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Exercise protects against brain shrinkage in old age

November 9th, 2012 by Christiane

To all of you out there, who are trying to stay mentally sharp well into high age: Throw out all of your brain training software or videogames such as memory activities.  You are just wasting time, at least according to a recently published study in the Journal Neurology of the American Academy of Neurology. Instead, start running, biking, swimming, hiking or whatever kind of physical exercise you may prefer. The study showed that only physical activities were a significant neuroprotective factor.

Close to 700 people in Scotland, all born in 1936 and 70 years old when initially surveyed by the researchers participated at the study. They were asked about exercise habits and physical activity level, and also about their social life with friends and family or whether they did mentally stimulating activities.

Three years later, at age 73, the participants were given MRI brain scans. The result was that those, who did more exercise had less age related brain shrinkage and fewer white matter lesions. Participation at socially or mentally stimulating activities on the other hand didn’t make a difference in regards to the aging effect on brain size.

In conclusion, there seems to be no way around it: If we want to stay physically and mentally healthy as long as possible, exercise is the method of choice.

For me, these are expected but not necessarily welcome news. I don’t enjoy working-out and exercise though I’m regularly running 15 to 20 miles per week even in winter. I started a few years ago when age-related weight and health issues became bothersome. As I found out, it’s tough to completely change your lifestyle when you are already over 50 but with self-control and motivation, it’s doable.

It’s much easier when you have outside support and this is where a life coach can really be of tremendous assistance. A life coach will help you to set the right goals and develop a plan with you how to achieve these goals. There are many things to consider: for example don’t set the goal too high to prevent disappointment but high enough to be challenging. Also, if you add roughly three hours of exercise time per week as recommended, where do you find the time in your schedule? What would you be willing to give up to free time for exercise? How could you incorporate physical activities in your daily schedule like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the post office or mowing the lawn and raking the leaves yourself instead of hiring a company? A life coach will also cheer you on and celebrate your victories with you. I’m a life-coach and psychologist myself and I know I couldn’t have done the change from a couch-potato lifestyle to running a 10 k  without using my professional knowledge for my own benefit .

This being said, it’s a nice sunny and moderately cold November day outside and I will go now for my daily run.

This post was written by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is life-coach at and teaches psychology at a community college in Massachusetts. Email her for a free introductory coaching session at <> .

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Eight Steps To More Optimism

June 12th, 2012 by Christiane

 “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate” (Thomas Watson). “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” (Winston Churchill)

There are many quotes and inspiring stories about optimism, perseverance and how failures ultimately turned into successes. Just think for a minute about Abraham Lincoln’s political career. I think nobody questions that he was a very successful politician up to becoming president. Still, there were several setbacks in his career where he ran for office in congress or senate and didn’t make it – but he never gave up.

Inventor Thomas Edison spent countless of hours on the development of the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb. When a reporter asked him about the failures, Edison supposedly answered “I didn’t fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.” ( )

Most of us would have given up earlier or not even started the endeavor.

Why some people are willing to embark on a long journey toward a difficult goal and others don’t even try is a question many psychologists would like to answer. There is evidence that genes play a role and some people are simply born more optimistic than others. However, there is also evidence that optimism can be learned, which is good news as this means we all can take steps to increase optimism.

Eight steps to increase optimism:

  1. Don’t wait for life to happen. Set a goal and also define subgoals to mark progress toward your ultimate goal. Then make an action plan to implement your goal.
  2. Celebrate milestones, for example when you reach a subgoal.
  3. If there are setbacks, don’t give up immediately on your goal. Focus on  ways to overcome setbacks and remind yourself how far you have come already..
  4. At the end of each day, recall positive events of the day. Find three things that you are grateful for that they happened. This can be mundane things like finding a parking spot quickly.
  5. Surround yourself with positive and optimistic people. Over time you will learn from others to see the glass as half full.
  6. Make sure that you do every day something just for fun. As more positive experiences you have, as more will you enjoy your life.
  7. Exercise regularly. Studies show that physical activity acts like a natural antidepressant.
  8. And last, but not least: Team up with a life coach to have someone who gently pushes you forward toward your goal, keeps you on track, is your cheerleader and sounding board, and helps you to overcome obstacles on your way to success. You will be amazed what a life coach can do for you!

 Written by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is a professional life and career coach in Massachusetts and teaches psychology at a community college in the Boston area. She is author of the e-workbook “Job Satisfaction – Learn To Love Your Job”  . Email her at c<>

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It’s all about the right motivation

June 1st, 2012 by Christiane

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Happiest country in world: High employment and work-life balance

May 30th, 2012 by Christiane

What defines a happy country? Apparently not just income and wealth because then the United States would be the happiest country in the world – but Denmark is the happiest country, as measured by the OECD – Your Better Life Index. This index profiles the current 34 OECD member nations across a wide range of categories including education, health, employment, sense of community, safety, citizen’s wealth and life expectancy.  Among the top 10 happiest countries are also Norway, Austria, Israel, Canada and Australia.

The United States didn’t make it into the top 10, but overall life satisfaction is higher than in most other OECD countries. While the US scored highest in regards to wealth and housing quality, work-life balance could be better: People in the US work more as the OECD average and have less leisure time. Just one number here to make the point: about 11 % of all American employees work 50 hours and more per week. In Denmark the happiest country, not even 2 % work that much.

Read the full report at:

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Is Happiness and Success mostly based on Genes?

May 22nd, 2012 by Christiane

The nature or nurture discussion goes on: A new study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland involving 800 sets of twins provides evidence that the impact of genes may be stronger than previously thought. Earlier studies had already shown that many personality characteristics are at least partially inborn. According to the new study, genetics however have a significatly stronger impact on traits, such as decision making, self-control, or sociability, than environmental influences. The researchers conclude that “genetically influenced characteristics could well be the key to how successful a person is in life.”

Well, I think even if there is a relatively strong genetic influence on happiness, people still can make a difference in their lives. Let’s take for example self-control as this was a mentioned trait in the research study. Of course, someone born with strong self-control may not be prone to  impulsively say or do something that they will later regret, but this doesn’t mean that someone born with weaker self control can’t learn. For them, self-control just doesn’t come as easy.

Read more about the study at

Written by Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is psychologist and life coach. She is also the author of the job satisfaction e-workbook “Learn to Love your Job”

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Why Coaching Works: Accountability Key

March 30th, 2012 by Christiane

Research studies confirm that coaching leads to positive outcomes. Among others, coaching will increase self-confidence about reaching goals. In surveys, clients often list as most helpful the input of the coach and feedback that they receive . 

However, often overlooked but nevertheless extremely powerful is another aspect of coaching: Accountability.

In a good client-coach relationship, the coach will regularly inquire about progress toward goals and what has been accomplished since the last meeting. As it turns out, this is a strong motivator: Knowing that the coach will follow up, makes the client more likely to follow trough with necessary action steps.

“If someone has thought about taking some action, but is the only person who knows about it, it is much easier to postpone taking action.” (Jack Zenger, American Society for Training & Development)

In sum, coaching works because the coach will ask the client to commit to action by asking typical coaching questions such as “What will you do?” and “When will you do it?” and later then follows up with questions about the status of the plan. 

Author: Christiane Turnheim. Christiane is Life Coach, teaches psychology at a community college in Massachusetts and is author of the book “Job-Satisfaction – Learn to Love Your Job”.  Website: ; email: <>



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Job Satisfaction:Work-Life Balance and Learning opportunities

January 26th, 2012 by Christiane

Work- life balance  and opportunities to learn and grow  are the most important factors for job satisfaction according to a survey developed by Office Team, a staffing service. Read more

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Lack of sleep makes hungry

January 18th, 2012 by Christiane

If you tried diet and exercise and you still gain pounds, ask yourself whether you are sleeping enough. Swedish researchers studied the effect of sleep deprivation on the brain and found that one area responsible for our reaction to food became more active after a sleepless night:


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How to succeed with exercise goal

January 10th, 2012 by Christiane

Improving wellness by doing more exercise and eating better is a popular New Year’s resolution. However, by now – not even two weeks later – many people have  a hard time sticking to these goals or even gave already up. According to a study by Richard Wiseman in 2007, ultimately more than 80 % of the resolutions will fail.

My experience with my clients is that many people simply want too much and too fast without being able to incorporate necessary life style changes into their daily life. If you didn’t exercise for many years, don’t expect suddenly to spend five hours in the gym per week.

I was asked recently how it comes that I’m able to stick to my running regimen of 15 – 20 miles per week for two years now though I was never running before. Here is my answer:

After several failed attempts earlier, I did two things differently in 2010:

First, I started with a small step, just learning to run a half mile daily. I was in such a bad shape that this was difficult enough, however it took only a few minutes out of my daily schedule. I could afford these minutes and this way, I experienced at first the advantages of more exercise in the form of feeling better and being more energetic before I had the price to pay – giving up something that I did for fun to free up time for exercising. Once I got in better shape, I slowly increased the distance. The pounds started to come off when I was at about two miles per day. The weight loss was of course a big motivator and today I’m running in average a 5 K on most days of the week. I lost more than 30 pounds and I am in a better shape now than I was 20 years ago.  I’m sure had I started with a longer distance right away, I probably would not have made it.

The second reason why I’m still running is that I learned to incorporate the exercise into my daily life. It takes out 30 to 45 minutes every day, and to make this work, I started combining my errands with running. I do as much as possible local now and run to the post office, library, hair dresser, subway station etc., often carrying a small bag. I found out that it doesn’t take much more time than going by car because I can use a different route when running without having to stop at traffic lights, and of course at my destination, I don’t have to search for a parking spot. Being able to combine exercise with errands makes it much easier for me to stick to my close-to-20-miles-per- week- goal.

In summary, like many people, I also had failed in the past with my resolutions. Two points  made all the  difference in 2010: starting slow and finding a way to combine exercise with my day to day life .

Christiane Turnheim is life coach in private practice and psychologist instructor at a community college in the Boston area. You can reach her at <>


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Happy New Year

December 31st, 2011 by Christiane

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