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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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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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