TWEAKS 2 MYC #27: ACTIVE MEDITATION

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As mentioned in a previous blog post (TWEAKS 2 MYC #21), sitting meditation, which involves sitting down quietly and focusing your full attention on your breath, while keeping a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts, can improve memory, “focus”, and overall brain efficiency as well as decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and pain (Sharma, 2015).

However, it can be hard for some people to sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes. If this is the case for you, try active meditation. Active meditation has the same principles as sitting meditation, but the only difference is that you perform an exercise/stretch while focusing on your breath, instead of sitting down in a chair.

For this post, we will use the “Air Squat”:

Below are the basic instructions on how to properly practice active meditation:

  • Practice this exercise every single day
  • Set your timer for 3 minutes
  • Do slow and steady air squats for 3 minutes
    • Your breathing rate and heart rate should not go up!
    • If it does, shorten the range of motion of your squat
  • The idea is to synchronize your air squat movement to your breath
    • Focus your full attention on your breath going in and out of your nostrils while performing the exercise
    • Start by inhaling fully through your nose (pushing your diaphragm out as far as possible) at the top of the position
    • As you go down, exhale slowly through your nose
    • Your exhalation should be continuous throughout the movement
    • At the bottom of your squat, you should be at the end of your exhalation
    • As you rise, inhale slowly through your nose
    • Your inhalation should be continuous throughout the movement
    • At the top of the position, you should be at the end of your inhalation
  • When you notice that your mind is wandering (e.g., you are thinking about the past or future, you feel anger or boredom, you label your sensations), simply recognize it and tell yourself “breath” to help you bring your full attention back to your breath
  • Keep a non-judgmental attitude towards your thoughts
    • Just view your thoughts as thoughts (don’t label them as good or bad)
    • Don’t try to stop your thoughts (let them come and go as they please)

You can also choose another exercise or stretch if you want. The idea is to time your breath to the movements you are performing (i.e., inhale when your body expands and exhale when your body contracts) and focusing all your attention on the air going in and out of your nostrils.

Once you feel comfortable doing this 3-minute active meditation exercise, you can add a few minutes to your total time, if you want.

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

TWEAKS 2 MYC #26: SLEEP ERGONOMICS

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Quality sleep plays a crucial role in “mastering your craft” because this is when your body takes the time to restore its immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. Adults generally need 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night to function well during the day.

However, even if you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, it’s essential that you get “quality sleep”. Quality sleep is generally characterized by sleeping more time while in bed (85% of the time), falling asleep in 30 minutes or less, waking up no more than once per night, and being awake for 20 minutes or less after initially falling asleep (Ohayon et al., 2017).

Researchers found that for subjects sleeping an average of 7 hours per night, sleep quality, compared to sleep quantity, was better related to measures of health, emotional balance, life satisfaction, and feelings of tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion (Pilcher, Ginter, & Sadowsky, 1997).

Although there are numerous lifestyle changes that you can make to improve the quality of your sleep (e.g., exercising, going to bed at the same time each night, not using electronics 30 minutes before bed, reducing the temperature in your room), a quick and easy way to do this is to sleep with an extra pillow!

Sleeping with an extra pillow will ensure that your spine is aligned and your lower back is not strained.

Below are the basic instructions on where to place your extra pillow based on your sleeping position:

  • Back sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow under your knees
  • Stomach sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow under your stomach/pelvic area
  • Side sleeper
    • Tuck a small pillow between your knees

Picture Tweaks to MYC 26 (2)This small tweak should allow you to have a more restful sleep! Try it out!

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

References

Ohayon, M., Wickwire, E. M., Hirshkowitz, M., Albert, S. M., Avidan, A., Daly, F. J., Dauvilliers, Y., … Vitiello, M. V. (2017). National Sleep Foundation’s sleep quality recommendations: First report. Sleep Health, 3, 6-19.

Pilcher, J. J., Ginter, D. R., & Sadowsky, B. (1997). Sleep quality versus sleep quantity: Relationships between sleep and measures of health, well-being and sleepiness in college students. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 42, 583-596.

TWEAKS 2 MYC #22: SMILING

Picture Tweaks to MYC 22

Would you agree that receiving a smile from a total stranger can brighten up your day? Consider the following scenario. You’re walking down the street with your head down after a terrible day at work. You feel angry and can’t wait to get back home. A bunch of negative thoughts are swirling around in your head and you can’t make them stop. When crossing the intersection, you lift your head and notice a person walking towards you. For a brief moment, they look at you and smile. You instantly feel better and realize that your problems are not that bad after all. Life is good!

Now, you can get the same types of benefits if you take the time to smile when you’re feeling down! Researchers have discovered that the simple act of smiling can increase positive mood (Yamamoto, Sugimori, & Shimada, 2010) and lower heart rate (Kraft & Pressman, 2012). Moreover, smiling can predict longevity! Abel and Kruger (2010) found that smile intensity (i.e., no smile, partial smile, full smile) is positively correlated with longevity.

Listen to Ron Gutman talk about “the hidden power of smiling” in his 2011 TED talk:

So, if you ever feel sad, stressed, or angry, STOP, TAKE A DEEP BREATH, and SMILE! It might not solve all your problems, but it’s going to help you take a step in the right direction.

Set goals. Do just one thing at a time. Keep it simple and smart. Do it consistently. Reflect on the process.

References

Abel, E. L., & Kruger, M. L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science, 21, 542-4.

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological Science, 23, 1372-8.

Yamamoto, T., Sugimori, S., & Shimada, H. (2010). Effects of smiling manipulation on negative cognitive process during self-focused attention. The Japanese Journal of Psychology, 81, 17-25.