Please help me welcome our Guest Blogger, Sarah Jones, who is sharing natural tips on how to get a better night’s rest.
How to Reduce Stress: Improve Your Sleep Health
Stress is the main cause for a sleepless night. Stress factors plague us daily and heighten our anxiety which can cause precious hours of sleep to escape us at night. This can quickly turn into a vicious cycle as less sleep can lead to more stress, which then in turn makes sleep difficult again. To nip this in the bud we need to focus on improving our sleep health.
Sleep and Why We Need It
Sleep is one thing we all need, whether it be a few hours or several hours, our bodies need time to rest and recuperate. Sleep helps our systems restore as well as improve our cognitive abilities during the hours we are awake. Non-REM and REM are two states of sleep that each of us need as well. Non-REM is considered a deep sleep and in order to feel fully rested, we must reach this stage of sleep each evening.
Stress Versus Sleep
Stress and sleep are conflicting states that do not support or welcome each other. Stress can be accrued throughout the day, increasing and decreasing depending on the stimuli in our lives. Stress is counterproductive to sleep, and many of us toss and turn because anxiety from our stress has disturbed our ability to decompress and relax. Both stress and anxiety can be dealt with in healthy ways to help us relax and let us sleep.
Tips For A Restful Sleep
One of the most suggested tips for achieving better sleep is to avoid the use of electronics around bedtime. Many of us tend take our iPad, laptop or smartphone to browse through social media before calling it quits for the day. The brightness of the screen(s) and mental stimulation increase awareness and actually promote a more “awake” and distracting atmosphere which detracts from a restful evening.
Another key factor to reaching that restful night is to avoid caffeine. Caffeine can dwindle in our systems for much longer than many of us realize, so enjoy that cup of coffee in the morning, but avoid caffeine in the hours before its time to sleep for the night.
Caffeine isn’t the only liquid you should avoid before sleeping. Alcohol is a popular drink in the evenings and often used as a “night cap.” Alcohol can initially help us fall asleep, but it has consequences that may arise after the first few hours of sleep. Alcohol causes people to wake more often due to restlessness as well as to relieve a full bladder. This beverage too should be avoided in the evenings in the hours before bedtime.
To further reduce stress and achieve more restful slumber, you can actually promote rest with a few specific food items. Milk, halibut, avocados, eggs, walnuts, potatoes, bananas, and oats all encourage the body to rest. Keep in mind that overeating will keep you up at night as will heavy meals.
Exercising is not only beneficial for your physical state, it is beneficial to your mental state as well. Exercising daily helps relieve insomnia, according to the WebMD and studies that have been conducted. Exercise affects us differently, so if you are more alert after exercising, it is best to do so in the morning.
Relaxation exercises done before bed can also help lower stress and anxiety levels. According to Dr. Michael Breus the “Sleep Doctor,” breathing exercises are an excellent way to achieve a restful night. Dr. Breus suggests getting into a comfortable position and inhaling for 4 seconds, then holding your breath for 7 seconds. After that, exhale for 8 seconds, making it a long, slow exhale. Completing this exercise a few times before bed can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Dr. Breus also encourages the Progressive Relaxation technique. This exercise can be done as part of a nightly ritual to ease tension and to encourage relaxation. Starting with your feet, tense and relax the muscles in them, slowly working your way up to your head and neck, progressively tightening and untightening all your muscles. Focusing on the areas that hold more tension are those that you carry stress on the most. Relaxing these muscles will encourage better rest at night.
Trying one or all of these techniques can help increase relaxation and benefit us in a good night’s sleep that is restful, not wakeful. This exercises and tips can be done throughout the day or whenever you feel stressed.
Sarah is the Editor of Sleepy Deep. Feeling the repercussions of being an irregular sleeper for far too long, she decided to do something about it. She learned why sleep is so important and how to maximize it, and is now helping others who are struggling to find their right sleep routine.
Did you ever stop to think about what kind of habits you’ve inadvertently created over a lifetime when it comes to your beliefs about yourself? Most of us did not grow up in the kind of environment where we were taught to think deep thoughts and really get into the inner workings of our mind. Instead, well-meaning parents and teachers passed along the same instructions they were given about getting along in life, and so it goes generation after generation.
But we live in a time of great transition right now, and more people are interested in accessing the power of their minds to create a better life than what seems to happen at random.
I think this advice from self-help guru Wayne Dyer, who passed last year at the age of 75, is particularly appropriate if you’re looking for a good place to start in changing your beliefs.
From Wayne Dyer: “Believe you are an infinite spiritual being having a temporary human experience. The first step to learning to manifest your reality is you must create a new concept of yourself: as an infinite spiritual being having a temporary human experience. The I that I use to describe myself is not so obsessed that he insists in staying in one body. In fact, that I that is me finally recognizes that ancient spiritual truth spoken by Divine masters since antiquity: None of us are really doing anything, rather we (our bodies) are merely being done. This I that you use to describe yourself isn’t the physical form that you occupy and take with you everywhere. The I is your higher self, changeless and real.”
If anyone has the justification to feel hopeless, we might imagine it would be the spiritual leader of Tibet who was run out of his own country nearly sixty years ago and has been in exile in northern India ever since.
However, the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of compassionate understanding of the ways of the world, and his thoughtfulness is reflected in every message, speech and teaching he offers us. What can we learn from his words? To look at each situation not from the perspective of finding the pain in it, but to find the seeds of growth and optimism.
It is always our own choice how we view every incident in our lives, both private and public. We can take the position of fearing that the world is falling apart and there is no hope for future generations, or we can realize that we are always in a time of growth and evolution and change. When we look to ways to evolve in an upward direction, we make world peace an eventuality instead of simply a wistful wish.
Please enjoy the following excerpt from The Washington Post, Opinions, dated June 13, 2016.
Why I’m Hopeful About the World’s Future
by The Dalai Lama
“While it would be easy to feel a sense of hopelessness and despair, it is all the more necessary in the early years of the 21st century to be realistic and optimistic.
“There are many reasons for us to be hopeful. Recognition of universal human rights, including the right to self-determination, has expanded beyond anything imagined a century ago. There is growing international consensus in support of gender equality and respect for women. Particularly among the younger generation, there is a widespread rejection of war as a means of solving problems. Across the world, many are doing valuable work to prevent terrorism, recognizing the depths of misunderstanding and the divisive idea of “us” and “them” that is so dangerous. Significant reductions in the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons mean that setting a timetable for further reductions and ultimately the elimination of nuclear weapons — a sentiment President Obama recently reiterated in Hiroshima, Japan — no longer seem a mere dream.”
The following excerpt is from the book Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts.
“Your rate of learning depends entirely upon you, however. Limited, dogmatic, or rigid concepts of good and evil can hold you back. Too narrow ideas of the nature of existence can follow you through several lives if you do not choose to be spiritually and psychically flexible.
“These rigid ideas can indeed act as leashes, so that you are forced to circle like a tied puppy dog about a very small radius. In such cases, through perhaps a group of existences, you will find yourself battling against ideas of good and evil, running about in a circle of confusion, doubt, and anxiety.
“Your friends and acquaintances will be concerned with the same problems, for you will draw to yourself those with the same concerns. I am telling you again, therefore, that many of your ideas of good and evil are highly distortive, and shadow all understanding you have of the nature of reality.
“If you form a guilt in your mind, then it is a reality for you, and you must work it out. But many of you form guilts for which there is no adequate cause, and you saddle yourselves with these guilts without reason. In your dimension of activity there appear to be a wild assortment of evils. Let me tell you that he who hates an evil merely creates another one.
“From within your point of reference it is often difficult for you to perceive that all events work toward creativity, or to trust in the spontaneous creativity of your own natures.”
At first glance, many of us cringe at the word “obey” or “obedience” because it brings up instant memories of being ordered to do something we didn’t want to do, at threat of punishment or a failing grade, or a treat withheld. However, a deeper understanding of obedience puts us into the scientific framework of quantum physics, where we can delve into the truth that we must be obedient to the universal laws or we cannot possibly get the results we want.
For instance, we know that we must be obedient to the Law of Gravity. Just because your hands are full of packages doesn’t mean you get to put one of them mid-air and expect it to stay there while you grope in a pocket for your keys. We know that, because physical experiences taught us about gravity starting about age 18 months (if you’ve ever seen a child playing the game “dropsy” where they toss food or a cup or toy over the high chair edge and watch gleefully as it drops to the ground, you’ll realize the child was learning basic compliance with gravity.)
When we want to succeed with a project, whether it is something tangible such as getting a new home or car, or something that’s a circumstance such as attracting a soulmate or money freedom, we also need to be in full compliance with the universal laws or we’ll be sabotaging our results.
In his book called Working with the Law, Raymond Holliwell explains about obedience to the laws of the mind:
The word “obey” means to submit to rule or to comply with orders or instructions. Obedience, then, is the governor of all movement whether it be mechanical, literal, or spiritual. A giant machine without its governor would tear itself apart, would be utterly destroyed because it failed to obey its own laws of momentum or gravity.
An intellectual giant who fails to comply with the laws of learning will become as an idiot. A student failing to comply with or to obey the instructions of spirit, the Law of God, will reverse that good and create evil. We are dependent entirely on obedience for our success or failure in this life.
Our societies, cities, states and nation are supported by it. Our properties and lives are dependent upon it. Because of our respect for obedience, we, as a whole, support it. But woe unto the man who tries to break through to pillage, to plunder for selfish gain.
As we look into the home we see the mother training her child into habits of discipline. Tomorrow we see a happy mother because her child has grown into youth and manhood and has earned success. A success because, back in the beginning of his life, the seed of obedience was placed there which brought forth respect, obedience, and unselfish thought.
On the other hand, we may see where others fail because they have been allowed to grow up being disobedient, disrespectful, and selfish.
Why do we seem to have an endless ability to fool ourselves with lies? Because we have practiced denial for so long. That is the only reason. It’s not because there is something inherently wrong with us. It’s just that we were never taught how things get stronger. Our thought habits grow more entrenched and seemingly “normal” with practice. In fact, anything we put our attention on, and energy into, will grow whether it is something wanted or not wanted.
This morning, returning from a walk in Central Park with my Golden retriever Sugar Bear, I saw a middle-aged man ambling down the sidewalk ahead of me, smoking a cigarette to the very dregs of tobacco. He tossed the lit stub into the street and began coughing, then he swilled from his coffee cup as if to stop the cough, and went into his apartment building.
Let’s imagine this conversation:
Doctor: Sir, smoking is causing your cough.
Man: No it’s not. I must’ve picked up that cold that’s going around.
Doctor: Smoking causes cancer. You really should quit cigarettes.
Man: No worries. I’ll quit before I’m at risk.
Future scholars will marvel at our capacity for denial, as evidenced by the remnants they’ll study of our lifestyle. Pollution caused by man. Deliberate ingestion of over-processed foods and inhumanely “farmed” animals (by the way, animals don’t grow from seeds like corn and wheat do, they are sentient mammals, fish and fowl. Pet owners would never do to their beloved dogs and cats and hamsters and koi and parrots what goes on behind the scenes in the food industry.)
What are you denying in your own life? A bad relationship you put up with, out of fear that you’ll never find something better? A job you hate but stick with for the same reason?
There’s always something that we mentally push away as if it will go away if we put off dealing with it. Instead, the very pushing makes it stronger, and it begins to eat away at us inside, like a cancer.
Make a list of the incompletions, the things you know are important to take care of that you keep shuffling to the side. The more we can take care of those things, the freer we feel inside. And with that freedom comes a more enlightened and joyful way of living.
Why do we struggle so much to get what we want? Is it really true that life is hard, and we just have to endure all the pain before we manage to enjoy even a portion of “gain”?
Actually, the truth is, humans have had a total misunderstanding of how this world, and our universe, actually works, and because of that, we’ve been stuck with a lot of rules and regulations about goal-achieving that are simply upside down and backwards.
There’s a much easier way to manifest what we want: by desiring it, and allowing it to come to us. It doesn’t mean you sit in a comfy armchair and magical manifestations shower upon you from the heavens, however it does mean that you can learn to take inspired action, the kind of intuitive choices and decisions that lead to a much smoother and more delightful path of realizing your goals.
As Abraham-Hicks explains, “No matter what it is, if you really want it, and if you get out of the way of it, it will happen. It must be. It is Law. It can be no other way. It’s the way this Universe is established. If you want it and you relax, it will happen.”
Do you ever lounge around and daydream, coming up with pictures of what you’d like your life to be, relationships you’d enjoy, success you’d be happy to experience? Wait, did I just hear you snort in disbelief that I must not understand how busy you are?
We’re all busy, and we end up with lives so crowded with events on the calendar and chores on the never-ending To Do list that we barely have time to sleep let alone sit idly under a tree and think blissful thoughts. We’ve had daydreaming drilled out of us, usually about the age we start first grade, although sometimes sooner if the day care giver or pre-school teacher runs a tight ship based on old ideas of order through discipline.
But when we keep our focus on all that needs to be done, it’s far too easy to drift away from all that we’d love. And that love of life is why we are here. We’re here to experience more joy and more expansion, and we do that by dreaming up projects and ideas and relationships and events … and then we create them. The joy comes in the doing of these creative things, in the dreaming and unfolding. Not in the goal-setting and grim attention to checklists and spreadsheets and agenda books.
Here’s a lesson from a book titled Immortal Man by Neville Goddard: “First, have a dream, and by a dream I mean a daydream, a gloriously wonderful daydream. Then ask yourself, ‘What would it be like if it were true that I am now the man [or woman] I am dreaming I would like to be. What would it be like?’ Then catch the mood of the wish fulfilled and drench yourself with that feeling.”
Joe Vitale calls it “Nevillizing” a dream when we follow Goddard’s instructions. So what will you Nevillize today? What dream can you snatch off the cold back burner and light a fire under by imagining it to the extent that you fully experience all the details of how it feels, just as if it was happening now?
If you’re not sure what to pick, then start here with an intention such as this: “Today I will allow myself to be playful and enjoy my life. Okay, I like that. Now, what would that feel like? Mmm, like joy and happiness and laughter and dancing around? Yes! And I feel it now—it feels like I just woke up on the first day of vacation and the world is smiling.”
Russell H. Conwell was a famous author and speaker, and the founder of Temple University. You may have read or heard of his inspirational book Acres of Diamonds about the right way to set and achieve a goal that uses your individual talents and abilities, and capitalizes on being right where you are. You can prosper in any business in any city by learning how to use your mind in the right way. He explains that it’s not true that you must leave home and travel far away to some “other place” to find your opportunities for success. Plenty of opportunities abound wherever you are, if you look for them.
In another of his classic books called What You Can Do with Your Will Power, Conwell wrote, “Every one has within himself the tools necessary to carve out success. Consecrate yourself to some definite mission in life, and let it be a mission that will benefit the world as well as yourself. Remember that nothing can withstand the sweep of a determined will–unless it happens to be another will equally as determined. Keep clean, fight hard, pick your openings judiciously, and have your eyes forever fixed on the heights toward which you are headed. If there be any other formula for success, I do not know it.”
His method can be explained in more modern terms, I believe, in this way:
- Keep clean: Keep your habits of thought and action orderly.
- Fight hard: Be persistent; don’t give up just because you’ve hit a stumbling block or two.
- Pick your openings judiciously: Weigh your choices; avoid the tendency to dash off in the direction of every shiny new idea that pops up.
- Fix your eyes on the heights toward which you are headed: Keep your goal in mind, not in a slavish way that is fear-based, but by allowing that vision of success to draw you onward, day after day.
Enjoy the journey.
The Dalai Lama says, “My religion is very simple: my religion is kindness.” Let’s not even get into the history of other religions in the world, because they are all so littered with war, cruelty, intolerance and hatred that we can barely see the landscape of the original messages of love and kindness that the religions’ founders espoused.
One of my favorite personal affirmations, that I began using a few years ago is, “My middle name is kindness.” I began saying that to myself because of my long history of codependent relationships in which I was kind to everyone but me. Maybe you have that issue in your own life—you do acts of kindness (random or otherwise) and yet you overlook being nice to yourself and treating yourself with dignity and respect.
Let’s all begin spreading more kindness in the world. When we are kind to ourselves and others, we allow room for mistakes, for forgiveness, for tolerance of our differences and compassion for one another’s troubles.
Here are a few quotations you might enjoy on the topic of “kindness”:
- “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Albert Schweitzer
- “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “Perform a random act of kindness for someone: a smile, compliment, or a favor just for fun. These will multiply and spread very rapidly.” Steve Brunkhorst
- “Always be a little kinder than necessary.” James M. Barrie
- “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” Henry James
- “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Plato
- “He that has done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Benjamin Franklin
- “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” Mark Twain
- “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” Kahlil Gibran
- “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu
In our busy lives, we tend to have a running commentary about time. We’re planning next week, next year. We glance at the clock and exclaim “Four o’clock already? Where did the day go!” And we also talk about “killing time” when we run up against an unexpected delay that leaves a hole in our schedule.
Even when we devour books like “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, the message about learning to live in the present moment can slip right past us. We pay it lip service and we put it into practice during a meditation, but the rest of the day speeds past in a blur. Do you ever have the experience of blinking at a calendar as you realize what day it is, and wonder what happened to last week (or last month or last year…)?
This is a common factor of our culture, but it doesn’t mean you can’t break away from being a slave to busyness. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn to pause, breathe, and mindfully enjoy the moment you are in, whether you are taking a sip of tea or washing a dish or walking up the stairs to an office building. When we dash along through our lives with our minds focused on what we said and they said, or what we’re going to say and going to do, all of it runs together in a blur.
It’s as if we unwittingly scoop up the banquet of our lives and toss it into a blender, to whirl into one big homogeneous glob.
What if you made a daily practice to pay more attention to the life you are living, while you are living it and not in retrospect as you look back at photos or a diary entry?
What would it feel like to “look to this day” and pay heed to what you are experiencing right now, the delicious feel of air against your skin, the taste of a ripe mango, the scent of roses and jasmine, the sight of a tree or a beautiful work of art. No need to get esoteric about it all—enjoy the satisfaction of washing a dish that you like, or neatening the bed covers. In those few moments, be real and be alive, and look to the joy of your life. It is created in the moments, not in the rush from one thing to another.
Kalidasa was a 5th century Sanskrit poet and dramatist. You may have seen quotes from his poem translated to mean “Look to This Day” which is a beautiful reminder to us to enjoy the present moment.
Look to This Day
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!