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How to Rewire Your Brain for Better Sleep

How to Rewire Your Brain for Better Sleep

Struggling with sticking to a healthy bedtime and tired of daytime fatigue? Your mind may be to blame.

How you think about sleep and how you prioritize it in your daily life can have a significant impact on your quality of rest. If you view rest as a chore or waste of time, it likely won’t top your mental to-do-list.

But, changing your mindset on snoozing can give you a boost. Try these tips to mentally rewire your brain for better sleep and get motivated to make healthy rest a part of your lifestyle.

1. Rethink Your Perspective on Sleep

How you view rest (whether positive, negative, dismissively, or with anxiety) can significantly affect your quality of sleep. Learn to see sleep in a new light by reminding yourself of the immense value healthy habits bring to our lives.

Every minute of shuteye is precious. During sleep, your body actively restores, renews and heals. No matter what you value in life, it’s almost a guarantee that sleep plays a direct role. Here are just a few reasons why sleep should be a top priority, according to the Harvard Health Sleep website:

  • It affects how you look.
  • It affects your fitness.
  • It affects your health.
  • It affects your brain.
  • It affects your relationships.
  • It affects your job.

What are your core priorities? Is there a fitness goal you are trying to achieve, do you want to be more present for your family, or do you want to simply stay healthy? Keep this awareness in mind as you begin rewiring your mind and improving your sleep habits.

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When you feel like there is too much to do in your day to make time for rest or you are struggling to put your iPad down late at night, remind yourself of the reasons why you want to sleep better.

think positive

    2. Put Stress In Its Place

    Although being cognizant of the value of sleep is important, it is also essential to not preoccupy your mind with negative thoughts and stress if sleep doesn’t come easyly.

    Not only can this create sleep anxiety, but researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital found that people who ruminate on stress or try to avoid it were more likely to have insomnia symptoms. Other stress-relief tactics like positive reframing, religion and venting did not increase insomnia.

    If you are stressing over snoozing, try positive affirmations – replace thoughts like “I can’t get to sleep and I have so much to do tomorrow!” with statements like “I will fall asleep soon and feel well-rested tomorrow”. If you are not physically tired, get out of bed and read or relax to music in a dim room until you feel sleepy.

    Other studies also found that people with higher levels of gratitude experienced better sleep. Gratitude also has real effects on sleep-boosting neurotransmitters! Remind yourself of what you are thankful for before bed rather than you to-do list or stressful thoughts.

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    You can also neutralize stress and sleep-stealing thoughts with relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation and visualization. Try different things to see what works for you, and incorporate these habits into your daily routine.

    3. Plan for Better Rest

    An evening pre-bed routine helps prepare you mentally and physically for rest. Your body and mind know that it is time to start winding down, and that sleep is soon to follow. Your nighttime routine should have a consistent pattern and timing every night, and should allow enough time to get adequate rest in.

    Two hours before bedtime, you might start with a warm bath or shower. Slip into pajamas, begin dimming lights, and drop the thermostat to cool your bedroom. Start weaning yourself off of smartphones, laptops and television. Stop checking emails and Facebook, and make a conscious effort to be calm and tranquil.

    Include habits that relax you and release stress as mentioned above. Try reading, journaling, listening to calm music, stretching, a crossword puzzle, meditation, a cup of decaf tea – anything that puts you in the mood for slumber. When it’s close to bedtime, wash your face, brush your teeth, and slip into your cozy bed ready for sleep.

    reading in the evening

      4. Set Gradual Goals

      When it comes to sleep, small changes are often best for long-term results. Set gradual and attainable goals for getting more sleep or adjusting your bedtime and wake time. You might start by sleeping 15 minutes more per night, or shifting your bedtime or alarm 15 minutes earlier.

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      Think of what you hope to accomplish, and set gradual steps for getting there. You can even make it a game where you compete against your personal best, or work together with a partner for encouragement.

      5. Track Your Sleep

      For many people, tracking sleep habits and improvements toward goals can be motivating and encouraging. Use a journal or try sleep apps to monitor when you are sleeping and waking. Tracking rest can help you see where you can improve, and many apps also provide helpful insight into ways your routine affects sleep.

      office journal

        6. Reward Yourself for Reaching Goals

        We are mentally wired to enjoy and seek rewards after we do things. One study on obesity found that people who set goals, monitored progress, and rewarded themselves for changing unhealthy habits had the most success at weight loss. While obesity and sleep are different, the behavioral aspects of changing habits are similar, and links between goals and rewards have been studied many times.

        Plan a few small and healthy rewards to treat yourself as you reach your better sleep goals. Think about small motivators that will encourage you. Examples might include saving episodes of a favorite show on DVR, having a small piece of dark chocolate, listening to your favorite song in the morning, indulging in a new book or new workout gear, or a spa treat.

        7. Stay Consistent

        Consistent routines and sleep/wake times are an important part of good sleep hygiene and of developing new habits, as well.

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        Your internal sleep clock operates best with consistency, and studies even show consistent sleep wake times with healthier body weight. When you plan your sleep schedule, pick times that you can stick to within one hour all week long, even on the weekends.

        Stick with your goals and the new routine, but don’t get discouraged if you slip up for a day or two – you can always jump back in.

        sleeping bulldogs

          Remember, focus on the benefits of rest and make a conscious effort to prioritize sleep. Seek ways to deal with stress, and make better rest a reality by planning and sticking to a consistent schedule, with goals and rewards to motivate you along the way.

          What encourages you to sleep better? How do you make a rest a priority in your routine?

          Featured photo credit: Thom Davies via flickr.com

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          Last Updated on February 20, 2019

          13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

          13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with Them and Enjoy the Ride

          Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

          Why is this so critically important to you?

          The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

          Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

          1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

          Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

          When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

          • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
          • The man facing the judge.
          • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
          • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
          • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
          • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

          These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

          Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

          Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

          2. Accept Your Fear

          Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

          We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

          And here’s what can be done.

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          3. Get Some Perspective

          I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

          And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

          That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

          We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

          So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

          • Are you really at risk?
          • Will this kill you?
          • Which leads us on to..
          • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

          4. Hold a Hand

          As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

          Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

          We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

          Ask yourself:

          • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
          • Could that really happen?
          • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
          • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

          By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

          5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

          This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

          Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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          The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

          It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

          For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

          Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

          6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

          I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

          Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

          Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

          Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

          Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

          Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

          7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

          Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

          I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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          It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

          One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

          Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

          It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

          8. Assume the Worse

          If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

          Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

          • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
          • Think about how they feel about champagne?
          • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

          And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

          When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

          Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

          9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

          If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

          Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

          Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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          10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

          One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

          11. Go with Fear

          When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

          I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

          Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

          One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

          However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

          We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

          12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

          And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

          The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

          What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

          13. Own Your Fear

          Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

          We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

          You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

          More Resources About Fighting Fear

          Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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