According to the National Sleep Foundation, being exposed to natural light during the day — and being in darkness at night — helps your body maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. (Among other things, natural light plays a role in regulating the sleep hormone melatonin.) Get outside at some point during the day, and keep devices and other sources of light out of your room at night by investing in light-blocking curtains or shades.
2. Eat Lighter in the Evenings
Eating until you’re stuffed can help you fall asleep, but you might struggle to stay that way. “Heavy protein — which is hard to digest and often metabolized to wake-promoting dopamine — in combination with spicy or fatty foods will give your body way too much to do at night when it should be focused on sleep,” said Dr. Winter. Try to eat big meals three to four hours before bed. This will also help prevent acid reflux, which can wake you during the night.
3. Avoid Late-Night Workouts
While a 2017 review found that exercise improves sleep quality and duration, working out right before bed may actually cause your sleep to suffer. “Your circadian clock and metabolism are connected. Exercise revs up metabolism, and it can stay elevated for hours, keeping you awake,” Mary Ellen Wells, PhD, director and assistant professor of neurodiagnostics and sleep science at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told POPSUGAR. “For this reason, avoid exercise a few hours before bedtime.”
4. Skip the Nightcap
You probably know the risks of drinking caffeine in the afternoon, but that glass of wine can also disrupt your sleep. “Alcohol does nothing positive for sleep. It is very important for individuals not to confuse sedation with sleep,” Dr. Winter explained. “Alcohol can reduce the deep sleep we get at night and dramatically suppress REM sleep,” the dream phase considered to be the most restorative stage of sleep. “Alcohol is also a diuretic,” he continued, meaning it can cause you to use the bathroom during the night. And even beyond that, “it increases sleep fragmentation and wake time during the night.”
5. Power Down Your Devices
“Electronics and the light they emit — as well as the stress that often comes with them — can dramatically impact our sleep quality and quantity,” said Dr. Winter. “The light can interrupt the brain’s ability to produce the sleep-promoting chemical melatonin.”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees for optimal sleep. You should also wear looser clothing to prevent heat from being trapped inside. It’ll benefit your skin, too. “Tighter clothing can lead to friction and irritation, which can cause clogged pores and rashes,” Michael Kassardjian, DO, a board-certified dermatologist at Coast Dermatology, told POPSUGAR. “Additionally, the hot and humid environment caused by warmer clothing is a perfect breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections. Folliculitis, acne, and yeast infections are some examples of what can develop.”
We all have times in our lives when we are confused, uncertain, indecisive. Sometimes this is about how to solve a problem we’re facing—preparing for our first big interview or learning the ropes on a new job, filling out our income taxes or fixing a leaky bathroom faucet. These are straight-forward in that they are about skill, and the first step in acquiring skill is getting information—about interviews, the work tasks, the filling out taxes, the leaky faucet. To solve the problem we start by learning what we don’t know.
But other times our problems are not so much about skills but about emotions that make us indecisive. Here are some of the common ways you can get stuck:
You don’t want to upset others
This is common and big. You kind-of know what you want to do but you’re worried about the reactions of others—parents, bosses, partners, friends. You’re afraid of disapproval or conflict, or being put on the spot and needing to defend yourself, which is especially difficult if you’re not solidly sure yourself of your idea or plan.
You’re not sure what you want
You have a lot of ideas of about what you should do, what might be the best course, and your friends, your partner have given you ideas—take the job, drop the new date. But you get hung up because you have all this advice, all these should in your head, but you can’t pin down what you emotionally want.
You have too many options
Okay, you’re not so worried about how others may react, you know what you want—that you want to say, live and work in San Francisco—but your flooded with too options of possible jobs, possible places to live. You’re overwhelmed.
You’re struggling with all of the above or a mix of a couple but why you’re really stuck is that you are trying to find the perfect, Right choice or solution.
The way forward
There is a famous poem by Antonio Machado, entitled Traveler, Your Footprints; here is an excerpt:
Traveler, your footprints / are the only road, nothing else. Traveler, there is no road; you make a path as you walk.
Sometimes there is no clear path. As Machado suggests, you find the path by walking and making the path, by moving forward in spite of your not knowing. As you move forward it all becomes clearer.
So, you worry about other’s reactions, but you press forward and sensitively but assertively say what you want. The challenge here is seeing what happens next, and if you do get a negative reaction, telling yourself that you didn’t do anything wrong by speaking up, and that now you simply have a new problem that you may need to address.
If you are not sure about what you want, you want to listen to your gut, your needs, get out of your head, and move forward based on these emotions. This is not about being impulsive or acting out, but not dismissing this important source of information. As you follow these wants, your path will become clearer.
If you are flooded with too many options, and feeling overwhelmed, the problem is that your anxiety is kicking up, and as anxiety does, making you lose sight of what is most important. Return again to your gut: Take those deep breaths and ask yourself: What do I most want and need right now?
And finally, if you are trying to craft the perfect solution, realize that life is not about perfect solution, but about trial and error. Machado’s sage advice is to move forward, don’t dither and expect an answer by standing still. The answers come by taking action, often any action.
“Stick with it!”“Be resilient!”“Never give up!”I see a lot of stuff about resilience, persistence and grit. What I don’t see is a lot of legitimate info on how to actually increase those qualities.How can we be more resilient? How can we shrug off huge challenges in life, persist and — in the end — succeed?So I looked at the most difficult scenarios for insight. (Who needs resilience in easy situations, right?)When life and death is on the line, what do the winners do that the losers don’t?Turns out surviving the most dangerous situations has some good lessons we can use to learn how to be resilient in everyday life.
Whether it’s dealing with unemployment, a difficult job, or personal tragedies, here are insights that can help.
1) Perceive and believe
“The company already had two rounds of layoffs this year but I never thought they would let me go.”
“Yeah, the argument was getting a little heated but I didn’t think he was going to hit me.”
The first thing to do when facing difficulty is to make sure you recognize it as soon as possible.
Sounds obvious but we’ve all been in denial at one point or another. What do people who survive life-threatening situations have in common?
They move through those “stages of grief” from denial to acceptance faster:
M. Ephimia Morphew, a psychologist and founder of the Society for Human Performance in Extreme Environments, told me of a series of accidents she’d been studying in which scuba divers were found dead with air in their tanks and perfectly functional regulators. “Only they had pulled the regulators out of their mouths and drowned. It took a long time for researchers to figure out what was going on.” It appears that certain people suffer an intense feeling of suffocation when their mouths are covered. That led to an overpowering impulse to uncover the mouth and nose. The victims had followed an emotional response that was in general a good one for the organism, to get air. But it was the wrong response under the special, non-natural, circumstances of scuba diving.
When you’re having trouble breathing what’s more natural than to clear an obstruction from your mouth?
Now just a brief second of clear thinking tells you this is a very bad idea while diving — but when you panic, you can’t think clearly.
Rash decision making rarely delivers optimal results in everyday life either.
Resilient people acknowledge difficult situations, keep calm and evaluate things rationally so they can make a plan and act.
Al Siebert, in his book The Survivor Personality, writes that “The best survivors spend almost no time, especially in emergencies, getting upset about what has been lost, or feeling distressed about things going badly…. For this reason they don’t usually take themselves too seriously and are therefore hard to threaten.”
(For methods Navy SEALS, astronauts and the samurai use to keep calm under pressure, click here.)
So you know you’re in trouble but you’re keeping your cool. Might there be a simple way to sidestep all these problems? Yeah.
3) Be a quitter
Many of you might be a little confused right now: “A secret to resilience is quitting? That doesn’t make any sense.”
What do we see when we look at people who survive life and death situations? Many of them were smart enough to bail early.
“…It’s a matter of looking at yourself and assessing your own abilities and where you are mentally, and then realizing that it’s better to turn back and get a chance to do it again than to go for it and not come back at all.” We are a society of high achievers, but in the wilderness, such motivation can be deadly…
The best way to take a punch from a UFC fighter and to survive a hurricane are the same: “Don’t be there when it hits.”
You quit baseball when you were 10 and quit playing the piano after just 2 lessons. Nobody sticks with everything. You can’t.
When the company starts laying people off, there’s always one guy smart enough to immediately jump ship and preemptively get a new job.
And some people are smart enough to realize, “I am never going to be a great Tango dancer and should double my efforts at playing poker.”
And you know what results this type of quitting has? It makes you happier, reduces stress and increases health.
Wrosch found that people who quit their unattainable goals saw physical and psychological benefits. “They have, for example, less depressive symptoms, less negative affect over time,” he says. “They also have lower cortisol levels, and they have lower levels of systemic inflammation, which is a marker of immune functioning. And they develop fewer physical health problems over time.”
“This is not to be misinterpreted as a bad thing. In fact, being delusional helps us become more effective. By definition, these delusions don’t have to be accurate. If they were totally accurate, your goals would be too low.” Goldsmith noticed that although illusions of control expose people to risk of failure, they do something else that is very interesting: they motivate people to keep trying even when they’ve failed… “Successful people fail a lot, but they try a lot, too. When things don’t work, they move on until an idea does work. Survivors and great entrepreneurs have this in common.”
Crazy successful people and people who survive tough situations are all overconfident. Very overconfident.
Some of you may be scratching your head: “Isn’t step one all about not being in denial? About facing reality?”
You need to make a distinction between denial about the situation and overconfidence in your abilities.
The first one is very bad, but the second one can be surprisingly good. See the world accurately — but believe you are a rockstar.
Denying or distorting a bad situation may be comforting in the short term, but it’s potentially harmful in the long run because it will be almost impossible to solve a problem unless you first admit you have one. In contrast, having an especially strong belief in one’s personal capabilities, even if that belief is somewhat illusory, probably helps you to solve problems… A useful, if somewhat simplistic, mathematical formula might be: a realistic view of the situation + a strong view of one’s ability to control one’s destiny through one’s efforts = grounded hope.
(For more on what the most successful people have in common, click here.)
So this is how superheroes must feel: there’s definitely trouble, but you’re calm and you feel like you’re awesome enough to handle this.
But we need to move past feelings. What actions are going to see you through this mess?
5) Prepare … even if it’s too late for preparation
Folks, I firmly believe there is no such thing as a “pretty good” alligator wrestler.
Who survives life threatening situations? People who have done it before. People who have prepared.
As the days went by, he continued to concentrate on strategies for survival. At one point, a rubber life belt floated by and he grabbed it. He had heard that the Japanese would use aircraft to strafe shipwrecked Americans. The life belt could be blown up through a rubber tube. He cut the tube off and kept it, reasoning that if the Japanese spotted them, he could slip under water and breathe through the tube. He was planning ahead. He had a future in his mind, and good survivors always concentrate on the present but plan for the future. Thus, taking it day by day, hour by hour, and sometimes minute by minute, did Don McCall endure.
One caveat: as learning expert Dan Coyle recommends, make sure any prep you do is as close to the real scenario as possible.
Bad training can be worse than no training. When police practice disarming criminals they often conclude by handing the gun to their partner.
One officer trained this so perfectly that in the field he took a gun from a criminal — and instinctively handed it right back.
Johnson recounts how officers are trained to take a gun from an assailant at close quarters, a maneuver they practice by role-playing with a fellow officer. It requires speed and deftness: striking an assailant’s wrist with one hand to break his grip while simultaneously wresting the gun free with the other. It’s a move that officers had been in the habit of honing through repetition, taking the gun, handing it back, taking it again. Until one of their officers, on a call in the field, took the gun from an assailant and handed it right back again.
(For more on how to develop good habits — and get rid of bad ones, click here.)
You’re expecting the best but prepared for the worst. Perfect. Is now the time to de-stress? Heck, no.
6) Stay busy, busy, busy
What’s the best way to survive and keep your emotions in check when things are hard? “Work, work, work.”
Remember the saying “Get organized or die.” In the wake of trauma, “Work, work, work,” as Richard Mollica wrote. He is a psychiatrist at Harvard who studies trauma. “This is the single most important goal of traumatized people throughout the world.” The hands force order on the mind.
When things go bad, people get sad or scared, retreat and distract themselves. That can quell the emotions, but it doesn’t get you out of this mess.
Resilient people know that staying busy not only gets you closer to your goals but it’s also the best way to stay calm.
Simpson was learning what it means to be playful in such circumstances: “A pattern of movements developed after my initial wobbly hops and I meticulously repeated the pattern. Each pattern made up one step across the slope and I began to feel detached from everything around me. I thought of nothing but the patterns.” His struggle had become a dance, and the dance freed him from the terror of what he had to do.
How does this work? It’s neuroscience. Patterned activities stimulate the same reward center cocaine does.
And tellingly, a structure within the basal ganglia is activated during feelings of safety, reward, and simply feeling great. It’s called the striatum and drugs such as cocaine set it off, but so does the learning of a new habit or skill and the performance of organized, patterned activities…
Even boring things can be fun if you turn them into a game with stakes, challenges and little rewards.
And we can use this same system for everyday problems: How many resumes can you send out today? Can you beat yesterday?
Celebrating “small wins” is something survivors have in common.
Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes. That is an important step in creating an ongoing feeling of motivation and preventing the descent into hopelessness. It also provides relief from the unspeakable stress of a true survival situation.
(For more on how to increase gratitude and happiness, click here.)
You’re a machine. Making progress despite huge challenges. What’s the final way to take your resilience to the next level? Other people.
8) Get help and give help
Getting help is good. That’s obvious. But sometimes we’re ashamed or embarrassed and fail to ask for it. Don’t let pride get in the way.
What’s more fascinating is that even in the worst of times, giving help can help you.
By taking on the role of caretaker we increase the feeling of meaning in our lives. This helps people in the worst situations succeed.
Leon Weliczker survived the Holocaust not only because of his resourcefulness — but also because he felt he had to protect his brother.
When his fifteen-year-old brother Aaron came in, Leon was suddenly filled with love and a feeling of responsibility for the two boys. He was shedding the cloak of the victim in favor of the role of the rescuer. Terrence Des Pres, in his book The Survivor, makes the point that in the journey of survival, helping someone else is as important as getting help.
Helping someone else is the best way to ensure your own survival. It takes you out of yourself. It helps you to rise above your fears. Now you’re a rescuer, not a victim. And seeing how your leadership and skill buoy others up gives you more focus and energy to persevere. The cycle reinforces itself: You buoy them up, and their response buoys you up. Many people who survive alone report that they were doing it for someone else (a wife, boyfriend, mother, son) back home.
(For more on how helping others can also help you, click here.)
So once the threat is passed, once the dust has settled, can we have a normal life again? Actually, sometimes, life can be even better.
So when life is daunting and we need resilience, keep in mind:
Perceive And Believe
Manage Your Emotions
Be A Quitter
Prepare… Even If It’s Too Late For Preparation
Stay Busy, Busy, Busy
Make It A Game
Get Help And Give Help
To live full lives some amount of difficulty is essential.
What morning habits hyper-successful entrepreneurs use to set themselves up for productive days?
How you start your day can have an incredible impact on how the rest of it goes. How much energy you have, how efficient and productive you are, if you achieve the right things, and how much you enjoy the journey. There are millions of others out there trying to beat you. There are only so many days to make progress. So, while many workers see morning routines as a luxury, top performers are very mindful of what they do.
I have the pleasure of interviewing some of the most successful entrepreneurs on the DealMakers Podcast where they share how they did it. Routines are always a big component. With that been said, here are just some of the morning rituals of successful entrepreneurs that you may like to try.
1) Review Goals & To-Do Lists
Get in the game and get focused on what you want to accomplish for the day. If you don’t there are plenty of other people in line waiting to take up your time and have you working to their priorities. Take control. Be honing in on your top VIP items and what you want to be doing. Gary Keller uses a one thing to-do list to make sure there are no other distractions.
Leaders read. Period. YouTube is great, audio books and podcasts can be hyper valuable and offer efficiency, but real reading carries many benefits, aside from just inputting more noise and knowledge. Mark Cuban and Warren Buffett are famous for reading for hours a day. Elon Musk and Bill Gates are heavy readers too. It is one of the top traits of the world’s most successful.
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Exercise is one of the most common elements in the morning routines of successful entrepreneurs. Many hit the gym, ride bikes, run or walk. Navy SEAL and author of Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink likes to hit the weights hard before running. Though the new peloton craze could be for you if you live in the cold weather like NYC.
4) Cold & Hot Therapy
Tony Robbins is famous for using cold therapy to wake up. If it’s not a cryo chamber, it’s a dipping pool at his Florida estate. In his new book Passion For Real Estate Investing, fund manager Fuquan Bilal swears by Korean heat therapy for boosting thinking and productivity.
Practicing mindfulness, breathing exercises, meditation and even morning journaling are common practices among high achievers. This includes both Arianna Huffington and Oprah. Some may find this a little slow paced for their lifestyles. Others swear by it for staying focused.
Entrepreneurs who are known for practicing yoga include Russell Simmons, Sergey Brin (Google), Justin Rosenstein and multi-billion dollar selling real estate entrepreneur Kaya Wittenburg. If you are looking for something a little more fast paced try power yoga or Day Breaker’s morning dance and yoga parties.
If lifting weights isn’t your thing, why not dive into your favorite sport in the morning. Tim Draper says he begins his day with basketball. Richard Branson says he enjoys tennis, kite surfing or swimming around his private island. This can be a great way to ensure your passion for a sport isn’t left in the dust as you pursue your startup and grow a business. It’s one thing you shouldn’t sacrifice.
8) Check in Online
Other entrepreneurs just thrive on jumping right into it. It seems to work quite well for them. Entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk hit the bathroom with their phones as they leap out of bed to check news, respond to social media messages, or even keep in the routine of making time to call family members. This seems counterproductive advice compared to most of what is suggested in books and blogs today, but if that’s what you live for, don’t deny yourself.
9) Make the Bed
Just like the military, Tim Ferris of the Four Hour Work Week has said making the bed is a priority in the morning. You may not really care about what the bed looks like, nor feel you need it to be made before you knock out again at night. Yet, there may be benefits in the routine and preparing your mind. If you are working from home or are sleeping in your office, the cleanliness and organization might be better for your focus too.
The great thing about this morning ritual is that you’ve always at least accomplished something each day. Even if that is followed by spilling coffee on your new shirt, getting stuck in traffic, forgetting to let the dog out, and missing an important investor meeting At least you accomplished something today.
10) Have Breakfast with People You Love
If you are a real hustler it can be hard to slow down enough to make breakfast with your family. Well, it can be even harder to make it home for dinner on time or make all the quality time you promise. At least you can be consistent with breakfast. You can also start out their day on a positive note, and ensure you are still getting the most important things done.
Morning routines appear to be a clear differentiator in top performers and the rest. Invest time in them. These clues from other successful leaders appear to make a big difference in how high you can go. However, Tai Lopez also points out the importance of finding the right combination of morning rituals for you and your personality.
You don’t have to get up at 4 am, bench press, or be a Facebook user to be successful. It’s more important that you morning system works for you. Experiment and find a good process. Though don’t be shy about disrupting it every now and again to try something new.
Alejandro Cremades is a serial entrepreneur and author of best-seller The Art of Startup Fundraising, a book that offers a step-by-step guide to today‘s way of raising money for entrepreneurs.
The following are the seven habits that, in my opinion, comprise the basis of existentially vibrant living:
(1) the habit of making one’s own meaning (instead of “looking for it”)
(2) the habit of accepting reality “as is” (put differently, the habit of “noticing ordinary perfection”)
(3) the habit of being present in the moment
(4) the habit of making conscious choices (which helps you de-program and re-program your life at will)
(5) the habit of self-acceptance/self-compassion
(6) the habit of accepting uncertainty (“because we are always flying blind into the unknown of what is yet to be”)
(7) the habit of forgiving and compassion
These seven vital signs of conscious, meaningful, and mindful living are the goals of the program of existential rehabilitation. Developing these habits will help you feel freer and more alive, more at ease and psychologically invulnerable, more attuned to yourself and more connected with others, and, most importantly, less preoccupied with what should be and more in awe of what already is.
“The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts the moment you get up and doesn’t stop until you get into the office.” – Robert Frost We tend to put a lot of emphasis on intelligence. I.Q. tests are supposed to tell us what type of person we are, what jobs we’ll have, how successful we’ll be, […]
Habits are a part of everyone’s life. We all have them, we all know of them, and most of us tend to complain about them. Yet not many of us take the time to learn about them. If we did, we would be a lot more successful with building good habits and eliminating bad ones.
With 40 percent of your daily behavior being based on habits, it’s important to stop and take stock of what they actually are. Imagine if 90 percent of that 40 percent is all bad habits, or habits that are holding you back? That’s not a fun nor productive place to be.
That’s why it’s important to become your very own social scientist for your own life. Explore what your habits are, how they have been built, and whether they are good or bad for you. This is where you have to start. Without the self-awareness and the breaking down of the habits, it’s very difficult to start changing your habits or adding new ones in.
To help you get started, I have three questions for you to use when you start exploring your habits:
1. Is this habit helping me to be happier, healthier or more successful?
If the answer is no, it’s obvious you’ve got to let it go. The only tricky part is you can’t just eliminate it because it’s an existing neural pathway in your brain. Instead, you’ve got to dress that bad habit in new overalls to turn it into a good habit you want to keep.
2. How is my habit formed?
Without understanding what your habit consists of it’s impossible to change it or adapt it. This is where Charles Duhigg’s habit loop comes in, with each habit having a cue (a consistent time, location, emotion, person or activity), a routine (the actual behavior) and a reward (some sense of satisfaction). The key is realising that even the bad habits have a reward even though we might not label them as such.
3. Do I want to change one or more habits in my life?
No one can tell you what habits you should or shouldn’t have. You know what is best for your body and being, and you know what habits you are happy to involve in your life. When you’re deciding whether to change a bad habit or to add a new good habit into your life, make sure you have a clear why behind it. Doing it “because someone said so” isn’t going to keep you motivated through your habit change.
The most important thing to remember is that habit change is possible. Even though it’s difficult at the start, the more you stick with it, the easier it becomes. There are lots of different tools and strategies to test when it comes to changing habits and building new ones successfully, but before all that comes the understanding of what habits actually are, how they are formed, and how you can override the neural pathways of bad habits.
Then, like Aristotle said, you’ll be on your way to excellence: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Having an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ is more than just a catchy phrase. It is a reminder that there are things you have, every day, to be thankful for. Focussing on these things, instead of the things that will inevitably go wrong (it happens to the best of us) then you find yourself with a much more positive outlook and you may even find yourself with more opportunities to enjoy.
There are certain things you can practice that helps you be a more optimistic and thankful person. Practice positive thinking to turn your thoughts and your life around. The practice of yoga or other exercise you enjoy reduces any harmful things that stress and negativity will do to your body. Meditation, eating healthier and staying hydrated will work wonders for your body and your mindset too.
There have been multiple research studies done on what positive thinking can do for the mind and the body. Keeping your energy positive is a key thing to keeping your mind and body in a healthy place. The second you start focussing on the negatives, that’s when you start to feel anxious or depressed.
When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, think of a positive one to combat it. It is said that if you say five things you’re thankful for when you wake up, you are bound to have a good day. On top of that, if you say 5 things you’re grateful for before you sleep then you’re bound to have sweet dreams.
So, you get a great day and good dreams. If that’s not reason enough for you, then here’s some facts from the studies.
Due to the higher level of positive energy, people have reported:
• feeling less lonely, • having a stronger immune system/ feeling generally healthier,-reduction of stress/ a higher level of positive feelings,
• greater level of confidence/ a general feeling of happiness.
Can’t think of anything you’re grateful for? Here are some examples:
• Good waves • Sunshine • A hot shower/bath after a cold surf session • Surfing in the rain (it’s so fun and beautiful) • The smell of surf wax • Good music • Not getting sand in your eyes
• Fluffy towels to dry off on (really makes the job much faster)
• Finally getting the wetsuit on/off • Tasty food (or any food, really) after a long day on the waves • Time to binge on your favourite surf movies • Joyful beach day giggles with your friends
Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for and what makes you happy.
Be positive and plan all the cool things you’re going to do this year on our 2019 SurfGirl Wall Planner.
Being successful means waking up early – or so we’re constantly told.
It makes you more productive. Celebrities and CEOs do it. You’ll be healthier and happier. You’ll feel in control of your life.
But despite the deluge of such stories, waking up at an ungodly hour isn’t some sort of magic productivity hack that will solve your time-management problems. For some, it can even be counterproductive.
The trick is finding a routine that fits your situation. Here are some timeless tips that can help you cut through the noise and figure out a wake-up strategy that’s right for you.
What are the benefits of getting up early?
There can be lots – at least, according to all the people who get up at daybreak.
US actor Mark Wahlberg made headlines last year when he said he wakes up at 2:30 am (Credit: Getty Images)
Many people cite fewer distractions during the early hours: kids or anyone else in your home are probably still asleep, for example, and you’ll probably be receiving fewer texts or emails at that time.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he rises at 03:45 to start checking email in California before his East Coast colleagues can (which, at 06:45, is still quite early in its own right). Oprah Winfrey says she gets up at 06:02 every day for reflection, meditation and exercise before starting work at 09:00. The most extreme case might be Mark Wahlberg, who wakes up at 02:30 to exercise, play golf, pray and recover in a -100C cryochamber.
You might be more alert and have better cognitive ability in the afternoon
Studies have also suggested early rising and success might be linked. People who wake up early are more in sync with the traditional corporate schedule and tend to have more proactive personalities, which might lead to better grades in school or higher wages on the job.
If getting up early doesn’t come naturally, there are some strategies you can try. Early exercise and exposing yourself to light as soon as possible can help stimulate metabolism and body temperature, which gets you going more quickly.
Yet the early alarm clock may not work for everyone – it turns out there are plenty of caveats around trying to become a morning person if it’s not an easy fit.
Is getting up early for everyone?
No. Whether or not waking up early actually makes you more productive could be in your genes.
In fact, a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications provided further evidence that this is the case. Looking at data from over 700,000 people, researchers found over 350 genetic factors that could influence whether people feel more naturally energised either in the morning or in the evening. The large sample size makes the study the biggest of its kind so far, though further research is needed to confirm the results.
So, if you don’t naturally feel alert in the morning but decide to wake up early anyway, you might be sabotaging your actual peak performance times.
Humans aren’t built to go to sleep with glowing distractions, which can cause sleep problems (Credit: Getty Images)
Of course, people may have personal reasons for making an early start. “There may be other factors at play, such as enthusiasm and high job satisfaction, which facilitate eagerness to get up earlier and get to work,” says Marilyn Davidson, professor emerita of work psychology at the University of Manchester.
Parents with young children or workers with non-traditional hours may also have no choice about what time they start the day.
Getting up early doesn’t necessarily translate to instant success at the office
The main point: the mere fact of getting up early doesn’t necessarily translate to instant success at the office. In fact, depending on the person, it could end up having a negative effect.
Can getting up early ever be counterproductive?
Yes. Especially if you don’t normally wake up super early and are trying to hop on some kind of productivity bandwagon.
“People say: ‘Oh, this CEO is doing his 05:00 regimen, I’m going to hop on and do this on Mondays and Fridays,’” says Rachel Salas, an associate professor of neurology who specialises in sleep medicine and sleep disorders at Johns Hopkins University in the US. “But that’s not consistent [sleep]. You’re messing with your system.”
Salas says that getting a full night’s sleep and getting the same amount of sleep at the same time each night are both important. An even worse scenario? If you’re actually reducing sleep to become an early riser.
Sacrificing sleep means you may be hit by the many negative effects of sleep deprivation, including moodiness, poor concentration, potential weight gain, anxiety, increased risk of heart disease and higher blood pressure.
So if early rising means cutting sleep, don’t do it. Salas says she’s had patients come into her clinic who got by on reduced sleep in their 20s and 30s, but struggled as they got older, their lifestyles changed and they had kids.
“If you start early, you will need to stop work earlier too, so there may be no real benefits,” points out Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, England. She thinks that high-profile businesspeople who follow up an early start with long hours in the office or a late-night presence on email have a damaging effect.
Famous CEOs and celebrities frequently brag about early rising – but is it really right for everyone? (Credit: Getty Images)
There’s something particularly pernicious about the bragging of a CEO chronicling their early starts. The New York Times recently coined the term ‘performative workaholism’, referring to workaholics flaunting early wake-ups and long hours as a badge of honour, which can end up setting a bad example.
“CEOs are important role models for staff,” Kinman says. “And seeing this behaviour as desirable is just irresponsible.”
What should you do?
Experts say to experiment. Don’t listen to vocal thought-leaders or LinkedIn influencers – figure out what works best for you. And, hey, maybe that does mean waking up super early after all.
Pay attention to when you feel most tired and most awake. When on holiday, make a note of the times you fall asleep and wake up naturally. Try to sync your schedule to those times, as that’s how you’ll tap into most of your natural energy for the day ahead.
When it comes to the workplace, experts suggest an approach that accommodates everyone’s habits to bring out the best in them. Susan Stehlik, director of New York University’s management communications programme, suggests offices and teams use a technique called “appreciative inquiry”.
Pay attention to when you feel most tired and most awake.
This means that the team sits down at the very initial stages of a project and brings up their individual needs, schedules and preferences right out of the gate to the group – ideally, so that the group can adjust accordingly.
“That way you bring up things [like]: ‘I have kids, I have to be up at 05:00 every day and have to get them to day-care and can’t stay late’,” Stehlik says. “‘Here are my vulnerabilities right now, and here are my strengths right now.’ It’s mostly teamwork.”
If team leaders are flexible, you could agree to have an early riser start checking email or working earlier, and then allow them to knock off earlier in the afternoon. That way, workers can enjoy the benefits of early rising, but avoid burnout.
You’re also applying the practices of early rising to those to whom it’s applicable or useful, instead of arbitrarily getting everyone up early to chase the illusion of increased productivity.
In the end, though, it’s all about taking sleep advice from non-experts with a grain of salt. It’s about knowing your unique sleep preferences and the times of the day (or night) that you feel at your peak. And above all, it’s getting adequate – and consistent – amounts of sleep.
For some people, forcing yourself to wake up before the chickens because that’s what your business idol does may not be the smartest or healthiest way to start the day.
“Don’t do it,” Kinman says. “Unless you are a true morning person.”
Bryan Lufkin is BBC Capital’s features writer. Follow him on Twitter @bryan_lufkin.
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It shouldn’t take a holiday like Valentine’s Day to remind you to pause and reflect on the relationships you value in your life. Whether it be with colleagues, friends, lovers, or a spouse, you can always benefit from taking a step back, appreciating the love you have in your life and making the time to show others you care about them.
When you are mindful of the love in your life you open yoursel up to the opportunity for love to grow. And not just romantic love, but self-love, and loving friendships as well.
START WITH SELF-LOVE
To connect more deeply with others, you must face the one person that you keep on the shortest leash: yourself. We often reject other people’s care or attention when we believe we don’t deserve it—but there’s nothing special you must do to deserve love. As Sharon Salzberg reminds us, it is simply because you exist. Follow this fifteen-minute guided meditation to open your heart toward giving and receiving love.
Try this practice from Sharon Salzberg to learn how to open your heart to love and compassion:
A Practice for Opening Your Heart:
A Meditation for Opening the Heart
Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg offers a brief meditation for cultivating compassion.
1) Imagine you’re encircled by people who love you. Sit with your eyes closed, breathing normally, imagining yourself in the center of a circle made up of the most loving beings you’ve ever met.
2) Receive the love of those who love you. Experience yourself as the recipient of the energy, attention, care, and regard of all of these beings in your circle of love. Send love to yourself by giving yourself this message: May I be safe, May I be happy, May I be healthy. May I live with ease of heart.
3) Notice how you feel when you receive love.Whatever emotions may arise, you just let them wash through you. And repeat to yourself: May I be safe, May I be happy, May I be healthy. May I live with ease of heart.
4) Open yourself up to receiving love. Imagine that your skin is porous and this warm, loving energy is coming in. There’s nothing special that you need to do or be in order to deserve this kind of loving care. It’s simply because you exist.
5) Send loving care to the people in your circle. You can allow that quality of loving kindness and compassion and care you feel coming toward you to flow right back out to the circle and then toward all beings everywhere, so that what you receive, you transform into giving. May we all be safe, May we all be happy, May we all be healthy. May we all live with ease of heart.
Leading experts on mindful self-compassion Drs. Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer share how self-kindness, recognition of our humanity, and mindfulness give us the strength to thrive. Read More
LEARN TO CONNECT WITH THOSE YOU LOVE
In movies, people often gaze into the eyes of the person they love—but in reality, we spend more time gazing into the glowing screens of our smartphones. It’s a damaging habit that can distract us from in-person conversations and real-world experiences with people we care about. Here are 11 simple ways to build real relationships with the people you care about most:
11 Ways to Connect with Care
1. Really see each other
Making eye contact with someone activates what psychologist Stephen Porges calls our Social Nervous System, which can relieve stress and create a deeper sense of connection. It is hard not to feel intimate and vulnerable when looking into the eyes of another person—even a stranger. Try it! It may feel funny at first, but you will find a softening in your heart and a sensation of love flowing before you know it.
2. Listen with all of your senses
There’s a difference between hearing someone and actively listening to someone. The next time you’re having an in-person conversation, notice the posture and body language of the other person. Tune into the tone of their voice, and absorb the meaning of their words. See if it’s possible to put aside your own response while listening to them speak. When we feel listened to, we feel cared about and this increases a sense of mutual love and connection.
3. Reach out and touch someone
As mammals, physical contact is essential to our well-being. American psychologist Harry Harlow’s famous study on maternal deprivation with rhesus monkeys demonstrated that touch provides a crucial psychological and emotional resource in our development. Touch is also a primary way we communicate, feel safe, soothe our nervous systems, trust one another, and convey love and compassion. Take a day to experiment with actively reaching out to your loved ones with small touches (on the hand, shoulder, knee, or arm) and see what you notice—perhaps it’s a greater sense of connection, increased compassion, or an open heart.
4. Hug like you mean it
Very few things feel better than a good hug. Science shows that hugging can reduce blood pressure, alleviate fear, soothe anxiety, and release the “love” hormone oxytocin. Psychologist Stan Tatkin suggests that in order to align nervous systems, prevent arguments, and feel more connected people hug until both bodies feel relaxed. Who can you hug today?
5. Be interested
The late rabbi and social activist Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Life is routine, and routine is resistance to wonder.” One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is curiosity, and we can bring this into our relationships to foster warmth and trust. Our minds often tell us that we “know” someone so well that we can predict their behaviors and responses. While this may be true some of the time, it also stops us from clearly seeing the person in front of us—instead we just see our “idea” of that person. See if you can be open, curious, and interested in those close to you as if you are getting to know them for the first time. You might be surprised what you find.
6. Make plans and keep them
Nothing breaks a bond like flaking on plans. And yet there are often reasons why we don’t follow through on commitments. Sometimes we’re overextended, saying “yes” to plans or responsibilities when we mean “no.” Be honest with yourself, and only take on what you can handle. Identify the people in your life who bring you down, and those who nourish and energize you. And then figure out if, and how, you can work with your relationships to those people to foster mutual trust, respect, and appreciation. Our connections flourish when we take time to get to know ourselves, and others, better.
7. Communicate your needs and feelings
Most of us have been guilty at one time or another of not being clear about what we really need or want in the moment. This indirect form of communication rarely yields the outcome we want. In our program Connecting Adolescents to Learning Mindfulness (CALM), we emphasize the importance of Non-Violent Communication, which assumes that we all share the same basic needs and that our actions (knowingly or unknowingly) are attempts to get those satisfied. When we learn how to identify and express our own needs clearly, we naturally move toward greater understanding, compassion, and connection with the people in our lives.
8. Be kind
Kindness is like a magnet. People like to be around others who are kind because they feel cared about and safe with them. The age-old Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would want them to do to you” still rings true today. It’s also reciprocal. When we practice kindness, not only do we feel better, but we help others feel good, too. And this just increases opportunities for positive connections throughout our day, which, in turn, contributes to our own health and well-being.
9. THINK before you speak
We’ve all been guilty of saying or doing something we wished we hadn’t. It happens. But we can certainly make more of an effort to be thoughtful with our words and actions. Try this experiment for a week: Before speaking to someone, consider the following: Is it True, is it Helpful, am I the best one to say it, is it Necessary, is it Kind? See how your interactions change.
We might even imagine what the world would be like if everyone practiced this a little more.
10. Practice “Just like me”
DNA research has revealed that regardless of gender, ethnicity, or race, humans are 99.9% the same. If you want to foster a greater sense of connection in your life, as you go through your day and encounter someone who you think is different from you, silently say, “Just like me,” and see what comes up. You may just experience the awareness that each of us wants the same things: to feel cared for and understood, and to experience a sense of belonging.
11. Experience joy for others
Be on the lookout for moments when you notice that others are taking care of themselves, experiencing a success or accomplishment, or even just having a good day, and see if you can be happy for them. Sometimes this joy for another’s happiness naturally arises, and other times it’s something we can intentionally foster. If you feel so bold, tell them, “Good job” or “I’m so happy for you.” Not only can this create or strengthen your connection, but it can amplify your own good feelings.
A mindful relationship with our phones is the key to balancing in-person interactions and online activity. Here are six ways to limit screen time in order to be more present in our real-world relationships. Read More
BRING MINDFUL AWARENESS TO THE WAY YOU COMMUNICATE
Bringing awareness to the way we communicate with others has both practical and profound applications. In the middle of a painful argument with our partner, we can train ourselves to recognize when the channel of communication has shut down. We can train ourselves to remain silent instead of blurting out something we’ll later regret. We can notice when we’re over-reacting and take a time-out.
We begin practicing mindful communication by simply paying attention to how we open up when we feel emotionally safe, and how we shut down when we feel afraid. Just noticing these patterns without judging them starts to cultivate mindfulness in our communications. Noticing how we open and close puts us in greater control of our conversations.
Notice These 3 Phases of Communication
A great metaphor for this is the changing traffic light: We imagine that when the channel of communication closes down, the light has turned red. When communication feels open again, we say the light has turned green. When communication feels in-between, or on the verge of closing down, we say the light has turned yellow. The changing traffic light imagery helps us to identify our various states of communication, and to recognize the consequences of each.
The Red Light: Defensive Reactions
When the red light is on we are defensive and closed down. When we react to fear by shutting down the channel of communication, we’ve put up a defensive barrier dividing us from the world. We justify our defensiveness by holding on to unexamined opinions about how right we are. We tell ourselves that relationships are not that important. We undervalue other people and put our self-interest first. In short, our values shift to “me-first.” Closed communication patterns are controlling and mistrustful. Others become static objects only important to us if they meet our needs.
To make matters worse, when we’re closed and defensive, we feel emotionally hungry. We look to others to rescue us from aloneness. We might try to manipulate and control them to get what we need. Because these strategies never really work, we inevitably become disappointed with people. We suffer, and we cause others to suffer.
When we close down and become defensive—for a few minutes, a few days, a few months, or even a lifetime—we’re cutting ourselves off not only from others, but also from our natural ability to communicate. Mindful communication trains us to notice when we’ve stopped using our innate communication wisdom—the red light.
Openness also has the magic ingredient that enables us to fall in love, to feel empathy and courage.
The Green Light: Openness
Paying attention to our communication patterns helps us realize the value of openness. Generally, we associate open people as trustworthy, as in touch with themselves and others. But openness also has the magic ingredient that enables us to fall in love, to feel empathy and courage. When we’re open, we let go of our opinions and enter a larger mind, which gives us the power to trust our instincts.
When we’re open, we don’t see our individual needs opposing the needs of others. We experience a “we-first” state of mind, because we appreciate that our personal survival depends on the well-being of our relationships. We express this connectedness to others through open communication patterns. Open communication tunes us in to whatever is going on in the present moment, whether comfortable or not. Openness is heartfelt, willing to share the joy and pain of others. Because we’re not blocked by our own opinions, our conversations with others explore new worlds of experience. We learn, change, and expand.
The Yellow Light: In-Between
In practicing mindful communication, eventually we ask ourselves: What exactly causes me to switch from open to closed and then open again? We begin to discover the state of mind that exists in-between open and closed—symbolized by the yellow light. In-between is a place we normally don’t want to enter. We find ourselves there when the ground falls out from beneath our feet, when we feel surprised, embarrassed, disappointed—on the verge of shutting down. We might feel a sudden loss of trust, an unexpected flash of self-consciousness. Learning to hold steady and be curious at this juncture is critical to the practice of mindful conversation.
Small acts of kindness that are either shared or withheld when the yellow light is flashing can make or break a relationship.
A yellow-light transition can appear at any time. We can switch from closed to open via the yellow light, if we’re willing to enter into curiosity, or accepting that we don’t know the answer. The in-between state of mind is a critical time for bringing peace into our homes and workplaces. Small acts of kindness that are either shared or withheld when the yellow light is flashing can make or break a relationship. Once we’re in the red zone, it’s too late to engage in acts of kindness—we’re too mistrustful. I’ve seen this over and again working with couples—they reach a critical point when they can save their relationship by switching from me-first to we-first thinking. They can think about their children, pets, or anything that brings a larger picture to mind. Acts of kindness at this point shift them into a temporary mood of gratitude. Feeling gratitude makes them more interested in moving forward.
The yellow light points to those miraculous moments when we can open up, wag our tails, and play. We break the spell of our own personal agendas and awaken to genuine relationship. Such abrupt shifts seem to come out of nowhere in the middle of our most ego-crunching experiences—such as admitting that we’ve made a mistake.
A successful relationship is the result of thousands of small flashes of the yellow light, where we were able to transform disappointments and arguments into opportunities for unmasking, intimacy, and joy.
Healthy Relationships Include “Healthy” Arguments
If you are in any sort of relationship with a human, chances are you’ve had disastrous fights spring up out of nowhere. Somehow in the midst of reaching for the person you love, your communications take a hard left turn, veer off course and dump you both in a ditch… leaving you dazed and confused.
What would it look like if instead of getting triggered by our partner’s behaviors (and making up stories about why they are doing what they are doing) we could take a deep breath and share our own feelings about their behavior in a heart-centered way? And then listen to their feelings without the need to prove that we are right and they are wrong? Ooof. It’s a tall order but there are three things you can do to help you fight “mindfully.”
Three Tools for Mindful Fights
1. Breathe. Breath is an essential component of meditation. It’s a pause button. When your partner says or does something that sparks an unexpectedly strong emotion, take a breathinstead of reacting, and notice what sensations are arising. Frustration? Anger? With breath as the focus of your attention, you can observe these sensations instead of reacting to them.
2. Center. Breath allows us to become centered and present in our body. When we are centered and present, we can listen to our own feelings and expand our capacity for considering other’s feelings.
3. Connect. When we are centered, we can connect to others in a more authentic and heartfelt way. Our communications become less judgmental and more curious. In this less reactive state, we can communicate our feelings and listen to the feelings of others without needing to act or blame.
It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t take years of a formal meditation practice to apply these techniques in your relationship. It just takes a breath, a pause button, and a willingness to fight the urge to react in a way that will disconnect you from your partner, when what you really want to do is connect. It won’t always work, but even if it works some of the time, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Learning to express anger in a healthy way will help couples resolve conflicts, instead of letting them simmer. Read More
PRACTICE DEEP LISTENING
How often do you feel really listened to? How often do you really listen to others? (Be honest.)
We know we’re in the presence of a good listener when we get that sweet, affirming feeling of really being heard. But sadly it occurs all too rarely. We can’t force others to listen, but we can improve our own listening, and perhaps inspire others by doing so.
Good listening means mindful listening. Like mindfulness itself, listening takes a combination of intention and attention. The intention part is having a genuine interest in the other person—their experiences, views, feelings, and needs. The attention part is being able to stay present, open, and unbiased as we receive the other’s words—even when they don’t line up with our own ideas or desires.
Paradoxically, being good at listening to others requires the ability to listen to yourself. If you can’t recognize your own beliefs and opinions, needs and fears, you won’t have enough inner space to really hear anyone else. So the foundation for mindful listening is self-awareness.
Here are some tips to be a good listener to yourself so you can be a good listener for others.
How to Really Listen
1. Check inside: “How am I feeling just now? Is there anything getting in the way of being present for the other person?” If something is in the way, decide if it needs to be addressed first or can wait till later.
2. Feeling your own sense of presence, extend it to the other person with the intention to listen fully and openly, with interest, empathy, and mindfulness.
3. Silently note your own reactions as they arise—thoughts, feelings, judgments, memories. Then return your full attention to the speaker.
4. Reflect back what you are hearing, using the speaker’s own words when possible, paraphrasing or summarizing the main point. Help the other person feel heard.
5. Use friendly, open-ended questions to clarify your understanding and probe for more. Affirm before you differ. Acknowledge the other person’s point of view—acknowledging is not agreeing!—before introducing your own ideas, feelings, or requests.
When we think we already know what there is to hear, we are simply moving a little too fast to really listen—That’s where meditation comes in.Read More PRACTICE MINDFUL LOVING
Remember, “love” is a verb. Are you so busy that you forget to prioritize romance? Be honest. How strong is your current love connection on a scale from zero to 10? If it’s less than 10, read on. Here’s how you can slow down and show up for love, over and over again.
Tips for Mindful Loving
1) Remember why you love them
Take each sighting of cheap chocolates or drooping roses as a cue to take a mindful breath. Then connect with your heart. Recall special moments the two of you have shared—your first kiss, what they wore on your wedding day, the most outrageous place you’ve made love. Later, share those memories with your sweetie and celebrate some of the moments that led you along the path to now.
2) Commit to date your mate
Give the gift of interest and time, and book non-negotiable weekly dates. Try recreating your first date, but tell each other what you were privately thinking and feeling during that life-changing encounter. Plan occasional adventures—research shows that novelty and excitement heighten sexual attraction, so skip the movie and head for a climbing wall, an erotic massage class, or a spot for skinny dipping.