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15 Mar

“Sleepy… Verrrrry Sleepy…”

“You are feeling sleepy… verrry sleepy…” Those are the words that we think of when we imagine being hypnotized. You may have seen a stage show where a hypnosis performer gets people from the audience into a trance, and then gets them to act silly. But could hypnosis really be used to help us sleep better? For many, the answer is a resounding yes!

 

I studied hypnotherapy and got my certification years ago. I’ve found that this is an effective tool to use in many areas of our lives.

 

Hypnotherapy has been used to treat various ailments since the 18th century, although hypnosis itself dates way back to prehistoric days. Hypnosis isn’t magic, or brainwashing, it is actually a heightened state of concentration. There are many times we’ve been in a state of hypnosis and not even been aware of it – for example, when we are engrossed in a really good movie, or super focused on solving a problem. That’s when the rest of the world somehow goes away. We might be called for dinner and not even be aware of it. That’s how hypnosis works.

 

Hypnosis is often performed by a certified hypnotherapist who guides a person into a trance-like state where suggestions can then be given to the subconscious mind to help that person improve a golf game, increase their confidence levels, decrease anxiety, overcome a fear, or attain other goals such as getting a restful night’s sleep. But we don’t necessarily need a hypnotherapist to achieve these results. We can use self-hypnosis, a technique very similar to guided meditation.

 

When we have trouble getting to sleep, it’s likely that we are having trouble relaxing for one reason or another. We may be stressed, worried, or feeling anxious. Self-hypnosis is one way that we can help fix the relaxation response that triggers sleep. Hypnosis helps us to refocus our thoughts by focusing instead on certain words, music, or a soothing voice. In this way we basically retrain the brain to once again relax when it is time to sleep. We provide the mind and body all it needs to calmly drift off into a pleasant sleep state.

 

The benefit, of course, is that when we awaken from a great night’s sleep we feel more energetic and focused. So, we are naturally more productive and motivated!

 

There are many self-hypnosis apps and recordings available and you can try some to see what works for you. Some of these programs use “binaural beats” as a background “white noise” kind of sound. Before sleep the brain must achieve the delta frequency. Binaural beats, a combination of sound frequencies, are used as a tool to help sync the brainwaves to that delta frequency.

 

Autogenic training, also called Autogenic therapy, is one form of self-hypnosis. This relaxation technique was developed by Johannes Schulz, a German psychiatrist, in 1932. With Autogenics, through a series of sessions, we gradually learn to relax the limbs, heart space and breath.  The idea is to induce a feeling of warmth throughout most of the body, and a feeling of coolness in the forehead. It is a way for us to influence our own autonomic nervous system to counterbalance the effects of stress. The Autogenics technique creates a physiological response, preparing us for sleep.

 

To practice Autogenics follow these guidelines:

 

– Practice alone, in quiet, or with soft background music or environmental sounds.

– Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and no shoes.

– Practice before meals so that the digestive process doesn’t interfere with the relaxation process.

– Take your time, do not rush.

– Sit comfortably in a chair, or lie down.

– If you are practicing at bedtime, make sure your room is conducive for sleep, and that your mattress is comfortable and supportive.

– Now follow these six steps:

 

1) Warm -up: Begin slow, deep breathing. Inhale for one beat, exhale for two. With each breath, increase the duration of the inhales and exhales, always doubling the length of time for the exhales.  Breath to six counts in, and twelve counts out. Then reverse the process all the way back down to one count in and two counts out.

 

2) Heavy and Warm – Heaviness and warmth represent muscular relaxation.  Visualize and actually feel your limbs becoming heavy. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My arms and legs are” and on the exhale: “heavy and warm.” Repeat two more times.

 

3) A Calm Heart – Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My heartbeat and breathing are” and on the exhale: “calm and steady.” Repeat two more times.

 

4) A Warm Stomach – this helps you to add a central warmth and peace to your body. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My stomach is” and on the exhale: “soft and warm.” Repeat two more times.

 

5) A Cool Forehead – This helps you provide a calm, stabilizing coolness to the forehead. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My forehead is” and on the exhale: “cool.” Repeat two more times.

 

6) Completion. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “I feel” and on the exhale: “supremely calm.” Repeat two more times.

 

It is important to memorize this “script” so that you don’t have to spend energy trying to remember the words. Many people find it beneficial to record their own voice with the prompts, and this may be a good way to start. The repetition of the words helps to get the body and mind into a calm, relaxed state, which in turns promotes peaceful sleep.

 

When you are first learning Autogenics, practice this routine three times throughout the day. Before breakfast, before lunchtime, and then right before bedtime so that it helps you to fall asleep. Give it some time to see the best results. Most people notice a big, positive shift in their sleep patterns after a few weeks of practicing Autogenics.

 

Important note: Never listen to any hypnosis recording or try to use self-hypnosis while you are driving or operating heavy machinery. Also, hypnosis is not recommended for those with epilepsy or for those with any kind of psychosis. Always follow the advice of your health professional.

 

Here is a sleep hypnosis recording I made just for you!

Download
References

https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Yourself-Sleep-Using-Hypnosis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogenic_training

https://bebrainfit.com/autogenic-training/

https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2013/06/24/the-science-of-hypnosis/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hypnosis

Lissa Coffey is the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. More sleep tips at www.bettersleep.org

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23 Feb

Strengthen the Higher Self

An excerpt from Feed Your Soul by Carly Pollack

There are countless diets, cleanses, and 30-day challenges all geared to help people lose weight, heal their digestion, and feel more energy. Yet, these temporary protocols fall short when it comes to true transformation. With all of the nutrition guidance available, why do millions of people weigh more than they want and feel anxious and depressed about it?

 

Nutrition expert Carly Pollack lived this vicious cycle until trial and error, and over a decade of academic study and self-healing, led her to the incredible insights she’s shared with thousands. In Feed Your Soul: Nutritional Wisdom to Lose Weight Permanently and Live Fulfilled, she presents her unique understanding of body science, brain wiring, and spiritual principles to facilitate real, long-term change. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.

 

# # #

 

Before you can regain control of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotional state, you must first take a closer look at your internal guidance system. Two different voices are guiding you, and although they both sound like you, one is a much pushier, more obnoxious version and therefore steals most of your attention. This loud voice comes from your monkey mind, which I simply call the “mind” and many spiritual teachers call the “ego.”

 

The mind developed as a way to protect us; it was a means of survival. It helped us avoid danger and kept us alive by continually warning us of what could go wrong. As we have evolved as a species, the mind, sadly, has not. Think of it as an outdated computer that drives you crazy more than it helps you get things done. Now, I’m not saying the mind doesn’t step up in life-or-death situations. I’m talking about the other 99.999 percent of the time here.

 

The mind creates chaos through fear, judgment, comparison, and negativity. Its favorite diatribe is the one that convinces us of scarcity. We aren’t pretty, skinny, or rich enough. There isn’t enough time in the day, there aren’t enough good people in the world, and we don’t have enough willpower to make things happen. Whatever the heck it is, there just isn’t enough of it!

 

The mind’s second favorite story is that something is happening or has happened to us that “shouldn’t be” happening (or “shouldn’t have” happened). It convinces us that we aren’t supposed to have problems — and when we do, the mind creates massive suffering. The mind is excellent at dress-rehearsing a worst-case scenario. It finds a way to judge and blame as much as possible. If you aren’t judging someone else, then you are judging yourself. This constant uninvited commentary is the background of your every waking moment. From the minute you open your eyes to the moment your head hits the pillow, your mind does not shut up. Yeah, mind, I’m calling you out big-time, and I’m telling you to take a backseat; and PS, nobody likes you.

 

Luckily, there is a second guiding voice, and this one comes from your heart and soul, otherwise referred to as your intuition, true self, or inner wisdom. I like to call this voice my “higher self” because it triggers me to think about what I would say to myself if I were holding myself in the highest regard. Find a name for this place of wisdom that feels good to you, and begin to call on this voice to take the upper hand. Your higher self comes through in a whisper, a gentle guidance. It is always kind, compassionate, and loving. This voice lives only in the present moment, and it is available to us anytime we can quiet the mind enough to hear it. From this place, we are never arguing with “what is” because we are living in the moment, making new decisions as they arise.

 

Close your eyes right now (well, after you read these instructions) and place your right hand on your belly and your left hand over your heart. Take three slow, deep breaths. Now ask yourself gently, “What does my higher self have to say about this issue?” If you don’t hear anything right away, simply say, “I’m willing to slow down my mind and make room for my highest wisdom to come through.”

 

Because your mind has taken center stage for most of your life, it may take some practice to get your higher self to begin speaking up. Next time you are in a place of mental anguish, prompt yourself with the following questions:

 

  • What would I tell my best friend in this situation? What would be my sage advice?
  • Could this mean something different? What if the opposite of what I’m thinking is true?
  • What would love do? What would love say?
  • What do I think my future self (twenty years from now) would tell me about this problem or situation?

 

Listening to your higher self is the first step to taking back control from the mind. Witnessing your thoughts without giving in to them, while stepping back and deciding what you choose to think, is one of the most powerful tools you have for living a joyful life. If you control your mind, you control your plate. If you control your plate, you take back control of your body and your health.

 

# # #

 

Carly Pollack is the author of Feed Your Soul and is the founder of Nutritional Wisdom, a thriving private practice based in Austin, Texas. A Certified Clinical Nutritionist with a master’s degree in holistic nutrition, Carly has been awarded Best Nutritionist in Austin five years running and has helped over 10,000 people achieve their health and happiness goals. Visit her online at www.carlypollack.com

 

Excerpted from the book Feed Your Soul. Copyright ©2019 by Carly Pollack. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

 

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23 Feb

Guidelines for Effective Communication

An excerpt from Loving through Your Differences by James L. Creighton, PhD

Couples fight. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes these fights provide comic relief. At other times they threaten the very survival of the relationship.

 

Psychologist and relationship consultant James Creighton wrote his new book Loving through Your Differences: Building Strong Relationships from Separate Realities to help reduce conflict between couples, especially those that are based on different perceptions or experiences of reality. The book’s primary aim is to empower couples with the knowledge and practical skills they need to choose to live happily and productively together, finding excitement and fulfillment, rather than disappointment and frustration, in their differences. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt.

 

# # #

 

In order for couples to jointly reexamine the meanings that they give to each other’s behavior and find new ways of relating to each other, they need to share feelings, thoughts, and beliefs at a very deep level. This requires that both partners feel safe — meaning that they don’t feel judged or criticized for feeling the way they do.

 

To create a safe environment, couples need to communicate responsibly. This means avoiding behaviors that force the other person into polarized positions. When conflicts get out of control, it is difficult to acknowledge how our own interpretations may have added to the dispute. Yet it is this kind of behavior that can move disputes beyond arguments over who is right into intimate sharing about our most important feelings.

 

Both people must learn to recognize and avoid communication rooted in blame or judgment, concentrating instead on communicating emotions and the meanings that create them. Even when the other person’s communication seems to create conflict, you can make choices about how you respond. If you can imagine that each of you is a country, your job is to describe what’s going on in your country rather than interpreting or judging what’s going on in the other one.

 

Guidelines for Responsible Communication

 

Here are some basic guidelines for communicating your feelings in a way that reduces defensiveness and reaction:

 

  • Take Responsibility for Your Feelings One of the biggest causes of fights between loved ones is blaming the other person for your feeling: “You made me feel…” As we’ve discussed, your feelings are not caused by an external event alone, but also by the meaning you give to the event. Those meanings are yours, not the other person’s. If we’re brutally honest, you made you feel whatever you feel.

 

When you say the other person is responsible for what you feel, that person is likely to feel blamed or accused. They may become defensive and want to protect themselves. We have the beginnings of a full-on battle.

  • State Feelings, Not JudgmentsWhen we are in conflicts rooted in different perceptions and different emotional realities, it is imperative that we communicate feelings, not judgments. Acknowledging our feelings — feeling hurt, rejected, or angry — is essential to understanding our emotional realities. But expressing judgments — saying that our partner is being unkind, unfair, or cruel — gets in the way. It makes it almost impossible to turn the search for understanding into an exciting joint venture. Instead, both people feel accused, put down, and angry.

 

Most of us have learned to communicate in what can be called “you” messages, which are often expressions that judge, challenge, or blame the other person, like these:

“You made me feel…” (blaming the other person for your feelings)

“You are being…” (judging the other person)

“Why are you…?” (challenging or questioning the other person)

One way to remind yourself to communicate a feeling, not a judgment, is to start your sentence with “I’m…” or “I feel…” Psychologists and counselors refer to this kind of message as an “I” message. Here is a comparison of “you” messages and “I” messages:

  • Connect Your Feelings to a Description of the Behavior or CircumstancesIt’s true that just stating a feeling is not enough. If all Alice says is “I’m embarrassed,” Jorge is not going to understand her. Some explanation is needed for why she is embarrassed. But this is a place where judgments can slip in. Efforts to communicate feelings sometimes go awry. For example, Alice might say: “I was really embarrassed when you were so rude.” The only word Jorge will hear in that entire sentence is rude. That’s because Alice has connected her feelings with a big fat judgment. She’s mixed an “I” message with a “you” message.

 

Just putting “I feel” in front of a judgment doesn’t make it any less of a judgment. If Alice were to confine her comments to a description of Jorge’s behavior, avoiding judgment, she might say: “I really felt embarrassed when you said what you did to Irene.” That’s an effort to describe Jorge’s behavior without judging it.

  • Tell the Other Person What You NeedSometimes it’s enough for couples to share their feelings about something that has happened; at other times it is helpful for them to tell the each other what they need in order to avoid conflict in the future. For example, when Peter comes home from work, he finds it really upsetting if the house is all messy. Having an orderly environment helps him feel at ease. He’d really like to come home to a tidy house. But he and his wife have three kids, all under seven years old.

Here is Peter’s attempt to send an “I” message:

I’m upset when the toys are left on the floor. I really need calm and order when I first get home from work.

He takes responsibility for his feelings by saying “I’m upset,” rather than “You are upsetting me.”

 

He tries to communicate a feeling rather than a judgment with “I’m upset” rather than “You’re not keeping the kids under control.”

 

He describes a behavior rather than judging it: “when the toys are left on the floor” instead of “when everything is so messy.”

 

And he expresses what he needs: “I really need calm and order when I first get home from work.”

 

To put it another way, you can construct an “I” message as follows:

 

I’m (or “I feel”) _________ [emotion] when _________ [description of behavior or circumstances]. I need _________ [the change you would like to see].

 

“I” messages do not automatically bring about the result you want. People may still feel upset, hurt, or angry even when you send a good “I” message. Your job is to express your feelings in ways that minimize the risk that the other person will feel the need to react defensively. Their feelings are their own responsibility. If both people send “I” messages, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of a fight, or speed the recovery if you are both upset.

 

# # #

 

James L. Creighton, PhD, is the author of Loving through Your Differences and several other books. He has worked with couples and conducted communications training for nearly 50 years around the world. Visit him online at www.jameslcreighton.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Loving through Your Differences. Copyright ©2019 by James L. Creighton. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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11 Feb

Crafting the Perfect Love Letter

By: Dalma Heyn & Richard Marek, authors of How to Fall in Love

 

Let me tell you a story of a botched attempt at crafting love letters.

The hero of How to Fall in Love : A Novel is a master of love letters—of reading, collecting appreciating them.  He is putting together a retrospective of one of the greatest love-letter anthologists of all time, and in doing so, reads history’s most elegant and familiar love letters, from those of James Joyce to those of Napoleon.  But, knowledgeable as he is, when it comes time for him to write a love letter to his own beloved, Eve, he caves. He can’t do it. Here he is, surrounded by the world’s most brilliant love letters, and he feels as if his own words will sound silly and empty and banal.  So he “borrows” those of the greats instead of speaking in his own voice, admittedly a rather tongue-tied voice, and pretends they’re his own.

Of course that can’t work! He’s plagiarizing, for one thing. For another, he’s broken the only one rule there is in love-letter writing, and that’s SPEAK FROM YOUR HEART.  You can’t copy another’s love letters. You can’t steal others’ expressions of love.  You can’t even mimic them. A love letter is nothing else if not a genuine, heartfelt, authentic, idiosyncratic articulation of your own very personal, very specific feelings for the unique object of your love. It’s your rhythm; your humor; your way of relating.

Other than being as specific as you can about your feelings and making sure you’re writing something pure and not loaded or hiding another agenda (a love letter must have no agenda other than to express your bursting feelings), there are no rules of craft. Unlike the business letter, with its carefully presented details and rigid format; or the letter of apology, with its crucially important elements of regret for bad behavior and desire to make it up to the offended person; the love letter is a completely wild and lawless entity. It can be on scrap paper. It can be written with lipstick on a mirror.  Nothing is limited to procedure, per se,  in the love letter—neither format nor grammar nor substance, even.  Only that the lover express with clarity and imagination precisely what’s in the writer’s heart, and do so, it is hoped, in a way that the beloved is touched, moved, charmed, amused.  It’s a work of art, the love letter. Not replicable. It can’t be duplicated because only the writer feels the specific feelings and he can’t feel that way about anybody else or express himself to anyone else in this form. How personal that fact is! So his goal is to convey, maybe with some wit and imagination, that which will strike the beloved as real and true and specific to her. Specificity is key:  you’re after connection, after all, and to connect well, your emotions must resonate with your lover.  And only you know how that can be done. Because after all, only you know her this well. It’s your love  and your love alone that has broken through to her. You have a pipeline to her heart , as she has to yours.

If there are any “rules” at all, they’re rules of forethought. You’re bursting with the need to express your feelings—but is this a good moment? Is your lover so occupied with other things that to present a letter now is just  bad timing– and inflicting on her your deepest feelings is going to feel more like a burden than a joy? Are you writing a letter at a time you’re bound to get hurt, or be cast aside—because of external events? Think carefully about timing.  And, are you able to put yourself  aside enough to speak only of appreciation and the miracle of love—and not, instead, itemize all the ways you’re being boosted by love?  (A letter that says, in effect, I love you because you do this and this for me and without you I’d never have accomplished this and this and this…is an eloquent thank-you note.  But a love letter it isn’t.)

A love letter is generous. It’s specific. It’s unafraid. It’s in your voice. It’s about the beloved and only the beloved. It’s a bare-your-soul expression that only you can write—so write it when you feel emotions well up in your heart along with the glorious urge to express them.

***

IS YOUR LOVE LETTER SWOON-WORTHY ENOUGH TO WIN A TIFFANY RING?

New York Times Best-Selling Authors Share Tips to Win

The 2019 Love Letter Contest

In the era of online dating, Cupid’s age-old trappings like hand-written love notes have fallen by the wayside. But this timeless display of affection will never go out of style. Given the rarity, a love letter could be just what you need to win over that crush, rekindle the romance, or even show your squad-love for Galentine’s Day. When was the last time you told someone you loved how you really felt?  Where do you even begin?

Luckily, expert writers Dalma Heyn and Richard Marek have your back.

This husband and wife team of New York Times best-selling authors are sharing insight and advice to communicating love in the digital age.  

Whether it’s platonic or romantic, Heyn and Marek will show your audience secrets to crafting the perfect love letter, the three things every lover note must have, and the complexity of communicating love in the age of Tinder. They also have examples of hilarious “worst ever” letters that encourage the audience to respond with their own “worst evers.”

ABOUT THE 2019 LOVE LETTER CONTEST:

To celebrate the release on Feb 5 of their new book, How to Fall in Love, Heyn and Marek are on a nationwide search to find the perfect love letter. The 2019 Love Letter Contest runs until April 30, it is totally free to enter, and the winner will be announced on May 15.

The winner will receive:

  • A rose-gold Tiffany Paloma Picasso Love Ring  (valued at $500).
  • A framed, gorgeously hand-written copy of their letter.
  • Your winning letter shared (if the winner chooses) with our entire social network.

Participating is easy. All you need to do is:

  1. Bare your soul in writing (okay, that part might not be all that easy).
  2. Send your love letter to us at thestoryplant@thestoryplant.com.
  3. That’s it! (You might, of course, want to share the love letter with the person you were writing it to, but that’s entirely up to you.)

To see the complete set of contest rules, click HERE.

 

ABOUT AUTHORS DALMA HEYN & RICHARD MAREK:

Husband and wife team Dalma Heyn and Richard Marek are the authors of  How to Fall in Love , a provocative love story for the digital age. Heyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller The Erotic Silence of the American Wife, Marriage Shock and Drama Kings.  Her books, published in 35 countries, have been best-sellers both here and abroad. Richard Marek is one of the most accomplished book editors and publishers of his generation, working with writers James Baldwin, Thomas Harris, and Robert Ludlum, among many others. He is the author of Works of Genius and has ghostwritten a number of best-sellers.

 

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04 Feb

Ancient Secrets of Seduction

“Tantra” means “instrument of the body.” It sounds exotic, but it is actually very simple. Tantra teaches us to use all five of our senses consciously, because our senses are how we are connected with the physical world. And of course, it is with our five senses that we connect with each other, too. If you’re looking to up the romance quotient in your relationship, here are a few tips from ancient India. And for good measure, let’s use the romantic rose in each example. Red roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Red signifies desire!

Touch (“Sparsa” in Sanskrit)

The skin marks the visible limits of the body; it is where we make contact with the world. Our skin is our largest organ, and 16% of our body weight. With touch we experience much of our environment: temperature, clothes, sheets, shower, etc. Wake up the sense of touch with massage. Use different materials and textures, such as a feather, a velvet hat, baby powder, a silk scarf, or rose petals. Infuse sesame oil, or unscented body lotion with rose petals, or rose essential oil for a wonderful massage oil.

Smell (“Gandha” in Sanskrit)

Women are particularly sensitive to smells. Our pheromones are the scents that we give off without even realizing it. These pheromones train us to recognize and desire our partners. When people stop smoking, they are amazed by how much they rediscover their sense of smell. Studies have shown that the loss of the olfactory sense is often accompanied by a loss in sexual interest, so it is a good idea to keep our noses functioning optimally! Fragrances have quite an allure to them. Roses just smell like romance. Use rose-scented candles, and sprinkle rose petals in the bathtub. Shower together with rose-scented shower gel.

Taste (“Rasa” in Sanskrit)

Is it any wonder that we say we have a certain “taste” in partners? The tongue is super-sensitive. By blocking out the other senses, by closing your eyes for example, you can focus on the taste more fully. Love is sweet — there’s a reason why we call each other honey and sweetie and cupcake! Savor and delight in the tastes and textures of various foods and drinks: whipped cream, chocolate, a strawberry — and, yes, rose! Sweet rose tea is made for romance! It smells wonderful and tastes divine — and it is the perfect way to end a romantic meal. Tulsi Rose Tea has the added benefit of helping you to relax, and de-stress…to get you in the mood for romance! It is easy to make your own blend of rose tea with dried rose petals, or dried rosebuds, steeped in hot water.

Sound (“Sabda” in Sanskrit)

Sounds have a profound effect on the body. Studies have shown that sounds can open up our inner pharmacy and balance our physiology. They can help us to be healthier, and to generally feel better. What sound do roses make? They’re silent. Sweet and soft. Whisper sweet nothings to your loved one. Play soft, sweet music. Dance with the rose between your teeth, let your body move to the rhythm, breathe gently into your partner’s ear.

Sight (“Rupa” in Sanskrit)

For romance, it’s all about lighting. Think pink — use rose-colored light bulbs, so you naturally see things more rosy! Dine by candlelight. Spread rose petals on the table. Make a trail of rose petals that leads to a surprise. Do a few Bollywood shimmies, put on a show. Look into each other’s eyes until you get lost. Feel the intense connection that you create.

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21 Jan

Better Sleep Can Warm Up A Relationship

For couples having trouble under the sheets, improving their relationship could be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.

Catching extra winks together in bed can significantly help improve a relationship. A good night’s sleep is restorative to the mind and body, gives us energy and improves our mood—all attributes that can make us better partners in romantic relationships. On the other hand, a poor night’s sleep —often the result of a couple’s mismatched sleep styles— can be a major problem for a relationship.

Many couples can live happily together, but they can’t sleep well side-by-side, which can negatively impact their relationship. Sleeping together is an important way for couples to feel connected with each other. And not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling sluggish, cranky and hard to get along with.

If your partner’s sleep style is keeping you up at night here are some tips to bring harmony back to the bedroom and into your relationship:

1.
Problem: Your partner kicks in his or her sleep, waking you up.
Solution: Make sure your bed gives each sleeper enough sleep surface to move around comfortably. For couples sharing a bed, the mattress should be at least queen-sized.

2.
Problem: Your partner likes it hot, you like it cool.
Solution: Ideally, your bedroom should be a cool 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. But a few simple adjustments can make it possible for a person who craves heat and a person who craves cool to sleep side by side comfortably.
• Double-fold the blankets so there is more coverage on one side.
• Invest in a dual-control electric blanket or a twin-sized electric blanket on one side.

3.
Problem: Your partner snores, keeping you up at night.
Solution: Snoring can be a serious health concern, so make sure to consult your physician. If your partner’s snoring is not a serious health condition, try alternative treatments like investing in anti-snore pillows, sprays or nasal strips that are designed to help people breathe more easily.

4.
Problem: Your partner tosses and turns.
Solution: It may be your mattress. Mattresses should be evaluated for optimum comfort and support every five to seven years.

5.
Problem: Your partner loves to cuddle, but you like your space while you sleep.
Solution: Compromise. Before falling asleep, spend some time snuggling together and then agree to sleep apart.

6.
Problem: Your sleep schedules don’t match.
Solution: Try finding a bedtime that works for both of you. Be considerate if you are a night owl or an early riser compared to your sleep partner. Keep overhead lights off and use minimal lighting while you are awake and your partner is asleep.

A bad night’s sleep affects your mood, work and relationships with others. Sleep, like proper diet and exercise, is essential to overall well-being.

More sleep tips at BetterSleep.org

Sleep Tips video

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14 Jan

More Birthdays: A Reason to Celebrate!

Recent survey results released by the American Cancer Society reinforce, once again, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and the findings are definitely cause for celebration. The online survey, which showed a strong link between health and attitudes about birthdays, revealed that people who say they are in excellent health are more likely to consider birthdays special and exciting events.

In addition, the survey found that people who say they are in excellent health are nearly twice as likely to love celebrating birthdays, generally consider them fun and feel more special on their birthday than people who say they are in poor health.

Clearly, these results are another reminder about the benefits of leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Not only will you look and feel great, but you’ll also be a brilliant birthday party guest!

The results are part of the Society’s Official Sponsor of Birthdays campaign, which asks people to imagine a world with more birthdays. More birthdays mean more time with our friends and family, and more opportunities to celebrate the important milestones in their lives.

A big part of the American Cancer Society’s effort to create more birthdays is helping people stay well by making healthy choices in their daily lives. Whether you’re planning a party for a child, an adult, or yourself, there are fun and creative ways to make your celebration one that will help create more birthdays for years to come.

Get Active.
To get your guests moving, pick an action-oriented theme for your birthday celebration — pool parties, soccer games, dance parties, or scavenger hunts are great fun for kids and grown-ups alike. There’s nothing like a little healthy competition!

Be Prepared.
If you’re hosting an outdoor party, have sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and extra hats on hand for guests who might have forgotten them. If you’re hosting your celebration indoors, find a smoke-free restaurant or venue or have it at your house and remind guests that cigarettes aren’t welcome.

Stay Food-Smart.
We know birthdays are about celebrating, but you can have your cake and stay healthy, too. There are plenty of healthy and delicious foods you can choose to share with your guests. Consider serving low-fat snacks like popcorn, pretzels, and baked chips and salsa and healthy meal options like grilled chicken or shrimp skewers. You can bake healthier, too, by making your birthday cake from scratch so you can control the ingredients and make smart substitutions like swapping butter for applesauce.

Give the gift of more birthdays.
Joining the movement to create a world with more birthdays isn’t limited to your own special celebration. By giving birthday gifts to friends and loved ones throughout the year with health and wellness in mind, you can help the people you care about look forward to more candles to light. Here are some creative gift ideas to help people stay well:

For cooks or want-to-be cooks
:
Package flavored oils and vinegars in a large bowl made for salads.
Create a basket filled with healthy cooking utensils such as an apple corer, zester, lemon/lime juicer, garlic crusher, ginger, and nutmeg graters.
For the portion size conscious cook (and eater), consider giving a food scale, measuring cups, and/or attractive measuring spoons.

For foodies:
Create a basket with cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit, with perhaps a decorative cheese spreader.
Package dried fruits and nuts in a unique serving dish with pretty cocktail napkins.
Collect your favorite healthy recipes and give them in a recipe journal so they can also record their own.
Give a cooking class gift certificate.
Give a subscription to a favorite healthy cooking magazine.
Give a gift certificate to your favorite local healthy restaurant.

For those wanting to be more active
:
Give a gift certificate to a local athletic shoe and apparel store.
Include a step counter/pedometer with an mp3 player.
Package a jump rope, exercise band, set of hand weights, and/or workout ball for an all around healthy workout.
Make coupons for babysitting so your friend can work out while you watch the kids.
Make workout buddy coupons and commit to get up three days a week to walk before work with your friend, if that’s what she wants to do.
Give a gift certificate for a tennis lesson, packaged with a water bottle and flashy colored tennis balls.
Give a gift certificate for a golf lesson, with a book on the best public courses to play (and encourage your golfing buddy to join the USGA Walking Member Program).
Give a gift subscription to a favorite health magazine such as Fitness, Runners World, Walking, Golf Digest, Bicycling, etc.
Give an exercise mat and workout tapes or CDs for home use.
Volleyball net and ball.
Badminton racquets and shuttlecocks.
A yearly pass to a local or national park.
Croquet set.
Baby jogger.

Thanks in part to the efforts of the American Cancer Society, eleven million cancer survivors will mark their birthdays this year. What’s not to celebrate about that?

To join me and the Society in the movement for more birthdays, visit www.morebirthdays.com.

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07 Jan

Time Well Spent: Volunteering in the Foster Care System

Time is a commodity. It’s been compared with money. We only have so much of it in this lifetime, so time is precious. And how we spend our time says a lot about what is important to us. Recently I’ve had a big change in where I’ve been finding my time spent – and it has surprised me, in many wonderful ways.

 

I’ve done the career thing, a couple of times over in a couple of different incarnations. And I’ve done the mom thing — wholeheartedly: from carpools and karate, to homework and heartache and everything in between. And all along the way I’ve been involved with some kind of service. But it was always secondary to the job, or the kids, because there is only so much time to go around, especially for a working mom.

 

When my boys left for college I found myself with time on my hands. This is something that hasn’t happened since I gave birth. Yes, I’ve still got work, but a person can only sit in front of a computer for so many hours a day without going crazy! I decided to volunteer at a group foster home.

 

The process for this is quite extensive. I had to go through security clearance, including fingerprinting and a TB test. And I also had to go through training. It took a couple of months for all the paperwork to go through, but now I’m officially a volunteer. And I love it!

 

In the past, when I’ve volunteered it was all about making gift baskets for silent auctions, going to lunch meetings, and selling raffle tickets to raise money for the organization. I wanted to contribute in a different way, to actually work with the kids. In one of my work incarnations I was a modeling school teacher, so I have experience working with teen girls. This population is the most “at-risk” in the foster care world and I felt it was a place where I could make some sort of a difference. At this particular foster home, there are 14 teen girls who live on campus.

 

A group foster home is often the last stop for kids. At this point they have nowhere else to go. Most of them are there through no fault of their own. If they have parents, their parents are abusive, addicted to drugs, or in jail. Or they are simply unable to cope with the difficulties that their child is going through. Most of the kids are SED, or severely emotionally disturbed. This foster home has family outreach, and things like parenting classes, with the goal of bringing the family back together again. But the reality is that just about 3% of the kids who arrive at group homes eventually return to a healthy family situation.

 

I waltzed in to the girls cottage thinking this was going to be fun, that the girls would be happy to see me, and that we’d have tea parties and book clubs. I quickly learned to not have any expectations, or any particular plans, and to just be present for whatever needs they had at the moment. One of the staff members told me that these kids are like porcupines. They are withdrawn, and suspicious, and have their spikes up to protect themselves. You need to approach cautiously, and gently. And when a porcupine throws out a spike, you can’t be surprised, or angry, because it’s just the nature of the animal. With everything these kids have been through in their young lives, it is completely understandable for them to be on guard.

 

Where we started to bond was in the kitchen. These girls need their spirits to be fed, and sometimes the best way to do that is by starting with their stomachs. Group homes aren’t known for their gourmet cuisine, and the weekend dinners are the most dreaded of all the meals. By cooking together, good wholesome meals with lots of fresh vegetables, we were able to fill up the cottage with yummy smells that made the place feel much more like a home than an institution. While cooking we can talk amongst the activity, so there are no awkward pauses. And we have a mutual goal that we accomplish together, something tangible to both serve and enjoy in a delicious meal.

 

I’ve been going up there every Sunday to make dinner with the girls. And I find that during the week, I miss them, so I’m up there at least a couple of times in the afternoons just to hang out, help them with their projects, and generally be available. I’ve given them books, and DVDs, and I bring fresh fruit for after school snacks. But what they really appreciate, more than anything, is my time. It’s just the being there that really makes a difference. And as time goes on, I’m discovering that more and more, this is where I am choosing to spend my time. Vedic philosophy says that the three most important things we can give our children are attention, affection, and time. The children in the foster care system are starved for all three. And this is something that any of us can provide without spending a dime.

 

As I learn more about how everything works with foster care, I’m finding more ways that those of us who want to help can really make a difference.

 

Right now there are more than 780,000 children in the United States who are in the foster care system because they are unable to live safely at home. Most of these children are there through no fault of their own, but because their parents can’t, or won’t, take care of them. The children often have difficulty trusting people, and making lasting relationships because so many strangers come in and out of their lives: police officers, lawyers, judges, therapists, social workers, and foster parents. If they are placed in a group home, there is also several different staff throughout the week to watch over the kids. They can be moved from home to home, and school to school, with little or no notice. It can be daunting, and even scary for a child.

 

Thankfully, there is a volunteer organization called CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to look out for specific children in the overburdened legal and social service system. These volunteers make sure that the children’s needs are being met, that they aren’t getting lost in the system, or languishing in a group or foster home that is not appropriate for them. The CASA stays with the child until the case is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. Because foster kids move around so much, many times the CASA volunteer is the one constant adult presence, the one adult they can count on to care for them, and advocate for them. The CASA volunteer really gives the child a voice, by speaking on the child’s behalf in the courtroom and in team meetings so that the needs of the child are addressed and met.

 

If you have some time to spend, and you want to make a lifelong difference for a child who really needs your help, consider volunteering in a foster home. Or even better, consider becoming a CASA. Last year, more than 68,000 CASA volunteers served more than 240,000 abused and neglected children through 1,018 program offices. CASA volunteers have helped more than two million children since the program was established in 1977. Currently there are not enough CASA volunteers to go around. Statistics show that children with a CASA volunteer are far more likely to find the services and resources they need and go on to lead successful and productive lives. Now can’t we all consider that to be time well spent?

For more information, visit the CASA website: nationalcasa.org

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18 Dec

A Grateful Generous Heart

An excerpt from The Jewel of Abundance by Ellen Grace O’Brian

Although millions of Westerners practice yoga simply for its health benefits, the philosophy and wisdom behind the multifaceted discipline have far more to offer. In The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga, award-winning author and Kriya Yoga teacher Ellen Grace O’Brian reveals an overlooked aspect of yoga: its powerful teachings on prosperity. She draws upon the ancient Vedic tradition of yoga philosophy and practice and shows how spirituality and earthly success can complement each other, leading to realization of the higher Self. O’Brian presents a clear explanation of both the philosophy of yoga and the nuts and bolts of practice, such as setting up a daily meditation routine, incorporating mantras, discerning how to cooperate with universal principles for complete well-being, and cultivating mindfulness in action. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

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A grateful heart is a magnet that draws to us what is harmonious and good. This idea is reflected in a playful metaphysical adage: not, “We see things as they are,” but, “We see things as we are.” In other words, our state of mind and consciousness color our perception and determine how we see and experience things. Taken a step further, this dynamic explains how we also then draw to us what corresponds with our consciousness. When our hearts are grateful, when we approach others and life itself with gratitude for all that is given, we generally reap more of the same. The opposite is true as well. When we’re down and depressed and can’t see much good anywhere — that experience will tend to compound itself.

Life in the manifest realm is mixed — light and dark, hot and cold, day and night, up and down, fast and slow, and so on it goes. But beyond all duality and changing phenomena is the unchanging Absolute Reality that we can know as good, as whole and completely supportive of its divine purpose. Isn’t it better for us to call forth the good in every situation? To call it forth in every moment? We can do this through training our mind to extract what is good, what is praiseworthy or useful, and gratitude is one way to do that. Simply look deeply into any relationship, or any situation, and ask what there is to be grateful for. There is always something. When we find it, and call it forth, our heart opens and we become more receptive to the presence of divine grace at hand.

Which comes first, gratitude or grace? They seem to arise together. Gratitude is our natural response to the gift of grace, and gratitude itself opens us to the awareness of ever-present divine support. When we work hard toward something and accomplish it, or desire something and attain it, we generally feel good, and along with that we feel some relief — a kind of “job well done!” out-breath. A very different feeling arises when we become aware of the powerful presence of divine grace that has allowed us to experience more than we ever could have without divine support. On those occasions, we feel something else. We feel awe. We are amazed, inspired, and yes, grateful.

The distinction between relief and awe is a good indicator. It gives us a glimpse into how expansive our life is, how awesome it is or can be.

 

Gratitude Practice

Gratitude stretches us to be bigger, to expand our consciousness, to open our hearts and our minds more fully. When we begin the practice of cultivating gratitude, we often notice that it’s generally easier to feel grateful for what we like, for what we want or find pleasant. It’s more difficult to experience gratitude when what comes our way is unwanted.

I once worked with a woman who had an amazing gratitude practice. It was so pervasive that it was contagious. I found myself feeling grateful for her because her grateful attitude made our encounters so pleasant. Her responses frequently surprised me and helped me to expand my perspective. This was her practice: Whatever I offered her, she responded with a genuine “Thank you!” Her response was always the same. If I offered her my praise and gratitude for something she did well, she would thank me. If I let her know that she had made a mistake or that something was not done well or right, her response was still “Thank you!” This was the key that made this practice so effective. She was truly grateful, her words accompanied by a genuine smile. She never gave one of those “thank you” nods accompanied by a smirk. How did she do that? I never asked her, but my guess is that she was a natural at cultivating spiritual awakening through selfless service. She did what she did as an offering, as her way of worship. She was grateful when it went well, and she was grateful when it did not because that gave her an opportunity to learn.

Being able to say “thank you” to what comes, both pleasant and unpleasant, is unconditional gratitude. “Thank you” can be said aloud when appropriate, or silently as a prayer, but let’s say it! We can practice offering gratitude for something or someone that has pleased us and for something or someone that has not. The first is easy. The second, not so easy. It becomes easier as we hold that whatever comes into our life and experience always brings an opportunity for us. What will we do with that opportunity? When we meet it with gratitude, our potential to prosper and grow in love is multiplied.

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Ellen Grace O’Brian is the author of The Jewel of Abundance and director of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose, CA. Ellen is a yogacharya (an esteemed yoga teacher), a radio host, and an award-winning poet who weaves poetry into her teachings on spiritual matters, pointing to the mystical experience beyond words and thought. Ordained by a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, she has been teaching Kriya Yoga philosophy and practice nationally and internationally for over three decades. Visit her online at www.ellengraceobrian.com.

 

Excerpted from the book The Jewel of Abundance: Finding Prosperity through the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga. Copyright ©2018 by Ellen Grace O’Brian. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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17 Dec

Heal Yourself with Ayurveda: The Science of Life

Ayurveda is India’s 5,000 year old “Science of Life.” It is the art of living in harmony with nature, and it explains the nature of everything in the universe. When we learn about Ayurveda, we learn about ourselves, how we “tick,” and how we can be our healthiest and happiest at all times.

Ayurveda teaches us to live life in balance. And it helps us to find exactly what that balance is for each one of us. We learn individual strategies for diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Since health is more than the physical, it is also mental, emotional, and spiritual, Ayurveda can be used to help us create and maintain healthy relationships. It can help us to better understand ourselves, and the people in our lives. We can work with our natural strengths to help balance each other out. We can stop trying to “change” others to fit our needs, and instead accept a person’s characteristics as a part of their wholeness, and honor who they are.

Ayurvedic principles can be applied to our work and career, to help us find and live our dharma, or purpose in life. They can help us with our family lives, in parenting, and to help resolve conflicts. Ayurveda is a lifestyle that shows us how to take care of ourselves, in a simple, practical, and loving way.

Ayurveda is a holistic approach to balancing body, mind and spirit. The ayurvedic system divides people into three basic mind-body types, or ‘’doshas’’: vata, pitta and kapha. We each have all three doshas in our physiology, just in different proportions. Your dosha is individual to you, just like a fingerprint. Start by taking the quiz, just 24 quick questions, to determine what your dosha is. This is a general introduction to Ayurveda.

Vata dosha types are known for their lanky frames, picture Keira Knightley, or Adrien Brody. They tend to be pranksters, like Ashton Kutcher, or spontaneous cut-ups like Cameron Diaz and Will Smith.

Pitta dosha types are ambitious and intense, which explains Madonna’s multi-tasking career. And they can be critical, like Simon Cowell. Pittas are also muscular, and make good athletes, like Mia Hamm, and Kobe Bryant.

Kapha dosha types are down-to-earth and easy-going. Think Tom Hanks, and Liv Tyler. Kaphas have beautiful big eyes and lips, like Angelina Jolie, and rich, velvety voices like Placido Domingo and Beyonce.

When you know your dominant dosha you gain insight into how your mind and body naturally operate. Because westerners have embraced the practice of yoga, we are now starting to explore Ayurveda. In India, the practice of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda are intertwined. They are sister-sciences that complement each other. They are synergistic, working better when practiced together.

I started living the Ayurvedic lifestyle while I was researching my first book: “The Healthy Family Handbook: Natural Remedies for Parents and Children.” One of the healing modalities that I explored in the book was Ayurveda, and the more I learned about it, the more it resonated with me. I have studied with Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. David Simon, Dr. Vasant Lad, and many other renown physicians in the field of Ayurveda. And I went to India to learn more about Ayurveda first hand. My book, “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love” is the first and only book about Ayurveda and relationships. And now I have a brand new 8 week course that I am doing in partnership with Daily Om: “Heal Yourself with Ayurveda.” Throughout the course, which includes text and video, you will learn everything you need to know to get started living an Ayurvedic lifestyle and be on your way to a life of balance and bliss.

For more information, and to sign up for the course: “Heal Yourself with Ayurveda” click here.

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