As uncertain as the days have been for the last five months, it has brought an extreme sense of clarity about what is vitally important in life. It’s been a time to bring things back to simple health so that we can protect ourselves and the people around us. It’s been a time to stay present, see each day as a gift and an opportunity…something that as I have said countless times, maybe that is always as it should have been. I’ve been at shaping this optimists outlook for awhile, I know it’s trainable because I have trained my own. Learning to reframe life’s challenges as opportunities for growth when things get heavy is a key to greatness, longevity, and the best life. Through my own training and writing I have developed a platform that I call Active Optimism. So often, optimism is seen as naive or blind, like we can just wish something into existence. Active Optimism is a set of skills, simple but consistent, that train an optimists lens through life’s challenges. These are the pillars that change wishing through rose colored glasses to a wellness platform that shapes an optimists perspective and gives us the energy to transform our lives and go after our goals. Optimism is the backbone of resilience and I’ve realized that when times are tough, these are the basics that always bring me back to center. As with anything that you want to make great, it starts with small and simple steps of consistency that we have a desire to build on.
1. Sleep Enough
2. Hydrate Well
3. Eat Green
4. Celebrate with Music
5. Connect with Yourself & Others
6. Practice Faith & Gratitude
7. Just Breathe
8. Move Everyday
Week by week I want to break these pillars down, using stories and habits from my life that have brought me to the understanding I have today about why each of these things is a pillar of strength and optimism. This week I’m starting with sleep. I’ve always been a fan, my kids know that difficult decisions are left to the morning and that by 9pm, I like to have most things wrapped up and done…and whatever is left, is written on a list to tackle the next morning. Knowing when to say when, knowing that when we are too tired, we lose massive amounts of efficiency and that clarity comes with a rested mind, we can start to understand our circadian rhythm better. Not everyone is a morning person like me…some of us are night owls. When my kids were little, and even with teenagers who love to sleep in, my strategy has always been to get as much done before they get out of bed. I have friends though who were the opposite, putting kids down at night and then relishing the quiet of the evening and checking things off one by one after they sleep. Whether you are a night owl or a morning person, here are some keys to get your sleep right so that you can awaken to your best life. Sleep affects everything - from hormones, what foods we crave, what things we remember, how our muscles repair (or don’t) to the quality of the relationships in our lives. Without it, our optimists lens gets fogged up fast.
Set a consistent sleep and wake time. When we go to sleep and wake up at the same (or close to the same) time every day, our body is able to maintain it’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. This makes it easier for us to fall asleep and wake up unassisted.
Seek the morning light & the evening sunset. This is another sleep/wake habit that I practice regularly. The morning light coaxes your system awake. Walk outside within minutes of getting out of bed and you will find your mood and energy for the day lifts easily. Watching the sunset adjusts allows your body to begin processing that bedtime is near.
Skip the blue light at least two hours before bed. Blue light blocks melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep. This is by far the hardest one to stick to for me. With the presence of our phones and laptops in life, it’s hard to stay away from blue light for two hours before bed. But if we do, we sleep better and have a better shot at getting ample REM and deep sleep that are key for learning and recovery.
Skip the late night snacks - Intermittent Fasting taught me about how much better I sleep when I don’t have food in my stomach that needs to digest. If we make our last intake at least three hours before going to bed, our heart rate lowers quicker and we get a sounder nights sleep.
Skip the alcohol - My Oura ring (best sleep tracking device ever!) has taught me what alcohol does to our sleep cycle. When we drink, our heart rate lowers later in the night, preventing us from getting enough Deep and REM sleep. We may feel like we fall asleep faster or even “pass out” but the sleep in this state is not restful.
Skip the snooze button, or the alarm altogether. I have always hated the alarm clock and the sleep that we get after we hit the snooze button isn’t quality sleep. Since college, I have left my curtains or shades slightly open so that the morning sunlight will come through and gently wake me. Only if there is a plane to catch at an ungodly hour do I set an alarm.
Deep health through Active Optimism is the answer to the uncertainty we are all feeling these days. We all leave an imprint, big or small, we make an impact on the people we connect with. Active Optimism is the way to make your impact positive. As the power structures in the world get more complicated and feel more broken to me everyday, embracing Active Optimism is a way to make your day, and the day of everyone around you, better. It’s a commitment to consistency, growth, and vulnerability about our story that over time will become second nature and create deep connection with the people we love and have the honor to do life with.