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4 Step To Being More Mindful in The Chaos of Life

4 Step To Being More Mindful in The Chaos of Life

Until my late 20s, I felt like I had been fighting my whole life. Brought up on the south side of Johannesburg, in South African government housing (similar to “the projects” in the USA), I learned early on that what really mattered was not how smart you were, but whether you were tough enough.

Growing up, I often felt trapped in a really bad nightmare — and I wanted to wake up. My abusive, alcoholic mother kicked me out of the house at 17 and, as a result, I never finished high school. I found myself sleeping on the very same park bench I played in as a kid, with less than $20 in my pocket. I decided then and there, to change the trajectory of my life.

I turned things around, realizing that success comes down to what you do on the inside, no matter what is happening on the outside. What I have learned over the years is that sustainable success in life, in the workplace, and as an entrepreneur — is MORE than just head smarts. You may have the ‘head smarts’ to make things happen in your life, but you still have to make it actually happen. Being successful in your business requires skillful inner management. In other words, you have to learn how to overcome your inner opponent. Not so easy of course, in the fast paced, ever changing world we now find ourselves in.

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Getting Real About the Craziness of Modern Life

I doubt anyone in the modern world would deny that life has become somewhat frenzied. There seems to be a series of continuous deadlines looming at work, not to mention being met every morning with 100s of emails to clear — even before we start the day. For those of us with kids, we find ourselves racing around from one extramural activity to the next. Even simply keeping up with social media is becoming a chore. In an attempt to help us declutter our lives, we search out life hacks to manage both our time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

In all of this frenzy we face in our lives each week, we often forget about ourselves. Sure, we may get to the gym, but it seems more about simply working out just to keep fit, and not really about living fully. We may eat healthy foods, but it feels more about consumption of optimal fuel, than optimal health. While we find ourselves ‘hacking’ everything — from ensuring we get through the day-to-day tasks more efficiently, to a 10-minute all round workout on our home gym — we often forget what truly drives success – ourselves.

All the life hacks in the world become meaningless unless you can effectively hack your own embodied-interface. Said another way, without skillful inner management of your mind, body, and emotions, you will invariably burn out and crash — no matter how well you have attempted to life hack your life. I call these inner management skills, Embodied-Growth Hacks (EGH). Each EG Hack is designed to help a person skilfully navigate their inner terrain for optimal success in the actual chaos of life.

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Mindfulness-in-action

The No 1 EG Hack that can save your sanity is mindfulness. Maybe you have heard about mindfulness? There is no arguing that it has become all the rage. Some of the top key benefits of mindfulness include strengthening your immune system, as well as strengthening your physiological responses to stress and negative emotions. Mindfulness is said to improve social relationships both with family and strangers. Importantly for us living a fast paced life, mindfulness is said to reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety.

While the benefits of mindfulness are clear, the tough part for most people, is finding the time to sit still long enough to practice it. I am not sure about you, but as a go-getter myself, sitting on a zafu (a meditation cushion), in a quite candle lit room, and meditating — isn’t my cup of tea. I have tried it, and I just can’t sit still long enough to get any of the benefits. Let me be honest too, I don’t have the time either, I am busy. But what if I told you there is another way to gain the amazing benefits of mindfulness, without meditating?

Here’s how I do it:

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There isn’t a day in my life, that at some point I don’t find myself experiencing an aspect of modern life that I would consider the mundane. This could be washing the dishes, sitting in my car in early morning traffic, or in the line at the grocery store. It was in all these mundane moments that I began to purposely practice the art of mindfulness. Rather than sitting on a zafu, I did it in action. Approaching mindfulness-in-action seemed to fit my personality too.

I apply an easy four step process:

Step 1: First I recognize the mundane moments (“I am standing in a line at the grocery store”). Remembering to do it, is the first step to success.

Step 2: Then I intentionally begin to focus on my breath. By focusing on the length of both my exhale and inhale, It helps center my mind in the present moment.

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Step 3: If my mind begins to wander to anything other than my breath, I gently bring my focus back to my breathing (and trust me it’s going to wander, that’s just what the mind does). Here it is important to not judge myself when my mind wanders off. Simply I acknowledge that my mind has wandered, I smile, and then bring myself back to a focused attention on my breathing.

Step 4: Once I am present with my breath, I turn my focus outward, passively focusing on the outside world — while all along keeping my present moment awareness on my breathing.

Overtime, finding all the mundane spaces in my life to practice what I call mindfulness-in-action, began to have positive affects on the not so mundane aspects of my life. When things became really hectic at work, I found myself able to recenter simply by focusing on my breathing. Looking back now, those ‘mundane spaces’ in my life accumulated to a lot of time wasted. But now, when I take every opportunity to practice being mindful in them, by the end of the month, I have racked up an impressive amount of inner game training.

Practicing to be mindful in the mundane, also gave me some me-in time. It stopped me being on my phone simply to pass time, or frantically looking at my day’s schedule. Disconnecting from technology, even for brief moments throughout the day, can be really good for your stress levels, as I found out. More importantly, I was able to practice being mindful in the crux of life. By starting with the mundane moments, it allowed the benefits of that practice to spill over to the really stressful moments of my life, where I needed to be mindful the most.

More by this author

Rodney King

Embodied Performance Coach

The Fragmentation of Focus, And What You Can Do About it! Your Voice of Temptation Doesn’t Need To Be In Charge 4 Steps to Managing Your Emotional Life 4 Step To Being More Mindful in The Chaos of Life

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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