Time Is Killing Me

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There are times when I allow my visions and plans for the future determine my emotional state. This leads to anxiety when my current state is at odds with my plans. When I am in these states, relationships and work are often on my mind…one of the two usually dominating my attention – and eventually emotions.

Too much of this is not healthy.

This is probably what Buddha continuously felt that led to this revelation:

Do not dwell in the past, Do not dream of the future, Concentrate the mind on the present moment.

The best way to dig myself out of these destructive states is to be consciously aware of them. That means having the understanding of how my mind works, and breaking the negative cycle early on. Do not let your emotions control you. You have power over them if you choose. Often, it just takes finding an approach that works for you.

Like most things, easier said than done…

After a lot of trial and error, I have found a few tactics that have worked for me:

  1. Writing – I am so glad I have developed this habit. Writing down whatever is on my mind onto a piece of paper can be so relieving. Just let it come out. You’ll then notice a couple of things. (1) That whatever is going on in your head is often very trivial (2) That the emotional intensity you were feeling from this anxiety is greatly weakened.
  2. Sleep/Nap – Often these problems occur when you’re deficient of sleep.
  3. Meditation – There are so many forms of meditation you could practice. One that I just learned that works well anywhere is Box Breathing – 4 seconds in – hold for 4 – 4 seconds out – hold for 4 – Repeat.

You may notice that time is at the heart of these anxieties. It is often not the actual person or job that is causing the issues, but straying away from your internal plans or experiencing the feelings of losing precious time.

I’ll take a quote from Nietzsche:

Glance into the world just as though time were gone and everything crooked will become straight to you.

This simple – yet powerful – thought exercise can work extremely well too.

We must focus on what we can do now. Ask yourself if you can take immediate action on your current anxieties. If the answer is NO – then you must let it go at that moment. It is serving no purpose.

Many times I have resistance towards this process. But only a couple of minutes of this can do wonders by removing the thought(s) that are consuming my attention.

I encourage you to try this next time you’re stressed or feeling anxious. Write down you problems. See things differently. Rest. See what works for you.

We all have our problems…

But there is beauty in the ability to mitigate and eventually overcome them.

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Lessons Learned in 2014

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I wrote about my lessons learned last year around this time, so I figured I would reflect back on this year as well.

  • Knowledge vs. Understanding – Finally recognizing the difference between these two. I used to think I was smart because I’ve learned a lot of things on my own. But it was not until this year that I finally understood this vital difference. Knowledge is something you can acquire and accumulate, but true understanding only comes through experience. Only then can can you connect the dots between knowledge and your environment. Wisdom may soon follow.
  • Exhaustion is real, and while I like to push myself, I have also seen its limitations. Rest and fun are necessary for well-being when working hard towards something, but there must be a balance. Also, it’s okay to take a break to recover and come back stronger.
  • The significance of getting enough quality sleep and designing a personal sleep routine
  • Not-To-Do Lists can be effective. I plan to continue experimenting with these next year. Some things I’ve previously added to mine:
    • No long, hot showers in the winter.
    • No sugar or caffeine before bed.
    • No soda (except for an occasional mixed drink on the weekend)
    • Limiting Distractions (more than 1 hour of TV a day, limiting social media)
  • That I feel more alive when I get out in nature on a daily basis. Not only do we get the benefits of more sun, but we also can learn to connect with nature as humans are intended to do. When’s the last time you ran on the grass barefoot?
  • Which brings me to – The benefits of a daily walk. Every day I attempt to at least take one walk (a little tougher in the winter, so I may substitute with the gym). I prefer to do this for the mental benefits – clarity, brainstorming – even more than the physical benefits. It’s also a great way to connect with friends and take meetings (learned this one from Steve Jobs).
  • Laughter is a powerful healer.
  • The power of constructing your reality and deciding what is played on your Movie Screen. I want to build myself from the inside out – not search my external world for temporary fillers.
  • The importance of energy, environment, and the people you associate yourself with. These are extremely interrelated, such as noticing energy levels when in different settings or around different people. Understanding each of these within the scope of my immediate environment has been eye-opening and self-empowering.

I hope 2015 has more quality lessons in store for me.

My Sleep Cycle Experiment and What to Limit Before Bed

These modern-day alarm clocks can really be a pain sometimes…rudely waking me up when my dream finally starts to get exciting. Then I’ll usually hit the snooze – probably multiple times – but the damage is done. I’d wake up feeling a little off for a while and the tone was then set for the rest of my morning.

So as you may know, I’ve been working on improving my Night-Time Routine. I came across this Sleep Cycle app in a couple different articles from blogs I follow in the health field. I was interested in the topic of how our sleep cycles affect our quality of sleep, so I went on to buy the $2.99 iPhone app and gave it a shot. I started using this app in September 2013 and just reached the 150 day mark. I figured this was a good samples size for showing my results.

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I figured this would be just an alarm clock that wakes you up when you have completed a sleep cycle. But surprisingly, there was another feature that really caught my interest. You can add different variables to track every night and see how they affect your sleep. This is purely correlation, but still adds an interesting dynamic.

Sleep Cycle Portion

Sleep cycles are usually ~90 minute periods, so you may have 4-6 in a night. Ideally, you want to wake up at the end of the cycle. So how this app works is you choose a range of when you want to wake up. Mine is set on a 30 minute range – so for example wake up between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. The alarm will sound when you are in your lightest sleep in that period. I hoped that this new alarm would help with some common morning symptoms of grogginess and cloudy-headedness.

The Sleep Cycle app determines how well you slept that night based on a percentage. Your sleep quality percentage is calculated based on movements and vibrations throughout the night when you are in different states of sleep.

Testing Variables

As for the variable testing, I could track the relationship between the variables I’m testing to my overall quality of sleep. I decided to remove all of the standard variables on this app and create my own. These are based on either advice I’ve heard or some personal hunches. There are probably many factors I am missing, but here are the variables I decided to track:

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  • Worked Out – If I worked out at all that day
  • Stressful Day – This was a judgement call
  • Drank Alcohol – Usually more than 3 drinks
  • Complex Carbohydrates Before Bed – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.
  • 1 Glass of Whiskey – If I had one drink before bed
  • Melatonin – If I took a melatonin pill before bed
  • Late Caffeine
  • Prayed/Read/Meditated – any form of relaxation before bed that extended over ~10 minutes
  • Nap – If I took a nap that day
  • Glass of Water Before Bed – Only if I had a full glass, not just a few sips
  • Light meal – This was a judgement call – usually light meal and light snacking
  • Shower Before Bed
  • 8 Hours of Computer or TV
  • Computer or TV and Hour Before Bed – testing the lighting factor before sleeping
  • Honey – about a tablespoon usually in tea
  • Tea
  • Magnesium Pill – only if before bed
  • Nootropic – this is a pill to help brain function. I only checked this if it was taken within 6 hours before sleeping

 My Results

Lets start by looking at my best night sleep.

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This was on the night of Sunday Feb 23. I reached deep sleep on 3 different occasions and woke up a few times throughout the night. Also, my time in bed – 7:56 hours – was above my average over the 150 days – 7:34 hours. As you will see, many of these variables in the sleep notes are linked to a more favorable night sleep.

Now, here shows the variables and their individual effect on my quality of sleep. This is over the course of the 150 days, with some variables being added in later. Graph 2 has a little overlap in the wording.

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As you can see, about a handful of these variables are correlated with a good/bad night sleep. The highlights are:

  • Drinking alcohol was linked to a 6% decrease in quality of sleep.
  • Shower before bed was linked to a 4% increase in quality of sleep.
  • Relaxing before bed via reading/praying/meditation was linked to a 4% increase in quality of sleep.
  • Taking a melatonin pill before bed was linked to a 6% increase in quality of sleep.
  • Late caffeine was linked to a 5% decrease in quality of sleep

I pretty much agree with all of these. I anticipated that melatonin and quality relaxation would positively affect my sleep. I also figured alcohol and caffeine would have negative effects.

Here are a few results that I question the legitimacy of:

  • Computer an hour before bed having a positive impact on quality of sleep
  • 8 hour of computer and TV having a positive impact on quality of sleep
  • A Nootropic pill having a negative impact on quality of sleep

These don’t seem to make sense to me. But then again, these variables are not isolated so not much weight can be put on these findings.

Lastly, see below for my quality sleep per day of the week. Friday and Saturday are the days I am most prone to having more than one cocktail. This shows the significance of some lack of sleep and alcohol.

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According to these results of the individual testing, my ideal night sleep would include computer/tv an hour prior to bed, tea, a magnesium pill, a light meal, a shower before bed, read/prayed/meditated, complex carbohydrates before bed, 1 glass of whiskey, a melatonin pill, honey, 8+ hours of comptuter/tv, and a glass of water before bed.

What can be improved with this app

There are a few issues I have with this app. First, there is no way to track variables when you wake up – only before you set your alarm. I would like to track a few variables such as temperature, lighting (sun through windows), initial energy, and mood upon waking. Also, the only way to record your quality of sleep (besides the sleep quality % calculated by the app) is to choose between the 3 smiley faces (good/moderate/poor). I didn’t find this to be useful at all. Ideally, this app would allow you to take notes when you wake up.

Some take-aways from this 150 day experiment is confirmation of what I anticipated going in. Late alcohol and caffeine should be avoided if you need a good night sleep. It is often easier – and more effective – to remove or limit factors than to add them in. Also, occasionally take a melatonin pill before you sleep (I often take one if I am exposed to a lot of light prior to bed). Also, try to find a way to get into a relaxed state before bed. You can find many ways to accomplish this. Ideally, TV would not be in the mix however because the artificial light may throw off your body’s natural melatonin response.

I just recently discovered a new free alarm clock app called Dream:On that claims to help influence your dreams. It plays light music during the night to influence your subconscious mind and ultimately play a factor in your dreaming. Sounds interesting enough to give it a shot.

I’m also moving on to improving my morning routine.

I’m often in a rush in the morning so this many be a little more difficult…

Always Tired? Let’s Attack This Naturally

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This couldn’t have been written a year ago.

Growing up, I don’t remember ever having any issues with my energy levels. I was always running around doing different things, having recess at school, sleeping 10 hours a night. But while in college I started noticing I had some issues – well maybe I just consciously realized it.

I was staying active. I was getting enough sleep usually. I began eating a little healthier. But still no significant improvement.

So what was the issue? I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Well it took some time and a lot of trial and error, but I finally made some breakthroughs.

Some were surprising.

Over the past few months, my energy has been at an all-time high. The factors included a few small changes, and others that took some time to develop. I want to break variables down as I currently see them. Some may be common knowledge, but they are still important factors so I don’t want to discount them.

Here we go.

It starts with managing your energy levels. You have to pay attention to your body. Is your body giving you signs of fatigue and that it’s time for a break? Then take one. Don’t keep trying to push forward when you have a bad headache or are physically exhausted. It’s better to let you body repair itself now than try to run at 50% and make the recovery period longer. I was in a vicious cycle of making this mistake.

Along with this, you must also pay attention to your mental energy. Reducing the mental clutter and negative thoughts will bring about more physical energy. At times, I turn into a very compulsive thinker, so it is important that I channel this effectively and quite my mind at times throughout the day. We think way too much throughout the day. Take some time to slow it all down. An exhausted mind often equals and exhausted body.

If you are looking for a quick fix, look no further than the amount and type of fats you are consuming. I’ve covered this before, but I continue to run into people who are misinformed. We’ve been tricked. This ‘fats are bad’ thing has gone on long enough. First, not all fats are treated equal. I often hear people say avocados are healthy, but when they come across anything else high in fat, they are not convinced. Lets learn a little more…Not only do good fats provide some instant energy, but they also provide many long-term health benefits (heart/brain). Did you know our brains are made up of primarily water, fat, and cholesterol? Makes you re-think fat and cholesterol right? Eat some quality fats in the morning and notice the difference. You could start by eating 2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil or MCT Oil. Cook with some grass-fed butter. Even try snacking on some fats – bacon and eggs, peanut butter, nuts, avocados. I would estimate that my diet now consists of around 50-60% fats. This has provided not only more energy, but weight loss. Big factor.

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I also have reduced my carbohydrate intake. I try to limit the carbs I have at breakfast and lunch. I usually stick with sweet potatoes and other slow-carbs. I’ve also been working on reducing my sugar intake. Both carbohydrates and sugar break down into glucose. You don’t want too much of this if you want consistent energy…unless you enjoy that afternoon crash (Insert 5 hour energy here). This also goes for artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame. If you need a sweetener, Stevia appears to be the best option.

Another quick fix is some exercise. I have been in a good flow recently, doing strength/core training about 4-5 days a week. Maybe running/yoga/stretching works for you. You need to get that blood pumping! Any physical activity helps. Need proof? Check this out…

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I also take a few supplements to aid my energy levels among other things. I always try and get these vitamins and minerals through foods first. But these include 500 mg of Magnesium, B Complex, Vitamin C, and 1,000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 among others. Potassium is also important. If you have an indoor job, I recommend these – especially in the winter. Obviously, I’m not a doctor. But I do take advice from an M.D. focused on health – see Peter Attia.

Can’t forget caffeine – I have a few cups of coffee a day, as well as an afternoon green tea. Try to keep the sources natural with little sugar – coffee, tea, dark chocolate.

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Also, try to get 8 hours of sleep. This is simple, but it is one of the most crucial factors. Make it a quality sleep while you’re at it.

The occasional power nap also is beneficial. I’ve even tried caffeine naps (espresso/caffeine pill then set your alarm for 25 min) every once in a while and found them to be effective. Even a 5-10 minute nap can make a world of difference.

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These are all easy things you can incorporate into your life today. Many may show immediate results. However, they are not the only factors.

Let’s look into some other variables that have helped me get to this point. These take work and are far from perfect.

I noticed a significant difference when I decided to change my outlook. By just framing my approach towards my personal life and work differently, everything shifted for the better. I’m taking the little issues in life much less seriously. And I’m having more fun. Less stress is always a good thing

I have really paid attention to my self-talk. Here is a recent TED Talk  I watched that hits on what I’m talking about. If you consciously pay attention to what you are telling yourself, you may not like what you see. I’ve been making an effort stop the escalation of any negative talk. I am often just too hard on myself. A good exercise is to just ask yourself – would you say these things to another person? No? Then why make them part of your story. Instead turn to conscious positive talk. This change has resulted in less physical stress, a less-worried mind, and a better self-image. That’s 2 birds with 1 stone – more positivity, MORE ENERGY.

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This probably won’t happen overnight. But by adopting a few of these techniques, you may see some positive results.

I plan to test to keep testing these out. I hope you do as well.

Let me know how it goes.

How to Redesign Your Sleep Routine

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Alright, it’s time to get analytical.

Sorry – it’s just the way I’m wired

I’ve been messing around with my night-time routine for a while now. I value this time in my day, as it allows me to wind down and reflect. I focused on a few different aspects when structuring my routine. A few of these in no particular order:

  • A quality night sleep
  • Feel good in the morning
  • Vivid (or lucid) dreaming
  • Reflection on the day and addressing any issues I want to deal with
  • Relaxation
  • Reinforcing mental strength/spirituality

These are all important to me in maintaining a useful balance in my life. I also am beginning to greatly value the very beginning of my day – possibly even moreso than my nights – but that is a separate issue.

Everything listed below is based on my personal experiences. What works for me may not work for you.

All of this fits in a 5 – 30 minute window before I go to bed.

We have ~960 waking minutes in a day – there’s definitely some time to implement a system for yourself.

So a couple of the areas I focus on are obvious. I mean who doesn’t want a good night sleep or to feel good in the morning? I’ve come across a few things that have helped me improve these areas.

One is eating a tablespoon of honey before I go to sleep – in some chamomile tea recently. This helps keep your blood sugar stable so you wake up feeling nice and fresh. Highly recommended. I just bought some real bee honey which tastes much better (and I believe is more effective) than popular clove honey.

I also have been using an alarm clock app called Sleep Cycle. This wakes you up when you are in your lightest sleep and you can set a range to wake up (preferably 30 min or so). I also like it because you can create variables to test each night. The app provides your night’s quality of sleep, as well as the individual variables’ effects.

I would also recommend to reduce your exposure to light – especially blue light – before you go to sleep, as this affects your melatonin response (allows you to reach deep sleep). Because of this, the TV (and sometimes the computer) goes off an hour before I want to go to bed. I downloaded f.lux software on my computer, which adjusts the background light to help this issue. I also keep melatonin next to my bed, which I occasionally take. Melatonin is naturally produced in your body, so it appears to be a safe measure.

I have really grown to enjoy my dreams and evaluating them for what I’m worried about or other issues I should be dealing with. I believe dreams, in a way, gives us some exposure to our subconscious. But in order to do all of this, I need to first dream and then remember the dream. I have couple ways that helps me increase the probability of me dreaming. One is I occasionally take Alpha Brain, a Nootropic that helps our brain focus and receive more oxygen. I use this supplement for more than just sleep, but it does have a crazy effect to make you have lucid dreams. I also found that the more relaxed you are, the better chance of dreaming. I sometimes use some stimulating music to get my imagination going – often Radiohead. Other times, I read novels. Another trick I use sometimes – okay, often – is having a glass of whisky at night, which also aids in making my dreams more vivid.

At the end of the day, I always enjoy just 10 minutes where I can just sit and relax. My routine changes quite often based on my mood, things I need to work on, and what I have present.

At times, I will just clear my head – or meditate.

Sometimes I listen to music.

Occasionally I read.

When needed, I repeat positive things in my head to help instill confidence and strength.

I may find a minute or 2 to pray.

One thing has stayed pretty consistent though. I keep a journal. This journal is where I keep a collection of anything I learned that day, which I have titled as Philosophy/Notes. I have personal notes back 3 years. I’ve noticed a lot of common themes going on in my life with this practice. I also have used pages to write down anything that is really on my mind or how I’m feeling that day. I find that writing things down is an effective way to organize my thoughts.

Other things I’ve tried (or trying):

  • Try and spend a minute or 2 focusing on what I want to accomplish the next day. Just write down the 1 or 2 things that, if I accomplish the next day, would make me feel satisfied. I enter these either in my calendar on my phone, with a reminder on if it is time sensitive. If I think of something that I want to do with no time frame, I enter it on my app called Errands. I like this app because it is basically a checklist that you can check off when completed.
  • Pick out my clothes, make my lunch, and automate as many morning decisions as possible. This will help me get out of the decision-making thought process early in the morning leading to a calmer mind to start my day.
  • Taking a Magnesium pill before I sleep.

This is where I’m at in my process to get a better sleep and improve many areas of my life in those minutes before I get some shut-eye. This may sound complicated, but it really isn’t. I pretty much focus on whatever is on my mind, with a couple routines. This system is far from perfect and is always being tinkered with. For most of my life, I never focused on anything like this. However, I realized the use of these final minutes of my day can be some of my most productive and set the tone for my next day.

If you have anything that works, please add them in the comments. I’m always interested in seeing what works for others.

1/24 Good Reads

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Seen vs Unseen

“We are most often held back by obstacles we aren’t even aware of–bad habits, flaws, ego, neuroses, self-destructiveness, aversions and fears we hardly know we have.” Also see Soft .

Tucker Max Testosterone Ebook

If you are on the ball, you can grab this ebook for free. I just signed up for it. I’ve read his other posts on naturally boosting your testosterone and find a lot of value in it. He’s an extremely smart guy despite being perceived as the party-animal. I’d recommend starting with a few of his articles about testosterone – including the hilarious story of how he got into the mess of having low levels. Story, Intro, Eating, Exercising, Sleeping

Plants Don’t Grow Near Wi-Fi

So we needed 9th graders to figure this one out for us. The more I hear about this, the more i’m scared of technology’s effects on our long-term health. If plants aren’t growing properly with this radiation, how do you think this is affecting our bodies. I definitely make an effort to keep my phone off my body whenever I can, but who knows what else is going through the air. Medicine better catch up.

The Primate Awards

I just found this to be funny. I could look at these dudes all day. Who wants to go to the zoo?