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Get Your Game Face On

Athletes regularly practise mental rehearsal, or what we like to call mental sculpting before a competition, and in little breaks during a competition. The top tennis players in the world use their mental strength to help them succeed. In fact, Serena Williams considers the game of tennis is 70% mental. Below is a list of positive statements which Serena Williams writes down and reads before and during the match.

  • “My good thoughts are powerful”
  • “My only negative thoughts are weak!”
  • “Decide what you want to be, have, do and think the thoughts of it.”
  • “Hang on to the thought of what you want. Make it absolutely clear.”
  • “Positive thoughts”
  • “You will look at balls”
  • “You will move up”
  • “You are #1 (No 1)”
  • “You are the best”
  • “You will add spin”
  • “You will win WIMBLEDON”

This approach can be used by anyone in their daily lives, not just athletes. One way we can do this is by thinking “what is my best self?” and presenting that version of yourself.  You can ask other people, friends or family, when they have seen you at your best and then create this best version of yourself. The You that is positive, the You that is open, friendly and welcoming to others, the You that is focussed and determined. You can also select a role model who has the traits you could benefit from in your own life. This could be a sporting star, an actor, activist or even your neighbour. Write down the traits you admire and if you are in a situation where you need them, ask yourself, what would they do in this situation?

The idea is to then use this lots of times throughout the day. Before you have a meeting at work or are one on one with someone, or a customer interaction. Just give yourself 20 seconds of space to say “Ok, what is my best self”, and visualise it. What are the emotions, the body language and the intention that you’re going to bring to the conversation? Emotions are contagious, so by doing this regularly throughout the day, you will actually improve your level of interaction and it will have a positive impact on those that you interact with. Plus you will notice that your performance level goes up.

The single most important time to do this Game Face or Mental Sculpting ritual is when you come home. It’s easy to bring the stress of the day home with you if you don’t consciously switch your mindset. Before you go into the house, just sit outside and for 20 to 30 seconds just say to yourself “What part of me does me or my partner, or my kids or my parents want to see?

Just do that visualisation, walk in with intention around your emotions and notice how that will impact positively on your friends and your family.

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Alcohol Free Days – Why Do It?

It’s very common for people to wind down after work with a drink. This may seem harmless enough, but the reality is that half of that bottle of wine or those few bottles of beer could be causing silent damage to your liver, with serious consequences.

It may surprise you to know that the majority of people who die from the alcohol-related liver disease are not alcoholics. Alcohol causes damage to the cells in your liver, which can lead to inflammation and scarring as it tries to repair itself. Even if you only have one or two drinks a day, your liver can’t cope and can’t repair itself, but you don’t have to become a ‘tea-totaller’ to fix it.

Your liver needs at least 48 hours without alcohol to repair itself.  Cutting back your daily intake won’t help your liver.  The 2 days have to be alcohol-free and it’s important they are ‘consecutive’. At Ritualize, we include an Alcohol-Free Day on our Ritual lists. By adding it to your personal Rituals, you’ll be giving your liver a break and bringing your BioAge down.

“The main advantage of  two alcohol-free days each week – as opposed to occasional alcohol-free days when you’re sick, for instance – is that it reduces your lifetime exposure to alcohol, which in turn helps lower the risk of both liver disease and alcohol-related cancers such as cancer of the breast, colon, oesophagus and mouth,” says Associate Professor Simone Strasser, a gastroenterologist and spokeswoman for  the Australian Liver Association. (1)

The Australian Government Guidelines recommends no more than 2 standard drinks on any given day for both men and women. (2). This can be confusing as it implies that drinking every day is safe.  The United Kingdom has recently reviewed their guidelines and now recommends that everyone should have alcohol-free days each week. (3)

Alcohol over time can cause also cause brain damage, heart disease, high blood pressure and increase your risk of many cancers such as breast cancer, mouth and intestinal cancers.  

Aside from reducing your risk of disease, there are other reasons to have a 2-day break from alcohol:


Your quality of sleep will improve.

When you drink before bed, you don’t fall into a natural slumber. It’s common for people to fall asleep quickly, so many think that glass of wine or 2 helps them get to sleep.  But then they wake up around 3am and are wide awake. This could be due to a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain called adenosine, which is increased after drinking. You fall asleep quickly, but the chemical is quickly depleted, which can cause you to wake before earlier than your body wants to. (https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-alcohol-affects-sleep)

Alcohol also blocks your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which is imperative for growth and repair. Less REM sleep can cause you to be tired and lack in focus the next day.

You’ll lose weight

Alcohol contains empty calories, which means you are taking in calories that your body doesn’t need. A glass of wine can contain 120 calories and a beer about 150 calories. When you have a break from alcohol, you not only cut down on these empty calories, but you tend to make healthier food choices.

Your skin will glow

Alcohol dehydrates you, which can dry your skin and over time cause you to look older than you are. The increase in blood flow can cause a red pigmentation.

Your mood will increase

You may feel happier while you’re drinking, but the next day alcohol can make you feel down. This is because alcohol is a depressant and affects the balance of hormones in the brain. Having a few Alcohol-free days can make you feel a lot brighter.

It’s always advisable to drink alcohol in moderation on the days you do drink and know that you and your liver will enjoy your 48 hours without it.  Make it a weekly ritual and reap the benefits.

 

REFERENCES

(1) http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/why-your-body-loves-time-off-from-alcohol-especially-if-youre-female-20150129-1311rp.html

(2) http://www.alcohol.gov.au/internet/alcohol/publishing.nsf/Content/guide-adult

(3) http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35252650

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Box breathing: The Military Secret

In 2012, the New York Times wrote an article, called “The ‘Busy’ Trap”, about how so many of us over-schedule ourselves in order to feel more important or to avoid being alone with our thoughts but our busyness can be self-inflicted. We often take on too much work and other obligations and can let our ambition or drive come before our health.  It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this; it’s something we’re collectively – albeit unknowingly – encouraging each other to do (1).

So, if being too busy – and not challenging ourselves to be more mindful of how we choose to spend our time – is ruining our health, taking time out of our day, even just 2 minutes, to relax, unplug and clear our minds can have enormous benefits.

Box Breathing, otherwise known as Four-Square Breathing or Controlled Breathing, is a great way to reduce stress and to give your mind a break for a few minutes. The Special Forces, public speakers, and surgeons use tactical breathing to help control their thoughts and emotions when faced with challenging situations that obscure their clarity. (2)

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Box Breathing is a technique where you take slow, deep breaths while counting to four while you breathe in, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four.

  • Start by relaxing your whole body and be seated if possible.
  • Sit upright, and then slowly exhale, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Really focus on this and be conscious of what you’re doing.
  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four, very slowly in your head.
  • Feel the coolness of the air you’re breathing in and the way it fills your lungs, one section at a time until they are completely full.
  • Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
  • Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs, how the coolness has become warmth.
  • Then hold your breath for another 4 counts and repeat the whole process again (3).

If you have trouble clearing your thoughts, trying humming in your mind or really focus on the counting.

 

WHEN AND WHERE CAN YOU DO IT?

It’s almost like meditating, and so it works best in a quiet, stress free environment. However if you cannot find a quiet place, it’s something you can easily do with your eyes closed in a quiet spot with your eyes closed, at work or at home or anywhere in between. Give it a go while you’re standing waiting for your kettle to boil, or on the train to work, or in the bathroom before a meeting, or after you park your car, before you head into your office for the day. Repeat your mantra and count to yourself and no one will even notice that you are performing a stress-reduction exercise.

WHY DOES IT WORK?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a medical research clinic in the United States, there is a sufficient amount of evidence to suggest that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system, a system which regulates involuntary body functions like temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost-immediate sense of calm, and improve your mood. But the benefits of deep breathing also extend beyond in-the-moment stress relief. It’s an exceptional treatment for conditions like generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. It can also help treat insomnia by allowing you to calm your nervous system at night before bed. Box breathing can even help with pain management (4).

References:

  1. https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/stop-glorifying-how-busy-you-are/
  2. https://thepreppingguide.com/box-breathing/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing#tips
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/decrease-stress-by-using-your-breath/art-20267197?pg=2
  5. https://www.livestrong.com/article/225192-sudarshan-kriya-breathing-technique/
  6. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=0

 

From Blue to Green

Why ‘Green Time’ is important for wellbeing

Many of us will have memories of being told to play outside when we were kids. Our parents motive was most likely to get us out of the house, but chances are they weren’t aware of the full benefits to our wellbeing.

Unfortunately, the increase in urban-living means many of us spend less time in nature and more time in artificial light (Blue Light) and it’s taking a toll on our mental health and wellbeing.

Scientists have been discovering for some time that accesses to nature or even viewing scenes of nature improves health and well-being, aids people’s recovery from illness, helps prevent disease and even cope with pain. (1) 

Research has revealed that when it comes to exercise, even just 5 minutes in nature has shown to have a positive influence on well-being.

Health, Nature and Sustainability Research Group’s associate researcher from Deakin University in Melbourne, Dr Rona Weerasuriya, says

Nature allows the opportunity for people to experience relaxation, rejuvenation, improved affective states and connect with people, among a host of other health and wellbeing benefits. Simply escaping out into nature provides the freedom, relaxation and physical activity, which is needed and known to have a positive impact on mental states such as anxiety and depression.” (2)

This may be why many urban office spaces are going green with the addition of office wall gardens and plants. (3)  There is strong evidence supporting the benefits of plants in office spaces for reducing stress, negative mood, increasing creativity and focus. (4).

Intuitively most of us know that being in nature is good for us, but given the amount of research backing this, it’s good reason to have a daily ‘green time’ ritual to make us feel energised.  This could be a simple walk around a park in your lunch-break, walking your dog and focusing on the environment around you or doing some gardening when you get home. Whatever your ritual, going green each day will help your feeling of wellbeing.

References:

(1) https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/nature-and-us/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

(2) https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/research-projects/research-projects/beyond-blue-to-green-the-health-benefits-of-contact-with-nature-in-a-park-context-literature-review

(3) https://www.ngia.com.au/Story?Action=View&Story_id=1686

(4) https://www.ngia.com.au/Attachment?Action=Download&Attachment_id=1430

 

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Blue light casts a new light on sleep deficiency

Sleep is affected by many things. When you think of what affects your sleep, the usual suspects are things like caffeine, alcohol, stress, noise.  What has come to light (pun intended) is our increased use of artificial light which is affecting our sleep.  It may be time to question Thomas Edison when he reassured that electric light ‘is in no way harmful to health, nor does it affect the soundness of sleep’

Our body’s biological clockwork around circadian rhythms, which are affected by the amount of light and dark we are exposed to.  Our organs even function to these rhythms, which determine our sleep, feeding patterns, brain activity, hormone production and the effectiveness of cell regeneration. Sleep affects our lives in so many ways – mood, hunger, stress and energy which affects how much we move.

If we lived purely in natural light, our brain would signal the body to start releasing sleep hormones, like melatonin when it started to get dark outside. Our temperature would drop which would start the sleep process.  When it got light again, our temperature would rise and our body would start producing hormones like cortisol to wake us up (1). 

When our bodies are exposed to artificial light, such as LED’s and screen lights, we are confusing it and all these natural processes are disrupted. The body doesn’t know when it’s time to get ready for sleep and stays alert.

Studies have shown that melatonin is suppressed by approximately 85 percent when it’s exposed to room light during the night compared with dim light (2).

With more blue light in our lives emitted by room lights and screens, our quality and duration of our sleep is negatively affected (3). Although we are staying up later on computers, watching TV or on our mobiles, it’s also the blue light we are exposed to during the day that is impacting our circadian rhythm and therefore our sleep (4). Sleep deprivation has a powerful impact on our overall wellness and there is a lot of evidence to support it (5). 

We live in the modern world, so it’s not realistic to start living purely in natural light.  There are a few things you can do to limit your exposure and improve your quality of sleep.

TIPS ON LIMITING EXPOSURE TO BLUE LIGHT

  1. Turn off all your devices at least one hour before you go to bed. Try not to keep your mobile phone next to your bed to avoid the temptation to check it. Read a book, take a bath or have a no-screen wind-down routine.
  2. Turn lights off gradually at night, or use a dimmer switch.
  3. Use orange or red light bulbs in lamps (found in most hardware stores) instead of bright room lights.
  4. Consider red or orange tinted glasses while looking at screens.
  5. Use Nightshift if you have an iPhone and MacBook. This is a setting which makes the colours on your screen warm. Most smartphones have the night option – look for it under settings. Set a time for it to automatically switch on and off so you don’t have to always remember.
  6. Turn daytime lights off if possible and spend as much time as you can in natural light. If you can’t, there are lights that mimic natural light that can help.

Sweet dreams!

References:

(1) https://sleepfoundation.org/bedroom/see.php
(2) https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/96/3/E463/2597236
(3) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170822103434.htm
(4) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140203191841.htm
(5) https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article-abstract/65/suppl_3/S244/1911960

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Why set Goals

Find Your WHY And You’ll Find Your Way

A common goal for many people is to lose weight. In fact, if you use Google search, how to lose weight is in the top 3 most popular questions.  With a multi-million dollar weight-loss industry out there and a worldwide obesity epidemic, it’s clear that just setting a goal to lose weight isn’t enough. Even if you do lose the weight, it often comes right back on after you’ve reached the goal.  What if there was a deeper reason why you want the weight off far beyond what the scales say? Your most powerful motivation source is YOU, so connecting to what makes YOU tick could be the key.

There is a saying by Friedrich Nietzsche – “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Anthony Robbins then took this quote and reworded it to the catchy ‘Find your WHY and you’ll find your WAY’. Your WHY is connected to your values, which reflect what is really important to you.  It’s the fire in your belly, your mojo, your core motivation that connects you to the goal on an emotional level. 

Researchers like Deci and Ryan, founders of Self-determination theory, have shown that if you find your own reasons why a goal is important to you, and are emotionally connected to this goal, you are more likely to achieve it.  

Your WHY needs to come from within you (the geeky science term is ‘self-determined intrinsic motivation’ and an even better, but similar form of motivation is ‘Intrinsic motivation’).  Weight loss maybe what you want, but to stick to a weight-loss plan you need a deeper reason than  getting into size 8 jeans.

Here are some examples of WHY’s around weight loss that have an emotional connection to the goal:

  • I want to have more energy so I can play with my kids
  • I want to live pain free so I can live my life feeling well
  • I want to love myself again so I can be at my best
  • I want to live a long life so I can be here for my grandchildren
  • I want to feel happy again 
  • I want to buy the clothes that make me feel comfortable 
  • I want to bounce out of bed in the morning and look forward to the day

Your core reason for WHY you want to reach your goal is unique to you, but it must connect with you on an emotional level.

What’s your WHY for achieving your goal that you have an emotional connection with?

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Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that – thoughts” – Allan Lokos, author

Most of us want a mindset that helps us feel good and helps us be productive, kind, helpful and just all-around awesome. But our mindsets are not always an environment of roses and fluffy clouds as we’d like them to be. This is often hard to be aware of and hard to change.

Think of the set in mindset.  It’s rigid, stubborn …. it’s set.

Why does this happen?  It’s a cumulation of past experiences, previous thoughts, relationships, what others have done and said (even as small children), what we’ve seen in the media and what the most important people in our lives have said or done that make up our current mindset. The beliefs, opinions and attitudes that make up our mindset are pretty much hard-wired in us but this hard-wiring can be changed.

There are so many ways to look at a situation, so many different ways to think about the things that happen to you and around you. Remember the story of Pollyanna? She saw the good in everything, even in the worst situations.  The first step is to be aware of your thinking choices.  We have around 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day and many of these are repeated and many not logical.  

Cognitive bias, false assumptions, misinformation, ego and limited beliefs are just a few patterns of unhealthy thought that interfere with our judgement. With a rise in mental health issues worldwide, there are a lot of us out there with unhealthy thought patterns. One in 4 people worldwide are affected by a mental health disorder (1) and 4 million people in Australia are experiencing a Mental Health issues (2) with Tasmania ranking the highest for hospital admissions due to mental health issues.(3) Mental health can be a complex issue.  Having awareness of whether you have a positive or negative mindset can be a help.

If you tell yourself you’re a failure, you believe you’ll never be good enough, you believe that people in the street look at you because they’re judging you, you believe you could never get to where you want to get to – you may want to start challenging these limiting beliefs.  

Here are some tips for rewiring your brain to create a positive mindset – often referred to a ‘growth mindset:

  • Use positive words instead of negative ones. Words create thoughts which create a feeling, so try and keep them positive.
  • Be grateful. Research is showing us that a daily gratitude ritual makes us happier. Add the gratitude ritual on the Ritualize app and make a note of something you are thankful for each day.
  • When talking or thinking about something you’d like to have or do, use aspirational and positive language, for example:
    • Instead of “I can’t run 5km” you’d say “I can’t run 5km yet”
    • I can’t run 5km yet/however I can go swimming more often.
    • I’m not sleeping well YET but it’s something I’m working on.
  • Be empathetic to others. We are often so entrenched in our own beliefs that we don’t see others points of view.

Taking control of your thoughts is the first step to a more positive and happier mindset.  Listen to your thoughts before you react.

 

REFERENCES

http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.001

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-14/community-based-care-needed-to-curb-mental-health-hospital-admi/9049808