As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the habits I’m cultivating in 2015 is the habit of practicing gratitude as it can have a great impact on getting a healthy, happy glow.
In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How Of Happiness, she says how 50% of our propensity for happiness is based on a genetic set point (what we’re born with and something we can’t influence very much) and only 10% is based on life circumstances (such as getting the promotion, getting married, buying the dream home). This leaves 40% that we can totally influence with our behaviour or what is known as ‘intentional activities’.
What this means is that we can be up to 40% happier in our lives without changing our circumstances one bit, and one of the key intentional activities is the practice of gratitude.
According to Dr. Lissa Rankin, author of Mind Over Medicine, research shows that consistently grateful people are happier, more energetic, more hopeful, more helpful, more empathic, more spiritual, more forgiving, and less materialistic. They’re also less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, neurotic, or sick.
Dr. Lyubomirsky says that gratitude:
- Promotes appreciation of positive life experiences
- Helps build social bonds, strengthening existing connections and nurturing new ones
- Boosts self-worth and self-esteem and supresses harmful comparisons
- Helps people cope with stress and anxiety better so they can bounce back from difficulties quicker and easier
- Encourages caring acts and moral behaviour and discourages negative feelings and behaviours such as greed, bitterness, resentment and anger
Other health benefits of practicing gratitude include better sleep, better memory, reduced inflammation, strengthened immune system, increased creativity and an overall increased sense of well-being and quality of life.
All sound like pretty good benefits to come from very little work, eh?
One way of practicing gratitude is writing daily in a Gratitude Journal. This is one of the habits that I want to cultivate over the coming year. It’s a simple task that doesn’t take long at all.
All you have to do is jot down 3 – 5 things you are grateful for in a journal every day. I like to write down mine last thing at night before I go to sleep so as to finish my day on a positive note. The more specific you can be the better. For example rather than saying you are grateful for your health, you could say that you are grateful that you are fit enough to do a class in the gym and really enjoy it. It doesn’t have to do with health either, it could be something to do with work, relationships, a great experience, an achievement or it could be something a little mundane that people generally take for granted (like a home to go home to, an income, good friendships) – it’s totally personal and up to you. And some days you might repeat something you’ve said before. That’s ok as long as you are present with the gratitude.
So what are you grateful for today??
Yes, I’m probably behind the rest of the world but today is the beginning of my new year.
Let me explain. Today is the day I go back to work and leave the holidays behind. While everybody else has been making (and maybe already breaking) resolutions I’ve hung out in holiday mode for the last four days enjoying the last of my free time.
I always find the end of the year a bit of a blur… the busy build up to Christmas, the day itself and the following days catching up with family and friends, then all of a sudden New Year is upon us, when we are supposed to have reflected on the past year and have come up with new goals for the coming year. It all seems a little rushed to me which is why I prefer taking my time coming up with my lessons learned on the year gone and my aspirations for the year ahead.
I have a feeling top of most people’s resolutions include getting healthy, losing weight and exercising more (or even just starting an exercise routine) which is not surprising after what could have been weeks of over-indulging on the vino, mince pies and rich food!!! But it’s fantastic that people are reflecting on their health and wanting to improve it. Always a good thing in my opinion.
But the trouble with resolutions is that people rarely keep them. There are the exceptions of course but generally this isn’t the case. It could be down to the fact that the resolution was made in haste and doesn’t really resonate, it’s is too ambitious, too vague, too unrealistic etc.
When it comes to health and happiness I actually prefer cultivating positive daily habits. Small habits that are nearly so small they seem too easy but will all add up to create lasting change. I hack my daily routine to add in a few extra habits or break some bad habits. The reason I’m starting this on the day I go back to work isn’t a coincidence seeing as my work day is quite structured so it’s easy to build habits into what is already quite a routine day.
Unfortunately the myth that it takes 21 days for a habit to stick is just that, a myth! Seemingly it can take anything from 18 days to 8 months to form a lasting habit. Yikes! So sticking with it and consistency seems to be the key.
So here are my tips on making new healthy habits:
- Decide on what you’d like to achieve and what it looks and feels like. E.g. I want to lose weight. I’ll feel lighter and more energised and sexy and I’ll fit into my jeans…. You get the drift!
- Connect with your ‘why’ of achieving the goal. Be as specific as possible. E.g. If I feel better in my own skin, lose the bloated feeling, have more energy, have glowing skin etc I will feel better about myself and have more confidence. What will feeling better about yourself and more confidence really mean for you? It could be improved relationships, having the confidence to go after the job you want etc.
- Choose a few simple actions that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis. E.g. start every day with a warm water and lemon drink; prepare your lunches every evening for the next day with nourishing delicious food so you won’t be tempted by processed convenience foods; add leafy greens to every meal; get off the bus two stops early every day on the way into work and on the way home from work… the possibilities are endless. Don’t choose too many so as to keep things realistic and achievable.
- Plan when and where you will do your chosen actions daily and every time you encounter the appropriate time, places or current parts of your routine, do the action(s). Use alarms, apps, post it notes, anything that will help remind you to take action!
- I like to keep a calendar or a journal with the actions on it and everyday I cross off when I’ve done the action(s). This will help with keeping the action(s) in mind, help with consistency and will also give a sense of achievement which will spur you on to keep making the positive actions.
It will get easier with time, and after a while you should find you do the action automatically. When this happens you’ve made a healthy habit! Yay!! Sure then you could look at creating some more healthy habits! Who needs to wait until the new year??
Here are some morning and evening habits that I would like to cultivate daily in 2015:
- Start my day with warm water and lemon
- Dry brush before I shower
- Eat protein as part of my breakfast
- Meditate for 15 minutes
- Be 10 minutes early for work
- Practice gratitude by writing three things I’m grateful for in a gratitude journal
- Organise meals and clothes for the next day so my mornings go smoother and I have more time for my morning habits.
- Go to bed at a time that will allow me get at least 8 hours of sleep
- Read a book in bed for at least 15 minutes before I go to sleep
Here’s to a happy, healthy and glowing 2015!!!
I’ve gone through times over the last number of years when I have suffered from insomnia. Whether it was because of grief over the death of a loved one, a broken heart, stress from exams or because of medication (in my case steroids), not getting sleep sucked! It impacted not only my nights (frustration, agitation, irritation etc) but also my days when I looked and felt like a zombie. I resorted to sleeping pills which got me over the hump but some of the time resulted in an unhealthy dependency.
In my previous post, I wrote about the need of a good sleep for healthy mind, body and overall wellbeing. I’ve picked up some good tips over the years to help me not only get to sleep, but also have a better more restorative sleep. Thankfully I’ve totally ditched the tablets now and my fantastic sleeps are totally natural.
Here are my top tips:
Make your room more inviting and calming. The bedroom should be a place of only the two R’s (rest and romance!):
- Make your bed when you get up. Who wants to crawl into an unmade crumpled bed??
- Work doesn’t induce rest or romance so no work stuff in the bedroom (papers, laptops etc).
- Clear the clutter. Dirty clothes, mugs, shoes etc. Tidy them away. De-clutter your room. Think of it as feng shui. This is a big one for me, I can’t settle properly in a messy room.
- Regulate the temperature. If you are too hot or too cold it can hamper a good night’s rest.
- Make the room as dark as possible to help melatonin production (the hormone promotes sleep). Blue light (from televisions, computers, iPads, iPhones, mobiles etc) is the most disruptive light as it immediately shuts down the production of melatonin. These devices shouldn’t be used before going to bed.
- Consistency is the key. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time, even at the weekends (sorry!) so that your body falls into a natural rhythm.
- Study after study has shown that people who exercise on a regular basis tend go to sleep easier and sleep more soundly than people who don’t so get a consistent exercise routine going.
- Have a wind-down routine before bed that doesn’t involve television, internet or any stressful conversations. Have a bath, read a book or magazine, listen to some soothing music, write in a gratitude journal, meditate or do some relaxation exercises instead.
- If you are worried about something or need to remember something for the next day, write it down in a notebook and put away until the morning to take it off your mind.
Eating and drinking
- Cut down on the caffeine and sugar during the day but especially at night. If you have to drink tea or coffee have it before noon and stick to herbal teas or water the rest of the day. Otherwise you might find yourself in that ‘tired but wired’ state!
- Cut down on the alcohol. Although many say that alcohol helps them to fall asleep, unfortunately as it leaves the body, it can cause people to wake up during the night.
- Eat sleep promoting foods in the evening that are high in tryptophan which are converted to serotonin and melatonin such as spirulina, spinach, banana, nuts, seeds, and oats to name a few.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late at night as its digestion can mess with your sleep.
- Don’t drink too many liquids before bed. While it’s bad to go to bed dehydrated, you don’t want a lovely sleep interrupted by trips to the bathroom. Been there, done that, learnt my lesson.
All these things are great and have worked for me but the thing that helped me most I feel has been ear plugs. They block out noises that might otherwise have kept me awake (snoring etc) I find that the only sound I end up hearing is the sound of my own breathing which is uber relaxing. I nod off so quickly when I use ear plugs.
If you have any tips that have worked for you I’d love to hear.
Sleep well x
Sleep is such an important component of our overall health and wellbeing. Sleep affects growth and stress hormones, our immune system, our appetite, blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Research shows that lack of sleep increases the risk for obesity, heart disease, infections and dare I say it, wrinkles and puffy skin.
Here’s a bit more about why sleep is important to get a healthy, happy, glow!
We know that sleep is needed for the body to rejuvenate and repair itself. Studies have shown a link between insufficient sleep and increased levels of stress, heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity. Lack of sleep can suppress your immune system, which makes you more vulnerable to infections.
Better Weight Control
Getting a good night’s sleep can help in weight loss. Scientists in Uppsala University in Sweden have discovered that a lack of sleep can slow your metabolism down which in turn can have a hand in adding on the pounds.
Also when you don’t get enough sleep, your leptin levels drop. Leptin is a hormone that plays a key role in making you feel full so when you are tired you tend to be hungrier and worse still, you tend to crave high-calorie foods.
These coupled with the fact that when you are overtired you are less likely to have the energy to work-out or cook a healthy meal can be detrimental to your weight loss efforts.
When I’m tired I can be a cranky aul bitch and can get the blues where a negative mindset creeps in and my internal Mean Girl takes over the show!
Not getting enough sleep has been shown to affect your emotional regulation so you’re more likely to feel the blues, be snappy or what I like to call, delirious (laughing or crying hysterically for no apparent reason!). When I get a good night’s zzz’s I’m in a better mood and I’m more likely to bounce back from setbacks or things going wrong in the day. Better for me and better for those around me!
Better Brain Function and Memory
Who hasn’t woken up after a bad night’s sleep feeling like their brain just won’t get in gear leading to a desperate need for a caffeine fix? Not getting a good night’s sleep can impair your focus, attention span, decision making skills and cognition and can increase the likelihood of making mistakes. Not only can this have an impact on doing your job but it can have more serious consequences as the Road Safety Authority maintain that one fifth of road accidents in Ireland is due to driver fatigue.
Studies have shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate all our memories from the day. If we don’t get enough sleep, it seems like those memories might not get stored correctly — and can be lost, leading to the ‘memory of a goldfish’ scenario.
We’ve all heard of the advice ‘sleep on it’ when we’ve a problem we need solving. Scientists have found that when we do this our brains still look for a solution even when we’re fast asleep. Even if you don’t wake up with an answer, a good night’s sleep will equip your brain to assess the problem afresh.
They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing!!!
While we sleep, our bodies take time to restore energy and rebuild tissue and cells. Lack of sleep can lead to dull skin due to a decrease in collagen production which is needed to give skin its firmness, elasticity and glow.
Poor sleep can lead to puffy bags and circles under your eyes and dryness and more visible wrinkles. This is because the body’s hydration rebalances while you are asleep so the skin is able to recover moisture, while any excess water is processed for removal. Not getting enough sleep means that there is poor water balance.
If you already suffer with breakouts, not getting enough sleep can actually make them worse. Lack of sleep leads to stress which leads to inflammation. An increased inflammatory response results in increased breakouts, skin sensitivity and skin irritation.
Finally during deep sleep, the rise in growth hormones allow damaged cells to become repaired and allows fresh new skin cells replace old dead skin. If you don’t get these deeper phases of sleep, this won’t occur. These daily small breakdowns will then accumulate and result in an acceleration of aging.
So make quality sleep (7 – 9 hours) a priority and your body, your mind, your skin and your soul with thank you!
Now that it’s summer it’s even more important to stay hydrated and there’s no better way of keeping thirst at bay than good ol’ water. But water isn’t just to avoid a dry mouth …. Here’s a few reasons why we need to drink water to get that healthy happy glow J
Maintains the balance of body fluids
Did you know that your body is made up of about 60% water? It’s so important to keep hydrated so that your bodily fluids can perform really important stuff including digestion, transportation of nutrients, circulation, muscle function and maintenance of body temperature. Water aids in ridding the body of toxins and bad bacteria, it keeps things flowing in your intestinal tract and kidneys thus helping things tick along internally.
Almost all processes in the body use water so when you are low on water, you’ll probably be low on energy too. If you are feeling that sluggish slump you may be tempted to reach for a caffeine boost but that cuppa cha or coffee may actually dehydrate you further. Water will hydrate you thus give your energy a boost too.
Prevents the blues
Water is needed for optimal functioning of the brain. Low levels of water can actually cause depression so if you are feeling the blues, have some water, it might just help lift your mood. Along with this, drinking water can alleviate brain fog resulting in clearer thinking and can also improve sleep which in turn can help keep the blues away! Just don’t drink too much too close to bedtime otherwise all those trips to the bathroom will defeat the purpose entirely.
I want unnecessary wrinkles and dried out skin said nobody in the world ever!!! Hydrated skin looks plumper, healthier and younger (who doesn’t want that?). Also drinking a glass of warm lemon water first thing in the morning has been shown to help reduce breakouts.
Say goodbye to Puffy
Bloating and puffiness can be caused by water retention. When the body is dehydrated, it compensates by retaining water. Reduce the bloat and drink some water. It might seem counter intuitive but it really does work!
Helps control weight
Sometimes what you think is hunger is actually thirst. I know that sometimes if I’m really craving food (especially something juicy) I’m probably a little dehydrated. If you are feeling these pangs try drinking a glass of water and waiting 20 minutes. If you were dehydrated rather than actually hungry the pangs will usually pass meaning that you don’t need to eat anything. Ta dah! You’ve just saved yourself some calories.
So water is an excellent way to get a healthy, happy, glow!!!