live it active


How to Improve the Parenting Experience

Standing in my underwear, waiting for my massage therapist to knock on the door to ask if I was ready, I tried to explain to my father, over the phone (thankfully he wasn’t also there for a massage…weird), how to open my daughter’s stroller and connect the car seat; an almost impossible task. You’d think stroller designers would create something intuitive, but they haven’t. Both strollers and their designers are bitches (if your stroller is intuitive, don’t say anything. Let me rant).

This brings me to the point of this post: things I would like created or altered to improve the parenting experience.

Here is my list so far:

  1. Soothers that stay in the baby’s mouth. Seriously, if your baby likes the soother, it’s a life saver. I don’t care about bad habits, it calms my child (so hush, soother haters).  And if you can’t design a soother that sticks, a humane face mask contraption that is both visually appealing and able to keep the soother dans la bouche would be appreciated.
  2. A laundry leprechaun. My daughter has blowouts about 2x per day (see next point). While the thought of a little green man (or woman) living in my laundry room is somewhat upsetting, the thought of having a laundry assistant is incredibly appealing. Extra bonus: an endless supply of Lucky Charms. Oh boy.
  3. Diapers that actually hold in the poop. What’s the deal Huggies? Have anything to say Pampers? No, that’s right, you just use images of cute, smiling babies and happy parents to sell your “absorbent” and environmentally unfriendly poop sacks. You trick us. You trick us, the unassuming (and sometimes stupid) new parent into thinking that your butt bags will be the be all and catch-all (pun intended). After three blowouts on the comforter, breast-feeding pillow and my pyjama pants (just this week) I now know that diapers rarely do what they purport to do. So please, diaper makers, make something that actually holds the poo in (and yes, she is wearing the right size for her age and yes, I know that reusable diapers hold the poo in better and that I have the power of choice…hush now, let me complain).
  4. Appropriately sized Diaper Genies. Honestly, changing that slim jim bag on an almost daily basis is a real drag (hush environmentalists, I know what you’re thinking; sorry, not sorry).
  5. A bath hammock. My child does not enjoy solo bathing so I hop into the tub with her. While this is a wonderful experience, my back is usually on the verge of splitting by the end of the 5 minute cleaning session (I have to hunch over to keep her at an appropriate level in the water in front of me). As I write this, I am realizing this probably exists and I just need to look on Amazon. And if it doesn’t exist, get on it baby supply people.
  6. An in-house baby esthetician leprechaun. Honestly clipping my daughter’s talons has to be one of the most stressful experiences since becoming a parent. Babies do not understand the importance of keeping their hands still and thus, the risk of clipping to close to the quick (how weird is it that this part of anatomy is informally called “the quick”?) is high. It seems I shall have a house of leprechauns. How wonderful.
  7. Crib sheets that aren’t a total witch’s you-know-what to put on. Changing the sheets on my daughter’s bed may be one of my least favourite tasks. You have to pick up the entire mattress, strain your back (the struggle is real), and sacrifice the skin on most of your fingers to accomplish the task. It’s the worst.
  8. A self-cleaning breast pump. Just like a self-cleaning stove, I would like a self-cleaning option on my milker. This is genius, feel free to steal this gem, breast-pump makers.
  9. Swing and chairs that do NOT require D batteries. Before you purchase a vibrating chair or swing (you will need this), check it has a plug-in option or ensure you have a healthy supply of large ass batteries.
  10. Sleep.

What do you wish for? Share away.

M

 

 

 

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A few more parenting gems

I’m a month into this parenting business. I’m now an expert on all things baby.

Don’t worry, I’m joking. I’m so far from being an expert, I’m basically in Antarctica (if you’re an expert you’re in the Arctic; I don’t understand this analogy either; I’m not even sure it’s an analogy; I’m too tired to think more about it and would like to end this bracket and stop using semi colons incorrectly).

Given the response to last week’s post, I thought I would add a few more things I’ve learned as a new (and young?) mother. Also, I’m so glad my comment re: breastfeeding resonated with so many women. Being honest about how hard this life-altering change can be is critical to ensuring sustained mental health, at least in my humble opinion.

Okay, so here are a few other gems I’ve learned in the last week that no one mentioned to me (if you did, I apologize for my subpar memory; please take credit where credit is due):

  1. Your house will become a gallery of sorts. No, not the gallery you were hoping for with beautiful modern or classical art and sculpture, but a gallery or perhaps, homage to all things baby. Everywhere the eye can see will be something related to child care: a bassinet, a vibrating chair (yes, very exciting for baby), a breastfeeding pillow, a stained burp cloth (how modern art, I know), 60 blankets (slight exaggeration), a car seat, another blanket, and random toys that your baby is not remotely interested in yet. There is no method to the madness, only madness in the placement of said items around your house. When guests come over you will try to give the illusion of being tidy, but it will become more and more impossible as the modern art only continues to accumulate (the amount of s*** you buy is ridiculous and never-ending).
  2. You will hate everyone (not everyone, but pretty close). You will especially hate other drivers and people at the grocery store who amble (I’ve always hated amblers, but I hate them more now). Seriously, don’t they know you have a three hour window between feeds and that you have 30 minutes until go time? DON’T THEY KNOW THIS? No, they don’t as the world does not revolve around you. If only…
  3. Your husband is going to say weird ass stuff to you in the middle of the night. Last week, during one of my 3 AM parties with Arwen (boob party, that is), my husband groggily looked up at me from the bed and asked, “are you pointing a laser at me?” While I wish I had been pointing a laser at him (how entertaining), I sadly was not. I am now looking into laser pointers on Amazon.
  4. There is some serious comedy involved in child-rearing. The same night I was asked about the laser pointer, Arwen decided to explosively poop all over me and the floor. I was so startled, I screamed (a blood curdling scream, I assure you). This caused my husband to leap from the bed, completely and utterly startled as he thought I had dropped our baby. Of course, being the sympathetic person I am, I laughed and shared the HILARIOUS story with him. He, surprisingly, did not find it quite as amusing.
  5. Your attention to detail and memory will continue to fail you. You will put on your running shoe for the fourth day in a row, do it up and start walking only to realize you have once again forgotten to take out the pesky pebble that has been annoying you for days. You swear an oath to remove it once you’re home (doing so while walking with a sleeping infant is not possible and would result in complete and utter destruction). You think about naming the pebble. You don’t. You place the shoe on the next day; you swear at your stupid oath and memory; you never remove said pebble. And you never get around to naming it.
  6. You will become skilled at using your feet as hands. You may learn to hook your toe into your water bottle handle (thankfully mine has a handle), at shifting your cell phone just a little bit closer to your grasping hand (usually still not enough to get it without smothering your breastfeeding child), at moving the blanket from the bed to cover your toes while seated and breastfeeding, of course, on the rocking chair. I am currently working on dinner preparation and typing with my feet hands.
  7. You will regularly worry that you’re going to kill your child. I used an infant carrier / baby wearing contraption for the first time last week. It took me approximately 5 hours to get it on (slight exaggeration) and I was a sweaty mess by the time my baby was securely fastened in (not an exaggeration). I then realized I had forgotten to put on my shoes (how wonderful). I managed to get my shoes on using some sweet contortionist moves (yes, think cirque de soleil style) and thankfully, my baby stayed passed out for the entire process. Okay, back to worrying about killing your child. Once I was successfully outside and walking, I stopped about every 2 minutes to look for signs of life. This would involve watching the life form closely (not really safe while walking), removing the hood to see her face (she did not appreciate), and leaning forward at an awkward angle so her nose / face did not rest too close to my coat. The lean continued for the majority of the walk which somewhat defeats the purpose of an ergonomic baby carrier. I can only imagine what I looked like to other pedestrians or people looking from their windows.
  8. You will rotate between two very sexy outfits (in my previous post I mentioned how sexy you will feel as a new mom). Both will provide easy breast access and withstand being washed 10-20x per week. Well, we shall see about the withstanding multiple washes. I could be wearing threads in short order.

Okay, I think that’s just about enough for one post.

Please share your funny stories via the comments or send me an email. Since sharing the laser story, I have heard some fantastic middle-of-the-night-husband moments from fellow breastfeeding friends.

Happy Monday!

M

 

 


On motherhood…things people don’t tell you

I’m a relatively new player in the world / game / realm of motherhood (I’m not sure this is really a game, but you get the picture) and it’s tough. I’m currently writing this post hoping the sound of the keyboard will not wake up my three week old in a completely separate room (it won’t).

Okay, I know this post (and likely many more to follow) is a a stretch from the essence of this blog, but I will do my best to keep the health and wellness theme alive. I promise, I will try. If anything, writing about motherhood will help to ensure my own personal wellness…aka stave off the “stir crazies” and hopefully provide readers with a few laughs.

Today, I wanted to write about a few things people don’t and / or forget to tell you about having a baby:

  1. People / books / nurses do a good job talking about the baby blues and postpartum depression, but people forget to, or simply don’t talk about the massive psychological shift that is required once you start caring for a very small, needy, fragile human being. You’re it for this little peanut – well, your boobs are. You are essential to ensuring the survival of this little being which means you’re on call 24/7. Your body is no longer your own. As my father-in-law puts it, I’m the Dairy Queen and my drive thru window is always open. If you’re used to incredible personal freedom, like I am, being on demand may feel akin to being trapped. And feeling this way, in my humble opinion, is not indicative of postpartum depression, but is simply a natural and honest response to the most monumental life change one can likely experience. It’s a big deal.
  2. You’re going to feel guilty. A lot. I feel guilty for writing the above simply because I shared the fact I sometimes feel trapped.
  3.  You’re going to feel ridiculous most of the time. Last night, as I was feeding my sweet baby girl at 3 AM, I was delighted by the resonance of my husband’s nostrils. He finally awoke, startled, after the third or fourth gentle yell of his name. No, I don’t like waking my husband up. Especially when he has to work the next day, but I have a weakness when it comes to snoring. I asked him to find my headphones so I could listen to music and block out his not-so-melodious tunes. He couldn’t find my earbuds, but returned with his massive noise cancelling headphones, placing them gently on my head before falling back into blissful slumber (not sure it’s really all that blissful with baby phlegm noises and my “SHHHH SHHHH SHHHH” soothing noises). I sat there, rocking (it is a rocking chair, I haven’t completely lost it…yet), listening to music with these massive headphones, watching my infant pendulum back and forth across my nipple, coating her face in milk as she searched for my hardy nipple, and started to laugh at the picture painted in my mind’s eye. Oh, and to top it off, I also had my incredibly sexy mouthgaurd in (I am way too lazy to take it out every feed). Yes, you’re going to feel ridiculous most of  the time. And very sexy.
  4. You’re going to get really skilled at ripping fast showers. I had my first experience this morning (I have been spoiled with help for the last three weeks) and it was far from relaxing. I tried to shower with the shower door open, but my carpeted bathroom floor was becoming saturated (yes, you read that correctly, it’s carpeted. I thank the 1950s for this delightful trend. We are going to renovate, don’t worry) and I weighed the pros and cons of a rotten bathroom floor vs. an unhappy baby for 3 minutes. The former won.
  5. Your nipples are going to kill. Thankfully, this didn’t last too long, but man oh man did it rock my world (in a bad way) for the first five days. I cannot recall ANYONE warning me of this, but everyone did commiserate once I shared my plight. I have never received so much nipple butter (it means more than you will ever know).

I have a suspicion this list will evolve and grow over the next year (or 18) as I discover new and wonderful things about being a mother. All joking aside, it is pretty rad. Especially when your baby smiles at you(even if it is spontaneous and not remotely connected to anything you just did / said).

Until next time…

M

 

 


On Physical Activity While Pregnant

I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve received about exercising while pregnant. “You’re doing this class?” or “You’re still working out?”, have been common questions over the course of my baby’s six month gestation. I received a lecture from one of the nurses I had the misfortune of interacting with (there have been plenty of nice nurses too) and my current OB (I know, I know, she’s doing her job telling me about how the pelvic floor works).

Interestingly, I have had a phenomenal pregnancy so far. And while I appreciate this is anecdotal evidence, it would seem being fit pre-pregnancy and remaining active while incubating a human are quite helpful. But wait, the research also supports this relationship; exercising increases blood flow to the baby and improves brain development, helps manage birth weight and lowers risk for gestational diabetes…you get the picture.

As you’ve likely guessed, I will continue to exercise until I deliver (well, I hope to). I will walk to and from work for as long as my body and the weather will allow. I will continue to lift weights and maintain my cardio; however, running has become more of a challenge due to the recent development of shin splints. I will continue to teach Zumba until the end of this month and try out cross-country skiing in December. I will do all of this while paying great attention to my body. I will not do anything that feels awkward of uncomfortable. I will adjust as necessary.

This post reads like a confession. And to be honest, you often do feel like a sinner while pregnant with all the judgment and unsolicited comments that come your way (diet related comments are by far the most common and the most annoying). It’s a balancing act to navigate the research, old wives tales, stories from friends and family, and still ensure you have the pregnancy you wish to have. So if confessing is what I need to do, so be it.

Yet, the true intention of this post is to assure other pregnant ladies that exercising (in whatever way works for you) should be completely safe while pregnant. It is not okay for women to be told that their miscarriage was a result of heavy exercising (yes, this has happened). Of course, you need to talk to a professional, but make sure you talk to a few as the opinions can vary widely. I’ve run two half marathons and a trail race while pregnant with no issue – don’t let fear mongering take hold.

Listening to your body is always a good rule. If you’re too tired to workout, don’t. If you need a nap, take it. If you feel up for a jog, go for it. If you’re nervous about hurting the baby, do some reading and / or talk to your doctor.

Happy exercising,

M


Motivation: Creating competition v. Finding the feel good

Some people do not like the idea of competition, especially when it comes to exercise. While I find this very difficult to digest as competition is a major part of my DNA, I understand that many hate being around the ultra-competitive such as myself. We tend to be annoying, overly-confident, and aggressive (you know who you are).

Working in health promotion, I find we health promotors tend to focus on the challenge to get people motivated. Most of our recent programs and initiatives at work have revolved around the concept of competition and while we get a number of people signed up and interested, it tends to be the same people over and over (yes, these are my people and I love them, but we need to reach a wider audience if we wish to be successful).

So what can we do? How can we make any health-related activity appealing to the non-competitive and ultra-cool? This is not rhetorical, I’m looking for an answer…please.

While you write my your answers, I shall share my thoughts on a possible approach. I think we need to return to the basics, to reconsider and refocus on the feeling of exercise (or any health-related change) and what it provides us. For many, the benefit is not in the winning or accomplishing or smashing a personal best, it is the simple act of doing and enjoying. And those who are successful with sustaining a health-related goal are the individuals that focus on feeling, not extrinsic reward such as money, free gym membership, weight loss, or winning (sorry folks, the joy and chemicals associated with winning leave your body as quickly as they entered).

Sometimes competition or challenge helps us to find the feel good. In the process of doing, we figure out this s*%^ is awesome. But we lose many people when we focus solely on the aspect of competition, and therefore, many won’t get to the feel good.

So let’s get back to the feel good. Let’s promote the emotional benefits of exercise more powerfully and prominently. Let’s take a step back from our comfort zone of competition and appreciate that we need to appeal to many audiences – that we need to create inviting health promotion initiatives that speak to the competitive and the non-competitive. Let’s move away from the extreme (tough mudder, commonly known as the electic-shock-therapy-running-challenge-thing) and get back to the beauty of health and well-being.

M

p.s. send me your answers immediately.


Keep your goals to yourself: The Evidence

I made reference to this research in my New Year’s resolution post in 2014 and 2015, but failed to actually share the evidence. Today, I’m sharing a short clip from a TED Talk that explains the science behind this suggestion. Enjoy!


So…did you do it?

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m not typically one for New Year’s resolutions. Yet, last year, around this time, I made some and I vowed not to tell anyone until January 2015.

So it’s now January 2015, the moment I know you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath.

But what I want to to know is did you do it? Did you jot down a few resolutions? Did you keep them a secret? Do you remember where you even put the list? If yes, dig those puppies up. Take a read. Have a laugh. I sure did.

Morgan’s 2014 Resolutions:

1. Nag less. “One less nag per day (catch myself before I say it).” In my mind, I achieved this resolution without fail (like all my resolutions…), yet I enlisted my husband to provide some objective feedback on this one. Surprisingly, he thinks I did nag less which is astounding  given we also got hitched in 2014. I’m not entirely sure if I did one less nag per day (I don’t have a running nag tally or alarm to let me know when I’m getting close to the threshold), but I did catch myself, on more than one occasion, before the nag-y words spewed out my mouth. Some days were much better than others. Sometimes I met nag threshold before my husband was even out of bed. Sometimes my husband had to set a limit (e.g. “you have two more nags left so make them good”). Sometimes I didn’t have much to nag about (these instances were rare). Overall, I think I did relatively well on this, but there’s always room for improvement (just like there is room for improvement when it comes to leaving wet towels on the floor…finishing with a nag).

2. Be less emotionally demanding. For someone who cries often, being less emotionally demanding is tough. Fortunately my husband is part saint and thus, has a high threshold for general tearfulness, malaise, grump-monster-type-behaviour. Once again, I asked for honest feedback and received a fairly positive response. Definitely not a vigorous nodding of the head in agreement, more of a gentle tilt, but I’ll take it. With the wedding, I’m not sure if emotional demands were lessened, but it heartens me to know that my husband either actually believes this to be true or loves me enough to engage in a gentle white lie.

3. Reduce snacking at work. “Don’t always take something from the kitchen just because it is available.” The additional notes to my resolutions make me smile. Thank you, past Morgan, for telling me not to eat something just because it’s free and available. I sound like a food you-know-what, which I really am. It’s almost impossible for me to walk past a plate of goodies at work, samples (or “samps” as I so fondly call them) at Costco, or the free chocolates in a bowl at Ikea (yes, I always look through the wrappers to see if there are any chocolates left at the bottom). Before this moves to full confession and becomes somewhat uncomfortable, I am pleased to announce that I did not “always take something from the kitchen just because it’s available” in 2014. I exerted some self-restraint and my pants thanked me. So did my pocketbook (yes, pocketbook) as buying new pants on a regular basis can get expensive.

4. Have fun planning the wedding. “It’s meant to be joyful, not stressful”. Thanks again, past Morgan, for this upbeat quip. I was obviously in a frenzied state of wedding planning when I wrote this resolution, so wanting to convince myself that every element of planning what’s supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime-knock-your-socks-off-type-event-no-pressure-that-is-super-expensive is supposed to be joy-filled and happy happy fun times. Some parts of planning were seriously fun. The best part was putting everything into action the week prior to the big day. And the big day rocked. Yet, some of the planning down-right sucked. So for all those brides in the midst of planning your kick-ass day, know that it’s okay to not love everything to do with wedding planning.

5. Run the 10 KM in under 50 minutes. I ran it in 50.04. It’s not under 50 minutes, so I didn’t technically achieve my goal, but I’m still super jazzed. I almost puked crossing the finish line so that has to be worth something.

So what’s your list? Share if you wish. Send me an email with a few laughs.

If you didn’t achieve your goals, don’t fret. I am not certain I actually achieved any of mine, but I did think about each of the five resolutions throughout the entire year. They didn’t disappear into the abyss of resolutions past. Perhaps not telling people is the trick. Perhaps not making the goals so difficult and being more gentle with ourselves is the way to go.

I’ve already made my list for next year and I look forward to having a laugh or two with you in 2016.

Happy New Year!

M

 

 


The joys and woes of commuting

Together, we face the joys (of which there are so few) and the woes (of which there are so many) of commuting. We change our tires, pump our gas (if we require a motorized vehicle), pay our toll, and weather the ever-changing climate (those living close to the equator are likely less concerned about icy roads or white-outs). Commuting makes us stronger. Commuting frays our nerves. Commuting, while I’ve never thought of it this way, perhaps gives us a sense of community. I mean, we’re all in this to-ing and fro-ing business together.

Personally, being stuck behind the wheel causes my higher level cognitive functioning to short-circuit. While I call myself a good driver (funny, I mistakenly, but perhaps for Freudian reasons wrote bood; a beautiful mix between good and bad), being stuck in traffic does cause me to devolve into a terrible human. A terrible human is one that yells, screams, uses the horn, and perhaps rude hand gestures…you get the picture. I’m what they call, a bit of a road rage-r. It’s not healthy, no. It is not congruent with my “oh-yes-I-love-meditation-and-do-it-regularly” posts. I blame it on demonic possession.

Regardless of its etiology, to avoid my rage-r self, I have chosen to actively commute to work. Well, perhaps I’m just lucky and wound up living close to my work location (actually, that’s what really happened). Yet, interestingly, when presented with the option to move to a bigger home, with a massive yard and opportunity for a dog, in a beautiful Calgary community, I turned it down. Actually, both my husband and I decided to say stay put. While money was somewhat a deciding factor, the commute and freedom of getting home in 17 minutes or less had great pull. In fact, I think it was the deciding factor.

Growing up in the country, I didn’t think my bumpkin self would like living in the city. Yet, the convenience of walking to get groceries, work, the dentist and close access to awesome restaurants is unbelievably appealing. It will be almost impossible to give up (and give up we must – a one bedroom condo will not suffice forever).

Okay, so I’m finally getting to the point of this post. To track my commuting distance and feel super awesome about myself, I decided to purchase a FitBit. Also, at the time of purchase, our company was in the midst of a global corporate physical activity challenge and I wanted to win (I ended up nowhere close) so the purchase of a FitBit to track activity was a must.

The FitBit is a wrist or waist-worn device that tracks your steps, acceleration, and calories burned. These devices are a heck of a lot more swanky than the cumbersome armbands research participants were required to where for my thesis – technology has seriously advanced and thank goodness for that. No one wants an irritation rash or a big honking device stuck on their upper arm buzzing throughout the night. The new swish and swanky FitBit saves your arm and your sleep.

One of my favourite features – it buzzes when you get to 10,000 steps (it can buzz at whatever increment you want) –  thus giving you timely and positive feedback on your daily physical activity. The best days are when you’ve gone for a long hike and you’re encroaching on 30,000 steps. The worst days (of which I’ve had a few more than the best days) are the ones where the television has been on incessantly, leading to a mere 3,500 – 4,500 steps.

Walking 6,000, 10,000, or 24,000 steps is going to provide some form of health benefit and the more you do, the greater the health benefit. Reaching 10,000 steps per day is hard if you’re stuck behind the wheel to get to and from work. If you’re in need of some ideas on how to increase your daily step count, this article may help. Yet, it’s my belief that this little device (or any other device that provides objective, real-time feedback) will most definitely help. It keeps you honest. It allows your inner competitive side a time to shine (you can sync up with friends and family to compete against one another). And it’s not too expensive (okay, a $100 is a little much, but I promise it’s a good investment).

I now view my commuting time as a health investment. I rarely begrudge my walk, even in -20 weather. I appreciate not everyone has the opportunity to actively commute and thus amp up their FitBit steps, but perhaps there are opportunities to squeeze some active time into your day. And perhaps, having a little device on your wrist or waist will encourage the long route to the bathroom or kitchen or parking lot.

M


Speed Cleaning v. Mindful Cleaning

Cleaning is not an activity that brings me joy. Perhaps, after the deed is done, I take comfort in my small accomplishment that I get to avoid for another few weeks time, but for the most part it makes me angry. And I’m not sure if that anger is due to the bitterness I feel for having to do it regularly or is a byproduct of the way in which I clean. Perhaps a little bit of both.

Allow me to elaborate on the way in which I clean. I speed clean. I rip around my kitchen, living room and bathroom with gusto, attacking every corner with the vacuum and every dust fleck with a cloth. While this mode of cleaning often leads to a clean house in a very timely way, I am often sweaty and aggravated by the end. Picture a tornado with hair. That is me cleaning.

So this past Wednesday, after finally shifting out of denial regarding the state of my house (I hadn’t vacuumed for at least a month; I’m sorry), I decided to engage in mindful cleaning. I’m not sure if this is a legitimate practice, but you can do anything mindfully if you want to and I guess on Wednesday, I wanted to mindfully clean.

Instead of raging with the vacuum nozzle, I gently moved it across the carpet. When old habits (e.g. a too vigorous arm movement or aggressive walk) started to flair up, I brought myself back to the gentle movement of the back-and-forth-back-and-forth-of-the-vacuum-over-the-stain-that’s-never-coming-out-because-I-actually-never-tried-to-clean-it motion. I stayed in the moment as best I could and worked to quell the rage-against-the-clean voice in my head.

Interestingly, I started out cleaning in a terrible mood, but ended in a much better one (I won’t go so far as a “great mood” but it was much improved). Earlier in the day, I had spent two hours waiting at the doctor’s office for a needle that usually takes 30 seconds to administer (this is too long and boring a story to share). I had come home to my husband’s clothes and towels strewn across the floor. I was grumpy. And amazingly, I turned to the one activity that typically amplifies the grumpy state, but with my new approach of mindful cleaning, I transitioned to an improved state of mind.

I’m not sure if I will engage in mindful cleaning every time I pick up the vacuum (which is 12 times per year if I push it; gross, I know). I don’t know if I’m mindful enough to remember to be mindful while I clean. Yet, I’m going to keep trying it and let you know how consistent a tool it is. It shall be my quasi project. Perhaps by writing this article I am already priming myself to always have a better mood following mindful cleaning; only time will tell.

If you love cleaning, I don’t understand you and this approach won’t be necessary. If you are ambivalent towards cleaning, this technique may make for a better experience. If you despise cleaning like me, this tool may come in handy and your partner, or cat, or dust bunny friends will appreciate it.

Happy cleaning (I can’t believe I wrote that…)
M

Photo Attribution – Richard West


The 26-minute NASA nap

I rarely nap, but when I do it’s absolutely delicious. To me, there are few things better than a Sunday afternoon couch nap in the sun (perhaps I was a cat in a past life). Yet, sometimes you can wake from a nap feeling just as unrested as when you started, in fact your grogginess level can be worse. Why could a few minutes of zzzz’s lead to such feelings?

In 1995, NASA performed a study to evaluate the benefits of napping in long-flight pilots. Pilots were divided into a Rest Group and a No-Rest Group (yes, very creative names, but you get the picture) and evaluated, over the course of a series of trans-Pacific flights, on their performance and sleepiness level. Pilots in the Rest Group were given a 40-minute window of opportunity to nap as researchers wanted to reduce likelihood of pilots progressing into slow wave sleep (stages 3 & 4; I will explain why later). A whopping 93% were able to nap in the Rest Group, while those in the No-Rest Group were required to maintain normal flight activities during their 40-minute “rest” window. Pilots, on average, fell asleep in 5.6 minutes and slept for 25.8 minutes.

Not surprisingly, pilots in the Rest Group demonstrated a 16 per cent improvement in reaction time and a 34 per cent improvement in concentration relative to the No-Rest Group. Sleepiness, as measured by EEG during the last 90 minutes of the flight, was lower in the Rest-Group with 34 micro-events (physiological changes in EEG waves indicative of micro-sleeps) relative to 120 micro-events in the No-Rest Group. It’s a little frightening to think of our pilots to be this sleepy during their shift, but it isn’t surprising.

Following this study, NASA started to promote the benefits of the 26-minute nap for astronauts and long-flight pilots. Why just 26 minutes? Well, pilots in the Rest Group who slept an average of 26 minutes experienced significant improvements in performance relative to pilots who didn’t. And also because after about 30 minutes of sleep, we typically enter stages 3 & 4 of our sleep cycle, commonly known as deep sleep. Stages 3 & 4 are necessary for physiological recovery (stages 2 and REM are associated with mental and cognitive recovery) and waking from these stages of sleep is often accompanied by feelings of grogginess, fatigue, and a general malaise. The further we get into our sleep cycle (typically 90 minutes in length), the more “painful” it is to awaken.

So next time you are planning an afternoon snooze or a recovery nap, it is recommended that you set your clock for 26 minutes or 90 minutes. If you’re able to do 90 minutes, you’ll achieve one entire sleep cycle and feel ready and rested; however, most of us aren’t able to take a 90 minute snooze at work, so set your clock for 26 minutes and enjoy the benefits of some mid-afternoon zzzz’s .

 

Now you have a legitimate and evidence-based excuse to nap (not that you needed one).

M


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