Nothing is as peaceful or sweet as a tiny baby sleeping in his or her crib. Do you remember the last time you had a refreshingly, uninterrupted night’s sleep and you could say, “I slept like a baby”? When babies are deeply asleep, nothing disturbs them. Is it possible for you to sleep that soundly again?
As sleep expert James Maas, Ph.D., author of Sleep for Success and Power Sleep says, “When it comes to getting rest, adults should do things more like infants do. Adults are always trying to work both ends of the clock, staying up late, getting up early. They treat sleep as a luxury and it is not. It’s a necessity and babies already know that.”
What are some sleeping tips we should learn from babies?
1. Make sleep a priority.
When babies are tired, they go to sleep. As adults, we try to cram as much into a day, often sacrificing sleep to other less important pursuits, like watching that late night TV show and getting up ultra early the next morning to catch up on something we neglected to do. If you want to sleep like a baby, the smart thing is to prioritize what’s important to you and rearrange your activities around the 7 to 9 hours you need for a full night’s sleep
2. Stick to your sleep schedule.
If you don’t want a cranky baby, you honor the baby’s routine. By keeping the same bedtime and wake up time each day, even on the weekends, you’ll have more energy and will bounce back more quickly from the occasional late or sleepless night.
3. Initiate a wind-down ritual before bedtime.
Most parents prepare their babies for bed by giving them a bath, reading a story or singing a lullaby. If you want to sleep like a baby, you can benefit from a similar wind-down ritual. Schedule 30 to 60 minutes every evening to allow your body to transition from the day’s stress to a night of inactivity. Turn off the electronics and TV and keep them out of the bedroom. Meditate. Do some light reading. Listen to music. Take a warm bath. Write in your gratitude journal. Clear your mind by jotting down tomorrow’s to-do list, putting it on the table and mentally walking away from it.
4. Don’t obsess about sleep. When a baby can’t sleep, mom rocks her to sleep while humming a restful tune. If you’re lying awake, use an APP to play soothing music and schedule it to go off in 45 minutes. Or it’s fine to turn the light on and read a few pages in your book or use the time for meditation until you fall asleep.
5. Don’t hit the snooze button. Babies sleep until they wake up naturally. Rather than artificially forcing yourself to awaken, go to sleep earlier, sleep uninterruptedly until you absolutely must get up, then get out of bed when the alarm goes off. In time, if you’re getting enough sleep, you won’t even need the alarm clock.
6. Exercise throughout the day
When babies are awake, they’re constantly moving, strengthening their muscles for the day they can run around the house. Too many of us have sedentary jobs. Then we go home mentally exhausted only to sit around some more. Because exercising right before bedtime isn’t the best practice, doing some sort of physical activity throughout the day will make you tired enough to sleep. As little as three, 10 minutes bursts of exercise throughout the day – like walking, climbing stairs, and stretching – can help you sleep better at night.
7. Watch what you consume
A sugary drink before bedtime can cause your baby to be agitated and hyperactive. What we feed on physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually affect how well we sleep. Even the quality of our relationships with family, friends, and business associates will dictate how well you sleep. So take some time this week to mindfully identify how your daily decisions affect your quality of sleep.
Sleep is so important because it’s the only way for our bodies to energize, reboot and regenerate. Babies have it right. Sadly, when we grow up we get away from the healthiest routine. However, we can always improve by making little incremental changes. You can’t expect to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed by drastically altering your sleep/wake up times. Shift things by 15 minutes every week. Go to sleep 15 minutes earlier and get out of bed 15 minutes earlier. Over the course of a few weeks you’ll ease into a new schedule.
Sleep is just one indicator of your wellness. There are seven we all need to be mindful of. If you haven’t taken the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, maybe it’s time. Click here to download your free copy.
“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu
Your feelings are your choice. You can choose to feel down or you can choose gratitude, which opens your world to peace, happiness and health. Gratitude means being continually mindful of how much you’ve been given. To say you’re grateful doesn’t mean everything in your life is great all the time. It just means you can see the goodness. Yet, because our brains are hardwired to track danger and potential challenges, we aren’t primed to notice the beautiful things around us. Instead we take things, ourselves and others for granted.
It’s easier to be grateful when things are going well. But it’s harder to stay open to gratitude during depressing times, tragedies and challenges. (When the attack on Paris happened I felt so sad and powerless against the enormous tragedy. At the same time, I felt deep gratitude and blessing for how the world came together to show solidarity toward France).
What happens when you withhold gratitude?
- You’re more subject to depression and affliction.
- You experience greater wear and tear when life brings challenges.
- You naturally focus on what’s bad and hard.
On the other hand, what are the benefits of choosing gratitude?
- Gratitude shifts your focus from what you think your life lacks to the abundance you already have.
- Gratitude makes you happier and more resilient.
- Gratitude strengthens relationships.
- Gratitude improves your immune system and your health.
- Gratitude reduces stress and depression.
- Gratitude increases determination, optimism and energy.
- Gratitude makes reaching your personal goals more attainable.
- Gratitude puts situations into perspective so you don’t complain or stay stuck.
- Gratitude lessens panic and opens up your thinking of new solutions as you see what’s still working for you.
- Gratitude helps you learn to love and accept yourself as you are.
Feeling gratitude is good. Expressing gratitude is better. Dr. Emmons, author of the book, “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” found that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness levels by 25%. This means your natural happiness set-point becomes, and is sustained at, a higher level regardless of outside influences.
What’s the first step in becoming more grateful? First you must learn to recognize what you’re grateful for. Try this gratitude exercise: 1) Imagine losing the things you take for granted – your home, a relationship, your senses such as hearing and seeing, your ability to walk. How does that feel? 2) Now, imagine getting each one back again. Fully experience the gratefulness wash over you.
Next, learn to acknowledge and appreciate the goodness in your life by daily journaling a gratitude list. Here are 12 suggestions for how to do that…
- Open your mind by attaching appreciation for everyone you contact daily.
- Get a beautiful journal and pen to record your special gratitude list.
- Commit to a regular time each day to write in your gratitude journal.
- Write 10 different things you’re grateful for and describe how they make you feel.
- Close your journal and breathe deeply as you center yourself in your feelings.
- Be amazed at all the goodness you’ve been taking for granted.
- Reframe every negative into a positive.
- When something bad happens, think, “What can I learn? When I look back on this moment, what will I be grateful for?”
- Give one genuine compliment daily by specifically saying what you appreciate about someone or about what they’ve done.
- Ask someone to share your appreciation. For example, “I think this sunset is gorgeous, don’t you?”
- Cultivate humility to let gratitude in…accept that you need others to make your life complete.
- Allow yourself to be human. If you miss a journaling day, do it the next.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion for both the giver and the receiver. Yes, you must receive gratitude from others, as well as, give it. In doing so, you gift the giver with feeling capable, needed and valued.
It doesn’t happen over night but you can learn to become aware of and acknowledge everything you receive, whether good or bad, with gratitude. Contact me if you’d like to work with me in person or over skype to learn to live a more grateful and embodied life.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” ~ Thomas Dekker
Have you ever said: “Please help me sleep!” Or “Why can’t I stay asleep?” If you have trouble staying asleep you’re not alone. According to the CDC, about 9 million U.S. adults use prescription sleep aids. Over one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia.
Insufficient sleep is associated with many health problems – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, increased body fat, loss of lean muscle mass, depression, and increased risk of cancer. Lack of sleep really gives your body a beating that shortens your lifespan. But that’s not all.
When you include vehicular accidents and machine-related injuries you can see that loss of sleep isn’t a small problem. It also significantly decreases your enjoyment of life and interferes with maintaining good relationships with others. After all, who wants to be around a grump?
A good night’s sleep makes us feel alert, energetic, ready for the day, happier, stronger and more capable. Many of the body’s restorative functions occur while we sleep – muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and human growth hormone release. (HGH plays a huge role in muscle and cellular renewal.)
As long as you’re awake, the brain produces and accumulates adenosine, a by-product of the cells’ activities. The build-up of adenosine is associated with our perception of being tired. (Many people use caffeine to stay alert because it blocks the actions of adenosine.) Sleep lets the body clear out the adenosine.
You know from experience that the quantity and quality of your sleep has a profound impact on your ability to focus, which impacts your ability to learn, creatively solve problems, and remember. Sleep allows the brain to sort and store the day’s activities into memories, which determines how well you can recall that information later.
We need both Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, and Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep. Normally we pass through four or five different stages of sleep, depending on who you ask. We cycle through these stages multiple times during the night. (Not necessarily in a sequential order.) A complete cycle takes an average of 90 to 110 minutes. The first sleep cycles have shorter REM sleeps but later REM periods lengthen. That’s why you need so many hours of sleep. You need to go through all of these cycles many times in order to feel refreshed.
What does each sleep stage feel like?
Non-REM Sleep Stage 1: You’re getting drowsy. This lasts about 5-10 minutes.
Non-REM Sleep Stage 2: Your heartbeat slows, your body temperature drops, and you fall into a slumber. This lasts about 20 minutes.
Non-REM Sleep Stage 3: You go between light and very deep sleep. This lasts about 30 minutes.
Non-REM Sleep Stage 4: Deep sleep. (This is when sleepwalking can occur.) This lasts up to 30 minutes.
Stage 5 REM Sleep: The deepest form of sleep. Your body becomes “paralyzed” so you don’t act out your dreams. And it repairs and regenerates tissue, bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. It takes about 90 minutes to get to REM sleep and REM sleep can last for very long periods of time.
Which stage of sleep you were in before waking up will dictate the type of morning you have. That’s why sometimes only a few hours of sleep leave you feeling great, at other times you can be groggy after many hours of sleep.
During our awake hours, our circadian rhythm (biological clock) ebbs and flows. Our body uses outside stimuli and our own activity level to produce hormones we need to match the task at hand. In the perfect situation, the sun coming up signals our body to reduce the hormones that make us sleepy and to produce other hormones to get moving. As the sun goes down, our body should produce more melatonin, which encourages sleepiness. However, alarm clocks, electric lighting, and electronic devices, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and many other modern products interfere with this natural process.
Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury. It’s vital to end sleepless nights. The National Institutes of Health suggests that school-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep, teens need 9-10 hours, and adults need 7-8 hours. How do you measure up?
Everything is so interconnected – what you eat, how much you exercise, what you think about yourself and the world around you, and how well you sleep – these and so many other daily choices determine your level of resiliency, productivity and happiness. As you can see, a good health plan must take a holistic perspective that includes mindfulness around everything about you. The key is achieving a solid balance in your life.
Are you tired of being tired? Contact me and we can design a program to get you feeling on top of the world.
“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these means, man can attain perfection.” ~Plato
Would you like to improve your thinking, memory, motivation, mental wellbeing, physical health and even reverse some diseases? Well, you can by elevating your heart rate on a regular basis. Yes, I’m talking about exercise!
John J. Ratey, M.D., author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, and researcher on the mind-body connection, has found that exercise is our best defense against everything – mental disorders, addiction, mood swings to mention a few. “Moving our muscles produces proteins that play roles in our highest thought processes.” Ratey says.
The wonderful thing is that we can feel an almost immediate change in our brain after a workout. Why is that?
First, regular exercise helps your body optimally use energy. For example, food is broken down into glucose – the body’s energy fuel. Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which regulates the amount of sugar in your bloodstream by letting glucose into the muscle, fat and liver cells. “We think of insulin as a ‘key’ that opens doors to the body’s cells, so glucose can enter,” said diabetes educator Gary Scheiner. 79 million people in the US are pre-diabetic because their sedentary lifestyle has made them insulin resistance. The insulin key can’t open the frozen lock, so glucose can’t get into the cells to fuel your muscles. The resulting increased blood sugar makes the pancreas crank out more insulin, which causes you to become very tired. It’s a vicious cycle! Exercise can reverse this process and give you your energy back. That’s just one of the many mind/body systems that your body needs regular exercise in order to function properly.
Regular exercise also builds a sustainable cycle of wellbeing. Regular exercise builds strong lifestyle patterns that support mental wellbeing, which in turn motivates you to keep exercising regularly. It’s a win-win-win! And when you are physically active, you’re more social, which boosts self-confidence. It alleviates anxiety, stress and depression. It improves focus and helps you replace addictive behaviors and bad habits with healthier choices.
How much and what types of exercise will help you achieve your peak performance? It’s recommended that you exercise 30 minutes per day/5 days a week at the minimum. That’s only 2½ hours out of 168 hours of your life every week. Isn’t that a small investment for the greatest return – a long, healthy, and happy life? (Note: If you have any medical problems, consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.) Here are some suggestions:
Aerobic Exercise. This type of exercise gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat and can be sustained over a long period of time. Work up to doing aerobic exercise four days a week, at 60 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Try running, swimming or biking.
Anaerobic exercise. This is high intensity exercise that can only be sustained for a brief time period, like sprinting. For example, after you’ve warmed up and have walked for about 10 minutes, break out into a sprint for 5 minutes, then go back to walking until your heart rate slows again to where you can comfortably talk, then repeat the sprint/cool down cycle.
Strength training exercise. Use weights or resistance machines twice a week. Do three sets of your exercises with weights that allow you to do ten repetitions in each set. Personally, I love my Cross Fit class!
Balance and flexibility exercise. Focus on this twice a week for thirty minutes. The Feldenkrais Method® (which relieved my chronic pain too), Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, Aikido, martial arts, archery, and dance are all good choices.
Brain exercise. Never stop learning. Numerous studies show that the more your brain continues to learn, the more likely you are to keep your thinking abilities and ward off dementia.
Doing a mix of low, medium, and high intensity exercise is important as each does beneficial things for your mind and body. If you need to split it up into 10-minute intervals, 3 times per day, that’s still effective. Your brain and all your muscles needs to be used in order to keep your quality of life at its best.
I recommend you read or listen to the audio of: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey. It will get you up and moving as it changes forever how you look at the connection between brain health and exercise.
Are you motivated to try some of these types of exercise, but you need someone to keep you accountable and on track? Contact me and let me support and challenge you each step of the way as you activate your inner abilities to achieve and maintain your motivation for total wellness and fitness. Let’s get started as soon as possible!
If you haven’t you received your free copy of The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment yet, download it right now. It will help you get started on the path to a healthier you.
Are there times when you struggle to focus on the task at hand? Perhaps that’s because there’s too much going on in your attentional field. What’s that? It’s a term used to describe everything within your attention span – your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, sights and sounds around you. Right now your attention is on the website reading this, but you may at the same time be distracted by other things like the mug of tea you’re sipping, the sound of your child or pet in the background, the thoughts of a deadline looming later today.
Focus is the ability to attend to internal cues (what’s going on inside of you, your feelings and thoughts) and external cues (what’s going on around you, like the knock on the door) in your attentional field. In all areas of life, whether you’re giving a presentation at work, having an important conversation with your spouse or training for a marathon, in order to excel you need to be able to focus.
What can you do to learn how to focus better? Here are two main skills you’ll need to master:
- In order to tap into the tremendous power of concentration, determine what the relevant cues to the task at hand are and learn to focus only on them. We learn to selectively focus on or block out cues every day, otherwise the background noises and activities would drive us crazy.
Think about a star ball player. He must be in tune to his technique, his opponent, the score, the referee, the coach, and time remaining on the scoreboard, to name only a few cues vying for his attention. What would happen if his focus shifted to the pretty girl in the bleachers? He, in all likelihood, might miss the ball flying towards him. Hence at this point and time, that pretty girl would be considered a performance-irrelevant cue that must be ignored.
- So the second skill for achieving better focus is determining what the performance-irrelevant cues are so you can ignore them as you strive to excel. These would be anything that would hurt your performance when you must accomplish a task.
There are two types of harmful cues that you’ll encounter:
Interfering cues are those that directly hurt your performance such as negative thoughts, anxiety, and concern over what others think.
Irrelevant cues are those that distract you from an effective focus including what restaurant you’ll go to tonight, the project that you must finish by tomorrow, or that pretty girl in the bleachers.
Each of us has a different dominant focus style, which is what we default to under stress. We pay attention in two distinct ways. These two focus styles are…
Internal-focus style. These people are totally and consistently focused during a specific activity like a presentation, a practice session or a competition. They need to keep their focus narrow, thinking only about their performance all the time. The down side of this intensity is that they also tend to be easily distracted by their surroundings.
External-focus style. These people only focus on their specific activity when they’re about to begin the event or competition. They function better by taking their mind off of the activity at all other times, because they tend to over-think, becoming negative, critical, and anxious. For them to excel, they must focus on other things when they’re not actually performing.
Neither approach is right or wrong. The important thing is identifying your focus style and utilizing it to improve your powers of concentration. If you’re trying to force yourself to adopt a style other than your own, you’ll find that under pressure you’ll revert back to your normal style and that could really throw you off your game.
Would you like assistance in utilizing your personal style to excel at everything you do? We can work together in person or via Skype. Please contact me and I’ll be happy to help you identify your weakness and learn how to tap into your strengths.
A good place to begin is by taking my 7-Point Wellness Assessment. You can download your free copy by clicking here.