Thankful Thursday: Holding On For Tonight

Thankful Thursdays on Food4ThoughtNYC

I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist

There are times when nothing helps.

I had the kind of week where I lost sight of the big picture. Autopilot kicked in and each day bled into the next, with little change in my mood or outlook on some major life changes that are looming on the horizon.

Meditation, exercise, writing in my journal, affirmations; none of it worked.

What frustrated me was that I felt more on track and confident in the last month then I had in a long time. Why the sudden turn around?

Then, I saw this:

I fell in love with “Chandelier” as soon as I heard it a month ago. Sia makes great music and I’ve adored her for awhile now.

But watching this video was a different experience.

Do you remember what it was like when you sat on a swing and pushed yourself as high as you could go? That exhilaration? The glee and wonder of it all?

I spend so much time analyzing, contemplating, second-guessing; just plain thinking myself into circles. All the while, I’m standing still, locked in a perpetual state of worry.

Sometimes, don’t you want to just get up and spin around in circles or jump up and down on your bed, like you did when you were a kid?

The pure reckless abandon of spins, jumps, and playing endless games that you invented, is what makes being a kid so damn incredible.

Watching this video brought me back to those days, but it also pushed me forward. Maybe I won’t run around my apartment leaping from furniture or throwing myself on the ground. I definitely won’t try doing splits anytime soon.

What I can do is learn to let go of all that tension I carry around, and to live in the moment. For no other reason then to embrace the idea that the we’re only guaranteed today and we should truly live in the time we have.

We have ups and downs and sometimes our circumstances make it hard to shake off the bad energy. I’m a realist and oftentimes a pessimist (there, I said it). There’s no harm in cutting yourself some slack to do something, anything that makes you feel like that kid on a swing trying to get higher off the ground.

Thankful Thursday; Holding on for Tonight

When was the last time you felt free and joyful like the young girl in the video?

What are you thankful for this week?

Please feel free to share your comments below or on FB and Twitter.

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And the Beat Goes On: The Power of Music and Exercise

We’ve all been there. You’re on a run or in the middle of a workout, starting to feel a lag in energy when all of a sudden the perfect song blasts through your headphones.

“Yes, THAT’S my jam!!” I think, and suddenly I pump my legs faster and find a second wind out of nowhere.

For me that’s “Diamonds” by Rihanna. Maybe for you it’s Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” or David Guetta and Sia’s “Titanium. Whatever that song is, I can bet that you’re out there raising the volume on your iPods and moving a bit faster when that tune comes on.

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Music works like a magical cure-all when you’re exercising. It has the ability to distract you enough from the strain of what you’re doing, allowing you to focus your attention elsewhere while your body does the work. This is essential for me since I tend to over-analyze pretty much everything at all hours of the day.

Music can motivate you with the right lyrics and tone. Why do you think the theme song to Chariots of Fire is often used in exercise montages?

And the right tempo can truly elevate you reach new heights of endurance and speed where you’re inspired to try harder as you go against the music beat for beat.

How does that work?

The research on this subject is broad and diverse. In a recent study by Dr. Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University in London, a leading expert in the psychology of exercise music, he compared music to “a type of legal performance-enhancing drug.”

Ferris Jabr of Scientific American recently reviewed the research behind the relationship between music and exercise performance. Jabr notes that there are several important qualities to music, including tempo and rhythm response, which play a significant role in how the brain processes the sound and relays the information to our muscles.

To make some broad generalizations, fast songs with strong beats are particularly stimulating, so they fill most people’s workout playlists. In a recent survey of 184 college students, for example, the most popular types of exercise music were hip-hop (27.7 percent), rock (24 percent) and pop (20.3 percent). Some psychologists have suggested that people have an innate preference for rhythms at a frequency of two hertz, which is equivalent to 120 beats per minute (bpm), or two beats per second. When asked to tap their fingers or walk, many people unconsciously settle into a rhythm of 120 bpm. And an analysis of more than 74,000 popular songs produced between 1960 and 1990 found that 120 bpm was the most prevalent pulse.

Synchronicity between the beat of the music and the pace of a workout doesn’t necessarily enhance performance nor is it a preference for most people, but it may help the body use energy more efficiently.

Dr. Carl Foster of the University of Wisconsin, argues our innate tendency to move in time with music goes back to rowers of ancient Rome who coordinated their rowing with the beat of drums. Foster says it’s our brain’s natural response that makes us “want to step at the rate the music is playing or… pedal a cycle at the rate of the dominant beat of the music.”

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness last year, revealed that cyclists who timed their pedaling with the same tempo as their music, reduced their oxygen uptake by 7%.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for music’s impact on exercise performance is the positive psychological affect various songs have on the ability to improve a workout.

Queuing up a playlist with the scientifically proven ratio of bpm to movement isn’t always the best course of action. A big piece of the formula here is the emotional tie a person may have to a particular song or series of songs that can do more to help increase motivation and self-efficacy.

As Jabr states,

Selecting the most effective workout music is not as simple as queuing up a series of fast, high-energy songs. One should also consider the memories, emotions and associations that different songs evoke. For some people, the extent to which they identify with the singer’s emotional state and viewpoint determines how motivated they feel. And, in some cases, the rhythms of the underlying melody may not be as important as the cadence of the lyrics.

Earlier I mentioned that “Diamonds” from Rihanna was a particular favorite of mine. Clocking in at 92 bpm, this song doesn’t hit that sweet spot of tempo and rhythm. But for some reason, when I hear this song come on during a run, I feel uplifted and the urge to keep moving. I’ve caught on to this reaction and now strategically place this song towards the middle or end of my runs because I know it will give me the push I need to continue through the end of the song, instead of stopping altogether.

So why does this song do that for me? “Diamonds” was released in the weeks before Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast last Fall. The week I spent without power or heat at home, was filled with the sounds coming from our battery-operated radio. As a new single, the song was on repeatedly and became a sort of anthem that I took on personally. The impact of that week was far-reaching and music played a big part of that emotional journey, especially since conserving battery power made those music-filled moments so precious.

When that song plays, I’m brought back to that moment in time and that’s a powerful experience in and of itself. It’s a bittersweet memory that serves as both a source of comfort and inspiration for me now.

I imagine each of us has that same relationship with any number of songs and that you find yourself walking or moving differently as an expression of the intensity of emotion that a song may inspire in that moment. It’s just natural.

The science backs up what I’ve already thought to be true, and that is the positive benefits of music to get our bodies moving and improve well-being. Music has been a part of culture and society throughout human history and it’s an integral part of who we are.

The incredible number of apps and devices available on the market that highlight tailored workout music and calculating performance is astronomical. Researchers and marketers alike are aware of the power of music and its role in exercise.

senior-woman-exercising-with-headphones
Music makes us happy! Just be sure to keep your hands  on the handlebars.

We’re instinctively attuned to the power of beats and rhythm. Have you ever been able to resist moving in even the slightest way when an irresistible song plays? Nope? Yeah, me either.

Do you listen to music when you exercise? What’s your favorite genre of music? How does it make you feel?

As always, keep paying it forward. Stay healthy! ūüôā

Cited Sources:

No. 100: For Everyone Who Ever Accused Me of “Acting White”: Thank You.

“I believe you need to figure out where that negativity came from. What is the root of it? That’s where you start,” she said.

“I’m not sure I’ve thought of it that way before. I always think of the ‘why’ but not from that angle.” I said.

“Exactly my point,” was her response.

I took that piece of advice and let it flow through me while I sat at my desk. I could practically feel my brain tittering away as it has been all week in my quest to finish this post. Oh man, this post has been killing me. Each passing day feels like added weight to the burden of getting these thoughts out in a way that makes sense. My head hurts. My insides feel like they’ve been steamrolled. Why is this one¬†so damn hard?

Even now, I’ve stopped and started about three times. Literally. I have three paragraphs all going in different directions that I wrote in the last 15 minutes. Clearly, I need to hit the pause button and listen to what my friend told me so that I can get this one out. So here it goes.

I grew up with four siblings in an apartment in the Lower East Side, born to parents who immigrated to New York from the Dominican Republic. Like many first-generation Americans from immigrant parents, I dealt with identity issues. As the second youngest child in my family, I was brought up on the cusp of the strict “old-school” ways that my parents employed with my older siblings, and the more laid-back American style they’d adopted after living here for over twenty years. There were more freedoms that I got to enjoy (much to the displeasure of my older brothers and sister), but I had my feet firmly planted in two different worlds; a household richly-steeped in Dominican culture with its language, food, and customs and the giant spectacle that is urban life in the big city surrounded by millions of people demanding their own little piece of that American dream. Maneuvering between these two realities on a day to day basis required tremendous skill and patience. I had little of both as a teenager and that brings me here.

My early teenage years were awkward. Tell me, who¬†didn’t¬†go through an awkward transition into early adulthood? But I had the whole deal: braces, glasses, super chubby, total bookworm, and completely uncoordinated. I was a great student and loved going to school. I read for fun and I loved to draw. I was a giant nerd. My sister likes to say I was introverted (which is a nice way of saying I was shy to the point of awkwardness and no one knew how to deal with it), but I just marched to the beat of my own drum. No one really got that beat though.

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Why are you acting white?¬†they’d ask.

I didn’t have an answer.

Instead what I had was rage. Fury. As a kid, I just shrugged my shoulders and kept it moving. I mean, what could I say? This is how I speak. That’s the music I listen to. I prefer to sit here and read and draw, so sue me. Then I got older and anger trumped indifference. Each time someone posed that question or some variation, I took it as a personal attack. To them, it was all a joke. Oh because, “ha ha she talks like a white girl,” is obviously hilarious and I should be laughing along too. What it felt like was a slap in the face.

I’d ask myself question after question to try and figure out why this kept happening.¬†Is it because of the way I speak? My cadence or diction perhaps? Is it because I’d rather listen to other genres of music than Latino? Is it because of the way I dress or the way I wear my hair? Is it because I preferred to read and draw in my spare time then to do whatever it is Latinos ‘should’ be doing? Is it because I speak English first and Spanish only when necessary? Is it the way I carry myself? Is it because my friends weren’t all Latinos and I chose to ignore the Latino clubs in school? Is it because I don’t look like a Dominican? Sound like a Dominican? Laugh like a Dominican? Am I¬†really¬†a Dominican or am I so ashamed, that I’d rather be “white” instead?

Questioning myself became the norm. Either I was defending my Latino “cred” by having to tell people exactly where I’m originally from in the Dominican Republic so that they could believe me (yes, I’ve actually had to do this) or I was questioning some other part of who I was.¬†Am I smart enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I skinny enough? Am I Dominican enough?¬†

Am I enough?

And that’s it. That right there, is it.

I wanted to sit here and shout the rafters down about racism and stereotyping and not letting any asshole continue to pigeon-hole me because I don’t meet some insane standard of what it means to be Latino. I wanted to sit here and say that I finally understood what it meant to be Latino for myself, when really I have no idea. I wanted to tell a story about my sister and all the crazy happenings of growing up in a Dominican family, button it up with a nice message about heritage and culture, and call it a day. I wanted and want to say all of those things and more but I couldn’t get there until I stopped here.

This anger, which I thought was long buried, is still there deep inside somewhere. I developed the patience to navigate both of my worlds by learning to just ignore the narrow-mindedness. To raise a deaf ear to those that continue to accuse me of “acting white” and to just continue beating my drum. Slowly I let it go but time doesn’t heal all wounds all at once.

My friend told me that I needed to find the source of my negativity and start from there.¬†Funny to think that I met this friend years after I’d buried this “acting white” hatchet. She didn’t know me when I was at the heart of this battle. I don’t know if it was this particular experience that sparked a lifetime of insecurities, but I do know that it played an important role, for better or for worse, in the formation of my identity. I can’t think back on ¬†that time in my life without thinking of this. And it all goes back to this idea that I’m constantly beating back in my head. No matter what I do or how much I accomplish, it is never good enough. I can draw this out of every major life event I can think back on. That guy that broke up with me? I wasn’t good enough. That dress I can’t fit into? I wasn’t thin enough. That job I want but can’t seem to land? I wasn’t driven enough. ¬†That person asking me if I was sure I was Dominican? I wasn’t Latino enough.

Enough.

There is no tidy bow at the end of this one. No affirmation or resolution to seize the day and tomorrow is a brighter future. I have to really stop myself from going ahead and doing a “happily ever after” here because the reality is that this is really just the starting line. I will always be working towards feeling “enough” for¬†myself¬†and not for everyone else. I will ¬† inevitably circle back and retreat one day and surge forward the next. It’s all part of a process, and I get that. I embrace that. But I will say one thing.

Thank you to everyone and everything that questioned me. Your challenges may have cut me down, but I manage to find myself standing taller each time. Accuse me of being whatever you think I’m being, because ultimately, it’s what¬†I think of¬†myself that matters most. No, I’m not acting white. I’m just being me, take it or leave it.

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