Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3 Ways To Get To Sleep Without Drugs

These days I sleep pretty well. But that hasn't always been the case. For several years, chronic pain and various worries took their toll on my rest. Some nights I couldn't get to sleep. Other nights I fell asleep without any trouble, but woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back. Sound familiar?

I'm not a fan of sleeping pills. So for a long time, I've been on a quest to find ways to get to sleep easily and naturally. Here are three things that have worked for me. Maybe they will work for you, too.

1. Focus on Your Blessings. It's my thinking that often keeps me awake. Worrying, wishing I'd handled something differently, wondering what to do next, and then the big one: What if I can't get to sleep? What time is it? Oh no, I have to be up in 3 hours and I haven't slept at all! These thoughts provoke anxiety and make it even harder to get to sleep. How do you break that vicious cycle?
Start by remembering this: you can think only one thought at a time. So the trick is to change out the anxious thoughts for thoughts that are soothing... and calm yourself down. 
Try this: the next time you have trouble sleeping and notice that your mind is racing, stop and change the subject from worry to gratitude. Review your day, looking for the parts of it you most appreciated - a conversation that uplifted you, a funny story someone told, a brilliant sunset, a piece of good news. Mine your experience looking for anything that makes you feel good when you think of it - how comfortable your bed is, how good flannel sheets feel in winter, how you've finally found just the right pillow. Keep your focus there and notice how your body begins to relax. Drowsiness and sleep will follow.

Since I have been doing this,  my thinking during the day has shifted, too. I spend less time looking at things that worry or annoy me and more time looking for things to add to my daily appreciation list. It's Law of Attraction in action. The more things I find to appreciate, the more there is to appreciate. 

Don't forget to add yourself to the list of things to appreciate. Remind yourself of the things you did well today. Think of all the ways you make life better for yourself and others. Love yourself.

I will admit that this takes practice, especially if you are a world class worrier or were raised to believe that  it isn't "nice" to brag on yourself. You will have to learn to challenge all those "yes, but..." statements. But in time you will be able to retrain your thought habits and find greater peace, regardless of the time of day. Refocusing your thoughts gives you a feeling of control -  you will notice that you can take charge of how you feel by taking charge of what you think about. Learning to calm yourself down on purpose will help you sleep better and night and feel better during the day.

2. Rub Your Belly. A few years ago, I went to an acupuncturist who taught me how to do Mayan abdominal massage. This simple 5 minute belly rub is very relaxing, which is not surprising since our bellies are where we hold our emotions. A lot of tension builds up there, tension that we tend to ignore - until it's gone and then we say, wow! I feel so much better.

Beyond stress relief, abdominal massage is helpful for relief of acid reflux, prostate problems, and many female complaints, including difficulty getting pregnant. It isn't recommended for everyone, so talk to a licensed massage practitioner to find out if it is something that makes sense for you.

3. Listen to Music. For years I had trouble getting to sleep because of chronic pain. It was hard to get myself positioned comfortably so that I could fall asleep. After a while, I sort of dreaded going to bed because of this, and that created a certain level of anxiety before I even got there.

Then I discovered Steven Halpern's healing music. I know it sounds crazy; I've seen the looks on people's faces when I talk about this. But when I put on the Chakra Suite, it feels like my whole body listens to this music, not just my ears. It soothes and relaxes me on a deep level.

For years, this music was part of my bedtime routine. At least 1/2 hour before bed, I put on this music and let it wash over me. I found that it not only soothed me, it reduced pain.

Even though my health is much improved and chronic pain is no longer part of my life, I listen to this music from time to time when I need to relax. I'm a firm believer in the healing properties of music.

So there you have it. My top 3 sleep aids. They work. They don't have side effects. And if they are habit forming, so much the better!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Next 18 Years

In a few days I will be 62 years old. This isn't a big deal birthday. It isn't one of those landmark years like 60 was and 70 will be. It's just another birthday. The only thing new to report is that this year, for the first time, I have been thinking about how much life I have left.

This isn't a maudlin exercise. It is just a simple calculation. For whatever reason, I have thought for some time that I will probably live to the age of 80. I might change my mind in my late 70s, but for now, 80 seems about right. If that turns out to be the case, it means that I have 18 years left to live.
So now the question is, how do I want to spend those 18 years?
This has been a dilemma for me lately. I don't feel inspired to make a "bucket list" of things I want to do before I die. I have, in fact, done pretty much everything I set out to do, plus a few things I never dreamed I would. I don't feel like I have unfinished business. And yet, I don't want to just drift aimlessly across the finish line. I want these 18 years to mean something.

When I look back on my life, I see that most of it has been about "doing" something:

  • Becoming educated
  • Building careers
  • Raising a family
  • Starting businesses
  • Rehabbing houses
  • Renovating gardens
  • Traveling
  • Working, working, working
I have no interest in revisiting any of these things. I believe I am finished with the "doing" phase of my life. I am ready to explore the meaning of the saying: I am a human being, not a human doing.

And so I want the next 18 years to be about "being" something:

  • Being engaged.
  • Being useful.
  • Being curious.
  • Being happy.
  • Being generous. 
  • Being willing to be willing to consider new ideas.
  • Being loving, and thus, being loved.
I don't know what will be in front of me as these years unfold. But I can use this "being" list to make decisions about what I want to do. For example: Will this activity engage my interest? Is it of any use to  myself or anyone else? Do I even care about it? Will I be happy doing it? Will this be something good to share? Will this expand my world view? And most importantly: Is this what love would do? 
This feels like a graceful and purposeful approach to the grand finale of this lifetime. As I wrote this post, I could feel myself relaxing into it.
Now I'm ready for some birthday cake. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let's Give Gaddafi A Way Out

Watching the drama unfold in Libya, I am struck by how helpless the international community seems to be. Whatever else may be going on behind the scenes, the only solutions presented publicly by world leaders are woefully unimaginative. Only two options seem to have occurred to them. One, scold Gaddafi and tell him that killing his people is unacceptable and it is time for him to stop it. Or two, embark on some form of military action.

Option one is silly. Gaddafi is not going to throw up his hands and agree to stop fighting and killing people just because the President of the US or the UN Secretary General says so. He believes, and rightly so, that he is in a fight for his life.

Option two is crazy. If we learned nothing else from Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq, we should certainly have taken the lesson that it is much easier to get into a military action than it is to get out of one.

So what is left? I want to believe that surely there are smart people in the international community with better ideas than just these two options.

Another possibility is to figure out how to give Gaddafi an exit strategy. At the present time, he has nowhere to go. He's a trapped animal. He can't leave Tripoli. If he ventures out of his compound he is an easier target for the rebels. Even if he wanted to leave Libya, where would he go? He has no allies. From his point of view, his options have come down to this: he will either prevail and reestablish his grip on power or he will die trying. He has no other choice.

So why not create another option for him? For example, how about the Napoleon option? Find an island the international community can agree on as the place for him to be exiled (just, please, not Guantanamo). He agrees to leave, never to return, and be incarcerated for the rest of his life. In exchange, he gets -- his life, what's left of it. He may not agree to that right off, but I'll bet there are ways to coerce him into accepting that option. And the quicker he goes, the sooner the task of rebuilding the nation of Libya can begin.

(Then again, maybe he would prefer the Republican option. This year, the Rs are celebrating the 100th birthday of their patron saint, Ronald Reagan. In honor of the centennial, a repeat of Reagan's bombing of Gaddafi's house could be arranged. Yes, I'm kidding. But not about the 1986 bombing of Mo's house - Reagan really did do that.)

What do you think? What option can you suggest? Put on your thinking caps, folks, because, seriously, time is running out for the Libyan people.