Updated: 2 days ago
This course is about DOING! Knowledge is worthless if it is not applied. The skills we are cultivating must be practiced if you are to enjoy the benefits. Practice becomes easier when it becomes a habit. Habits, however, are not easy to develop. Cultivating conative qualities like persistence, discipline, determination and curiosity may be helpful in developing a practice.
This course is experiential and experimental. See for yourself if a daily practice of meditation, gratitude, exercise, and a good night's sleep contributes to your sense of well-being. Test and see.
One of the biggest obstacles to change are the stories the mind creates and the emotions that proceed from these thoughts. If, for example, I'm feeling overwhelmed, adding 10-20 minutes to my schedule to do nothing but sit and observe an agitated mind that does not want to sit and observe may seem counter-intuitive, unproductive, frustrating and stressful. Consider the discomfort a person who has never exercised experiences when they go for their first run. The lungs feel like they will explode; the muscles may ache and cramp; the heart may feel considerable stress and strain. The mind protests vehemently- "Exercise may be good for other people, but it is NOT for me! I don't like this." We react to the thought and stop before ever having truly begun. Meditation is like this.
Self-compassion, gentleness, patience and firmness are antidotes. We can begin gently with these rewirements and show compassion for ourselves when we stumble. By overcoming our discomfort, by finding strategies to work around the obstacles, we can approach others with empathy. The discomfort you may experience is for the good.
Sleep is a rewirement. Attending to it helps with focus and attention.
Tips on sleep:
Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep or remain asleep.
Exercise daily. 30 minutes of vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Avoid exercising prior to bed.
Evaluate your room. Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool – between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be free from any light. Check your room for noises or other distractions. This includes a bed partner's sleep disruptions such as snoring. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices.
Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow. Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Have comfortable pillows and make the room attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up.
Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. If you can, avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime. Try a light snack 45 minutes before bed if you’re still hungry.
Wind down. Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.
Avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night. Using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain.
If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment.
Sleep tape. After reading James Nestor's Breath, I experimented with his advise and began taping my mouth closed to force nasal breathing. I used a small strip of painter's tip. Within a few weeks, I began to notice a difference in the quality of my sleep. I began sleeping through the night and felt more rested. Interestingly, there were fewer, if any, midnight runs to the bathroom to urinate.
I have found Magnesium L-Threonate, Apigenin, and L-Theanine effective supplements in helping me stay asleep. Sometimes, I'll drink tart cherry juice or eat kiwi prior to bed. These also aid in sleep.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional. You may also benefit from recording your sleep in a sleep diary to help you better evaluate common patterns or issues you may see with your sleep or sleeping habits.