Relaxation technique helps with Covid-19

Blog post – 24th March 2020

~~~

This famous daily relaxation technique will help you cope with Covid-19

By Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach/Counsellor – Copyright 2020

~~~

Introduction

CAT RELAXINGBecause of the very great seriousness of the present situation regarding Covid-19, we all need to stay in our homes as much as possible, to stop the spread of this virus.

So I thought that at this time, you may be interested in learning about a type of relaxation that has fantastic health benefits, which you could try out at home. It can be practised for a mere 20 minutes a day (longer if you want to combine it with a siesta) and it is brilliant!

You can do the exercise sitting in a chair, lying on the settee or lying on the floor.

It’s called Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) and here are some of the health benefits:

* It reduces high blood pressure.

*It boosts your immune system, (crucial at a time like this).

* It relieves depression, anxiety, pain, heart disease, insomnia, panic attacks and digestion problems.

The creator of this technique was a doctor called Edmund Jacobson (1888 – 1983). He was a physiologist, and physician in psychiatry and internal medicine. He spent seventy years researching and developing the key insights of scientific relaxation, based on years of observing tension within the human body. Starting in 1908 at Harvard University, then Cornell, and after that Chicago University, he then set up his own institution in Chicago called the Laboratory for Clinical Physiology.

The build-up of tension in our bodies

Jacobson-sleep-bookMost people don’t realise that they become increasingly physically tense as they try to solve the daily problems of their lives. They use up lots of their physical energy just maintaining that tension. Because of this phenomenon, of accumulation, or building up of tensions in the body’s muscles, day in and day out, people develop anxiety, depression, and various physical illnesses.

It works like this: As we handle the daily tasks and challenges of life, physical tension slowly builds up in our bodies throughout the day, and this accumulating tension is further intensified by a steady bombardment of bad news via mobile phones, the TV and newspapers.

But how is physical tension linked to anxiety?

As you respond to some stressful event, this creates tension in your body, and feelings of anxiety in your brain-mind, which makes you wide awake, on full alert, ready to deal with what is ahead of us. This is the classic ‘Fight or flight’ response switching on to protect you. However, at the end of the day, those accumulated muscle tensions don’t just melt away as you get into bed and try to go to sleep. They can stop you getting to sleep and/or cause wakefulness during the night or early morning.

Some people try to get rid of physical tension and insomnia by taking sleeping tablets, which makes the situation worse. Nick Littlehales (2016)[1] states that one of the first jobs that a sports club will request him to do, when they call him in, is to get the sportsmen and women off sleeping tablets, because of the drain on the body’s energy that they inflict.

How bodily tension is reduced

Callout-1What Dr Jacobson developed was a simple technique which, if you practise it daily, will reduce your physical tension. It won’t work if you just do it from time to time. The system is very simple, and involves tensing a particular set of muscles, holding it for a few seconds, and then releasing the tension.  Each day, as you are doing the tension and release exercises, you will become more aware of what it feels like when you have tension in different parts of your body. And then you can slowly learn to release that tension. Day by day, your tension level reduces as you become aware of what you are doing to your body, as you go about your daily life.

And this reduction in levels of physical tension has beneficial effects throughout the body-bran-mind. People have more energy, less illness, reduced anxiety and depression; and this slowly transforms people’s self-confidence. They are able to sleep better by banishing insomnia; and their memory improves.

The people Jacobson helped with his research

Jacobson’s clients included engineers, journalists, lawyers, doctors, bankers, dentists and people from all the current businesses and professions which were operating at that time. When his first book was printed, (which was entitled “Progressive Relaxation”, in 1929), he was told by the workers and printers at the Chicago University Press that they in particular experienced a great deal of tension. And later in his career he came across union members in the garment and other industries, and assembly line workers who displayed evidence of extreme tension.  (Of course, today, there is a great deal of denial that such levels of tension are induced by stressful jobs!)

Jacobson-and-tensionJacobson’s theory was that clients experienced tension because they had hyperactive bodies and minds, and that the build-up of tension in the body resulted in the following symptoms: anxiety, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disorders, nervous indigestion, peptic ulcers and spastic colon. People were trying to cope with a very fast and constantly changing society, and the problem was that their efforts to cope were using up lots of energy.

~~~

~~~

Controlling our energy expenditure

This energy, called adenosine triphosphate, comes from the food we eat. And Jacobson compared it to the petrol supply in a car – there is a limited amount; and when it’s gone, it’s gone. In other words, we have a “personal petrol supply” which we need for our brain, nerves and muscles, and it comes directly from the food we eat. This energy supply is used up by the activities we engage in to achieve our goals. So when we have a job to do, we use the muscles of our body (we have 1,030 skeletal muscles) and we contract and relax those muscles as necessary.

But what Jacobson knew from experience was that none of the doctors who had dealt with his clients before they consulted him, had told their patients about the need to control their energy as they lived their lives. The clients were well versed in the reality of businesses, and knew that, if they spent too much money, on the wrong kinds of investments, they would risk loss of profits and, ultimately, bankruptcy. But they had no awareness of the need for them to manage their own personal supply of physical energy. Here is what Jacobson found:

“I have had experience with the top management of some of … (the United States’) most successful corporations. The officials conducted business duties with outstanding efficiency and success, yet spent their personal energies quite extravagantly.

Executives - destroying-themselves“I was shocked to find that 40% of the top executives of one leading corporation had blood vessels that were beyond cure. They were paying with their lives for their years of energy extravagance.”

(Jacobson, 1976, Page 12).

A closer look at how tension and stress builds up in our bodies

If we don’t give ourselves time to relax and recover after we have exerted ourselves – (for example after we’ve had a hard day’s work; or had to tackle a serious problem; deal with an accident or emergency; or any one of the many stressful challenges that humans of all ages meet on a frequent basis) – then we can cause serious physical and mental health problems for ourselves.

Here’s why: Evolution has developed our bodies so that we are able to handle stressors, and then recover from them quickly. As human beings we’ve got a very efficient, in-built system for handling these pressures. It’s called the ‘Fight or flight’ response, and our bodies react with the release of stress hormones which help us cope with the problems that arise.

And then, we have an automatic recovery system which kicks in after a stressful event, and it’s called the ‘Rest and digest’ system. These two different but interrelated types of responses are part of our autonomic (meaning ‘automatic’) nervous system, which protects our bodies when attacked.

So, slowly, after we have dealt with a sudden crisis or stressful event, our digestion returns to normal, our breathing slows down, as does our heart rate, and we get back to full energy.

Recovery-processBut if we don’t give ourselves time to recover in-between these stressful events, we stop the natural recovery process from taking place. Our bodies experience more and more stress without this safety valve, or recovery stage, to dissipate it. Then there is a gradual accumulation of tension in our muscles, and stress hormones build up in our blood and body tissues.

So let us now take a quick look at how to do Jacobson’s muscle relaxation exercises.

~~~

How to do the Progressive Muscle relaxation technique

  1. Lie on the floor, or on a couch or settee, or sit in a chair.
  2. Then, tense up and then relax each of the main muscles of your body to the count of five seconds; and then release and relax. For example:

– Start with your hands and forearms. Tighten your hands and feel the tension in your fists and forearms.  Hold it to the count of five seconds. And relax.

– Then lift your shoulders, as if trying to move them up to your ears. Feel the tension in your shoulders.  Hold it to the count of five seconds. And relax.

– Then clench your teeth together, to tense your jaw muscles.  Feel the tension in your jaw muscles.  Hold it to the count of five seconds. And relax.

– You will find several good videos on YouTube which will teach you a comprehensive range of muscles to tense and relax, so I will not present any more examples here.

  1. Next, when you have finished tensing and relaxing the different parts of your body, give yourself a 15-20 minute block of time to savour the feeling of complete physical relaxation. Just lie or stay in your fully relaxed position until the time is up.
  2. You may find you fall asleep and this is a good way to combine muscle relaxation with a daily siesta. You will feel refreshed, with renewed energy, after the exercise.
  3. This is crucial: For this technique to work, you need to do this every day. You will get an energy boost from this relaxation technique and big benefits for your heart, blood pressure, and stress and anxiety levels.
  4. You will also find that you will fall asleep more quickly at night if you stick to the daily pattern of practising the relaxation exercises. A tense body with tense muscles will prevent sleep for a long time during the night.
  5. But if you learn to become aware of, and to deliberately let go of, tension in your muscles, you will slowly become more and more relaxed; and you will get the full benefit of a good night’s sleep in time. (Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep each night). The more relaxed you are, the quicker you will be able to get to sleep and have the mental nourishment that only sleep can give your body.

~~~

Proof of its effectiveness: Recent research studies into the effectiveness of progressive muscle relaxation

  1. The most recent research study I’ll describe, was conducted in Greece, in January 2019, with 50 long-term unemployed people.[2] They had been suffering from anxiety disorders, and the participants were split up into 2 groups. One group of thirty individuals were put on an 8 week progressive muscle relaxation training programme, and the control group did not receive any training.

At the start of the research study, the participants’ level of stress, anxiety, depression, integrity, their health–related quality of their life, and sense of safety and security was measured. And at the end of the research, the result was that the intervention group (which had the training in progressive muscle relaxation) had improved results in the aspects of their functioning which had been measured by the researchers.

So, even though the intervention group had statistically higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress before the intervention, after the follow up this group showed a significant reduction in those levels, whereas in the control group no significant difference was observed. Between the groups, the differences were statistically significant. To summarise the findings, the intervention group showed a decrease in the evidence of depression, anxiety and stress, the quality of their life and general mental health had improved and they felt more of a sense of coherence about their lives.

  1. A research study which took place in 2018 is another example: After having had a caesarean section, a lot of women suffer pain, disturbed sleep and have difficulty moving and walking. A research study was undertaken at the Damanhour National Medical Institute in Egypt with a group of women, 80 in number, to see if progressive muscle relaxation could help them recover from their operations.[3] The research study took the form of a randomised, controlled clinical trial, and 40 women were assigned to a study group and 40 women were assigned to the control group. The women in the study group were shown how to do progressive muscle relaxation, and then did it themselves. The results appeared to be quite conclusive: When the quality of the sleep experienced in the two groups were compared, 62.5% of the study group had nourishing sleep, compared to 5% of the control group. Regarding the intensity of the pain experienced by the control group, as they tried to move about, the level of pain they experienced was described by them as being at a level of 70%. On the other hand, the level of limitations in their movement experienced by the study group, because of pain, was ‘significantly absent’ from the whole of this group.

Therefore the conclusion made by the research team was that progressive muscle relaxation significantly reduced pain and made women’s physical activities less painful and restrictive, and there was a definite improvement in sleep quality. The researchers concluded in their report that their findings were similar to others in the same area of research: that the pain that mothers who had experienced caesareans was reduced by progressive muscle relaxation through the operation of several body systems.

They observed that it reduces the stress hormones of epinephrine, catecholamines and cortisol. Also, the deep breathing technique used, increases the oxygen levels in the body, and reduces the oxidative factors and as a result of this, less pain is experienced. It can also restrict the reaction of the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘Fight or flight’ response) and stimulate the parasympathetic nerves (the ‘rest and digest’ part of the autonomic nervous system) by restricting the feedback pathway from the mind to the muscles and as a result, block the biological response to pain. As a consequence, it may lower the heart rate, the level of blood pressure and the metabolic rate.

The outcome of the research study, the researchers concluded, was that post-caesarean women who practiced progressive muscle relaxation technique have lower post caesarean pain, a better quality of sleep and a reduced level of restriction on their physical activities than those who received just the routine nursing care.

Conclusion

Nata-Lifestyle-coach8Jacobson’s progressive relaxation technique has been acknowledged by health care professionals throughout the world as being very effective in many different healthcare environments. It’s a very straightforward technique that anyone can learn and use for themselves, and this increases their sense of self-efficacy and control over their bodies, and also increases their energy level. It’s a lot cheaper than drugs, medical or otherwise, and doesn’t have any negative side effects either!

The final key learning point about the technique is this:  Image result for bamboo paradox coverIt teaches you to raise your awareness of the muscles in your body; and you learn to notice the tension, and how to let go of it, in each of the main muscles of your body. If this is done regularly (daily is best), you become more and more skilled at spotting the tension in your muscles as it arises. Then you can relax the tension immediately after you have created it, instead of letting the tension accumulate in your body. And the more you practise, the more you can automatically spot and release unnecessary tension.

For information about how to perform PMR (progressive muscle relaxation), please see: “The Bamboo Paradox: The limits of human flexibility in a cruel world – and how to protect, defend and strengthen yourself”, by Dr Jim Byrne, It’s available at the ABC Bookstore Online, here: https://abc-bookstore.com/the-bamboo-paradox-a-book-of-wisdom-for-success/

~~~

ABC Coaching Counselling Charles 2019That’s all for now.

I hope you find this helpful.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach/Counsellor

~~~

References

[1] Littlehales, N. (2016) Sleep: The myth of 8 hours, the power of naps, and the new plan to recharge body and mind. London: Penguin, Random House.

[2] Meracou, K., Tsoukas, K1, Stavrinos, G., et.al. (2019) The effect of PMR on emotional competence, depression-anxiety-stress, and sense of coherence, health-related quality of life, and well-being of unemployed people in Greece: An Intervention study. EXPLORE, Volume 15, Issue 1, January–February 2019: Pages 38-46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2018.08.001

[3] Ismail,N.,Taha, W., and Elgzar, I. (2018) The effect of Progressive muscle relaxation on Post-caesarean section pain, quality of sleep and physical activities limitation (2018)International Journal of studies in Nursing. Vol 3, No.3 (2018)ISSN (online) DOI: https://doi.org/10.20849/ijsn.v3i3.461

~~~

Lack of sleep can ruin your career and relationships

Blog Post No. 60

9th September 2018 (Updated on 22nd September 2019)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne, 2018-2019

~~~

Renata’s Coaching Blog: Why you must ‘safeguard your sleep’!

Does your job entail dealing with people all day long?  If so, then your sleep level really makes a difference – and here’s why:

Introduction

Front cover, sleep book, Feb 2019My book on sleep science and the importance of taking responsibility for managing your own sleep cycle is attracting increasing attention.  This is the title:

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

By Renata Taylor-Byrne

Do you believe you should safeguard your sleep, in a culture which is increasingly sleep deprived?

Essentially, if you do not get enough high quality sleep, your physical and mental health will suffer; as will your quality of life, level of happiness, and relationships at home and at work.

In this blog, I want to explain the connection between sleep quality and quantity, on the one hand, and your level of emotional intelligence, on the other.

And I also want to explore the importance of emotional intelligence to your career success and self preservation.

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

~~~

Sleep and interpersonal intelligence

A BlinkDeep, restful, and nourishing sleep is crucial for everyone who is working with people all day long.

You need to be able to face the working day with energy and stamina, and to have enough vitality to fuel your ability to read and understand the non-verbal and verbal messages you get from other people; and to be able to manage your interactions with those people constructively.

This kind of social/emotionally intelligent ability to read nonverbal communication is an extremely valuable set of skills in the workplace: whether dealing with customers/clients or colleagues

This vitally important skill set includes:

– understanding how the other person is feeling;

– having the ability to spot the beginnings of conflict situations;

– being able to restore calm; and:

– having the ability to negotiate with, and successfully handle, other people, so that they feel respected, listened to, and understood.

Full cover JPEG, 21 April 2019

Front line people skills

Mathew Walker, why we sleepThese skills are integral to the work of police officers, health care professionals, teachers, social workers, negotiators, sales people and many other professions who are on ‘the front line’ of dealing with the public.

Emotionally intelligent people-reading is also very important in our personal relationships: with family members; people who provide services to us; and relationships with work colleagues.

However, emotionally intelligent reading of the nonverbal signals given off by other people, and diplomatically responding to them, is not a fixed set of skills, that you learn once and for all, and can then deliver or utilise, whenever you like, under any kind of personal circumstance.  In fact, you need a great deal of energy and stamina to perform these tasks effectively.

The key elements fuelling this energy and stamina include what you eat, and how well rested you are.

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

The inside story

But we are not just interested in the feelings of other people, when we talk about being emotionally intelligent. We are also concerned with what’s happening inside you as you deal with people in the workplace? It’s very important for your health and well-being to be able to recognise and acknowledge your own emotions and feelings as well, and be able to accept them as they take place.

A Marabain chart

Then you need the skill of being able to constructively manage your feelings so that they are dealt with in a therapeutic and constructive way.

This range of skills, I have just described, make up the skills of emotional intelligence, and here is a definition from Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves:

“Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognise and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships”.[1]

There is growing research to support the belief that the most effective people in work and home relationships are those who are more emotionally intelligent.  And there is also evidence accumulating that those individuals who lack emotional intelligence, tend to get themselves into trouble in work, at home, and even in legal actions!

Full cover JPEG, 21 April 2019

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

The case of ‘who gets sued’

A, BradberryOne way to examine the value of emotional intelligence at work is to look at the likelihood of being sued for incompetence or malpractice if you are high or low on emotional intelligence.

Here’s an example of what happens when people don’t develop their emotional intelligence:

It comes from research conducted by Levinson, a medical researcher, into medical professionals (specifically surgeons,) and malpractice claims by their patients. When malpractice lawsuits are investigated, it has emerged that

– there are doctors who are error-prone, and who do not have legal claims or complaints made against them by their patients,

– but there are also highly competent doctors whose behaviour prompts patients to sue them frequently.

What is the difference between them?

Patients, according to Gladwell (2005)[2], don’t sue for inadequate treatment they have received. Instead, they sue because they have received inferior treatment, “…and something else happens to them”. (page 40)

The additional factor is the personal treatment the patients receive in their communications with their health professionals; which includes the health professional’s non-verbal manner with clients.

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

The research by Levinson

As part of her research investigations, Levinson recorded hundreds of conversations between one group of surgeons and their patients. One sub-group of the surgeons had never been sued, and the other group had experienced having legal action taken against them at least twice.

She spotted these differences between the two groups when she examined the recorded conversations: the non-sued group spent more time (approximately three minutes longer) with each patient. They took care to outline what would happen while the patient was being examined, and they made it clear that there was space for any questions. They listened fully and attentively to the client, and engaged in humour and light-heartedness with them.

~~~

Front cover, sleep book, Feb 2019So the essential difference discovered between these two groups was how the patients were spoken to.

Then Nalini Ambady, a psychological researcher, did some more sophisticated research on the recordings of patient/doctor conversations, and focused in on the emotional tone of the conversations alone.

The outcome, which totally surprised the judges and Ambady herself, was that using these categories enabled a pattern to quickly become apparent: it was possible to predict which of the surgeons were the ones being sued, and which surgeons were not. The results were clear: a surgeon with a dominating voice was most likely to be in the sued group. And a more attentive, solicitous voice would mean that the doctor was in the non-sued group.

This outcome revealed the importance of tone of voice:

“The most corrosive tone of voice that a doctor can assume is a dominant tone”. (Page 43)

~~~

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

What has sleep got to do with maintaining and developing emotional intelligence?

Experiments have shown that, without sufficient sleep, our ability to regulate (manage and control) our emotions is reduced. Lack of sleep affects our frontal lobes which are vital for managing our emotional reactions and keeping our feelings under control.

As well as tone of voice being a very powerful communicator which, if unregulated, can result in dire interpersonal results, there is also the importance of being able to read the facial expressions of others: When we sleep at night, the parts of our brain which assess non-verbal messages and facial expressions are rested and reinvigorated by rapid eye movement sleep (REM). This means that when our brains are refreshed the following day, we are able to see the subtle changes in micro momentary expressions and our ability to assess accurately the emotional states of the people around us is back to full strength.

Matthew Walker (2017) described an experiment which showed how lack of sleep affected this crucial skill. The experiment was as follows: participants came to his sleep laboratory and had a long, restful night’s sleep. Then the next morning they were shown a lot of pictures of one person’s face. The facial expressions in the pictures varied from very hostile and aggressive, through to less emotional, calm and friendly facial expressions.

There were distinct, yet small changes in the facial expressions of the person shown in the pictures, but the main feature of them was that there was this range of facial expressions from friendliness and warmth through to anger and strong dislike.

As the participants looked at the faces they had their brains scanned by a MRI machine (which uses radio waves and strong magnetic fields to create quite detailed pictures of the brain). The task they were given was to assess each picture in terms of its friendliness or hostility, or in other words, how threatening or welcoming the facial expressions were.

The second stage of the experiment involved the participants performing a similar facial expression assessment activity. This time they were sleep deprived, and significantly, weren’t allowed to have REM sleep.

Half of the participants had the full night’s sleep experience followed by the picture assessment, and then were sleep deprived the following night, and then performed the assessment procedure.

The other half of the group had the sleep deprivation condition first, and then assessed the pictures, followed by a full night’s sleep the following night, and did a visual assessment process afterwards. In each experimental condition, there were different individuals chosen to display the full range of emotional expressions, so the facial expressions had not been seen before in previous pictures.

Participants who had experienced a good night’s sleep with REM (rapid eye movement sleep) in it, had no difficulties in sorting out the different facial expressions from each other, from the range of friendly to menacing facial expressions. They performed this task inside the MRI scanner and their assessments were accurate.

There was a variation in the quality of the REM sleep, which the participants experienced. And those who had the superior quality of REM sleep showed that they were very well equipped to understand the messages from the pictures.

But the participants were then put in the second condition of the experiment: they were deprived of sleep (in particular, REM sleep) and then had to enter a MRI scanner and describe the emotions they could see on the pictures they were given, of the different facial expressions. And this time the participants found it much less easy to differentiate between the varieties of emotions shown on the collection of facial expressions.

Because of their lack of sleep (including REM sleep) they had lost the ability to quickly spot emotional states shown on someone’s face. They saw facial expressions of kindliness and welcome as hostile and menacing. Walker (2017) considers that the removal of REM sleep had affected the ability of the participants to assess others’ moods accurately:

“Reality and perceived reality were no longer the same in the “eyes” of the sleepless brain. By removing REM sleep we had quite literally removed participants’ level-headed ability to read the social world around them”. (Page 217).

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

Why do we need REM (rapid eye movement) sleep?

REM sleep replenishes the brain’s ability to assess the level of seriousness of situations requiring emotional intelligence. It is crucial for those occupations that demand that workers perform their duties at night, to be aware of the importance of getting enough sleep prior to working, so that they get REM sleep.  This includes nurses, doctors and staff in the support services, the police and also other shift workers. For example, medical and nursing staff need their emotional intelligence to be at a high level to assess the level of pain that a person was experiencing, or their reactions to a new type of medication.

Here is an example of the effects of lack of sleep:The Daily Express of Tuesday June 26th, 2018, had as the main news item on its front cover: “Exhausted Doctors act like drunks” and described the effects of long hours of work and insufficient sleep:

“Tired and overworked doctors have an adverse effect on patient safety and the NHS must shift how it looks after the mental and physical health of its workforce”, was a comment made at the British Medical Association’s conference in Brighton. And the branches of the BMA in the City of London and Hackney division put forward a motion to the conference to consider:

“After twelve hour shifts doctors have been tested and behave as if they are drunk in terms of concentration and judgement. The doctors tested had no idea that their judgement was impaired.”

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

Conclusion

Lack of sleep can really affect our ability to assess situations around us accurately, and people who are working on the front line in the policing, security and health and caring services need to be well-rested as they perform their jobs, as the evidence shows. Their behaviour has a very powerful, knock-on effect on their clients and members of the public.

Nata-Lifestyle-coach8As I stated earlier,this applies to managers at every level: directors, company executives, university and college managers, social and health care managers, emergency service managers, police management, psychiatrists, supervisors, teachers, and parents; and many others. Because of this wear and tear, self-care is very important when managing people, as is the need to take care of the people being managed.

That’s why a decent night’s sleep is essential if you are working with people the following day, and want to be as well-prepared, and as capable as possible.

In addition to the importance of emotional intelligence in work, we must also take seriously the important effects of sleep deprivation, or sleep insufficiency upon relationships at home.  A lot of broken relationships could perhaps have been preserved and improved if the couple had taken sufficient care of their need for at least eight hours of good quality sleep each night!

Front cover, sleep book, Feb 2019I hope you’ve found this blog interesting and helpful; and that you take a look at my book, which is now on sale at Amazon outlets. The title includes the words, “Safeguard your Sleep”, and  now you know some of the reasons why it’s very important to do that!  You can find a page of additional information about this book by clicking the link that follows:

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

~~~

~~~

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Renata

BlueLogo13CRenata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

~~~

[1]  Quotation by Dr Travis Bradberry and Dr Jean Greaves in an article entitled: ‘About Emotional Intelligence’ Available at: http://www.talentsmart.com/about/emotional-intelligence.php   Accessed 25/06/2018.

[2] Gladwell, M. (2005) Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. London: Penguin.

~~~

SAFEGUARD YOUR SLEEP AND REAP THE REWARDS:
Better health, happiness and resilience

~~~

 

Coaching quotations for success and happiness

Blog Post No. 59

11th June 2018 (Updated on 12th June)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018

Renata’s Coaching Blog: Quotations for success and happiness: Ideas can change your life

~~~

Introduction

Increasing our well-being, success and happiness as humans is a multi-faceted process!

In this short blog I want to share with you some fabulous quotes which I’ve come across in the course of my research.  My hope is that these little ideas will spark some new thinking of your own, and make a contribution to your growing success and happiness.

Nata's June blog post2What I like about these authors is that they don’t mince words – they go straight to the point.

These quotes are like nuggets of gold: precious because of the willingness of the people who share them to be honest, and pass on their insights and lived experience. I thank them all for that!

These quotes cover the different aspects of what it means to be human. As human animals our level of activity and exercise is very important for our well-being, as is the amount and quality of sleep we have, the quality of our diets, how to handle the challenge of very difficult life events, resisting social pressure to conform to others’ rules, staying true to ourselves, and how we nurture and manage our relationships with our families and friends.

If we ignore the knowledge and authority in these statements, then we are the ones who will pay the price, sooner or later.

Here’s an introductory quote:

“People are more concerned with figuring out which direction their car is going, than in finding out the direction of their life, health and where their relationships are going”.

Jonathan Robinson

This quote wakes us up to the fact that it is very easy to become over-involved in what is directly in front of us, instead of watching where we are going in life!

The well-being quotations

1. This quote is based on extensive research, and, if adopted by people, will have an immediate impact on their sense of well-being as they go about their daily jobs and commitments. It’s from Shawn Stevenson, a best-selling author and the founder of the Model Health Show in America:

“Your sleep quality and the quality of your life go hand in hand…….Unless you give your body the right amount of sleep you will never, I repeat never, have the body and life that you want to have”.

Shawn Stevenson

~~~

~~~

2. I particularly like this one, from the Earl of Derby:

“Those who don’t find time for exercise will have to find time for illness”.

The Earl of Derby

~~~

This statement by the Earl of Derby is one of the things that motivates me to do my physical exercise, most days of the week.  Without this insight, I might think my exercises were ‘wasting valuable time’!

~~~

3. This next quotation is the opinion of Dr Kelly Brogan – (a practising psychiatrist, trained medical doctor, with a degree in cognitive neuroscience, and she describes the work she does with her patients as ‘lifestyle medicine’). This is her assessment of of the pointlessness of applying chemical solutions to people’s problems:

“If you think a chemical pill can save, cure or ‘correct’ you, you’re dead wrong. That is about as misguided as taking aspirin for a nail stuck in your foot”.

Dr Kelly Brogan

~~~

4. This next quote, from Claudia Black, explains the need to have boundaries that protect you from hostility and destructive criticism in your immediate social environment:

“Surround yourself with people who respect you and treat you well.”

Claudia Black

~~~

Implicit in Claudia Black’s statement, above, is the idea that we should not associate with people who are bad for us.  And also, when people – who are basically good for us – say or do things that offend us, we have to defend ourselves from those attacks.

~~~

5. On the theme of self-care, here is an excellent quote:

“You can’t give to your family or others out of an empty cup – Practice extreme self-care”. (Anon)

~~~

~~~

6. On the same subject of self-care, and handling criticism from others, here is a powerful quote from Leila Hoteit, an Arab businesswoman. She defines resilience as the ability to transform shit (sexism, racial prejudice, destructive criticism, etc) into fuel, as she states in her fabulous TED talk:

“Convert their shit into your fuel!”

Leila Hoteit

~~~

~~~

7. Life is always throwing new learning experiences at us, and here is a lovely quote by Thomas Szasz, which explains why it’s harder for us to learn when we get older:

“Every act of conscious learning requires a willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That’s why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily”.

Thomas Szasz

~~~

~~~

8. In the next quotation, J.K. Rowling passes on some great advice about what you will gain when problems happen in your life:

“You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and (my own adversities and struggles have) been worth more than any qualification I have ever learned.”

J.K. Rowling

~~~

~~~

9. Here is a very useful and helpful quote by Dan Coyle, which assists us in re-framing past test and exam failures and interpersonal skills deficits:

“If you don’t have early success, don’t quit. Instead, treat your early efforts as experiments, not as verdicts.”

Dan Coyle

~~~

10. The final quote is one from John Wooden, a world-famous coach. It reminds me of the idea (from Carol Dweck) that we can have an open or a closed mind-set.

“If I am through learning, I am through!”

John Wooden

~~~

Conclusion

Nata-Lifestyle-coach92I hope you have enjoyed these quotes and that you find one or two of them useful.

They can change the way we view the world, or ourselves, and point the way for us to improve our well-being if we want the rewards.

I recommend that you treat yourself and have a look at the quotes in small, independent bookshops, as well as the major bookshops like W.H. Smith’s and Waterstone’s, in the UK. This process, of looking for ideas in the form of brief quotations, can be very illuminating and boost your energy at the same time.  Or, as John Steinbeck famously wrote:

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” 

~~~

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

~~~

Manager insomnia harms workers and productivity

Blog Post No. 58

6th April 2018

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018


Renata’s Coaching Blog: Do managers/leaders realise how crucial their sleep habits are for their staff?

Your abusive boss is probably an insomniac:”- A revealing research study by a Professor of Management

 ~~~

Introduction

I continue to do my research on the science of sleep, and the things I am discovering are really quite fascinating.  I have begun to structure my book on this subject as I go along with my research.

Here’s an example of the kinds of things I’m discovering:

Your abusive boss is probably an insomniac

When people are in a position of responsibility for, and control over others, their work can be very difficult and physically draining at times. (This applies to managers at every level: directors, company executives, university and college managers, social and health care managers, emergency service managers, police management, psychiatrists, supervisors, teachers, and parents; and many others). Because of this wear and tear, self-care is very important when you are managing people.  But so also is the need to take care of the people you manage.

uninterested-group

In this blog I’m going to describe a research study which shows how the physical condition of a leader (or manager) can negatively impact the behaviour of their employees, or staff.

The research was conducted by Christopher Barnes, (who is an associate professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business), with his colleagues Lorenzo Lucianetti, Devasheesh Bhave, and Michael Christian. He summarised the research they had done in an article in the Harvard Business Review in 2014, in an article entitled: “Your abusive boss is probably an insomniac.[1]

Sleep affects productivity – your own and your team’s

Harvard-review-image

Christopher Barnes’s previous research had investigated the effect in the workplace of the sleep behaviour of the staff, and he had found that sleep was crucial for replenishing people’s ability to control their own behaviour.

He and his colleagues then went on to conduct a field study of 88 leaders and their subordinates. For two weeks, they conducted surveys of leaders at the start of each work day, about the quality of the leader’s sleep on the previous night and the amount of self-control they had over themselves at the point of completing the survey questionnaire.

And for the same period of two weeks, their subordinates completed surveys when they had finished the day’s work, and recorded any abusive supervisor behaviour of their leader (manager) on that day, as well as their own work involvement on the same day. The research was aimed at focussing on the individual leaders, rather than assessing leaders in relation to each other.

Researchers tracked the amount of sleep that the leaders had (their sleep patterns) over a number of weeks. During that time, the reactions and observations of their subordinates to their leader’s performance was carefully recorded. (There was no knowledge, on the part of the workers, of the amount of sleep that their boss was getting, during the course of this research exercise).

Angry-boss

Sleep quality and quantity affects leadership ability

The research revealed that, if the supervisor had experienced a poor night’s sleep, this resulted in a more derogatory and disrespectful attitude towards the supervisees the following day.

Lack of restful sleep also led to a reduction in the leader’s ability to self-regulate – (to manage their responses to others constructively). This was described by the employees in their reports of their leader’s behaviour.

Another quite alarming result also occurred: On the days after the leader had a disturbed night’s sleep, the employees – (even if they had nourishing sleep themselves) – were less interested in their work during that day, as a result of the leader’s insomnia, with a consequent lack of productivity.  As Matthew Walker commented:

” …it was a chain reaction effect, one in which the lack of sleep in that one superordinate person in a business structure was transmitting on, like a virus, infecting even the well-rested employees with work disengagement and reduced productivity.” (Page 302, Walker. 2017)[2].

Conclusion

Sleeping-pair

Leading, managing and working with others needs energy and stamina, and this research is clear evidence of the vital importance of making sure that people working in management roles get a good night’s sleep (of at least seven to nine hours per night). This will have a really beneficial effect, not only on the manager’s own health, but also on the morale and work performance of the people they are in charge of during the working day, which can only be a very good thing for the organisation as a whole.

But changing habits and altering behaviour isn’t easy, especially when there is strong, social pressure to conform to the patterns of sleep of the people around you. Many managers feel under pressure to over-work and avoid self-care strategies, because of the macho cultures in some organizations. And these macho cultures actually work against the productivity of the organization!

Sorting out your priorities, as a working manager, can be difficult on your own; and being coached within your own organization can simply reinforce the pre-existing macho and self-neglectful culture.

The Lifestyle Counselling Book
The Lifestyle Counselling Book

In my chapter on sleep, in Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, I mentioned some former leaders who harmed their brains (and now we know, also their teams!) through lack of adequate sleep – Thatcher and Reagan being the most notable examples. The current President of the United States boasts that he only takes 5 hours sleep per night.  So don’t make the mistake of working for him, folks!

Clearly, you could often benefit from coaching outside your organization on the subject of managing your health and leadership ability by managing your sleep, and other lifestyle factors. This could be one of the best investments of your precious time that you ever make.

 

SLEEP-QUOTE-CALLOUTThe crux of leaderships is this: “Example, example, example!”  What kind of example are you currently setting, at home and in work, in terms of self-care, including adequate sleep?

Contact me if you want to be coached on how to manage your energy and increase the quality and quantity of your sleep, so that your working life and home life can be enriched.

Have a good night’s sleep!

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

 ~~~

References:

[1] Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/11/research-your-abusive-boss-is-probably-an-insomniac

[2] Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker (2017), Allen Lane Publishers.

~~~

iPads and iPhones disrupt your sleep

Blog Post No. 57

24th March 2018

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018

Renata’s Coaching Blog: Why you should be concerned about ‘blue light’ at night, and the quality of your sleep

~~~

Introduction

ipad-IMAGE

New electronic gadgets can be really appealing and very attractive and efficient, and many people can be influenced into buying them, without being fully aware that the price tag for the gadget might be more than financial. There may be a physical cost too.

Research experiments in this area can be very helpful.  They can help us to sort out what is really beneficial for people’s health and well-being, and what works against their best interests. However, experience of vested interests teaches us that we’re not going to get this information easily.

As part of the research I’m doing at the moment, for a book on the importance of sleep, I came across the details of an experiment into the negative effects (on the human body-brain-mind) of using iPads and other electronic devices that involve LED lights, (such as mobile phones, and lap top computers). And I thought our readers might find it interesting.  (LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes. A light-emitting diode is a special kind of electronic device that glows when electricity passes through it. They are commonly used to illuminate computer screens, iPads, iPhones, etc.)

In this blog I’m going to:

(a) outline the results of an experiment into the effect of the particular kind of light emitted by electronic devices;

(b) and describe the negative effects they can have on your body-brain-mind.

Using LED lights and getting a decent night’s sleep

Making sure we get a decent night’s sleep is an essential part of preparing for work, school, college, or any other activity that requires physical and mental energy. And it’s essential for physical and mental health.

cHILD-ON-IPADLED’s begin their popular life in 2014.  In that year, a Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to the three creators of LEDs: Shuji Nakamura; Isamu Akasaki; and Hiroshi Amano. They got this award because they were responsible for the creation of blue, light-emitting diodes which were described as: “Monumental energy-saving lighting technology”.

These LED lights use less energy than normal light bulbs and therefore they have a longer life span. “But they may be inadvertently shortening our own (life)”, is the opinion of Matthew Walker (2017)[1].

The blue light, which is emitted by the LED lights, is very powerful (twice as powerful as an ordinary light bulb).  And it is twice as powerful at inhibiting the release of melatonin in our bodies-brain in the evening (which is essential for sleep).  Most people may not be aware that they are making it difficult to sleep by using these devices at night.

mELATONIN-IMAGELet’s look at melatonin. I want to explain why melatonin is very important to us: it’s described as the ‘hormone of darkness’, and it increases in volume at dusk or during the early evening.

Its release within our bodies is governed by a piece of our brain called the ‘suprachiasmatic nucleus’ which simply means ‘the 24 hour clock within our brain’; and under the orders from this nucleus in our brains, melatonin is released into the bloodstream via the pineal gland, which is located deep in the brain.

Melatonin gives a very powerful chemical message to the body and the brain, that sleep will be coming soon. Melatonin in itself doesn’t bring about sleep, but it signals to the brain regions that do generate sleep that sleep must be started.

Then, when sleep is underway, melatonin slowly reduces in strength during the night and into the early morning.  Melatonin release is finally stopped when the pineal gland, which had been releasing it, switches the hormone off as the dawn light shines through the bedroom window.

As human beings, we have a sensitivity to blue LED lights.  This sensitivity within us, causes a health problem. For example: Four researchers, Anne-Marie Chang, Daniel Aeschbach, Jeanne F. Duffy and Charles A. Czeisler, decided to find out what the effect of  our sensitivity to LED light has on the ability of people to get a good night’s sleep, if any.

Reading and using an iPad before bedtime – a comparison

Here’s the evidence of the effects of LED light on people’s sleep:

A research experiment was conducted in 2014, in which the four researchers, mentioned above, got together a group of adults who didn’t have any health problems, and these adults took part in 2 different processes – two different experimental conditions.

Each of the participants experienced these two processes:

Initially, they had five nights of reading a book on an iPad for two hours before bed (and they weren’t allowed any other activities like going on the internet and/or checking their emails).

Subsequently, the participants also had five nights reading a paper book for several hours before bed.

And to increase the validity of the experiment, some people experienced the book reading process first, and some people started by reading the iPad first.

The experiment lasted for two weeks in a tightly-controlled laboratory experiment.

What the researchers found

The result of reading on an iPad before going to sleep, as compared to reading a book, held back the release of melatonin by over 50% at night.

This meant that there was a delayed release of melatonin (the hormone that pressurizes the body into sleeping) by up to three hours. Consequently, their melatonin didn’t arrive until early in the morning.

This meant that, (compared with the time it took for them to fall asleep when they were reading a paper book), under the iPad condition, it took them longer to get some sleep. And also it was discovered that there were three specific differences in the quality of the sleep when the results of the two processes were compared.

Firstly, because of the delayed onset of sleep as a result of reading the iPad, the participants felt sleepier and had less energy the following day.

Secondly, the iPad reading had the effect, for a few days after the experiment, of delaying the release of melatonin by 90 minutes, so they took longer to fall asleep for those subsequent nights.

This resulting delay in the release of melatonin showed that the blue LED light had the power to delay the onset of our normal sleep rhythms.  (These rhythms of sleep and wakefulness, which are known as circadian rhythms, are very powerful, internal, biological regulators of our body temperature, sleep-wake cycle, hormone release, eating habits and other body functions).

Thirdly, the iPad use affected their sleep and reduced their rapid eye movement sleep (REM) sleep, which is vital for brain repair and regeneration.

The researchers, (whose experiment can be found by clicking on the live link below, in the references list[2]), came to the following conclusion:

 “Overall, we found that the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety.”

‘Smart Kids don’t take their phone to bed’

sLEEPING-CHILD-WITH-LAPTOPAccording to an article that appeared in the Sunday Times on October 1st, 2017, entitled, ‘Smart Kids don’t take their phone to bed’ (page 14), there are details of a survey undertaken by the Children’s Sleep Charity, in which children reported keeping their mobiles under their pillows for fear of ‘missing something’. By doing this they would be more likely to hear that a message had been sent to them and they could then check their phone.

The evidence from the research study I described above, has shown the full, negative impact of blue LED light when it was viewed by research participants at night-time. From that, we may be able to see that the children who take their phones and other devices to bed will be exposed to blue LED light, which will impact on the ability of the children to get a decent night’s sleep.

Conclusion

The popular public reaction to the creation of LED light was very enthusiastic, wasn’t it? It was described as: “A monumental energy-saving lighting technology”, and the creators obtained a Nobel Prize in Physics.

Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea after all! Please be aware of the biological effects of this light on yourself and your loved ones.  A good night’s sleep is important not only for energy the next day; and for good physical health; but also for good mental health and efficient and effective brain functioning.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

~~~

References:

[1] “Why We Sleep“, by Matthew Walker (2017), Allen Lane Publishers.

[2] Anne-Marie Chang, Daniel Aeschbach, Jeanne F. Duffy and Charles A. Czeisler (2015) Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.

PNAS January 27, 2015. 112 (4) 1232-1237; published ahead of print December 22, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112

 

Exercise cures major depression

Blog Post No. 163

By Dr Jim Byrne

6th March 2018

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog:

Exercise is better than antidepressants for major depression!

The science behind mental health

~~~

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018

~~~

Introduction

Blumenthal exercise depressionIn a recent blog post regarding hype about antidepressants, I quoted Dr Joanna Moncrieff as saying this: “Calling for antidepressants to be more widely prescribed will do nothing to address the problem of depression and will only increase the harms these drugs produce. …”  This is so because the drugs are not significantly more effective than a sugar pill, but they have huge side effects.  They also distract attention from some of the real solutions to depression, which involve changes in significant areas of social policy, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles, including healthy diet and adequate amounts of daily physical activity (exercise).

You can read that blog post here: https://abc-counselling.org/2018/02/27/hype-about-antidepressants/

And in her latest blog post, Renata Taylor-Byrne presents some interesting information about the use of Chinese exercises in connection with promoting good mental health (in the form of resilience in the face of life’s stressors).

You can read Renata’s blog post here: https://abc-counselling.org/2018/03/02/build-resilience-with-chinese-exercise/

~~~

In today’s blog post, I want to present some evidence which shows that there is good scientific evidence that physical exercise is much more effective than antidepressants for eliminating major, clinical depression!

We do not need antidepressants, and indeed, they cause harm through numerous negative side effects.

~~~

Research evidence

Front cover, 8In our book about how to control your anger, anxiety and depression; in a section which specifically addresses the value of physical exercise, Renata Taylor-Byrne and I make this point:

A key research study was undertaken by Blumenthal et al. (1999 and 2012)[1].

The goal of the research project was to compare the effectiveness of exercise against an anti-depressant called Sertraline (which is called Lustral in the UK and Zoloft in the US). Sertraline is one of a group of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s).

Three groups of participants (156 people in total) were randomly assigned to three different research conditions.

– Group 1 received Zoloft for their depression.

– The second group were given exercise activities to do.

– And Group 3 was given a combination of Zoloft and exercise.

The results showed that all of the three groups showed a distinct lowering of their depression, and approximately half of each group had recovered from their depression by the time the research project had finished. (Thirteen percent had reduced symptoms but didn’t completely recover).

Then six months later Blumenthal and colleagues examined the health of the research participants and found that, over the long haul:

#1.  30% of the exercise group remained depressed,

#2. 52% on medication remained depressed,

#3. while 55% in the combined treatment group remained depressed.

This means the 70% of the exercise group got over their symptoms of depression, compared with only 48% of the medication group, and 45% of the combined group).

Let us repeat that result:

70% of participants got over major depression through exercise alone!

A year later there was a second study, identical to the first one, and when the participants were reassessed a year later (by Hoffman and his colleagues), they found that, regardless of the treatment group the participants had been in, the participants who described doing regular exercise, after the research project had finished, were the least likely to be depressed a year later. And this study was about major depression – not mild depression!

The NHS in the UK, on their website, support the view that exercise is good for mild or moderate depression, but they don’t clarify that it can also be invaluable for major depression, which was demonstrated by Blumenthal’s 1999 and 2012 research findings.

In a very interesting book, ‘Spark’, (2009) – on the science of exercise and the brain – the authors, Ratey and Hagerman, comment upon the findings of Blumenthal’s and Hoffman’s research, like this:

“The results (of this research, showing the effectiveness of exercise in reducing depression) should be taught in medical schools and driven home with health insurance companies and posted on the bulletin boards of every nursing home in the country, where nearly half of the residents have depression” (page 122).

However, this is not currently done, because big drug companies dominate the medical profession, with their delusion that antidepressants are highly effective, which they are not!  Indeed, there is research evidence to support the view that most antidepressants tested against placebos are no more effective than the placebo (or sugary pill!)

~~~

You can find out more about the book in which we have produced these results, here: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression.***

https://abc-counselling.org/diet-exercise-mental-health/

~~~

This book shows you, in fine detail, how to change your habits in relation to physical exercise!  And describes the benefits you will gain!

That’s all for today!

Best wishes,

Jim

 

Jim & Renata's logo
ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

Dr Jim Byrne

Doctor of Counselling

ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

01422 843 629

drjwbyrne@gmail.com

~~~

[1] Blumenthal, J.A., Smith, P.J., and Hoffman, B.M. (2012) Is exercise a viable treatment for depression? American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal. July/August; Vol.16(4): Pages 14–21.

Cited in: Ratey, J., and Hagerman, E. (2009) Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. London: Quercus.

~~~

 

Build resilience with Chinese exercise

Blog Post No. 56

2nd March 2018 – Updated on 31st March 2020

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2018/2020

Renata’s Coaching and counselling Blog:

Millions of Chinese people can’t be wrong! Why practising Chi Kung will keep you away from the doctor’s surgery

~~~

Introduction

Nata-Lifestyle-coach8Keeping fit by doing lots of exercise is good for you, isn’t it?  There is lots of talk these days about the importance of keeping fit, and of avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.

However, there are certain drawbacks with some types of exercise, which I want to tell you about, because you may not be aware of them.

Not all exercise is automatically good for your body. A lot  depends on the type of exercise you do.  A good deal of injury to muscles and joints is common in the most widely practised systems of exercise in the West.

In this blog I’m going to outline some of the differences between Eastern and Western types of exercise – and describe the benefits of Eastern exercise, and some of the disadvantages of Western exercise, which are not widely known.

It’s important that you know the effects of different types of exercise, so that you can make an informed choice, if you decide that you want to improve your health by exercising.

Why is this important?  Firstly, because you will want a good return on the investment of your valuable time and money. And secondly, because you will want to avoid physical damage to your body.

‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ exercise

In his book, ‘The Tao of Detox’, by Daniel Reid (2003), Reid makes a distinction between ‘Hard’ exercise and ‘Soft’ exercise, and he explains the different effects these two types of exercise have on the body.

Here’s what ‘Hard’ exercise includes:

hard-exercise-picture

And now for some ‘Soft’ exercise systems:

Soft-exercise

The effects of ‘hard ‘exercise on the body

 There are lots of benefits from active sports, but there is also a downside to them. Here are some of the effects on the body of hard systems of exercise:

Infographic-on-hard-exercise.JPG

As you can see, the effects on the body aren’t all beneficial, and if there is also a competitive element to the sport, then this can act as a source of stress throughout the body-brain-mind.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

The effects of ‘soft’ exercise on the body

The Eastern approach to exercise (which we’ve called a ‘soft’ approach) is that the exercise must be therapeutic for the body. So let us look at some evidence of the value of soft exercise.   And this will help us to understand why millions of Chinese have practised it continuously for thousands of years.

Here are some of the benefits:

# One of the top rewards of doing this type of exercise is that it switches your body into the ‘rest and digest’ (or healing) mode of functioning.  When you do ‘Soft’ exercise (which involves slow, rhythmic movements, combined with deep breathing), this shifts the autonomic (or automatic) nervous system into the calming, healing branch of your nervous system and keeps it there throughout the exercise.

This enhances the immune system and stimulates the production of red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.

# It also stimulates the thymus (the immune system’s master gland) and other glands, to release the full range of immune system protection factors; and at the same time it stops the release of the stress hormones which are part of the ‘Fight or flight’ response – (which  have powerful immune-system inhibiting effects).

# “Chi-gong also stimulates the increase in secretions of natural steroids”, states Daniel Reid (2003) “thereby relieving arthritis without the need to resort to the toxic synthetic steroids which most doctors prescribe for this condition.” (Page 114)

group-chi-gong

# Furthermore, apparently when we stretch our muscles, this squeezes stagnant blood from our body tissues and then the relaxation part allows fresh arterial blood to flow in. And stretching also stimulates lymphatic drainage, which we need to stimulate through body movement each day, so that wastes (e.g. toxic waste products, infectious microorganisms, etc), can be destroyed by our white blood cells, as they pass through the lymph nodes.

Because these soft exercises are always done in a relaxed, smooth and slow manner, with the smallest amount of effort, this means that no lactic acid is produced in the body tissues, which is a side effect of ‘hard’ exercise.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

The benefits to the body (continued)…

Benefits-of-soft-exercise-chart.JPG

# Doing these soft exercises slowly ensures that the heart doesn’t race, and the breath isn’t reduced.

# Apparently twenty minutes of Chi Kung practice slows down the pulse by an average of 15%, while increasing the overall amount of blood circulating in the body, and this effect lasts for several hours afterwards.

This increase in the flow of blood around the body results from the way soft exercise alters the workload of circulation from the heart, over to the diaphragm.

And one of the implications is this: High blood pressure, which is a life-threatening condition all over the world, can be controlled without effort by doing daily Chi Kung practice, without the need for drugs.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Research findings on how Chi Kung reduces blood pressure

At the Shanghai Research Institute for Hypertension, one hundred people who were suffering from chronic high blood pressure and hypertension, took part in a research project to test whether Chi Kung exercise could help them.

What the researchers found was that after only five minutes of Chi Kung practice, blood pressure levels in all of the participants began to drop dramatically. And after twenty minutes their blood pressure reached the level it normally would have reached after three hours as a result of taking the kinds of blood-pressure drugs normally prescribed by Western medical practitioners.

Ninety-seven of the participants stayed free of high blood pressure and didn’t have to use the drugs any more, just by continuing to practice Chi Kung at home every day.

And the three patients who decided not to continue their Chi Kung practice quickly relapsed and had to go back on drug therapy.

Older-people-chi-gong-practitioners

The benefits of Chi Kung for the brain

# Electroencephalographic (EEG) scans of elderly people in China – who practice Chi Kung daily – show signs of rejuvenation.  That is to say, a pattern and frequency of brain waves has been found that are usually found in the brains of young children.  This is interpreted as showing that those who regularly practise this type of exercise can bring back the mental skills and abilities they had when they were young.

# Also, Chi Kung infuses the brain with energy, and activates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and enkephalins. The effect of this is that brain functions are balanced.  Mental alertness is increased, and pain reduced.  And communication is enhanced between the brain and the peripheral nervous system.

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises, including Chi Kung, to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Chi Kung benefits for the digestion process

# Indigestion, and acid reflux, are very common for people who are following a Western diet.  According to studies in China, the practice of Chi Kung affects the stomach in a beneficial way.  For example, fifteen minutes of practise of Chi Kung produces a big increase in the enzymes which are released by the stomach to digest food: pepsin, and other digestive enzymes; plus lysozyme, which is secreted by the salivary glands. Apparently this system of exercise balances the pH level in the stomach (the level of acid and alkalinity) and this helps prevent acid indigestion.

Conclusion

We are socialized in the UK, Europe and America to see sports as a necessarily competitive process, either between different teams (for example the recent Winter Olympics) or competing against one’s own previous performance at a particular sport. But competition causes stress, as nobody wants to lose the race, or to let their team down!  And even after your team has won, there is always the anxiety about next time!  Next time we might lose!  And then who would we be?!

And inevitably there are vast audiences for these competitive sports.  And this has become a major form of involvement in sport: A passive, consumerist approach.

But what about the health of the people who are watching these events? Clearly, their health doesn’t get better by watching other people exercising. In fact, we now know that sedentary lifestyle is killing people! (Spectator sport does however make large fortunes for sports-related businesses and TV companies.)

The Eastern approach is very different: The benefits to the body of Chi Kung, (which is one of several Eastern forms of exercise), are many and varied. It’s like a type of medical therapy as well as an exercise system.

I was very fortunate in the 1980s to stumble across Chi Kung, when I joined Penny Ramsden’s Chi Kung class in Hebden Bridge. I found it so helpful, and health-giving, that I am still doing the exercises almost every morning, for over thirty years later!

~~~

For many years I have recommended Chinese exercises, including Chi Kung, to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

~~~

Illustrating Chi Kung in action

Further down this page, you will see a video clip which illustrates the calming and relaxing movements of Chi Kung exercise, which gently gives the body a full workout – and practitioners feel great afterwards!

The exercise costs nothing, after you’ve learned how to do it.  It’s safe and effective and you can practice it anywhere at any time (indoors if the weather is bad. But exercising outside is better, because of all the fresh oxygen [chi] you get into your lungs and bloodstream).

You don’t need special equipment and, if you do it in the morning, it sets you up for the day to deal with the many hassles of life which you will inevitably face.

Here is a video clip of a group practising Chi Kung techniques:

My tutor (Penny Ramsden) told our group that, before she tried Chi Kung, she had been bed-ridden for a significant amount of time with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Now she was fully recovered, after being taught by Michael Tse (pronounced Shay!), who teaches Chi Kung all over the world.

There are many classes where you can learn the movements, which you can then use for your physical and mental benefit for the rest of your life!

This form of exercise is great for developing resilience and managing the stresses of daily life, and if you practice it every day, it will slowly transform and strengthen you and enrich your life.

For many years I have recommended these exercises to students in college, and to my coaching/counselling clients.

Front cover, 8In the book on diet and exercise which I co-authored with Jim Byrne, I quoted a student of Chi Kung who improved his own mental health using this system.  Towards the end of his blog he wrote this:  “(Chi Kung) is a powerful tool for overcoming mild to moderate depression, for overcoming anxiety, worry and fear. It is a potent way to raise self-esteem and increase your resistance to the stresses and strains of modern living.”

From: How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression, Using nutrition and physical activity, by Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne.***

So, I would recommend this system of exercise for whole body-brain-mind health.

I hope you investigate this system of exercise, and experiment with it. It’s incredible value for money. And it builds up your most precious asset: your physical and mental health.

It feels good right away, once you start to do it!  And when you set out to face your day, you can feel the energy flowing through your body!  You will also feel resilient in the face of the inevitable hassles of your day!

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

Telephone: 01422 843 629

 ~~~

Reference

‘The Tao of Detox’, by Daniel Reid (2003). London, Simon and Shuster UK Ltd.

~~~