Not being able to fall and stay asleep at night is frustrating, and there’s no shortage of remedies promising to score you the rest you crave, from sleep meds to eye masks and smartphone apps. But the real key to beating insomnia might be as simple as taking up a new trend in meditation. A recent study from JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindful meditation — the practice of being non-judgmentally aware of the various thoughts streaming into your brain at any given time — successfully helped adult insomniacs drift off to dreamland. Sleep issues affect as many as 70 million Americans and bring a host of health problems such as weight gain, heart disease, and depression. Researchers wanted to know if mindful meditation could make a difference. So they divided 49 study participants into two groups. One group took a six-week mindful meditation class, while the second group was taught sleep hygiene habits, such as the importance of having a regular pre-sleep routine or avoiding booze before bed. At the end of the one-year study, the mindful meditation group reported better sleep with fewer disturbances than did the sleep hygiene cohort, according to the study. So what makes mindful meditation more effective? Teaching yourself to be aware in the moment without judgment about your thoughts helps relax the brain’s arousal system, says lead study author David S. Black, PhD, assistant professor of preventive medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. It help you feel more positive, and that blocks out the negative thinking that can keep you tossing and turning. And though the study looked at adults over age 55, the takeaway holds true for younger guys, especially if you’re kept up at night by anxiety from a high-stress job or a Type A drive, says Michael Breus, PhD, sleep specialist an author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan (Breus was not involved in the study). “Mindful meditation helps lower anxiety levels, so if anxiety is behind your sleep issues, it’s something to consider taking on,” says Breus, especially in those pre-sleep moments when the lights are out, your head has hit the pillow, but your brain is too wired to shut down. Original article posted on Men’s Journal
If you’re looking for a new workout or a new hobby, we found a strange but interesting one that will take you back about 600 years. We’re talking about sword fighting, and yes, there’s a school that will teach you how to do it in Colorado Springs. It’s called the Black Falcon School. It’s been around for about 16 years and it all got started with an epic 16th birthday party. “We put together foam sticks and ran into the woods at Palmer Park and started hitting each other,” said co-founder Ben Holman. “At some point we thought we’re just making this up as we go along so maybe we should learn how they did it in the middle ages,” said the other co-founder Ben Roberts. And they did just that, researching the art of sword fighting on the internet, even tracking down some old manuscripts from Great Britain, the core of what they teach. The question was if anyone else would be interested. Turns out, that wasn’t a problem and the interest is only growing with shows like Game of Thrones. “All my life i’ve wanted to become swordsman,” said veteran student Allan Griffith. “I have interest in history, weapons and fantasy, said beginner student Lorien Marooney. Not only are you learning a cool new art, its a good work out too. “I’m still sore from my first lesson. Its very physically demanding,” said Marooney. But its also mentally demanding. The footwork can be tricky and your hand eye coordination is tested constantly. Once you get the basics you can move on to the next level which is strapping on some gear and going to battle. The veterans said that’s when you get a true test of your skills and toughness. “I’ve been through a lot of martial arts training, but I’ve never experienced anything as complex,” said Griffith. His opponent, Scott Wiedmeyer said, “Your hands tend to take beating in our school. We’re known for that.” Something the veterans love and the new students strive for. “It’s amazing. I really do love this. A lot,” said beginner student Alex Stohner. The 12 week course is open to anyone over the age of 14 for $150. Then $40 a month after that. The next session will start at the beginning of April. Original article posted on KOAA
It’s a modern-day whine favored by those committed to growth and wellness, who really, really, do not want to sit still: “Do I reeealllly have to meditate?” One of those whiners is a close friend, and after years of her telling me what to eat — fish oil, fish oil, fish oil — and how to strengthen my core — planks, planks, planks (she’s a nutrition coach and trainer) — I felt like bossing her around a little, so I’ll tell you what I told her when she asked. “Yep. You ought to meditate.” Course you don’t haaavve to. Nobody has to do anything. But as a half-crazed, super Type A working mom, I believe in the practice. It makes a difference in my life and I think meditation can help us all to feel better and healthier. Meditate to Ease Stress Not because you’ll become some blissful and enlightened soul — though some say that can happen. And, not because meditation will take away the challenge or ache of life. It won’t. Life still feels pretty icky sometimes. But meditation will help you release the drama and the worry, and help you move through the day a little easier. It dulls the sharp edges a bit and helps me to become more aware, focused, and calm. It’s like a mental massage in the middle of our stressed-out busy lives. Yet, despite the stacks of research that says meditation is a good thing, the idea of it? Well, that makes us nervous. Really nervous. And there are myths surrounding the practice — like you’ve got to sit cross-legged or go all Eat, Pray, Love and head to India to learn how to do it right. Here’s the thing, I can’t sit cross-legged. And those other myths? Simply not true. Meditation Myths Myth #1 Too Many Rules. There is a perception out there that meditation has all these rules to follow. I got caught up in this idea in the beginning. I had no idea how to meditate. No clue on what I was supposed to accomplish, which rules to follow. That left me feeling a little uptight an anxious during the sessions which were supposed to be, well, anything but uptight and anxious. I spent most of those early sessions — when I wasn’t falling asleep — wondering if I meditating right. Sure there are a few basics you probably want to follow — get quiet, become aware of your thoughts. And there are different styles and techniques you can learn when you get into it. But there isn’t a lot you have to do. You do not have to sit on the floor cross-legged and chanting. You do not have to meditate for an hour. You don’t even have to fly to India to make this work. You don’t need special shoes or clothes, unless of course you want a new pair of shoes then, you could say that you have to buy meditation shoes and they, coincidentally look exactly like the ones you’ve been eyeing in Nordstrom’s. Here’s the biggie, you don’t even have to be still. I prefer to meditate while sitting quietly, but tai-chi and walking are great forms of moving meditation. Point is, you can create a flexible practice. Try this: Set the timer for five minutes. Sit down in a comfortable chair or position. Sit still. Breathe. I don’t even care how you breathe, just keep doing it. Close your eyes if you want — or don’t. Chant or say a mantra if you want — or don’t. You see? The act of meditating doesn’t have to be complicated. Sit down. Sit still. Sit quiet. Myth #2 Not Enough Time. Did you read the part where I say set the timer for five minutes? You got five minutes right? To change your life? When I first started meditating I read that anything less than an hour wouldn’t be effective. Hogwash. If you want to spend an hour meditating — awesome. I’ve done it. And, in my rich fantasy life I imagine I’ll do it again — one day. For now, I’m lucky if I get 10 minutes without someone banging on the door. Telling a new meditator that she has to sit quietly for an hour is like telling me that to lose weight I can never eat another piece of pizza. That is just not gonna happen. Try this: Baby steps, people. Five minutes, a few days a week. Then, add to that if you want. The practice does become easier as time goes on. Remember, some time is better than no time. Write it into your schedule. Set a timer and get to it. Notice whatever comes to mind. You will not be graded on how well you perform. Myth #3 Too much to do. Here’s another thing that bothers us about meditation: It doesn’t feel like we are doing anything when we meditate. I mean we are not typing, not paying bills, not working or folding laundry. We are “not doing” during meditation. And many of us are taught early on that in order to contribute, in order to be successful and worthy and awesome, we have to be doing, working, producing, moving. Therefore, when we sit alone in the quiet it feels, er, lazy. Try this: You really want to get stuff done? Head into the day with a clear mind, lower stress, and boost energy? A regular meditation practice can get you there. Meditation can also teach us how to just be. It shows us who we are and helps us to live authentically and compassionately, mindfully and purposefully, rather than just running around frantically doing things. Meditation doesn’t have to be one more thing that stresses you out. By busting these myths and blocks you can create a simple practice that will add calm and focus to your life. Original article posted on Huffington Post
Regular routines can be a good thing. There’s the get-up-and-out-the-door rush to work on time, and, hopefully, your pre-sleep routine to get maximum shuteye. But sometimes a routine can backfire on you, and that’s true when it comes to your workout. “Doing the same moves at the same time and looking at the same walls at the gym can have a negative effect on your fitness goals,” says Garson Grant, master trainer at Chelsea Piers in New York City. If any of these 10 situations sound familiar, it’s time to shake up your gym sessions.