Posts Tagged ‘quiet reflection’

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

May 24, 2016

Getting a full night’s sleep may seem like a luxury, but it’s important to your overall health. Sleep serves a critical role when it comes to your health and well-being – similar to eating, drinking and breathing. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night in order to feel rested and have the positive benefits associated with a full night’s sleep. When rested, we’re more alert, energetic, happier, and better able to function the next day. The benefits of good sleep also include improvements in short-term memory, productivity, sensitivity to pain, and the functioning of your immune system.

Tips for Better Sleep

If you have trouble falling asleep, there are a few tricks you can try to help you get the sleep your body needs.

  1. Set a regular sleep schedule and routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Having a bedtime routine lets your body know it’s time to go to sleep. Part of your routine may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to calming music, or dimming the lights.
  2. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes. If you nap, keep it early in the day. Napping late in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  3. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Caffeine from food or drinks can disrupt sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. And alcohol might help you fall asleep, but it will be restless sleep and you’re more likely to wake in the night.
  4. Take any medications that are stimulants in the morning. You can also ask your doctor to switch you to a non-stimulating alternative. Any drugs that make you drowsy should be taken in the evening.
  5. Avoid heavy meals before bed.  These can make you feel uncomfortable and keep you awake at night. However, if you feel too hungry to sleep, have a light snack.
  6. Avoid intense exercise within three hours of bedtime. It may make you too energized to fall asleep. Regular exercise earlier in the day, however, will help you sleep better.
  7. Keep a worry journal. Before you get in bed, write down any worries or pressing thoughts you have that may keep you up. Have a notepad and pen next to the bed and if something pops into your head, write it down. Then try not to think about these worries or thoughts until the morning.
  8. Limit liquids. If you wake up often to use the rest room, cut down on how much you drink late in the day.
  9. Have an environment conducive to sleep. For most people, this is a space that is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable. Consider using room darkening shades, ear plugs, eye masks, or a fan to make your sleeping space right for you.
  10. Avoid plots that may get your adrenaline going before bed. Whether it’s a movie, TV show, or book, you don’t want your heart to be racing before bed. Instead, you should feel calm and relaxed when you’re ready to fall asleep.

If you still don’t feel well rested in the morning after trying the tips listed, make an appointment with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause that needs to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor can help you treat the problem or refer you to a sleep specialist.


Stress Less

October 2, 2015

You’ve probably heard countless ways to manage stress: exercise, get enough sleep, talk to a friend, meditate, write things down – the list goes on. But according to Huffington Post blogger Jon Wortmann, before you can even thing about managing your stress, there are three things you must do first.

Notice Stress

This seems obvious, but sometimes we’re so busy or distracted we completely miss our body’s signs that we’re feeling stressed. Have you been getting a lot of headaches or stomachaches? Does it fee like your having a panic attack? Has your appetite or sleep schedule changed? Your brain may be telling you something needs your attention. Instead of shaking off or ignoring these signs, consider if they’re connected to stress.

Admit You’re Stressed

This doesn’t mean you can’t handle what’s on your plate. Once you admit you feel stressed, you can begin to focus on what’s most important at that moment. Making these kinds of choices can tell your brain to turn down the alarm as you work to get things under control.

Focus on One Thing You Want to Think or Feel

If you find yourself in an immediately stressful situation (heart is racing, palms are sweating), focus on the emotion you want to be feeling. Imagine yourself in your favorite location, eating your favorite food, next to someone you care about, or anything that can help you feel calmer quickly. Being able to recall these calming memories in a time of stress can help you work through it and focus instead on what need to get done.

Looking Inward

May 21, 2015

Often when we find ourselves unhappy in a relationship, we look at the other person as the problem. Psychologist and author Dr. Sherrie Campbell cautions us to look to ourselves before we look outwardly. She says you should first examine your own role, as you may be contributing to the problem more than you think. Dr. Campbell shares a few tips to help you look inward.

Resist complaining. Instead of resorting to the childlike behavior, have a serious discussion with the other person. Start with how you want things to be rather than expressing dissatisfaction or starting a conversation from a negative place.

Stop defending. Listen to the other person without interrupting and correcting them. If you’re too busy defending yourself without listening, you’ll be closing yourself off to the information the other person is trying to tell you. This makes it hard to connect and understand the other person.

Understand and state your needs. Think about what you really need from the other person in the situation. This is different from what you may want. What is it that’s keeping things from moving forward in a positive direction?

Know your weaknesses. Perhaps you are quick to judge, or maybe you have a short temper. Knowing the areas you need to work on within yourself can help when you run into problems in a relationship. Think about how these weaknesses may be interfering in your relationship, and what you can do to work on them.

Practicing Mindfulness

February 12, 2015

Chances are, if you’re breathing, you’re experiencing varying levels of stress all within a 24-hour period. Perhaps you regularly judge your performance in life, work, and relationships. This pressure and consistent negative thinking puts you at a greater risk of anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness is one way to redirect yourself away from these thoughts. This meditative practice focuses on the present moment in a non-judgmental way. You begin to experience the world through a new lens, engaging all your senses.

How to Practice Mindfulness

Learn the art of mindfulness by following the steps listed below.

Focus and practice good breathing – First, sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Pay attention to what it feels like to breathe in and out. Relax your m ind and dismiss other thoughts. Notice your abdomen as it rises and falls with each breath. If your mind does begin to wander, redirect your thoughts back to the exercise.

Pay attention  to your senses – Focusing on your sense can be calming. Try this exercise while walking outside. Concentrate on what you hear, see, and smell. Take a deep breath. Direct your mind away from any negative or stressful thoughts.

Listen carefully to others – Truly listen to people you’re meeting for the first time and those you’ve known a long time. Hear what they’re saying with new ears. Consider what messages they are trying to convey.

Delay judgment – We tend to size people up immediately. When we are slow to judge others, we discover what’s special about the individual. In turn, we might be less negative about the world around us.

Mindfulness might seem awkward or uneasy at first. However, as you practice it every day for several months, it will begin to feel more natural. Dialing down the stress level is always beneficial so when you practice mindfulness, great things can happen.

To be happy and less stressed, be creative.

September 20, 2013

There is a direct link between creativity and happiness. That’s because research shows that being creative stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers.

Not only does being creative make us happy, it’s a natural way to fight stress, to build confidence, and to learn more about ourselves and the world around us. The more we exercise the creative, right-half of our brain, the greater our ability to find creative solutions to difficult problems in our work or personal lives.

To cultivate creativity in your life, try the following:

Use creativity training techniques. Just as weight training makes a person stronger, creativity training can make a person more creative. Come up with as many uses as you can for a white paper bag. A chef’s hat? A comet catcher? A lunch bag (of course)? Now push yourself to 50 more. The technique is called brainstorming, and it’s only one of many ways to exercise the creative side of your brain.

Express yourself. Find a way to express yourself through writing, painting or doing a craft. But don’t overlook other forms of expression such as restoring an antique car, gardening or solving a difficult math problem. Whenever we lose track of time doing something just for the love of doing it, we’re in a heightened sense of creativity called “flow.” Flow is an ultimate human experience that refreshes and makes us happy.

Unlearn ways that stifle creativity. James Higgins, author of Escape from the Maze: Nine Steps to Personal Creativity, says that to be creative, we should look beyond certain rules in life that stifle creativity. For example, place someone in a maze, and s/he will likely walk the corridors in search of an exit. After all, isn’t that the rule one is supposed to follow when in a maze? But what about digging a hole and tunneling out, Higgins asks? Or pole vaulting? Or calling a friend with a helicopter so you can be lifted out? To unlearn ways that stifle creativity, look at the rules you follow, then look beyond them.

Change your environment. A new environment can give you a different, more creative outlook on something, such as a difficult problem. One software company encourages whole departments to take a movie break when they’re stuck on an especially vexing challenge. The employees carpool to the theater to see a movie with the understanding that no one will talk or think about the problem until they return to the office. Once back, managers say employees are so rejuvenated, they often solve the problem immediately.

Have creative things around you. Books of poetry, art, photography or architecture and other reflections of creativity can inspire your own creativity. But it’s not enough just to have these resources around – you must turn to them for inspiration. Higgins says that people who believe that their lives have become routine and dull should make use of the many resources that can inspire passion and creativity.

Identify times when you are most creative. Just before a deep sleep and after a good workout are naturally occurring creative moments. A workout increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and leads to other physiological changes that encourage an active mind. And just before a deep sleep is a period of highly creative dream-like brain activity.

Ways Writing Can Help You Heal

September 6, 2013

From the outside your life looks perfect, but inside your heart aches from the loss of someone you love or a spouse who filed for divorce. Or maybe old wounds are still simmering within your soul, caused by painful events years ago. You feel a violent emotional yanking on your heart and a labyrinth of confusion.

Journaling, it turns out, can help you heal on a number of different levels. The mighty power of words can help you to heal.

Studies show writing about traumatic events helps you recover and move on. Some of the other healing benefits you can reap from journaling include:

  • Resolving unfinished business. Writing unearths areas of hurt you thought you’d already dealt with so you can begin the process of putting them to rest.
  • Clearing your mind. Right this minute your mind is probably swirling with thoughts about everything from what you should eat for dinner to how you are going to cope with a difficult coworker. Journaling gives you the opportunity to “clear the clutter” and focus on what’s really important. Consequently, your productivity and concentration can improve.
  • Expanding self-awareness and self-knowledge. Journaling on a routine basis reveals what makes you happy or sad, worried or confident. This is important information for you to have as you begin the process of healing and growth.
  • Experience fewer physical symptoms of stress. As you release your angst on the page instead of turning it over and over in your mind, you may discover that stress-induced headaches may decrease or high blood pressure may return to normal. Your sleep may become deeper and more restful.
  • Seeing your progress. Capturing feelings in a journal allows you to look back later and see how far you’ve come. Recognizing improvement is a great motivator!

To begin, set aside about 20 to 30 minutes in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Write about what you are feeling at that moment; explore how that relates to other aspects of your life, such as your childhood or relationships.

Write continuously and don’t worry about proper spelling or grammar. Simply allow yourself the freedom to express your thoughts. Remind yourself that things will get better. You will heal. And as you do, be sure to keep writing!

(Source: 3 Things You Can Learn From Life’s Little Knots by Hunter D. Darden)

Positive Thinking Can Bring Good Health

August 22, 2013

Positive thoughts can motivate healthy behaviors, such as eating right, being active, and feeling good about yourself. It sounds so simple, but it is very true. unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Your thoughts can be defeating. “I’m already overweight, so it doesn’t matter if I eat a second piece of cake.” Or, “I only have 10 minutes, I’ll never get this assignment done.” Negative thoughts, often called negative self-talk, may sabotage your good intentions.

“I think I can”

Studies have measured the success of positive-thinkers and found that those who think they can lose weight or increase their physical activity, do! These people are more successful than people with less faith in themselves.

How to Stay Positive

Positive thinkers admit when they feel frustrated or depressed. They don’t ignore it. But they also don’t blame themselves. Instead, they try to understand the negative thoughts and feelings and counter them with more positive ones.

So how do you stay positive, maintain momentum and sustain healthy behaviors? here are some tips:

Look for a good role model. There is always someone who seems to be doing just what you want to be doing. Learn from a successful friend, family member or colleague.

Try some positive self-talk and avoid negative-talk. Take a minute to give yourself an ego boost. Repeat some motivational words out loud or to yourself. Negative talk, “I can’t do it,” “I’m fat,” is dangerous for your well-being.

Serenity. How to get it, keep it and have it always.

April 11, 2013

Anyone who has ever attended a 12-step support group is probably familiar with the Serenity Prayer (see below). Feeling serene is important for people recovering from a compulsion, addiction or bad relationship.

But everyone, not just recovering people, can benefit from serenity. That’s because everyone has experienced stress, hardship and pain, and many of us have felt empty or yearned for fulfillment.

Researchers have identified some practices that can lead to serenity.

Find an inner haven. Each of us deserves a place where we feel safe and unconditionally accepted. To have such a place inside ourselves brings us that much closer to serenity. To make this inner haven, try using visualization: Prepare yourself as you would for meditation, then picture yourself in a tranquil, serene, safe space. A version of this is called “guided imagery.” There are a number of books and recordings available with guided imagery exercises. A professional therapist can also help. Eventually, your inner haven will be so calming and familiar to you, you’ll go to it whenever life’s pressures become overwhelming.

Detach. In the context of finding serenity, to detach means to let go of cravings and never-ending wants, such as addictive or compulsive behaviors. Therapists recommend two ways to practice detaching. One is through meditation, a technique described in a number of books and articles. People who meditate comment on the serene feeling it gives them. Another way to practice detaching is to practice distinguishing your needs from your wants based upon your values. For example, while you may want another cigarette, you need to be there for your partner or children, and continuing to smoke could jeopardize that.

Practice acceptance. Acceptance is a major theme in the Serenity Prayer. To help you accept situations beyond your control, therapists advise focusing on things that are within your control – your attitude, emotions and actions. Instead of trying to control someone else, practice self-control. Therapists also advise practicing self-acceptance. Build yourself up, celebrate your worthiness and remind yourself often that you are your best friend for life, period. Not only is this good self-care. It will bring you that much closer to serenity.

Practice forgiveness. Resentment over a traumatic experience can lead to self-defeating behaviors that can “poison” your chance to reach serenity, writes one author. Make peace with your past through forgiveness. Once way to do so is to write a letter forgiving the offending person, then destroy the letter as a way of cleansing yourself of the experience and regaining mastery over your life.

Let go and live in the present. Taken together, all of these techniques – find an inner haven, detach, practice acceptance and forgiveness – should help a person accomplish another technique for reaching serenity: living in the present. The serene moment is the present moment, unencumbered by past regrets or mistakes and unpolluted by worries or fears of the future. Writes one author, “Living in the here and now is a powerful way to be.” Focus on the richness of the present and have serenity.

Source: Connors, G.J., Radka, T.T. and Tonigan, J.S. Serenity: Integrating Spirituality Into Treatment: Resources for Practitioners. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

The Serenity Prayer

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one dat at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking this world as it is, not as I would have it. ~Anonymous

Tips for Reducing or Controlling Stress

March 5, 2013

Getting to work on time… paying your bills… keeping on top of your household chores… it can all add up to a lot of stress. Sure, many of us realize that we have an abnormal amount of stress in our lives, but how do we deal with it and move on? Here are some tips to get you started down the path of tranquility.

As you read the following suggestions, remember that success will not come from a – effort, nor will it come overnight. It will take determination, persistence and time. Some suggestions may help immediately, but if your stress is chronic, it may require more attention and/or lifestyle changes. Determine YOUR tolerance level for stress and try to live within these limits. Learn to accept or change stressful and tense situations whenever possible.

Be realistic. If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family’s), learn to say NO! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. If you meet resistance, give reasons why you’re making the changes. Be willing to listen to others’ suggestions and be ready to compromise.

Shed the “superman/superwoman” urge. No one is perfect so don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Ask yourself, “What really needs to be done?” “How much can I do?” “Is the deadline realistic?” “What adjustments can I make?” Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Meditate. Just 10 to 20 minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing.

Visualize. Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully. Whether it’s a business presentation or moving to a new place, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.

Take one thing at a time. For people under tension or stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Pick one urgent task and work on it. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of “checking off” tasks is very satisfying. It will motivate you to keep going.

Exercise. Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to 30 minutes of physical activity benefits both the body and the mind.

Hobbies. Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether it’s gardening or painting, schedule time to indulge your interest.

Healthy lifestyle. Good nutrition makes a difference. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol (alcohol actually disturbs regular sleep patterns), get adequate rest, exercise and balance work and play.

Share your feelings. A conversation with a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, caring for a sick child or working in a busy office. Stay in touch with friends and family. Let them provide love, support and guidance. Don’t try to cope alone.

Give in occasionally. Be flexible! If you find you’re meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. If you know you are right, stand your ground, but do so calmly and rationally. Make allowances for others’ opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to give in, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you may find better solutions to your problems.

Go easy with criticism. You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, let down, disappointed or even “trapped” when another person does not measure up. The “other person” may be a wife, a husband, or a child whom you are trying to change to suit yourself. Remember, everyone is unique, and has his or her own virtues, shortcomings, and right to develop as an individual.

Where and when to seek help. Help may be as close as a friend or spouse. But if you think you or someone you know may be under more stress than just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may be helpful to talk with a doctor, spiritual adviser, or a psychological health care professional.