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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

 

4https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/decrease-stress-by-using-your-breath/art-20267197?pg=2

 

https://www.livestrong.com/article/225192-sudarshan-kriya-breathing-technique/

 

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=0

 

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Sleep, Focus and Cognitive Performance

Do you wake up feeling exhausted?  Or have trouble concentrating at work? Or maybe your tolerance levels area lower than usual. It might be you are not getting enough sleep.

Cognitive performance is our ability to utilise the knowledge acquired by the mental processes in our brains. A well-functioning brain controls a range of voluntary and involuntary actions, such as our sleep-wake cycle, attention, perception, mood, emotions, hunger and memory.

When you lose sleep, it interferes with the functioning of certain brain areas and people who are exposed to Sleep Deprivation usually experience a decline in cognitive performance, changes in mood, decreased reaction times, loss in free recall and in facial recognition.

While losing sleep here and there won’t have much affect, ongoing loss of sleep can have a big impact over time, and can impair our ability to do well in school, at work, and in our daily life. Sleep Deprivation can make it significantly harder to focus, and pay attention and be productive.. This affects school performance and job productivity.

A lack of sleep can also slow your reaction time, which makes for dangerous driving and other safety related risks at work and at home. This can put not only your life in danger, but others as well.

We also need a good sleep to achieve our best innovative thinking and problem solving abilities. As you sleep, memories are reactivated, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and information is transferred from short to long-term. Without enough quality sleep, we can easily forget new information, old information and even memories. Getting a good night’s sleep can be crucial for school and university students throughout their semesters.

If you’re having trouble with any of the cognitive abilities mentioned above, you maybe not getting enough sleep.  Work at increasing the hours of sleep you get a night. Everyone is different as to how many hours you should get. We have lots of tips on how to improve your quality of sleep in our Ritualize program, with an entire Quest dedicated to it and a Learn section within the app accessible at all times. Check it out and set yourself the challenge of increasing the hours you get a night, and see if you notice any improvements in your work, school and daily life. Good luck!

 

References:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/387c/4ba8b0a5bd5533a52d63a2324f02d0183797.pdf

https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-lack-sleep-impacts-cognitive-performance-and-focus

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-nagel/how-to-stay-sharp-when-youre-sleep-deprived_b_7344964.html

https://hbr.org/2006/10/sleep-deficit-the-performance-killer

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Make Stress Your Friend

Our lives are busy juggling work, finances, marriage, kids, family, friends – the list goes on. We are constantly hearing from health experts that stress is bad for us and that we need to be less stressed which, ironically, often makes us feel more stressed. This is making us sick and people are even dying from stress-related diseases.

What if it’s not the stress that’s killing us, but instead it’s our responses and  perception of stress that’s killing us? Research is showing that it’s in our body’s natural mechanism to cope with stress, and our reaction and belief around whether stress is a good or bad thing, that is the most harmful to our health.

A popular TED talk by Kelly McGonigal, a Health Psychologist,  “How to make stress your friend” is about approaching stress as helpful rather than being the enemy.

She based her talk on a study of 30,000 people in the US over eight years.  They were asked questions such as “How much stress have you experienced in the past year?” and “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?”.  Interestingly, those who expressed a great deal of stress but didn’t view it as a harmful experience had the lowest risk of dying, whereas those who said they had experienced a lot of stress and viewed it as harmful had a 43 percent increased risk of dying.

McGonigal says if change our mindset and view our responses to stress as helpful to our performance, we will be less stressed out, less anxious, more confident. That pounding heart? It’s preparing you for action. Your increased breathing rate? It’s simply getting more oxygen to your brain. Your body will naturally manage the stress response and calm the nervous system down, as long as you don’t allow yourself to get worked up over a stressful situation.

There’s even a term for ‘good’ stress – Eustress, pronounced YOU-stress. It is the type of stress we feel when we are out of our comfort zones, but working towards something bigger or feel excited or challenged in a good way. Eustress provides us with an energy boost to perform challenging activities – especially where we need to focus and put in extra effort. So, what if you were to consider all stress as Eustress? There’s no difference between Eustress and Distress, other than our reaction to it.

As you can see, how you think about stress matters. The next time you are stressed, stop, take a deep breath and say to yourself “This is my body, rising to the challenge.”

Watch the full Ted Talks here: https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

 

 

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6 motivational quotes for inspiration

If you need some words of wisdom to inspire you, motivate your mind, achieve your goals, or overcome your fears, read on…

 

It can be overwhelming trying to make lifestyle changes. Your goal can feel so far away and almost impossible to achieve, and this can dissuade you from staying on your journey. Thoughts in your head are telling you “this is too difficult”, “you’re not strong enough for this”, “what’s the point”, “I don’t have the time”, “I’m too old”.

 

Instead of letting this negative thoughts cloud your mindset, find quotes that inspire you. Jonathan Fader, psychologist and motivation expert says the message that someone else believes you can achieve what you want to achieve can be a powerful incentive to try harder. “There’s a little bit of implicit coaching that’s happening when you’re reading [motivational quotes]. It’s building that self-efficacy in that kind of dialogue that you’re having with yourself,” Fader says.

 

Here are some of our favourites:

 

 

  • “It’s not about perfect, it’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs” – Jillian Michaels, Well-known American Personal Trainer, author and presenter.

 

 

 

  • “Little by little, a little becomes a lot” – Tanzanian Proverb and a bit of a mantra of ours here at Ritualize. Think of change as small steps you repeat over time to that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

 

 

 

  • “Become a priority in your life” – Lori Bregman – Author of  The Mindful Mom-To-Be: A Modern Doula’s Guide to Building a Healthy Foundation from Pregnancy Through Birth

 

 

 

  • “When life puts you in tough situations, don’t say “Why me?”, say “Try me!” – John Assaraf, spiritual entrepreneur, philanthropist and teacher.

 

 

 

  • “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” —Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

  • If you quit once, it becomes a habit. Never quit— Michael Jordan 

 

 

Do you have a favourite quote? We’d love to read them, so share them with us in the comments below!

 

Thinking about your why can also be a motivation to reach your goals. More on that in our next blog post…

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Binge-watching before bedtime…

Are you guilty of it?

Since the introduction of streaming companies, such as Netflix and Stan, the era of scheduled programming has seemingly come to an end. Everyone can watch the content they like when they like. This unprecedented access has introduced a new viewing style: Binge Watching. Binge watching is defined as “watching multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen, be it a television, laptop, computer or tablet.”

Prior research has indicated that media bingeing was associated with more anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Binge viewers also reported higher levels of loneliness and depression. In more recent studies, conducted by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, it was reported that binge-watchers had more fatigue, insomnia symptoms, poorer sleep quality, and feeling more alert before going to sleep. Those who binge-watch before bed had 98% more chance of having poor-quality sleep than those who didn’t.

Looking at bright screens, especially at night, can wreak havoc on your biology, because it is one of the cues that helps maintain our circadian rhythm, or body clock. When it gets dark, our bodies start to prepare for sleep, but bright lights can trick our brains into thinking it’s still daytime and it reduces our ability to secrete melatonin, which makes it not only harder to fall asleep, but also reduces the amount of sleep you get once you do fall asleep.

While we don’t expect you to stop watching shows, there is a way to help combat the binge-watching addiction. Dr Robert Oexman, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says the best way to do it is on the weekend, and earlier in the day instead of the late evenings. Ideally, binge-watching should occur before 6 pm, and if that’s not possible, you should at least stop watching shows an hour before you start getting ready for bed.

For more tips and information on how to help improve your quality of sleep, check out our Ritualize app!

 

References:

https://www.google.com.au/amp/variety.com/2017/digital/news/binge-watching-health-risks-netlfix-1202447516/amp/

http://jcsm.aasm.org/viewabstract.aspx?pid=31062

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/tv-binge-watching-can-damage-your-health-2017-9

 

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