Author Archives: teds
Author Archives: teds
It is not just our bodies that are a result of evolution. Likewise, it is also our minds and our psychology that have been shaped by the world that we evolved in and that is where a lot of our most unusual behaviors come from.
When we were evolving, we were in far more dangerous scenarios than we were now and we could never afford to take risks. Only the psychological traits that made us most likely to survive were passed on from one person to another and that means that they’re the only ones that matter.
This is why we are risk averse by nature and it is also – unfortunately – why we spend a lot of our time experiencing chronic stress.
The Danger of Ambiguity
Imagine that you were in the wild, looking at the silhouette of some kind of animal sitting on the horizon. You don’t know if that silhouette is of a lion or some kind of kitten… what do you do?
The most pertinent solution in order to survive is to assume the worst. Assume it’s a lion and either freeze or run. The people who take chances would be the most likely to get eaten and thus not pass on their personality traits!
But the problem is that we don’t see lions any more. This is not the biggest threat to your life right now. Instead, the biggest stressors are things like debt, illness, relationship problems and career issues. These are the threats we face that are the stand-ins for the lions and that we now must try and overcome if we’re going to be successful in life.
And unfortunately, we still have that tendency to assume the worst!
It’s All About Perspective
But here’s the thing: it’s actually all about perspective and it’s all about mindset when it comes to our reaction to threats. If we think it’s a kitten, then we will be able to remain cool, calm and happy even if it is a metaphorical lion.
In other words, it pays for us to reassess our situations and to take control of our anxiety and our stress. When we can do that, then we can remove the chronic anxiety that makes us perform worse and feel worse.
How do you turn your situations into kittens? Simple: you assess exactly why you’re afraid and whether or not there really is a good reason for you to be. Likewise, you can look at contingency plans and coping mechanisms.
Remember: it’s all just perspective. Change your mindset and you change the reality!
Have you ever wondered why it is that we enjoy games so much? And have you ever wondered why it is that you dislike your job so much? What is the difference between pressing buttons on an Xbox and pressing buttons on keyboards?
The answer may surprise you: it actually comes down to your effort and how much you care.
You care about games and you make the effort because you want to get better at them and because there’s constant variety and plot progression to keep things interesting. This makes you try harder in order to progress and that in turn gives you the feeling of reward that makes the gameplay satisfying.
From a neurochemical perspective, this essentially boils down to the release of dopamine.
Each time you attempt a level or challenge, you first visualize it happening in your mind’s eye. When you then attempt it for real and this then goes to plan just as you visualized it, this will in turn result in you getting a release of the reward hormone dopamine. This is actually highly addictive and that can be enough to make you want to try again – which is why it’s so hard to put down that game of Angry Birds!
That release of dopamine and serotonin will also help to reinforce the neural connections required to perform the task again. This strengthens your likelihood of doing the same thing again in future with perfect technique and generally improves your technique and ability.
When we don’t care about the outcome though, we don’t have this trial/reward loop and as a result, it can end up feeling like a dull slog. To change this then, all you need to do is to start taking things more seriously and actually focus on what you’re doing.
The Most Basic
Let’s say that you have to write something by hand. This is a mundane task and something most of us won’t pay much attention to.
So instead of simply doing it absent-mindedly then, you should instead try to really focus on doing it as perfectly as possible. Try to let the pen flow perfectly as you write and to write with the most perfect handwriting you can muster. Visualize it happening as you do.
Simply paying attention to your writing in this way and making it perfect will then be enough to ensure that you are more engaged and that you get the release of dopamine when it goes well. You’ve turned the mundane into a game. Why? Because the brain loves learning and improving.
What is your fitness philosophy?
In other words: why do you train and exercise? What is it that you hope to achieve by being physically active?
Many of us train because we want to look better. Some of us train because we want to be healthier and stave off disease. Others train because they want to perform better at a particular sport or activity they enjoy.
But I have a different reason for training: I train because I want to change the way I feel and because I want to change my mindset. And this is also one of the driving factors behind my diet choices.
One of the biggest limiting factors in most of our lives – one of the things that most prevents us from achieving all that we want to achieve – is tiredness. You wake up in the morning and instead of leaping out of bed filled with enthusiasm, you instead struggle to drag yourself up and to actually start being productive. Then you get home and instead of doing something fun, interesting or productive, you instead just crash on the sofa and watch day time TV. Sound familiar?
Everything you do is less enjoyable when you’re tired. All of your decisions are worse. All of your challenges are harder. And I’m not talking about physical tiredness – I’m talking about mental tiredness. And that’s what you can actually fix with the right training program and diet, unbeknownst to many.
How to Increase Brain Energy
So how can you increase energy in your brain? One method is to increase the strength of your heart. If you do this, then you’ll be able to pump more blood, oxygen and nutrients to your brain, thus allowing it to perform more optimally. How do we do this? With steady state cardio This means the kind of cardiovascular exercise that involves long durations of exercise. A good example is running a few miles twice a week, which can help to enlarge the left ventricle in your heart. This also reduces stress by helping you to lower your resting heartrate and thus produce less cortisol.
Also important is to increase the efficiency of mitochondria. These are the parts of the cells that turn glucose into usable energy and the more you have and better they function, the less tired you will feel. You can increase these with a combination of HIIT training and foods/supplements that are known to support them such as CoQ10, PQQ, l-carnitine and others.
If there is one place where we should be completely free, then it is in our own mind. We might have limitations in terms of what our bodies are capable of and what we’re allowed to do – but our minds should be free to roam wherever we want them to.
Unfortunately, this is not the reality most of us live in. Instead, our thoughts are dictated by our circumstances and those circumstances are largely out of our control. This is why we will often find ourselves feeling dissatisfied and constantly wanting to push forward, rather than stopping to enjoy life and smell the roses.
And without meaning to get political or philosophical, our capitalist lifestyles only reinforce this nature and try to push us faster.
Are You Happy?
Most of us are constantly in a position of slight dissatisfaction. We feel as though there’s ‘one thing’ that could make our lives better and help us to be happier. Maybe we wish we had just a little bit more money, or maybe we wish we had a bigger house. Maybe we want a better job?
Partly this will be encouraged by the media and by the material goods that we want. We want more money so we can play the latest game, wear the latest clothes and post pictures of ourselves on holiday to show to friends.
And we keep working harder and stressing more to try and accomplish these things – in turn keeping the cogs of society spinning.
Making a Change
But now take a think about that game you find yourself wanting. Aren’t there computer games on your shelf right now that you haven’t played yet? Aren’t there free games you could download today and have just as much fun with? Isn’t it just marketing that is pushing you towards that next game and that next expense?
Likewise, ask yourself if having more money would really make you happier. You can travel very cheaply right now – the problem is probably more with leaving work. More responsibility isn’t going to help that!
So how do you make a change and start to be freer and happier right now? The answer is that you change your focus. Instead of fixating on what you don’t have and on what you want, instead start to fixate on what you already have and what you’re grateful for. This is called a ‘gratitude attitude’ and it’s the fastest route to having a satisfying and happy life.
If you want to accomplish as much as you possibly can, the most important thing to get right is the vision or goal you have to begin with. This is essentially the same as setting your trajectory and without a trajectory, you don’t stand much chance of getting to your destination. Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to correctly write goals and this can end up preventing them from standing any chance of success in their chosen field.
And actually, if you’re setting off to write a goal then you’re starting out with the wrong intent to begin with. Because ‘goals’ aren’t really as useful as visions – which is what we’re going to explore here.
The Difference Between a Goal and a Vision
So what’s the difference between a goal and a vision? Essentially, a goal is something that you write down and that is very concrete and simple. A goal may for example be to ‘lose 10lbs in two months’. That’s a goal but it’s also not as effective as a vision designed to the same end.
This same ambition posed as a vision rather than a goal would instead be more the idea of being in shape. You might visualize yourself looking ripped and feeling healthy. You might imagine yourself going for jogs on the beach with your top off in summer and feeling great about yourself. That’s your vision.
A vision can also be an image of yourself standing in an office block and looking out over the world, knowing that you’re in a position of great importance and power.
This is a much more abstract concept that nevertheless helps you to get a picture of what you want and what the emotion behind that goal is.
Why Visions Work Better Than Goals
So why are visions more successful than goals?
For one, goals are not nearly flexible enough. If you have a goal, then this gives you one thing you’re trying accomplish and only one idea of how to get there. If it doesn’t go to plan then you have the freedom to change the steps you’re going to take to get there, or to bend them to fit your current lifestyle, plans and free time.
Another reason visions work better is because they have more emotional content. When you visualize something, the same regions fire in your brain as though it was actually happening. This in turn means that you can actually trigger the emotion as though it were happening. And it’s this emotion we can use to motivate ourselves to go through with plans!
Happiness is so interesting, because we all have different ideas about what it is and
how to get it. I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought
it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually
backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found…
Having a sleep disorder that’s ongoing can be very frustrating. You’re sick of being irritable, tired of feeling sleepy all day, and too exhausted to think straight and find a solution on your own.
Your anxiety about not sleeping will build over time. As one night turns into one month, you begin to panic, and when you wake up in the middle of the night, your anxiety contributes to you not being able to get back to sleep.
First, think about why you’re not sleeping soundly through the night. Try to remedy any exterior distractions, such as the alarm clock light that glows in your face, the noise you hear outside from the traffic, or a pet that routinely crawls in and out of your bed, waking you up every couple of hours.
Sometimes it’s a habit that you need to change. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor going to bed at 7 PM, but because it’s so early, it might actually be causing you to wake up too early.
Whatever the cause – the solution you seek when you’re awoken during the middle of the night is to get back to sleep. But how – when your frustration is at an all-time high? Make sure you don’t add anything stimulating to the mix.
Flipping on the TV or turning on the light to read a book is only waking you up further. You want to do something relaxing, but don’t lay in bed fuming over the fact that your sleep partner’s snoring woke you up again.
Instead, try visualization or self-hypnosis to calm your nerves and help you fall back asleep. You can release tension to start the visualization process by tensing and releasing different parts of your body, such as your fists, your toes, your shoulders, and more.
Then begin a series of deep breathing exercises. Breathe in deep through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Some people like to focus solely on their breathing to fall back asleep, while others prefer to visual a tranquil scene, like a brook running through a lush forest.
Others like to visualize themselves in the scene, such as a warm day at the beach, listening to the waves roll in and out. If this helps you, try to concentrate on all of your senses during the visualization process.
If you’re unfamiliar with self-hypnosis or visualization, you can invest in some downloads or CDs that provide instructions and guidance in the process as well as ideas and sounds to set the scene for you.
There are over-the-counter sleep aids, prescription medications, and techniques you can use to train yourself to have better sleep habits. But one area you may not have considered is controlling your sleep success through your food choices!
We like to joke about having to nap after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, but there’s some truth behind that kidding. There really are foods that help you sleep – and some that keep you awake, so if you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, you’ll want to consider your food choices carefully!
Certain foods create a calming effect on your brain, while others rev it up for more activity. Turkey is a sleep-aiding food, because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin, which calms your brain and helps you sleep.
It’s kind of like sewing a piece of clothing – you can make a shirt without a needle, thread, and fabric. Your body needs tryptophan to help it create neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, which result in a restful sleep.
When you combine tryptophan-laden foods with carbohydrates, it helps the body absorb it so that you sleep better. Regular high-protein diets can keep you awake if they’re no paired with carbs because proteins contain tyrosine, which wakes you up!
To leverage your food choices, try to pair proteins and carbs the way you want your body to work throughout the day. Choose higher protein meals in the morning and afternoon, and eat more carbs in the evenings closer to bedtime.
You can’t exclude the tryptophan because an all-carb meal will defeat the purpose, keeping you awake even more. If you can sneak some calcium into your evening meal, you’ll reap even greater rewards, since calcium helps the brain use the tryptophan.
Foods that are high in tryptophan include beans, chicken, dairy, eggs, hazelnuts, hummus, lentils, meat, peanuts, rice, soy, seafood, sesame and sunflower seeds, and whole grains. So a perfect evening snack might be whole grain cereal with milk or even oatmeal cookies with milk.
Full meals could include veggies with meat or chicken, chili and beans, or pasta with cheese. Just remember that when you over-indulge on a meal, it may cause you to not sleep as well – since your digestive system will be working overtime.
When you eat tryptophan, the sleep-inducing effects won’t take place immediately. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour for you to begin feeling drowsy, so eat early in the evening.
Aside from tryptophan, there are other foods you should be aware of in regards to how it affects your slumber, like caffeine for instance. Caffeine can be found in many products – even your over-the-counter cold medicine! It stimulates your nervous system, keeping you awake – even when you don’t want to be.
Keep a food journal to see how your nighttime meals affect your slumber. If you discover that certain foods keep you up at night, try to move those to the early menu of your day and reserve the evening for foods that are “sleep-friendly.”
Chronic sleep disorders can be paralyzing, depending on their severity. Narcolepsy is one of the most damaging sleep disorders because it strikes without warning, sending you into a sudden state of sleep. This sleep disorder can begin younger than 10 years of age, on into your 30s. It’s rare for it to show up in your 40s or later.
A narcoleptic person can’t stay awake for any long period of time – even if they’ve had plenty of sleep the night before. It’s difficult to enjoy your personal life, let alone manage your professional responsibilities at work.
Narcolepsy sometimes gets misdiagnosed as everyday depression, fainting, or seizures. There’s no known cure, but there are ways to manage this particular sleep disorder and lessen the symptoms you experience.
You’ll know if you have narcolepsy if you find you’re abnormally sleepy during the daytime, but not the usual sleepyhead syndrome many people feel. A narcoleptic individual will feel an uncontrolled need to sleep, and they’ll nod off without warning for anywhere from a couple of minutes to a half hour or more.
It can be humiliating to fall asleep when it’s not the right time or place, and many who suffer from narcolepsy enroll in counseling to help them cope with the sleep disorder and how it affects their life with friends, family, and co-workers.
Another sign that will emerge will be cataplexy, when you lose control of your muscles. You might slur your speech or hang your head, or even fall when your legs give out from beneath you. This symptom can occur daily – or only once or twice a year.
Narcolepsy’s symptoms don’t end there, unfortunately. Some people are paralyzed right before or after their sudden sleeping spells – they can’t move or talk – which is very frightening to you and anyone else watching it happen.
Some people also hallucinate if they have narcolepsy because they fall into a fast REM sleep. They’re half awake and half dreaming, which can be scary depending on what type of dream you’re having at that moment in time.
Lapse of memory can occur with narcolepsy, too. You might be carrying on with your tasks as usual, but unknowingly you’ve had a sleep episode, so you forget what you just did. You wake up and see that you’ve accomplished something (usually not as well as you would if you were fully awake) and you know it’s due to the narcolepsy.
No one really knows what causes narcolepsy, but scientists believe it may be genetics coupled with uncommon brain chemicals that respond to triggers in your environment. They think narcoleptics may have imbalances in the chemicals that regulate sleep, such as a low level of hypocretin, which tells you when to wake up – and stay awake.
If you think you may have narcolepsy, then your doctor will conduct a series of tests to find out if it’s true. You’ll fill out a standard sleep questionnaire and may enroll in an overnight sleep study where they place electrodes on your scalp to monitor your sleep cycles.
It’s important not to ignore this sleep disorder because it can have potentially harmful consequences. Aside from affecting your personal and professional relationships, narcoleptics run the risk of wrecking their cards while driving or causing a fire in their home, such as when they fall asleep in the middle of cooking with hot oil and grease.
If you’re found to have narcolepsy, then you have several treatment options to consider. Everyday stimulants may not be enough to keep you awake, so your doctor might prescribe something stronger, like Provigil.
Antidepressants are often prescribed because they suppress REM sleep and aid in the elimination of cataplexy, paralysis, and hallucinations. Or, your doctr may have you start taking sodium oxybate, which does the same thing antidepressants do, but also helps with nighttime sleep.
You also have to be very cautious about making lifestyle changes that can help you control this disorder. Make sure you read labels on medications to see if they cause drowsiness. Simple things, such as making a schedule that includes naps, exercising, and avoiding substances like nicotine and alcohol can curb the effects of narcolepsy.
Don’t feel like narcolepsy has to control your life. Talk to others about what you’re going through and adhere to a safe routine that ensures you won’t harm yourself (or others) if a sudden sleep attack should occur.
If you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, and would like to begin treating it, one way is to create a relaxing routine that might help your body recognize it’s time to sleep.
For certain disorders, such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS), relaxation might not be the answer – but for some, de-stressing before a snooze could prove to be the right medicine.
Think about what relaxes you. Is it a warm bath? Reading in a chair? A cup of steaming hot herbal tea? There are a number of self-help stress techniques to consider and finding the right one may take some time.
The investment will be well worth it, because it may mean better sleep that results in less fatigue, drowsiness, or any of the other symptoms associated with sleep deprivation. Once you discover the right technique for you, try to integrate it into your daily routine.
If it’s a cup of herbal tea, try to drink a cup about 30 minutes before you’re ready for bed. The tea should not only relax you due to its herbal properties, but also because it’s now part of a routine.
If you can stick to a particular schedule, then your body will hopefully adjust to it so that when you take your nightly cup of tea, your body’s internal clock will know that it’s just about time to power down for the day.
As for the many other de-stressing techniques that might help you, consider reading a favorite book, taking a warm bath, or meditating. Meditation can help relax you, as well as provide you with focus for your slumber.
Meditation techniques come in various forms, but the underlining aspect of the method is that it helps you channel your thoughts. Through meditation, you get an uninterrupted line of concentration that shuts out distractions that could be hindering your sleep process.
Related to meditation is self-hypnosis, which can take the form of repeating words or suggestions in your mind, over and again. This repetition may help lull you into slumber. Visualization, which is engaging in another type of mental journey without outside distraction, is another way to try to relax yourself prior to sleep.
These de-stressing techniques can help you slow the body’s processes down, helping to create a bridge between your waking and sleeping moments. Easing into sleep can only be helpful if it works on a consistent basis. Keeping a sleep diary can help you stay on task.
When you begin your battle to defy a sleep disorder, just remember that you shouldn’t expect to fall asleep right away. If you know ahead of time that it may take a little time to find the right solution, it will lessen the frustration you feel in your quest for sleep.