Today the connection between mind and body is well understood. Our mental well-being directly influences our health and long-term outlook. A positive attitude, healthy sleep, meditation, and good stress management can contribute significantly.
One of the major factors to achieve one's goals and to carry through with one's endeavors in life is to cultivate and maintain a positive attitude. What we found it most helpful to instill a feeling of gratefulness for the things we have, to focus on our personal growth, to stay hungry and keep learning and improving every single day. A book that nails it, it's "Awaken the Giant Within."
Self Improvement & Mental Well-Being (Reading List)
Good health and optimized biochemistry start with optimum sleep. Sleep has a significant impact on regeneration, detoxification, mental well-being, and our hormonal balance that in turn regulates other essential body functions.
Over our long pre-industrial history our metabolism, including processes like regeneration, digestion, and detoxification have evolved in sync with our planets day- and night-cycle. The activity of these processes is triggered by various stimuli like light, food consumption or activity, rest and sleep. As long as our life followed the natural rhythm, things happened in a natural given order. However, in our modern times the stimuli, which our body uses to trigger named processes, can (and often do) happen entirely out of order. This results of poor synchronization of the processes, in other words 'sub-optimal health'.
An off-beat internal rhythm and inadequate or insufficient sleep can cause numerous health issues, such as weight gain, stalled weight loss, delayed muscle build up, sub optimal detoxification, and digestion, loss of energy, grogginess or headaches to name only a few.
Going to Bed as Early as Possible
To balance our day-night cycle for optimum health, we try to go to bed before midnight, if possible even before 23:00. Our body starts some of its mayor detox and regenerative processes around that time. Being still awake by then disrupts these processes and renders them sub-optimal.
Getting Enough Sleep
Research places the optimum amount of sleep somewhere between 7 and 9 hours. It's probably a matter of genetic variance and personal preference as well. Sleeping 6 hours and less or sleeping more than 9 hours are both associated with increased long-term risk of disease. We try to get 8 hours of sleep on average.
How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete (webmd.com)
How Much Sleep Do You Need? (helpguide.org)
Having a Cool Down Period Before Sleep
Research shows that the way we spend the time directly before going to sleep carries over into our sleep and influences its quality. It is best to have no negative or aggressive activity (like watching an action movie or the news) 30 minutes before bedtime. Listening to relaxing music or meditating instead paves the way for superior sleep.
Limit Exposure to Bright Artificial Light Before Sleep
Being exposed to light with a high blue spectrum (like the screen of a computer, laptop, phone or tablet) in the evening before sleep can disrupt our melatonin production and thus disturb our sleep pattern. 'f.lux' is a very helpful, free tool that adjusts the color temperature of our monitor according to the time of day, specifically to reduce the blue components in the evening. (Serves as a good reminder not to work that late, too :-) )
Blocking Blue Light Helps Sleep (psychologytoday.com)
Sleeping in Absolute Darkness
While we sleep, we are extremely sensitive to light. Research has shown that even the light from a single standby indicator already influences the quality of sleep. The best sleep happens in absolute darkness: thick curtains, stand-by lights off or covered and no lights shining under the door.
Optimum Air Quality
The freshness and temperature of the air in our bedroom is a major contributor to sleep quality. For optimum results, we need high oxygen and low carbon dioxide level. Research places the optimum air temperature at around ± 65 °F / 18 °C. Temperatures below 50 °F (ca. 10 °C) and above 75 °F (ca. 24 °C) will degrade sleep quality. To keep track of the air quality in the bedroom, we use the 'Withings Smart Body Analyzer' that continuously samples both values.
Withings Smart Body Analyzer (withings.com)
Bed & Mattress
When sleeping 8 hours a day, we will spend one-third of our life in bed. Reason enough to get a perfect bed. We want to wake up relaxed and fresh. A lousy bed will make us fell stiff and groggy, which makes it worthy to invest here. We found that the innovative Tempur mattresses give us an excellent night's sleep.
Tempur Mattresses (tempur.com)
When we sleep we cycle multiple times between phases of deep and light sleep. When woken up in a deep sleep phase, people feel groggy even if they have slept for 7 or 8 hours. When woken up during a period of light sleep, people feel much fresher. There are several alarm clocks which try to take this fact into account. Most of them use some sort of body sensors, like wrist- or head-bands which are quite inconvenient to use. A very elegant solution has emerged recently, which uses the built-in sensors of an iPhone. When placed on the mattress it tracks movements and thus sleeps phases, to sound the alarm only during light sleep.
Tracking our Sleep Quality
We daily monitor and try to optimize our sleep pattern, time to bed, duration, sleep quality, air temperature, and CO2 levels during the night using SleepCycle and the air sensors in our Withings scale.
Withings Smart Body Analyzer (withings.com)
Contrary to common belief meditation is not a religious or esoteric practice, but a scientifically well-researched technique to improve mind and body. It is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body.
Meditation can alleviate depressive symptoms and anxiety, boost working memory and sustained attention, increase empathy and compassion, instill calmness and reduce stress. It can diminish age-related effects in the brain and reduce cognitive decline. Meditation has proven to lower blood pressure, increase immunity, accelerate healing processes and act anti-inflammatory, due to stress reduction.
The easiest and probably most practical form of mediation is a mindful meditation focusing on one's breath. We suggest doing it every morning right after wake-up or workout for 15 - 20 minutes. Zenhabits has a short and comprehensive intro to meditation.
How to Meditate Daily (zenhabits.net)
Implementing a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper detoxification, a good night sleep, daily meditation and maintaining a positive attitude already take us a very long way towards reducing negative, destructive stress in our lives. Yoga and binaural beats can help us even further along the way.
Not only an excellent complementary activity to our bodyweight training to increase and maintain flexibility but yoga also has a profound impact on one's mental health as well. The combination of movement with breathing, and the awareness and mindfulness that it instills during the practice carries over into everyday life.
Binaural beats occur when two sounds with nearly similar frequency are presented one to each ear with stereo headphones. The brain integrates the two signals, producing a sensation of a third sound, the binaural beat. E.g., if a frequency of 200 Hz is played in one ear and 207 Hz in the other ear, a binaural beat of 7 Hz is created by the brain.
Listening to the beats stimulate the corresponding brain waves as beta waves (13-26 Hz) for alert concentration and problem-solving, alpha waves (8-13 Hz) for alert relaxation, theta waves (4-7 Hz) for deep relaxation and increased learning and delta waves (1-3 Hz) for deep sleep.
Binaural beats can either be consumed as pure sounds or as music with embedded frequencies to generate the beats.
Free Binaural Beats (meditationroom.org)
7.83 Hz by Jack Hertz (bandcamp.com)