Essential Rituals #2: Movement

This is part of a series of articles relating to the 4 rituals, 5 habits and 6 hacks that systemise your life. Remember what I said in earlier articles and I emphasize in my keynotes, “Don’t rely on motivation alone. Rely on repetition and automation. Not just in your personal life but also in business.” A well drilled team will always outperform a motivated one.

In my last article I shared with you the most important daily ritual of all – Journaling. If you have not read it, here is the link: Journaling Essentials.  Now I will share with you the second most important ritual you need to do before journaling, without compromise every morning and early evening: Movement. I never skip exercise whether I am in my usual routine, traveling on business or holidays, sleep deprived and tired, working long hours, or whatever my condition. I say this because a lot of us make excuses to abandon a ritual. Don’t blame yourself too much. We are hard wired to crave food and comfort. Recognise this and let it be your cue to fight the urge for comfort and go for growth instead. Let it be your trigger for tenacity.

All the research shows that delayed gratification is the key to success in all areas of life. You study hard, you graduate. You work hard, you outperform the competition and make more money. You save and invest your money, so you can afford to have more freedom later in life. You put in the effort in your relationships, you have more intimacy and build bonds for life. You exercise, you have better health and energy as you get older. You stretch, you get more flexible and supple. You eat live unprocessed food, you build healthier cells in your entire body including your eyes and skin. You learn new things and meet new people, you get a sharper mind as you grow older and bolder. Rarely does anything good in life come easily. You need to put in conscious effort but that makes it all the sweeter.

In future articles I will be sharing 5 habits and 6 life-hacks that will make it easier to implement the 4 daily rituals. For now let’s get onto the next essential daily ritual.

Movement – AM and PM

Before you perform the first mentioned ritual (journaling), it is absolutely critical to start your day with movement. Anything from a 4 minute Tabata routine to a 30-60 minute jog/cycle/swim or whatever gets you puffing and sweating. Exercise is best in the morning when your cortisol levels are highest; but not too early in the morning. There are a lot of ‘experts’ who preach early morning exercise (before sunrise) but the science shows that this is not the most optimal time. The optimal time starts at sunrise and peaks around 7-8am. Exercise later in the day should be milder as the cortisol curve tapers off for rest and sleep.

What Type of Moving?

Moving, just like going hungry, is natural. You need to listen to your body every morning and adapt the length and intensity to suit. But there is never any excuse not to do anything. Even if I am unwell I will still muster the effort to do a brisk walk for 15-30 mins and I am always surprised by how much it lifts my mood and energy.

The best form of exercise is one that you enjoy. Think competitive sport, dancing and training with friends. The second best and most natural is walking, jogging or running. Generally, the shorter the time you have to exercise the higher the intensity should be. When I don’t have much time I do at the very minimum a 10-minute Tabata routine. My usual ritual is however to do a 30-minute jog followed by a cold shower. On weekends I might do a 60 to 90 minute hike or trail run. Or I might do a high intensity session with friends at F45. I am not sharing my routine for you to copy but to demonstrate that you can go hard or you can go slow but the main thing is to go and do whatever suits you. You may be a swimmer or a cyclist or a heavy lifter. Or love yoga or pilates. But never ever skip moving in the morning.

Why is exercise such an important morning ritual?

We live in a world where people rarely sleep straight through the night. Our mind is racing as soon as we wake. We can be confrontational and edgy in the morning and our energy crashes and burns around mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon. Exercise neutralises these abnormal afflictions.

Most people think that exercise is for the body. Its biggest impact however is on the mind. Science tells us that when you are in motion, your mind is on fire! All parts of the brain are active. This kick-starts your cognitive engine in the morning and keeps you mentally sharp throughout the day; which means you will perform tasks faster and you will get more done in less time. And that means you can spend more time with your partner, family and friends.  

Exercise also impacts your emotions in a profound way because it changes your body chemistry. It replaces adrenalin and cortisol (fight or flight) with dopamine and serotonin (inspiration and calm). These are the neurotransmitters you should be running on all day and it all starts with morning exercise. Exercise also kickstarts your metabolism and stimulates your lymphatic system (for immunity). Especially when you exercise in the sunshine without wearing sunglasses. Exercising in morning sunshine also promotes a deeper and longer sleep that same night. In fact, exercise in conjunction with sunshine and sleep has been proven to be more potent than Prozac as an antidepressant. (Sleep is the ultimate superpower for your overall health. Read the definitive guide to sleep here: How to Get the Best Sleep)

And why is it important to exercise before the three other daily rituals?

If you try to journal on waking without first moving you will have trouble calming the mind. Your mind is no match for adrenalin and cortisol. You will be edgy. You cannot sit still let alone think straight. We are wired to hunt and gather on waking, so we need to respect this natural rhythm and get moving. We need to also respect this cycle by eating low carb meals in the morning (if anything at all), moderate amounts of carbs during the day, think substantial salads and higher amounts of carbs as the last meal of the day. Think, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli (NOT pasta, pizza and bread). Carb cycling in this way promotes healthy cortisol levels.

After you move in the morning, you will find your body gets calmer and your mind clearer and these two qualities are the perfect prerequisites for journaling and the other morning rituals.  

Can some exercise be doing you more harm than good? Find out by clicking here.

Essential Rituals #1: Journaling

The Foundation for Identity Change

In the last article I wrote to you about defining your identity clearly by asking yourself “WHO do I want to become in each of the 8 areas of life?”.  Here is the link: Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity? In that article I made the point that chasing outcomes and relying on motivation is a trap. (Please note that I always write to you with pure love for your potential. I can say this with hand-on-heart because I always write using my 3 grown-up children as my frame of reference. They are my North Star. My BIG why). 

Please also note that this article is longer than usual because it is prescriptive and simply cannot be achieved with a brief blog. I respect you too much to give you stuff you can Google yourself. My information is proprietary and contained in my next book.

I write to start you on the journey for identity change using 4 Rituals, 5 Habits and 6 Life-hacks we use in our Higher Branch workshops. Today I start with the first most important ritual – Journaling. I will share with you the simple techniques for journaling I use in my one-on-one coaching. There are so many journals out there for sale that make it too complicated and frankly too airy-fairy. All you need is a simple blank journal and a system for journaling that I will teach you. 

Why Change is Hard

Most people don’t realise that they spend up to 85% of their day living in their subconscious in ‘cruise-control’, thinking, doing and feeling the same way they did yesterday and the day before that; effectively living in the past. This is fine if this 85% is filled with positive stuff that serves your growth. After all, the subconscious is there as an automation tool for us to do things without thinking. This frees up the conscious mind to focus on high impact, high return, high reward activities like creativity, strategy, and meaningful connection with others. But what if that 85% is filled with a lot of unwanted behaviour that just gets repeated without thinking? Stuff like procrastinating, eating too much, binge watching TV, mindlessly scrolling through social media, shopping online for stuff you don’t need, or picking fights with your family. It is difficult to erase these behaviours, but you can REPLACE them with better behaviours that serve the identity you want to create.

Over the next few series of articles I will step you through each ritual, each habit and each hack that will ensure you live consciously with purpose. I am starting with rituals because they will become the foundation for the 5 habits and 6 life-hacks. You cannot stack the habits and hacks without mastering these 4 rituals first. The reason will become clear.

It is Difficult at First

Infusing these 4 rituals daily is difficult at first, but know this, rarely does anything good in life come easy. You will feel the need to skip them because you are just ‘too busy’. You need to stay committed to them until you cross, what scientists call ‘the line of automaticity’. This simply means that when you repeat something enough it becomes second nature and easier. Some scientists say it takes two lunar cycles to cross this line but in my experience it all depends on the difficulty of the ritual and the frequency in which you repeat it. The former is subjective for all of us. What is extremely difficult for some can be lightly challenging for others. What is difficult may take you many months. What is easy may only take you a few weeks. Either way, I will outline a method that works for me and I trust it will work for you. 

Journaling

Journaling is the most important ritual out of the 4. It is also the most difficult to stick with because it can be confronting when done right. Mainly because this ritual is all about self-ACCOUNTABILITY. Ignoring it or skipping it is a big mistake because it has been the single most important success factor in my life.

Most people don’t journal because they don’t know how, or they underestimate how beneficial it is. The other reason why people don’t journal is because they wake up late and hurry to get to work on time, so they skip this ritual and the three other rituals because they ‘don’t have time’. Know this. Time is the great leveller. We all have the same 24 hours in the day so the difference between us can only be our discipline and the systems we follow (i.e. our rituals, habits and hacks).

You may have heard the phrase “Win the morning, win your day” which is so true, but the bigger truth is that winning your morning starts the night before. Getting organised the night before is the real secret to your morning success. Getting a deep sleep is the second biggest secret to winning your morning (Read my previous article on sleep). So, ask yourself, how do you spend your nights? This is where most people (even some high performers) waste their time because they feel like they’ve earned the right to flop in front of Netflix, scroll social media and snack. When rather it should be the time to hit repeat on the 4 morning rituals and get ready for the following day, by packing your workout gear, your work bag, your lunch, turning off all technology and socialising in person with your family or by phone with a friend. Not by text.

Why is JOURNALING so important?

Journaling is important for many reasons:

·     It is a conscious conversation you have with yourself
·     It helps you notice any negative self-talk
·     It keeps you focused on your priorities
·     It helps you take stock of your life, so you don’t drift aimlessly
·     It helps you notice whether you are neglecting parts of your life
·     It holds you accountable to the promises you make to yourself 
·     It helps you process and review any negative or hurt feelings

All these reasons will become apparent when you start to journal properly.

How do You Journal Properly?

At A Higher Branch Success Academy, we developed a unique journaling technique that shows you how to become your own life architect. We do not like the idea of an accountability coach. People need to hold themselves accountable and journaling is the ultimate accountability tool. 

​The template below gives you a guide. You need to devote two pages for every day. Once you use this template a few times, you will remember it. 

Morning Journaling – ACTION page

The left page of your journal is for your morning ritual. It is for the mind. The right page is for your heart. In the morning you need to focus on your actions for the day. So, it is future-focused. It is all about visualising as you write what you need to do for the day in each of the 8 areas of life depicted in the diagram below. (If this is your first time journaling, I suggest you devote the first few pages of your journal to write your long term goals and dreams in each of the 8 areas of life. That way, the front of your journal becomes your big picture reminder to reference from time to time. 

Nothing is too trivial or too small to write. Once it is written, it can be reviewed throughout the day to see how you are tracking. I always keep my journal in my bag and check in throughout the day to see if I have forgotten to action anything. I do one final check before I leave work and do a brain dump at the end of the day. If I have missed anything I write it on the next day’s ACTION page to get it out of my head and onto paper so I can shut down when I get home.

As a guide see below a few examples of daily action items I have written in my journal in the last week. You will notice that nothing is too trivial to write. You will also notice that there is an action item for each of the 8 elements of my life. We often make the mistake of thinking that our wellbeing is fuelled solely by diet and exercise. In truth it is all 8 elements that make us whole and complete us mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And so we cannot neglect them.

Health: Do F45 today at 12 noon. Stretch for 10 minutes afterward. Book a massage for Saturday. Use the stand-up desk between 8:30am – 11:30am. Buy blue-light blocking glasses. Fast till 1pm today. Have a no-protein day today. Order more turmeric & ashwaganda. Go to bed 10pm. Rest day, do brisk walk after work. Eat out in sunshine at lunch.

Love: Book a surprise dinner date for Saturday night. Light candles tonight and read together. Go for a hike together. Go home early today and cook her favourite pasta.

Family: Play backgammon with daughter. Share Chapter 8 of David Goggins with my oldest son. Book lunch at a Lebanese restaurant on Sunday for the whole family. Check in on my nephew who is studying for HSC. Call mum.

Work: [Keep a separate diary for your work to do]

Friendship: Organise tickets to the footy this Sunday with mates. Call mates to organise run on Saturday around the bay. Have breakfast after. Help mate with his wedding prep.

Learning: Listen latest episodes of Dr Rhonda Patrick and Jim Kwik. Research whether autophagy accelerates with exercise. Research whether coffee breaks a fast. Re-listen Chapter 11 in David Goggins book, “You Can’t Hurt me”.

Wealth: Assess UBER IPO. Look into solar panels and going off the grid.

Charity: Help son with setting up his new website. Spend 9am-12 noon training new recruits. Write next article for A Higher Branch community. Write cards to my World Vision sponsored children. Give legal advice and business strategy to a friend who is starting a new business.

Journaling in this way helps you keep track of your commitment to each of the 8 areas of life otherwise you will end up focusing all of your time on work. I do a stock take on Sunday night for the week in review to see if I have neglected any area. This helps me pivot for the next week. There is so much more I can write about morning journaling.

Evening Journaling – REFLECTION Page

The right page is for your heart. It is to review and reflect on what happened during the day. So it is best done in the last hour of the day before bed.

This nightly journaling is extremely powerful and useful for 3 reasons:

1.    To heal any hurt feelings, rejections, failures, disappointments that you had during the day.
2.    To list everything that happened in the day you are grateful for.
3.    To list all your achievements for the day.

1. Processing Feelings

Processing your feelings is all about acknowledging them. The worst thing you can do with hurt feelings is to deny them and sweep them under the metaphorical carpet of your subconscious, only to manifest itself in headaches, poor sleep and irritability. You cannot hide from your feelings. If you do they will haunt you. If you confront them head-on you will neutralise them. You need to feel to heal. Did someone reject you today? How did that make you feel? You need to process it by stepping into their shoes and forgiving them. Did you make a mistake that made you feel like a failure. You need to process it by writing down what you learned from that mistake. 

2. Gratitude

If this is your first time journaling then I want you to go to the front of your journal and just like you listed your goals and dreams in each of the 8 areas of life I want you to devote some of those first few pages to list everything you are grateful for in the 8 areas of life to date.

Then every night you should write down what you should be grateful for that happened to you on that day. Simple, powerful and effective.

3. Achievements

You may have heard of the power of a gratitude but heard little about the equally powerful task of listing your achievements in the 8 areas of your life. It will surprise how much you have achieved. We live in an era of over-achievement and most of us can be too hard on ourselves and fall into the trap of feeling like we are not enough, that we do not have enough and we do not do enough. The reality is that we have achieved a lot and continue to achieve so much daily. 

Listing your achievements daily reminds you of your self-worth, builds your confidence and neutralises the anxiety that lives in the gap between where you are now in life and where you want to be.

NEXT ARTICLE: Rituals 2, 3 & 4.

Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity?

An outstanding life is NOT about littering your day with lifehacks hoping for that magical transformation to your health, relationships and bank account. Transformation is such a misused word that has somehow become synonymous with ‘instant’. The reality is that it takes much longer than that. It’s a process of becoming WHO you want to be rather than WHAT you want to achieve. This principle not only applies to you as an individual. It also applies to businesses, families, and sports teams.

For example, you will notice that the most outstanding and pioneering companies are not focused on outcomes such as optimal PE ratios or dividend yields. That’s what mediocre companies focus on. They are instead focused on what they stand for, their values and the impact they want to make on the world. Wharton Business School studied these companies and called them “Firms of Endearment”. These were businesses focused on purpose before profit. But what the team at Wharton discovered, stunned everyone. These same companies financially outperformed the S & P 500 by a ratio of 9:1 over a ten-year period. They ironically made the most profit!

This is the way we should live. It is “goal-less” thinking. It is about WHO we want to become as a process of daily refinement where there is no finish line. It is about taking daily action and following a system for conscious living without any attachment to the outcome. And letting the results take care of themselves, slowly over time.

This is certainly how I live in my eight areas of life. For example, when it comes to health, I don’t have goals that sound like this: “I want 6-pack abs” or “I want to go to the gym 3 times a week”. Such outcome-based goals and process-based goals set us up for disappointment. What happens if I don’t get 6 pack abs? What if I miss going to the gym? I end up feeling like a failure and blame myself for not having (wait for the big M word) – MOTIVATION! 

Our addiction to motivation is one of the reasons why there are so many anxiety disorders in our society. Anxiety lives in the gap of where we are in our lives right now versus where we want to be. We have a restless desire to achieve but no system for achieving. Then we start comparing ourselves to ‘successful’ people who have great lives, great businesses (and a great six pack) and say “they must have more motivation, more money, more luck, more opportunity” etc… (when in fact they just have better systems for living). This helpless way of thinking makes us ‘give-up’ and slip back into a default state of mediocrity where we wake and live by old habits, slowly drifting in the direction of our greatest weaknesses; whether that is mindlessly scrolling social media, eating too much, procrastinating, binging on TV or blaming and arguing. If we focus on becoming WHO we want, then we never give up because there is no deadline and no fixed outcome. We are a work-in-progress. When we focus on this identity change, we start to naturally focus on systems for living rather that on motivation.

Hope (motivation) without habit (systems) is hopeless.

Hope without habit will also cause an inevitable identity crisis as you drift from one fad to the next in search of an identity that is not really yours. Therefore, I urge you to start with WHO you want to become in all 8 areas of your life depicted above. This will spark the right kind of motivation: Identity-based motivation. Not results-based. This kind of ‘intrinsic’ motivation can be the spark that starts your quest for behavioural change. BUT to stick it, you need to implement daily systems. It is systems that lead to progress. It is systems you can count on. Bit by bit, day by day, your efforts compound and you reach a tipping point where your life just becomes so much easier. What seems like an overnight success to everybody, really began many months or years before. Just ask any founder of a great business or any athlete what their overnight success looked like. Behind every game are many hours of training. Behind every product launch is a series of workshops with trial, error, research and painstaking review.

I recall that first day in 2008 when I realised that I REALLY wanted to become a runner after ‘attempting’ the Sydney City to Surf. I loved the freedom and the meditative trance of sneakers hitting the pavement. The next week I started ‘trying’ to run. I woke every morning at the same time and walked a bit, ran a bit, puffed out, slowed down and repeated the process. I didn’t give up because I was not focused on a result and therefore no measure to live up to. I was focused on becoming a ‘runner’ and that relaxed me into a state of patience and perseverance. I committed to the process and surrendered to the outcome. That’s the beauty of asking yourself WHO you want to become and not WHAT you want to achieve. My running gaps started getting longer and rest periods shorter. Two years later I ran a half-marathon in 96 minutes, not that I am bragging about that result. It is just to demonstrate what is achievable when you keep going. The outcome is what it is. What I considered impossible two years earlier became WHO I am. Now being ‘a runner’ is part of my identity. It is one part of WHO I am. When you start a new habit that is congruent with who you are, you are more inclined to stick to it. So, don’t try and be something you are not simply because you saw a celebrity doing it or an Instagram model ‘living it’. Be true to yourself and WHO you want to become.

……………………….

In the next part 2 of this article I will share with you the brief but powerful “456 System” for living every day as the dawn of a new identity. Day by day, this system will help you build a magnificent life without the need for motivation.

Is Sleep the Fountain of Youth? – Part 1

I really dislike this cliché “This will change your life” but, in this case, sleep will literally do so. What happens to us during sleep is truly remarkable. It is the ultimate detox for the mind and body. It is a reset button. A reboot.

In fact if there was a magic elixir or superfood that could help you live not just a longer life but a beautiful one, make you look young, boost your brain power, boost your performance, improve your relationship, make you fun and attractive to friends and family, energetic, enthusiastic…etc, you would mortgage your house for it. You would travel miles to get it.

Humans are wired to value scarcity. So, we go in search of elusive superfoods or medicinal herbs that grow in unique parts of the world. But we ignore the most potent health protocol that is available to us for free every night. SLEEP!

This article is not just about giving the usual list of tips for sleeping better. That is secondary and found all over the internet. I write this article with my lawyer hat on to convince you intellectually of the importance of sleep. Only then will you start to respect sleep. In my experience of coaching myself and clients, behavioural change will never happen unless you have complete clarity of why you are doing something. So, I will be sharing the science of sleep and how it impacts every part of your life. When you really understand what goes on at a cellular level, this will have a profound emotional impact on you and motivate you to take sleep more seriously and make the lifestyle changes I will be recommending later.

Straight up, I am not a sleep expert. But I research and retain information really well and I have studied this area for many years and read multiple papers and books by pioneering scientists, especially in the last 2 years, where there have been huge advancements. I have also tested the protocols personally and documented the impact it has had on my own health and performance (I do this with the help of my Oura Ring, which gives me all the data I need to track the results of every sleep protocol I implement. As an entrepreneur I often say that “data provides the clarity for business strategy”. That is no different in your personal life. 

All my learnings have culminated in this article which is an excerpt of a chapter from my next book, Living Longer Looking Younger. It serves as a quick reference summary. It is perhaps the most important article you will read from me this year. It is a little long, but I make no apologies for that. I respect you too much to give you a cursory summary of what I think is the most important element to your wellbeing that impacts not only your physical but also your mental and emotional health.

Sleep Basics

Sleep happens in cycles typically of 90 mins duration. So over an optimal 8 hours sleep you will get 5 cycles. During this 90 min cycle you go into 4 levels of sleep.  Level’s 3 & 4 being the deepest sleep where your brain goes into long ‘delta’ waves. Towards the end of the 90 min cycle you go back up to REM sleep (they call it Rapid Eye Movement because that is when you do your dreaming). As the night progresses and you go from cycle to cycle you have less delta sleep and more REM sleep, which is why you tend to dream more in the morning hours. Imagine it like going up and down a ladder 5 times per night. You will notice from the diagram below that most of your deep sleep happens early in the evening. Typically this peaks during the second cycle. And this is when you go into a state of autophagy (promotes longevity) and experience a surge of human growth hormones (promotes youth).

There are 4 layers to your health: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual. In this article we will discuss how sleep impacts the first ‘3 energies’.

The depthdurationcontinuity and regularity is what defines high-quality sleep. And it is the combination of all 4 elements that increases your ability to activate ‘autophagy’ and HGH. Research shows that dysfunction in any one of these four factors negatively alters sleep and accelerates ageing and disease. Depth is how deep your sleep is. Duration is the length of sleep. Continuity is how long you sleep without waking (especially important in the first 4 cycles). Regularity is how often you experience quality sleep. Every day? 5 times per week? 

How does sleep Impact Your PHYSICAL?

Long wave deep sleep is critical for activating a mechanism called ‘autophagy’. The mechanism was recently discovered in 2016 by Nobel prize winner, Yoshinori Ohsumi. It is a scientific term meaning your body goes into self-cleaning mode. It leads to the regeneration and repair of all your cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system, and the brain, via the glymphatic pathway while you sleep. Simply put, it destroys the old, damaged, and malfunctioning components of your cells – and rebuilds new and healthier ones. It’s like an overnight spring clean to replace old cells. So, autophagy is your body’s unique way of naturally rejuvenating and defending itself from disease.

Lack of good quality and quantity of sleep will cause a dysfunction with the mechanism of autophagy. The mind in particular will experience an abnormal build-up of B-Amyloid plaque on the very part of the brain which facilitates sleep – the pre-frontal cortex. Over time, this leads to even more sleep dysfunction which clogs up the brain even more, accelerates cognitive ageing, and contributes to the development of early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s. (Reference: Dr. David Rubinsztein, professor of molecular neurogenetics at the University of Cambridge).

When it comes to the body, poor quality sleep predictably leads to a multitude of physical ailments like auto-immune diseases from increased inflammation; poor thyroid function; increased insulin/glucose resistance (pre-diabetes); shortening of your telomeres (these keep you young); skin ageing; eyesight dysfunction; cardiovascular disease; and a dramatic increase in the risk of cancer. In relation to cancer, studies also show that shorter duration of sleep has been found to reduce the number of natural killer T cells by up to 30%. T cells are what fight cancer cells. Over time, chronic sleep deprivation of under 6 hours per night dramatically increases the risk of cancer, especially coupled with the lack of exposure to daylight and lack of vitamin D.

Interestingly, the research also shows that poor quality sleep tends to increase the amount of food you eat. It increases ghrelin cells which lead to an exaggerated hunger response.  High quality sleep on the other hand increases leptin cells. These cells inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance, so the body does not trigger a hunger response when it does not need energy.

Additionally, poor quality sleep increases your cravings for the wrong foods. This is because the lack of sleep impact your gut health. Poor sleep leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria that crave the wrong type of foods, typically, high in sugar, fat and salt. In fact science is now showing that good quality sleep from a healthy circadian rhythm is more important than pre-biotics and pro-biotics in the regulation of good gut health.

If this is not bad enough, research shows that people who get 6 or less hours of sleep per night are 4 times as likely to get ill after being exposed to the flu virus.

But wait, there is more. Poor quality sleep reduces testosterone levels, which is critical for your libido (and relationship), fat metabolism, muscle strength and bone density.

Still need more evidence of the importance of sleep? Let’s move to the impact on your mental and emotional health.

How does Sleep Impact Your INTELLECTUAL?

Poor quality sleep (especially influencing depth and duration) impacts your cognitive and work performance in a profound way. As we enter this age of automation and artificial intelligence, the key skills of creativity, imagination and strategising will become super important to your success. Sleep impacts all of these 3 key skills in a profound way. In a recent study performed by the team at Berkeley University led by Professor Matthew Walker, they stunningly found that even one night’s sleep deprivation impacted cognitive performance by 40%. This is a huge impact.

They found that you need sleep to prime the brain before learning and processing new information, and you need sleep after learning to retain or store that same information you learned. So, sleep before, stores information in the short-term memory (the hippocampus part of the brain) and deep sleep after allows you to transfer that same information into your long-term memory (the cortex). This allows you to reset your short-term memory for use the next day. So, if you do not get enough deep sleep, your short-term memory does not reset efficiently and therefore impairs your ability to learn and process new information the next day, because that part of the brain has a limited storage capacity (approx. 16 hours). Think of it like a USB stick. Therefore, a good sleep of depth and duration will have the benefit of clearing your short-term memory reservoir for use the next day.

How does Sleep impact Your EMOTIONAL?

There is a strong correlation between a high EQ and personal performance. Poor quality and quantity sleep impact your emotional stability. It increases activity in the emotional part of the brain (the amygdala), which becomes 60% more reactive due to the dampening down of your rational brain (the pre-frontal cortex). This is an immediate trigger for anxiety which in turn negatively impacts your ability to sleep. This leads to a vicious cycle of sleeping less and experiencing higher anxiety.

Dr Walkers research lab shows that this negative loop eventually leads to social isolation because people who are sleep deprived show a strong tendency to distance themselves from social interaction. Moreover, it showed that the issue was compounded because they were in turn shunned by others; which caused more social isolation and inevitably depression. This is what the “R U Ok” movement is essentially trying to avoid.

Depression causes your hippocampus to shrink, which then impacts your short-term memory, which as I outlined earlier, is critical for your creativity and strategic thinking, and therefore your performance at work and in business.

Poor sleep also amplifies the stress response in a unique way. Your tolerance level drops, your irritability rises, and you are quick to anger. Hardly good qualities for optimal work performance. In fact, the negative emotions of anger, fear, anxiety and depression (even general unhappiness) will drain your physical energy and this dramatically reduces your effectiveness in all areas of life.

The Definitive Guide to Sleeping Longer and Deeper

In Part 2 of this article due out next week, I will discuss the four elements to good quality sleep. They are duration, depth, continuity and regularity. I will list the major factors that negatively impact these 4 elements. Knowing this will help you fix the root cause of poor sleep. And when you do this, you will find that sleep becomes as innate and natural as breathing and drinking water. More specifically I will outline the following:

Depth: The two MAJOR lifestyle changes that will increase the depth of your sleep and activate autophagy and trigger HGH. These protocols will work almost immediately.

Duration: The two MAJOR causes for a reduction in the duration of your sleep. And how to prevent them with two simple techniques. I will also share with you 7 techniques that will induce sleepiness so you can get to sleep on time every night.

Continuity: The three MAJOR reasons why you are having interrupted sleep and how to sleep through the 3 sleep cycles of the night where you are most prone to waking. Refer to the diagram above.

Regularity: How sleeping according to your chronotype can increase regularity, especially during travel and work commitments. I will share the exact best time to sleep and wake according to your chronotype.

How to Get the Best Sleep- Part 2

The Definitive Guide to Sleeping Longer and Deeper

In Part 1 of this article on sleep I outlined the latest stunning research which shows that sleep is more important than any other health protocol and impacts not just the body but cognitive performance and emotional wellbeing in a profound way. If you have not read Part 1, here is the link: Is Sleep the Fountain of Youth?

In an age where artificial intelligence and technology is taking over jobs, it is very clear that creativity, imagination, strategic thinking and the ability to connect with others will be the most prized qualities for any person on the planet. SLEEP is your super power in promoting all of these qualities.

In this Part 2 I will outline the scientifically proven factors that impact good quality sleep, as they relate to the four elements: duration, depth, continuity and regularity. Dysfunction in any one of these elements will compromise sleep. Knowing this will help you fix the cause. Later I will list some tips that induce sleep, but without fixing the root cause, those tips are useless.

It is very important to note at the outset that sleep is an innate quality. It will happen automatically with the protocols I am about to share. So, this article will focus on returning you to your natural rhythm, where you will find sleep to be effortless. I know this from experience because I used to find sleep difficult and a waste of time because I had so much to do. Today my respect for sleep has been deepened by the fact that sleep has transformed my performance in all 8 areas of my life.

Depth 

Depth is the most important element because, you will recall from Part 1 of this article that regeneration and repair of body and mind happens when you go into long-wave deep sleep. Depth activates the mechanism of autophagy and production of human growth hormones. The former helps you live longer, and the latter helps you look younger. 

The depth of your sleep is impacted dramatically by the following 4 factors:

1.    Not enough sunlight during the day – especially morning light. Exposure to natural light during the day is critical for the production of melatonin. This neurotransmitter gets produced naturally by the pineal gland. Melatonin has two main functions. By day, it plays an active role in energy production by your mitochondria because it is a powerful antioxidant. Secondly, it promotes deep sleep at night. The best way to get more melatonin naturally is to eat out in sunlight and get as much sun on your skin and eyes, especially in the first hour of the morning. I recommend you only wear sunglasses when absolutely necessary. I also recommend the ancient practice of sun-gazing. This is beautifully covered in the book Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health by Mark Bunn.

2.    Too Much Artificial Light at Night – especially from screens and monitors. Research shows that we now spend 93% of our time inside surrounded by artificial light. We eat in front of TV’s. We work in front of computers. We play games on screens. We browse social media on phones. This is wrecking us. It is disrupting natural processes that heal and regenerate us. It is disturbing critical neuro pathways. Exposure to artificial blue and white light at night is suppressing the release of melatonin and therefore the depth of your sleep. It also impacts the duration of sleep – see below. Here are some tips:

a.    Replace your LED’s with low lux lighting which can reduce blue/white light by up to 80%.
b.    Put dimmers on all your lights.
c.    Light candles instead.
d.    Eliminate screen time at least 1 hour before bed. Ideally 3 hours or as soon as the sun goes down. If you absolutely have to get on your devices for something urgent, then I suggest you use the Apps Flux or IRIS. Both Apps reduce blue and white light considerably, but I prefer IRIS because it also eliminates flicker on your laptop screen. This flicker has been shown to cause a stress response.

3.    Body Temperature. Getting overheated at night stops you from getting into longwave ‘delta’ deep sleep levels 3 & 4. (refer to the diagram in Part 1 of this article). You need to ensure that your room temperature is between 17-19 degrees Celsius. The best way to achieve this is to put your bedrooms on different temperature settings than the rest of the house. Secondly do not over-dress for bed or have thick bed covers. Thirdly, roll away from your partner after the initial cuddle at night

4.     EMF Interference. Electro-magnetic pollution from cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, Bluetooth devices and all devices not in aeroplane mode will all impact your depth of sleep because these frequencies activate your sympathetic nervous system and stop you from going into long wave delta sleep. No ‘ifs or buts’, EMF is very bad for your sleep.

How do you know if you are going into deep sleep?

You can measure whether you are going into deep sleep through the use of biometric devices such as the Oura Ring but I strongly suggest you put it in aeroplane mode,
especially at night, and only sync it with the App when you are not wearing it.

Duration

Duration is important because we all need 5 x 90 minute sleep cycles every night. This adds up to 7.5 hours. Every cycle serves a unique biological purpose. Duration is mainly impacted when you cannot get to sleep at the optimal time. So you end up going to bed late and reducing the duration of your sleep. It is imperative for your circadian rhythm and thyroid function to wake on or soon after sunrise. So sleeping in to make up the time only makes matters worse. (Your optimal time for sleeping and waking according to your chrono-type is discussed below under Continuity). 

Here are the factors that impact your ability to get to sleep. Staying asleep is covered under continuity below.

1.    Artificial light at night supresses the release of melatonin so it also affects duration. In fact for every 60 minutes of artificial light you get after sun down, you supress the release of melatonin by 30 minutes. This effectively delays the time for you to start feeling sleepy and ready for bed. You need to get Amish and eliminate all technology at night.

2.    Not enough movement during the day makes you feel flat and stagnant. The body needs to get tired during the day for better sleep at night. Movement is also critical to neutralise the effects of work or life stress. TIP: If you cannot play sport or have the time to workout, try minimum effective dose exercise throughout the day. Do Tabata 3 x 4 minutes a day and go for a quick walk before lunch and dinner.

3.    Stress boosts cortisol and adrenalin and keep you in a state of fight or flight. This will lead to high blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat, which prevent you from getting to sleep. And even if you do get to sleep it will affect your continuity because chances are you will wake up around 3-4am with your heart beating out of your chest. Stress also raises your body temperature which a we discussed keeps you from going into deep sleep. The best way to neutralise stress is to slow down during the day and perform your tasks at a normal pace. Research shows that it is not the amount of work we do but the speed in which do the work that is the main cause of stress. So slow down. Read the tips by Carl Honore in his book, In Praise of Slow.

4.    Too Many Thoughts. Sometimes it is not stress that keeps you up but thoughtsare that go around and around in your head of things to do for the next day. Getting things down in your diary, gets it out of your head. The 5-10 minutes it takes to do this will save you precious hours of lost sleep. 

5.    Feelings are bothering you. You will find it difficult to get to sleep if feelings bubbling under the surface are not acknowledged and processed. To healyou need to feel. We all experience rejections, failures, hurts, and disappointments. The best way to process them is to journal your feelings, using the Higher Branch techniques as espoused by our faculty member, Dr Guy Winch in his book, Emotional First Aid.

6.     Eating too late and too much can stop you from getting to sleep and consequently reduce your duration. Especially foods high in fat. It is best to avoid food within 3 hours of going to bed.

7.     Caffeine Consumption in the 12 hours before bedtime. Caffeine overrides the sleep-inducing effects of melatonin and keeps you awake for longer. Some people can go to sleep after drinking coffee but the research shows unequivocally that the caffeine stops them from going into deep sleep. Therefore, they never get the benefits of autophagy and HGH.

The Best Tips to Induce Sleep and Improve Duration:

·     Have a bath, steam or sauna 1 hour before bed. This helps your body temperature to drop which prepares you for sleep.

·     Sleeping meditation.

·     Listening to comedy.

·     Use an acupressure mat. I use the Shakti Mat. It is incredibly effective.

·     Socialising by talking or playing board games or cards. 

·     Essential oils of lavender for stress or rose geranium for anxiety.

·     Exercise during the day. Especially in morning.

·     Do the 4, 7, 8, breathing technique. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. Do this at least 5 times before you go to sleep. Do this during the next technique…

·     Ground yourself. Standing barefoot on green grass drains all the positive ions from your system and replaces them with the earths negative ions. The latter is healing and calming. It engages the parasympathetic nervous system.

Continuity

It is natural to wake in the last sleep cycle of the night around the 6-hour mark. But if you are waking earlier in the first 4 sleep cycles, then you have a continuity problem. Some of the factors outlined in the section above on Duration will sometimes affect continuity. For example, if your stress is high then cortisol will surge at night and wake you. Thoughts and feelings that were bothering you during the day will creep in. 

But what is it that makes you wake up to begin with and interrupt your continuity in the first 6 hours? Typically they are:

1.    Drinking too much fluids before bed.
2.    Eating too much before bed.
3.    Consuming more than one drink of alcohol within 3 hours before bed.
4.    Falling asleep in front of the TV.

If you do wake at night, the best thing to do is roll over and keep sleeping. Do not get up and out of bed to drink or go to the toilet, unless you indulged in the list of 4 things just mentioned.

What about sleeping tablets to help you sleep and stay asleep? Research shows that sleeping tablets grossly interfere with your REM sleep, which is critical for re-setting your short-term memory. This will make you foggy during the day and make you ineffective in performing your tasks, especially tasks requiring client connection and creativity.

Regularity

Sleeping according to your chronotype can improve regularity, especially during travel and work commitments.

If you are a night person and you try to go to bed before 10:30pm, you will lay awake in bed thinking you have insomnia. If you are a morning person and go to bed too late, you will get over-tired and have trouble sleeping.

According to the research, morning people should go to bed around 9:30pm and wake at 5:30am. Night owls should go to bed around 11pm and wake at 7pm. If you are an ‘inbetweener’, then anytime between 9:30pm and 11pm for sleeping and 5:30am and 7am for waking. In all cases however it is imperative for all chronotypes to get plenty of sunlight within the hour after waking.

If there is any one factor that influences sleep and overall energy levels the most, it would be to practice light hygiene. Direct sunlight during the day will boost your energy; and elimination of artificial light at night will induce sleep. They both improve your gut health profoundly, where the majority of melatonin is produced during the daylight hours. Just think of it this way: good bacteria prefer sunshine. Bad bacteria thrive in darkness.

I wish you light and the softness of sleep.

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This article is a paraphrased excerpt from my latest book, Living Longer, Looking Younger. An eBook version of this will soon be available as a free download.