Is chronic stress leaving you at risk of developing dementia?

According to an article I read in the Aged Care Report Card (HelloCare, 2017). In Australia, one person is diagnosed with dementia every six minutes. Fifty-five percent of these diagnoses affect Australian women. Are you at risk?

Scientists have found a significant link between severe stress in middle age and dementia. In a study done as part of the Prospective Population Study of Women in Gothenburg, Sweden, 800 women participated in the study, from middle age to late life.

The study started in 1968, and the women were quizzed about common stressful situations or events, such as death of a spouse or child, divorce, serious illness, unemployment, abuse and lack of social support.

The women were followed over 38 years and examined for signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. At the end of the study, their findings were that one of of five of the participants had developed dementia (mostly Alzheimer’s).

Experts are starting to believe if you experience prolonged stress it damages your brain, which increases your chances of dementia.  Chronic stress increases the production of the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. When these hormones are increased, your blood pressure and blood sugar rise. While this is okay for a short period of time,  if this happens often, and for sustained periods of time, your brain is affected.

What part of your brain is affected? The hippocampus – which is the part of your brain responsible for memory. The amygdala – which controls your emotional responses. And the prefrontal cortex – which regulates your thinking.

Yes, I hear you say, the brain does create new brain cells. But increased cortisol levels reduce the speed they are created.

So how do you minimise your stress levels when we live in such a stressful world?

You don’t need to get rid of ALL stress – it would impossible anyway. Some stress is actually good for you. But chronic stress is not.

Here are some tips to help you manage your stress levels:

  • You can train your brain to look at the positives, not the negatives, in life.
  • Connection with family and friends is crucial. Strong ties keep us connected, and help us have fun, live in the present and relax
  • Be active! One of the best defences against dementia of any type is regular exercise. Not only does it help maintain normal hormonal balance, exercise releases serotonin and endorphins that help release your body’s natural pain killers and help enhance your mood.
  • Eat whole food, full of nutrition. Junk food isn’t food, it’s just junk. And much of the ‘healthy’ prepackaged food is full of nasties. Cook for yourself. If you don’t know how – learn, it’s pretty simple!
  • Sleep well – your body and your brain need to relax. You can listen to the recording of my Sleep is not a Luxury radio interview here to find out some tips on how to improve your sleep.
  • Keep your brain busy. Crosswords, sudokus, puzzles, learning new things like a language are all great for keeping your brain healthy.
  • The corollary to the above is to let your brain rest. Practising meditation, yoga, tai chi will really help calm the chatter.
  • And of course, LAUGH! You knew if was coming, didn’t you! Laughter does so many wonderful things for your physical, emotional and mental health – but one of the biggest benefits is that it is the best destressor you have. It costs, nothing, and you can do it alone anytime.

 

A Split-Second Decision Can Change Your Life

We tend to think of the defining decisions of our lives as the big ones. Getting married (or committing to a life partner); buying a house; having kids.

But isn’t it really the smaller decisions we make that have the most impact? Like choosing that particular paper to buy the day when you saw the advertisement for the job that changes your life.

One of the small decisions that changed my life was deciding to sign up to eHarmony. It had been suggested to me by my life coach. It seemed a small enough thing. Sign up, fill out the profile. Go on some dates. Look outside myself.

It didn’t work out that way. I spent a long time filling out the profile – because I wanted it to be a true reflection of me. Within three months of writing my profile (seven years ago on the 21st of this month!) I met the man I would marry six months later. (And yes, we are still married, blissfully!)

And it’s the time after that decision is made when the rubber really hits the road. The days, weeks, months that really lead you to the new journey.

So what decisions – small, almost negligible, that will set you on the path you desire in 2017?

Is health a priority for you? If so, it’s these small decisions every day that will help you reach your goals.

I talk a lot about this in my book ‘The Busy Woman’s Guide to Inner Health and Outer Beauty – 7 simple steps to enriched energy, radiant skin and inner peace for the woman on-the-go’. (You can order a copy by popping over to the My Shop page of this website.)

The Busy Woman’s Guide to Inner Health and Outer Beauty

But here are just a couple of small things you could do to have a big impact.

  1. Give yourself a chance to sleep well. Late last year I did a radio interview about the importance of getting a good nights’ sleep – so if you’d prefer to listen than read, just go to my Speaking and Presenting page and check out the recording.Conventional wisdom says you need between seven and nine hour’s good quality sleep a night. Your brain, your skin and your body does a bunch of work while you are asleep, so even if you think you aren’t doing anything, your body, skin and brain are very active. Check out my blog post A Good Night’s Sleep Is Not  A Luxury to get some tips on how to improve your sleep.
  1. Incorporate exercise into your day – make it a habit. Don’t give yourself the option – just do whatever you have to, to make it automatic. Prefer a walk in the morning? Then put out your clothes the night before. Even that small decision can make the difference between you going for that walk and losing time deciding which outfit to wear, and then deciding you’ve run out of time and you’ve lost another day.Prefer yoga or swimming? Put the time in your diary, make sure you have your equipment and do it. Maybe buddy up with a friend.  It doesn’t matter what it is, dancing, tai chi, martial arts, biking, dancing…. Just get it into that diary and commit.I do a gym workout five mornings a week. I don’t think about it, I just get up and do it. And the beauty is that I have that headspace to use for other things because I’m not having that endless conversation with myself about do I want to / don’t I want to.
  1. Take time out for yourself. Get my book and you can read about some of the ways to say ‘NO’. This is a really important thing to do to set boundaries on your time and space. It doesn’t have to be a big time out, it could be a bath with lovely oils, or ten minutes of meditation. Even just taking seven minutes to do some deep breathing – just concentrate on the breath in, breath out – will have major benefits.
  1. Think about food a bit differently. Not only is food fuel for your body, it’s information too. You put in good information – and your cells will convert that information into nutrition. When you reframe your food intake, it might lead to some surprising results.
  1. Make a decision that your health is the biggest priority you have in 2017. Each decision you make, especially the small ones, will impact this. Look, I know you have a million demands on your time. So do I. But if you maintain that your health is your priority – if that is your guiding principle in 2017 – you will get there.Sure, go out to dinner and have fun. Get together with friends and enjoy a night out. Sleep in occasionally. Treat yourself. But even during these times you can make decisions that mean you value yourself.

This year I choose to continue my focus on my body size. It’s taking longer to slim down than I had hoped, but I know I am physically stronger than I was a year ago – so I’m moving in the right direction. I have identified two new habits I need to instil to move me along my path. One is for health, the other for my business.

The first is to ‘surf the urge’. Neuroscientists are discovering that rather than feeding our desires – say that glass of wine at night when you walk in the door, or the cigarette when you get off the train – if we just sit with the need, if we ‘surf the urge’, it goes away. If we give in to it, it gets stronger. I find this profound, because it really gets into the inner workings of our minds.

My second habit is around my business. My days will be more structured – and I have a feeling that will really help me because I won’t be spending time deciding what I’m going do for the day – it will already be in my calendar.

What will YOU choose in 2017?

 

Live life happy! 🙂

Meredith

 

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine!

You’ve heard laughter is the best medicine right? Well, the science is in and it’s proven to be true!smiley-163510__180

Do you, or does anyone you know, suffer from any of the following?

  • Health concerns such as high blood pressure, heart disease or hypertension?
  • Do you feel blue and want to feel pink (ie happy and positive)?
  • Do you know you need to exercise but the idea of going to the gym is just not for you?
  • Does your brain feel foggy and you wish you could think more clearly? Is this impacting your performance at work, or even at home?
  • Do you shove your feelings down and not let them out for fear of… well, just for fear?
  • Do you feel social isolated but hate the idea of ‘joining’ groups?
  • Do you travel for work and find it hard to connect with anyone outside the office?
  • Do you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks?

Then you may need a regular dose of laughter. Laughter can do amazing things for you, including:

  • Helping you stay RESILIENT in the face of life’s challenges
  • Improving your MIND POWER performance through increased oxygen flow to your brain
  • Gives you HEALTH BENEFITS including strengthening your immune system so you can ward against illness, reduces high blood pressure, helps with anxiety, and even can aid those suffering from depression
  • Helping you to MANAGE STRESS, the number one killer in the western world, and
  • Enhancing your mood by releasing ENDORPHINS 
What would you rather be - yellow, or blue?
What would you rather be – yellow, or blue?

Doesn’t that sound fabulous!!!

So how does this work? You attend a Laughter Yoga class!

Laughter Yoga is about fun, not about turning yourself into a pretzel, or telling bad jokes.

You see, our brains don’t know the difference between something that is real and something we imagine.

That means that even when laughter is forced, your body and mind still get the benefits as if you were laughing for real. Think about that. You can do a fake laugh and still get the benefits.

Here are some other great things about Laughter Yoga:

Who can do Laughter Yoga? Everyone. Well, sick, stressed. Old, young, in the middle. Age doesn’t matter.

Where do people do Laughter Yoga? Laughter Yoga is run in hospitals, aged care facilities and schools. At work in big, medium and small businesses, non-profit groups, community groups, private clubs, senior citizens clubs, men’s sheds. And one-on-one in peoples homes, and by Skype, Zoom or other geographically-overcoming technology.

Why do people do Laughter Yoga? Because of the benefits that I’ve listed above, and more. It can aid connection for those who are socially isolated, it can help people deal with pain better. It’s terrific exercise as it gets your heart rate up. Science has proven that Laughter Yoga can have a positive affect on many health issues, increase innovation and creative thinking, and just adds more laughter to life!

What if I have mobility issues and can’t get on the floor. No problem! The ‘Yoga’ part of Laughter Yoga is the breathing – there is no need to get on the floor in a pretzel shape! In fact, Laughter Yoga can even be practiced sitting down! So if you are mobility challenged, even to the point of being in a wheelchair – you can still participate in Laughter Yoga.

The great news is that:

I am now a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader and am available to run a Laughter Yoga class for YOU!
(this photo is me being presented with my certificate August 2016)

LY cert present(I have been trained by  in the method devleoped by Dr Kataria –
the medical doctor who developed the practice.)

I can take you through a LAUGHTER YOGA class in a big group, a small group, a two-on-one or a one-on-one. We can do this face-to-face (depending on location) or online via Skype, Zoom or other technology.

Laughter Yoga has been around as a practice since 1991 and is now practised by tens of thousands of people in over 100 countries around the world. Isn’t it time you treated yourself to a big laugh?

Giving Thanks Is Not Just For The USA

As you’re probably aware, November is Thanksgiving month in the United States. And it got me to thinking, why not have something similar in other countries as well?p1070138

It doesn’t have to be something formal – a particular day or month. Rather it can be a very personal, private type of thanksgiving.

So I stated to do a bit of research and BAM! Did I find some amazing stuff out there in the multiverse about gratitude, being thankful, showing appreciation – however you want to describe it.

In his book The Last Lecture, Randy Paul said ‘Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.’

There are also some amazing health benefits you can get by being grateful.

  • Physical benefits: People who are grateful seem to be more careful about their own health. They do smart stuff like eat well and exercise regularly.
  • Spouse / Romantic relationship benefits: According to a 2011 study by Kubacka, Finkenauer, Rusbult, and Keijsers reported in Psychology Today, people in a partnership / romantic relationship feel gratitude for their partner when they feel their partner is being responsive to their needs. They then feel motivated to respond in kind – and this develops a positive gratitude cycle over time, increasing caring. Surely that’s got to be a good thing!
  • Stress reduction: According to a WebMD article, gratitude can reduce, or better manage, stress. It is thought that feelings of appreciation have a positive effect in helping people cope with their worries.
  • Sleep benefits: Several studies on the benefits of sleep and gratitude have been conducted over the past few years in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. They have all found that regularly recording why people are grateful helps them sleep better. It seems to have something to do with the participants having more positive thoughts rather than negative ones. (The first of these studies was conducted by Nancy Digdon, Department of Psychology, Grant MacEwan University, City Centre Campus, Edmonton, AB, Canada; another  conducted by University of Manchester).
  • Gratitude just helps you feel happier. By acknowledging the good things you have you can connect with something bigger than yourself. And even if you can’t find too much to be grateful about, some scientists believe that it that act of searching for something to be grateful about is the key.

So how do you go about tapping into this gratitude bug? Here are five ideas – but don’t feel limited to these!

  1. Keep a journal. One study found subjects who wrote down one item that they were grateful for every day reported being 25 percent happier for a full six months after following this practice for just three weeks!
  2. Share your gratitude by saying thanks! Acknowledge what others do for you. Even writing little notes is a lovely way to say thanks to someone. Wouldn’t you like to be recognized for the efforts you are making? Then why would someone else be different.
  3. Look outside yourself. What has made your family and friends happy today? Starting a ‘gratitude chat’ can have wide reaching and positive connections with family, friends, colleagues, team members – the list goes on.
  4. Look inside yourself. Meditating on your thankfulness can calm your mind and help balance out negativity.
  5. Picture it out. You’ve heard of a vision board – well, you could make a gratitude board. Find pictures, sayings, symbols of what you are grateful for – these could be family members, friends, holidays, even your favourite pair of comfy shoes or piece of sports equipment! Just surround yourself of reminders of what you appreciate and this can make a big difference.

So, now you have some ideas – let’s really take the bull by the horns and have a 30 day Gratitude Challenge!

I’ll post on my Enrich Your Energy Facebook page what I’m grateful for – and you share with me what you are grateful for. Let’s get some energy going around this – particularly important coming up to Christmas when people can get a bit stressed out. I write regularly in my Thankful Journal, but this will take it to a new level – and I’m EXCITED!!!!!

In appreciation of you reading my blog….

Meredith

cropped-201507-me-in-green-copy-200-pixel.jpg

A Good Night’s Sleep Is Not A Luxury!

cropped-cropped-201507-me-in-green-copy-200-pixel.jpgI usually sleep pretty well. And I know I’m lucky.

I have many friends and family members who sleep poorly, and they’re not the only ones. If you are one of the many people are chronically sleep deprived, this piece of writing is for you, or someone you know who sleeps badly.

This blog is all about:

  • What sleep is and why we need it,
  • What can happen to our health if we don’t get regular, good quality sleep, 
  • What good quality sleep really means,
  • How you can improve your sleep without drugs.

I learned so much while researching this article – I hope you enjoy it and learn something too! I’d love to know if you, or a loved one, get benefit from the tips at the end of my blog.  Sweet dreams!

cheers Meredith 

A Good Night’s Sleep is Not a Luxury

Irish playwright and author Jean Kerr joked:  To begin with, the average, healthy, well-adjusted adult gets up at seven-thirty in the morning, feeling just plain terrible.

And although we may laugh, continued poor sleep is not a laughing matter.

How do you wake up? Refreshed, alive, ready to take on the day with optimism and energy?

Or do you hit the snooze button until you can’t possibly put off rising any longer?

Is this because you’ve slept poorly? Or maybe it took an age for you to go to sleep. Or perhaps your bladder is insistent throughout the night, waking you up just as you’re getting stuck into a good dream.

Maybe you wake yourself with a snore, a pain or reflux.woman-and-can't sleep

Perhaps you just can’t turn your mind off and it goes around and around, replaying events of the day when you think of all the brilliant ripostes  you wish you’d said to that smart alec in the tea room, or that rude sales assistant at the supermarket.

There are a myriad of reasons we find ourselves deprived of sleep. And although the occasional bad night is considered relatively harmless, regular or constant sleep deprivation is cause for greater concern.

In the real dark night of the soul it is always 3 o’clock in the morning – said F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If I can’t sleep, it’s because I can’t turn off my mind. I call it monster o’clock, when all the bad thoughts come out to play. They gang up on me and I am helpless against their relentlessness and malice.

I’m like William Faulker, who said, …Night is nothing but one long sleepless wrestle with yesterday’s omission and regrets.

Fortunately, I have found some good non-medical strategies which I use to quell these monsters of the dark. I will share these with you later.

First, I want to just talk about how good quality sleep is supposed to work. 

The Cycles of Sleep

For thousands of years scientists have been perplexed about our need for sleep. And to some degree they still are, and really serious and interesting research continues. But one thing they do know is that we absolutely need good quality sleep, every night.

Sleep provides a space for a number of essential biological functions to take place.

It’s the time our skin replenishes itself, it’s vital in balancing our hormones, emotional and psychiatric health, supporting our immune system, enabling learning and memory to be bedded down, and cleaning toxins from the brain.

In fact, if you don’t sleep for months on end, you will die.

The average person needs between 7-9 hours every night. And this sleep needs to follow a pattern.

Scientists call this ‘Sleep Architecture’.  Sleep can be divided into two main categories – REM and non-REM sleep. REM means rapid eye movement, and it’s what we do when we dream.

Non-REM sleep has four stages:

  • Stage 1 – you move from wakefulness into drowsiness to falling asleep. If you fall asleep in front of the ballet or at the movies, you are in this category!
  • Stage 2 – eye movement stops, brain slows down, heart rate slows and body temperature drops.
  • Stages 3 and 4 are called slow wave sleep – the ‘dead to the world’ phase. This is where your body temperature and blood pressure drop further and your breathing slows.

Then you enter REM – where you dream.

These five stages form a 90-110min cycle – and a robust sleep would see you enjoying this cycle between four and six times a night.

But not everyone does.

And this can be dangerous.

 

The physical risks of sleep deprivation

Without your body getting the sleep it needs, you are at risk of a number of health conditions.

Diabetes – Studies have shown a sharp increase in the risk of Type 2 Diabetes for people with chronic insomnia. This is for a number of reasons, including impact on your hunger hormones, insulin resistance and weight gain.

hypertension-867855_1920High Blood Pressure – As reported in the journal Sleep, researchers found the risk of high blood pressure increased by three and a half times among insomniacs who routinely sleep less than 6 hours a night.

Heart Disease – People who don’t sleep well consistently have higher blood levels of stress hormones and substances that indicate inflammation, a major factor in cardiovascular disease.

Sleep Apnoea is also an issue. Obstructed breathing during sleep raises heart disease risk, and stress hormones. People with untreated moderate to severe sleep apnoea have three times the risk of stroke as those without it.

thick-373064_1920Weight management – Health issues such as weight gain and obesity can be a big problem. A study at the University of Chicago showed that those who slept only 4 hours a night had a 28 percent increase in ghrelin, the body’s hunger hormone. The study participants also noted a 24 percent increase in appetite, with a preference for foods high in sugar, salt and starch – all the foods that help with weight gain.

Immune system – when we sleep poorly, our T-cells go down and inflammation rises. This results in our reduced ability to fight off viruses, leaving us at a greater risk of getting sick.

Ethics and morality – In their study, the Universities of Washington and Oregon found a link between the amount of sleep we get and our morality. Sleep deprived participants scored lower on a moral awareness decision making scale the the control group.

dependent-765179_1920Alzheimer’s Disease: During sleep, our brains do a big toxic clean out. In particular, a neurotoxin called beta-amyloid can collect in your brain if your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs.

Beta-amyloid, which is a protein, has been found in clumps in some parts of the brain of those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s a bit of a catch 22 – because the more beta-amyloid you have in parts of your brain, the harder it will be for you to enjoy deep sleep; and the harder it is for you to enjoy deep sleep, the harder it is for your body to clear out the beta-amyloid, and other neurotoxins.

Mental Health and Sleep

A study at the University of California, Berkeley looked at how a night of sleep deprivation affected the emotional memories that the participants made during the study. The participants were shown a number of words – positive, neutral and negative words like calm, grief or willow, after a sleep deprived night, and were asked to rate them on their emotionality.

pexels-photo-24897After two subsequent nights of normal sleep, they were given a surprise memory test, and asked to look at the words again and categorise them. The study found that the participants had a significant deterioration in their ability to recognise the words they had seen earlier.

Even more astounding, their recognition of positive and neutral words deteriorated by 50 percent, whereas their ability to recognise words with negative connotations deteriorated by only 20 percent.

The study concluded that when you are sleep deprived, it’s possible that you create twice as many negative memories as positive or neutral memories, leading researchers to draw a link between sleep deprivation and depression.

Memory and Sleep

Researchers believe that sleep helps us process the day’s events, and helps us lay down memories of those events for the long term. Scientists in the 19th and 20th centuries believed that sleep helped us consolidate these memories.wood-man-people-men

However studies in the 21st century have found that memories are less set in concrete than that. More recent discoveries indicate that memories can be changed – which means that accurate memories can be corrupted into inaccurate memories, but also that inaccurate memories can change to become accurate.

Scientists now refer to the act of memory work while we sleep as memory evolution. Further studies have indicated that different parts of sleep – or different sections are our sleep architecture – strengthen different memories. More work is being done in this area.

Daniel Schacter of Harvard University argues that we create memories not so we can think about them and look to the past – but to use them to base decision making in the future.

Why don’t you sleep well?

Not being able to sleep is terrible. You have all the misery of having partied all night… without the satisfaction , said Lynn Johnston.

So why do people not sleep well?

The reasons are as varied as there are human beings on the planet – but scientists have identified some patterns and similarities through their research.

Jet lag and shift work are two major contributors to poor sleep, as the body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted and our internal clocks get confused.

anxiety-1337383_1280Anxiety can be a major cause. I know that when I was in the corporate world if I had a big client presentation to make, or an early plane to catch (which was most Monday mornings) I slept poorly the night before.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is being recognised as a contributor to sleep deprivation. Researchers think that people produce too much melatonin, or are extra-sensitive to normal amounts.

Ageing has an affect on our sleep, as we get older we don’t sleep as much, and we don’t sleep as deeply. This is not to be confused with not needing as much sleep – we do need as much sleep as we age, we just don’t always get it.

Movement disorders, such as restless leg syndrome, sleep walking, sleep eating, a constant need to urinate, and sleep terrors are all contributors to sleep deprivation.

Caffeine, alcohol, and heavy or rich meals in the evening can contribute to poor sleep.

And medical conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and depression and anxiety can also interrupt sleep patterns.

As Charlotte Bronte so beautifully said, A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.

If you suffer from any of these or other medical conditions, then see your health professional. This article is not designed to replace quality medical advice!

woman sleeping pexels-photo-46100-mediumHow do you improve sleep?

So that’s the bad news. But don’t worry, there are many non-medical strategies you can employ to try and improve your sleep.

Philiip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which was later turned into the film Bladerunner, said:

Don’t try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.

I agree!

But you could try these tips to help you improve your sleep. I have split them into three categories – preparing your space, preparing your body and preparing your mind, for a good night’s sleep.

Preparing your body

clock-1143439_1920

  1. Keep regular sleep hours: If you are an insomniac try going to bed and rising at the same time every day, even on weekends. This pattern might help reset your circadian rhythms which might in turn help you sleep more soundly.
  2. Eating and sleeping: Give yourself at least 2 hours (but 3 is better) between eating and sleep. Eat a smaller portion at night. That way your body is not trying to digest when you’re wanting to sleep.
  3. And if you suffer from heartburn or reflux, then consider the type of food you are eating, as some foods can contribute to digestive disorders. Also, you could try sleeping on your left side, as there is evidence that sleeping on your right side increases the likelihood of heartburn.
  4. Dim the lights: Start dimming the light about 2 hours before retiring. This will signal to your body that you are getting ready for sleep.
  5. Have a bed readying strategy: Do anything you need to do before bed, like cleaning your teeth, before you start dimming the lights – so you don’t need to get all ready for bed then turn the bright bathroom light on to clean your teeth.
  6. Frequent urination: If you suffer from nocturia, or the need to urinate regularly through the night, try not to drink any liquids within 2 hours of retiring.
  7. IT devices: Don’t read your tablet or phone in bed. The blue backlight tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime by repressing the melatonin release which your body needs to sleep.
  8. Regular exercise: Regular aerobic exercise (although not within two hours of bedtime) is good for helping your body need rest.
  9. Stretching: Stretching and toning exercise that incorporate deep breathing, such as yoga and tai chi, can help your body get ready for rest. You could also lie on the floor with your legs up the wall, a well-recognised relaxation technique.
  10. Mindful drinking: Reduce your alcohol and coffee intake and these can keep you awake.coffee-777612_1920
  11. Warm bath: A warm bath with lavender oil is a well known cure for helping the body relax.
  12. Napping: If you sleep badly, and you need a nap, even a little 10-15 minute shut eye in the middle of the day – then grab it. Even this short period of time can help your brain recharge, improve memory and cleanse itself.

Preparing your space

  1. A Sanctuary: Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Invest in a good mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets or doona. Keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex.bed-1232590_1920
  2. Cool and dark: Keeping your bedroom cool and dark will help your body drop into drowsiness and then into sleep.
  3. Control noise: Keep your bedroom as quiet as possible. If you are in a noisy place, you could try having heavy curtains or double glazing to block sound; use a fan or sleep machine to create ‘white noise’, or have recordings of gentle sounds, like rainfall, playing while you drop off.

Preparing your mind:

  1. Stress can keep you awake – so write down anything that’s worrying you and know you can deal with it in the morning.
  2. IT devices: I’m adding them in this category as well because scientists are linking the electro-radiation from these devices with disrupted sleep, and they also impede your brain from clearing out neurotoxins at night.
    pexels-photo-45718
  3. Sleep Diary: Keeping a sleep diary may be useful in identifying what’s disturbing your sleep. Try it for a month and see if there is a pattern.
  4. Learn and apply some gentle relaxation techniques. These might include deep breathing – which is what I use at monster o’clock. I put my hands on my tummy and breath deeply in and out for a count of 5 – my stomach rises and falls with my breath. I try to do this 20 times but usually fall asleep before I get there
  5. You could try tensing and releasing muscle groups. Start with your toes and clench them, then release them, go onto your calves, then your thighs – you get the idea.
  6. The Cognitive Shuffle developed by Canadian Neuroscientist Luc Beaudoin might be worth giving a go. With this strategy you think about things that don’t make any sense. Picture a random sequence of objects for a few seconds each – say cow, fridge, water bottle, coat.  Or you could think of a word – say Teatime. Start by thinking of all the random words beginning with T, then with E, then with A.
    The thought behind this is that the brain .The thought behind this is that the brain tries to figure out if it’s safe to sleep. If you’re thinking about stuff that makes sense, then your brain may figure it’s not safe to sleep yet. By thinking nonsense, your brain triggers the sleep switch because it knows it’s safe for you to drop off.

Or, as Dale Carnegie recommends, If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. This is usually if you’ve been in bed for about 20 mins with the light out and still can’t sleep.

In the end, there are many causes of sleep deprivation, and many dangers associated with it. But I hope you can try some of the tips I’ve given you and that these will help you improve your sleep.

Thank you, and good night and sweet dreams!

vintage-woman sleeping 1501595__180

References:

Robert Stickgold, Sleep On It!, Scientific American, October 2015

Harvard Medical School, Focus on Sleep, General Ways to Improve Sleep, Issue #1 of 5 email series, September 2015

Harvard Medical School, Healthbeat – Tips for beating anxiety to get a better night’s sleep, email subscriptipon, July 2016

Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, Improving Sleep – A Guide to a Good Night’s Rest, 2015, http://www.health.harvard.edu

Vivian Giang, http://qz.com/424120/our-poor-sleeping-habits-could-be-filling-our-brains-with-neurotoxins

Brian St. Pierre, The Power of Sleep, Precision Nutrition, August 2016, www.precisionnutrition.com/power-of-sleep-infographic

Update On My Health And Fitness Journey

I shared my measurements with you last time, and I was pretty pleased with the result.

Here is my update, the first lot of figures were from 17 July 2015, the second lot of figures are from last Wednesday, 16 March 2016.

blood pressure                132/84       132/78

oxygen saturation          98                95

Resting Heart rate         84                 73

Body fat                            45.7              34.2    (this is one of the things I’m happiest about!)

Waist                                  102               96      (half of this I achieved over the past 2 months)

Waist to Hip ration        .94                .86

So how am I doing this? (and I say doing, because I don’t intend to stop).

At the gym, 5 times a week. Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays I do cardio – bike and treadmill, with a bit of rowing and step machine thrown in.

On Tuesdays and Thursday I do weights – so am building strength – strong bones and denser muscles.

And I do yoga at home. And walk along the beach. And wear a Fitbit to make sure I do my 10,000 steps a day, track my activity, and keep my water intake up.

It doesn’t have to be the gym, but I like the discipline of it, it works for me.

I have an exercise physiologist I see every two months to keep me on track. I have realized that really, it’s impossible to achieve great things without a coach of some sort – whether it’s exercise or business or changing behaviors – a coach or support of some sort really helps make the difference by keeping you accountable.

DSCF3399Think about it!
Until  next time,
Cheers, Meredith

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions – And How To Make Them Stick (Part 2)

Hi there!

I hope you enjoyed reading about how you can make your New Year’s resolutions STICK!! Here are the next five – and you’ll find them just as common sense as the first five.

this year will be different

Tip 6 – PRACTICE SOMETHING EVERY DAY

Daily practice of activities to support your resolution makes life so much easier.

If you’re trying to get fitter, stronger etc.. then identifying something to do every day in the food department is going to be pretty easy.

But if your aim is something else, such as saving money, you may need to stretch your brain a little. If you want to save money, you could put all your gold coins in a piggy bank at the end of the day.

If you’re looking for love, then you could check your online activity every day, and join some activities like MeetUp, and accept invitations, even if they don’t seem at first to be very appealing. (Regarding online dating/introduction agencies I have to admit a bias here. I met my husband on eHarmony six years ago, we’ve been married for five and a half years and it just gets better.)

You get the idea though, don’t you? A little bit of self-support every day makes your resolution, or goal, come that little bit closer every day.

It helps turn those activities you have to think about, into habits. There is a school of thought that says it only takes 21 days to create a new habit. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The University College of London research found it takes about 66 days. Rather than sounding scary, this means you can just relax into it.

Remind yourself, do something every day, and you’ll soon see results.

Tip 7 – TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

Taking our ‘be fitter, stronger, more flexible’ example, it’s easy to track your progress.

I’m not a fan of sny resolutions weight losscales – they are not reliable, particularly for women who tend to retain water at certain times of the month. And also, as you start to become fitter, your muscle will weigh more than fat, so you could see your ‘weight’ increasing at the start- which can be quite depressing, and lead you to stop making the changes.

Get a spreadsheet, take your measurements, and you’ll soon start to see a difference in your body shape. Your waist, hips, thighs and tops of your arms are a good start.

Your clothes will also tell you a different story.

There are a number of apps, both iOS and Android to help you track your activities, and give you results from the information you put in them,  as well as FitBits and other wearable trackers.

But track and measure. You won’t achieve anything with measuring it. And not only that, it’s cause for celebration when you reach a goal!

Tip 8 – BE KIND TO YOURSELF

The fact is that you will fall down sometimes. But that doesn’t mean giving up. We all drop the ball, it’s just human nature.

Just dust yourself off, and start again. It’s okay. You’re human.

Think of yourself as your best friend, and treat yourself the way you would if your best friend had tripped up. Be kind.

Tip 9 – KEEP AT IT 

Evevery day a 2nd chanceen if you’ve just started and fall down on day 2, remember you’ve made the decision, day 1 went okay, so start again.

Here’s a thought that might help you keep on track. Get a big bottle (with a wide neck), and write yourself little positive notes every week. These could be achievements such as how you felt when you finished a circuit at the gym, or your first yoga class, it doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as it’s positive. Pop them in the bottle.

Then, when you feel sticking to your goals is getting tough, you’re not getting anywhere or any one of the millions of little sabotaging thoughts you have invade your brain, just pull out one of your little messages from the bottle. This will help you remind yourself you have already achieved so much just by taking the first steps.

Tip 10 – REWARD YOURSELF

Little and often, think of small rewards to keep yourself motivated. Try not to make it something that will sabotage all your good efforts. For instance, if reducing your alcohol is your aim, celebrating at the pub is probably not the best way to give yourself a reward – it would just confuse your poor brain and then you run the risk of reverting to old behaviour.

If you are trimming down, then maybe you could buy a new item of clothing to celebrate; if you’re busting the booze, maybe a beautiful new teapot would work for you.

It doesn’t really matter what it is, but as you can see from the examples above, it IS important to make it something that helps the activities become habits, and then your resolutions can be achieved.

 

I’ve just come across a wonderful quote. It’s often helpful to write out quotes that inspire you and stick them around the place – on the fridge, your computer, your wardrobe – wherever you will see them often. You could start with this one!

The beginning is the most important part of the work – Plato

I’d welcome any thoughts you have on New Year’s Resolutions. I’d really like to hear about how you stick to it, or overcome lapses. You never know, what you share could be just what someone else needs to hear to stay on track!

Until next week,

cheers, Meredith

HNY 2