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22 ways to get more sleep

If you haven’t heard or read something on the importance of sleep within the last month or so, you haven’t been paying much attention to the media. Magazine articles, blogs, books, newsletters, newspapers, TV specials and radio reports have all covered some of the consequences of inadequate sleep. I have even written an eBook on the importance of sleep from a time management perspective titled Sleep: A time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com.

I have already written past blog articles covering many of the consequences of inadequate sleep – everything from stress and obesity to diabetes and premature aging. So I decided to summarize in this article all the ways you may be able to gain more sleep – and I am referring to actual sleep time, not the amount of time spent in bed. If you get less than 6 hours actual sleep a night, you’re in trouble.

 Make sleep a priority. It’s as important as exercise and diet.

  1. Make your environment as comfortable as possible for sleep. This may involve a softer pillow, comfortable mattress and even the habit of wearing socks to bed or having relaxation tapes or classical music playing in the background.
  2. Determine your required sleep time and add about a half hour to allow time for getting to sleep and getting up during the night.
  3. Never go to bed earlier than your normal bedtime. If you are not sleepy, don’t go to bed until you are.
  4. Stick to a routine. Where possible go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. It helps regulate the body clock. When people try to catch up on sleep on the weekend the quality of the extended sleep is quite low.
  5. Don’t go to bed during the day if you’re sleepy; take a power nap instead.
  6. Skip the caffeine. Avoid coffee or other caffeine drinks at least six hours before bedtime. It can actually stay in your system for 12 hours. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes as well.
  7. Go light on dinner. Heavy meals keep the digestive system working and delays of sleepiness. It’s best to have a heavier lunch and lighter dinner.
  8. Use your bed for sleeping. It’s not a good idea to use your bed for watching TV, checking your e-mail, working on your laptop or other activities not associated with sleeping or resting.
  9. Control technology. Turn off your computers, laptops, smart phones, iPad’s and other electronic gadgets at least two hours before bedtime.
  10. Exercise daily. It’s best to exercise earlier in the day but avoid strenuous exercise at least two hours before bedtime. You may feel tired immediately after exercising but over the course of the day people who exercise actually have more energy.
  11. Keep the bedroom cool. Scientific evidence indicates that 65°F to 68°F is the ideal temperature for sleep.
  12. Keep in the dark. Light inhibits the production of melatonin, the body’s sleeping pill, so you might even turn off the night light.
  13. Don`t be a clock-watcher in bed. If necessary face the alarm clock the other way so you won`t be tempted or disturbed by the fluorescent screen.
  14. Crash early. The optimal bedtime is between 10 PM and midnight. It is generally recommended that you go to bed by 11 p.m.
  15. Have a transition routine. Have a half hour or more of relaxation away from the bright lights and work activities. This could be light reading, walking, yoga or a warm bath.
  16. Researchers at Wesleyan University found that sniffing lavender oil before bedtime increased slow-wave sleep, the deepest form of slumber, by 22 participants in study participants.
  17. Don’t linger in bed when the alarm clock goes off. More time in bed than needed increases the time that you’re awake in bed and produces poor quality sleep.
  18. Avoid shift work if possible. Working rotating shifts or in a regular sleep schedule weakens the circadian clock that regulates sleep. Even varying it by an hour is the equivalent of traveling across one time zone.
  19. If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Don’t spend too much time trying to sleep; it reduces the sleep drive.
  20. Make your bed. Terry Small reported in one of his bulletins that the National Sleep Foundation found that those people who make their beds tend to sleep more soundly than those who don’t.
  21. Organize your day, and go to bed with an uncluttered mind and the knowledge that you have the next day planned.

There are probably others. Experiment a little until you find something that works for you. And never regret the time needed to get a good night’s sleep. It’s an investment in your health, increased productivity and longevity.

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Be smart when using your smartphone.

Years ago we were warned about the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. One recent article reported that about one quarter of car accidents in the U.S. are caused by texting and talking on the phone while driving.

Then it became obvious that the increase in screen use and digital technology in general was impacting our ability to focus. People were becoming more easily distracted, ADHD symptoms appeared to be increasing, some of us were becoming addicted to email and/or the Internet, and evidence seemed to suggest we are becoming less empathetic, more shallow in our thinking, and more open to health problems such as obesity and heart disease.

Soon there were indications of physical problems emerging as a result of overuse of digital technology as well. The first of these to become evident was carpal tunnel syndrome and many of us have already made adjustments with the way we use our mouse, position the hand, and support our wrist.

But research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine, and reported in the Toronto Star, November 24, 2014, indicates that bending your neck over a smart phone for hours a day could lead to early wear and tear on the spine, degeneration and even surgery. And smartphone users spend an average of 2 to 4 hours a day hunched over, reading e-mails, sending texts or checking the social media sites.  

Known as text neck, this problem is caused by an increase in the weight of the head as it bends forward. The average human head weighs between 10 and 12 pounds, according to an article by Adam Popescu in the January 25, 2018 issue of the New York Times. The weight on the cervical spine varies from 27 pounds at a 15° angle to 60 pounds at a 60° angle according to Kenneth Hanrai’s research mentioned earlier.

Since posture is known to affect mood, behavior, personal energy and memory in addition to the physiological impact mentioned above, the way we are tethered to our smartphones can cause even more problems.

Adam Popescu, introduces the antisocial aspect of smartphones in his article by asking us to observe how much time passes the next time we’re sitting among a group of friends before someone grabs their phone to look at it. This antisocial behavior is bound to negatively impact friendships as well as the effectiveness of communications. And yet, according to the Pew Research Center, 75% of Americans feel their use of a smartphone doesn’t impact their ability to pay attention in a group setting.

This denial is even more disturbing. I shudder to think of the negative impact this could have on important business meetings or family life.

We’re at the point where over half the world’s population owns a smartphone and the Internet has surpassed the 4 billion mark. And many of us are quick to adopt a new technology, regardless of its merit, for fear of being left behind.

It’s more important than ever that we control the use of our smartphone – or any other electronic device – so that it remains a useful tool to increase efficiency and does not become an addiction that negatively impacts our physical, emotional and mental well-being.

 

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Holistic time management revisited.

In the past I have described holistic time management, as I see it, as the application of strategies necessary in order to lead a happier, healthier, longer, and more productive and fulfilling life. It addresses the person as a whole as opposed to simply their management of time.

But many time conscious people could be turned off by this definition; because they want to simply focus on efficiency and effectiveness and getting more work done in less time.

Either they think they are already happy, healthy, and destined for a long, fulfilling life – or they are not at that stage of life where those things seem important to them. After all, why would they be concerned about such things as exercise, getting more sleep, building personal relationships and spending time in the garden or walking in the park? These things consume time rather than save time, don’t they?

The short answer to that last question is “yes.” The long answer is that they only consume time on a short-term basis – just as organizing your office, training staff members so they can take over jobs that you are currently doing, and learning to use available technology all consume time. But these are all investments of time, which soon pay off by freeing up even more time that you can spend on those priority personal and organizational goals that will ensure your success.

For example, getting more sleep could increase your energy, boost your memory, improve your creativity, reduce lost time through illness and even extend your productive time by two or more years. Wouldn’t that be considered a time management strategy? Get less than six hours sleep a night, and you work as efficiently as you would if you were drunk. And if you think you can get by just fine on five hours sleep a night, remember it’s your sleep deprived brain that’s telling you that.

If you want scientific evidence of these things, refer to my e-book, Sleep: a time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com. There are plenty of references there. I’m just a reporter, not a researcher.

Similarly it has been shown that attitude, exercise, environment, mindfulness, stress management, relationships, music, volunteering, laughter, diet, nature, memory training, purposeful living, and even scenic views can increase your personal productivity – as well as umpacting your longevity. All these and more are discussed in my most recent book, How to grow older without growing old, a 147-page book now available as a download at my Taylorintime website.

It summarizes the relevant information in at least half of my 21 e-books that have been published to date by Bookboon.com. Although it is directed at fellow seniors, I believe it’s an even more important read as a time investment for those sixty-five and younger.

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Avoiding dementia and increasing longevity.

In a previous article I said I would provide a list of actions that are recommended in order to guard against dementia and improve longevity. Here is an abbreviated list of strategies from my new book on growing older without growing old. An electronic version of the book will soon be available at our website.

Stimulate the brain.

Good old-fashioned reading, writing and arithmetic stimulate the brain and grow more connections. Keep mentally active, whether it’s by doing crossword puzzles, discussing the weather, writing poetry, reading or working on your income tax.

Maintain lifelong learning.

Wisdom usually comes with age; but sometimes just age comes with age. So keep on learning. Lifelong learning could delay the onset of cognitive impairment by 3 to 8 years.

Build and maintain relationships.

Staying socially engaged affects your cognitive functioning and keeps your cells from aging too fast. Research indicates that the more social connections you have, the greater your ability to fight infection and keep your cells from aging too quickly.

Reduce stress.

Do everything you can to reduce excessive stress in your life since stress serves to exacerbate dementia. Stress can induce the release of cortisol and excess cortisol impairs function in the prefrontal cortex. The overproduction of cortisol was found in seniors who were experiencing memory loss.

Exercise regularly.

Physical exercise not only increases circulation of nutrient-carrying blood to the brain and stimulates the creation of new neurons. It also reduces the risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, diabetes – and improves mood, muscles, bones and lung capacity.

Get enough sleep.

Although many people sleep less as they get older, your need for sleep does not decrease. Sleep is one of the most important predictors of how long you will live — as important as whether you smoke, exercise or have high blood pressure.

Move around.

Researchers are now finding that even getting up from your chair is a lot better than sitting down most of the day. One study indicated that sitters had a 50% greater likelihood of dying from any cause during the eight and a half year study.

Watch what you eat.

Any food that reduces high blood pressure or helps the cardiovascular system in any way is good for the brain, since the brain’s blood supply is critical. This includes such foods as oatmeal, brown rice and grain breads. EPA omega-3 fish oil is also recommended since it keeps the cell membranes in the brain flexible, slows cognitive decline, and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Spend more time outdoors.

It is a fact that trees, grass, plants and vegetation affects us both physically and mentally. And sunlight causes the body to release serotonin – one of the reasons you feel in a good mood on sunny days. Hospitals and seniors homes are introducing more greenery into their facilities because of the impact of vegetation on healing, mood and pain control.

Maintain a view of nature.

If you are unable to spend much time outdoors have a view of nature if at all possible. Patients in hospital rooms with a window view require less pain medication and spend less time in the hospital. Recent studies found that urban green spaces, such as plants and gardens, also improve cognitive development.

Grow indoor plants.

Plants not only give off oxygen, they are able to absorb environmental chemicals and transport them to the soil. They act as vacuum cleaners removing pollution from the air. Studies have shown that the presence of potted plants, for example, improves productivity, creativity, performance and learning ability.

Volunteer.

Scientists have tracked 2025 people aged 55 and older for five years and found that those who volunteered for two or more organizations were 63% less likely to die during the study than those who didn’t volunteer. That was reduced to 26% when the only volunteered for one organization. By helping others you are helping yourself.

Listen to music.

Music can enhance learning and higher brain function and even improve memory performance. It increases creativity and learning skills. Background music has also been known to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve concentration – and helps keep dementia at bay.

Grow spiritually.

Spiritual people tend to live longer, happier, healthier lives. Research from the University of Toronto showed that thinking about God or other spiritual beliefs keep you calm under fire. People with depression who believe in a caring, higher being are 75% more likely to get relief from medication. 99% of the physicians in 1999 meeting of the American Academy of family physicians said they believed that religious beliefs aid healing.

Maintain purpose and pursue goals.

Have a purpose in life – a reason to get up every morning, and the motivation to face the day’s trials as well as its joys. Having goals and focusing on long-term challenges, keep you mentally alert, and give you that extra push that keeps life interesting and fulfilling. Challenge the brain results in more brain cells and more connections.

 Laugh often.

Laughter has healing power and it has been known to reduce blood pressure decrease, heart rate and increase respiration. When you laugh, the body releases endorphins, and depression declines. When you relax again afterwards, that good feeling lasts for a day or two.

Get organized

An article in Rodale’s January/February, 2018 issue of Prevention Guide states that “People who consider themselves self-disciplined, organized achievers live longer and have up to an 89% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than the less conscientious, according to two studies.”

Watch your attitude.

Your outlook on life is linked to your health and well-being. A survey of more than 500 people 70 and over thought it was important to keep a youthful mindset, and researchers at the University of Michigan also linked it to a longer life.

 

 

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The sound of silence

In my book, How to grow older without growing old, to be published in late February, 2018, I discussed over a dozen strategies for strengthening body, mind and spirit. But one significant strategy that I failed to discuss is “silence” – probably due to the incessant background noise of our loud, distracting fast-paced world. My brain was not operating on all cylinders, so to speak, when I originally put together the outline before moving from the city.

That’s what exposure to noise can do to us over a long period of time. I’m not talking about the construction that was going on down the street or the annual fireworks display or the car crash we witnessed at the intersection. I’m talking about sound pollution, both indoors and outdoors from such things as TV, radio, air conditioning, computer printers, cell phone chatter, traffic and other noises of the city.

We don’t realize what this overstimulation of our hearing does to our brain cells. And among other afflictions it has been proven to cause stress, moodiness, anxiety and depression. It has been discovered that noise pollution can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and impaired hearing. Those exposed to loud noises, usually for long periods of time, can suffer from such things as tinnitus, a constant or intermittent ringing noise in the ears  that can interfere with sleeping, impede concentration and even interfere with work. One of my sons has tinnitus that was caused by the loud music of his and others’ rock bands during his youth.

You don’t have to be in a rock band or live near commuter train tracks to be victimized by noise. It’s now everywhere – unless you live in the woods, and according to the World Health Organization, persistent sounds of just 30 decibels, similar to that produced by people whispering in a library, are sufficient to disturb sleep patterns.

What can we do about it – short of living in a sound-proof room for the rest of your life? You might start by taking a “silence break” and gradually increase its duration until you are experiencing an hour or more a day of peace and quiet. This is referred to as “attention restoration.” According to a 2017 article in Science, “the brain can restore its finite cognitive resources when we’re in environments with lower levels of sensory input than usual.” This could take the form of a walk through the woods or a quiet park – far away from the noise pollution of the city.

If you want to experience what silence feels like, get a free hearing test. My first real experience of the “sound of silence” happened while sitting in a sound-proof booth waiting to have my hearing tested. It was nothing short of euphoria. Over a year after my move to the country, away from the constant background noises of city living, I find my hearing is more sensitive (even without my hearing aid) to the sounds of nature – such as the rustling of leaves, whispering wind, gurgling streams and the sudden flight of birds.

Silence has been found to repair and regenerate brain cells, relieve stress, improve our power of concentration, and in many ways improve our health and well-being. The article from Science, referred to earlier, mentioned a 2013 study on mice that found that two hours of silence daily led to the new development of cells in the hippocampus, a key area of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotion.

We’re not mice; but the research suggested that silence could be therapeutic for conditions such as depression and Alzheimer’s.

I regret having omitted it from my book. It sure is peaceful listening to the sound of silence.

 

 

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Friendly forests and nurturing nature.

South Korea even has a Jangseong healing forest where 2000 plus visitors per month walk through its expanse of cypress trees seeking healing and relaxation – in addition to taking in its sheer beauty. Described by Florence Williams in her book, The nature fix, the two and a half million trees are said to have reduced stress 53% and lowered blood pressure 5% to 7%. She was told the phytoncides are antibacterial and even the soil is good for healing. After only a few minutes of walking, Williams felt more awake than she had been all day.

Korean researchers found that the immune-boosting killer T cells of women with breast cancer increased after a two-week forest visit and stayed elevated for 14 days. People in nature as opposed to the city achieved better fitness and were more likely to continue exercising.

Visits to Korea’s country forest increased from 9.4 million in 2010 to 12.7 million in 2013, while in the U.S., visits to national forests dropped by 25%. In North America at least, we are not taking advantage of the healing power of forests.

There are few trees in cities to absorb particulate matter from pollution, and scientists found that pollution from diesel, as an example, shortens lifespan by causing cardiovascular and pulmonary problems. Black carbon from fires and cook stoves are blamed for 2.1 million premature deaths annually around the world.

It’s not just the lungs that are affected by pollution. The nose allows a direct pathway to the brain, bypassing the blood brain barrier. (This became obvious in 2003 when researchers found brain lesions on stray dogs in smoggy Mexico City.) After spending over 50 years in traffic-congested, smoggy Toronto, it’s no wonder I feel so much better both physically and mentally in the town of Sussex, New Brunswick – surrounded by forests and lacking any pollution-spewing factories or exhaust from  traffic congestion.

To give you an idea of the effectiveness of trees in keeping our air breathable, William’s book reports that a 2014 study estimates trees in the U.S. remove 17.4 million tons of air pollution per year, providing $6.8 billion in human health benefits.

All of this convinces me that my move from the city to the country was well worth the effort.

Richard Louv, in his book, The nature principle, claims that spending time in nature can make aging easier. He refers to it as “nature-assisted aging.” I know I feel younger when I’m walking in a park or along a nature trail. And as someone commented in Louv’s book, “It brings out the excitement and enthusiasm I had as a youngster. I know my body is getting old, but as long as I remain connected to nature, I don’t feel old.”

Louv also mentioned several studies indicating the benefits of gardening. One showed that when elderly residents in retirement apartments had a garden view they experienced greater satisfaction and stronger feelings of well-being. Another study, where one group of institutionalized seniors were provided gardening time, it resulted in emotional and mental improvement as well as pinch and grip strength and improved dexterity. An Australian study found that daily gardening was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of developing dementia.

The above studies may also show the benefits of exercise as well as the impact of exposure to nature. The more exercise one gets, the more the cells release antioxidants for their protection. It would appear that nature walks, gardening and exercising outdoors are all beneficial for seniors – and anyone for that matter.

Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick, about a half-hour drive from where I live, has a roof garden called a “healing garden” with room for exercise. They have found it reduces the medication needed for sleep disorders and helps mental health.

If that’s true, and few people would doubt it based on the research, the Fundy Trail, only a 45-minute drive from Sussex, should be promoted as a healing trail. 16 km of hiking and biking trails and 19 km of parkway with breathtaking views of the Fundy coast should take anyone’s mind off their ailments. And imagine tides that rise 32 feet! Nature at its best.

New Brunswick, now my province of choice, is not an ideal place for lucrative jobs. It currently has the lowest median net worth of any other province in the country, according to a December, 2017 report from Statistics Canada. But money can’t buy health.

It’s interesting to note that young people leave in droves to seek out high paying jobs in the big cities, only to return in their senior years. New Brunswick and the other Atlantic provinces have the highest percentage of seniors in the country according to Statistics Canada. It’s an ideal place for retirement because of its lower cost of living as well as its quality of life.

I’m not saying you should move to Sussex; but you should definitely draw closer to nature if at all possible. And if not, at least draw nature (in the form of plants, greenery and scenic views) closer to you.

 

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A hug a day could keep the doctor away.

One study described in the book, Younger next year, involved rabbits stacked in cages up to the ceiling and being injected with cholesterol to study plaque buildup. The rabbits in the lower cages had 60% less plaque than those in the higher cages. Not a correlation that the researchers were looking for. Seems the custodian who fed the rabbits loved animals, and petted and fussed over those she could reach – and they prospered. When they reversed the cages the rabbits who had been in the higher cages prospered as well.

Animals thrive on attention, stroking and petting; but so do humans, as illustrated by another study that kept track of heart attack victims who did or did not have a dog. Those who didn’t have a dog were six times more likely to die of a second heart attack. So it’s not only the one being petted who reaps the benefit.

Hugging increases levels of the neuropeptide oxytocin, sometimes referred to as a “cuddle hormone” or “love” hormone. Oxytocin promotes relaxation and supports coping skills, and hugging is one of the methods that Gayatri Devi recommends in his book, A calm brain, to calm your brain and reduce stress. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak recommends at least eight hugs a day to be happier and enjoying better relationships.

There is nothing new about the positive effects of hugging. Ever since the time of Florence Nightingale, who illustrated how babies thrive when cuddled, studies have consistently shown that hugging, cuddling, touching and stroking all have a positive impact on health and well-being.

Isolation has the opposite effect. Single men die before married men. Go back to an empty house after your first heart attack and you double the risk of a second heart attack within a few months. The more friends you have, the higher the survival rate.

The lonely are twice as likely to have ulcers. And low levels of social interaction evidently have worse effects than being obese or not exercising. Companionship is good for everyone – assuming the feelings are mutual.

When you are with friends, you don’t have to do all the talking. It’s more important to be a good listener. In fact, according to the book, Younger next year, your blood pressure actually goes up when you talk, and down when you listen.

There is a common expression concerning mindfulness that suggests “wherever you are, be there.” In this age of technology, we should add, “And whomever you are with, be with them.” It’s interesting to observe the number of people and their companions who seem to be more interested in their devices then each other. Whether in restaurants, commuter trains, shopping malls or walking, it’s astounding to see how little communication is actually going on between partners.

The sheer volume of time people are spending on the Internet has to be taking time away from communications in the real world.

There are many studies showing that social relationships are good for your health and well-being. None of these studies seem to refer to social networking. There is no doubt a benefit, but it couldn’t possibly approach the benefits derived from the more intimate one-on-one relationships with those you can actually reach out and touch?

It may be time to trade a few hundred friends on Facebook for a few more hours of quality time with those you really love.

Spend more time with people and less time with things.

 

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Take charge of your health

You might think that neuroticism, frequently linked to depression and anxiety, would be considered a trait that would shorten your life span. But it could actually lengthen your lifespan, according to one study that was published in Psychological Science and reported in the November/December, 2017 issue of Psychology Today. Of the 321,000 people studied, those who rated themselves low on health tended to have a lower mortality rate. It’s thought that people who scored high in neuroticism and rated their own health as poor or fair might make greater use of primary care and go to hospitals more often.

This isn’t suggesting that you become neurotic; but it could suggest that it pays to get regular checkups and not write off the medical profession simply because you have had some success with natural remedies – or nature itself, as I discussed in a previous blog article, “The greening of my life.” We also need the medical profession in order to live a long and fruitful life.

I have been writing a lot about the importance of sunshine, attitude, lifestyle and environmental factors for healthy living. I do believe in the power of such things as nature, sleep, relationships, music and the environment to improve both your health and longevity. But I still go to the dentist when I have a toothache, and owe my life to doctors who nipped my cancer in the bud, performed surgeries when necessary, and diagnosed the diseases and complaints I have experienced along the way.

David B Agus, MD, in his book, A short guide to a long life, indicates that a staggering seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are from chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, dementia, kidney disease and diabetes. He also suggests that there is a plethora of information available in this high-tech age on how to stay healthy. And yet prevention is a hard sell – perhaps because we tend to live in the moment rather than prepare for the future.

To quote Dr. Angus, “preventable non-communicable diseases now account for more deaths worldwide than all the causes combined.” If we took an active interest in our own health – enough at least to carve out a lifestyle that would pay off in the future – we would have a much better chance of extending our lifespan.

We are so conditioned to “buy now and pay later” that we frequently do the same with our health – we overindulge or eat junk food and pay for it later in life.

As far as preventative health measures are concerned, there is no “one fits all” regime that we can adopt. For example, such things as acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage can be effective only for certain conditions and certain people. But there are some things we can all do that seem to help everyone, such as exercise, adequate sleep and exposure to nature.

In my book, “How work environment impacts productivity”, published by Bookboon.com, I discuss not only how the nature impacts not only our personal productivity, but in many cases our health as well

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The greening of my life – and results to date.

Green fields

I have been periodically updating my readers on my personal experiences with a greener, more active, and yes – more productive life. “Productive” does not necessarily relate to work or business. A person is productive when he or she receives maximum value from life with minimum input. Minimum input does not refer to sloth; but to the fact that you don’t have to invest all your money, energy and personal resources to yield a happy, healthy, useful and purposeful life – even in your latter years.

This particular personal journey started several years ago when I discovered the power of plants, trees and nature in general, along with social relationships and lifestyle factors, to positively impact productivity, health and well-being.

Until then I didn’t realize that plants and trees act as vacuum cleaners removing toxins and pollution from the air or that friendships impacted longevity or that our minds could frequently cure diseases. The more I studied the importance of adequate sleep, exercise and the environment in which we work and live, the more changes I made to the way I work and live.

Living and working in the Toronto area limited those changes, but I originally reported on the impact of increasing sleep from 6 to 7 hours a night, walking regularly, moving my home office to the solarium where I was exposed to natural light, working at coffee shops, and my attempt at “growing” artificial plants on my balcony.

Basically the results were an increase in personal energy and productivity resulting in greater output (mainly in my writing) and a general feeling of well-being.

A year or so ago, when I actually moved to the country (Sussex, New Brunswick) and worked in my home office overlooking a small park, surrounded myself with the natural environment, took up fishing in trout streams, picking wild blueberries and cranberries in season – and joined several service organizations and volunteer groups, the impact of my original city changes outlined above became more evident. My blood pressure has dropped 10 points. (The doctor actually eliminated one blood pressure medication) The psoriasis that persisted on my ankles in spite of creams etc. vanished (at least for the past eight months) and the arthritis in my hands, although never serious, disappeared altogether.

Even if all of this could be simply due to the placebo factor (a phenomenon by which a condition improves simply because the person believes treatment has occurred), the result is unchanged. At 83, I feel more like 63. I’m happy, energetic, more productive enjoying more variety in my life – and as far as I can tell, I’m relatively stress free. (I understand from the literature that stress is an important factor in aging.)

For sure, I am more productive because the value I derive from life is increasing, while input (such as paying about one-third of the money for rent, spending less than one-third of the time in traffic, and spending far less energy writing and dreaming up things to write about, is decreasing.

I will continue to periodically write more about this little adventure of mine (and will include some of the research that seems to lend credibility to my claims) in future blog articles. Meanwhile, I will try to keep on the “time management” track as much as possible. But as I mentioned in my e-book, “An introduction to holistic time management,” published by Bookboon.com, the greatest time saver of all is to live a longer, healthier, happier, and more productive and fulfilling life.

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Why time flies as you age and what you can do about it.

 

Time flies as you age

The September/October, 2017 issue of Popular Science gave the usual explanation as to why time seems to pass more quickly as we grow older. To quote, “To a child, one year can feel like an eternity, but to that kiddo’s grandparents, it passes in a flash.” They are referring to the fact that one year to a child is a lot larger percentage of their total lifetime to date as one year to an elderly person.

As an example, as explained by Barry J. Gibb in his book, The Rough Guide to the Brain, for a 10-year old girl, one year represents 10% of her existence to date. That’s a long time. But to a 60-year old woman, one year represents less than 2% of her life experience to date, giving the impression of it passing much faster. The older you get, the faster life will seem to pass. From experience most of us can vouch for the truth of this statement.

But what most people tend to overlook, is that there are more factors at play than age,  Our perception of time is influenced by many things, such as heat, activity, stress, and speed – regardless of our age. Time goes just as fast for a child as it does for an adult when both are involved in an activity they enjoy. And it drags just as much when they are waiting in a line-up or taking a long trip in a car.

We can compensate somewhat for the age effect by modifying our lifestyle. For example, when we are busy, jumping quickly from one job to another, time seems to pass more quickly. So stay clear of multitasking and avoid busyness as much as possible.

Also, time spent with things seem to go faster than time spent with people. Cultivate friendships and don’t be stingy with your time when you are interacting with others. Gretchen Rubin, in her book, The Happiness Project, referred to a study that showed that doing things with someone  rather  than  doing  them  alone is always more  fun,  regardless of whether  it  is exercising, commuting  or doing housework.

Of fifteen daily activities, researchers found that the only one people preferred doing alone was prayer. Rubin goes on to say that strong relationships not only add more joy to life, it lengthens your life, boosts immunity, and cuts the risk of depression.

Mindfulness also slows down your perception of time. Just as gulping your food and rushing through meals takes the enjoyment out of eating while doing nothing for your health, rushing through life has its consequences. If you can’t remember what you had for dinner last night, you were probably mentally absent at the time. And the same thing applies to life itself. If you rush through life, multitasking and always thinking ahead about the next item on your bottomless “To Do” list, later in life you will wonder where the time went.

Speed is the enemy of time management, not its ally. Life is meant to be savored, not dispensed with as quickly as possible. Slowing down will result in fewer errors, fewer accidents, a healthier lifestyle, improved relationships, and a more enjoyable and memorable life.

Other factors are at play as well. A long period of time spent on the same or similar activities shortens our perception of this time later. For instance, if we fish off the same dock for three  hours  every morning,  the  time  may not  seem to  drag at the  time,  depending  on our level of interest. But looking back at it later, our brain doesn’t distinguish between one fishing session and the others. The past will have seemed much shorter since this part of our life has been compressed. Barry Gibb, in his book, The Rough Guide to the Brain, refers to this as “retroactive interference.”

These effects help move life along faster as you grow older. The longer you live, the more similarity in things you have done, and consequently the more compressed your life becomes.

You are what your brain says you are. You have lived and experienced what your brain says you have lived and experienced. External time passes as quickly as your brain tells you it passes.

Just as inactive waiting makes time drag, so a slow-paced, boring, non-eventful life seems longer while you’re actually experiencing it even though it seems shorter when recalled later. For many people, the days seem to pass slowly and the years seem to fly by.

If you race through life, multitasking, cramming as many activities as possible into a day, generally time will zoom by. And when you’re in your seventies or eighties, it will seem like you have lived only half of that amount of time. That’s what I call poor internal time management. But this doesn’t mean you should lead a slow, quiet, boring, non-active life with plenty of waiting and therefore appear to live longer. Because there are other factors involved, the most significant being memory.

When we contemplate how fast our day or life has gone by, we are relying on our memory. And our memory is very selective. It dismisses anything it deems insignificant. We remember the important things, such as graduation from college, that car accident, our first bicycle, a winning goal scored in a soccer game, a new job and so on. Our brain doesn’t bother with all the insignificant things that happen to us, such as those thousands of emails we reviewed and deleted or the mountains of paperwork that came across our desks or those trivial tasks we worked on, or those endless hours waiting for people.

If we have a lot of significant events in our life – if we achieve significant goals, and we live purposefully – we will have plenty of vivid memories, and consequently, our lives will have seemed longer in retrospect.

I discuss these things and more in my 64-page eBook, Internal Time Management: Slowing the Pace of Life, published by Bookboon.com, 2016.