Posts tagged #meditation

Tossing and Turning? Try these Sleep-Improving Tips!

sleep-1209288_960_720.jpg

There are few things more precious to me than a good night’s sleep.  I mean it. I pride myself on my ability to sleep at pretty much any time of day for any length of time. Okay, for all my bragging about sleep abilities, even I have restless nights of tossing and turning. It’s not surprising-- one in three Americans have reported difficulties falling asleep or waking frequently throughout the night. Our hectic lives can often wreak havoc on our sleep cycles, and it can take a lot of effort on our part to rectify the damage.  Scroll down to read some methods to getting more restful and sustained sleep.

24686794899_6b3bf422c1_b.jpg

One of the biggest factors of our lives affecting sleep is stress.  The constant go-go-go of the standard Modern American lifestyle impacts our sympathetic nervous system causing it to be constantly upregulated.  This upregulation is helpful in the hustle and bustle, keeping us moving and alert, but when it comes time to sleep, our body needs time to downregulate. Allowing our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for functions like digestion and healing, to kick in while we rest is critical for a happy and healthy body.  But in a stressful “constantly on” world, it is increasingly difficult to downregulate, which can cause-- you guessed it-- insomnia and other sleep troubles. If you find your mind racing, or feel anxious around bed time, try some of these downregulating activities:

Meditate for 10-20 minutes. Meditation is a really great way to override your nervous system to allow for calm and relaxation.  Need some guidance? Try a guided meditation app, like Headspace or Calm.

yogaback.jpg

Yoga. Light physical activity like gentle yoga an hour before bed can help the body begin to downregulate. Specific yoga positions, like forward folds and bends are particularly beneficial in calming the nervous system.

Put away the screens.  Phones, computers, and even televisions emit blue light, which interrupts the body’s natural cues to begin getting sleepy.  I recommend turning off at least two hours before bed, and do something else, like some light reading or maybe that yoga I mentioned before.

Limit the Caffeine, Sugar, and Junk Food.  What goes into your body is just as important as what you do with it.  Caffeine has a huge impact on your ability to sleep restfully throughout the night.  Some studies have shown that ingesting caffeine up to 6 hours before bed can reduce your total sleep by one hour a night.  Sugar can also rob you of precious sleep, which can even increase your blood sugar, posing a long-term risk for diabetes. So put the cookies down, eat a healthy snack if you must, and limit that coffee to the morning.  Your body will thank you for it.

Get a massage. It can be difficult to get comfortable in bed and sleep restfully if your muscles are tense and sore. Massage not only helps soothe any physical issues you might have, but can also have a huge impact on that nervous system that’s stuck firing on all cylinders.  Schedule a massage once a month to keep the continuing benefits going. I’ve heard of this really great place called the Pear Day Spa….. :)

Sleep can be elusive to some, but hopefully some of the tips above can set you up for a more restful night.  Of course, not everything can be fixed with some yoga and less coffee-- if you have persistent sleep issues, it could be time to speak with your doctor about potential medical conditions.  

Posted on June 12, 2019 and filed under Self-care, Healthy Living.

Transform Your Outlook on Life with One Simple Exercise

Gratitude-Ashwin KC

Gratitude-Ashwin KC

It's no surprise that our modern world is one of constant buzz. Of emails, texts, tweets, appointments, and phone calls. Of sales reports and morning commutes. The stress of our jobs, our spouses, and our health. Diets. Gyms. Routine upon routine. To-do upon to-do. In all of this busy-ness, where do we find time? Any time!? Much less, time for any sort of personal reflection.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
-Melody Beattie

Our time is vied for from the moment we awake to the time we lay our head down at night. Your co-worker is telling you about this new restaurant you just have to try. Your husband called you earlier telling he has a meeting that's running late so you'll need to pick up the kids AND make dinner tonight. Your doctor says to do this. Your therapist says don't do that. Your mother-in-law wants you to do the newest 15-day cleanse with her. With the constant battle to find balance and what is “right” for us, how can the simple act of expressing gratitude transform us a little bit every day? 

In his book “Spontaneous Happiness,” Dr. Andrew Weil discusses making a habit of showing our gratitude (large or small) in the form of a journal. In his book he expands on a study in which participants kept a gratitude journal and were reported as having “mood boosting” effects for 6 months from their daily journaling. I took Dr. Weil's advice, and at the beginning of the year I started my own gratitude and appreciation log. While it isn't as in depth as the full journal, I do take a minute to jot down moments where I was able to express appreciation to those around me, or even moments where I simply took a mental note of gratitude for something. It only takes glancing at that list on a stressful day to remind myself I have an endless amount of things to appreciate in my life.

So what exactly is gratitude, anyway? Sadly, many of us shy away from gratitude because we associate it with an inherent indebtedness to those to whom we are expressing thanks and gratitude. In essence, if we recognize or appreciate, we must pay back the favor “in equal.” It’s an unfortunate thought, and yet I think it is absolutely accurate for most of us. Liken it to passing co-workers in the hall. We ask how they are every day, but part of us hopes their responses are limited to “Great!” or “Good so far!” A response that required further interaction on our part would throw a wrench in our already spoken for day.

Dandelion--Bert Heymans

Dandelion--Bert Heymans

But what if we begin to dissociate that appreciation from people and expand it into other areas of our life? Author G.K. Chesterton writes, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

This is the essence of gratitude. Appreciation. Not a contract to pay back the world. Not something to loathe or avoid but something to fully embrace. And how is this to improve our lives? When we begin to show gratitude we begin to cultivate a sense of other. It’s impossible to recognize the amazing abundance of goodness in our lives every day and not realize that there is more to the dynamic of the human experience than either you or me. Our grip softens by seeing the good. And as our grip loosens, our stress follows suit.

Think it's a struggle just to find the good? At first it may be difficult to find opportunities to express gratitude. Start simple. Someone else made the coffee at work this morning. I woke up in my home, in my bed, and under a roof. I have a computer with which I am able to read this right now. Just those three things are, unfortunately, experiences so many people in the world will NEVER experience. Not even once in their lives.  If even those are a stretch, you can start with yourself. I have eyes. I can walk. I am breathing and alive. Expand from these into areas of gratitude which are outside of yourself.

Take a moment and jot these down every day. At the end of the week, or any other time you are stressed, you can take a moment and look at it. Be reminded that there is something to be grateful for every day-I’m confident you’ll be happy with what you see.

Do you have difficulties expressing gratitude? Do you already incorporate these ideas into your daily routines? If yes, how? If no, why not?

Photos courtesy of Flickr and are licensed for commercial reuse