Day 22: Early Mornings #GIG2017

Yesterday was about the early nights going to bed? Today is all about the early mornings to rise.

Now trust me, I still don’t consider myself a morning person. It’s still often difficult for me to get out of bed, whether that be from exhaustion or just a lack of motivation to do anything and face the day. And I have spent years confused by anybody who was up at the crack of dawn and chose to be awake.

But now most days, the latest I can sleep in is 7 AM. Most days I’m up by around 6, sometimes as early as 5. Where this switch came from, I don’t know, but I figured I would embrace it. And indeed, I truly do appreciate becoming more of an early riser so I can see the beauty of being awake before the world is. To see the sun gradually rise. To have moments of pure silence and peace, or more time to be productive and proactive so I can ease my mind later in the day.

With that early start, I can begin my day less rushed. I can take the time I need to get ready and enjoy the process of a morning ritual. I can collect my thoughts and intentions for the day to ensure I’m starting on the right foot. I’m grateful for the opportunity available in that early morning, the promise of a new day waiting to be seized.

And, inevitably, I’m here to mention why waking up early can be good for you, too. Which, if you need a serious reason to think about setting an alarm clock, hopefully these will serve as incentives.

In 2010, Christoph Randler, a biologist from Harvard found that early risers are more proactive. When presented with statements such as “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself”, an early riser is more likely to agree. There are less distractions in the early hours of the day so you can achieve more with minimal interruptions. After a good night’s sleep, your brain is charged and ready to work hard. You are at your efficient best and will get things done quicker and better, at least once your body gets used to the earlier wake-up call.

As I’ve already mentioned, having more time in the morning helps you set a positive tone that impacts how you feel and act the rest of the day. Studies have shown “morning people” are often more positive, more optimistic and more likely to experience satisfaction in their lives. Rather than the temptation to put off certain tasks, it’s pretty satisfying to finish school assignments, blog posts, and maybe work out if you’re into that, all before the day “officially” starts. My days can feel less hectic and stressful knowing I’ve already gotten some things checked off my to-do list, and it feels nice to remember that even if my only actual task completed was in the morning, I still got it done. You have to celebrate the little things.

So if you’re a chronic night owl or generally despise mornings, I get it. But if you’re interested in hopping on the early riser boat, hop on aboard. There’s plenty of room. We leave harbor at dawn. Sharp.

Seriously though, how does one start waking up earlier if their body doesn’t just randomly switch wake-up times like mine did? Have a personal reason you want to wake up earlier because as much as I can ramble on, if you don’t resonate with an intention you set yourself, I can’t convince you of anything. Be gradual with yourself in transitioning, even if that means waking up just five minutes earlier than the morning before. Be wary of hitting snooze or relying upon an annoying alarm to wake up to. Establish a morning routine you’ll actually look forward to, like having true time to eat and enjoy breakfast, getting into a new hobby like exercise or meditation, or whatever else tickles your fancy.

Regardless if you wake up at 6 AM or 11 AM, the most important thing to be grateful for is that you woke up. Realizing that each day, we can rise in a healthy body, in a healthy environment, knowing everything life has to offer us, is the best habit of all. Anything I’ve mentioned this month would be nothing without the simple gift the morning brings and everything that is meant to come our ways. Each morning is an opportunity to express gratitude, to treat ourselves, others, and the world with kindness.

That mindset is not just designated this month, but for every morning of every day in any month. I hope to celebrate gratitude in all I do and wake up in a sound mindset aware of these gifts, and I hope the same for you.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

















Day 21: Sleep #GIG2017

We’ve heard it enough times in our lives that you’d think it would be a no-brainer to always go to bed early or at least get the recommended hours of sleep each night.

Except it’s not that easy for many of us. I know I’m not alone when I admit struggling to fall and stay asleep for most of my life. I had more of an issue as a child getting to sleep each night, which I can still tend to do thanks to a racing mind, but I have been prone in recent years to be more restless in general, remembering each morning the few instances I woke up. Those moments of lying in bed fully awake or half-conscious, despite seeming insignificant, can add up.

So besides diving into the low-down of why sleep is important for us (because we can always use a reminder), I want to express some gratitude for sleep. First off, it feels awesome when you end a day dead-tired and immediately drift off, only to wake up feeling well-rested and ready to take on the day. I’m grateful for always having a bed to sleep in each night. I’m grateful for the pillows and blankets and pajamas that help me feel cozy and comforted. I’m grateful for the rare times I have and can remember good dreams from the previous sleep. I’m grateful for all that sleep serves for us, and I’m grateful for ending each day knowing my loved ones are safe and well and I have lived another day doing the best I could.

But back to those benefits. Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. That means a sleepless night can be detrimental in an instant, or ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative. Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. Sleep also maintains a healthy balance of hormones that affect blood sugar, growth and development, and hunger. Too little sleep is even known to shorten our lifespans and quality of life in general if our bodies become imbalanced and more easily perceptible to disease.

And since sleeplessness is known for making us irritable, slow to make decisions, and inattentive, it is also known with poorer relationships with others that we cannot be “all there” with. And who would want to be around someone who is emotionally heavy, overly pessimistic, and easy to anger? We’ve all been there, but when it becomes chronic, it’s time to start evaluating your habits. We generally cannot enjoy the company of others or anything life throws at us without the foundation of sleep.

If sleep is as basic to our bodies as breathing and eating, then how can we make it easier for ourselves to nail down 7-9 hours each night? It’s all about making a routine for yourself by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Having a nightly routine to look forward to every day also helps to keep you in check. While I should be better about narrowing down screen time before bed, I have recently started drinking herbal tea or a hot beverage every evening. I also find it much easier to fall asleep with a podcast playing softly in the background.

How you spend your days affect how you’ll sleep at night. Avoid the caffeine once it hits the later afternoon. Eat your last meal at least two or three hours before bed. Get even just a little physical activity in so you feel tired enough at night. Practice mindfulness and meditation if you’re like me and tend to overthink and worry about every little detail.

Obviously these are easier said than done and are not end-all solutions to any woes, but they can hopefully support our well-being and help us step in the right direction. We deserve our best health possible for us. It’s not easy. But we’re each worth it.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Day 20: Tea #GIG2017

Never did I think I’d be making this post. But here I am, eating (or sipping) my words.

Tea is like many other things that I have come across and for one reason or another immediately discounted and wrote off as something I flat-out didn’t like and would never like. Until I try it at some later point and realize that perhaps I do enjoy it. Bear in mind I’m overly critical and opinionated.

But since over the past few weeks and especially during Thanksgiving break, I had really come to enjoy a mug of tea every evening. It’s a new part of my nightly routine to look forward to, just as I’ve made coffee a guarantee (and a necessity) each morning.

Obviously if I’m drinking tea at night, I’m into the decaffeinated and herbal varieties. I have yet to try the traditional English Breakfast and Earl Grey, and I still don’t know how I feel about those. Green tea is supposed to be very good for your health, but again, have yet to jump aboard that train or start making matcha lattes, or whatever the hip kids are doing these days.

However, I have another tradition when I’m at home as well involving tea, but the fermented variety: kombucha, or affectionately, booch. Especially since prioritizing my digestive health to make IBS symptoms at least somewhat manageable, I have gotten into kombucha as a great way to get in probiotics in tasty and vegan way. Seriously, GT’s should sponsor me for as often as I drink and buy their products.

Now let’s dive into all the health benefits and awesome reasons why to be grateful for tea beyond the flavor and toasty feeling of wrapping your hands around a mug on a chilly evening. But before that, let’s make sure to discredit a certain variety of tea that has become popular thanks to social media: detox teas. The one’s designed to “remove toxins” from your body and help you lose weight. Simply put, they’re diuretics that will indeed flush out water weight and get rid of anything in your body, good or bad, but once you start eating and drinking again, it’s like you did nothing to begin with. Please research more into these trendy products before purchasing because although they market themselves as healthy, they most certainly aren’t and don’t deserve your support.

Back to the good stuff. There’s much more research backing up black and green teas rather than herbal teas, but that just means we have much more to learn and discover. When consumed on a daily basis, herbal teas are known to help you achieve a more calm, relaxed state of mind, support heart health, aid with stomach and digestive problems, provide cleansing properties for the body, and promote energy and wellness.

Different types of herbs are known to contain different properties. Chamomile is known for its calming attributes and helps promote restful sleep. The botanical is also used as a natural aid to reduce inflammation and is purported to help ward off a variety of other maladies. Ginger is a centuries old herbal remedy used to treat a wide range of health concerns from nausea and colds to indigestion and migraine headaches. Raspberry Leaf helps with colds, sore throats, canker sores and diarrhea along with keeping nails, bones, teeth and skin healthy. The list goes on.

Now what’s up with kombucha? Known as the “immortal health elixir” by the Chinese and originating in the region around two millennia ago, kombucha is fermented with black tea and sugar. Once fermented, the beverage becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic and lactic). This composition thus benefits the body by reducing inflammation, improving the immune system, supporting a healthy gut, and even acting as an antibacterial.

I mean, the list goes on here. I’m just dabbling into the basics, but again, search out information yourself from reputable sources and see what’s out there. While I won’t guarantee all your problems will dissipate when drinking tea, I can say that there’s no true reason not to drink it.

I’m grateful for sources of health and nutrition that protect my body. I’m grateful for the information available and the researchers out there providing insight into how certain foods and beverages interact with my natural composition. I’m grateful to have these gifts so easily accessible so I can enjoy them on a regular basis. And I’m grateful for the taste of these drinks and how they make me feel, knowing I’m making good choices for my personal well-being.

So hey, grab a booch or a mug and take a sip of that tea. The good kind.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie