“A profound shift in attitudes is underway all over the world. People are now recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy at all costs. All 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority and March 20 has been declared as the International Day of Happiness – a day to inspire action for a happier world,” the official website says.
For more information about the day and how to celebrate, please visit the day’s official website: http://dayofhappiness.net
Here at Happiness Weekly, we are celebrating along with our fellow happiness organisations Cheers and Action for Happiness. If you haven’t seen the action for Happiness blog/website before – we highly recommend it! You can find it here: http://www.actionforhappiness.org
Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn. Mahatma Gandhi
Did you know we spend approximately a third of our lives sleeping?
This week is National Sleep Awareness Week and Friday, 15 March 2013 was World Sleep Day so, to celebrate, today’s blog is about the importance of sleep and how it can improve your health and wellbeing.
Did you know that lack of sleep and sleep disorders actually affects 60% of the population?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing. Some of the first signs exhibited by someone lacking sleep include irritability, moodiness, lack of judgement, poor reaction time and coordination. If it continues, they start to experience apathy, slowed speech, flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and inability to multitask.
Most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of eight hours sleep a night. However some function better with more, and some function better with less.
Not surprisingly, the number one cause for short-term sleeping difficulties is stress – we’ve all experienced that. Generally the sleep problems will dissolve as the stressful situation passes. However, if insomnia isn’t managed correctly, the affects can linger for a longer period.
When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in your body, also creating more risk for heart-related conditions as well as cancer and diabetes. Lack of sleep has been associated with worsening blood pressure and cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Your heart will be healthier if you get between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night. People who sleep less than seven hours each night are more likely to be overweight or obese.
Waking up around the same time each day is one of the most powerful ways to set the part of your brain that governs when you feel sleepy and when you feel awake – also known as your biological clock. This is what makes some of us morning people and some of us evening people.
Exposing yourself to bright light – ideally daylight – soon after waking, is important if you are trying to reset your biological clock. This is why many light therapy panels use dawn simulators. People working shift work have a higher risk for breast and colon cancer. Light exposure reduces the level of melatonin, a hormone that both makes us sleepy and is thought to protect against cancer. Be sure that your bedroom is dark to help your body produce the melatonin it needs.
Why can’t I sleep? And how can I fix it?
- Thinking of all the problems you have (start thinking about solutions – keep a worry pad next to your bed and write them all down so they’re ready to put into action when you get up)
- Remembering something bad that happened to you or how someone hurt or insulted you – now is the perfect time to consider why you should forgive them and how you’re going to do it. Resolve the problem within yourself so it stops hurting you.
- Thinking negatively: “This is going to be one of those nights where I toss and turn”. Excessive worry about not sleeping is likely to make sleeplessness worse. Attitude still plays a part in whether you sleep well or not.
- Going to bed stressed after a hard day – it’s time to get up, have a shower, a cup of warm milk and perhaps practise some meditation techniques before you attempt to sleep.
Researchers do not fully understand why we sleep and dream, but a process called memory consolidation occurs during sleep. Your dreams and deep sleep are an important time for your brain to make memories and links. Getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better.
Poor sleep is a major cause of lost productivity as well as accidents in the workplace, on the road and at home. A recent report estimated that sleep disorders cost the Australian community at least $5 billion per year.
Up to a third of the population suffers from insomnia (lack of sleep). This can affect mood, energy and concentration levels, relationships and our ability to stay awake and function during the day.
Don’t toss and turn – here are some tips to help you sleep:
Top tips to help you sleep
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- Restrict your bedroom activities to sleep and making love.
- Don’t spend extensive periods in bed trying to catch up on missed sleep.
- If you aren’t sleepy after 20-30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing (such as reading) until you are sleepy, and then return to bed. If you’re not asleep in another 20-30 minutes, repeat.
- Avoid exercising before bed. Exercise has a stimulating effect.
- Visualise something pleasant and somewhat repetitive to help you fall asleep quickly – such as waves gently lapping against the side of a boat.
- Similar to the suggestion above, count sheep or anything continuous and monotonous.
- Restrict napping to 20 minutes or less during the day.
- Avoid caffeine (soft drink, tea and coffee), nicotine and amphetamines. Alcohol fragments sleep, making you wake more often.
- Consuming foods high in tryptophan (an amino acid found in milk, yoghurt, cheese and poultry) a few hours before bedtime can help you sleep because your brain uses it to create serotonin which helps regulate your sleep cycle.
- A slight drop in body temperature can help promote sleep.
- Don’t eat before bed.
- Sleeping poorly increases the risk of having poor mental health.
- Exercise regularly (but finish at least three hours before bed).
- Establish a consistent wind-down routine before bed.
- Try falling asleep. Don’t put a time limit on it, but sometimes when you make up your mind to do something, it will just happen.
- Avoid any distractions such as watching television, using the computer or listening to music.
- Read a peaceful or boring book. I always found my university study notes got me off pretty quickly! The moment you feel tired, put the book down and relax – go with it.
- Skip dessert – limit your sugar intake at night. You don’t need the extra energy.
- Turn the lights off. Make your room as dark as possible.
- Pamper yourself with a nice relaxing bath. Put some aromatherapy oils into it to make it an even more relaxing.
- Cuddle a pet and have a race to see who can fall asleep the fastest. I used to do this one with my puppy – it actually works!
- Eliminate noise – get rid of noisy ticking clocks, wear earplugs if your housemate is a problem … find solutions rather than dwelling on the noise.
- Try only breathing through your nose and breathe very slowly. There are breathing techniques you can follow online if you wish.
- Sleep on your side, don’t try to fall asleep on your back. You can prop yourself up with a pillow if it helps you to be more comfortable.
- Don’t watch the time. Forget what time it is, it is irrelevant. The most important thing is that it’s night time and you’re meant to be sleeping. Concentrate on that.
- Practise yoga during the week. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle discovered that women who did stretches (upper and lower body) up to four times a week for about 15-30 minutes, reduced their problems falling asleep by up to 30 percent. It’s worth a shot!
These are just a few suggestions for how to fall asleep quickly and easily – what ideas do you have?
The home should be the treasure chest of living. Le Corbusier
The place where you live isn’t just the place where you sleep and occasionally eat, it needs to be a place where you feel safe, comfortable and at peace. When you have a rough day in the office (and they happen to everyone), the last thing you want to do is dread going home because your housemate is unclean or creating problems for you.
House hunting in Sydney at the moment is a nightmare. Pick a weekend and hope to God it rains so it washes out about a quarter of the competition! But this particular weekend I went house hunting with a mission. I chose one property to inspect. It was the only property that ticked all the boxes for a reasonable price. I walked in with about fifty people. I didn’t have a rental history to refer the agent to. Here’s how I got it:
Step 1 – Look at properties
Know what’s in the market for your budget. Look online at as many properties as you can and compare them to each other. Be ruthless. What do you need to survive in your everyday life? One of the things I noticed is none of the properties had a laundry. There were shared laundries or mentions of nearby laundry mats, but that’s just one of those luxuries I don’t want to do without.
Step 2 – Choose the property
For those who don’t know, property inspecting and house hunting is EXHAUSTING! Aim to go for one weekend and make it the only weekend you go. Spend this weekend wisely. Choose the property you want and make that your preference. You may want to inspect one or two other properties that day. Make sure you make a note of which order you want them in. You will also need to remind yourself of: Property address, rent cost, best features, and draw backs, real estate agent and real estate agent’s name.
Step 3 – Dress the part
Today is the one day where I highly recommend marketing yourself. Think of it like a job interview. At the risk of sounding like a snob, I was shocked at the amount of people queuing up to see the property that looked as though they’d just come from collecting their welfare payment. You’re trying to convince the agent that you have the money to afford the property you’re inspecting … why not dress to reflect that. Wear a business suit or at least smart casual. Don’t wear ugg boots, thongs or nightclub attire. Consider who the owners may want in their property and dress to reflect that.
Step 4 – Introduce yourself
Before you go, you need to spend a little time preparing. Print the application form from the real estate agent’s website. Organise a photocopy of 100 points of ID (a payslip, your driver’s license and your passport). With this, insert a copy of a little introduction of who you are. Not everyone is a professional writer, so some things you may want to include in this will be: Start by thanking the agent for the opportunity to inspect the property. About me – this includes where you work, what you’re like as a person (e.g. honest, reliable etc) and how previous arrangements have found you to be (e.g. pay rent on time). How I live – what are you like at home? Are you neat and tidy? What do you do on weekends? What are your hobbies? What do you do after work? Past house history – this is particularly important if you don’t have a rental history, and part of the reason you’re putting this introduction together. Explain why you’re looking for something new, how it will compare to your current arrangement. What I can offer – offer to pay rent in advance if you can, offer to pay a slightly higher rent if you think it’s very sought after. Put your contact details and sign off. I use sub-headings to make it easier to follow, and I also put a picture of myself in the top left corner so the real estate agent will remember me. Make it a good picture, this document is like your resume for a job! Again, finish by thanking the agent for the opportunity to inspect the property and say you look forward to hearing from them soon. Use the most positive and upbeat tone that you can.
Step 4 – Make the decision
When you get there, make your decision quickly. Once you decide the property is yours, you will put the right vibes out to those around you. Use visualisation – see yourself living there. See yourself using the entries and exits as you go through. Look for anything that may annoy you. Remind yourself of all the reasons that you think this property is perfect for you.
Step 5 – Be early to the inspection
Be early to the inspection and try to be the first person to have a look around and leave. Get the main check boxes in your head ticked before leaving. You don’t need to spend a lot of time, remember it’s a rental property – you’re not buying it. As long as it ticks the main boxes it should serve you well for the next 6 to 12 months.
Step 6 – Don’t look at the competition
Singles will always be up against couples. Remember, there is always someone out there that’s pretty, smarter, thinner, happier than you. That’s life. Don’t psych yourself out! I was standing on my own, looking at the property with a job I’d had for only a month, I didn’t have a rental history … there were many factors that I thought may work against me. Particularly when I saw how many people were going through the property. Instead of looking at everything I didn’t have, I thought about everything I did have. I was responsible, I’m reliable, I’m honest … it’s in the best interest of the owners to take me in. These thoughts gave me confidence to move forward.
Step 7 – Meet the Real Estate Agent
Introduce yourself to the real estate agent. Say how excited you are about the property and that it has everything you’re looking for. Hand over the information you have prepared and say you’re happy to go back to the office and pay the deposit that day (if you are!). Try to get on well with the agent – this is your best chance at being put forward and accepted. Smile lots, make conversation, be confident and find a hook to stand out. (My hook to stand out was that the agent said I had a nice self-portrait, which I giggled off at the time, but I made mention of it again in my follow up email to help him remember me.) Towards the end of this conversation, which is a bit of a meet and greet and they’ll probably ask all the questions you’ve answered on your introduction page, he or she should give you their card.
Step 8 – Follow up
As soon as you get home send an email to the agent for your most preferred property. Thank them for their time and the opportunity to view the place. Say how enthusiastic you are and that you would love to organise a move for the date they need someone to move in (don’t panic, you can make it all happen later). They will probably say thank you and tell you they will follow up in a couple of days some agents are so speedy they’ll get back to you that same day (even if it’s a Saturday).
The trick is to be friendly and enthusiastic! You can’t lose.
Got some tips to add? Make sure you leave your suggestions for house hunting advice below.