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Reading Before Bed – A Self Care Guide for a Calmer, Healthier, More Successful You

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I recently reintroduced the habit of reading before bed and it has had such a calming and positive effect on my life. When I was younger I was an avid reader, easily devouring five to six books a week. Sometimes even staying up until the middle of the night because I just couldn’t put a certain book down.

This was all prior to the era of smartphones. Once those became ubiquitous, my daily reading was replaced with quick fixes of random internet articles, and way too much Candy Crush. The constant presence of my smartphone coupled with increasing demands on my time as I have gotten older, has resulted in reading fewer books just for the pleasure of it.

Reading before bed is not just a way for me to recapture some of the easier, quieter times of my childhood but a concerted effort to reduce stress while improving my health and happiness.

Reading before bed has many health benefits

Initially you may tell yourself that you can’t possibly add another thing to your already busy schedule, especially when all you want to do is collapse in bed at the end of the day and get some much needed sleep. I hear you. The thing is, if you are living the kind of life where even some light reading in the evening seems like a huge imposition on your time, then cultivating this new habit is even more imperative because you stand to benefit the most from the additional stress relief.

According to research by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce stress levels by 68 percent. In fact, it is the best way to decrease cortisol levels compared to other relaxing activities such as listening to music or drinking hot tea. Immersing yourself in another world, even for a few minutes provides a much needed mental break, while engaging you in a different way that can promote empathy, and greater peace of mind.

“Knowing you have something good to read before sleep is amongst the most pleasurable things of sensations.” – Vladimir Nabokov

If you still aren’t convinced, and start feeling withdrawal symptoms at the mere mention of substituting your smartphone in the evening for good ol’ bound paper and ink, then realize just how much you stand to gain in cognitive functioning by making nightly reading a priority, rather than indulging the smartphone before bed habit.

It is well known that avid readers outperform those who don’t regularly read in a variety of cognitive tests, the benefits of which last well into advanced age. If you are in a cognitively demanding job, which is the case for many of us in knowledge fields, reading is a magic bullet of sorts that helps to decrease stress, improve cognition and help you sleep better.

You can find more time to read before bed by making simple tradeoffs

Daily reading before bed is incredibly beneficial so even if you just manage to do so a few times a week for as little as 15–20 minutes, you will be better off than before. It can become second nature, an integral part of your evening routine. One way I nudged myself towards my new habit was by making some simple tradeoffs.

I watch less TV now and stopped checking email earlier in the evening so that I could have additional time to read. Once you make the commitment, the next step is to stash plenty of books that you actually want to read. I am one of those rare people that still checks out books at the library, so that is my major go-to for reading material.

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.” – William Blake

Used bookstores, garage sales, thrift stores, your friends bookshelves, and of course the internet, will provide you with more reading material than you will ever know what to do with. So there is really no excuse for not having a new book around on a regular basis. The more you read, the more you will find new sources of inspiration for new books to read.

I keep a list in my phone of every book I hear about that sounds interesting, so I am never without reading material. One final tip is to remember that reading should be pleasurable. This is not 10th grade, where you had to get through The Crucible regardless of whether you liked it or not.

If you do not find yourself connecting with a particular author, or the story is just moving way too slow for your taste, then ditch the book. Life is too short to read things that you’re not absolutely thrilled about. Indulge in a good book and your mind and body will thank you.

What books are you going to start reading tonight? Please leave your thoughts below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Harsh

    Nov 20, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    We should never under estimate the importance of health – great article

  2. Trevor Jones

    Oct 18, 2018 at 4:25 am

    Desperate for help, with my sleepless nights I just can’t seem to turn my brain off. I wake up irritated from the night before usually. Most definitely going to have to get to the book store and get some books to read at night. Hopefully, it helps!

  3. Andre

    Jul 12, 2018 at 3:20 am

    This is really a well-researched article. Reading before bed should be the daily routine for everyone. I like this guide. Thank you.

  4. Ain

    May 4, 2017 at 3:07 am

    I am gonna continue reading The Maze Runner. I’m always tied up with my work until I forgot to allocate some time to actually read a book. So I think tonight is the night for me to start reading the novel back again. Thank you for such a good article.

    • Monica

      Jun 1, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks so much, I hope you enjoy the Maze Runner!

  5. Anjali Papreja

    May 3, 2017 at 8:25 am

    I am going to read “The Secret” today !!

  6. Nicah Caramba

    May 2, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Hey, Monica!
    I don’t limit myself to printed books or articles before bed. I also listen to audio books, which have the same relaxing effect. I wake up feeling fresh and much more confident to take on the world. For some reason, I absorb more when reading before bed and then waking up much more motivated to apply what I’ve learned the following day.
    Right now I’m reading some of Brian Tracy’s materials and some of his audiobooks. 🙂

    • Monica

      Jun 1, 2017 at 3:20 pm

      I’m totally on board with the awesomeness of audiobooks. I especially love to listen to them as I’m driving into work, and sometimes when I’m just sitting at the computer, doing data analysis. I find them very soothing.

  7. Mitch Ferguson

    May 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    I completely agree. Reading a real paper book is good for you in many ways. It’s becoming a lost habit that we need to re-establish. As is good sleep. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Monica

      Jun 1, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      You’re welcome Mitch, reading is one of my favorite things. I’m glad you love it it too.

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Life

9 Personal Growth Lessons I Learned From Being Bullied

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Wherever I went, bullying seemed to follow me. Whether it was school, work or even family, I could never seem to find any kind of escape. For years, I was stuck in the victim mindset, constantly asking myself what I did to deserve this kind of behaviour towards me. I decided to turn my struggle into a personal growth strategy to help others who might be silently struggling with what I did.

Here are some of the key personal growth lessons I learnt from my harrowing experiences:

1. Be the victim

Be the victim but put an early as possible expiration date on this. Realise that it is okay to feel sorry for yourself; it is okay to validate yourself by reinforcing the fact that you didn’t deserve what happened to you. This will help you give yourself the compassion that you need in that moment. Recognition of the hurt and validation are the first steps towards starting the healing process, but the key is not to hang around there for too long otherwise you will be stuck with a victim mentality.

2. Why?

This is a question that is often asked – why did this happen to me? Were the stars misaligned or is this karma for sneaking the last doughnut from the party? Rather than getting bogged down analysing why you went through the harrowing experience, focus on what you learnt from the experience. Sometimes, it can be something as simple as finding your voice and setting boundaries. Every difficult situation offers an opportunity to learn.

3. Focus on the lesson, not on the pain

Whenever faced with a tough situation, ask yourself, “What am I learning from this?” Often, when drowning in dire circumstances, we cannot see light and we fear that any light might be an oncoming train. The best way to deal with this fear and overwhelm is to refocus your thoughts. Oftentimes, the lesson falls under one of the following categories: perseverance, patience, consistency and my personal favourite – staying true to who you are.

4. Control the controllable

Within every difficult situation, there are always factors you can control: your responses, your disposition and your actions. Using what you can control, redirect your energy on what you CAN do instead of what you can’t do. Sometimes, what you can do is simply getting through your day and giving everything you can. This helps in building self-confidence and self-esteem.

“Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it.” – Steve Maraboli

5. You do you

It is a normal human desire to be liked by those around us. Avoid trying to change who you are based on what others say about you. It is very tempting to do this because we all want to feel accepted and want to feel that we belong. The more you do you, the more you will attract people who love you for the “real” you.

6. It is not about you

When people criticize you incessantly, recognise that they are battling their own demons and they are easily triggered. You are not the real reason for their hurtful behaviour, they are filled with fear, anger and hurt which they vent out to others. You can only give what you have and if fear, anger and hurt is all you have, it is the only place from which you will function.

7. You have the power to choose

It is easy to forget that we always have the power of our choices and decisions, while our circumstances may be overwhelming, we can still make wise choices so as not to become victims of our circumstances. We should never forget this power as this is what keeps us afloat and breathing when caught in a flood of difficulties.

8. Revenge is not the answer

While it is perfectly normal and human to wish revenge on those who have hurt us, it is crucial to note that what we wish upon others, mirrors back to us. Wishing your culprits to battle incessant sneezing while stuck in traffic controlling explosive diarrhea might give a moment of satisfaction, but is this something you are willing to risk mirroring back to you? I certainly am not. Put quite simply – negativity breeds negativity while positivity breeds positivity. Remember, you have the power to choose.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

9. Forgive

Don’t gasp so loudly. Yes, forgive those who have hurt you. Why? It definitely doesn’t absolve them of the hurt they caused you, but it releases you from the chains of negativity that are binding and rooting you in place preventing you from moving on. How do you forgive? Ask whatever higher power you believe in to filter those who have hurt you out of your life, sending them blessings and healing wherever they may need it in their lives while also blessing over positive outcomes for all of you.

I have used this technique personally and I swear by it. Sending blessings and healing while asking for positive outcomes, results in all these wonderful things happening to you as well. Giving what you have mirrors back to you. You have the power to forgive, let go and move on. This is a choice that you also happen to have the power to choose.

The next time you feel stuck and overwhelmed by your circumstances, revisit these personal growth lessons and apply them to your unique situation. You will be glad that you did.


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6 Reasons Why You Should Never Glorify Failure After You’ve Failed

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Many people are ashamed of failure. If they so much as smell a whiff of failure, they quit instantly because the public notices it quickly. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of failure. A lot of people have failed. I’ve failed over and over again in my career, business, relationships and more. Yet, I keep trying because failure isn’t the final verdict. (more…)

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How to Move Forward When All Seems Lost

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A few weeks ago, the relationship of my venture with a long-term client turned rocky. Losing them would mean a huge loss for my business, but it appeared like that’s where we were headed. My mind raced with unpleasant thoughts. Maybe the client had figured out that I couldn’t lead my team well. Maybe I was not good enough to be an entrepreneur. Maybe I was not good enough to do anything.

Why was the world so unfair?! Within moments, my anxiety had shot through the roof and my heart was racing faster than an F1 car engine. But I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

Why Problems Overwhelm Us

As human beings, we’re good at solving problems, so they shouldn’t stress us out. Yet, they do just that. Why?

Consider some of these situations in life. When a relationship is headed for troubled waters, we wonder whether our partner loves us anymore. Our mind unearths memories of when we got dumped or rejected. We blame ourselves for falling for the wrong people and tell ourselves that we’re not worth receiving love.

How do you think the relationship will steer after that? If we cannot stick to a diet, we think of other times when we gave up. We remember what people said about things that we couldn’t do and ask ourselves, “were they right?” We tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed at anything.

Do you think we’ll find the grit to stick to the diet after this? So here we are… thinking we’re not good enough to be entrepreneurs, to be loved, to get promoted, or to achieve our personal goals. Notice a pattern yet? We move in the wrong direction. The destination is to achieve the goal. And unless we stop giving into emotions and start addressing situations, we’ll keep failing to get there.

Negative emotions (and even extremely positive ones) blur our vision. The more we focus on them, the deeper we go into how we feel. We either get angry because things aren’t the way we want them to be, or get paralyzed by the fear of the worst possible outcome. This means we pull away from the one thing we must do to set things right — take action.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep.” – Dale Carnegie

How to Take Action in the Face of Problems

Most human beings are good at solving problems. Where we get blindsided is at diagnosing the right problem. To diagnose the right problem, we must address the situation instead of emotions. We must see things for what they are, collect facts on what we’re worrying about, and then ask ourselves, “What should I do next?”

In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, Dale Carnegie wrote: “Neither you nor I nor Einstein nor the Supreme Court of the United States is brilliant enough to reach an intelligent decision on any problem without first getting the facts.”

To address the tricky situation with my client, I took the following three steps:

1. First, I acknowledged the feeling

Solving a problem doesn’t mean ignoring emotions. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel because it reveals the path, but domesticating your emotions is more important. I acknowledged how I felt by saying, “I feel anxious because the client might not want to work with us anymore and this will be a financial loss for us.”

Note how I said “I feel anxious” and not “I’m a loser.” If I had given into negative chatter, I wouldn’t have uncovered the direction to move in (the part after “because”). This is why domesticating emotions is crucial.

2. Next, I prepared for the worst

We often run from our worst fears rather than facing them despite knowing that the worst outcome rarely comes true. The result is that we stay stuck in fear instead of pushing beyond it. And we never discover what we’re really capable of, which sucks.

In my case, the worst meant losing the client. It would hurt but it was the truth. However, we could get more clients. Plus we already had other clients who helped us pay the bills. In other words, I wouldn’t have to live on the street.

The moment I accepted this, a huge weight got lifted off my chest. This prepared me for the third and final step.

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar

3. Lastly, I examined the situation

Examining a situation means setting aside your emotional baggage and focusing on facts. When you trust that you’ll be okay, you become better at diagnosing the real problem. Once I felt lighter, I could see things clearly.

I used the 5 Whys Technique (asking “why” five times) to figure out the real reason for the client’s dissatisfaction. Then I collected data on the issue and on what we had previously delivered.

Finally, I reached out to the CEO of the client and held a detailed and constructive discussion based on my findings. Within four days, the CEO and I were back to the way things were before.

The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to give today your best. I’m not sure whether the issue with the client got resolved for good or whether the client won’t pack up and leave one day. However, I am sure that I’m prepared to handle such cases better today than I was yesterday.

Control your emotions instead of letting them run amok. Accept things for what they are instead of what you want them to be. Be realistic instead of delusional. Address the situation instead of succumbing to emotions.

Don’t preempt what lies ten miles ahead and get paralyzed by fear. Address what lies clearly in front of you and keep moving. One day you’ll be surprised about how close to your destination you are.

How do you move forward when all hope seems to be lost? Share your advice below!

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8 Effective Tips to Improve Your Emotional Wellbeing

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You know what they say, “Health Is Wealth”. But, more often than not, we only mean it in the context of physical health. There’s no question that being fit is the world’s greatest treasure. Unfortunately, not a lot of us take time out to look after our emotional health and wellbeing.

Let’s not forget – it’s ‘Mind Over Matter’. So, if you are able to take control of your emotions, thoughts, how you feel through the day and how you respond to myriad situations; there’s nothing quite like it. When you become the master of your emotions; health, prosperity, and basically all good things are bound to follow you.

With that said, here are 8 surefire ways that will improve your emotional wellbeing:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Half the time, we don’t even know what we’re thinking or how we’re feeling. That’s because we let our minds operate on autopilot. It’s time to take control of your mind. Be aware of what and how you feel throughout the day. The upside to this practice is that you can detect negative emotions right on the onset and quickly change them and their corresponding feeling.

Feelings of anger, jealousy, hatred; they are not good for the mind, soul, or the body. Paying close attention to the spectrum of emotions you experience throughout the day, will help you detect the negative ones and kick them away before they fester deep enough to take away your happiness and emotional health.

2. Stay Physically Active

As you engage in physical activities, your brain produces a whole bunch of feel-good hormones such as endorphins and dopamine. These hormones are what causes the ‘elated’ or ‘euphoric’ feeling. Being physically active uplifts your mood and your outlook towards life. It readies you to take the challenges more head-on instead of becoming overwhelmed by the littlest of inconvenience.

You are better able to analyze tough situations and take a more proactive rather than a reactive approach. It’s no question physical health is in direct proportion with emotional health. A healthy mind resides in a healthy body and vice versa.

“Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.” – Sid Garza-Hillman

3. Get Sufficient Sleep

Ever noticed how you feel depressed and cranky, and just out of focus the day you fail to get a good night’s sleep? Well, if you fail to get sufficient sleep for a couple of days, you are bound to feel more depressed, cranky and eventually more prone to a host of negative emotions. Research shows that sleep deprivation sends amygdala – our brain’s emotional response center into overdrive.

Amygdala controls our immediate emotional responses. When it becomes overactive, we become more reactive rather than active. We become more irritable, angry and anxious. A good night’s sleep is vital to improving your emotional wellbeing.

4. Develop a New Hobby

Learn to swim. Try arts and crafts. How about painting? Swimming is a ‘happy’ activity. You get to make new friends and stay fit. Arts and crafts, as we all know, tends to have a relaxing effect on the mind and the nerves.

Just the process of creating something from scratch makes you confident and gets those creative juices flowing. Similarly, painting helps you express yourself. All these factors together create a ‘happy you’. The one who likes to engage in new things instead of resisting change or difficult situations.

5. Eat Healthy

Ever heard of the phrase, “You are what you eat”? Well, it’s true to the last syllable. When you eat foods rich in salt, sodium, fat – you are bound to feel lethargic. It takes longer for the body to digest such foods. That means the body is forced to deprive organs of blood and use it for the digestion purpose.

Result? You become lazy, moody, not ready to take any responsibility which leads to feeling cranky and irritable. On the other hand, eating fibrous vegetables, fruits, salads, and complex sugars keeps you upbeat and healthy.

6. Laugh Your Heart Out

Laughter is the best medicine. That is why they have a dedicated ‘laughter session’ in yoga studios. You don’t even have to mean it. The simple act of spreading your cheeks and pretending to laugh sends a signal to your body that you are happy.

And what happens when you are happy? Your brain releases happy hormones like dopamine, serotonin and what not. In fact, many studies have gone so far as to stipulate that laughter alone is capable of treating all kinds of physical ailments. Why should emotional ailments be any different?

7. Try Relaxation Techniques

‘’Visualization technique’’ where you imagine yourself in a happy place is a surefire way to calm your nerves if you find yourself distressed. You may also try praying to elate yourself. Praying is good for the mind and the soul.

Controlled breathing or ‘biofeedback technique’ are some other relaxation techniques that can tame how you feel and even your bodily functions. Try surrounding yourself with aromatherapy or scented candles because the smell is a big factor in governing how we feel.

“Positive emotional energy is the key to health, happiness and wellbeing. The more positive you are, the better your life will be in every area.” – Brian Tracy

8. Count Your Blessings

We all have so much to be thankful for. It could be a friend who stands by you or a happy family. Good health. Financial freedom. Make a list of all the things that you feel grateful for in your life. If it’s a person, be sure to communicate your feelings and express your gratitude.

You will feel so much happier. Happiness is the diet of a healthy mind and an intelligent emotional response mechanism. You could also try writing a poem or simply expressing your gratitude through the power of prayers.

There are so many ways to become emotionally intelligent and not one of them requires any investment or special skills. Practically anyone and everyone can do it. All you need is the will and the desire.

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