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Last Updated on February 4, 2018

Why Leisure Is the New Productivity and How to Reclaim Your Leisure Time

Why Leisure Is the New Productivity and How to Reclaim Your Leisure Time

You’ve probably worked on a weekend, or had to scroll through emails, or answer text messages from a pushy client. In America, there’s something of an emergent “free time” problem.[1] 65% of employees feel the need to be available outside of work hours on phone and email. Nearly half of Americans (slightly more in some studies) report not having enough free time.

The work boundaries have become blurry

Fifteen years ago, most offices were completely rooted on-site: paperwork, records, and communication (phone, primarily) were all tied to you being physically in the office.

Technology changed that. With the advent of the cloud especially, anyone can access almost any file they need from anywhere. Text messages and emails go directly to your phone. The old “After 5pm I cannot access work resources” turned into “I might be expected to respond to something at 11:30pm.”

There is so much to get done at work and schedules are so tight that needs to be the focus. After all, work provides your livelihood. You need to do it well.

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Since there are only so many waking hours in a day, though, you need to cut something. Often this becomes leisure time. Leisure activities like hiking, reading, and spending time with family are often cut first for more hours of work.

Cutting leisure time is no good for productivity

Even though you’re working more, productivity is going to drop. A study conducted by the Institute for the Study of Labor has shown that 55 hours per week is a maximum ceiling on human productivity.[2] You might be expected to work more, but a person working 54 hours per week is about as productive as someone working 80 hours per week.

Leisure time is also crucial to creating bursts of insight and new ways of thinking. Very few people come up with big, great, innovative ideas while focused on the “getting, making, and doing” of day-to-day task work. When you’re too focused (as in task work), it’s easy to get stuck in one way of thinking. When you’re doing other things (i.e. leisure time), a concept called “diffuse thinking” kicks in[3] and the brain can actually analyze much more information at once. This leads to increased connections between events or ideas, which is good for coming up with new solutions and innovations.

The field of economics considers leisure a “normal commodity,” with the yield from leisure being satisfaction.[4] Leisure time is used for resting, sleeping, relationship-building, and doing things you enjoy, so it is inherently satisfaction-producing. Having less leisure time will therefore decrease satisfaction in individuals.

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Make leisure your productivity booster

Instead of cutting leisure time to work more, make time for leisure and utilize it to help you think about bigger ideas and work more efficiently. I understand it’s difficult to just stop working when you’re so busy and do something for leisure, so here are some steps to help you make time for leisure and turn it into your productivity booster.

Do what’s important

You can begin by thinking about a list of things you want to do during your free time. Then, ask yourself about a specific choice: Why is this important?

For an obvious example: sleep is important to be prepared for the next day and because the body requires it.

But here’s another example we often fall to: why would watching TV be important? Most people would answer that it entertains, informs, and helps us decompress after a long day. Those are all valid options, but what if something else — like a night basketball league — was more entertaining? Or what if podcasts (which you can listen to while running) were more informative? There might be easy replacements for TV-watching, instead of instantly falling into that idea.

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Schedule leisure time

Use “time blocking” to achieve this. Under this system, you finish works within a certain period of time — then go for other activities in your leisure time.

The ideal “time on” (work) vs. “time off” (leisure) ratio has been shown by science to be 52 minutes on, 17 minutes off.[5] Consider blocking time like that. When you have more leisure time, i.e. the weekend, schedule out the important activities (family time, exercise, reading, classes) first. Then let the other pieces fall into place around what’s important.

Take a break and come back stronger

If you’re not balancing your work with other aspects of your life like leisure time, you run the risk of becoming a totally unimaginative drone who isn’t enjoying life.

There will always be more work and deadlines in the future. Yes you have to tackle them but that doesn’t mean working on these things 24/7. By taking a break, you relax your body and mind and get yourself more prepared to deal with the challenges again when you’re back to work.

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Struggling about how to manage your time better so you can better balance your time spent on work and leisure? Take a look at my other article How to Gain More Time Like Making Money

Featured photo credit: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on September 11, 2018

15 Natural Insomnia Cures That You Haven’t Tried But Actually Work

15 Natural Insomnia Cures That You Haven’t Tried But Actually Work

It’s been another sleepless night and now you’re miserable. After all, you’ve tried all the natural insomnia cures you can think of and yet nothing seems to work.

You’ve tried cutting out out alcohol and caffeine.

You’ve tried setting a regular bedtime routine and avoiding naps during the day.

You’ve ever tried getting a brand new bed and luxurious new pillows so that you can be as comfortable.

Yet there you are, still tossing and turning night after night.

But don’t despair too soon.

Just because you haven’t yet found a way to cure your insomnia without medication that doesn’t mean you never will.

Today, we look at a number of natural insomnia cures that have proven to be effective time and time again.

Not only that, but they work with none of the side effects or negative consequences that typically come with prescription sleep aids.

Ready to finally enjoy a peaceful night’s rest?

Here are some natural sleep remedies you can try to help you start sleeping better from tonight onwards.

1. Get the right amount of exercise at the right time

Time and time again, studies show that people who exercise on a regular basis enjoy much better sleep quality than those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Just before you let out a large groan and drag yourself wearily to the gym, there is some good news:

Getting exercise doesn’t have to mean running a marathon every day or spending every waking hour lifting weights.

Most experts recommend that moderate aerobic exercise such as walking or even an easy bike ride can do just as much -if not more- good for your sleep than strenuous exercise.

So far, so good, but that mean getting the bike out or doing push-ups just before you hit the sack?

Not exactly.

To benefit the most from exercise, schedule it for earlier in the day.

Mornings are always best, but afternoons will work in cases where that’s not possible.

If you leave aerobic exercise too late in the day, it’s likely that all the adrenalin you built up will linger on and still be there at bedtime.

The result, of course, is that when you’re trying to sleep, your brain and body are still pretty wired from the exercise and thus insomnia strikes.

The earlier you do it, the more chance the adrenalin has to wear off, leaving you feeling perfectly sleepy and ready for a long night’s rest.

2. Manage your exposure to light and dark

Here’s another good reason for taking your exercise early in the day rather than late at night:

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Exposure to natural daylight can significantly increase our energy through the day and help us sleep better at night.

So, wherever possible, it’s a good idea to get your exercise outdoors and get double the benefits you get from it.

Here’s why:

Light and dark influence the body’s circadian system which regulates our sleep.

Get plenty of light early on, and we have plenty of energy to burn off during the day, which leaves our body ready for a natural period of rest later on at night.

However, if we then stay up well into the evening in bright environments, say with the light bulb on, the television on and your smartphone screen emitting light, that could mess with the circadian signals that tell the body it’s time to rest.

With that in mind, aim for as much daylight as you can and then reduce artificial lighting as the day comes to an end to improve the chances of finally beating that insomnia.

3. Enjoy a long soak

Is there anything more enjoyable than a long, relaxing soak in the bathtub after a long and stressful day?

How about a long, relaxing soak followed by an even longer, peaceful night’s sleep?

Researchers at Kyushu University in Japan found that exposure to warm water can make us feel sleepier, thus making it much easier to fall asleep properly.[1]

Again, this has a lot to do with our circadian system, which is very sensitive to body temperature.

When we start to cool down after a bath, it causes our circadian rhythm to signal to the body that it’s time to prepare for our rest. Our body responds by slowing down our heart rate and our breathing rate, putting us into the perfect state for a good night’s sleep.

It doesn’t have to be a soak in the bathtub either. The Kyushu University study found that a shower, or even a footbath, could help make us sleepier.

4. Drink chamomile tea

Of all the natural insomnia cures on our list today, this one is no doubt the tastiest.

Perfectly safe and usually delicious, chamomile is often referred to as a mild type of tranquillizer, and its effectiveness as a remedy for insomnia has been proven time and time again.

In 2011, a study was conducted involving people dealing with chronic insomnia. Those who were given 270 mg of chamomile extract twice a day for 28 days were found to fall asleep 15 minutes than those who didn’t have any chamomile extract.[2]

That’s just one of many studies conducted over the years which shows what a powerful remedy chamomile can be.

One of the reasons for this is that it contains plentiful amounts of Apigenin, an antioxidant which can reduce anxiety and help us drift off faster. Once our eyes are closed, chamomile’s other components get to work on ensuring we stay well rested through the night.

If you’re not a fan of drinking chamomile as a tea, you can also get it as an extract from most health stores.

5. Practice meditation or breathing exercises

For many people, it’s anxiety, worry or racing thoughts that keep them up at night.

Often, this can even be at a subconscious level. We go to bed fully expecting to sleep, only to find that the stress and anxiety that we’ve built up throughout the day leaves us too wired to rest.

This is where meditation or simple breathing exercises can really help out.

Focusing on our breathing and practicing mindfulness meditation makes us feel relaxed, alleviating stress, depression, and even physical pain.

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Like many of the insomnia cures we’re looking at today, this is one you can start using right now without spending any money.

The web is a great place to turn for scores of tools to help with meditation and breathing. Take a look online and see try different ones to see which work best for you.

You can also try this meditation guide: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

Or these breathing exercises: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

6. Try valerian root

If chamomile wasn’t to your liking, good old-fashioned valerian might do just the thing.

A mild sedative, valerian root has been one of the most widely used insomnia cures for centuries, with recorded uses dating all the way back to Hippocrates in the 2nd century.

Not only that, but it also proves incredibly effective to help alleviate nerves, tension and anxiety.

In fact, back in World War 2, the English would regularly use it to alleviate the stress caused by air raids.

We may live in less frightening times today, but valerian is no less effective than it was back then.

In a study published back in the late 1980s by the Foellinger Health Center in Sweden, some 89% of those taking part improved their sleep after taking it, all without any of the side effects typically caused by prescription medication.[3]

Though dried valerian root is often sold as a tea, it’s also widely available in capsule or liquid form.

7. Use lavender

To anyone familiar with lavender’s calming properties, it’s inclusion on our list today should come as no surprise.

Whether used in a bath, applied to your skin as an oil or inhaled as steam, few plants can help you relax in as many ways as lavender.

As well as providing you with lots of good stuff like vitamin A, calcium, and iron, lavender is often used to reduce anxiety, fatigue and nervousness.

Naturally then, it also works very well as a natural insomnia cure, helping to lower the heart rate and breathing rate so that you can achieve optimum sleep conditions faster than usual.

As well as all the methods listed above, lavender can also be added to foods and eaten or drank as a tea.

8. Turn on some soothing sounds

Remember when you were little, your parents helped send you off to dreamland by singing a gentle lullaby?

There’s a reason so many parents do this with their children:

It works.

When the brain hears a sound, its first action is to asses whether that sound represents a threat. For example, the slow, repetitive pattern of rainfall is simple, predictable and gently persistent, meaning our brains are unlikely to see it as a problem.

A loud, sharp, noise going off at random intervals, however, can be quite alarming, and signal to the brain that there’s danger.

So, if we surround ourselves with gentle, repetitive, low-frequency sounds when we go to bed, our brains are going to be in a much more relaxed state.

It’s for this reason that so many people struggling to find a natural cure for insomnia turn to white noise machines.

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These handy little devices block out the kind of background noises that are likely to keep them awake and instead replace them with calming sounds that help with inducing sleep.

That being said, the same sounds don’t necessarily work for everyone.

So, if you’ve tried a white noise machine (or used one of the many white noise apps available for your phone) and found that it doesn’t work, there’s plenty of other sounds you can try.

Rainfall, ocean waves, thunderstorms, crackling fires, the list goes on.

Try out different sleep sound apps or download sounds to your devices and see which one works best for you.

9. Enjoy a little passionflower

For years, passionflower tea has been used as a natural cure for insomnia, anxiety and stress.

If that alone isn’t enough to make it worth a try in your efforts to finally reclaim your sleep, this will. It tastes delightful.

Typically found in southern parts of the United States and in South America, this tropical plant comes from the same family that gives us the passion fruit, so you can imagine how delicious it is.

In this instance, the plant’s leaves, flowers and stems are dried and used to create a tea that has natural relaxing properties.

In one study conducted in 2013, a combination of passionflower and valerian was proven to be just as effective at improving sleep quality as Ambien, a prescription medication used for curing insomnia.

10. Try journaling before bedtime

If it’s worrying thoughts that are keeping you up at night, you might find journalling incredibly helpful.

Rather than giving you more things to dwell on as your head hits the pillow, writing in a journal actually allows you to effectively dump all those thoughts out, lock them away in a book and forget about them.

The act of taking worries, stresses and anxieties from within us and physically putting them down on paper can be very powerful. The effect is literally like taking a weight off your mind.

As such, you’re left feeling lighter, more relaxed, and ready to rest.

11. Use melatonin supplements

Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. It’s produced naturally according to our exposure to light and dark, which is why managing that exposure ranked so highly earlier in our list.

The more sunlight we get through natural sunlight, the more melatonin we’re able to produce once we’re in a properly darkened place, such as in our bedrooms with the curtains drawn, the lights off, and our devices switched off.

If we’re still not getting enough sunlight, the body will struggle to make enough once we’re in that darkened bedroom.

Conversely, if we spend all our nights in brightly-lit bedrooms with the lights blazing, our bodies won’t have the exposure to darkness that they need to produce the right amount.

If you think a melatonin deficiency could be the cause of your sleepless nights, you can buy supplements that help your body get just the right amount to regulate your sleep-wake cycle properly.

The result, of course, is that you feel sleepy when it’s the right time to feel sleepy and ultimately enjoy a much better rest.

12. Buy some lemon balm

A 2011 study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that people who use a 600 mg of lemon balm extract every day for 15 days saw a 42% reduction in insomnia symptoms.[4]

Of course, while we’d all like a 100% reduction in our symptoms, using lemon balm in conjunction with some of the other remedies we’ve mentioned today can work wonders.

Lemon balm extract is normally used in aromatherapy for its soothing properties. You can buy lemon balm extract oil and put a little in an oil burner before using it as a massage oil or dropping a little in your bath to help wash away the stress of the day.

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13. Enjoy a simple cup of warm milk and honey

It’s sometimes said that the only reason warm milk helps us to sleep is that it reminds us of our childhood.

For some people, that in itself may be enough, but milk does much more than bring back warm, cozy memories.

It also contains plenty of tryptophan, which converts into the hormone serotonin. Serotonin acts as a natural sedative and helps induce sleep.

So why include the honey?

Well, for one thing, it makes that warm milk taste that much nicer. For another, it helps carry the serotonin to our brains much quicker, reducing the amount of time it takes for us to get into an optimum sleep state.

You can also drink it as a tea just before bedtime to help ease away anxiety and relax into the perfect conditions for quality sleep.

14. Attend a yoga class

Whilst much of yoga’s increasing popularity is down to its physical benefits, it can also prove incredibly helpful in getting you to sleep.

How?

By reducing stress.

Even at a subconcious level, stress is one of the major causes of insomnia, so anything you can do to reduce it is only going to work in your favour.

If the thought of attending a yoga class with other people fills you with more anxiety than it relieves, there’s nothing to say you can’t do it at home.

YouTube videos or DVDs can teach you the basics, and that can be more than enough to leave you with the kind of calm, easy feelings you need to finally banish your insomnia.

You can also take a look at this article for some simple yoga poses:

No More Insomnia: 5 Simple Yoga Poses For Better Sleep

15. Snack on almonds and bananas

Finally, if you prefer to take in your tryptophan by eating something rather than drinking milk and honey, then these foods are the way to go.

Almonds and bananas contain plenty of sleep-inducing tryptophan as well as magnesium. A lack of magnesium can cause sleep problems, as can calcium, which can be found in almonds as well as milk.

Bananas are also a great source of potassium, which proves very useful for muscle relaxation.

Finding natural cures for insomnia that really work for you

From delicious things to eat and drink to tips, tricks and techniques to try, we’ve covered a whole range of effective insomnia cures here.

Whilst any one of them alone might be just the thing to help you sleep, you might find that combining a number of them produces the best results.

You might, for example, try a light jog in the mornings, then take a warm bath at night before dimming the lights, sipping chamomile tea and finally retiring to a darkened room with your favourite white noise sounds.

Experiment with the different remedies featured here today and you’ll soon find an approach that finally helps you to make sleepless nights a thing of the past.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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