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The State Of Your Sleep

“Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, and eight hours for what you will.” – Benjamin Franklin

Last week, the Center for Disease Control published the results of a study of the sleep habits of Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study showed that Sleep outone third of American adults between the ages of 18 and 60 do not get enough sleep on a regular basis. The study showed that many of the 444,306 respondents not only didn’t sleep enough, but weren’t sure of how much sleep they needed or the impact of that a lack of sleep can have on their mental and physical wellness. In their summary of their results, the CDC pointed out that sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk in developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, and mental health problems. If Benjamin Franklin knew this 250 years ago, why is it that so many Americans are ill informed about rest, sleep, and the impact that it has on our well-being?

Wayne Giles, director of the CDC’s Division of Population Health, gives a hint as to where the problem is coming from. He points out that, “Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night, rising at the same time each morning, and turning off or removing televisions, computers, and mobile devices from the bedroom can help people get the healthy sleep that they need.” Perhaps these devices are the shiny objects that distract Americans from sleep and have taken priority over our desire to sleep. Maybe living in an age of too much information has distracted us from a basic, yet necessary, human activity.

Here are the key findings of the CDC’s study:

⦁ Healthy sleep duration was lower among Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (54 percent), non-Hispanic blacks (54 percent), multiracial non-Hispanics (54 percent) and American Indians/Alaska Natives (60 percent) compared with non-Hispanic whites (67 percent), Hispanics (66 percent), and Asians (63 percent).
Cowboy⦁ The prevalence of healthy sleep duration varied among states and ranged from 56 percent in Hawaii to 72 percent in South Dakota.
⦁ A lower proportion of adults reported getting at least seven hours of sleep per day in states clustered in the southeastern region of the United States and the Appalachian Mountains. Previous studies have shown that these regions also have the highest prevalence of obesity and other chronic conditions.
⦁ People who reported they were unable to work or were unemployed had lower healthy sleep duration (51 percent and 60 percent, respectively) than did employed respondents (65 percent). The prevalence of healthy sleep duration was highest among people with a college degree or higher (72 percent).
⦁ The percentage reporting a healthy sleep duration was higher among people who were married (67 percent) compared with those who were never married (62 percent) or divorced, widowed, or separated (56 percent).

The study went on to conclude that getting less than seven hours sleep per night not only is associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, but also can be a factor in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It is also assumed to play a major role in early death. “People have to recognize that sleep is just as important as what they’re eating and how much they’re exercising,” said Dr. Shalini Paruthi, co-director of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis. “It’s one of the pillars of good health.”

The CDC has recommendations for all of us to follow to combat this health problem:

⦁ Healthcare providers should routinely assess patients’ sleep patterns and discuss sleep-related problems such as snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.
⦁ Healthcare providers should also educate patients about the importance of sleep to their health.
⦁ Individuals should make getting enough sleep a priority and practice good sleep habits.
⦁ Employers can consider adjusting work schedules to allow their workers time to get enough sleep.
⦁ Employers can also educate their shift workers about how to improve their sleep.

There are a variety of reasons why people routinely sleep less than the recommended amount of seven hours. Many don’t even realize the role that their lifestyle plays in their lack of sleep. Conversations at work tend to revolve around information that Americans glean from television and the computer. Television shows like Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, and other visual junk food tends to keep people up late at night and make it difficult for them to fall asleep when they finally lay down. This behavior is also associated with a sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices – things that lead to obvious health problems.

Others take a type of pride in their ability to “get by on less than X amount of hours of sleep.” These people tend to be driven, motivated, and workaholic. Yes, you can “get by” on brief amounts of sleep, but should you? Shouldn’t this be something that you do occasionally when work or life presents a crisis rather than something that you do on a regular basis?

A happy and fulfilled life is all about balance. The advice the Benjamin Franklin gave Tigeralmost 300 years ago is both simple and profound at the same time. Sleep should play an important role in the trifecta of life events – work, rest, and recreation. Not enough of us seem to be paying attention to our sleep, and our health is paying the price. The CDC’s study gives us all plenty to sleep on.

For some how-to articles on obtaining a good nights sleep, use the search box to the right of this article. Pleasant dreams!

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin.

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

A Stoic Solution For “What If” Thinking

“If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.”- Seneca

The human ability to anticipate and prepare for the future is perhaps our most important and useful survival skill. One of the things that separates the mind of a child or Basic-First-Aid-and-Survival-Skillsadolescent from that of an adult is this ability to realize the consequences of our actions before we act. This, “if I do x, then y or z may happen,” logic is often the most productive kind of thought process a person engages in. Sometimes this ability gets a little out of control and we anticipate, worry about, and often inadvertently create the very things that we fear.

Life events and prior experience creates resilience, enabling a person to survive, and sometimes thrive through, events that they never thought they could cope with. We have the ability to build immunity to life stressors in the same manner that we become immune to diseases and illnesses. When we are exposed to any stressor and survive it, we tend to adapt to similar situations, developing a resilience and strength from this exposure. This adaptation is biological, psychological, and spiritual. As one progresses through life, this becomes a human being’s true strength. There comes a point in life when a person realizes that strength, real strength, is far more than physical.

“He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.” – Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, known simply as Seneca, was a Roman Stoic philosopher of the Senecafirst century A.D. He was an influential adviser, tutor, and speech writer for the Roman Emperor Nero. As a practicing Stoic, Seneca was concerned with trying to get the maximum enjoyment from life from the minimum creature comforts, wealth, and technology. Ironically, his own life was anything but minimalist. He was at that time one of Rome’s most influential and wealthy personalities, interacting in society at the highest level of power and influence. Much of his worry, like most humans in an advanced society involves the what if thinking that most of us are familiar with. What if I lost all this? What if I run out of money? What if the roof leaks? What if the stock market crashes? What if I got fired from my job? What if I can’t afford it? These would all be thoughts familiar to Seneca despite his affluence and social standing. In fact, these worries are universal to humans everywhere in the world, despite the wealth, influence, or power that they may have.

Because humans are adaptable, life forces us to adjust to stressors and events that we initially never would believe we could survive. As we age, we overcome illness, losses, pain and suffering. We often lose sight of the fact that to live is to survive. The challenge humans face is to survive these painful life events while thriving.

Seneca spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about the loss of his wealth, wondering how we would survive without the lavish lifestyle that his influence provided him. He decided to practice poverty to prepare himself just in case he lost everything and had to adjust. He explained it to a young student named Lucilius in Letters from a Stoic:

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress, and it is while Fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against her violence. In days of peace the soldier performs maneuvers, throws up earthworks with no enemy in sight, and wearies himself by gratuitous toil, in order that he may be equal to unavoidable toil. If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.

Let the pallet be a real one, and the coarse cloak; let the bread be hard and grimy. Endure all this for three or four days at a time, sometimes for more, so that it may be a test of yourself instead of a mere hobby. Then, I assure you, my dear Lucilius, you will leap for joy when filled with a pennyworth of food, and you will understand that a man’s peace of mind does not depend upon Fortune; for, even when angry she grants enough for our needs.

There is no reason, however, why you should think that you are doing anything great; for you will merely be doing what many thousands of slaves and many thousands of poor men are doing every day. But you may credit yourself with this item, — that you will not be doing it under compulsion, and that it will be as easy for you to endure it permanently as to make the experiment from time to time. Let us practice our strokes on the “dummy”; let us become intimate with poverty, so that Fortune may not catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort, if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.

So begin, my dear Lucilius, to set apart certain days on which you shall withdraw from GEREyour business and make yourself at home with the scantiest fare. Establish business relations with poverty.”

Everyone, even the poorest of any society, worry about what they would do “if.” Taking a good look at the very things that we fear need not increase our fear, rather it may allow us to appreciate what is really important to us. To live is to survive. The challenge of life is to thrive while surviving.

“Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.” – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

For some easy to understand help to change your negative thinking, refer to: http://mindbodycoach.org/products-2/

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

What Are You Thinking? : How Thoughts Control Your Life

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Henry David Thoreau

Humans are thinking, planning, and pondering animals that have survived because of this APEincredibly unique ability that we have to forecast the future and analyze ourselves. We don’t do things instinctively as other creatures do, rather, we do them in a calculated and planned manner. As we do these things we frequently and often automatically assess how are doing, how we look, how we think others are viewing us, and the potential outcomes of the actions that we are taking. This powerful ability is what enables us to survive and thrive as individual humans and as a species. It is also one of the greatest obstacle to human contentment, happiness, and serenity.

Our ability to think is what separates us from lower animals. Because we do not have the physical capability to adapt to our environment quickly, we have to plan ahead for any challenge that comes from our environment. When man first developed, he did not have the luxury of technology such as weather reports, calendars, and even basic needs such like food supply and a roof over his head. Over time, the human brain became wired to think ahead and be aware of catastrophic events that might occur, enabling man to prepare in advance for things that could destroy him, his family, and his tribe.

Thousands of years later, human evolution has developed the most sophisticated and complicated machine ever created – the human mind. It is estimated that the average person has between 40,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day. These thoughts provide an ongoing, running commentary on everything that goes on externally and internally that crosses into a person’s field of awareness. It also assesses what might happen, did happen, and should happen. This incredible process creates a belief that we possess a unique, yet intangible, property that we call our mind. We also believe that this mind is our essence, our very being, and who we are. We are constantly evaluating, planning, and perseverating over these thousands of thoughts each day that both define us and our world.

Studies have shown that the quality of our thoughts tends to be repetitive and consistent. In other words, we tend to loop the same thought patterns through our minds over and over and over again and again. Approximately 95% of these thoughts are repeated every day! We are truly creatures of habit, even when it comes to our internal representation of the world and ourselves. We do this intuitively because we are still alive. The mind thinks that these thoughts are necessary and that they are protective. More interesting than the repetition of thought is that on average 80% of these thoughts are negative. These thoughts, which originally developed in order to protect us from natural disaster and catastrophic events, are the ones that sabotage goals, lower self-esteem, ruin relationships, and suck the joy out of life for modern man. Literally 80% of our waking thoughts have the potential to create doom and gloom.

MRI imaging has proven that negative thoughts have a more powerful and lasting impact on the brain then positive ones. They stimulate areas of the brain that create depression and anxiety. These emotions frequently result from thoughts that dwell on regrets from the past and doubts about the future. Positive thoughts create brain chemicals that set off an intense, yet brief, surge of positive emotions such as happiness, contentment, and excitement. Unfortunately, effects from these positive emotions are fleeting and must be replenished frequently.

Recent research in the field of Positive Psychology seem to indicate that some people have a higher capacity to hang on to these positive thoughts and experiences. We tend to view these people as optimists. Conversely, those that do not have capability to hang on to these positive experiences are our pessimists. Whether one is an optimist or a pessimist, both categories have the capability of choosing many of the 50,000 or so thoughts that run through their mind on a daily basis.

So how can one capture and contain these positive thoughts? Here are some ideas from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that work:

⦁ Notice and pay attention to your automatic thoughts. Most people discover that the lady-negative-thinkingmajority of every day thoughts are either useless or negative. The simple act of noticing a negative thought can be therapeutic in and of itself. It becomes virtually impossible to not change when you notice your own negativity. Probably the best way to notice the quality of your thoughts is to create a meditation practice. What you will find about the quality of your thoughts will be pretty amazing. Over a few days time you’ll notice patterns that consistently pop up.
⦁ Notice the patterns of self talk. Self talk is an internal, observing voice that provides a running commentary of virtually everything that you do. You’re probably aware that this voice has been with you ever since you’ve been able to think. The goal here is to become aware of how this voice impacts your beliefs about your ability to cope with the world, take risks, and attain goals. This inner voice, more than anything else, determines your level of functioning and relationship to the world.
⦁ Stay attuned to these thoughts as much as possible. Get comfortable with the being uncomfortable with your thinking. Most people will instinctively try to numb these thoughts with alcohol, drugs, food, or some other distracting activity. Keep in mind that you cannot change anything that you do not notice.
⦁ Question every negative thought that you have, asking yourself whether or not they are true, accurate, or even possible. Most negative thinkers can be pretty sarcastic and demanding of others who violate their sense of self. Question your own thinking in the same manner. Decide which thoughts are helpful and which thoughts are not. You’d never talk to somebody else the way you talk to yourself. Give yourself the same consideration you’d give to a loved one with your self talk.
⦁ Develop some lifestyle practices that minimize amount of thoughts that you have. A mindfulness practice is a great way to be fully present in a moment or activity. Use the search box of this blog for simple and easy ways to develop a regular practice.

Thoughts create our reality and our interpretation of reality determines our view of our life.Positive Becoming aware of the nature of our habitual thinking is the first step to deciding how we want our life to be. The ability to choose how we feel about our life is perhaps the most important way a human can adapt to the world.

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.” – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

For some easy to understand help to change your negative thinking, refer to: http://mindbodycoach.org/products-2/

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

The If-Then Happiness Paradox: Why Happiness Is A Choice

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination. For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.” – Daniel Souza

Last month millions of Americans played the multistate lottery, Powerball. People stood in line, sometimes for hours, in an attempt to gain happiness through a huge financial windfallLottery-Winners resulting from matching the five white balls and one red “Powerball.” You probably heard, or even uttered yourself, some variation of an if-then statement: “If I hit the lottery, then I’d be happy.” Everyone who plays has some kind of story that they tell about how wonderful it would be if they won and how they would appropriately use that money to purchase happiness for themselves, their friends, and unknown destitute individuals that they would help in a philanthropic manner. As they say in many states, “Play the lottery, the game dreams are made of.”

Unfortunately for most people. even the winners, becoming an instant millionaire not only does not result in happiness but, in many cases, actually creates even more misery than they had before.  44% of those who have ever won large lottery prizes were broke within five years, according to a 2015 Camelot Group study. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards says nearly a third declared bankruptcy – meaning they were worse off than before they became rich. Other studies show that lottery winners frequently become estranged from family and friends, and incur a greater incidence of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, and suicide than the average American.

This phenomenon is not unique to lottery winners alone. Celebrities and professional athletes often succumb to the same temptation that comes with overnight wealth. 78% of NFL players file bankruptcy or are in other financial trouble within two years of retirement, according to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article. A representative of the NBA players’ association said in 2008 that 60 % of NBA players declare bankruptcy within five years of leaving the league. It could be assumed that athletes, because they work so hard to attain their wealth, would be more likely to use it responsibly. Not always the case. Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson burned through $400 million that he earned during his career, pro football quarterback Michael Vick burned through over $100 million, and former NBA star Allen Iverson burned through $150 million during his career. These stars are not the exception, but the norm. Those that retain their wealth and find happiness are the exception.

Why does this happen? Why are most of those hard-working Americans waiting in line for Powerball tickets going to be prone to the same problems if they pick the right numbers? Why is the if-then happiness paradox proved correct so often?

Researchers may be able to provide an answer. The setpoint theory of happiness, which explains why this paradox exists, resulted from a 1978 study which showed that lottery winners eventually end up being no happier than people who suffer from spinal cord injuries! After the initial euphoria wears off, they ended up at their baseline level of happiness, a level determined by factors such as temperament, mood, and emotional maturity. They found that personality also plays a role, with happiness potential being determined by as much as 50% from inherited and acquired characteristics. These characteristics, become ingrained from parental messages, life events, and circumstances of our upbringing. Most of us will act both consciously and subconsciously in ways that confirm beliefs about wealth and happiness that we already have. Most of these lottery winners and athletes become victims of self sabotage and end up believing that outside forces are responsible for the loss of their relatively instant millions. The reality is that most of them engage in behaviors that are consistent with their beliefs about happiness, acting in ways that confirm their beliefs about wealth and happiness.

For example, Mike Tyson’s substance abuse, exotic animals, cars, and partying, were all attempts at making himself happy. Money alone is never enough for a person with a low happiness set point. Money is seen as a way to become happy, rather than enhancing happiness that already exists. More, more, more is seen as the way to happiness. For those with a low happiness set point, it seldom is.

So where does true happiness come from? Research consistently shows that the happiest thrd wrldpeople are those that engage in altruistic, other oriented activities. Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey, a collection of statistics representing the largest and longest-standing series of studies on happiness, indicates that this is the most primary correlate to life satisfaction. It also turns out that Americans are not as happy as we would think. The 2013 World Happiness Report, issued by a United Nations committee, ranked the United States 78th among world nations when it comes to happiness, with the top five being Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Brazil. Think about that for a moment. People in Iceland are significantly happier when people in the United States!

There are ways that all of us can be happier. Here are some suggestions that are backed by science:

⦁    Enjoy the journey. Ultimately happiness is an internal state created by your beliefs and actions, rather than something that comes from outside of you. Learning to derive happiness from little things that are consistently part of your world is the critical reason why people in less developed nations are happy. Be grateful for clean water, food, fresh air, and close family and friends. Gratitude for things that are necessary for living-you don’t need a Rolex watch, a Lexus, or a 60 inch flatscreen TV to remain alive-will make you happier over the long run.
⦁    Notice ways that your self talk and internal dialogue are contributing to your state of unhappiness. Pay close attention to the if-then thoughts that you instinctively create. Becoming aware of the if-then paradox is important if you are not going to fall victim to it.
⦁    Ask yourself better questions when the if-then logic pop send to your thinking. “Would I really be more happy if I had $1 million?” It’s okay to dream, but don’t assume that your happiness is something that you can purchase, drive, or pour from of a bottle. Realizing that you have the capacity to make yourself happy already can be an empowering and liberating realization.
⦁    Stay connected to, and grateful for, basic human necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, water, and meaningful social connections. Noticing these and being grateful for them on a consistent basis is the best way to generate that internal state of bliss which we call happiness.

Science indicates that we, and we alone, are the reason for our happiness. Money, fame, HAPPINESS-facebookand a Charlie Sheen lifestyle are simply not going to create it. Happiness is something that we are, not something we are going to get if. Happiness, like life, is all about the journey not the destination. Next time you find yourself envious of some wealthy celebrity or lottery winner reconsider, reassess, and maybe even be careful what you wish for.

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud

John

P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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