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Posts Tagged ‘health’

In the tradition of the 12 Days of Christmas, I am beginning a movement toward happiness for all called the 12 Days of Happy. For the 12 days following Christmas, we will celebrate how beautiful and amazing life is by suggesting ways to make life richer and more beautiful.

Day One: Sleep Well and Wake Happy

WebMD reports that 20% of Americans sleep less than 6 hours on average, which falls way below the recommended 7-8 hours for adults. Work, financial woes, stress, a virtual 24/7 society of social media and gaming prevents us from scheduling an appropriate amount of sleep. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, poor diets, worse workout habits all contribute to a lack of sleep. While we sense the obvious ill-effects of this–exhaustion, moodiness– we need to consider the other consequences: “poor work performance, driving accidents, relationship problems, and mood problems like anger and depression. Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity” (WebMD).

Just like healthy eating, healthy sleeping is important, too, but so often set aside because we prioritize other things (an unfinished list, family care, work, house duties, etc). Starting today, focus on less alcohol and caffeine, especially close to bedtime (starting in the late afternoon). In the hour or two prior to bedtime, focus on quiet and calming activities that don’t involve eating, exercising, or even watching television. Fitness Magazine suggests an 8-Minute Yoga Workout before bed to relax us, and to deepen our sleep. If these suggestions still do not help deepen your sleep, consider if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy (“I can never sleep so therefore I won’t be able to sleep tonight”) or if there is a greater issue that should be addressed by a professional.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is also applicable to how we wake up, too. The Greatness Zone suggests going to bed (and/or waking up) grateful. What three to five things are you appreciative of? What good things do you anticipate throughout the day to happen? One of those things should be something you love to do: dancing, singing, cooking, running, calling your best friend, whatever suits your fancy. Interacting with close friends and family, those who share your same values and who respect you are vital in the process of being happy. Finding yourself frustrated throughout the day, take a moment to meditate and quiet the internal conflicts and external pressures, essentially a quick “restart” button. Find a few moments for yourself and follow the advice of Dr. Weil and Thich Nhat Hanh for simple meditations.

Of course, the most important element is doing that which makes you happy as far as career. This is not a minor adjustment, but consider if you are in the position to do so, change to a career or job that reflects your passion. If this isn’t possible, following the above suggestions may help you come to peace with your job or daily expectations. Having peace in your daily life might then make going to sleep each night easier and better, and thus begins a healthy and happy cycle.

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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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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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When making drastic–or even minute–changes to one’s lifestyle, often we require a little energy boost. Though coffee is always a safe bet to get one through the long afternoons, man (and woman) cannot live by coffee alone. The implication of the above title does not, however, only refer to foods. Instead, “diet” in this sense refers to healthful living.

In About.com’s Alternative Medicine post, “5 Ways to Boost Your Energy,” Kathy Wong guides readers through five simple changes to our lives to give that extra push needed to complete new tasks or heavy burdens. In effect, these suggestions I intend to incorporate into my life to assist me making the previous six daily changes.

The premier suggestion is to attempt “diaphragmatic” breathing. In essence, to breath with the diaphragm. This can be accomplished through various meditations and breathing exercises, though a goal of mine is to return to regular yogic study. If yoga is not your “bag”, qi gong (found in Chinese and kung fu practice) also uses this breathing method. There are several yoga studios in Park City (not to mention the grip-ful in Salt Lake); so it isn’t access that prevents my study, but willingness to make time between grading and lesson planning and coaching.

Before I vomit reasons and excuses why I cannot follow through on goal number one, suggestion number two is easy to accomplish: get a good night’s sleep. Of course, yes! That’s all I have to do! Certainly on weekends when I have no early morning engagements and during long breaks from work I feel rested and have more than my fair share of sleep, but once work commences, I find the balance between getting the minimal amount done and going to sleep on time fraught with problems. How does one find that balance between work and rest? Both are necessary yet only one can be put aside in order to finish the other. If only I could call in to work to proclaim, “I can’t come in for another hour or two–I’m not finished sleeping.”

Though I may argue my ability to perform the previous functions, there is one I know I can–and do–control and that’s my nutrition. The article continues by examining those foods that sap energy from the body. To start, not having enough alkaline-forming foods, such as leafy greens and almonds. These I try to eat as often as possible, including my “Green Machine” serving each morning. But there are other energy sappers I often forget about: too much sugar (it’s in everything!) and coffee, not enough protein, and, the one that often becomes my demise, not enough water. Living in dry climates, especially with heaters blaring (such as now) sucks any hydration out of both body and skin.

My favorite suggestion, however, is number four: take 20 minutes just for me. This is brilliant because we need a little time to decompress and reboot. Sleeping doesn’t count! We need time to mediate or just contemplate the universe without television or Facebook. Conveniently, yoga classes are great ways to meditate, are often more than 20 minutes, and would “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak. However, a nice hot bath at the end of a stressful day with a good book suffices when yoga studios aren’t 24 hours.

The final suggestion is one that carries only so much weight: take a stress-formula vitamin. Multi-vitamins are certainly important parts of our daily routines, but I question if this is the golden ticket to extra energy. That said, it certainly can’t hurt. Stress multi’s contain B vitamins for that extra boost. B vitamins work in the body to cope with stress from our daily lives. This wearing on our system,  which reduces B vitamins in our bodies, can contribute to homocysteine increase, which then may lead to heart-disease. However, ample B’s in the diet help to rejuvenate cells and boost energy levels.

Then again, so does coffee.

For what it’s worth, it certainly can’t be that painful to attempt these five suggestions. I will have to abide by my newest daily mantra: “no excuses.” I wear this motto on my necklace so that every day I might remind myself that this is my one and only life. If I put off today what can be done tomorrow, I will accomplish nothing. And without accomplishment, I am nothing, too.

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