New research today reveals that both our diets and gym memberships are going out of the window (note: gym memberships, not BMF membership…get to the park for a resolution you can stick to! Ah, what’s a blog without a sales pitch, hey?!) – but why? It all comes down to our willpower, and our willpower (largely) comes down to sleep. I am one of THE worst sleepers in the world – not only do I struggle to sleep, but once asleep it’s rarely good quality and wake up a lot. Absolute nightmare for focusing at work, staying positive and completing challenges…
So, imagine my joy at being invited by Whitworths to an evening all about sticking to our good habits in January, with focus on fitness, nutrition, sleep and hypnotherapy. The workshop was awesome as I learnt so many new tips and tricks! Here are some of my fave learnings:
Fitness (hosted by Lilly Sabri)
Lilly took us through a series of yoga exercises to begin the session. She reminded us that without recovery time, our body can’t recuperate properly to perform at its best. Not only does yoga help with physical rebalance, but it also helps mental rebalance and allows us time to reflect. I’ve started adding 20 minutes of stretching into my routine before going to bed and it’s just wonderful! It eases out niggles in my body from the day, it calms my over-active mind (that goes into ‘think about everything you possible can’ mode the second my head hits the pillow usually) so that when I finally hit the light switch I’m already super-chilled and ready for my zzz’s.
Nutrition (hosted by Sian Porter)
Sian gave me a great tip that I’m yet to put into practice correctly. She suggested filling half your plate with salad or veg before adding carbs and protein. The idea being that you’ll guarantee a great portion of the good stuff, and have less space to load up on carbs (as opposed to filling your plate with bad things and running out of room for veggies). I start many of my plates with a big handful of salad now, but I pile so much on top of the salad that I fear I may be defeating the object. That’s one to work on…
Sleep (hosted by James Wilson)
Here we go…! Sleep! I get visibly anxious when I talk about it, eek….as try as I might, I struggle to sleep well (and it’s one of those things that the more you try the worse you’ll get!) and it really impacts my daily life. Sometimes I’ll go a full night without actually falling asleep meaning that the following day I can’t focus at work, I comfort eat on naughty foods and will either perform terribly when I work out or scrap the workout all together.
Our ‘sleep speaker’ James’ job is sleeping. He gets paid…to sleep. So his tips were pretty spot on!
The hour before bed is key. This includes what you eat, what you see and what you do! What you’re trying to do is help melatonin production as much as possible as that is what will give you your deep, quality sleep. Here’s how you can help your melatonin production:
- Eat: Don’t eat too soon before bed or your body will be processing that and melatonin production will be put on hold. But equally, eat too early and the hunger pangs will keep you awake or wake you up (these ‘on-the-go’ food shots are a great way to fill that gap).
- Avoid blue light: This is what you get from your phones. I now turn my phone onto sleep mode at 9pm and avoid looking at it until the next morning. I cannot tell you how much this helps! I don’t always fall alseep quicker but my sleep is far better quality when I finally drift off.
- Have a hot shower or bath: Whilst the process itself can be relaxing, it’s actually the point that you step out into the cold that can kick your body into melatonin-production mode.
- Head space: Clear your head. Don’t read a complex book or watch a thought-provoking show. Instead, consider listening to some comedy or reading an easy-read book. That way your brain is literally just zoning itself out as you prepare to sleep rather than whirring away.
- Quiet: Your hearing is the last sense to go to sleep, so ensure your room is quiet or wear earphones.
- Temperature. Just a half-degree change in temperature can disturb your sleep so if you have your heating on a timer to go off just as you go to bed, consider putting it on a lower temperature that stays on a little longer and doesn’t shock you into a 3am wake up when the temp totally drops.
- …and as I mentioned earlier, try including a 20 minute stretch too.
You can conquer points 5 and 6 with an electric fan – it works wonders! Not only will it keep you cool but the ‘white noise’ it creates can lull you into a relaxed sleep as well as drowning out arguing neighbours or traffic. I sleep so much better in the summer than the winter as a result!
My own little addition to this is that if you don’t sleep, don’t freak out. Lying in bed awake all night is still giving you hours and hour (and hours….and houuuurs) to rest your body. You might feel awful the next day but you can actually still function and push through. By worrying about how little sleep you’ve got or counting down the hours, you’ll only add to your stress levels the next day (when you’ll be less prepared to deal with stress) and put pressure on yourself to sleep the following night. The best thing is to put it to the back of your mind and just crack on as usual, as best you can!
We also got to have a little nap at this point. Bonus.
Hypnotherapy (by Darren Marks)
Hypnosis isn’t all about swinging a clock in front of someone then making them do the chicken dance (as hilarious as that actually is). The clock just represents a focus point that totally engulfs all your thoughts so that you don’t notice anything else. This is a prime time to work on your goals and ambitions as at this point your brain is really receptive to new ideas, and is why many people use this method to change habits.
I can’t do Darren’s session justice, but will do my best to explain the process he took us through. Basically (and, as I say, this really is a basic version), think of your end goal. The very end goal – crossing that finish line, announcing your promotion, seeing the number on the scales when you weigh yourself. Think of how you feel at that very time – at the end point. Now take yourself out of your body and see yourself achieving that goal. Take that person, that ‘you’ that you’re looking at and move yourself down a ‘time scale’, seeing how you are changing and developing as you move yourself along the time line. Now look at yourself now and visualise how you will, step by step, get yourself along that time line.
I liked this as it felt realistic. It turned it into a reality and with a real focus on exactly how each step would play out it became immediately easier to achieve.
I still can’t stop myself loading my plate up with food, but with all the other tips I’m now sleeping significantly better so feel driven and ready to tackle all that’s thrown at me. Bring on 2016 and my continued focus on my goals and ambitions!