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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Day 17: Wake Up Early

We all do it. The protests, groans, slurred sailor speak. The alarm sounds at ridiculous o’clock and suddenly it is grounds for throwing pillows or whining. While this may have been more acceptable as children, as adults we need to embrace that pre-dawn alarum. The questions linger, in a fog-like delirium as we wake from slumber: how and why?

Howtowakeupearly.com is just the site to get one started on the road to “oversleeping recovery.” Boasting nine reasons for rising before the third pounding of the snooze, one might be convinced there’s something better to do than sleep. Might. Suggestions include “me time” by developing personal goals, working out, preparing for whatever the day might hold, meditation time, and more. Perhaps this quiet time is perfect to finish that lesson plan or to just soak in the quiet before the kids wake up.

Lifeoptimizer.com then feeds us the how. With 25 solid suggestions, there could be no more dawn fits. Find a goal for each day to really get started on the right path: Today, I want to be more productive in grading papers or Today, I’m going to finish that report. Once we have a goal, we ought to get right to completing that goal, which means no snooze button. Maimondes Medical Center states that “People who are reliant on their snooze button can diminish the positive effect of a good night’s rest because they are constantly drifting back to sleep only to be abruptly woken up a few minutes later. This causes a shortened, disrupted sleep cycle right before a person starts their day.”

To wake early and feel refreshed, one must also sleep well. This can be accomplished by creating a healthy night time ritual. This may include diet (not eating just before bed, no caffeine after noon, etc.) as well as behaviors (no TV or social sites just before sleep). Instead, find a ritual that soothes you: meditation, praying, a warm bath, really just whatever helps calm and focus the mind. Perhaps you might enjoy a sound system or falling asleep to music like Brain Sync’s Sound Sleep which utilizes specific brainwaves and “soothing sound waves [to] ease your brain out of the rapid rhythms of Beta, down through the relaxing states of Alpha and Theta, into the welcoming depths of Delta.” However, avoid the “easy” traps–alcohol before bed may help you sleep faster, but for not as long while sleeping pills (even Advil PM) can cause drowsiness the following day.

Still need help waking up? Perhaps a gadget like the Philips Wake Up Light can help. Softly coaxing you back to an awake state without startling the system, this is the answer to the harsh alarm. Need something more substantial? Try Tocky, the runaway clock. The complete opposite of the calming Philips alarm, this clock instead runs away from its owner, continually screeching. Just don’t hit the snooze button.

In recent weeks, I have been attempting to apply this theory. I will at no time admit that a “slumberhound” such as myself can easily convert to early riser. I am, by nature, on the body clock time of 9am till 12pm. During the summer months or long vacations, I fall back into this natural rhythm. We all have these rhythms specific to ourselves and that groggy, grumpy feeling is often your body fighting your job’s schedule. That said, I have found that getting to work well before my colleagues and especially students affords a few quiet moments to set up my classroom and absorb the plans for the day. I feel more prepared, then, and so much less harried that, dare I say, I actually enjoyed waking early. While I would still prefer to fall back into my natural rhythm of sleep, I know that waking outweighs the sleeping in the long run.

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Negative Nelly, Debbie Downer, Billy Blamer. We know them, and we name them, but what if we ARE them? It’s easier to designate nomenclature than to find fault in ourselves, or, worse yet, reasons to agree with those who challenge our status quo.  It is the common lot of modern man to disagree with the world around him in an attempt to prove himself as an independent and uncontrolled being.

Yet that which is most resisted is growth. When one consistently resists (change, advice, even gut feelings), he does not learn the lesson and instead is fated to follow the same destructive path. This can be seen vividly in presidential–and other political–campaigns. Not only the stoic beliefs of far right and far left politicians, but in the extremist ideals held by the common man. To disagree, to resist can create negative energies and opinions toward opposing forces, thus creating friction and unnecessary anger.

In most cases, this opposition to advice and change is reflective of one of the most base emotions: fear. We fear that we were wrong, unnecessary, that our view of the world is being challenged, that we must step outside the comfort zones we create for ourselves. These comfort zones are what define us, and to challenge that is to admit we do not know everything about ourselves.

The transverse, which is just as destructive, is to “agree” or listen without truly understanding. Not wanting to “rock the boat” or cause dissention, some choose a path of least resistance, a path that does not include argument or challenge, but also does not include growth.

So, why learn to agree with others? To disagree uses a great deal of energy, more energy  than calm contemplation could ever draw. It can end friendships and close doors to new opportunities and new ways of thinking. It keeps a person on edge, always waiting for the other to make a mistake and gloatingly point it out without remorse. This isn’t about forcing another to change his mind or for you to give up your position; sometimes its enough to use the old adage of “agreeing to disagree.”

I see this in my classroom regularly. Students, and sometimes their parents, are resistant to unique ways of thinking. When asked to peer inside themselves in journal entries, they balk at the task, demanding that the class instead watch a movie. What that translates to is that to find a new perception of themselves is terrifying, but latent or passive education in the form of movies or lecture is more appealing. They can remain in their “safe zones” and passively resist change. To agree with me that their education is important is terrifying, and therefore they spend more of their energy arguing for “easier” assignments than if they had merely done the original assignment.

But, sadly, this is also true of myself. I don’t agree with my own decisions! I resist outside advice! Often, I am the most avid enemy of my life-choices. The hardest lesson I have come across is believing in myself and not putting myself down, but accepting me as I am. Refraining from resistance, from anger is a new lesson and mindset for me. But I would rather take the challenge and the experience of listening, understanding, and agreeing than constantly spending energy that I lose, never to regain said energy through powerful connections to others, and to myself.

 

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The New Year is approaching rapidly, and with it we return to work to either love or hate our workspace. Having a healthy, positive, and comfortable workspace is key to helping work not feel like, well, work. Having an organized desk and colorful walls are an easy step to make, but why not take a more studied approach? Feng shui, a complicated and almost scientific study, began most likely about 4000 BC. Buildings in China from this time period on were aligned to earthly rotations and astrological formations, and in later times this alignment made its way indoors and into physical study as well. In the art of Kung Fu, for example, part of the practice incorporates the idea of bagua, the eight trigrams. In essence, the study can be broken down into the idea that all things impact other things, that interconnectedness reveals power…or weakness.

Though some call it hocus pocus, still many more study feng shui in not only modern China, but in contemporary Western cultures as well. At care2.com, the greenliving segment offers suggestions for “do’s and don’t’s” of office feng shui. First, where you sit is supremely important. Having your chair directly across from the door weakens your position, while the corner farthest from the opening will give a “command” position. For me, my desk is built into my wall connected to the door (so not directly across) but I do have a rocking chair and the ability to reposition myself in this area when teaching. Perhaps I will bring a stool and utilize its mobility for this command seating.

In this same vein of thought, one’s back should rest against the corner of the room, NEVER turning one’s back toward the door. This is to turn your back on business, which comes through your open door. For obvious reasons, then, one should also never “look straight out into a corridor or see the stairs, storage rooms, closets, elevators, escalators, or toilets” while seated at your desk. My desk, for example, faces an open window the looks toward a snowy mountain. Very inspiring!

While setting up one’s desk, one should place his or her computer in the north or west area if creativity is needed. However, to generate income, the computer should be placed in the southeast. A benefit of laptops is the maneuverability of work locale. A tabletop fountain in the East provides a calming and relaxed atmosphere. Feng shui dictates that this will activate business and career success, which no one can have too much of.

On to colors. Balancing yin and yang is important and can be done by balancing heavy and light, harsh and soft surfaces, textures, and furnitures. Even the most skeptical person can agree that variation provides uniqueness and keeps the mind active and interested. Blue might be the ideal color for my classroom, for example, because it is thought to “increase productivity and work efficiency” as per inventcreativity.com. At the same site, green calms the mind while the color yellow on a notepad can increase memory, but as a wall color, will increase tensions and fighting.

My weakest area is one of the last quick lessons from this website. Treating your files (whether paper or electronic) with respect and care is important as they represent business from the past, present, and future as well. Last is clutter, notably that of office equipment cords which can cause injury, but lest ye forget the obvious–knick nacks and stacks of unnecessary extras kept around to “use someday”. Someday will not come. If it isn’t vital to particular programs or outcomes, or if it hasn’t been used in a month, toss it, donate it, sell it, but by all accounts, don’t keep it. Let’s see if I can follow my own advice!
One should feel passionate about their work, or at the least not be filled with disdain while driving to the office. Though we do not necessarily have the ability to change those we work with or the line of work we are in, we can at least change our workspace.

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Who wants to go to work tomorrow? Sadly, today’s economy has turned the American passion for hard work into hardly caring about work. The Conference Board research group found that “[i]n 2008, 49 percent of those surveyed reported satisfaction with their jobs.” Sad facts, of course, but wait, there’s more: the same research group claims job satisfaction has dipped even lower recently, “according to a new survey that found only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work.”

What, then, is the answer? For many, it’s to start your own business. Though such a move has obvious risky results, there are plenty of reasons to follow through with your dream that may outweigh the risks. According to Inc.com, there are at least 10 of these reasons to get out and take a risk. First, owning your own business gives at least a feeling of controlling your own destiny. This said, keep in mind that markets and environmental factors could demolish an otherwise sound dream. But small business ownership allows type A personalities the freedom they need for true happiness.

As a small business owner, work/life balance becomes something you DO have more control over. In this same vein, you have more say over those people you work with as well, thus ending the frustrating battles of personalities or even mutinies.

And yes, there is a great amount of risk, but he who takes the risk, also reaps the rewards. This gives one the challenge so many seek! The challenge is what is exciting, especially if this relates to a field you are passionate about. And when there’s just you taking the risk, things get done faster than going through red tape or another’s hemhawing. Last, working alone also gives you more opportunity to bond with those you work with, including your clients.

Once successful, many small business owners feel a sense of pride, of accomplishment, and pass this positive feeling back into the community it serves.

Kiplinger.com offers advice on how to get your business started. Though their 6 steps are not new advice, nor are they greatly detailed, what it does offer is a concise, and not overwhelming page of advice. The best advice? Start with a solid business plan after gaining experience.

Of course, the above business plan should also involve a marketing plan that details who might be interested, where is the best location to start, and what time of year is best to get into the game.

All this said, I have pondered the idea of a small business for years. At one time it was a coffee house/ book store with live music. At another time it was photography. More recently, though, two ideas have become constant images in my head: an extreme sport tour company for women, and a licensed nutritionist.

I have not yet begun my official journey, but the idea of both simultaneously seems bountifully fun. I would love to give back to others who share the same passions I do. And to help people stay healthy and live longer lives? I know I would feel as though I am giving back to my community every day.

All this said, it takes a great deal of guts to start your own business. I think it would be easier if I didn’t love my currently job as much as I do! But some day, I’ll love my two business ventures even more.

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Though mothers around the world cringe at the thought of their offspring and “risk” in the same sentence, it has been proven that taking risks in adolescence is “a positive tool in an adolescent’s life for discovering, developing, and consolidating his or her identity”, as per Dr. Lynn E. Ponton. Taking risks is vital to our development, but should we stop taking risks when we become adults?

We have graduated college, found a career, maybe even settled down. The harder we’ve worked, the more we have to lose. Fear of loss, then, causes most adults to risk less, to find safe routines and comfortable lives. Yet this comfort–immediately lounging on the couch after work, rarely stepping out to meet friends unless it’s a special occasion, spending more time indoors than out–can also lead to complacency and later, despondency. We become lazy, overweight, energy-less, and with fewer and fewer experiences to make living worthwhile. However, reintroducing risk to break up routine can solve that!

At learnthis.ca, “Reach Out Beyond Your Comfort Zone” encourages readers to, once a month, take a small, calculated risk to break up routine. Some safe, small risks to try are:

  • Get out of the office at lunch (if you normally stay in)
  • Meet a friend you rarely see for coffee or a drink
  • Do something for a stranger. This can be volunteering or even just complimenting or smiling at a random person.
  • Step out of your normal “media” circle: try a new genre of book, music, or movie
  • Try a new and exotic food
  • Approach and tackle a fear, like skydiving or taking a dance class

Essentially, risk is comprised of four elements: get out of a comfort zone, face a challenge, use innovation, and have courage. Escaping the area of most comfort allows us to explore and re-examine who we are. Too much routine and we lose the definition of ourselves. We do this through facing, embracing, and hopefully overcoming a challenge of any variety. One day it might be dealing with feisty parents, while another it might be hucking off a cliff on a snowboard. When we approach these challenges, we must do so with innovation (new thinking) and courage, lest we turn and run the other way.

That courage element can often be a tricky one. “Life and Business Tips” on blogspot recommends the following to increase courage:

  • Feel and accept your fear, then visualize a positive outcome
  • Practicing daily affirmations can contribute to increased courage as well. Affirmations, such as “I am courageous. I am strong, bold and confident.” repeated regularly help guide our subconscious into a more powerful level.
  • Do a daily “anchor” exercise where you remember and meditate on a moment in your life where you feel particularly courageous.
  • As the song in Beauty and the Beast advised, “be prepared.” Know what you fear and make an informed plan of attack. For example, I once feared skydiving. I researched, learned the process, and went knowing I was ready.
  • Exercise daily. It isn’t enough to be mentally prepared, we must be physically balanced as well.
  • And last, seek examples. We can find courage in everything from uplifting movies to biographies of strong people, or even a personal role model who has achieved that which you desire.

Risk is important at all stages of our lives, but we must remember that the types of risks are what change, not whether or not we take risks. As a teenager, I took risks I know now were seriously dangerous. So as an adult, I have the capacity to make better decisions, and better risks. Dare I say even more fun risks!

Of late I’ve found myself in a routine. Same morning rituals, same afternoons and evenings. This has lead me into the “funk” I currently am swimming in, and might be partially to blame for my current illness. Thankfully, tomorrow I have the opportunity to change. Why wait for tomorrow? Right now I am plotting my revenge against routine, am building a courageous future, and hope you join me on it!

 

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“Repeat as necessary and rinse.”

We’ve learned, as consumers, that repetition provides entrepreneurs opportunities to generate income. However, in day to day activities routines and healthy habits help streamline the otherwise wayfaring souls. To be clear, “routine” does NOT imply boring, but instead organizing one’s life so that minutia is taken care of in a timely manner, allowing for more activities and people in one’s life.

This said, it all begins with a word. Having a “morning mantra”, if you will, sets a tone of healthy habit and focused, organized life. Aside from the previous discussion, there are, according to dragosroua.com/the-morningphrase/, many reasons for creating a phrase to state and restate at the start of each day. They are:

To unleash your energy in a specific task.
To keep a positive attitude during the day.
To implement a specific habit.
To fixate something in a longer learning process.
To keep you motivated towards a specific goal.

Though reasons shouldn’t be limited to this list, this is an excellent beginning to what can develop into a strong, focused lifestyle. Each morning mantra should be repeated daily, at the start of the day or both the start of the day and before retiring for the evening. The regularity of said repetition depends entirely on your purpose. If, for example, I knew that my day was going to hold a confrontation with a particularly angry and powerful parent, I would create a mantra to repeat for the evenings and mornings leading up to the meeting. I might meditate on, “I will be positive in the face of adversity, find the positive in meeting with parents who care about their children, and learn from this experience.”

However, lets say I was attempting to get myself into a specific habit. For example, for the first three months of living in Park City I worked such long days (12-16 hours) I lost sight of why I moved here–to be outdoors and to be with my friends and to be a part of a community. With this I need both balance and no excuses. Though my mantras for this are not limited to the bookends of my day, I did find a necklace to support my cause. The dangling phrases read exactly what I knew I needed: “seek balance” and “no excuses.” I wear this necklace daily, and will touch the necklace when in a situation that detracts from my goal. I could go home and take a nap after work, or I could use “no excuses” and workout with my coworkers. I could take on yet another project at work or say yes to something when I mean no, but I play with my necklace and remember to “seek balance”.

Though my habits are still forming, the repetitive mantras are certainly changing my daily routines. Every day I work toward being a better version of myself, and certainly these daily goals are getting me closer every day.

 

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Journaling conjures an image in many minds of long-winded emotional rants that end up being more melo-dramatic and angsty than expressive. Those who journal, or worse yet write in a diary, are subject to ridicule either because of their hobby, or the contents if ever seen. It’s a dangerous business, this journaling, but one that is healthy for the mind and soul.

In recently months I’ve taken up the act of journaling again. Though the intention has been for daily use, the reality is “as often as possible.” I know the benefits of expressing those issues that gnaw at me daily. The act allows me to “explore the past to better understand [my] future”, as per Charissa Arsaoui on addingbliss.typepad.com. She also states that ” journaling helps to clarify your relationships” and can benefit your physical health as a form of meditation.

Unclear how to start your journaling? Begin with essortment.com’s article on journaling, and the four basic questions (as follows):

1. What do you want to do (stated goal)?

2. What did you do today about it?

3. What stopped you from accomplishing your goal?

4. What are you going to do about it now?

To continue with more research regarding journaling is the website stevepavlina.com where he discusses the idea that human thought is linear and sequential. In order to digest and organize an issue or problem, one must think beyond this “box.” Therefore, “[j]ournaling allows you to break free of sequential thinking and examine your thoughts from a bird’s-eye view.” (stevepavlina.com 11/6/11)

Though I have found in my creative life many tools for examining the self, journaling is the classic that is not only timeless, but universal. I intend to continue journaling, especially on my quest for a full and beautiful life. There is much for me to teach, but even more for me to learn and discover. Journaling is merely my roadmap to keep me company along the way!

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