Science

There’s nothing especially magic about living well: The steps we need to take are logical and pretty well-known. But that doesn’t mean a health overhaul comes easy. Too often, despite our best intentions, the pounds pile on. Muscles turn to Jell-O. Stress rules the roost, and sleep is a fitful exercise in tossing and turning and checking the smartphone at 3 a.m.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The difference between failure and success boils down to approach and mindset, to selecting the right habits to tweak and -- crucially -- using the latest science to kick out bad habits and forge better, long-lasting new ones.

Most important of all: This isn’t a temporary fix. It’s a new -- and far more rewarding -- way of living. Read on if you're ready to get started.

Stress

Not all stress is created equal. Here's how you can sort them out

You can’t avoid stress, but you can prepare. Dr. Bruce Rabin, medical director of the Healthy Lifestyle Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, offered these tips.

Chronic stress: How you cope depends a lot on how you go about your everyday life. Take time for meaningful reflection. Look on the bright side. Have a sense of humor, including about yourself. Socialize with people you like. And don’t just sit there — move.

Acute stress: That sudden, sink-or-swim kind of stress calls for special measures. Rabin recommended three: deep breathing, finding something to laugh about, and chanting to yourself.

You have to ready these coping tools in advance so you can draw on them in the heat of the moment, when acute stress strikes. Sometime when you’re feeling calm, take time to practice deep breathing, memorize a list of things you find funny or compose a chant you find relaxing.

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