Life-Hack #1 – The Healthy Trinity

Hack #1: The Healthy Trinity: Grounding, sun gazing & deep breathing.

I cannot stress how important these three simple protocols are for your wellbeing. When practiced together they have a compounding impact not just on your physical but on your more important mental and emotional balance. They are healing at a deep level and they complement your 4 morning rituals beautifully to give you the best start and finish to the day. And they only take 1-2 minutes to perform!

(If you are new to growing community, this article is in a series on the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks. All our content is free and curated with genuine love, care and respect.

Ground, Gaze, Breathe (GGB)

This life hack should be practiced together, preferably within 45 minutes of sunrise and 45 minutes of sunset. I do them religiously wherever I may be in the world. In fact, I am writing this from NYC and I just returned from Central Park where I performed these trio just before my jog and meditation. It got rid of my jetlag almost instantly. The protocol provides the ultimate detox, the best antioxidant and the best elixir for your gut health.

Step 1:            Go Barefoot on Grass

Step 2:            Gaze at the Sun

Step 3:            Breath Deeply

Breathe deeply in and out through the mouth for 45 seconds whilst you look towards the sun. Don’t look directly at the sun. Take in the whole picture without focusing on anything in particular. The sun early and late in the day will not hurt your eyes, especially for only 45 seconds. Have a break of 15 seconds and then repeat 2-3 times. I also suggest you do eye exercises during the 15 second break. Simply look left, right, up, down, diagonal then round to the left and right. Don’t forget to breath normally while you are doing these eye exercises.

The combination of deep breathing, sun gazing and grounding literally drains all the negative energy and replaces it with the earth’s healing energy. This is not pseudoscience. There is a lot of research showing that:

·     Grounding or “earthing” replaces positively charged ions (bad for you) with negatively charged ions. It has a dramatic antioxidant effect.

·     Breathing deeply oxygenates your cells and detox’s the body much more than any herbal detox program. Remember that 70% of our detox is done by the lungs through the breath.

·     Bathing your eyes with sunshine boosts your energy, mood and provides a direct neuropathway through the pineal gland to your gut, where it regulates the diversity of your gut bacteria. This will boost not just the happy hormone serotonin but the all-important melatonin, which is responsible in so many functions including energy production and sleep promotion. Sleep is the ultimate superfood for body and mind.

For more detailed information on all three protocols of this healthy trinity please visit our faculty expert and health researcher Mark Bunn resources. Mark will be presenting at Upgrade Your Life 2020.

Excuse My Rant

This Hack #1 in our series is much more effective  than probiotics, prebiotic, juice fasts, herbal supplements and the like. And it is free! Something the ‘wellness industry’ will not tell you because they don’t make money from the sun, earth and breath. As Australian heart surgeon, Dr Nikki Stamp recently said beautifully: 

“The Wellness industry does not care about you or your health. The only thing they want from us is our money and adoration which they take with glee. Each time we like an Instagram post….read their books or juice some vegetable, we’re lining their pockets and making very little impact on our own health.”

The wellness industry is big business…$4.2 trillion compared to a paltry $938.4 billion by big pharma. Take control of your own health and use the earths healing power to make you well. You will notice that the 4 rituals, 5 habits and the hacks I am sharing with you costs NO money. Do not outsource your health to anyone

2 More BAD Habits You MUST Break

Today we will cover the remaining two bad habits you need to replace. I share these with you without judgement. We all drift in the direction of our bad habits, but by having a system for behavioural change, you can replace these habits with better ones. And so, I humbly share this content with you in the hope it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.

Bad Habit #4 – Doing things with haste for no apparent reason

In a fast world people are now addicted to speed. This is a destructive habit that will destroy your health and relationships. Eating, driving, working, making love, scrolling, reading, texting….everything done in haste for no apparent reason puts a lot of pressure on you and ironically makes you slow, sick and stupid. I say this with the utmost of respect. The science clearly shows that when you do things with haste the stress you put on your mind and body ironically slows you down and makes you ineffective. And the stress hormones (especially adrenalin and cortisol) surging through your system make you physically sick over time. It will impair your digestion, you will not absorb what you eat, you will have trouble sleeping, and it’s a downhill spiral from there. A lot of people use exercise as therapy to neutralise the effects of speed-induced-stress but the better method is to SLOW DOWN! There is usually no reason to speed up. Almost everything we do day-to-day can wait or be done in a slower, methodical manner. There is not one piece of research showing any benefit whatsoever from doing things quickly.

As the godfather of the slow movement, Carl Honore says, “I am not anti-speed but there is a time for doing things quickly and a time for slow living.”

How do you know you are addicted to speed?

· You get a rush from meeting self-imposed deadlines
· You find it difficult to sit and do nothing for more than 10 minutes
· You find it difficult to focus and listen to what the other person is saying
· You need alcohol to relax and constantly crave carbs/sweets
· You find it difficult to notice beauty around you. Or you are numb to it

The solution: Speed is an addiction. If you’re used to running on adrenalin, you will feel strange without it. Here are some tips to wean yourself off speed:

· Don’t do more than one thing at a time
· Don’t take call waiting – in fact you should disable this feature
· Don’t schedule too many meetings in a day
· Take at least 2 renewal breaks throughout the day to stretch, breath and meditate for 5 – 15 minutes
· Don’t take on too much work. Learn to say ‘no’
· Take a walk after work, preferably in nature. Go alone

If you’re interested in reading more about the dangers of speed I highly recommend the books: “In Praise of Slow” and “The Slow Fix”, both by Carl Honore.

Bad Habit #5 – Watching TV till late for no apparent reason

A surprising high percentage of adults get too comfortable in front of the television and mindlessly surf channels or binge. They use this to wind down and induce sleep. The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, it delays your optimal going-to-bed sleep time, which depending on your chrono-type is between 9:30pm -11pm. (Don’t know your chronotype? Refer to my articles on sleep starting with: How to get The Best Sleep). Secondly, the artificial light from the TV may lull your eyes to get tired but it ironically delays the release of sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin; because the light tricks your body-clock into thinking it is still daytime. You need melatonin not only to get to sleep but to get deeper sleep; deep sleep is the most important part of your sleep cycle which detoxes your mind, body and emotions. It is the single most potent factor for you to look younger and live longer.

The simple solution: We set an alarm to wake up, why not set an alarm for sleep. My meditation app Headspace has a feature which prompts you with a notification to go to bed and listen to a sleep cast, which is the equivalent of a bedtime story. Don’t laugh, it works! Plug in your ear phones in bed and I guarantee you will nod off in record time!

5 BAD Habits You MUST Break

Before we continue the series I’d like to first bring your attention to the top 5 BAD HABITS you need to be aware of. Today I will cover three of them. I will cover the remaining two in upcoming blogs.

Please don’t hate me for pointing these bad habits out to you. I do it without judgement whatsoever. I sincerely wish you the best life, which is why I write these articles. I always come from a place of love and if you decide to take action I know it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.

I don’t believe there is a secret to life nor do I believe in waiting for inspiration or motivation before doing something. I do believe however in a number of incremental changes that you can make to your habits that compound over time to build a great life, brick-by-brick, day-by-day.

BAD Habit #1: Snacking on food all day

Your body has an intelligence where it naturally heals itself and constantly regenerates and repairs, not just when you are sleeping but also when you go hungry. If you are constantly snacking, you never allow your body to enter this state. Scientists are now discovering that our bodies are not genetically designed to continuously eat. We need to go hungry and this has been our way of life for thousands of years. We ate, we rested and then we hunted and gathered, but in between we went hungry, often. Today we call that ‘fasting’. 

We have a primal switch to consume food when it is available. The problem is that food is available everywhere at any time. Look, don’t get me wrong, I love my food experiences. I am not saying abstain from food but allow yourself to go hungry by not eating between meals. You should allow 3-5 hours between each meal depending on how large the previous meal was. Instead of setting a time period, it’s best to not eat until you actually feel the hunger in your stomach.

BAD Habit #2: Snacking on Technology/Social Media 

Having your phone on you the whole time, checking texts, emails, posts and getting constantly distracted by other notifications is an extremely poor habit that you MUST break. It has dire consequences on your cognitive performance and your relationships, especially if you have children. I have been talking about the harmful impact of pop-up notifications since 2010 but now the impact is a lot worse because it is overlaid by the highs and lows of social media ‘likes’ and the inevitable social comparisons people make. It is very damaging to your physical, mental and emotional health on so many levels. I recommend the highly acclaimed work of Georgetown University Professor Cal Newport called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distrated World.

The Solution: 

·     To do deep work you need to do a digital detox twice a day not once a year. Leave your phone behind whenever you get the chance. I do this when I am jogging, in the gym, shopping for groceries, attending meetings, cooking and in the bedroom. You need to make a point of detoxing for 20 mins twice a day, every day. And switch off your phone after 9pm at home.

·     Disable your email notifications on your laptop. In her research paper titled Why is it so hard to do my work?, Professor Leroy from University of Minnesota, found that people are less productive when they are constantly moving from one task to another instead of focusing on one thing at a time. She called it ‘attention residue’ and it is a real problem if you are trying to be effective and efficient. Otherwise you are wasting a lot of precious time trying to re-focus after the interruption and this reduces your ability to finish the task quickly and effectively. Which means you need to work longer hours for a sub-optimal result. This is time that could be spent socialising with family and friends.

BAD Habit #3: Shallow Breathing

Why is this a bad habit? Shallow breathing triggers your sympathetic nervous system because it tricks your body into thinking that you are under attack, i.e. fight or flight response. The problem with this state is that you cannot digest your food, sleep or do good work. The other problem with shallow breathing is that it builds up toxins in your body. How? Next time your naturopath talks you into a detox program of herbal tonics and juice fasts, you may want to remind them that 70% of the toxins in our body are expelled by the lungs during proper exhalation. The other 30% through sweating and elimination (number 1’s and 2’s). Breathing deeply is easy and its free!

These are the usual triggers for shallow breathing:

·     driving in traffic
·     at your laptop or pc
·     on your iPad or iPhone
·     sitting for long periods especially in meetings
·     when you are doing things in a hurry
·     when you are focusing on external things
·     whenever you are stressed
·     watching dramatic movies

The solution: It can be very difficult to catch yourself shallow breathing because you will usually do it when you are deep in thought. The next best thing is to set an alarm reminder every hour to stop, revive, survive. Revive by breathing in through the nose for 4 seconds, holding it for 5, and breathing out for 6 through your mouth. Do these 4 times every hour. It only takes 60 seconds every hour and is a whole lot cheaper than buying detox programs.

Essential Habit #5: Review & Reflection

This article is in a series of 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks that will revolutionise your life. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page.

What is Reflection and Review?

I touched on this habit in Ritual #1 on Journaling. When you develop the habit of reflecting and reviewing throughout the day, you flip any failures and rejections that inevitably happen into opportunities for LEARNING and GROWTH.

Why is this Habit Important?

Without a process for reflection and review, you will indulge in toxic thinking throughout the day. By the time the day is over and you arrive home, your feelings will be littered with negative beliefs about yourself. But when you ask yourself two simple questions in that moment you will avoid ruminating, you will feel better and you will sleep better that night ready for growth the next morning. The two simple steps/questions are:

· NOTICING: How am I feeling right now?
· LEARNING: What can I learn so I can do it differently next time?

Here are some examples of how we process rejection and failure without reflection and review and then with Reflection and Review:

Health: You did exercise and you feel rundown after it.

Without reflection and review your subconscious negative self-talk might sound like this: “I am not fit enough” or “I should wait until it gets warmer” or “I am just not cut out for exercise” or “I must be coming down with a cold”.

With reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Did I eat too much before exercise? Do I need to get more sleep? Did I need to stretch? Did I over-train? Was I dehydrated? Should I train at a different time of day that suits my chrono-type?” What can I do differently next time?

Love & Relationships: You initiated intimacy and was rejected by your partner. Single? You initiated conversation and you were brushed.

Without Reflection and Review: “My partner does not find me attractive. My partner does not love me. I am dull and boring. I am ugly. I have nothing interesting to say.”

Now With Reflection and Review: “What can I learn from this? Did I choose the wrong timing to approach my partner/that person? Did they have a bad day? Were they feeling tired and self-conscious and not in the mood? How can I approach it differently next time?”

Work & Clients: Customer doesn’t call you back after a consultation.

Without Reflection and Review: “They don’t like me. I’m not good at my job. Others are better than me. I should try another job.”

Now with reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Do they fear making a decision and a commitment? Was I coming on too strong? Did I listen enough in the meeting? Are they just not ready? What can I do differently next time?”

Notice from all the above examples, ALL reflection and review starts with step one: noticing and acknowledging your feelings and step 2: starting with the question: “WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM THIS?” and finishes with the question “HOW CAN I DO IT DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?”

WHY Do We Dump on Ourselves?

If I can be honest with you, the major reason is that it is easier to indulge in negative self-talk (as much as it hurts) than to confront the pain. It gives us the excuse to fail and stop trying. It is much harder to stop, feel the pain, and reflect and review what you have learned. Why? Because your learnings require action and a lot of the time, the action requires you to pivot and step outside of your comfort zone. So review and reflection is tough. Step 1 requires you to feel the pain (you need to feel to heal). Step 2 requires you to learn, grow and do something different.

How do YOU cultivate this Habit?

To cultivate this habit, you need to practice mindfulness meditation. I know you have heard that word too many times but the truth is that mindfulness works. It helps you realise that you are not your thoughts. You need to step outside of your thoughts and notice (step 1) and take different action (step 2).

Just like Habit #2 on Situational Gratitude, this Habit #5 on Reflection and review must happen in the moment. It cannot wait until you get home and journal. By all means still do that, but for it to be most effective, it needs to be practiced right there and then, straight after the interaction that led to the sinking feeling from a fail or rejection. You need to process it on the fly. I often take moments out of my day in between meetings to do that. Now it’s a habit.

This is why this series of articles starts with the 4 rituals, including the ritual of daily meditation. It is meditation that helps you to notice your thoughts and feelings (being mindful). Without the ritual of daily meditation, you will find it difficult to develop the habit of Reflection and Review in the moment.

(Our meditation coach, Tom Sullivan, is an expert that can help you and your organisation learn the practice of mindful meditation. Please reach out to him by emailing our team on enquiries@ahigherbranch.com He coaches our team every two weeks and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.)

Essential Habit #4: The Power of Posture

Habit #4 – The Power of Posture on Your Psychology
This article is in a series on the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks to consciously systemise your days. It will revolutionise the way you live and boost your performance, even on days where you lack motivation. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page. 

Why is Posture important?

“If eyes are the windows to the soul, then posture is a window into your emotions.” Sam Makhoul

Posture is a habit. And if your posture is not optimal it will affect your thoughts, feelings and your health. It will affect all personal and business interactions because of how others perceive you. Your clients and customers read your posture. Your children mimic your posture and mimic your body language subconsciously. What kind of posture do you want them to have? A confident one or a defeated one?

The Science

For many year’s psychologists have known that there is a feedback loop between our physiology and our psychology. How we feel is reflected in our posture and our facial expression. In turn, our posture, how we move, and our facial expression impacts how we feel. If you are in a poor emotional state, your shoulders will drop, you will look down more often, you will slouch, you will walk around like you’re tired, and you will start to feel tired. You become caught in a negative loop where your emotions drive your posture and the habit of your posture then reinforces your emotions.

You are no match for your emotions, right? Or are you? In 2010 psychologists Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap pioneered the research that demonstrated that you can reverse the way you feel by posture alone. This research merely reinforced what teachers such as Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Norman Cousins have been saying for years. And it works. Changing your posture will change the way you feel, especially if it is compounded with Habit#1 in our series.

BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT, how do you reverse the habit of poor posture? A habit is very tough to break. It is one thing for researchers to prove something but another to provide the solution. NONE of the research tells us HOW to reverse the habit of being yourself (because your posture becomes who you are). Power posing proposed by Amy Cuddy in her famous TED talk has since been discredited as pseudoscience because it is not a realistic permanent solution.

Change Your Posture in TWO steps.

This article aims to provide the solution by addressing the real issue; that posture is a habit that is reinforced by muscle memory. And therefore to change your posture permanently you need to change muscle memory in a two step process designed by A Higher Branch in our Conscious Living program.

Step 1

Just like method actors in Hollywood or Bollywood, you need to develop the habit of being self-conscious. You need to constantly be aware of how you are standing, walking or expressing your movements. This self-awareness helps you to be more mindful of the circumstances or situations that cue your body to behave in a certain way. This will give you an insight into how you feel in that moment. Are you in a meeting where you feel uncertain about your competence? Are you in a social setting where you feel shy and introverted? Notice how your body is reflecting that emotion. Are you hunching? Are you shallow breathing? Are you shrinking and hoping to be invisible? Tell yourself that you are not your thoughts or emotions. You are the essence witnessing how you feel. That’s who you really are. You don’t have to do anything to change your posture at this stage. Just noticing it is enough, because the real solution comes in step 2. (For more information on “breaking the habit of being yourself”, refer to the guided meditations by Dr Joe Dispenza, whose book by the same name is a prescriptive masterpiece in noticing your thoughts).

Step 2

Step 2 is not a quick fix. Nothing in life is a quick fix – just ask David Goggins. Anyone that tells you otherwise is often trying to sell you something, 

Step 2 is all about doing exercises that build a great posture over time. This is where strength training, yoga and Pilates come in. There is no doubt that all three methods impact how we feel. The combination of breathing and movement dissipates anxiety and relieves depression. It does this by changing our body chemistry; the pharmacy of our physical. In fact, the benefits of exercise have been proven to be more effective than both Xanax and Prozac. 

But one other consequence of all three modalities is that they improve posture by strengthening the core. So, it not only changes your biology but also your psychology through your physiology. Your body starts to stand more upright. Your muscles become more toned and support you in a way that is reassuring and balanced. You will look taller, and therefore feel and look more confident.

So, changing your physiology and the habit of your posture starts with exercise that strengthen the core and leads to an effortless posture. A good posture is NOT one that is forced. It is not in power posing or in a military-style stiff, upright way with head up, shoulders back. A good posture should never be tiring to maintain.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss exercises that strengthen the core and correct the posture effortlessly, but I will say this: Yoga and Pilates in particular strengthen the core, lengthen the spine, makes you feel open, light and effortless. My new friend and yogini, Rebecca Jarvis described the importance of this on the spine as follows:  

“Posture is the framework that allows for energy or life-force to flow through the body.  The spine has an innate intelligence and energy that is inhibited when we’re tense and contracted.  We need the spine to be lengthened, to create an optimal flow of energy, and to serve as an open channel for our breathing.”

Rebecca recommends the following sequence of yoga moves for office workers who are sitting all day. It is a sequence designed by Elena Bower. Click here.

My mobility coach and good friend, Phong Thach, put it this way: “your best posture is in your next movement”. In other words, we need to keep moving. Sitting all day is the enemy of a good posture, no matter how upright you sit. 

As a strength trainer he recommends you take a few minutes twice a day to do exercises such as push-ups, lunges and holding the plank – all simple, can be done anywhere and designed to strengthen the core. And if you make it to the gym, he also recommends pull ups and anything that works the back muscles.  You need to train your core and your back muscles to a point where it is built into your muscle memory. 

The habit of a good posture is too important to ignore because it impacts so much of your psychology. And this is why it is in the top 5 habits of our Conscious Living series.