Rest for the Weary . . . We Need Our Sleep!

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

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Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! Early January and the holidays are over and most of us are getting back into ‘Real Life.’ For many of us, we’ve burned the candle at both ends and perhaps are feeling the exhaustion of the culmination of doing too much and not getting enough sleep. I’ve heard so many women in the last month or so tiredly grin, (or grimace) and say “No rest for the weary.” As though we all must blithely accept exhaustion.

But No – We cannot accept this lying down, or more likely running around! Sleep is essential and has been described by sleep expert Matthew Walker, as our life-support system and Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality.

The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and the education of our children. It’s a silent sleep loss epidemic, and it’s fast becoming one of the greatest public health challenges that we face in the 21st century. 

So why do we need sleep? What difference does a good night’s sleep actually make? I think we all know the obvious answers to that – lack of sleep makes us tired, grumpy and not quite able to think properly. But research shows that it’s much more serious than that. Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep impacts our immune system, hormones, heart, learning, memory and even impacts men’s testicles and women’s reproductive organs. Interestingly enough, it also impacts our genetic code.

Lack of sleep hugely impacts our ability to heal as well. In our body we have cells that protect us, sometimes called natural killer cellsYou can think of natural killer cells almost like the secret service agents of your immune system. They are very good at identifying dangerous, unwanted elements and eliminating them. In fact, what they’re doing here is destroying a cancerous tumor mass. So what you wish for is a virile set of these immune assassins at all times, and tragically, that’s what you don’t have if you’re not sleeping enough. 

And as we age, and our memory seems to fade rapidly, all of us over 50 can certainly attest to that, sleep is even more essential. Research is showing that the disruption of deep sleep is an underappreciated factor that is contributing to cognitive decline or memory decline in aging, and most recently discovered in Alzheimer’s disease as well. 

Basically in a nutshell there is nothing positive about not getting enough sleep.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything.

– Old Irish Proverb

On the other hand, getting enough sleep positively impacts us in almost every way. We have a stronger immune system, better focus, better memory, and a more optimistic outlook on life.

Walker describes recent research done at UC Berkeley on sleep and learning:

By placing electrodes all over the head, what we’ve discovered is that there are big, powerful brainwaves that happen during the very deepest stages of sleep that have riding on top of them these spectacular bursts of electrical activity that we call sleep spindles. And it’s the combined quality of these deep-sleep brainwaves that acts like a file-transfer mechanism at night, shifting memories from a short-term vulnerable reservoir to a more permanent long-term storage site within the brain, and therefore protecting them, making them safe. And it is important that we understand that during sleep actually transacts these memory benefits, because there are real medical and societal implications.”

 Sleep provides time for our brains to tidy up and make space; this action is called synaptic pruning.

Sleep provides a time when the brain’s synapses — the connections among neurons—shrink back by nearly 20 percent. During this time, the synapses rest and prepare for the next day, when they will grow stronger while receiving new input to learn new things.”

Without this reset, known as “synaptic homeostasis,” synapses could become overloaded and burned out, unable to function at an optimal level. Scientists call this “use-dependent cortical reorganization,” meaning that we strengthen whichever neural pathways we use most often, and lose the ones we use the least.

I am totally in favor of pruning those unused pathways. I usually feel like my brain can use a little Marie Kondo action!

I think we all can agree that getting more and better quality sleep is essential. But what is the best way to do that? Fortunately, Walker does have a few suggestions:

The first is regularity. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, no matter whether it’s the weekday or the weekend. Regularity is king, and it will anchor your sleep and improve the quantity and the quality of that sleep. The second is keep it cool. Your body needs to drop its core temperature by about two to three degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep, and it’s the reason you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold than too hot. So aim for a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees, or about 18 degrees Celsius. That’s going to be optimal for the sleep of most people. 

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to meditate more often, and the Dalai Lama declares that sleep is the best meditation. And who am I to disagree with the Dalai Lama? So I think I’ll close here and go take a nap. Happy New Year to all of you, and may you have a restful 2020 filled with wonderful deep healing sleep.

Before you go take a nap, you may want to watch a great TED talk by Matt Walker entitled Sleep is Your Superpower.

I’d love to hear about your sleep habits if you have any. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Heroes and Mentors

“We choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition. Mirth or passion, sentiment or reflection; whichever of these most predominates in our temper, it gives us a peculiar sympathy with the writer who resembles us.” 
― David Hume

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The renowned Scottish philosopher, David Hume, tells us that we choose our favourite author as we do our friend, from a conformity of humour and disposition.  Well that certainly fits for me.  My favourite authors will be of no surprise to anyone who has read my blog posts for awhile.  I consider both Anne Lamott and Julia Cameron to be, not only my favourite authors, but also mentors for me, in both writing and in life itself.

So you can imagine my absolute honour and tearful gratitude when I went to my amazon page and found this . . .

Amazon telling me that people who bought Julia Cameron’s and Anne Lamott’s books are also buying This Way Up!  This is the highest flattery I could ever receive.  I am humbled and grateful beyond measure.  It absolutely makes my heart sing!

So for those of you out there looking for the perfect gift this holiday season for a woman in your life that loves Annie Lamott and/or Julia Cameron, look no further! 

I’ll close this post with a wonderful TED talk by Annie Lamott, 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.

 

 

I’d love to hear about your heroes and mentors.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Start now, start where you are . . . and don’t stop.

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”

― Ljeoma Umebinyuo

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I’ve had several emails from people who are just starting to write their book and asking advice, any advice, on how to go about getting their book written and out there.  And to me, there is no better advice than that of Umebinyuo:

“Start where you are and don’t stop. Just start”

I love that quote: Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start.

And it doesn’t just apply to creativity either, although it is certainly apt.  I am thinking about this quote in terms of recovery. That quote fits so well for so many of us who made the decision to stop an addictive practice – whatever that practice is. Start stopping! Stop drinking or using or gambling or shopping or whatever that practice is . . . Start stopping now!

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are and with what you have. Just…start.”

Just Start Stopping . . .  and Don’t Stop Stopping!   When I started writing my book, my main audience was not necessarily women in recovery, but it certainly fits! I was honored this week when Sally M., an addictions counselor who read my book recently and wrote this review:

“This Way Up is the perfect accompaniment for any recovery work being done.  It will add depth and enrich your recovery.”
(Psst – by the way, This Way Up  e-book is on sale this week for only .99 cents!)
And a woman I know who has been sober for over 20 years, said something similar.
 She told me that she has found my course on Daily Om, 8 Weeks to Your Best Self, to be helpful in her recovery, and she has been recommending it for women that she sponsors. She said it’s perfect because a lot of women she sponsors don’t have a lot of money, and with this course, you choose what you pay.

 

So although I never started either of these projects with that outcome in mind, it is a gift beyond measure – to be of service in someone’s recovery!

This quote also fits well with the following wonderful TED Talk. In this talk, Julie Burstein describes 4 Lessons in Creativity.  She talks about 4 aspects to embrace  in order for our own creativity to flourish.

The First Aspect:  Embrace Experience!  Pay Attention to the world around us. Be open to that thing that might change you.

The Second Aspect:  Embrace the Challenges!  Our most powerful work comes out of life that is most difficult.

The Third Aspect:  Embrace the Limitations!

And finally: Embrace Loss!  Burstein describes this as the oldest and most constant of human experiences.  “In order to create, we have to stand in that space between what we see in the world and what we hope for. Looking squarely at rejections and heartbreak, at war, at death.”

She closes with this important statement:
“We all wrestle with experience and challenge, limits and loss. Creativity is essential to all of us, whether we’re scientists or teachers, parents or entrepreneurs.”
And I would add that once you’ve made the decision to embrace these aspects, then just start! Start right now. Start right where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling, but start. Just Start and don’t stop!

I’d love to hear about your experience just starting . . .  whether it’s with creativity or recovery. How you start and how you don’t stop. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.
 

 

 

Creative Positive Reframing

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
― Voltaire

Creative Positive Reframing:  Taking limiting beliefs and creatively transforming them so that they become supportive rather than destructive.

This is what I am calling the process that I outline in my book – This Way Up.  So today, the second of August, 2016, I’m letting all of my readers know that Creative Positive Reframing is now *named! (*kinda trademarked, if you will)

The process involves several steps, but one of the central points is the use of questions. We are often advised to use affirmations when we are trying to rid ourselves of a bad habit or in getting out of a negative thought spiral. And it’s a wonderful, helpful tool. However, sometimes if we are using affirmations that do not feel real to us, our brain rejects it, and challenges us on it. For example, if I am struggling to save enough money to buy a car, and I say to myself, ‘I am wealthy and have plenty of money for a new car’, my head will say, ‘that’s not true’ – and then my brain will work to prove that I am wrong.  Affirmations sometimes work brilliantly, but sometimes they don’t; and if they don’t seem to be working on certain problems, there is a body of research that shows that the use of questions instead of affirmations works very effectively. Questions spark the brain’s tendency to work to solve problems. Ask a question and your brain will toil to find an answer, so that your brain is working with you, instead of against you.

I read a great article in Daily Good the other day called Living by Questions.  In it, poet Jane Hirshfield explains:

To ask a good question is a way to carabiner yourself to intimacy, a doorknob that turns only one direction, toward open. A good question can send you on a long journey in rain and cold. It can terrify, bringing you straight into your own fears, whether of heights or of loss or of all the mysteries that never go away—our own vulnerability, the heart’s utter exposure, the capriciousness and fragility of events, of relationships, of existence.

In times of darkness and direness, a good question can become a safety rope between you and your own sense of selfhood: A person who asks a question is not wholly undone by events. She is there to face them, to meet them. If you’re asking a question, you still believe in a future. And in times that are placid and easy, a good question is a preventive against sleepwalking, a way to keep present the awakening question that’s under all other questions: “What else, what more?”

What a stunning description, so, well, poetic!

I will go into more deteail about Creative Positive Reframing in future posts. But for now, I’d like to close with a TED talk – ‘How to Ask Good Questions.’

 

I’d love to hear what you think about the name I’ve chosen for my process – ‘Creative Positive Reframing.’ And any thoughts you have about the use of questions.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Live Life Fearlessly!

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.

– Rabindranath Tagore

The importance of love – and remember to love yourself first;  Live life fearlessly; and remember love keeps you safer than fear does. What wonderful messages.

I have been preparing for my book launch, so sending out short writing pieces about finding purpose after feeling purposeless; about empty nest and other major life transitions; and a lot about the Seven Tools from my book, This Way Up as I get closer to my book launch date (pssst it’s on April 26th if you didn’t know!  You can order it now on Amazon)

I talk about the concept of finding purpose, about love being stronger than fear and about living fearlessly to just about anyone who will listen.  So I was quite thrilled when my friend Jayne sent me the link to a TED Talk called Dying to be me by Anita Moorjani.  Anita went into a coma and almost died – and now thanks the cancer which riddled her body for saving her life.  Moorjani states it was that near death experience which taught her the meaning of life.  Moojani explains that what we focus on, what we pay attention to is what our life reflects.

She states that the five main lessons she learned from that experience are:

  1. The main thing we should be focusing on is Love.  And it is vital to love ourselves first.
  2. Live Life Fearlessly (and remember love keeps you much safer than fear does!)
  3. Focus on humor, laughter and joy
  4. Life is a gift.  Live each day as a gift.
  5. Always be yourself. Be the best You that You can be.

I think this TED talk is amazingly inspiring.  Thank you Jayne for sending me the link – and thank you all for watching it.  I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me.

 

 

I’d love to hear about ways that you life fearlessly.  And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

Jumping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

– Neale Donald Walsch

I know that real change only occurs outside of one’s comfort zone, but sometimes I wish I weren’t so committed to real change! My whole life seems to be happening outside of my comfort zone at the moment.  I really feel like I’m making it up as I go.  The best analogy I can come up with is a game we play in the workshops that I facilitate for teens; the game is called ‘hot lava river’ – the object of the game is to get your whole team across the ‘hot lava river’ using only a few ‘magic stones.’   The magic stones are carpet squares, and the river is a section of grass cordoned off for the game.  In the game, if a foot or any part of the body of anyone on the team touches the river, then that team loses.  You can only cross the river by using the carpet sqares – throwing out the limited squares one by one; each square must be used strategically, and as you jump to each new sqare, you move forward, not exactly sure where the next one will go.  I feel like I’m tossing out the squares as quickly as I can, jumping to each new square and hoping I’m going in the right direction, and hoping I’m not going to run out of squares before I get to the other side.

Almost everything I’m doing at the moment is new to me and way outside my comfort zone. I’m planning book events that I’ve never done before, marketing myself and my book in ways I’ve never had to do before; but I keep moving forward, pushing against the next barrier, toward my ultimate goal of getting my book out there.

For me, it’s getting my book out there, but I believe we all have our our defining moments that exist outside of our own comfort zones.  Michael Johnson suggests that:

A defining moment requires a breakthrough insight and a commitment to action and it only occurs when you’re outside your comfort zone.  Without action, this defining moment fades in your memory, only to be pulled up sometime in the future as regret;  great opportunities are so often abandoned because they are not coupled with action. A defining moment must have a commitment to action.

So I have made my commitment to action. I am throwing out my ‘magic stones’ as fast as I can, and jumping to the next stone with the belief that I will get to the other side of this scary hot lava river.  Yes I’m living way outside my comfort zone at the moment, but as Neale Donald Walsch says, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

I’d like to close with a TED Talk aptly named, Getting Comfortable Outside Your Comfort Zone.

I’d love to hear about how you deal with living outside your comfort zone. And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

Pursuing the good life in 2016

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.

– George Sand


There has been an amazing study done at Harvard that has lasted over 75 years.  Robert Waldinger describes this study in a new TED talk, and the findings are hopeful.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.

It’s not more money, it’s not longer hours at work, it’s not fame and fortune . . . (*but we knew that didn’t we?)

What they learned is this:

The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this:

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

Three big lessons were learned about relationships.

The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic.

The second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.

And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.

So in a nutshell, the study tells us that the good life is built with good relationships.  And we can all work on that.

I’d like to close as Dr. Waldinger closed, with a quote from Mark Twain:

“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

 

 

I’d love to hear about how you nurture your relationships. And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Smile

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.”

– Dalai Lama


Sigh – the title of my book needs to be changed. It needs to be ‘fresher’. I’m frustrated and feel kinda old. I’m not even sure what fresher looks like.

But I’m working on it. And I changed my email settings too, apparently Comic Sans is very old school.

Frustrating and rather daunting, but I have chosen to follow the Dalai Lama’s advice:

Choose to be optimistic, it feels better

And then I watched a TED talk.

I invite you to watch it as well. Choosing to smile makes sense . . . even when one is feeling kinda old . . .

I’d love to hear about how you stay optimistic.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Parenthood – Truly Understanding Love


“What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love.”

― Nicholas Sparks


What better lesson of real love than parenting?

I have just had an incredible two weeks with my husband Jeff.  Reconnecting and being together has been wonderful.  I have loved every minute of it!  But honestly, the most gratifying part for me was being able to parent together again.  Watching my partner, my children’s father, be together with our children again was truly the best part of our time together. Two weeks was not long enough.  However the time that Jeff spent walking on the beach with our boys, playing guitar with our boys and having conversations and connecting as a family again was priceless. The time flew by much too quickly, but it was rich and so heart-warming.

What can anyone say about parenting that hasn’t already been said?  It is the most rewarding thing anyone can do.  It is hard and painful at times, and the most joyous thing that one can experience.  It is Love in action.

In this moving TED Talk, Andrew Solomon explores parenting on a different level:

“What is it like to raise a child who’s different from you in some fundamental way (like a prodigy, or a differently abled kid, or a criminal)? In this quietly moving talk, writer Andrew Solomon shares what he learned from talking to dozens of parents — asking them: What’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance?”

 

 

Please take the time to watch this wonderful TED talk. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. And as always, thank you for stopping by.  I appreciate it.

Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions . . .”

– Joni Mitchell


As I said in my last post, being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is a difficult thing to do for most of us.  But as Maddie pointed out in a comment from my last post:  You have blogged in the past – “Would you rather be right or happy?” This post seems to contradict that. Does it?

I don’t see the two as being contradictory or exclusive.  I have learned to stand up for myself, learned to be willing to disagree, to not just “paper-over the conflicts as I used to in my old ‘peace-maker’ days” as Rosalie so aptly put it. But I have also learned that it is sometimes ok to let things go and not push doggedly to be RIGHT above all else, at the expense of harmony in a relationship. I think of that kind of right as the “Ego Right.”

The idea of being right or happy comes from A Course in Miracles.

The main benefit I see in correctly interpreting “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” is that it allows the line to be a challenge to our egoic insistence on being right at the expense of real rightness and of our happiness. Stubbornly clinging to a wrong position no matter how much pain it causes us is a virtually universal human phenomenon. This line is both a challenge to us to seriously question our way of seeing things and an invitation to accept a new way of seeing things that is both right and happy.

This also reminds me a bit of The Serenity Prayer –

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t see that as a Christian prayer so much as asking that part of me that is beyond my Ego, to have courage to face conflict, be willing to disagree, but to also accept some things and some people and not try to change them so I can be right.  It is subtle sometimes, but not a contradiction in my opinion,  just perhaps seeing things from Both Sides Now!

 

 

Thank you Maddie and Rosalie for taking the time to comment on my last post, it prompted me to think through this and clarify it for myself. Please tell me about how you have learned to balance this subtle difference.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.