10 Easy Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

1. Do a variety of activities you enjoy. And remember, there’s no rule that says you have to go to a gym or buy equipment.  Having a variety of activities — yoga, pilates, weight lifting, walking, running, dancing, cycling, group exercise classes — will ensure that you can do something regardless of the weather or time of day.

2. Commit to another person. The social aspect of exercise can be a big motivator. Make regular work-out dates with a friend and you’re less likely to cancel your work-outs.

3. Make exercise a priority. Make it a non-negotiable.  Friends and family members will learn that it’s part of your identity, and give up saying things like, “Why don’t you take it easy today?”

4. Exercise first thing in the morning.   Experts agree that a morning work out schedule is best. If you go to a gym, it should be located between your home and work.  Some stay-at-home parents get up before their children to get their exercising in.

5. Or, exercise on your way home from work. The next best thing to exercising first thing in the morning is to do it on your way home from work.  Don’t go home first.  There aren’t a lot of people who are so motivated that after they go home and change clothes will go back out again and exercise.”

6. Exercise even when you’re “too tired”.  Chances are, you’ll feel better after exercising.  Exercising energizes us.  You breathe deeply and your body makes better use of the oxygen exchange. You’ll get an exercise-induced euphoria during the activity and for some time after.

7. Log your activity. Write down the things that are important to you. It could be how much time you exercise each day, how many steps you walked, how far you ran or cycled, what you weighed, etc.  Some people make a game of it. You may have heard of runners calculating the miles it would take to run from their homes to Boston, figuring how far they run in an average week and setting a target date for “arriving” in Boston.

8. Be aware of all the indicators of progress. It’s great when your clothes fit better and you can lift heavier weights or work out longer without getting exhausted.

But there are a slew of other potential progress indicators, such as:

  • Getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Thinking more clearly.
  • Having more energy.
  • Realizing your muscles aren’t screaming after you’ve helped a friend move furniture.
  • Seeing your resting heart-rate drop over time.
  • Hearing your doctor congratulate you on improved cholesterol, blood pressure, bone density, triglycerides, and blood sugars.

9. Walk — with a pedometer (or a dog). If you enjoy walking and haven’t exercised for awhile, 10 minutes three times a day will give you 30 minutes.  Use a pedometer, and work up to at least 10,000 steps a day. Nobody starts out with 10,000 steps  Find out what your daily average is, and, the next week, strive to walk 300 extra steps each day. Increase your steps each week.  Or, walk the dog, twice a day.  Good for both of you and provides companionship.

10. Reward yourself. Experts say that making behavior changes is hard, and rewards motivate. So decide on a goal and a reward, and work toward it. You might treat yourself to a massage after you stick to your fitness plan for one month, or buy new walking shoes when you achieve 5,000 steps a day. Do whatever works for you.

–adapted from

Loving-Kindness Meditation

The original name of this practice is metta bhavana, which comes from the Pali language. Metta means ‘love’ (in a non-romantic sense), friendliness, or kindness: hence ‘loving-kindness’ for short. It is an emotion, something you feel in your heart. Bhavana means development or cultivation. The most common form of the practice is in five stages, each of which should last about five minutes for a beginner.

  1. In the first stage, you feel metta for yourself.
  2. In the second stage, think of a good friend/loved one. Bring them to mind as vividly as you can, and think of their good qualities.
  3. Then think of someone you do not particularly like or dislike. Your feelings are ‘neutral’. This may be someone you do not know well but see around. You reflect on their humanity, and include them in your feelings of metta.
  4. Then think of someone you actually dislike — an “enemy”, traditionally— someone you are having difficulty with. Trying not to get caught up in any feelings of hatred, think of them positively and send your metta to them as well.
  5. In the final stage, first of all you think of all four people together — yourself, the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Then extend your feelings further — to everyone around you, to everyone in your neighborhood; in your town, your country, and so on throughout the world. Have a sense of waves of loving-kindness spreading from your heart to everyone, to all beings everywhere. Then gradually relax out of meditation, and bring the practice to an end.
Below is an example of what you may think about or say out loud in each of the five stages, substituting “May I be” with “May s/he/they be” or “May [name] be” in stages 2 – 5.

Whole Grain Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

  • Yield: 16 brownies


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar or unrefined sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peeled and grated zucchini
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips to sprinkle on top


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line an 8″x8″ pan with parchment paper or spray with baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, and apple sauce and let this sit for 5 minutes to let the sugar dissolve.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Add the dry mix to the wet, gently stir until combined but be sure not to over-mix.
  5. Gently fold zucchini and 1 cup chocolate chips into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the surface with a spatula.
  7. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips on top.
  8. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle doesn’t come out gooey. It might still be sticky – just not have raw batter on it.
  9. When cool, cut into 16 pieces.
  10. Store in an airtight container, in the fridge for up to a week.

4 Yogic Tips to Make your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Re-printed with permission from

Kristine Kaoverii Weber

It’s the start of a new year, and that means new New Year resolutions!  In this article, YogaUOnline teacher Kristine Kaoverii Weber, founder of Subtle Yoga, offers some great tips and action steps to help us keep those resolutions, including 6 good habits to cultivate for a healthier lifestyle.

“Every year I try to eat better,” a yoga student Jen, told me in a frustration-tinged tone, “And I do really well for a while, but then I start to notice, around the end of February, that my old habits have come back and I’m eating candy bars again every day. I just don’t know how to make it stick.”

Habits, whether good, bad or neutral, comprise much of our daily activity. Brushing your teeth, meditating and taking a shower are all habitual activities. But so is eating junk food, biting your nails, negative self-talk and spending too much time on Facebook. How do you make New Year’s Resolutions stick? Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, stop eating sugar, or just trying to get to bed earlier here are some yoga ideas about employing the power of yoga and making it work for you so that your New Year’s Resolutions actually become healthy habits.

1. The Yoga Tradition of Satsaunga (Keeping Good Company)

We make a big mistake in our thinking about habits when we define them as purely individual behaviors and choices. In reality they have as much (perhaps more) to do with your social circumstances as they do with you personally. Many habits are the indirect, tremendously complex result of your social network.

According to the folks who conducted the Framingham Heart Study, “When smokers kick the habit, odds are they are not alone in making the move. Instead, the decision to quit smoking often cascades through social networks, with entire clusters of spouses, friends, siblings and co-workers giving up the habit roughly in tandem, according to a new study supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”

The Framingham study found that if someone you didn’t even know – a friend of your friend’s friend – quit smoking, you were 9 percent more likely to quit yourself. This means that people you don’t even know influence your habits. And guess what, if your best friend becomes obese, your chances of heading that way go up 171 percent. Is that a good enough reason for you to schedule regular yoga classes with your friends?

The yoga tradition recommends satsaunga or “keeping good company.” Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to change your habits is hang out with people with good ones and encourage them in others.

2. Create Good Habits

One of my yoga teachers said to me, “Don’t worry about your bad habits, just meditate every day and see what happens.” We had been talking about whether or not it’s okay to drink alcohol, eat meat, stay up late and other habits yogis generally eschew. She explained that it’s not so much about steeling your will against what you should not be doing, but rather paying attention to cultivating what is good for you. Here are a few of my faves:

  1. Exercise – Do I really need to say why? The more important question is this: How does your social situation/life support this? Do you need an exercise buddy? Can you scrape your spouse off the couch to join you? How can you make this fun, easy and something you will actually do regularly.
  2. Be in Nature – find someplace not too far from home and go there to breathe, walk, be – twice a week.
  3. Hydrate – if you use a quart-sized Ball jar, you can easily keep track and the amount varies from person to person. I try to drink at least three in the winter (a lot in the form of herbal tea) and more in the summer starting 30 minutes after or finishing 30 minutes before eating.
  4. Eat like a real person – I’m serious! It’s much better to have hearty, healthy meals than it is to be plagued by late night snack attacks that pack on the pounds. Smoothies and tea are great, but they do not constitute three meals a day. Remember, cultivate the good habits! For example, eat a lot of steamed veggies or salad at the beginning of your meals – this will go a long way towards helping you attain a healthy weight. Don’t worry so much about what not to eat, rather focus on enjoying the good things.
  5. Put your legs up on the wall – if I could only bottle this pose! The yogis called it “the reversing process” it’s an amazing way to relax and to help correct a spectrum of imbalances. The benefits of regularly stimulating the relaxation response should not be underestimated and I know of no yoga pose that does it better.
  6. Get to bed by 10 pm – well, this is one I don’t always follow, but I do try hard, especially if I’m really run down, to remember how much better I feel when I’m rested. Chinese medicine folks say that every hour you sleep before midnight is equal to two hours. Sleep is good.

3. Visualize it, Believe it

Quantum physics has confirmed an important insight that yoga masters have understood for centuries – mind can control matter. Allowing the mind to stray into its old patterns is simply self-defeating fatalism: “I am just a heavyset person, that’s the way my whole family is, it’s genetic” or “I am a night owl and that’s when I do my best work and even though I’d like to sleep better, I just can’t.”

If we are really limitless as the teachings of yoga tell us, then why do we place these deterministic, tired old restrictions on ourselves? If you are really the universe, then how can you simply give up and resign yourself to being a chocoholic? One way of remembering your limitlessness is to be vigilant about catching yourself in your thinking patterns.

Here’s what Patanjali said: “Vitarka Bhadane Pratipaksa Bhavanam” If you’re plagued by a negative thought, cultivate its opposite. What is one thought that irritates you regularly? Find it’s opposite, see how it feels when you say it to yourself – say it over and over until you feel it, until you really believe it.

4. Silence Please

But like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Patanjali’s Pratipaksa practice has its limits. This is because negative thoughts are often actually feeling patterns which are carved into the limbic brain – creating a shift with your rational front brain that percolates down into the depths of your non-verbal reptilian self may not be possible.

But yoga offers a powerful way to shift out of deeply held mindsets – meditation. Preferably twice a day, even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes upon waking and before going to sleep. It will help you connect with your Source, activate your relaxation response and put things into perspective.

Neuroscientist mapping the brain states accessed during meditation say that meditation slows the patterns called delta waves. These patterns, similar to those activated in deep sleep are associated with healing the body. Meditators learn to access this deep state consciously.

Kristine Kaoverii Weer is the founder of Subtle Yoga in Ashville and Charlotte, North Carolina. She has been a student of yoga since she was introduced to it in sixth grade. Kaoverii has been teaching yoga for more than twenty years. And her work these days focuses on providing yoga teacher trainings on the 200- hour and 500-hour level. Kaoverii is the director of Sarva Health, an organization which provides holistic yoga-based trainings to enhance community health infrastructure. In particular, Kaoverii developed the first RYT 200-hour training program specifically for mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals to be offered by a major continuing education institution. She is a frequent contributor to national magazines and the author of Healing Self Massage which shows how to use massage as a complement to yoga practice to relieve stress, neck and back pain, insomnia, and anxiety.

The Health Benefits Of Dancing Go Beyond Exercise And Stress Reducer

May 3, 2016

What are the health implications of dancing? New social science research shows that dancing in synchrony with others increases people’s threshold for dealing with pain.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Now we have news of a surprising benefit of dancing. NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, I don’t know if you are a noted dancer or not. Shankar, are you?

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: I am a noted dancer for being absolutely terrible on the dance floor, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, but in any case, you can do good research on dancing. What is this research?

VEDANTAM: Psychology researchers at the University of Oxford recently published a study in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. They brought volunteers into a lab and taught them different dance moves. They then placed the volunteers in groups of four on the dance floor and put headphones on them so they could hear music.

Some of them were taught the same dance moves, and others were taught different dance moves. Before and after the volunteers danced to music, the researchers measured their pain threshold by squeezing their arms…


VEDANTAM: …With a blood pressure cuff.

INSKEEP: So the question is how tolerant are you to pain, in other words.

VEDANTAM: Exactly. That’s exactly right. And what the researchers found is there were huge differences in pain perception before and after the volunteers danced together.

INSKEEP: I want to break this down because you saying there are people who are dancing in coordination with the people around them…


INSKEEP: …And others who are dancing completely by themselves, even though other people may be right there in the room.

VEDANTAM: Exactly. So when the volunteers were taught the same dance moves and heard the same songs as the others, their movements synchronized on the dance floor. Now, afterwards, these volunteers were able to withstand significantly more pain. Their threshold for pain increased.

By contrast, the volunteers who heard different songs or were taught different dance moves to the same music didn’t synchronize their movements. These volunteers experienced either no change in their pain perception or an increase in their pain perception. They actually felt more pain than they did before.

INSKEEP: What is going on there?

VEDANTAM: Well, here’s what the researchers think is going on. When experiences feel good, that’s usually a signal that they have served some kind of evolutionary purpose. So the brain evolved to find certain kinds of food tasty because it eating those foods had survival value for our ancestors.

As a social species, being part of a group has survival value. Evolution also may have adapted the brain to experience a sense of reward when we did things with and for other people. Dancing together, especially in the synchrony, can signal that you are actually simpatico with lots of other people. The researchers think this is why so many cultures have synchronized dancing and why it might have health benefits.

INSKEEP: So it’s not just that I’m loosening my muscles by moving around ’cause if I do that alone, it doesn’t help me. But doing it with other people I feel good. It overrides any sensations happened I might have that are bad.

VEDANTAM: That’s right. So the volunteers had headphones. And so they were listening to songs without knowing what songs others were listening to. It’s only when they were listening to same song and dancing in the same way and they watched other people doing that that the health benefits kicked in.

INSKEEP: Shankar, it’s been fun dancing with you.

VEDANTAM: I feel less pain already, Steve.

INSKEEP: That’s great. NPR’s Shankar Vedantam, our social science correspondent and host of the new podcast that explores the unseen patterns in human behavior, Hidden Brain.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved.

Harvard Press, “Dragonfly Wellness Center: ‘It’s all about well-being’ “, by Lucinda Bowen

This weekend the Dragonfly Wellness Center, located in the newly renovated Red Cross building in Devens, will officially kick off its grand opening celebration with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house. This new business, which just started offering classes and workshops after Labor Day, looks to provide Harvard and surrounding communities with a dedicated place to learn, explore, and practice long-term wellness for the body, mind, and spirit.“This is a holistic health center, where we offer a variety of wellness modalities to strengthen and optimize health and well-being,” said owner Anne Ferguson, a nurse and critical-care educator with 30 years’ experience providing bedside care to patients. “And I hope we have a huge variety of people that feel this is a place they can come and find some peace.”

Finding peace is easy at Dragonfly, where the light-filled studio and small practitioners’ offices feel restful, full of vibrant color, and free from cluttered, ambient noise. From the soothing green walls to the hand-painted mandala hanging in the studio, the center offers intentional spaces to cultivate healing and self-reflection. Ferguson feels the Red Cross space was “meant to be.”

Dragonfly Wellness is in the former Red Cross building at the corner of Jackson and Barnum roads in Devens. (Photos by Lisa Aciukewicz)

“When I first saw the building, I knew how it would flow,” said Ferguson. “I saw a café on one side, practitioners on the other side, with a natural, big studio in the middle. It’s perfect.”

It may have been perfect, but it was not available. Another buyer had made an offer on the building, and though Ferguson tried to secure a lease, the financial piece did not work out. Instead, she purchased a church in downtown Ayer and started renovations. But she kept an eye on the Red Cross building, and when no improvement work had started after months of waiting, she approached MassDevelopment again. The previous offer had fallen through, and Ferguson jumped at the chance to purchase and renovate the historic space for her business.

“Inside it was in such disrepair, there wasn’t much to keep,” said Ferguson, whose renovations took six months. “We tried to restore the building to its historic structure. We raised the ceiling, tore up floors, but kept the flow and the outside the same.” The process was expensive because of the historic registry requirements. But, she said, “My investment wasn’t to make money or to flip the building. It’s an investment in my business, in bringing wellness to the community.”

Wellness partnerships

Ferguson’s passion for community wellness has led to partnerships with a variety of holistic health practitioners who now operate their practices out of the center. Their specialties include massage therapy, shamanic healing, sound therapy, myofascial release therapy, craniosacral therapy, reiki, and meditation. “All the practitioners have a sense of peace about them,” said Ferguson. “They are very kind spirits and good teachers, very altruistic. We all collaborate on different programs.” The center also offers a variety of classes and workshops, including a 5K training group, wellness coaching, nutrition workshops, and movement classes such as yoga, tai chi, and dance.

One of several practitioner rooms at Dragonfly Wellness.

While these services are considered nonmainstream, they are intended to be complementary, or offered in conjunction with conventional medicine, rather than replacing it. “I don’t believe in no medication at all,” said Ferguson. “I believe there’s a balance to eastern and western treatments. [These practices] that have been around for thousands and thousands of years and have been shown to help, I feel like we should use those.”

Ferguson herself has benefited from the sometimes transformative effect of holistic health practices. For example, she said, “I did an eight-week meditation course. I went into it wanting to learn more about mindfulness. What I got out of it was so personal and such a change of perspective, I feel like what I expected to find and what I found were very different. It’s open to your experience.” But whether the experience is in meditation, nutrition, or reiki, the thing Ferguson appreciates about complementary health practices is the sense of well-being they foster. “You feel like everything is OK physically and mentally,” she said.

Having worked at the “bedside end” of health care, Ferguson has spent the past 10 years dreaming of partnering with clients in preventive care, instead of illness. “I always thought about holistic treatments, had the belief the body is meant to heal and protect itself. I feel like a holistic approach strengthens people’s bodies and minds,” she said.

Inspired by loss

But it was not just her own conviction about the benefit of holistic health practices that made Ferguson ready to step away from nursing to own her own business. In 2009, she lost her brother Jim after just eight weeks of illness. As she mourned the suddenness of his passing, Ferguson realized she needed a break from bedside care. “I was given the opportunity to leave with a severance package, which was like a gift to go do what I wanted to do,” she explained. And she was inspired to take the chance because of Jim: “The way he lived, he helped me. He did so many high-risk things to benefit others. This path opened up because of his support.”

Though her business is just opening, Ferguson is still dreaming big. She hopes to one day offer acupuncture, drumming workshops, art therapy, and more: “We want to have something for everyone here. And we want it to be affordable so people can have the opportunity to optimize their own physical and emotional strength.” Currently, Dragonfly offers discounts to seniors, students, and veterans and may be able to offer a sliding scale to clients who need but cannot afford the center’s services. Ferguson is also looking into the role that grants and insurance reimbursements might play in making holistic health services more affordable.

For now, though, Ferguson’s focus is on the grand opening celebration Friday, Oct. 2. There will be a short ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m., followed by an open house with raffle prizes, refreshments, and free gifts. The open house runs from 3 to 7 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The Natural Café will offer smoothie samples and sandwiches, and Dragonfly’s health practitioners will have tables set up to highlight the classes, treatments, and workshops the center offers. “It is about having people come in and take a tour and see what we’re about,” said Ferguson. “Workshops and classes are just starting. They are definitely picking up, but we can fit a lot of people in there. We have lots of room.”

New York Times, “Sound Baths Move From Metaphysical to Mainstream”, by Sophia Kercher

DEVENS — “This is a happy day,” declared Anne Ferguson at the opening of the Dragonfly Wellness Center earlier this month. “Today marks the culmination of almost two years of effort to unlock our doors here at 176 Jackson Road.”

Marty Jones, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, headed the team that facilitated Ferguson’s ownership of the former Red Cross building, built by the U.S. Army in 1941. The elegant, white T-shaped structure formerly housed members of an essential support staff for troops posted at Devens.

Ferguson, who spent 30 years as a registered nurse in critical care, opened the Dragonfly Wellness Center with two loans totaling $330,000; $135,000 was used to purchase the building and $195,000 was spent to renovate the two-acre property.
The former Red Cross building is now Dragonfly Wellness Center.

Ferguson said that with a holistic approach to life, many illnesses can be prevented and treated by strengthening our bodies, minds and spirits.

Read the full article

“Development of Wellness Center is Focused on Healing”, by Amanda Roberge, correspondent.

“DEVENS – Since Devens was decommissioned as an Army base in 1996, it has slowly gained momentum as a viable residential and business community. The most recent addition to the growing business community is Dragonfly Wellness Center, which brings together different modalities for healing under one roof.

Anne Ferguson said she has dreamed of opening such a center for more than 10 years and wound up taking the substantial risk – leaving her full-time career as a registered nurse for Tufts Medical Center and taking a loan of $330,000 from the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, better known as MassDevelopment – due in no small part to the death of her brother, Dan, six years ago.

“I have felt him all along, through every step, even when it seemed like a crazy thing to do – like such a huge gamble,” she said. “Because that’s how he lived his life. He wasn’t afraid to try something, to dream.”

Finding the building at 176 Jackson Road was kismet for Ms. Ferguson, who felt a strong connection based on its rich history as the headquarters for the American Red Cross during the 1940s, when the town was better known as Fort Devens and served as a training center for American troops.”

Read the full article

“With MassDevelopment Assistance, Historic American Red Cross Building in Devens is Revived, Transformed into Health and Wellness Center”

MassDevelopment has provided two loans totaling $330,000 to DFWC Realty, which used the proceeds to acquire and renovate the former American Red Cross building at 176 Jackson Road in Devens. Anne Ferguson, DFWC Realty’s principal, transformed the building into a health and wellness institute called Dragonfly Wellness Center. Ferguson used the first loan, worth $135,000, to finance the purchase of the building. The second loan of $195,000 funded renovations to the interior and exterior of the building.“The former American Red Cross building housed essential support staff to our troops at Fort Devens, but has recently been inactive,” said Marty Jones, MassDevelopment President and CEO. “MassDevelopment is pleased to support Anne Ferguson as she revitalizes the property and, in continuance of the building’s theme, creates a center to support the well-being of the residents of Devens and the Nashoba Valley.”

The site of the Dragonfly Wellness Center has a notable history. Constructed by the U.S. Army in 1941, the one-story Colonial revival building was one of the first administrative Red Cross buildings located on a military base. The building contained offices, living quarters, and lecture and reception rooms, and was primarily occupied by Red Cross administrative personnel until the U.S. Army closed Fort Devens in 1996. After the base closing, the Town of Harvard briefly used the building as a youth center. However, the site has primarily sat vacant since the base closure. The building, located on two acres of land near downtown Devens, is registered on the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s list of historic buildings. Following Fort Devens’ closure, MassDevelopment acquired the 4,400-acre property and is redeveloping Devens into a sustainable and diverse mixed-use community.
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