Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. -Benjamin Franklin
And aren’t we all trying to do just that every day of our lives – to be happy and healthy, wealthy and wise? Which is why there are so many self help books these days, a whole industry of doctors, psychologists and spiritualists. But before we feel the need to approach doctors and depression therapists, if we can start making slight changes to our eating and sleeping habits, we can avoid (or at least delay) the whole concept of treating minor illnesses, and instead indulge in preventative care of our bodies and minds.
Ayurveda is an ancient science of health that uses the body’s own wisdom to balance and heal itself. Sleep is one of the supporting pillars of Ayurveda, in addition to diet and lifestyle habits. Sleeping well enhances your energy levels during your waking hours. In this article, I share a few Ayurvedic tips to sleep better and wake up fresher. None of these are rules or regulations, simply suggestions – take what resonates with you, leave out what doesn’t :)
Things to do Before Bed to Sleep Better
1. Eat a light dinner before 7 PM each night. Modern way of life seems to leave little time for a proper lunch these days. So most people eat a big breakfast, skip lunch or skimp on it, and end up having a big dinner before they go to sleep. This means we’re not using the body’s generation of digestive juices during its peak time, which is mid-day. Instead we’re trying to push our bodies to digest big meals when it’s least equipped to do that: when it’s getting ready to go to sleep or when it’s still trying to wake up. It’s not easy to change our life-long habits, but this is an important one to change. A couple of suggestions to help create this habit:Advertising
- Make lunch a priority during your daytime schedule. Eat a bigger lunch, so you’re not starving by the end of the day.
- A bowl of soup is warm and comforting for dinner, but not heavy in your belly.
2. Avoid electronics in your bedroom. That means no TV, no computers, no phones. All of these screens have a way of stimulating the senses at the end of the day, when we should be settling down our minds and bodies. The back-lighting in all those smart screens so close to our faces in the dark makes the sleep-inducing melatonin to slow down. Try to get all your TV, laptop and phone checking done outside of the bedroom before a certain time, before you get to bed. A couple of suggestions to make this a habit:
- Set a reminder for when you need to turn off everything by say, 9:30 PM.
- Shutting down the appliances completely hinders the temptation to “just check one last time.”
3. Massage your limbs. This is a pleasant activity before bedtime, to help induce a sense of relaxation in your body, but also your mind. It’s an effective way to reduce stress at the end of the day, any headaches or tension pains, and also insomnia. It would be great to have a willing partner to help you with a massage, but you can do this yourself too. Pour a small amount of oil into your palm, and rub it into your legs – from above your knees down to each toe, and into your arms – from your shoulders to each finger. Use long, easy strokes as you gently rub in the oil. A couple of helpful tips to make this a nightly routine:
- Use a light, non-staining oil, like sweet almond, or jojoba.
- Add a few drops of essential oils, like lavender or rosemary, that are said to be soothing on the nerves.
4. A cup of tea, or warm milk before bed. You may or may not need this tip, but if you’re still feeling awake and hungry past 10 PM, craving for something to eat while you ease into your new habits, a cup of warm milk might help soothe that craving. Chamomile tea, or other sleep inducing teas are also a good idea for this time of night. A couple of hints and suggestions:Advertising
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine after 7 PM.
- If you must eat something, eat a few dried cherries and / or dates, that are supposed to induce natural sleep.
5. Deep breathing or meditation. To help wind down your body and mind, turn off all the lights at 10 PM. If you live in the city, put in ear plugs to cut out noises. Adjust your room, your nightwear and your blankets so that you feel balanced – not too warm or not too cold. If you’re familiar with meditation, you can create your own ritual that helps you sleep. A couple of meditation techniques that help induce sleep:
- Deep breathing: Lie down comfortably. Place your hands on your belly. Deepen your breathing to a point where you feel your abdomen rise up and down with your breaths. Focus on your breaths. This will help keep your mind off your problems and thoughts. If you catch your mind wandering, simply bring it back to your breath. This practice is very calming, and will slowly induce sleep as your mind relaxes.
- Counting sheep: yes, it works. It doesn’t have to be sheep – you can count your exhale breaths each time you breathe out, and visualize yourself going deeper and deeper into sleep. This is almost hypnotic and very calming.
Things to do in the Morning to Wake up Fresher
6. Wake up at the same time every morning. If you fall into a pattern of getting to bed at a certain time every night, your body will fall into a natural rhythm of tuning itself to nature’s days and nights. This means that your body will wake up at the same time naturally every morning. Ayurveda recommends that we stay in tune with nature’s cycles as much as possible. How you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. A couple of considerations to take into account:
- If you do need an alarm clock to wake you up, choose one that has a gentle, non-invasive sound that doesn’t jar you awake.
- When you open your eyes, don’t jump out of bed. Take the time to remember any dreams, notice how your body feels, and stretch your limbs gently before you get out of bed.
7. Greet the sun every morning. In our modern way of life, we take no time to take in some sun each morning. We go from the house to the garage, in our cars, and work in encased artificially lit buildings all day long. According to Ayurveda, sunlight has a supremely empowering effect on all of creation. There is an energy in the atmosphere at sunrise that comes to us free and cheap, if only we remember to make use of it. So make it a routine to get some early morning sunshine every day to get your body back in balance. A couple of ideas to get some sun on work mornings:Advertising
- Make it a ritual to see the sunrise. This can be a time to consider your blessings, plan your day ahead, and build in a pause into your day, rather than hit it running.
- A short walk at sunrise. Do you walk your dogs? Walk to work? Or simply like to get some invigorating fresh air in the mornings? If so, time it with the sunrise. You’ll notice what a difference it will make.
8. Hydrate your body. After a night of sleeping indoors, under blankets, the trapped heat and sweat dries out your mouth and your body. Ayurveda says how you start your morning helps set the mood with how the rest of your day goes. So start off by re-hydrating and re-energizing yourself for the oncoming day. A couple of ideas to re-hydrate:
- Splash your face with cool water when you roll out of bed. Wash your eyes while they’re slightly open – be very gentle. Also rinse out your mouth. Repeat a few times.
- Sip a glass of warm water. Add some lime or lemon to reinvigorate and stimulate your digestion and to wake you up.
9. How about some yoga? Now I may be pushing it – who has time for yoga in the mornings, right? However, Ayurveda prescribes that early morning is the best time for yoga, to activate and energize your body and mind. If you don’t have time for an hour or 30 minutes, consider doing a few stretches, or a couple of rounds of sun salutations. Similar to the previous tip, this builds a pause into your day, make you meet the day deliberately, rather than trying to play catch up. A couple of suggestions to build this into your morning routine:
- Believe it or not, it all starts with going to bed early enough to wake up early. Once you get your ideal amount of sleep each night, your body is ready to go in the mornings.
- If you’re not into yoga, use your favorite exercise routine during this time. Tai Chi, walking, running, or climbing stairs are all great alternatives.
10. Eat a light breakfast. This goes along with what I said above about having a big lunch. Before noon, your body is simply not ready or active enough to handle a big breakfast. It will make you feel dull and sluggish, rather than wake you up. Instead, have a small breakfast before 9 AM that will activate your digestive juices but not overload the system. A couple of suggestions for a light breakfast:Advertising
- A piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt, or a small bowl of granola is plenty for your morning meal
- Don’t snack between breakfast and lunch.
So what do you think about the 10 tips to have a more energizing morning and waking up fresher? If any of the tips resonated with you, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Featured photo credit: Saiisha via NestInTheForest.com
Last Updated on March 21, 2019
11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits
Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:
You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”
But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:
To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.
It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,
“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”
The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.
In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.
Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?
1. Start Small
The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.
Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.
Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.
Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.
Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.
Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.
It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.
Do less today to do more in a year.
2. Stay Small
There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.
But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.
If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.
When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.
I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.
Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.
The same thing applies to every other habit out there.
Pick a (small) number and stay at it.
3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence
No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.
There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.
What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.
Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.
This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.
This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.
4. Those Who Track It, Hack It
When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.
Peter Drucker said,
“What you track is what you do.”
So track it to do it — it really helps.
But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.
5. Measure Once, Do Twice
Peter Drucker also said,
“What you measure is what you improve.”
So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:
For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.
Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.
6. All Days Make a Difference
Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.
Will two? They won’t.
Will three? They won’t.
Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.
What happened? Which one made you fit?
The answer to this (Sorites paradox) is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.
No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).
7. They Are Never Fully Automated
Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.
But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.
What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.
It will just become a part of your lifestyle.
The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.
It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.
It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.
8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.
Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.
When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.
The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.
Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.
9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It
The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.
Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.
You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”
But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.
So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.
If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.
This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect and why process-oriented people don’t.
The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.
Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.
10. Punish Yourself
Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.
I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.
It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.
You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.
No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.
The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.
But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.
11. Reward Yourself
When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.
Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.
The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.
After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.
If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.
Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.
If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.
In the End, It Matters
What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.
When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.
And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:
“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”
More Resources to Help You Build Habits
- How to Break a Bad Habit and Retrain Your Brain
- Understand Your Habits to Control Them 100%
- How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop
- How to Break Bad Habits (The Only Effective Way)
Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com
|||^||Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox|
|||^||Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?|
|||^||Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit|
|||^||Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes|