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Can You Sleep Too Much (or Too Little)?

Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties our health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker

 

I used to think you could never get too much sleep. Of course, that was years ago when I was chronically sleep deprived due to working full-time, going to college at night, raising my kids as a single mom, and trying to have some sort of social life when they were with their other parent. Turns out, there’s a growing body of research that points to the negative effects of either too much or too little sleep.

Too little or too much sleep can affect metabolic health.

Concerned about an expanding waistline? Prone to getting less sleep or more than you need? There’s scientific basis for the link between too little and too much sleep and metabolic syndrome and increasing waistlines in Korean men and women aged 40-69 years in one recent study. Researchers said the study’s observational nature did not allow for cause and effect conclusions, noting that participants provided sleep duration data and estimates may reflect time in bed and not necessarily time slept. Other studies have reported that short-duration sleepers (less than 5 hours per night) are up to 45 percent more likely to be obese.

Excessive and inadequate sleep can affect memory and cognition.

Chronically sleep-deprived people, says Harvard Health Publishing,  are more likely to have high blood pressure, narrowed blood vessels, and diabetes – each of which cause less blood flow inside the brain. Since the brain requires a good flow of oxygen and sugar to work optimally, too little sleep can contribute to memory problems. Those who get too much sleep, on the other hand, aren’t off the hook memory-wise as their quality of sleep may suffer, which could add to thinking and memory problems during the day.

Excessive daytime sleepiness can be particularly troubling for older adults. Researchers found that cognitive deficits and cognitive impairment may be predicted by excessive daytime sleepiness among the elderly. Excessive sleepiness, or hypersomnolence, has two main symptoms: excessive amount of sleep, and poor quality of awakening. Hypersomnolence is the leading cause of road accidents, and is responsible for increased risk of mortality related to neurodegenerative diseases.

If you’re an early riser, you may be less prone to depression.

Researchers are delving into pertinent data showing that middle-aged to older women who get up early may be significantly less likely to develop depression. The largest observational study to-date looks at the link between chronotype (also known as sleep-wake preference) and mood disorders. Researchers found that, even after accounting for such factors as work schedules and light exposure, chronotype, partly influenced by genetics, seems to have a mild influence on depression. The four-year study involved nearly 33,000 female nurses who were free of depression at the start of the study. Thirty-three percent self-described their sleep pattern as early-riser, 53 percent intermediate, and 10 percent evening types. After four years of follow-up, researchers found that early risers had 12-27 percent lower risk of depression than intermediate types, while late-riser types had a 6 percent higher risk of being depressed, although this was not considered statistically significant.

One study found that excessive sleep is “highly associated” with dysthymic disorder and major depressive disorder. Those researchers also found that many anxiety disorders are “associated with prolonged sleep episodes accompanied by consequences/distress.”

Better cardiovascular health is associated with early-rise behavior.

More good news for early risers is the apparent association such behavior has on better cardiovascular health. Researchers in the UK Biobank study found that those who are early to bed and early to rise are “more conscientious and are goal-getters.” They also spent less time in front of electronic devices, ate more fruit and vegetables daily than late chronotypes. Survey participants categorized as evening persons also tended to watch more television and were twice as likely to smoke tobacco than intermediate types and 45 percent more likely to smoke than adequate sleepers. Researchers noted that more study is needed to determine if sleep metrics can predict better cardiovascular health behaviors and if sleep behavior modification can enhance heart health.

If you sleep too much, you may have a sleep disorder.

For those who constantly sleep too much, sleeping longer than 8 hours a night, often napping during the day, finding it difficult to stay awake, the underlying cause may be a sleep disorder known as hypersomnia. Besides excessive sleepiness throughout the day not relieved by napping, hypersomnia sufferers may also experience anxiety, memory problems and low energy. The American Sleep Association states that more men than women have hypersomnia, with prevalence at 5 percent of the population. The ASA also reports that 50-70 million adults in the U.S. have a sleep disorder of some kind.

The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, affecting about 30 percent of the adult population with short-term insomnia, and about 10 percent suffering chronic insomnia. Other forms of sleep disorder and sleep-related breathing disorders include, narcolepsy, snoring, and central sleep. Circadian-rhythm sleep disorders include jet lag, shift work, and delayed, advanced, irregular and non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm. Parasomnias and sleep-movement disorders round out the category of sleep disorders.

Insufficient sleep over a prolonged period can affect your mental and emotional states.

If you’re perpetually sleep-deprived, your brain is exhausted, unable to adequately perform its duties. Besides difficulty concentrating, your brain’s ability to send signals to other parts of your body may be delayed, which could prove fatal when driving, using dangerous equipment, trying to avoid life-threatening situations. Lengthy periods of sleep deprivation can result in other problems with your mental and emotional states, including hallucinations, trigger mania in those with manic depression, or amp up risks of paranoia, depression, impulsive behavior, and suicidal thoughts.

If you suffer from the effects of too much or too little sleep, help is available. Besides tips for getting better sleep, make an appointment to see a sleep professional or your general practitioner to have tests to determine the cause of excessive or insufficient sleep, as well as how to get back to getting the right amount of sleep you need nightly.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

In Search of Better Sleep

How Your Memory Suffers With Poor REM Sleep

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

The Incredible Value of Dreams

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My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

 

“Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.” – Bo Bennett

 

Like most people, I’ve experienced many instances of frustration. Some of them proved exceedingly trying and I found it nearly impossible to get past the episodes, replaying in my head what happened and how badly it made me feel. While I tried different methods to cope, including tipping back a few too many cocktails after a rough day at work, most were ineffective, at best. Worse, some had lingering consequences, such as a reprimand from my boss (after coming in late due to the imbibing). Over the years, however, I’ve made it a point to determine what works best for me to deal with frustration.

First, though, here’s some research frustration, how to recognize it, typical symptoms, frustration’s relationship to anger and stress and other interesting science.

Frustration often leads to recurring nightmares.

Ever wake up in the middle of a nightmare shivering in fear or with a feeling of dread and impending doom? If so, says science, there’s a likely correlation between the frustrations you’ve experienced during the day and the vivid and frightening dreams you have at night. I know that I’ve had dreams where I’m falling from a height and, luckily, wake up before I hit the ground. Dreaming of failure and being physically attacked were also part of my nightmare portfolio. As such, I found fascinating the research of the team at the University of Cardiff that waking-life psychological experiences, particularly frustration, directly tie in to the dream state in the form of nightmares. When study participants were frustrated, they reported having more frightening dreams and described those dreams in negative terms. According to the researchers, the nightmares represent the psyche attempting to process and make some sense of the experiences that were psychologically distressing while awake.

Frustrated people tend to smile more when they’re experiencing frustration.

This finding by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology caught me off guard. I thought people who smiled a lot were generally optimistic and cheerful. Indeed, smiling is typically a characteristic of someone who’s happy. Yet, as careful analysis of smiles shows, not all smiles are indicative of the emotion of happiness. There’s the fake smile, the polite smile, the nervous smile, and so on. According to the MIT researchers, most people don’t believe they smile a lot when they’re frustrated, yet they do, as proven by facial scans in the study. To prove their hypothesis, the researchers had study participants complete two types of task, one designed to frustrate and one not, and scanned their faces after they completed the task and hit the submit button (which deleted the frustrating task but accepted the control task). While the smiles that appeared looked similar, the frustrated smiles disappeared quickly compared to the genuine smiles. Frustration is a fundamental human experience, so it will be interesting to see where this research leads.

Men and women express anger and frustration differently.

In terms of biology, there’s no denying differences between men and women. As it turns out, findings from researchers at Southwest Missouri State University reveal there are even some differences in how the two sexes tend to show they’re angry or frustrated. Both feel anger and frustration, yet men tend to accept and embrace the emotions, using them to their advantage. Women, on the other hand, view anger and frustration as counter-productive. In the study, men felt ineffective when told to hold their emotions in, while women did not feel constricted when asked to do so. Similarly, researchers found a correlation between men being assertive and expressing anger outwardly, but not in women. Furthermore, women viewed their anger negatively, generally calling it frustration, while still using that anger to help bring about change. Due to social expectations, women tend to camouflage their anger and frustration, yet find alternative routes to get results they want.

Frustration stems from stress.

What causes the buildup of physiological and psychological response that results in emotions such as anxiety, overwork, despair, distress, frustration and more? According to the literature, the medical term for the origin of much emotional buildup, which often has physical components as well, is stress. Repeated stress that is not effectively dealt with can cause serious physical consequences. Like a machine that eventually wears down, continual stressors on the body’s activation of the nervous system (chronic stress) results in release of the stress hormones of cortisol and epinephrine and precipitates problems with the heart and other vital organs, along with the potential development of mental health issues.

To better handle frustration and stress, change your perception.

An article in Harvard Business Review discussed the concept of resilience and how everyday stressors and frustration can be more effectively dealt with by reframing perception. In short, change how you perceive frustration and stress. Authors cited two studies, one by researchers at the University of Buffalo that day-to-day stressors help people cultivate necessary skills to tackle difficult future situations, and anther by Harvard University researchers who found that participants told physiological signs of stress helped them better cope with it then viewed stress as helpful. The key takeaway here is to modify the perception of stress and frustration to promote the development of resilience, the ability to handle whatever comes your way in the most effective manner.

TIPS TO COPE WITH FRUSTRATION

Now, as to how I’ve learned to deal with frustration – and what works well for me, here are a few general tips:

  • Take some deep breaths. This will allow you to calm your pent-up emotions and restore a sense of calm. Likely, the frustration you’ve felt has caused you to hold your breath or breathe shallowly. In either case, your body is oxygen-depleted and it’s hard to think clearly. Deep breathing can help slow heartbeat and lower blood pressure, diminishing the negative effects of the stressful emotion.
  • Figure out the source of the frustration. Now that you’re thinking more clearly, use this clarity to focus on what may be the probable cause that you’re experiencing frustration. Without being caught up in the immediate effects of the frustration, you’ll be more prone to identify the source, so you can devise constructive ways to deal with it.
  • Remind yourself that this will pass. Frustration shouldn’t be an ongoing experience. Like the weather, it’s bound to change. By recognizing that emotions are generally fleeting, you rob them of their power and hold on you. Envision yourself in a happier state and recall that things that frustrated you in the past generally didn’t last long. You found ways to get past it, or the experiences causing the frustration weren’t consequential enough to have lasting effect.
  • Work on something else. Distraction is a great method to get past a roadblock. It works in problem-solving, getting past anger and other emotions – including frustration. If you’re stuck in a sour mood due to something frustrating, go out and dig in the garden, pound some nails in wood, demolish cardboard boxes to put in the recycle bin. Involve yourself in a task requiring close concentration. These techniques get your mind off what’s frustrating you.
  • Do something pleasant. Instead of beating yourself up mentally over your frustrating day, do something enjoyable. Take a soaking bath. Read a book. Watch a comedy. Go for coffee with friends. Indulge yourself a little yet be sensible in your choice. Hobbies are also effective for helping dispel frustration.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

Why It’s Good That You’re Not Perfect

How to Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Best Way to Effect Change

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.

 

How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash

 

“Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.”Anne Frank

 

Does your to-do list today fill you with the desire to chuck it all and chill out somewhere? Maybe you’ve gotten so jammed up that your schedule simply has no breathing room, no time for you to do anything you want because you’re overcommitted, unable to say no, or way behind on projects, tasks and chores already. You might, indeed, feel downright lazy. This laziness doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible or that you lack skills and abilities. Rather, it may mean that you need to do a little prioritizing, let some things go and learn how to get what matters done.

Do a needs-based analysis of your workload.

How much of what you’ve allocated to do today – or that others put on your schedule – is an absolute must? Is it a task or project you could delay for a time and focus on something else that’s more pressing, that has an urgent deadline, or you’re pressured to get done? Not everything you’ve penciled in on today’s list must be completed today. Some items can wait. The key is to carefully analyze everything to determine what’s necessary and what’s not. This isn’t an idle exercise. It’s an essential part of organization and crucial to getting things done.

Give every task a number.

After you’ve examined every item on your list, some stand out as more pressing than others. These are the ones to prioritize. Go through the list again and assign every task a number, with 1 being the most important to get done, and 10 and beyond less time-sensitive. Hopefully, your list doesn’t go much past 10, since that’s a clear sign you’re overcommitted.

Have a work list and a personal list.

One way to avoid getting lost in numerous tasks in one list is to carve out two lists: a work list and a personal one. What’s important here is to draw the line at the end of the work day and don’t allow work to cross over into your personal time. When work intrudes on home, family and relationships, or vice-versa, there’s bound to be unnecessary conflict. You’ll also get little accomplished as you waver between tending to one area of responsibility at the expense of the other. Clear work-home boundaries help a great deal.

Take a break – literally.

Feel your chest getting tight? A bad headache coming on? Jitters or queasiness? These may be signs of stress from internal and external pressures to perform, be the top achiever, nail the contract, settle the dispute, or find the optimal solution to a problem. The best way to relieve stress in this instance is to do a hard stop and get some fresh air. This is a literal recommendation, as being outside in nature is well documented to reduce stress and increase a sense of overall health and well-being. After your break – and it needn’t be much more than 15 minutes to a half-hour – you’ll return to your responsibilities feeling refreshed and more motivated to tackle what must be done. You may even find you’ve come up with an ingenious solution or idea.

See the end game.

Sometimes you can’t envision what your efforts contribute to the desired outcome. This may or may not be your own goal. You may be so tied up in minutiae of details that a successful result is not easy to see. Here is where it helps to step back and separate the individual pieces of the project or task and put them into perspective with the ultimate goal in mind. When you can better see how everything links together, it can serve as impetus to get moving again. While it’s better to focus on the positive aspects of your part well done, it can also be motivating to recognize what might happen if you fail to deliver on your responsibilities. In any event, seeing the end game can be a powerful tool to overcome laziness.

Ask for help.

Suffering with a piled-on workload or shouldering more-than-your-fair-share of responsibilities is enough to make anyone stall in enthusiasm. No wonder you feel lazy. One of the most effective ways to pare down a heavy workload is to ask for help when you need it. Be sparing in how and when you request assistance, though, as you don’t want to appear as whining, incompetent, shirking your duties, or lazy. Also, be sure you reciprocate by helping others when they ask, if you’re able to do so. Once you’ve asked for and received help, your mountain of assignments or tasks won’t seem such a hurdle. There’s a lot to be said for cooperative spirit in getting things done.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Best Way to Effect Change

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.   

Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Build Character

Photo by Seth Willingham on Unsplash

Photo by Seth Willingham on Unsplash

 

“Character is a diamond that scratches every other stone.” – Cyrus A. Bartol

 

The desire to be of good character is not only a laudable effort, but also a worthwhile one that pays handsome dividends. It’s unfortunate that more people don’t see the value in striving to achieve character.

There’s nothing like good character for making an indelible impression. When faced with someone with stellar character, others cannot fail to notice and be affected by what’s right in front of them.

It doesn’t take much hard thought to comprehend what Bartol meant by likening character to a diamond. While in the literal sense diamonds do scratch other hard surfaces, including character might at first seem odd, but it really isn’t. Anyone of good character (or bad, for that matter) can make a lasting impression. Just as a scratch from a diamond that endures.

Think before acting.

Keeping this in mind, it’s important to think before we act. This is much preferred to recklessly or impulsively rushing to judgment and acting in a fashion that’s bound to be reflective of something other than true intentions. By allowing time to process adequately, possibly by taking a step back and weigh our options before acting, the likelihood of improving character increases. act.

While some might believe that life is too busy daily to care about character, that’s rather shortsighted. Holding the belief that if someone else finds what we do to be admirable, but we’re not all that interested in building character, is flawed. This line of reasoning is akin to rationalization. It’s like saying we don’t have to be responsible for what we do because we’re hampered in some way from achieving the results we want. But those are just excuses and people of good character don’t make excuses. They take measured action after thinking about what they’re going to do.

Often, however, the choices we make won’t benefit us immediately. Sometimes a certain action may help others, which is generally serves to elicit attention, at least by the recipient of our action. Yet there is much more to it than that. While benevolent action may take some time to show results, if at all, the effort does add to our character.

Think of character like a treasure trove of diamonds. They’re internally stored, they glisten and reflect goodness. The bright light is also visible to others in the form of the good that we do.

Build character in small increments.

Good character doesn’t mean you must be a saint. Everyone can work on this aspect of themselves and make incremental improvements. The secret is to take it one day at a time, one small act at a time.

While everyone is busy, instead of packing too much into today’s agenda, allow some space and time for reflection and play. Think about some small thing that can brighten another’s day. That might be a smile, inviting a friend to coffee, offering to help a co-worker with a project, or setting aside a half hour to play with the kids after work.

Little things add up. It is possible to build character painlessly over time, and realize the benefits of doing so through the admiration and respect of others.

Be patient.

For those who’ve struggled with bad decision-making, especially those who’ve worked hard to overcome problems with alcohol or drugs, trying to build character may seem like a losing battle. After all, there are so many other things to take priority, the highest one being tending to sobriety and working recovery.

Yet even with a string of bad choices in the past, anyone can learn how to restore character or build it from scratch. It does take time and effort, a willingness to persist despite setbacks. In this, it’s necessary to be patient, to keep the end goal in sight.

In the pursuit of living a life of meaning and fulfillment, working to build character goes together with all of what’s worthwhile and good. The results are also cumulative, restorative and healthy.

This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Related posts:
10 Proactive Ways to Figure Out What’s Most Important to You
5 Tips to Make the Right Choice
10 Flimsiest Excuses for Not Taking Action

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My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

A writer by profession and a long-time executive in public relations and communications, I’ve experienced the cumulative effects of stress on more than a few occasions. While each person needs to find their own unique ways to combat stress, I’d like to share my 10 favorite summertime stress-busters here – while summer is in in full swing.

Bicycling on Mackinac Island

Although it was many years ago, the fond memory of bicycling on Mackinac Island (situated between mainland Michigan and the state’s upper peninsula in Lake Michigan) with my mother and my son and daughter still lowers my stress level. It was a wonderful bonding experience between three generations and great exercise to boot.

Go out and rent a bicycle when you’re on vacation or during a trip to an inland lake or other recreational area and see how your cares seem to float away as you pedal along. This is an inexpensive and effective summertime stress-buster that anyone can do.

Going for a long drive

When I’ve had it up to here with deadlines, pressure to finish a task, non-stop phone calls and nagging emails – not to mention all the things left to do around the house – I get in the car and head out for the open highway.

Since I live in California, however, that means timing my escape to avoid the gridlock on the freeways. Still, there’s nothing like cruising along the 101 freeway somewhere north to clear the cobwebs from my mind – and melt any stress that’s built up.

Hiking a new trail

I’m fortunate to live just blocks from the Santa Monica Mountains preserve and numerous hiking trails. This sounds like a lot of work, but there are easy trails to climb as well as more strenuous ones.

An early morning hike – especially when I’m able to check out a new trail – is one of the quickest ways to dissolve stress for me. My family members are equally appreciative. And who doesn’t love to spend some quality time outdoors with those you love?

Taking a well-deserved vacation

Too many times we tell ourselves that we can’t afford to take a vacation or don’t have the luxury of taking that much time off work.

I know. I’ve said as much myself.

The truth, however, is that a vacation is not only deserved but necessary in order to recharge and revitalize, to gain peace of mind and restore a sense of balance.

Thinking back on memorable vacations, I count trips to Cancun, Kauai, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, as well as visits to great national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and more.

Arranging a long weekend getaway

Sometimes a weeklong vacation just isn’t practical. There’s still the opportunity to take a break by going for a long weekend getaway.

Head out to the beach or a cottage by the ocean. Explore what nature has to offer in a national park in the area. Visit a not-too-distant city to sample cuisine and nightlife or other attractions.

Romantic, sight-seeing, educational or pure leisure – whatever inspires you can be the ingredients in a getaway this weekend.

And the stress will just disappear.

Attending an outdoor concert

My daughter and son remember going to Bob Seger, Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac concerts with me at an outdoor concert venue in Michigan. Just recalling those magical nights under the stars gives me a nostalgic rush. How perfect to wash away stressful thoughts?

No matter where you live, there’s probably a venue offering outdoor concerts, music festivals and the like. Check out some of your favorite artists, search for some reasonably-priced tickets and take the family for an unforgettable outing.

Digging in the garden – and creating a lush landscape

Whether I’m yanking out weeds, cultivating an area to plant flowers, shrubs or helping to dig the requisite size hole for a tree, the sheer enjoyment I get from digging in the garden is undeniable.

The fact that the result is something I’m proud of – and don’t mind accepting compliments from others for – is a plus.

Don’t think you have a green thumb? I didn’t either, but years of practice and effort have definitely paid off. Now, even if the plant eventually dies, I know I’ll get something to replace it that will prove equally lovely in my garden.

And there’s something about washing away the dirt from my gardening sojourn that is very satisfying as well.

Reading a good book

I’ve loved to read all my life. Still do, although I don’t seem to do it as often as I’d like. Now that I have Kindle, though, I can quickly access new ebooks from my favorite authors.

Mysteries, true crime, thrillers, autobiographies, inspirational – you name it, I’m there. Nothing like whiling away an hour or so engrossed in a good book. If you get into the habit of reading something you like, you’ll find that the stress you had is gone, faded away like a distant memory.

Seeing an adventure movie

Movies are another favorite pastime of mine. I actually like a number of genres, but for dissipating stress, a go-to favorite is an adventure movie. I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my body and while that seems counter-intuitive to eliminating stress, it actually works.

Realizing the outcome along with the protagonist (or hero) is doubly satisfying. It’s like I’m there. Not bad for a quick escape from stress, right? Best of all, there are always plenty of adventure movies to choose from at the movieplex near you – or available to rent or download from your TV provider or Netflix.

Checking out an amusement park

Do you love roller coasters? I do. When I have the opportunity to check out an amusement park with the family – and occasionally for business, believe it or not – I head straight for the biggest roller coaster in the park.

If you’re going to go, go big or don’t go at all. That’s my motto.

Part of the reason I’m so drawn to this particular ride is that I remember riding a roller coaster with my dad just a week before he died. I was thirteen. He was my everything.

Other attractions in the amusement park are also great stress-busters for me, including the haunted house, dodge ‘em cars, the Ferris wheel and more.

And who doesn’t love the cotton candy, hot dog on a stick, outdoor cafes and other tempting gastronomic delights? You can work out later. For now, indulge and have a good time.

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My 10 Favorite Ways to Waste Time — and Not Feel Bad About It

Photo by Ryan McGuire

Photo by Ryan McGuire

So much has been written about how not to waste time that I thought it might be fun to list some of the ways we waste time all the time. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, so here are my favorite time wasters.

I should add that I don’t feel bad about doing any of these. In fact, I rather get a kick out of how good I feel after I’ve lollygagged, been consumed with and totally exhausted from any of them.

 

Getting Lost in LinkedIn

 

Networking is an absolute must for anyone in business. Whether your business is writing or recruiting or manufacturing electric cars or anything else, who you know can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Need an introduction? Your LinkedIn contacts may be able to provide that. What about a recommendation or endorsement? Ditto.

Building a LinkedIn network (or any social media, for that matter) takes time. Often, that’s a lot of time.

I know. I’ve spent many hours reading profiles of LinkedIn members, absorbing their posts and likes, commenting on what I see and hoping others will reciprocate.

Come to think of it, LinkedIn is pretty essential to what I do. There’s no way this is a waste of time.

 

Searching for the Perfect Photo

 

When I write a Daily Thoughts or blog post, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect photo to illustrate them. I can literally spend a couple of hours searching for one photo.

I use multiple free and paid sites for photos. And I love discovering new photographers.

Since my profession is writing, it’s not a stretch to say that my time spent in pursuit of just the right photo is far from a waste of time. Yet I do find that I get a little carried away at times, continuing to search through photo albums and recent posting to see what’s new – in case I want to use it sometime.

 

Writing To-Do Lists – and Promptly Losing Them

 

I’m an inveterate list-maker. I’ve gotten it down to a science, in fact. I jot down items, then prioritize them, revise and add or subtract – and then put aside the list for later.

Somehow what happens more often than not is I lose the list.

Then I start over.

All is not lost in this seemingly hopeless endeavor, however. My mind catalogs what I’ve written, cementing it in place. It lets me know that there is a list somewhere, just in case I forget. So I don’t have to worry that I’ve missed something.

And that gives me great comfort.

Just don’t ask me where my list is.

 

Going for a Walk

 

Why do I walk? I used to think it was for healthy exercise, and there certainly is that component to it. But the underlying reason I walk is that I like being out in nature.

To me, a walk affords me the opportunity to connect with life outside the home. I take the time to listen to the birds and watch them flit from tree to flower to bush and back. I particularly enjoy watching the interplay between birds, protecting their mates and nest, doing the courtship dance, feeding offspring, etc.

I also feel good knowing I’m burning fat – but that’s another story. My sore muscles tell me if I’m giving it what I need or not. Still, my 45-minute walk may be considered a waste of time to some people, but not for me. I’ll do it any chance I get.

 

Working in the Garden

 

There’s nothing like getting my hands dirty digging in the garden. Granted, I’m not that fond of some of the bugs I have to pluck out, but wrestling with weeds to give my flowers, bushes and trees room to grow gives me great satisfaction.

It’s also wonderfully fulfilling to see the results of my carefully-tended garden. Worth all the hours I toil in garden, no matter what time of the year.

 

Shopping for Organic Produce

 

I’ll admit I was a little slow getting on the organic food bandwagon, but now I’m a firm believer. So much so that I can literally spend more than an hour just roaming the aisles of my go-to grocery store (even Costco) looking at the newest organic versions of produce I’ve eaten in old form since I was a kid.

If I had to excuse my wasting time on this activity, I’d have to say that putting the healthiest food into my body is a priority. I’m OK with any amount of time I spend looking for anything organic.

 

Doing Price Comparisons on Running Shoes

 

First, a confession. I don’t run – at all. But I am an aficionado of running shoes or cross-trainers or whatever the latest athletic shoe is.

My reason for the obsession is that I want my feet to be well taken care of. Whether I’m hiking a mountain trail in the preserve near my house or traversing the mall in search of a good deal or just driving, I want a great pair of shoes on my feet.

As such, I’m always looking for the best price on shoes and have bookmarked my favorite websites. Time just flies by when I’m on the hunt.

And I don’t regret one minute of it. So, there.

 

Going for a Massage

To some people a massage is an indulgence they can do without. Not me. I learned long ago that my Thumper I bought from Relax-the-Back does a great job easing out a kink, but I’d much rather get an expert to do the work for me.

It feels so much better when I don’t have to exert myself.

And the massage professional can reach areas I can’t.

Besides, the overall effect afterward is simply out of this world. The therapeutic aspects alone are worth the time I take from my day to get the massage.

Come to think of it, I haven’t had a massage for a while. Time to make an appointment.

 

Trying Out a New Recipe

I may not be the greatest cook around, but I do enjoy trying out new recipes. Like searching for the perfect photo, checking out recipes is a real time-hog.

Once I’ve found a recipe to make, I often have to go to the store to get the ingredients. Invariably I’m missing one or more. And I learned long ago that substituting what might work usually results in a disaster.

As a professional chef once told me, stick to the recipe until you’ve amassed years of experience and absolutely know what you can safely substitute without ruining the dish.

Regarding the mess that I have to clean up when I’m done, that’s another chunk of time that necessarily has to occupy my time.

 

Watching a Great Movie

Another one of my favorite pastimes – and a huge time waster – is watching movies. I love a number of different genres, so a drama doesn’t necessarily lose out to suspense, thriller, comedy or horror.

I’d much rather watch a movie that’s gotten stellar reviews, but I’m also game to check out the little-known or obscure flicks as well. This is especially true if they’re by famous directors or ones whose other work I’ve enjoyed.

Get out the popcorn, chips, ice cream and other snacks (OK, junk food, but sometimes you just have to indulge) and I’m good to go – for at least an hour or two.

Chores can wait until later.

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What are your favorite ways to waste time? Comment below and I may do a follow-up blog post mentioning some of them – giving you credit, of course.

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5 Tips to Make the Right Choice

Photo by Dave Meier-Picography

Photo by Dave Meier-Picography

“Nothing is so exhausting as indecision, and nothing is so futile.” – Bertrand Russell

 

Standing at a crossroads and deciding which way to go is a metaphor for life. No matter who you are, you’re going to be faced with situations where you need to make a choice every day. Even deciding to do nothing is a choice, although not the most productive one.

Still, it can be extraordinarily difficult to know what the right choice is. Here are some tips that may help:

 

Tip #1: This particular choice isn’t life-altering.

Most likely, the choice you make now isn’t going to drastically change your life. It also isn’t generally going to be of long-term duration. So, you can enter into a decision with the confidence that you can revise your actions later, take a different course of action, learn from your mistakes, and keep going.

 

Tip #2: Weigh and balance your options, but do take action.

You can put off making a decision for a long time, but what does that really get you? It’s just a stall tactic that buys very little and may cost a lot. The wiser approach is to carefully review your options and tally up the one that has the most positives going for it. Then, take action. It’s much better than sitting by the sidelines doing nothing.

 

Tip #3: Seek advice from trusted others, but tailor your actions to suit your circumstances.

It’s OK, even recommended, to ask others what they think. This is especially true the more challenging or important the decision you need to make.

After you hear what your network of loved ones, family members, good friends or other trusted individuals have to say, sift everything through the lens of your mind to come up with a plan that will work for your particular situation.

 

Tip #4: If it doesn’t work, do something else.

No one is going to be successful in making the right choice every time. That’s not how life works. But giving up when you encounter disappointment or failure isn’t the way to get the most out of life. Doing something else, however, is.

If you stumble the first time out, it doesn’t mean you’re awful at making choices. It does mean there’s a lesson here you need to learn. Take stock of the lesson and figure out a new approach.

 

Tip #5: Find your best time to think about your choices.

If you try to make a decision when you’re stressed out, tired, hungry, angry or depressed, the choice you make may not be well-informed. Instead, pick a time when you’re well rested, full of energy and receptive to taking action. This may be early morning, a mid-afternoon break, after you wind down at the end of the day.

Whatever time works best for your decision-making process, when you feel you can objectively analyze the various choices and come to a reasonable, workable decision, use that time to your advantage. The choices you make will reflect this proactive approach.

 

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While you’re here, take a moment to sign up for my newsletter so you never miss a blog post or Daily Thoughts.

 

 

 

Leadership Lessons I Learned from Dad

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Among the many articles written about leadership, how leaders develop, if they’re born with the ability to lead, how to nurture and mentor someone to become a leader, I’ve rarely seen one that mentioned the importance of fathers modeling leadership for their children.

Personally, wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the lessons I learned from my dad. So, in celebration of Father’s Day and an acknowledgement of the profoundly important role fathers play in the development of their sons and daughters into leaders, I’d like to talk about my own father.

Clem Harland was the eldest son in a family of four children, one of whom died in infancy. His father was a lumberjack in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, after toiling as a farmer in North Dakota for many years. When Clem’s father died, he had to leave school to begin providing for his mother and two sisters. He took up lumberjacking, the best income potential for the family.

His mother was sickly and died young. This left Clem the sole provider for his two sisters – and he put them both through college, sacrificing his own personal needs and putting the idea of getting married and starting his own family on hold for years.

Although Clem was born with a congenital heart defect and doctors told his parents that he probably wouldn’t live past his teens, nothing deterred the young man from pursuing life to the fullest.

Whether it was lumberjacking in the bitter cold, stinging rain and dangerous conditions (his father died by being crushed between logs jammed up in the water), working a second job as a musician, taking a third job as a cook, or staying up all hours to care for his dying mother, he persevered.

Years later, when he was 31, Clem got married to Mary Jean. By now, he lived next door to her in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They soon were the parents of one boy, lost several infants to miscarriage and finally welcomed their only surviving daughter, me, some four years after the birth of their son.

Clem worked in an automobile factory in Detroit, Michigan. He generally worked the graveyard shift, coming home just as my mother was headed off to work. His health continued to deteriorate, but he never let on.

 

“Everything you want to know is in here.”

While he never went back to school to finish his education, let alone go to college, he taught himself by reading books. When I was about five and asked my dad how he knew so many things, he closed the book on astronomy he was reading and pointed to it, saying, “Everything you want to know is in here.” I thought he was talking about the stars and planets, but he meant that knowledge is readily available to those with a desire to learn.

This was my first leadership lesson from my dad.

Another came following a heated fight I had with my brother. He broke my doll (we didn’t have much, and this was my favorite toy) and I beat on him with my little fists. He was much bigger and stronger than me and just laughed. I ran to my father crying that life wasn’t fair, boys were mean and I hated my brother.

My dad listened to my complaint and comforted me as best he could. He promised to fix dolly (and he did) and told me that I should never let others take advantage of me. Even though he didn’t condone fighting (and my brother had a stern talking-to from dad as a result), he believed that individuals have to stand up for themselves.

This important leadership lesson sticks with me today. A leader doesn’t back down just because there’s opposition. He or she takes a stand and leads by example.

When I was 12, I was fearful all the time. I was aware that my father wasn’t well. I’d heard my mother discussing how the factory put him on a sweeper’s job due to his poor health. But he was still the breadwinner and the factory took care of its employees.

I began having nightmares about my dad dying. I was so frightened that I didn’t dare tell him. All I could muster was a conversation where I asked what he wanted out of life, did he ever regret his choices, and was he happy?

“…Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from following your dreams.”

His answer still brings me to tears. He said, “I have everything I ever wanted. You, your brother and your mother mean the world to me. As for my life, I am happy and blessed. What you need to know is that you can be whatever you choose to be. Don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from following your dreams.”

We even went to a local amusement park over the Fourth of July to celebrate his 52nd birthday. We screeched in glee as the cars lurched to the top of the roller coaster and flew downward with neck-straining fore.

My father was dead less than a week later. His death was massive coronary occlusion. He died on the job. The personnel people that came to the house to inform us said he died in seconds.

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I also remember long walks on the beach of Lake Michigan, running up and down the sand dunes, catching and cleaning perch and whitefish after being on the frigid lake since before dawn.

And so much more.

All these things happened decades ago, but the memories are as vivid as if it was just yesterday.

My father taught me everything I ever need to know about leadership. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

 

Why I Hate Clutter

DeathtoStock_Creative Community8

If you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to get your head in the game. The deadline’s looming, you’ve got a sore back from doing too much over the weekend, you had to skip breakfast because you slept in, and now you can’t seem to get started. Looking over your desk or workspace, all you see is clutter.

 

It’s enough to make you want to turn off the computer, get up and walk out, right?

 

For me, clutter is a big four-letter word. I just can’t stand to come to work, all ready to go (or not) and be confronted with a pile of disorganized papers, mail someone dumped in the middle of the desk instead of the inbox tray, pens that found their way into corners, empty paper ream wrappers and so on.

 

I think to myself that this is a big waste of time – but I can’t help myself. I have to tidy up before I do anything else.

 

Most of all, however, I’m angry with myself that I didn’t take the time before I left the office yesterday to do what I normally do: clean up my workspace.

 

In reality, it only takes a few minutes to do the job properly. The caveat is, of course, that it’s done regularly. It kind of defeats the purpose if the clean-up task is left undone for a solid week. That just results in a massive job that takes time away from more productive or enjoyable pursuits.

 

Here, in no particular order, are the reasons I hate clutter. Maybe some of them resonate with you.

 

  • Clutter makes me look disorganized.
  • The boss doesn’t take too kindly to a messy workspace.
  • It takes much too long to find what I’m looking for, especially when I need it quickly.
  • I can’t think clearly when I’m surrounded by clutter.
  • If it’s a leftover food container or latte, there’s a smell I have to deal with in addition to the mess left behind.
  • Ever have a problem with ants from something sticky or sweet that didn’t get cleaned up? I have. And I hate bugs even more than clutter.
  • The messier my desk looks, the worse I feel.
  • I think clutter is contagious. It often seems like my co-workers don’t tend to their mess if I don’t keep my workspace clean.
  • When I’m surrounded by clutter, I feel completely unmotivated to get anything done.
  • Clutter reminds me that I need to do a better job managing my time – so there’s enough time to take care of this annoying, but necessary, daily task.

 

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

 

I’m a big fan of Gretchen Rubin and I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from her tips on how to change your habits to live a healthier life.

 

I’ve also read books and blog posts, and watched how-to videos and presentations on time management, simplifying your life, prioritizing goals and how to become successful in everything you do. I think I’ve done my research.

 

What I’ve learned is that not only is cleanliness next to Godliness, the sign of an orderly mind and a good habit to practice, it also feels good to get rid of all that clutter.

 

It really is possible to change your habits and change your life.

 

Now, what happened to my to-do list? It was just here somewhere…

 

What irks you most about clutter? More important, what tactics do you use to deal with it?

 

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How Your Memory Suffers with Poor REM Sleep

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Photo by Jordan Whitt

Do you find yourself yawning during the day? Are you tired, listless and can’t seem to focus on the task at hand? Is it difficult to remember things – like what you have on your to-do list, what you did an hour ago, the promises you made yesterday?

You could be suffering from the effects of poor sleep.

Thanks to a study published in Science by researchers at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute at McGill University, and the University of Bern in Switzerland, there’s new awareness that rapid eye movement sleep, or REM, plays a direct role in the formation of memory.

REM sleep, also called dream sleeping, is actually the fourth and final stage of sleep. This sleep stage is characterized by rapid eye movement back, shallow breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increase, and paralysis of the legs and arms.

Although scientists already knew that the brain stores newly acquired information into different types of memories. These are spatial or emotional memories. After they are stored, they are consolidated or integrated.

But how this brain function performs has remained a mystery until the researchers proved, using optogenetics, that REM sleep is critical for the normal spatial memory formation in mice. Optogenetics is a recently developed technology that helps scientists to precisely target a population of neurons and control its activity by light.

REM sleep has long been considered a critical sleep component in all mammals, not just humans. Poor sleep quality is also becoming increasingly associated with onset of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The results from this study suggest that disrupted REM sleep may be a direct contributor to the kind of memory impairment that those with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit.

But disrupted REM sleep isn’t good for anyone, not in the short- or the long-term.

 

How to Ensure Good REM Sleep

If disrupted REM sleep is wreaking havoc with your memory, there are some things you can do to ensure you get back to having a good night of REM sleep.

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages – particularly in the hours just before you head off to bed. While alcohol may make you drowsy, it interferes with REM sleep. Caffeine, meanwhile, negatively affects REM sleep. So drink that latte earlier in the day.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress that is supportive of your body.
  • Watch out for taking certain medications, including decongestants and diet pills, because they also have a negative effect on REM sleep.
  • Medications taken to promote sleep, both prescription and over-the-counter medicine, work to suppress REM sleep.
  • Cigarette smoking is also counter-productive to a good REM sleep. That’s because nicotine withdrawal wakes the sleeper prematurely, thus disrupting adequate REM sleep.
  • Maintain a comfortable sleeping environment. If the room where you sleep is too hot or too cold, it will interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. That’s because the body loses its ability to regulate temperature during REM sleep. So, if you wake up because you’re shivering or in a sweat, your REM sleep is disrupted. It may be a while before you fall back asleep, and your REM sleep may not be enough.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Retire for the night at a consistent time and wake up at the same time each morning. When you maintain a regular sleep schedule, you’ll be giving yourself more opportunity to cycle between the various sleep stages and experience longer REM sleep later in the night.
  • Get rid of all distractions in the bedroom. Light from electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, television and computers stimulates the brain, cuts down on the production of melatonin that encourages REM sleep, and can mess up your body clock. Technology is a huge culprit in sleep-deprived individuals.
  • Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes daily – but do it 5 or 6 hours before you’re ready to go to sleep. Daily exercise has been proven to both help you sleep and allow you to stay in REM sleep longer.

 

If you try these techniques and still have a problem getting adequate REM sleep, a visit to your doctor might be in order. There could be an underlying medical condition that needs attention. For most people, however, understanding the various stages of sleep and the things that typically interfere with REM sleep, and taking proactive steps to counter them usually works.

 

Now, go ahead and get some good ZZZZs.

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