A leader in mental health awareness, Graeme is one of Australia’s foremost experts on how to help individuals and organisations thrive. His comprehensive blog shares tips, research and advice about resilience, mental wellness, leadership and organisational diversity and change.
Many people are overwhelmed by the rate of change in the workplace. As we rush into the digital revolution, workplaces can seem less human, and yet we all yearn to feel accepted for who we are. Loneliness at work has become a significant problem.
We want to be part of a caring team, have a purpose that excites us, and the opportunity to grow. So, what are the ingredients of a caring and successful team?
What does a caring team look like?
I recentlyshared about an exercise I do in my workshops, where I invite attendees to reflect on their best team ever (BTE). I then ask them to discuss what were the one or two qualities that made that team different to their other teams.
These were the top 5 foundations of their BTE.
We had each other’s back
We had fun
We had complementary strengths
We were resourceful
We had an exciting purpose and clear goals
I then ask the groups, “Did you care about each other?” The room always universally nods.
This exercise led to THE CARE CREW CREDO below.
The #1 predictor of a caring team is a caring leader. What evidence supports this?
Does evidence support that caring leadership is desirable?
The evidence below supports this is also good for business, and why caring is more valuable than ever.
The more employees that strongly agree with this Gallup Engagement Survey question: “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.” – the higher the profit, productivity, customer services levels, and the longer an employee stays with the company (Rath, T el al, Strengths Based Leadership, Gallup Press).
Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School proves that psychologically safety is the #1 predictor for the best performing teams at innovation powerhouses like Google and Pixar in her new book THE FEARLESS ORGANISATON.
Self-care – and to care for others in the team – is the foundation to highly effective, sustainable, and innovative teams. How do we reconnect with the qualities that existed in our best team?
That is where caring leadership comes in. It is what leaders choose to do each day that determines whether a team is caring and outperforms. We are what we repeatedly do.
These are my 10 Commandments.
10 Commandments of Truly Caring Leadership
Begin each day with a self-care plan
Know that self-care allows you to care for others
Embrace leadership practices that send people home each day safe, healthy, and fulfilled
Align all actions with an inspirational view of the future
Be clear about expectations and goals
Allow each person to use their top strengths daily
Make it safe to be vulnerable and take moderate risks
Celebrate small steps of progress daily
If you are concerned about someone – ask R U OK?
Measure success by how caring, helpful, and growth-oriented your team is
BE CARING. BE HELPFUL. GO FOR THE GROWTH ZONE.
What were the qualities of a caring leader you admire?
Would you like your teams to be more caring, resilient, and growth-oriented?
Why not invite me to speak at your conference or organisation?
GRAEME COWAN IS AUSTRALASIA’S #1 LEADERSHIP & TEAM RESILIENCE AUTHORITY. He is an author and speaker who helps leaders and teams be more caring, resilient, and growth-oriented. Download his speaking brochurehere. If you have questions about his availability or suitability for presenting at your conference or organisation please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 2 8005 0344
What does your heart desire for you in the next 4 weeks? What would make the biggest difference to your wellbeing and self-worth?
Is it better sleep? Better relationships? Being more present? Being able to switch off? Completing an important work project?
These are incredibly important things to consider. Once we have our answer, then what? Do you believe positive thinking can help you achieve your goals? We are often told to think positively and envisage what the future would feel like if we achieved this new goal.
A few years back, a best-selling book called The Secret claimed to provide insights about how to have the life of your dreams. In essence, it advocated conceive, believe, achieve – conceive what you want – believe strongly that you already have it – and through the law of attraction you will magically achieve what you wished for. In short, positive thinking.
So does positive thinking work? Professor Gabriele Oettingen has been researching the science of human motivation for over 30 years. She wanted to understand if positive thinking really worked, and came up with some surprising research findings which she shared in her book Rethinking Positive Thinking.
For example, Dr Oettingen recruited a group of undergraduate college students and randomly assigned them to two groups. She instructed the first group to fantasize that the coming week will be fantastic: good exam results, great parties, etc.; students in the second group are asked to record all their thoughts and daydreams about the coming week, good and bad.
Surprisingly, the students who were told to think positively felt far less energized and accomplished than those who were instructed to have a neutral fantasy. Blind optimism, it turns out, does not motivate people; instead, as Dr Oettingen shows in a series of experiments, it creates a sense of complacency. It is as if in dreaming or fantasizing about something we want; our minds are tricked into believing we have attained the desired goal.
There appears to be a physiological basis for this effect: Studies show that just fantasizing about a wish lowers blood pressure while thinking of that same wish — and considering not getting it — raises blood pressure. It may feel better to daydream, but it leaves you less energized and less prepared for action.
Thinking she could get people to act on their wishes by confronting them immediately with the real obstacles that stood in their way, Dr Oettingen and her colleagues developed a technique called mental contrasting.
In one study, she taught a group of third graders a mental-contrast exercise: They were told to imagine a prize they would receive if they finished a language assignment, and then to imagine several of their own behaviours that could prevent them from winning. A second group of students was instructed only to fantasize about winning the prize. The students who did the mental contrast outperformed those who just dreamed.
It appears the relentless “you can do it” attitude that pervades our culture could be flawed. Apparently, being mindful not just of your dreams, but also of the real barriers that you or the world place in their way, is a far more effective way of achieving your goals.
In a workplace setting dreaming about a successful outcome in the future may be pleasurable as well, but it is also counterproductive. You’re less motivated to make the strong, persistent effort that is usually required to realize challenging but feasible wishes.
In some of Dr Oettingen’s studies, she found that positive thinking produced lower blood pressure — a key measure of how energized someone is. In others, positive thinkers were as likely as participants in a control group to take easy steps toward a goal, but significantly less likely to take more cumbersome and difficult steps, such as donating meaningful amounts of their time or money.
So, do we just dwell on the daunting elements of a challenging goal?
She offers a simpler and faster alternative, an extension of her mental contrasting exercise. She calls it WOOP — which stands for “wish, outcome, obstacle, plan.”
The 4 steps of WOOP
WISH – WHAT IS YOUR WISH?
What is your most important wish or concern? Pick a wish that feels challenging but that you can reasonably fulfil within the next four weeks.
OUTCOME – WHAT IS THE BEST OUTCOME?
If your wish is fulfilled, where would that leave you? What would be the best, most positive outcome? How would fulfilling your wish make you feel?
Identify your best outcome and take a moment to imagine it as fully as you can.
OBSTACLE – WHAT IS YOUR MAIN INNER OBSTACLE?
What is it within you that holds you back from fulfilling your wish? It might be an emotion, an irrational belief, or a bad habit. Think more deeply—what is it really?
Identify your main inner obstacle and take a moment to imagine it fully.
PLAN – MAKE A PLAN
What can you do to overcome your obstacle? Identify one action you can take or one thought you can think to overcome your obstacle.
Make the following plan for yourself:
“If… (obstacle), then I will … (action or thought).”
This video provides an overview
The Four Steps of WOOP - Vimeo
Is there any proof that WOOP works?
Yes, there is. For example:
HEALTH: WOOP helped study participants double the amount of regular physical exercise they performed over a four-month period. It also helped study participants increase fruit and vegetable intake by 30% over a two year period. — Stadler, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, 2009, 2010
RELATIONSHIPS: WOOP helped study participants reduce insecurity-based behaviours (e.g., looking through the partner’s phone log) and increase their commitment to romantic relationships. — Houssais, Oettingen, & Mayer, 2013
ACADEMIC / CAREER: WOOP increased high school students’ efforts to prepare for standardized tests by 60%. — Duckworth, Grant, Loew, Oettingen, & Gollwitzer, 2011
You can see a more extensive list of research studies here.
Want to WOOP your life?
Dr Oettingen provides a great range of resources including an app, a WOOP kit, videos, and information on the WOOP website.
I think this is a really practical and effective way to achieve realistic short- and long-term goals in all areas of your life. If there is something you yearn for – give it a shot!
BE CARING. BE HELPFUL. GO FOR THE GROWTH ZONE.
Would you like your teams to be more caring, resilient, and growth-oriented?
Why not invite me to speak at your conference or organisation?
I have recently been presenting to groups in the finance and aged care sectors whose work has been severely disrupted by their respective Royal Commission’s.
How do we have healthy work/life integration with so much volatility and uncertainty? Sometimes relentless change can seem overwhelming.
Although these two industries feel under attack, every workplace is experiencing change. Sometimes it can be very hard to feel you are making progress, and yet learning and growing each day, has never been more important for fulfilment and success.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” “Failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.”
Olson explains in detail; how small disciplines accumulate their effect and how small errors in judgement bring setbacks to one’s life.
The right small daily rituals over time, can produce amazing results. What also made the book compelling for me, were the 30+ case studies where people from all walks of life have put this simple concept into action and achieved amazing results – for recovery, and improving relationships, career, finances, health, and philanthropy.
The graphic below shows that in the beginning, these small disciplines yield very small improvement, but like compounding interest, the benefits accelerate with time.
As an example, for self-development, he proposes that everyone should read 10 pages per day of iconic books like Think and Grow Rich. Anyone can read 10 pages per day – or not – and that is the point. Doing these small things don’t make a big difference if you do it for one day – but if you do it consistently over time it accelerates the impact.
Olson claims that only 5% of people are prepared to do these small things consistently – and they are the ones that will have greater fulfillment and success.
There are 2 options:
What’s uncomfortable early becomes comfortable later (success)
What’s comfortable early becomes uncomfortable later (failure)
This concept resonated with me, because I have applied it to one area of my life – my relationships – and reaped the rewards.
For example, after my recovery from severe depression 13 years ago, I was determined to put a greater priority on having more caring, supportive, and fun relationships in my life – this group of people I call my CARE CREW.
In the favourites section of my mobile I have 15 people from my CARE CREW. Each Sunday, I go through that list and consider who I haven’t seen for a while – and then send off a text or email to set up a time to catch up.
I have also incorporated rituals that make some quality time catch ups almost automatic. For example, my wife Karen and I, treasure eating out most Friday nights locally. We can both reflect on our week and plan for the weekend. Most Sunday mornings, I meet good mates Bernie and Alastair at Curl Curl Beach, where we go for a jog, followed by a relaxed breakfast. At least once a month, I go on a long bushwalk with Ted, another good mate.
I have also been a member of an Investment Club with 13 mates for 21 years, where we meet once per month at someone’s home. Even though we have learnt a bit about shares, the main reason we meet is for the laughs and comradery. It is really our version of a Men’s Shed, and we have helped each other through divorces, unemployment, financial setbacks, severe illness, and a number of depressive episodes.
When I had my mental health setback in September 2017, I was easily able to call on support from my CARE CREW, and I am totally convinced that this was the secret to bouncing back quickly from that crisis.
If this could work so well in one part of my life, why couldn’t I apply it to my personal development and growth in the same way? Well, I plan to. I have already committed to reading 10 pages of a great book every day.
I am also applying these principles to improve the quality of my sleep by:
Being in bed each weeknight by 9.30pm to read – without my phone.
Charge my phone outside my bedroom so I’m not tempted to look at it if I wake up.
If I wake up through the night and can’t get back to sleep – I get up and read a paper book and return to bed when I get tired.
I will review my sleep quality in a month. Will these experiments with The Slight Edge lead to improved long-term results? Quite frankly it is too early to tell – but I’m reasonably optimistic.
This 4:43 minute video also provides a good overview of The Slight Edge:
THE SLIGHT EDGE BY JEFF OLSON | ANIMATED BOOK REVIEW - YouTube
Is there anything you would like to apply The Slight Edge to? Could The Slight Edge be applied to improve your workplace?
We can make a difference. If you would like to explore this further with Graeme please email email@example.com to set up a time to speak.
We’re supposed to be excited for the going into this period, but a significant number of people find themselves dreading elements of the season.
With its sparkly decorations, family traditions, and festive get-togethers, this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for many of us, this period can be tough.
These are 5 reasons why this period can challenge your mood – and what to do about it:
We are forced to be with people we don’t like
Your judgmental father-in-law. Your constantly one-upping cousin. Your critical frenemy. Your inappropriate co-worker. Every holiday season, we spend time with people like this in the name of fellowship, tradition, family, and the so-called “holiday spirit.”
Every year, we tell ourselves that this year will be different—we’ll avoid the arguments and keep the mood friendly. But the truth is, if someone causes you anger or anxiety during the other 11 months of the year, it’s unlikely that things will be any different at a family holiday lunch or office party. Go into the situation with realistic expectations and remember that your well-being (not being polite!) is your first priority.
If you feel your agitation rising, say, ‘Excuse me,’ and walk away. Then talk to someone else. Help in the kitchen. Play with the dog. Or just ride off into the sunset. Making yourself miserable by engaging with a nasty person just isn’t worth it.
The holidays can remind us of loss
Maybe you were laid off from your job or have been diagnosed with a disease in the past year—and you’re dreading the “So, what’s new in your life?” questions you’ll have to field at get-togethers. Or perhaps you’ve lost a parent or been through a divorce and are depressed by the thought of facing the holidays alone.
No matter what you’ve lost—your health, a loved one, a job, or something else—the holidays tend to highlight what’s missing in your life. And unfortunately, there’s often no easy way to sidestep or dull the pain you’re feeling. As much as possible, enlist the support of your friends and family. They’ll provide a listening ear, they may help run social interference, and they’ll understand if you just don’t feel up to attending another party. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you’re struggling, either—there’s absolutely no shame in reaching out.
We neglect our well-being
With so many holiday distractions and obligations, it’s all too easy for well-being strategies to fall by the wayside. We tell ourselves we’ll get back on the workout wagon, cut out the junk food, and catch up on our sleep after the new year…but those good intentions don’t cause us to feel any less exhausted or irritable right now.
Plan ahead. If you don’t, that walk, yoga class, healthy homemade meal, or eight hours of sleep won’t happen. Remember, if you aren’t feeling your best physically or mentally, you won’t have the zest and purpose you need to enjoy the period. I suggest making a special effort to fit physical activity into your schedule. Research shows that a 20-minute brisk walk, or the equivalent, significantly improves mood for up to 12 hours, and exercise also improves the quality of your sleep.
We are confronted by what we don’t have
Of course, this happens throughout the year, but we’re especially prone to dwell on what others have (and we don’t) during this time of year. Maybe you’re going through a divorce, so spending time with your sister and her adoring husband makes you feel especially lonely. Or you’re struggling to make ends meet, so the fact that your best friend whisked his family off to Tahiti makes you feel like a failure.
If you find that your mood is consistently affected by feeling less-than, you may need to go on a social media diet. I also encourage you to talk to someone else—whether that’s a trusted friend, or counsellor—about what you’re feeling. Hopefully, this person can help you develop a healthier perspective by pointing out all the things you have to be proud of in your life. A focus on gratitude can be a game changer.
We can spend too much
If you’re overspending on gifts, parties, food, decorations, and more, you won’t feel very festive. Instead, you’ll be brooding over your dwindling account balance and worrying about all of the bills you’ll receive once the celebrations are over. You may even begin to resent others for “forcing” you to buy them presents or attend costly events.
It can’t be said enough: Setting (and sticking to) a Christmas budget can make this time of year so much more enjoyable. Figure out how much you can comfortably spend, identify priorities, and record each expenditure. Also, remember that money and value aren’t necessarily synonymous. You might consider having a Kris Kringle with friends with a pre-set limit. Writing a heartfelt note of appreciation to family members can be more valuable than a gift.
The holidays can exacerbate depression or anxiety. If you’re suffering from clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, you’re struggling with a lot more than “just” the holiday blues. Typical holiday stressors can seem overwhelming, and the knowledge that you’re “supposed” to be carefree and happy can make you feel even worse.
As someone who has struggled with severe depression, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you prioritize your well-being above others’ expectations. With their social expectations and reminders of loss, the holidays can feel like a psychological minefield. Make sure you keep the lines of communication with your doctor or counsellor open and try to discuss healthy coping mechanisms beforehand.
May the best of life and love and happiness be ahead of you.
The Department of Justice NSW peer support program involves people supporting colleagues who are experiencing difficulty at work and/or in their private lives. Support is provided by Peer Support Officers (PSOs) who are volunteers (image above). They receive training, guidance, and support about how to have caring conversations, and where appropriate, provide help seeking options. They work in some very stressful environments including Corrective Services (prisons), Juvenile Justice, Victim Services, and the courts.
What is extraordinary about this program is that it has been going continuously for 22 years. These people do a fantastic job and are very well led by Alison Tibbey, HR Advisor, Peer Support, who does an amazing job training and supporting the PSOs.
QBE (who are their Workers Compensation Insurance provider) were kind enough to sponsor me to do a keynote presentation called “5 Green Zone Rituals”. As part of my preparation I asked to interview 5 PSOs before the event. They had been in the role from one month to 16+ years.
Why did you volunteer to be a PSO in addition to your normal role when you don’t get paid for it?
“I like to help people. A family member struggles with depression and I wanted to be better equipped to help them.”
“I was formerly a mental health nurse. It’s natural to want to help.”
“I’m someone who people confide in anyway. I wanted to be better qualified to have these conversations and to have the training to be recognized for it.”
“We work in very a very stressful environment. I really believe in staff wellbeing and I like to help other people. I was unofficially doing it anyway before I became a PSO – I wanted to be better at it. I also have a family member who struggles with anxiety”
“I had been on a wellbeing committee for a number of years. People were coming to me anyway for advice. A friend had a significant depressive episode and I want to be better equipped to help.”
What has been the best thing about being a PSO?
“Being able to help those who are having a tough time and know where to refer them to seek help.”
“From what I have learnt being trained to be a PSO, I have been able to help my daughter.”
“I’ve only just started but I feel well prepared to help my workmates through the training I received.”
“Being able to give people practical advice about their options and know that it will make a difference. People say it is “easy to talk to you” and that makes me feel good”.
“It feels good to be trusted by your colleagues when they share something so personal”
“Organising events that are good for mental wellbeing like R U OK? Day”
“Getting great support and advice from Alison if I am stumped by something.”
What is the toughest thing about being a PSO?
“Because of the work we do, people often share quite traumatic events. I have to be careful not to take on their crap. I have to keep reminding myself that self-care is important.”
“Our roles are stressful without the PSO responsibilities. I make sure that I see my counsellor regularly.”
“Because we live in a country town some staff members raise things in public. I was once approached in the supermarket by someone with a serious issue. I had to remind them that this wasn’t the right place to have that conversation. You have to maintain boundaries.”
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a PSO who was just starting?
“Make sure you keep your boundaries and never forget the importance of self-care. You can’t help other people if you’re not in good shape yourself.”
“Be an active listener. People usually know what to do but sometimes that need encouragement to take the first step.”
“Make self-care a priority.”
“Make sure you respect confidentiality. Trust takes a long time to build up and can be shattered in an instant.”
“Don’t think it is your responsibility to rescue someone. All you can do is offer options and encouragement. Sometimes people are not ready to seek help yet. You can take a horse to water…..”
If you would like to know more about best practice in establishing peer support programs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to speak.
So, you’ve reached out to a colleague and asked, “Are you ok?” and they’ve replied with, “No”. What now? Reaching out and being prepared to have the conversation is so important. But you also need to be prepared and know what to do and how to react when the answer is “No.”
We’ve asked mental health speaker, author and R U OK? Non-Executive Director Graeme Cowan for his tips and advice on what to do if you’ve asked the question of a loved one or colleague and they’ve said, “No, I’m not OK”.
You use a great acronym – I CARE (Identify, compassion, access experts, revitalise work, and exercise) in a lot of your work.
I CARE: 5 Ways to Help a Stressed Workmate | Graeme Cowan | Leadership Resilience Speaker - YouTube
Q. Why is being able to identify the signs someone may be struggling such an important part of helping a friend who isn’t OK?
I think it’s extremely important for individuals to look out for behaviour changes in those around you. As a friend or colleague, we are often in the best position to see and act on changes that may occur.
The signs someone may be struggling may be subtle, but some common signs are changes in behaviour, sleep patterns, energy levels and mood. It’s also important to be wary during tough times such as divorce, sickness, or particularly stressful times at work. If you flag these moments and signs in your own mind it becomes easier to act, reach out, and provide support.
Q. Being compassionate and using the R U OK? 4 steps are a great way to show support. Is there a time you haven’t been ok and had someone reach out to you in this way?
I’ve been extremely lucky to have such a great support network and have had people reach out to me both at work and in my private life. Following a mental health setback last year – I was not in great shape, I had people close to me take notice and suggest I take action.
I also found tremendous relief in reaching out to people I felt comfortable with and telling them I wasn’t OK. Being able to speak openly and get things off your chest is a very important step to feeling better. From my own experience I’ve found that it’s much easier to open up whilst walking next to someone or doing an activity instead of sitting directly across from them.
Often, it can be quite daunting and the fear of opening up can be a big factor in why people stay quiet. My personal experiences have had very few negative reactions from people when I have told them what is going on, and it’s often commented how courageous it is for me to open up. I’ve also found that when I share my story, it gives people permission to share their’s.
Q. We have found that often people want to ask, “Are you OK?”, but hold off as they are worried the person they are speaking might say no. What are your top 5 tips for what to do when someone says they aren’t OK?
1. How you identify people:
Are they acting differently? More sad, moody, restless, listless, angry than normal? Lost interest or enjoyment in some of their favourite activities? Difficulty concentrating? Weight loss or gain?
Are they isolating? Not acting as sociably as normal?
Tough times? Divorce? Death of a loved one? Tragic events?
2. How you actually ask:
Put yourself in their shoes, and show support
Ask – break the ice – observation of changes – ask R U OK?
Listen without judgement – ask open ended questions – ask, “How can I help?”
Encourage action – suggest they see their GP, and/or call EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or a helpline
Check-in – contact them a week later to check they took action [GC1] or sooner if you are very concerned
3. Ask in the right place– the environment you ask in can impact how comfortable someone may feel when opening up to you. Walking in nature, joining them at lunch or after work, are all great things to create a moment to talk.
4. Suggest they seek expert help – If appropriate – offer to make an appointment with a suitable professional for them. If they don’t have a GP they are comfortable with, suggest they ask family and friends for recommendations.
For support over the phone they can call Lifeline 13 11 14, SANE 1800 187 263, beyondblue 1300 224 636 and more.
5. Make sure the working environment is good– being connected and fulfilled is vital. Working from home or feeling disconnected from the workplace can exacerbate feelings of isolation. If you’re concerned reach out and check in – this is particularly important if a colleague is off work as maintaining a connection to the workplace makes it easier for them to return to work.
Q. What are some things you’d advise not to do or say when asking a colleague “Are you OK?”
Let them know why you’re concerned and that you care
Ask questions to let them guide the help seeking process
Provide a creative solution. Present options that give them the ownership of decision making.
Say things like;
“Think of all the good times”
“I know what it feels like”
“Snap out of it”
“Think of all the starving children”
Try and overwhelm them or do too much too quickly. Everybody’s help seeking process is different and it’s important to respect some people may take longer than others.
Q. Why is the R U OK? Message relevant to the workplace?
The R U OK? Message is extremely important in the workplace for a number of reasons. Recently the CSIRO released a report outlining six ‘megatrends’ that will shape workplace health and safety over the next 20 years. Rising workplace stress and mental health issues was one of the trends. New and intensifying uses of digital technologies in the workplace may exacerbate problems with mental health and stress, meaning the R U OK? message and looking out for colleagues will continue to become increasingly important.
The most successful teams often all excel in the following; provision of a caring, supportive and psychologically safe environment, which allows individuals to be themselves, and develop strong interpersonal respect. A workplace that has incorporated the R U OK? message is able to create a supportive environment in which all staff and stakeholders are able to flourish.
Sleep deprivation is the invisible ceiling to how good life can be.
A good night’s sleep can make problems seem smaller and boost our energy levels.
A bad night’s sleep is deadly to our resilience, mood, and performance.
In fact, when I recently surveyed 470 people about their greatest challenge to having a positive mood in the last week – poor sleep was rated the #1 culprit!!! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called sleep deprivation a public health crisis .
So why is sleep so important?
GZV 6 - 3 Tips to Improve your Sleep | Graeme Cowan | Team Mental Health Speaker - YouTube
Research shows that sleeping less than 6 hours per night increases our risk of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
From a work perspective, poor sleep has been shown to reduce focus, attention, vigilance, and information recall.
Getting a good night’s sleep is like hitting the reset button for the brain.
So what can we do to improve our sleep in this 24/7 world where we are always accessible? How can we enjoy the restorative benefits of regular good sleep?
I’d like to propose 3 tips that can help greatly.
WALK OUTSIDE FOR 30 MINUTES
Just 30 minutes brisk walk (or equivalent) each day can substantially improve our capacity to sleep well.
Ideally, this should also be in the sunshine to boost our melatonin levels. A study published in the Mental Health and Physical Activity journal, shows that 150 minutes of exercise per week provided a 65% improvement in sleep quality to 2600 men and women aged from 18-85.
This is one more reason why incorporating exercise into our daily routine is critical. Just 30 minutes brisk walk before work, at lunch time, or after work – not only improves our mood – it also vastly improves our sleep.
HAVE A DIGITAL CURFEW
At night, light disrupts our body’s biological clock—known as the circadian rhythm.
But not all colours of light have the same effect. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood—seem to be the most disruptive at night.
The blue light that is emitted from your smartphone, tablet, and energy efficient light bulbs are detrimental to our sleep.
Exposure to this blue light suppresses our melatonin, a hormone that influences our sleep patterns.
Stephen Lockley a Harvard sleep researcher says that too much blue light is one of the main reasons that many people don’t get enough sleep.
So what can we do about this?
Turn off all phones and tablets at least 60 minutes before your normal bedtime.
Leave phones and tablets out of the bedroom to resist looking at them during the night. Read a paper book or magazine instead.
The latest IOS operating system has an option to vastly reduce the blue light of your phone. Go to Settings / Display & Brightness / Night Shift – then set the time span you would like this function to operate.
There are also apps that can reduce blue light such as “Night Light”.
ESTABLISH A CONSISTENT SLEEP ROUTINE
A bedtime routine, regularly followed, signals to your body that it’s time to start winding down, which helps encourage sleep.
Try drinking some warm milk, peppermint or chamomile tea. Try a little bit of meditation or yoga, putting on some relaxing music or some lavender essential oil or pillow spray can all help prepare you for sleep.
Avoid upbeat music and stimulants like cigarettes, alcohol and caffeinated drinks. Once in bed, read a paper book or magazine.
Try some breathing exercises in bed, which will help clear your mind a little and take attention away from your racing thoughts.
Try the 3, 4, 7 exercise. Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breathe out for 7 seconds.
Repeat that 3 times.
So the 3 tips for better sleep are:
Walk outside for 30 minutes
Have a digital curfew
Sleep is an essential Green Zone strategy.
Some other helpful resources
This is a brilliant free app available from both the Apple and Google Plus store. It has thousands of recordings to prepare you for sleep and to help you get back to sleep. It also has a huge range of recordings to help you meditate. I use this most days – and it is fantastic.
I personally haven’t evaluated SleepFit but I have heard from people I highly respect that it is an excellent program to help improve your sleeping patterns. Their website has a couple of good videos that explain the SleepWell approach.
May you individually and collectively Go for the Green Zone every day.