The Courage To Try
We've all been told "practice makes perfect." This is another way of saying that we adapt to external stress. In sports and strength training, adaptation is the goal of practice; our muscles break down and rebuild to adapt to the external stress placed on the body. This is the key to periodization; a training plan created to maximize potential at a specific time for a specific event based on small goals that build on one another.
But what about our brains and practicing something like my blog, Reactive or Receptive?, suggested; noticing when you're in a receptive or a reactive state? Because of neuroplascticity, the same principle applies. Without getting into too much detail, as we learn to see and shape the flow of energy and information within our subjective lives, we train the mind to myelinate the brain in specific areas. Myelin is a fatty sheathing that wraps neural circuits and increases in relation to, and along with, synaptic connections in enriched environments.
So what are enriched environments? An enriched environment is one in which you struggle to learn something that you're not adept at. It's choosing a goal just beyond your present abilities, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and then correcting them.
As Daniel Coyle writes; "By trying hard to do things you can barely do, in deep practice, your skill circuits will respond by getting faster and more accurate. Struggle is not optional, it's neurologically required: In order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit sub optimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must teach your circuit. You must also keep firing that circuit - i.e., practicing, in order to keep myelin functioning properly... Myelin is a living tissue."
Coyle also says; "Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways - allowing yourself to make mistakes, to seem stupid - makes you smarter. Or to put it in a slightly different way, experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them - as you would if you were walking up an ice covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go - end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it."
What does this mean for our emotional and mental potential? Can you imagine?! For me, it's a relief and an opportunity to offer myself compassion for not making cognitive changes as swiftly as I'd like. I enjoy trying new physical challenges and fully accept that the first time I try something new I'll struggle because I know that the next time I'll be exponentially more comfortable and capable to carry out the activity. However, improvement seems less noticeable when learning the skill of meditation and bringing awareness to the present moment when not meditating.
Over the years I've heard, seen and experienced many different emotional and mental struggles; good/bad thinking, taking action (the opposite of passivity), taking responsibility, blaming, judging, comparing, and rigidity to name a few. As difficult as these things are to look at within ourselves and to begin to change, as we step out of our comfort zone and try something different, it WILL get easier because our brains physically create new pathways for the new thoughts/behaviors. The key is having the courage to try. And even courage can be learned.
Are you ready to try?
Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You and Your Career
In addition, how about knowing sleep deprivation keeps your brain in a toxic state, causes weight gain and wrinkles, reduces testosterone as well as your emotional intelligence.
Press the link below to read more...
Regular Exercise Is Part Of Your Job
Find out what the Harvard Business Review has to say about work productivity and exercise.
Hands down the most common reason I hear for not exercising is lack of time. As this article points out, if it's a busy work schedule that validates your reason for not exercising, you'll be more productive during the hours you're working if you give exercise equal priority. Aloha!
In his book, Flourish, Martin Seligman addresses many ways we can live a thriving life. Below is an excerpt from the chapter "Positive Physical Health: The Biology of Optimism." The main take away is that we need to accept that exercise is a must, dieting (restricting calories and/or taking supplements as food a replacement) does not make us healthier, live longer or support our weight loss goals. Being active, even if it doesn't equate to a low number on the scale, provides us a longer, healthier life.
"Most dieting is a scam, a $59 billion scam last year in America. You can take off 5 percent of your weight in one month by following any diet on the best-seller list. The problem is that 80 percent to 95 percent of people will regain all that weight or more over the next three to five years. Dieting can make you thinner, but it is usually only temporary. It does not make you healthier, however, because for most of us, dieting does not stick.
Exercise, in contrast, is not a scam. A much higher percentage of people who take up exercise stick with it and become permanently fit. Exercise is sticky and self-maintaining, dieting is usually not. Even though it lowers your risk for death, exercise will not make you much thinner, since the average vigorous exerciser loses fewer than five pounds of body weight.
Just as optimism is a subjective health asset for cardiovascular disease, it is clear that exercise is a functional health asset: people who exercise a moderate amount have increased health and low mortality, while couch potatoes have poor health and high mortality. The beneficial effects of exercise on health and illness are finally well accepted even within the most reductionist part of the medical community, a guild very resistant to any treatment that is not a pill or a cut. The surgeon general's 2008 report enshrines the need for adults to do the equivalent of walking 10,000 steps per day. (The real danger point is fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and if this describes you, I wan to emphasize that the findings that you are at undue risk for death are -- there is no other word for it -- compelling.) To take the equivalent of 10,000 steps a day can be done by swimming, running, dancing, weight lifting; even yoga and a host of other ways of moving vigorously."
If you have a goal this fall to lose weight or get in shape, don't fall prey to the many restrictive diets or diet challenges; find an activity you enjoy, with a friend or group of friends; hire a personal trainer (I know a great one!); check your local community education newspaper for fun classes; buy yourself some new shoes and get out walking; or if you're not ready to take action and want help creating an action plan, hire a wellness coach (I know one of those too! Who knew?!)
There's no reason to long for health, energy, and well being - it's right there for the taking. Grab it!
Most adults need between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Most of the adults I know tell me they don’t get that much. In fact, I’ve found that some people seem to think it’s a badge of honor that they function on less, as though it demonstrates how invaluable their presence is to the people and projects in their lives. Others wear a face of desperation when answering how much sleep they get because though they report wanting more, there’s just too much to do during the day to get to bed at a reasonable time. For some, sleep gets interrupted during the night for hours at a time and seems to become habitual.
Just yesterday I had a conversation with someone regarding her night time routine of reading before bed and nightly wakings for two or more hours which results in less than adequate sleep during the week and sleeping half the day on the weekends. She often reads during the nightly wakings. While she enjoys reading, she doesn’t enjoy being tired all day and/or sleeping half the day away.
We all need adequate sleep to help our brain and body perform a number of important mental and physical functions. One of the basics that I learned about years ago has to do with how muscle utilizes sleep to repair after intense workouts. If you exercise, what’s the point of all the hard work if you sabotage yourself with less than adequate sleep?
The brain uses sleep to consolidate the day’s learning and memories. Sleep adequacy also impacts decision making as it increases the ability to receive, process and act on information.
Other factors impacted by sleep have to do with the role of hormones. Sleep increases serotonin, the neurotransmitter that facilitates self discipline, helps you feel cooler, calmer, and more upbeat. Higher levels of serotonin also reduces the incidence of depression.
Dopamine levels rise with more sleep and causes us to feel more energetic, capable, and motivated to persevere when facing difficulties.
Leptin levels are replenished during sleep. Leptin helps us regulate our food intake as well as when and how much energy to spend in physical activity.
High cortisol levels brought on by less than optimal sleep are associated with impatience, irritability, insomnia, premature aging, and cravings of high sugar, high fat, and high sodium foods.
Interestingly, these hormones also play a role in exercise, mood and nutrition. For example, with exercise, serotonin and dopamine levels rise and cortisol levels drop. Correspondingly, people with positive moods have higher levels of serotonin and lower levels of cortisol.
When people have a difficult time reaching a goal, say weight loss, it may be beneficial to investigate the less obvious factors that have hormonal impacts on food and energy regulation (sleep and mood). When people have a difficult time with sleep, it may be beneficial to look at less obvious areas that may have a hormonal impact on energy regulation (exercise, food and mood). Can you see how interwoven sleep, hormones and our goals are?
Sleep debt accumulates as well. If we skip two hours of sleep for four consecutive nights, our brains perform no better than if we are legally drunk. Our ability and willingness to be reactive and proactive, to sustain concentration, and to function at high capacity all get increasingly worse. And research shows that sleep deprived people are very poor judges of their own abilities to concentrate.
Interesting to note; poor sleep is NOT a natural consequence of aging. It may however be a natural consequence of reduced physical activity, increased social isolation, and/or higher stress. The good news, as you have read, is that you can experiment to find your best solution to better sleep health.
Are you wondering what the fore mentioned client and I brainstormed as potential solutions to her sleep conundrum? For now she’s going to read for only 30 minutes before bed and the reading must be done with a book, not a Nook, as research shows that the lighting in all of our tech gadgets wake up the parts of the brain responsible for alertness. Also, should she wake during the night, reading is not an option, instead she must wait until morning when she wakes - at the same time regardless of night time waking. Reading will be her reward as soon as she gets out of bed with the alarm. The goal is to retrain her sleep cycle to begin and end at a set time rather than having no structure. It will take time, but new habits can be learned!
So, how much sleep are you getting per night? How can you improve that number?
To learn more about sleep, mood, food, and exercise and get some usefu, I recommend “Smarts and Stamina” by Marie-Josee Shaar and Kathryn Britton
Learner and sharer of all things healthy, active, esteem building, growth promoting, witty and Hawaiian