I recently finished reading Arianna Huffington's new book "Thrive". I love this book!! Throughout her book Arianna discusses what she calls "the third metric of success". By telling her personal story of stress and overwhelm and how she worked with it we get an insiders look at what she calls true success and happiness.
I love this book because she so clearly outlines some of the major areas I believe are responsible for basic health. Elements such as healthy sleep patterns and quiet time, spending time in nature and with loved ones, and the importance of wonder and giving all contribute to her holistic approach to success. Arianna focuses on driven busy women but this advice is almost universal.
Over and over again I encounter clients and students who are tired, overworked and suffering from low level anxiety and depression. I know from my own process through some of these challenges (check out my story here) that we can begin to see positive improvement in our lives when we make simple changes. Now -- just because these changes are simple doesn't mean they're easy. That's why we should start small and stay consistent. When we set realistic goals and build slowly we are more likely to stick to it in the long term. To kick start some healthy changes you could try my 21 day challenge :)
In particular I found Arianna's advice about sleep especially apt. Did you know that getting enough sleep can improve almost any physical or mental health condition? Improved sleep affects cognitive functions such as memory, productivity and decision making skills. It also affects almost every layer of physical functioning in the body -- everything from pain and inflammation to the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. I could provide endless clinical trials and plenty of proof on the positive effects of sleep -- if that's your kind of thing check this and this out for a few more sources. And for athletes this is cool too.
Sleep is SO important. And as a culture we are seriously lacking it.
Arianna names a number of strategies to help with getting more sleep. Many of these suggestions are exactly what I advise clients to do when they are experiencing insomnia or a lack of sleep. Here are a few more:
Tips for sleeping:
Create sacred space
The area we sleep should be a place of rest and rejuvenation. Keep this area screen and work free. That means no laptops and smart phones! Place special objects near your bed and use soft lighting. If possible keep your sleeping space reserved for sleep and other activities that don't create stress.
Move your body every day
Stay physically active. Moving your body every day will help your circulation on a physical and energetic level. Exercise is a wonderful way to release tension and boost "feel good" and calming responses in the body.
Keep activities before bed to a minimal level. Gentle stretching, journaling, a gratitude practice, or pleasant reading helps to prepare the body and mind for rest.
In particular the practice of yoga nidra can help to calm the body and drop us into a very deep state of rest.
The posture of "legs up the wall" is by far the best posture to use before going to bed. In this inverted posture all of the blood and fluid that has gathered in the feet and legs drains and the nervous system is triggered to relax.
Diet and Herbs
Eating a balanced diet of fresh organic vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats and protein helps all of the functions in the body and mind.
Avoid the use of stimulants after noon as well as late night eating. This will allow you to get a deeper sleep; one in which you wake up refreshed and alert.
Herbal teas such as chamomile and blends for sleep that contain valarian, skullcap, passionflower, and catnip can be used before bedtime. Remember to use high quality tea. I suggest the brand Traditional Medicinals, which is widely available, to ensure you are getting the full potency of the plant instead of just filler. Did you know that many conventional tea brands have very little medicinal potency left by the time they hit the shelves? Check out some of the other dangers of using conventional teas here)
Remember - get more sleep! Your happiness and health depends on it! And your productivity too!! Tell me below what you do to get a better nights sleep and what you're going to integrate into your nighttime routine.