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Why Ask Why?

Why Ask Why?

Why are we here? Why do we get up every morning and aim to achieve something? Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? Why ask why?

“Why?”

It’s a powerful question.

Philosophers use it to better understand the human condition and seek out the answers to The Big Question. Scientists use it to cure diseases and The Carpenters once asked it to make a pretty catchy song.

The good news is, we can ask that question ourselves on a regular basis to aid us in the all important mission of getting things done.

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Have you ever sat down to make your to-do list of plan a series of goals without thinking too much about why you’re going undertake a particular task beyond the simple excuse that it just has to be done?

Have you ever found yourself half way through a deadly dull, time-consuming task and suddenly thought what the hell is the point of this?

If not, more power to you. If so, welcome to my world.

Too much to do

I suspect I’m not the only one who has ever found far more on my plate than I can possibly handle. Sprawling To-Do lists, bursting at the seams with endless amount of actions spiralled out of control. Projects which seemed important sat forever half-finished and progress on long-term goals had barely begun.

There was just so much to do. More than I could ever possibly conceive finishing in anything like a manageable time scale  and I had to do all of it.

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I didn’t ever stop to really think about why I had to do something I just knew, even subconsciously, that it had to be done. After all, if I didn’t have to do it, why would the thought even occur to me to scribble it down on a To-Do list?

It created a habit of assigning too high a priority to what were pointless or unnecessary tasks, spending so much time on those tasks that I never had the time to accomplish anything that was really important to me.

That was, quite frankly, insane.

Asking Why

So I stopped. The next time I came to plan out my goals and lay out a To-Do list, I forced myself to think long and hard about why I was planning to do all this stuff.

  • Why is it important that I finish this project?
  • Why is it important that I reply to all those e-mails as soon as possible?
  • Why is this long-term goal on my bucket list?
  • Why do I need to spend my whole day working on something that will ultimately have little benefit?

By employing such thinking every time I came to plan things out, I came to see that I was wasting a great deal of time on things that didn’t really matter, either because priorities had changed, because I’d convinced myself something was important when it really wasn’t  or even because somebody else had said it was important.

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It was the latter bunch that I struggled with the most.

After giving much thought to certain tasks, it turned out that the only reason I had to do something was because it was expected of me by somebody else.

I suspected that those people hadn’t given much thought as to why this had to be done either. On closer inspection, it was an entirely pointless exercise designed to suck time and keep busy. Still, people were expecting this of me. How could I justify not doing it?

I asked another question.

What’s the worse that can happen?

What’s the worst possible thing that can happen if I don’t complete this task? Or, as I so dramatically liked to think of it: Will anybody die if I don’t do this?

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More often than not, it turned out that nobody would die, nothing terrible would happen, and I could therefore feel confident in eliminating that stuff on my list to focus instead on what was really important.

Justification

Of course, there’s a problem which this approach; if we spend enough time thinking about anything we can easily find a million excuses to justify doing, or not doing anything.

That’s why it’s important to be honest, perhaps harsh, with yourself when undertaking this approach. Is this really important? Will it matter in the long run or does it just seem like it right now? Can I delegate this to somebody else? Can I let it go altogether and concentrate on what really matters?

If not, get it done. If so, let it go. The only person you’re really letting down if you don’t ask why is yourself. That way, you’ll have much more time to focus on what really matters to you, like answering the bigger questions in life such as why we’re here, or even why birds suddenly appear.

Featured photo credit:  Gorgeous young brunette in thinking posture via Shutterstock

More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Writer, coach, and trainee counsellor specialising in mental health and addiction.

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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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