Good sleep can lower your stress levels, decrease your risk for heart disease, and help you manage your weight. Additionally, people who sleep well tend to perform better at school and work and report a more positive outlook on life. With such high-profile benefits, it’s no wonder that quality sleep ranks high on the list of healthy habits that are worth cultivating. If counting sheep isn’t soothing you off to dreamland, don’t worry! We’ve gathered 5 easy tips to help you get the zzz’s you need!
Listen to your circadian rhythm.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, phones, TVs, and other electronic devices can interfere with your circadian rhythm making it more difficult to fall asleep. Not to mention that the blue light and short waves that are given off by technology suppress the natural release of melatonin. You can beat the no-sleep-blues by turning off all technology and lowering the lights at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Keep Cool and Dream On
Cooler bedroom temperatures are optimal for sleep because it helps your body produce melatonin. Keeping your room between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit can also slow the aging process and help prevent disease (sleepadvisor.org)
Natural fibers such as cotton and wool allow for more airflow than synthetic fibers. These breathable materials help to regulate your body temperature so you remain cool in summer and warm in the winter. Don’t forget about linens. Top your mattress with the same high-quality, natural fabrics to get a double dose of comfort and calm.
Clean for Calm
7 out of 10 people claim to get a better night’s sleep on freshly scented sheets according to an article published recently by Good Housekeeping. Regularly laundering bed linens and making your bed will also help you tuck into a good night. Keep your bedroom tidy and free of clutter to help lower anxieties and calm the mind.
Warm-up and Wind-down
Send a signal to your body that it’s time to sleep by showering at night with warm water. How does it work? When the warm water evaporates, it cools the body which sends it a signal to produce melatonin thus signaling sleep.
We’ve mentioned melatonin a few times and you may be wondering why it’s so important to a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. It is primarily released by the pineal gland. According to the Mayo Clinic, the production and release of melatonin in the brain are connected to the time of day, increasing when it’s dark and decreasing when it’s light.
Coloring can activate calm and settle your nervous system. That’s why we include it as a resource in our MBAwareness Educational Program. Teachers and students alike benefit from a few minutes of coloring for calm.
According to this article by Positive Psychology, “mindfulness coloring allows us to switch off extraneous thoughts and focus on the moment.” While you can find a “mindful coloring” book at nearly any retailer, here are a couple of our favorite online resources for kids and adults
Customize Your Kicks
Who doesn’t want the chance to customize their own Converse, Vans, Air Force Ones, and other easily recognizable sneaker silhouettes? These fun coloring pages are from Kitchen Table Classroom Just sign-up to get access to her FREE Resource Library and you can download this 5-page coloring template along with a host of other cool art and home education resources!
Words to Color (and Live) By
Kristina from Planes and Balloons has created these mantra coloring sheets that are equal parts calm and empowering. You can download her FREE trio of coloring sheets with words like “Be Still” and “Just Breathe” embellished with beautiful floral patterns.
Color What You Love
Not seeing what you need? No problem! Jump over to Pinterest and type in something you love, (like coffee) and add in “free coloring printable” and you’ll have a plethora of options to choose from! You can even try to create your own coloring pages with apps like ReallyColor.com! Don’t forget to Follow us on Pinterest for other mindful tips and tricks!
Taking just a few minutes to focus on quiet breathing techniques can transform your classroom from chaos to calm. Ninja Breath is a fun and interactive way to explore the centering nature of intentional breathing. Check out our quick video below! Be sure to share this with your students and kids. Let us know how your little ninjas enjoyed the practice by tagging us on your social media!
Looking for more classroom calm? We’ve got all the resources you need with our MBAwareness program, which is designed to help students and educators utilize various mindful practices in and out of the classroom. You can meet your Social-Emotional Learning standards and have fun doing it! Click here to learn more about the MBAwareness program!
If your world is anything like mine, you’ve been spending a lot of time in Zoom meetings, phone meetings, and reaching out to friends and relatives via Facetime over the past few months. Instead of making a meaningful connection with the person on the other end, we sometimes leave one of these online encounters frustrated, empty, confused, and exhausted. Body language, tone, and expression can be hard to gauge and responses can sometimes be hard to navigate when we don’t share physical space. Developing effective listening and communication skills are more important than ever before.
Making a true connection with others requires us to take our mindfulness or meditation practices off of the cushion and into the world. We have to use those same skills that we practiced with ourselves and apply them in our communications and relationships with others. Your work might be teaching in a classroom, managing your own company, making products in a factory, or caring for people in a hospital and the skills learned through the mindfulness practice will apply. This is why I love the tips that our Founder and CEO, Annamarie Fernyak, put together for you. At Mind Body Align, we do our best to live out our mission and core values every day and we hold each other accountable to them. Our successes have been achieved by putting these tips to work and sharing mindful communication as a team- creating a safe space for us to live and work. As someone who continually strives to learn more and to communicate better with my team and my family, I hope you will find them just as valuable as I did and will put them to practice in your work and life.
– Jen Blue, Operations Director, Mind Body Align
Looking for more? Drop your email and we’ll keep you in the loop on all the ways mindfulness can help you navigate your workplace.
Introduction by Annamarie Fernyak
In the following blog post, Erin talks about the stigma of mental health and common biases toward people who may be suffering from mental illness. Before Erin’s thoughtful essay, I never considered that I might have biases. After reflecting on Erin’s words, I came to realize that some biases were just below the surface.
So, what can we do once you know those subconscious inclinations exist? What do I do?
Be mindful, of course! We each have the beautiful ability to tune the dial of awareness onto our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. By paying careful attention, we gain information and uncover unwanted habits and beliefs. The pause taken to tune into awareness provides the opportunity for you to weigh what is happening at any moment against your values; then an action may be chosen. It allows purposeful actions instead of reactions.
Take time to self-reflect. Listen to your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Discover if you have habitual ways of thinking or hidden prejudices, and invite yourself to think, act, and exist in a way that positively serves yourself and the world.
Sending a virtual hug!!!
All of the above statements are commonly heard among friends and co-workers on a daily basis. We are often able to discuss health issues and illnesses, checking on one another, and making sure physical health issues are addressed. Imagine if the following was overheard:
Except for those who work in the mental health field, the statements above do not roll off the tongue. We are completely comfortable talking about the health ailments of ourselves and our friends, family, and co-workers; however, the stigma around mental health often leaves us speechless and silent, rendering those with mental health symptoms isolated and ostracized.
There are a variety of reasons and theories. In the Middle Ages, those with mental health symptoms were thought to be punished by God or possessed by the devil, so they were often imprisoned, burned, or killed. Perhaps the discomfort around mental health stems from the colonial and industrial periods; at this time, women were commonly viewed as property of the fathers and husbands in their lives, and these men could have them “committed” to a sanitarium at any time, with very little evidence. In the days of Nazi Germany, horrible experiments were conducted on those deemed mentally ill because some believed the mentally ill were a disposable population.
In the 1960s and 1970s, deinstitutionalization resulted in the influx of those diagnosed as severely mentally ill as these individuals re-entered local communities to receive treatment. However, this also led to homelessness, and it doubled the number of people identified as mentally ill in the criminal justice system in the following years. Additionally, the media sensationalize acts of violence and attribute them to mental illness, even if there is no evidence of a connection.
In this historical context, all episodes of mental illness get lumped together. Whether the person is experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety, the individual is often viewed from the same lens, both internally (view of self) and externally (how others view the person). If one grows up hearing about “crazy” people, who commit acts of violence or who live on the street, and then experiences mental health symptoms, it can be alarming and unsettling. Often, people will not admit to themselves or others what symptoms they experience for fear of being hospitalized, losing their job, or not being able to see or care for their children.
Mental health issues are isolating, and lack of connection with others exacerbates these issues. Human connection is the balm that heals. Sometimes, just having someone who is willing to sit with you, even in silence, is the most healing thing of all. Be that connection for someone. There are several things we can do :
The more you know, the less scary and strange something will be. And then, you can help educate others with facts.
Examine from where these biases stem, whether from how you were brought up or societal influences.
Each of us has ups and downs in our moods and emotions; that is very normal. Each of us also has times in our lives when we struggle with difficult situations and circumstances. Talking about these struggles openly makes room and space for others to do so as well.
Instead of saying words like “crazy” or “nuts” or “cuckoo”, or even saying things like “he’s bipolar” or “she’s depressed”, say things like “he has symptoms of bipolar disorder” or “those who have schizophrenic symptoms”. This begins to identify the person as separate and distinct from the condition.
Reach out to someone you know is having difficulty with anxiety, depression, or even a psychotic episode. Let them know you are there.
*May is Mental Health Month and in support of our community, Mind Body Align is offering several FREE resources! Check it out here!
It takes a community to raise our children! While volunteering to teach mindfulness in our local middle school, I noticed it was a struggle to get the children to focus, and there seemed to be discipline challenges. I sensed desperation in both teachers and students, which was shocking and disheartening.
At that time, being in the classroom was not foreign to me, but more often, I was found in the community trying to build stronger bonds around businesses and visitors within our downtown. After this day in the classroom, I realized it’s not enough for me to spur beautification and revitalization. It is not enough for our city leaders to attract innovative companies. A strong and vital community needs a strong educational system. We must provide the tools to create positive learning environments and to allow teachers to teach effectively. This leads to raising future generations of emotionally intelligent, wholehearted people. We must intentionally grow adults who were taught the skills needed to build positive relationships, to focus and be aware, be resilient, and have discernment of values in order to know where to invest energy and time. And so, the MBAwareness program was born. We started with baby steps.
For younger children, a mindfulness lesson may start like this:
Imagine you are a bear hibernating for the winter. When bears hibernate, they take long slow deep breaths in and out through their noses. Take a long breath in through your nose, and let it all the way out. Take another long breath in through your nose. Let it all the way out. Keep breathing like this and feel how relaxed and warm and safe you are in your cozy bear cave. (*get a FREE audio recording of this breathing exercise here!)
Imagine how calm children would be if this were how teachers routinely lead the first minute of class in your school. In a world that’s increasingly fast-paced, where kids are bombarded with media and screens, where they have less and less downtime to just be, these practices can teach kids essential skills. Like, how to calm themselves. How to focus and pay attention. How to manage their behavior and emotions. And how to practice compassion and kindness. They can also help kids cope with and release anxiety and stress.
Mindful Schools looked at 400 elementary school students in four areas of classroom behavior: paying attention, participation, self-control, and respect for others. The kids did a simple mindfulness program three times a week for five weeks. After completion, they found significant gains in all four of those areas. Let’s think about this for a minute. Improvements in self-control and respect for others are a total gift for teachers everywhere. They are also critical skills kids need to learn just to get along in life. Paying attention in class and participation directly leads to academic gains.
That’s what we are doing at Mind Body Align. We are starting with baby steps, but they are powerful baby steps.
Interested in learning more about integrating mindfulness into your classroom?
We’ve got the perfect opportunity for you to learn the basics of mindful education and how to implement into your social and emotional learning objectives. This workshop is offered both in-person and online.
In my quest to write a perfect blog, while procrastinating with a slight fear of failing before I even get started, I will review with you a couple of ways to look at perfectionism. And perhaps through exploring those with you, I can help you and me identify some things we can both do to address that BIGG or little piece in each of us that may tend to be a perfectionist.
The first definition of PERFECTIONIST I looked up is a person who refuses any standard short of perfection. Other definitions linked it to a personality trait or type that strives for flawlessness and setting up high standards, accompanied by being overly critical of themselves and others. There is a connection between perfectionism and a fear of failure, and a need to be accepted.
I believe one can have high standards without some of the other things that go along with being a perfectionist. Once you have the emotional intelligence to recognize that you have some of the traits or qualities of being a perfectionist, you can work on addressing them for your own good, and the good of people around you, if you choose.
Many of you know that as a trainer and coach, I am a huge advocate of Gallup’s strengths-based leadership research. I love the idea that we need to focus on what’s right with people, rather than what is going wrong. This helps me manage perfection. In looking over Gallup’s 34 top leadership strengths’ “basements,” I found one that has “perfectionism,” and that is the strength called MAXIMIZER. Things like “never good enough” and “always reworking” and “picky” are part of the basement that can happen when you overuse it. It’s a strength I have that can make me a good coach. One that focuses on mastery, success, excellence, and working with the best. One that couples with my value that everyone can do their best, and everyone’s best can be different and EVERY kind and brand of excellence can be valued and rewarded. I believe people are perfect, not imperfect, just as they are.
As a coach, how I manage to keep from falling in the basement of “perfectionism” is that I believe in people and think they know how to solve their issues and move forward in their lives. Sometimes it just takes someone believing in them to help them do it. It’s not my job to tell them what they need to do, nor fix them. I honor and applaud their excellence.
Brene Brown, a well-known research professor, social worker, and five-time #1 New York Times best selling author, would suggest that PERFECTIONISM is a function of shame. Her definition is that perfectionism is a self-destructive belief system that fuels this primary thought – that if I look perfect or do everything perfectly, I avoid or minimize the painful feeling of blame, judgment, and shame.
It’s destructive because PERFECTION is an unattainable goal.
It’s getting sucked into proving I could do something versus PAUSING and stepping back and asking if I should do this, or if I want to do this.
I LOVE PAUSING.
Since my mother’s passing, I have worked a lot on emotional courage – to lean into and feel and identify the emotions I am experiencing, not judge them, but to sit with them and understand them, and explore if other choices could better serve me at some point. What’s the emotion that is behind this feeling of perfection? Am I feeling blame, judgment, or shame? What can I choose to do with it? How can I have a conversation with those I work with or someone who has dropped the ball without blaming, but just to talk about what happened so we can fix it and move on?
MOVE ON. LET IT GO.
How can we wade into our discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about our own stories, those real stories, those that we are not making up? Some of the other things that we can do that Brene and I and others may recommend addressing those areas of perfection that don’t serve us include:
*Say NO, not with an excuse, not with an explanation, just say NO. Set boundaries.
*Talk to ourselves like we would with someone we love. You are human. I am human. We all make mistakes.
As a leader, I would recommend that you HAVE to make mistakes and be vulnerable in front of other people, especially those you supervise so that they know that they can make mistakes too.
And my favorite:
According to Brene Brown, Perfection is the furthest thing from badassery.
When I need help with modifications, I am embarrassed to ask. What can I do to let the instructor know that I need some assistance without disrupting the class?
There’s a lot to care for here, so I’m going to break up the answer into two parts. (look for Part Two to post soon!)
Because we live together in a society, we grow up learning what is and isn’t acceptable, as well as what is and isn’t desirable or worthy of attention, comfort, or praise from a variety of industries that make up our popular culture. From entertainment and leisure to fashion and trends, to scores of news outlets, we see, hear, and internalize sets of beliefs that shape our world view and self-image. In addition to these broader influences, our belief systems are also shaped by our specific family culture, which can include ethnic and religious traditions, shared knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as the outlook, attitudes, values, morals, goals, and customs shared by our own immediate and extended families. Because our cultural formation is both broad and specific, we grow into adulthood with a variety of filters unique to our own experience; and to add more complexity, these different lenses might even be in conflict with each other.
You are not alone. Our unique world view and self-image shape how we function in relation to ourselves and other people during public events and private moments. We tend to compare ourselves to an internal “ideal,” to other groups of people, and individuls to see where we fall on the spectrum of “socially acceptable.”
It’s helpful to remember that not only are we not alone in the experience of being different, but every single one of us has some kind of body difference, whether subtle or obvious, as well as invisible differences, such as auto-immune diseases, mental injury, complex learning styles, and so much more. So when we head into a body-based class like yoga, we’re all bringing with us thousands of years of ancestral DNA, our own cultural formation, and all of our “differences” both seen and unseen.
It is natural to experience insecurity around our differences. And it’s also natural to experience positive emotions around our differences. The next time you feel unsure about an instruction, posture, or practice in a yoga class, remember it’s not just you; most likely, other students are unsure about it, too. We’ll get into the details more in Part Two, but briefly, if the style of the class is not too terribly fast, and you can make eye contact with the teacher, trying asking for general suggestions. For instance, if you’d rather not ask specific questions about a particular topic, consider asking for more general modifications. Try something like, “Can you offer any other options if this isn’t working for us?” Remember this, if nothing else: Yoga, and yoga postures, are here in service to you; you are not in class to be of service to the postures.
If you’d like to take this discussion further, if you’ve ever thought, “yoga is not for me,” or if you’d like to explore the possibilities around shifting from insecurity to positivity, here are some great resources:
Part Two – The Yoga Classroom: Student-Teacher Relationship & Class Agreements (coming soon!)
Resident MBA Yogi, Amy Secrist, is available to answer questions, give insight and guidance, and help you feel great about your yoga practice. You can email your questions to Amy@mindbodyalign.com or message us on Facebook or Instagram #AskAYogi @MindBodyAlign
You can also join Amy for practice at the Butterfly House on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30 am. Learn more here.