those useful on-trail habits tend to get bored of them as soon as the novelty and challenge are gone. This disenchantment often hits around mile 1,000, at the beginning of Northern California.
Hiker Claire Henley Miller, who ended up quitting at mile 1,232 in 2015, described this phenomenon in her book: “It began as something new and invigorating and had lasted in this way for many suns and moons. But now, after participating in mile after mile of this one continuous event, the journey had turned into a mundane chore of waking, walking, and setting up camp; an ongoing cycle of wash, rinse, repeat.” 
“Why did I end my hike with only 250 miles until Canada?” 2015 hiker Brett Pallastrini asked in his journal. “I was done hiking. I was mentally over it.”
Whether hiking a trail or pursuing other projects, the feeling of being “over it” can be so strong that we abandon goals that once excited us, even goals that we have the potential to achieve. Research into our emotional experiences around habits can help explain this phenomenon and keep us on track with our goals.

The downside of habits

Habits, those automated actions we repeat at regular intervals, help us achieve goals. Want to lose weight? Make a habit of eating breakfast instead of skipping it. Want to write a novel? Make it a habit to wake up a half hour early and write. The link between habits and goals is so compelling that it has generated multiple bestselling books.
What no one mentions—but those Pacific Crest Trail hikers saw—is that those same habits that you establish to achieve your goals can turn on you. When we get too accustomed to a particular behavior we perform en route to a goal, we are more likely to quit. Like a marriage that has gone stale after too many years together, our goal becomes boring, and we look for new thrills.
In one study, University of Southern California psychology and business professor Wendy Wood and her colleagues asked college students to record what they were doing at one-hour intervals for a day or two: studying, exercising, or socializing, for example. They also asked students how they felt about that behavior on a scale that ranged from very negative to very positive.
Wood found that when performing habitual behaviors, students reported feeling less intense emotions—and, in particular, less pride. This was true even when the behaviors had once been enjoyable, like watching TV or hanging out with friends. It was also true for behaviors that were important to achieving long-term goals, Wood says. Working and studying, two activities that contribute to a future career, were not especially pleasant or unpleasant for students when performed habitually.
Wood explains this phenomenon, the so-called “double law of habits”: “Repetition has multiple effects,” she says. “One is to strengthen the memory trace for an action, so that habitual tendencies get stronger. The other is to weaken your emotional response (boredom starts), so that you are no longer getting much kick from what you are doing.”

Even habits as longstanding and simple as brushing your teeth are plagued by the habituation problem, Wood says. If you give people toothbrushes that monitor when they brush their teeth, you find that most people brush consistently in the morning, to eliminate bad breath, but evening tooth-brushing gets neglected when they are too tired or busy.
“We speculate that people whose lives are characterized by large proportions of habitual behavior can find that their emotional experiences become dull and subdued over time,” write Wood and her colleagues. One of Wood’s graduate students is currently investigating this question further.

How to combat habit boredom

While there is plenty of advice on how to establish habits to help you meet your goals, there is little research about what to do when those habits get boring. So what do we do in the meantime?
One way that people overcome this challenge is by figuring out how to add interest, fun, or passion back into those habits that move them toward their goal. You add passion back into a marriage by doing things you find fun together: going on date nights, for example. You can make habits compelling again in the same way.
For their 2015 hike, Catie Joyce-Bulay and her group downloaded a smartphone app with riddles—some of which took a day or two to solve. Her group also tried thinking of all the word combinations that PCT could stand for (Pina Colada Time, Partially Castrated Tiger). Other hikers turn their focus to blogging about the hike, or spend their hiking hours listening to books on tape they had always wanted to read—in other words, sharing their experiences with others or keeping their minds occupied.
But beware: Paradoxically, we sometimes reduce our enjoyment even further in attempting to reinvigorate our drive. It can be tempting to challenge yourself with new behaviors that set the bar higher; for example you might push yourself to work on your novel for 45 minutes every morning, instead of a half hour. But just making any change, even if it is a change that is beneficial for achieving your goal, doesn’t make an activity more engaging. 
“You want to change things up to make it more fun again, not less fun,” Wood says. Thinking hard about what makes something fun for you is vital.

Focus on changing your behaviors so they bring you intrinsic joy, that sense that you love what you are doing and it is right for you. Université du Québec à Montréal professor Robert Vallerand’s work on harmonious passion finds that when we are engaged in activities that bring us that sense of joy, we tend to work harder and perform better. If you are able to introduce joy into the habits you perform en route to your goal, you may have greater success at reaching it.
If your goal has gone stale, take a cue from the hikers and think about how to make it more compelling again.
For example, say your goal is to eat more healthfully. After deciding to add more vegetables and whole grains to your diet, you’ve gotten into a good routine of cooking healthy dinners for the last few months. Suddenly, you find yourself ignoring your planned recipes and stopping by McDonald’s after work more and more often. Your habit of cooking a healthy dinner has turned on you; it became boring and drove you to McDonald’s. 
The solution? Sit down and brainstorm new ways to eat vegetables and whole grains that you would find appealing. Do you love going out to restaurants? Plan to go out to dinner twice a week for the next month and order only vegetable dishes. Do you think trying new recipes is fun? Challenge yourself to cook every grain recipe in the Joy of Cooking.
Of course, we don’t want to adopt behaviors that will compromise our ability to achieve our goals. “The challenge,” Wood says, “is to figure out how to change things up enough in your head while still keeping up efficiency.” If every vegetable dish you order at restaurants is loaded with cream and cheese, the additional fat you’re adding to your diet might compromise your original goal to eat more healthfully.
It is normal to be “over it” at some point as you work toward your goals. When this happens, you can decide to gut it out, or try to liven up the process. Adding fun back into a dull routine is a more successful strategy, especially when you’re further away from the finish line.