Creating a stess reducing playlist

The effects of music on the brain are well known and have been documented by scientists for years. Listening to music is known to activate our whole brains, so the potential for it to modify our moods is great.

By thoughtfully selecting music, you can create playlists that will allow you to combat stress, evoke positive emotions, increase relaxation as well as many other positve benefits. The starting point is to determine what your current state of mind is and what you would like to acheive instead. Using this goal, it is important to gradually build in the change, starting with songs that empathise with your current mood; before slowly building towards your goal.

Using familiar music is a good place to start here. Songs that you are used to listening to will evoke certain emotional responses based on your previous associations with them. Memories are stimulated by music, therefore we can be transported back in time in an instant through music. Based on your ideas of songs that you know have a certain impact on your mood, suppliment them with songs that have similar characteristics.

One important thing is to never use music you don’t like. This is only going to have a negative impact on your mood. If, after creating your playlist, you find you don’t react the way you intended to a certain piece of music, remove it.

If you are using music to try to relax, consider using instrumental music. When listening to songs with lyrics, we use a lot of our brains trying to process these lyrics. Lyrics can also increase the stimulation of memories which may not be what you want when trying to relax.

The most important thing is to trust your own music intuaition. You will have almost certainly discovered songs in the past that make you cry, or ones that motivate you to push a little bit harder while exercising. If this is the case then you are already aware of the huge impact that music can have on your brain. Trust in this knowledge and you will be able to harness the power of music to cmobat stress, improve your motivation or help you relax.

 

Advertisements

5 Ways to improve your sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep is just as important for our health and wellbeing as having a healthy diet and getting regualr exercise.

Research has shown that poor sleep can have immediate negative effects on exercise performance, hormone levels and brain function.

Good sleep on the other hand, can help improve exercise performance, help you eat less and be generaly healthier.

Here are 5 tips to help you sleep better at night.

1. Control your light exposure.

Studies have shown that increasing your exposure to bright light during the day can have a positive effect on the quality of your sleep. These studies have mainly focused on people with severe sleep issues, but should also help improve your sleep if you have only moderate sleep problems.

The reason bright light exposure helps with sleep is becasue it helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. Circadian rhythm is also known as your body clock. This helps both night time sleep quality as well as daytime energy levels.

Conversely, reducing blue light exposure in the evening is also known to be beneficial to sleep. Blue light is emmited from electronic devices such as smartphones and computers. It has been shown to negatively effect your circadian rhythm by tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This has an impact on hormone production and means certain relaxing hormones such as melatonin are reduced.

The best way of reducing the impact of blue light is to stop watching TV and turn off bright lights about 2 hours before going to bed.

 

2. Reduce caffeine intake late in the day.

Caffiene is known to have benefits such as increasing energy, focus and even sports performance. Unfortunately these energy boosting properties make it the enemy of good sleep. In one study it was shown consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed had a significant impact on sleep quality.

Caffeine has been shown to stay at elevated levels in the blood for upto 8 hours. Therefore caffeine intake after mid-afternoon is not recommended, especially if you are already having trouble sleeping.

 

3. Be consistent.

Your body’s circadian rhythm works in a set loop, aligning roughly with the sunrise and sunset. Becasue of this it is advisable to try and go to sleep and wake up at consistent times. It is tempting to go to bed and wake up later on the weekends, however studies have shown that those who have irregualr sleeping paterns and who go to bed later on the weekends have a lower quality of sleep.

 

4. Get the temperature right.

Body temperature has a massive impact on sleep quality. When it is too warm it can be very difficult to get to sleep, this is a problem that most people, even those that don’t normaly suffer from sleep problems, experience during the summer. Keeping your room at a constant temperature of around 70 degrees farenheit, or 20 degrees celcius, year round will help you sleep better.

 

5. Relax.

Instead of spending the last couple of hours before bed watching TV or spending time on your phones, it is advisable to spend some time relaxing each evening. Relaxing activities such as reading a book or taking a relaxing bath can lower your heart rate which is known to help you drift off into a deep sleep. Even if you don’t feel like taking a full bath before bed, you could try just bathing you feet in warm water.

Other techniques such as deep breathing and vizulization can also help you relax.

 

Sleep plays such a big role in our health that it should be made top priority if you wish to be in the best health you can be.

Morning routine

I have recently been reading a lot on various ways to manage anxiety. One of the most commonly written about things has been the suggestion that a good morning routine can really help get your mind in the right place for the day ahead. With that in mind, I have decided to give a few of the suggestions a try. I will be documenting my progress with this over the next few weeks. I am aware that I will find this process difficult as I have never really got on well with overly structuring my life, but if there is any chance it can help it is worth a try.

Making the bed.

This is something that I never do in the mornings, ever. It has been suggested that quickly making your bed in the morning can benefit you in multiple ways. First, it gives a very quick sense of achievement. I’m not overly convinced by this as it is, after all just making the bed. Second, it helps you to have a clear mind. I can see this being the case more, as it is known that tidy surroundings help contribute to a clearer head.

Although I’m not really convinced that it will help, I am willing to give this a try. It should only take a couple of minutes each morning so I really have nothing to lose.

Freezing shower.

This is something that I have read about a lot, and have considered before. The health benefits of swimming in cold water or otherwise immersing one’s self in it are well known. From stimulating the brain and heart to making sure your pores are closed. This may require taking a hot shower at another time of the day in order to ensure proper cleanliness or alternatively just turning the water to cold for a couple of minutes at the end of my regular shower.

As I have read about this more than once, I am completely willing to give it a try.

Get moving.

Excercise first thing in the morning has been suggested to me a number of times. The biggest piece of advice I have been given on this though is to not overdo it too early. Doing 5 to 10 minutes of exercises such as press-ups or sit-ups when you wake up is more than enough to get you fired up in the morning. Save the gym or your run for later in the day.

Drink water.

This is something everyone should do as soon as they wake up, even if they don’t have problems with anxiety. After 7 or so hours of sleep, the body is getting very dehydrated. A glass or 2 of water as soon as you wake up is vital to starting your day off well, it is even more important than eating breakfast. I would advise keeping a glass or bottle of water by your bedside so that you can drink as soon as you wake.

Write something.

The power of getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper cannot be underestimated, it has proved to be invaluable to me as a way of combatting insomnia. It is also a great way of getting your brain ready for a busy day. Just spending 5 minutes getting some thoughts down, write about literally anything will help set you up for the day ahead.

These 5 things are the suggestions I am going to start using for my morning routine, depending on the success of this I may add more later.

The coffee problem

Whenever I feel myself getting stressed or anxious, one of the first things I like to do is get a cup of coffee. This is initially all I need to calm down. My level of attentiveness shoots up and my productivity increases dramatically. Unfortunately, this boost in energy and alertness comes with a major downside, the big increase in stress hormones such as cortisol. This coupled with the blocking of happiness hormone production tends to actually lead to an increase in my anxiety. The big issue is that when my anxiety levels increase, all I want to do is to drink more coffee, further fuelling these issues.

Scientifically speaking, there are studies that support this. The effects of caffeine on people with anxiety and depression have long been studied. There is evidence that in small amounts caffeine can be of benefit to those with these conditions. In larger quantities it can have the opposite effect, blocking the production of happy hormones and increasing the production of stress hormones. The issue I have is that caffeine doesn’t appear to be the problem for me, I can happily drink green tea all day without issue.

It took me a long time to work out that coffee, alone, as a beverage was the thing that was fuelling my problems. Despite now knowing this, I still have the problem because I cannot easily escape my dependence on coffee. Tea does not provide the same calming effect for me, even though I also don’t get the negative effects. All in all, I need to find a middle ground, it would be foolish to think I can completely give up coffee, but for my mental state, I need to try and cut back.

The amazing relaxation spots in Wiltshire.

This post is a part of my series looking into health and what we can do to keep ourselves healthy, while still enjoying life.

Click below to access the hub page for the health series:

A push for perfect health

20th April 2018

Every so often I like to remind myself just how amazing the county that I live in is. It is so easy to forget when you are driving past these places every day. I live less than 10 minutes from the world heritage site of Avebury, and about half an hour from Stonehenge. There is so much amazing countryside right on my doorstep, and I don’t know if I really appreciate it.

Today I went to Devizes to get a coffee and then drove to Silbury Hill to enjoy it in peace. I hope to go to one of our amazing landmarks or beauty spots after work every Friday during the coming summer.

Pic_2018_04_20_16_25_38

21st April 2018

This morning I drove into Marlborough from my hometown of Calne. The drive between these two towns only takes about 20 minutes, but it takes you through some of the best countryside this country has to offer. There are no mountains or valleys, no forests, nor any vast lakes but the chalk downs, rolling fields and abundance of ancient landmarks makes it such a beautiful place. This drive between the historic market town of Calne, the place Dr Joseph Priestley was living when he discovered oxygen and the even more historic town of Marlborough, where a burial mound dating back to around 2400BC is located within the grounds of the college, is one of the most amazing drives you can take. In particular, the stretch of road that goes through Cherhill past one of Wiltshire’s many famous white horses is particularly pleasant, especially in the sun with the windows down.