Fuel for Success

Hand Covering Flowers at the Garden with SunlightI’m struck by the amount of people I know who don’t sleep well. It bothers me because I was an insomniac for years, and I know how debilitating life can be without a consistent good nights sleep.

I am aware that for many entrepreneurs, business owners and managers the stress and demands of their work life can create so much mental noise that they can’t relax at night, and a good night sleep alludes them.

It kind of seems funny to me right now – although I know it’s not funny – that we as humans have created a life that so often robs us of one of the most important and fundamental requirements for a happy and healthy life. So that got me thinking about the other fundamentals that are required to sustain life, and what is our relationship with those.

I reckon there are a few things we simply can’t live without. These are the basics:

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Sleep

Of course we need lots of other things for a rich and fulfilling life; love, connection, money etc. But I’m talking real fundamentals that without, we will die. And as I look at that list it dawns on me that some of us humans have a pretty dismal relationship with all 4 of these fundamentals of life.

  1. Air

So, you breathe right? But how deeply do you breath? Do you get enough oxygen? Over the decades we have become shallow breathers – always in a rush. The art of breathing deeply seems to be lost on us westerners. And yet the benefits of deep breathing and increasing our oxygen flow are significant; more energy, increased mental alertness, decrease in negative emotions, increase in positive emotions and mental outlook. I was born an asthmatic and nearly lost my life a few times due to lack of oxygen. I am acutely aware of the difference in my life when I have enough oxygen and when I don’t.  I highly recommend these practical ways to get more oxygen in your lungs: laugh more, deep breathing exercises, meditation, dance, swimming, in fact any form of exercise.

  1. Water

It doesn’t get much more fundamental that water – and yet are we a nation of water drinkers? I know there was a time in my life where I only drank coffee, soft-drink and alcohol. Pure water never touched my lips. The new reformed me was writing a book about increasing energy levels and right up front I recommended drinking more water – dehydration is quite common, and it feels like fatigue. My writing coach was worried. She felt that suggesting people drink more water would be met defensively by some people, ‘A lot of people don’t like drinking plain water’ she advised. ‘You need to make it more palatable by suggesting they add lemon, or drink filtered water which adds a ‘fun’ element’.

Think about that for a moment. One of the absolute essentials for life – and we struggle to take it in. If I was an alien looking down on planet earth I reckon I’d have a lot of trouble believing humans are a smart species for this fact alone.

  1. Food

There is a lot said about food and I’m not a nutritionist, but suffice to say our relationship with food has become somewhat dodgy. As a nation we eat a lot of food that is processed and doesn’t even resemble real food anymore. Could this be affecting our health and happiness?? Ah, I reckon I’ll let you come to your own conclusion.

I personally try to eat as healthy as possible and buy fresh foods from markets and organic stores. I’ve significantly reduced sugar and have taken gluten out when I realised it was a major cause of my fatigue. Many of my friends are choosing to be Paleo, Vegetarian or Vegan. Whilst I applaud my friends for their choices I don’t think we need to follow a particular ‘diet’. We just need to start thinking about what we’re putting into our mouths and choosing consciously. Unconscious eating just to fill a whole in our stomach, or a whole in our hearts is what’s lead us down a path of literally eating ourselves to death. Ask yourself what your body requires and allow the food you eat to be nurturing, healthful and life giving.

  1. Sleep

Yep, back where we started. Being sleep deprived is not fun. And yet sleep deprivation is so common. Do you need an alarm clock to get up? Do you regularly hit the snooze button? If the answer is yes to either of these questions you are not getting enough sleep. How early would you need to go to sleep to wake up without an alarm?

I know plenty of people who believe if they could just squeeze another hour into the day they’d get more done, be more productive, and ultimately more successful. So they go to bed late and get up early and push themselves off in the morning after only 6 or less hours of sleep.

So, why bother. Surely sleep is a waste of time!! Well (I take a deep breathe) sleep is a time when our body repairs itself, when the mind is given a chance to switch off and debrief. Sleep is when we grow. Adequate sleep leaves us feeling refreshed, happy and at peace with the world. Adequate sleep allows us to stop running on adrenalin and let go the stresses of the day. We’re more able to be creative, insightful and receptive to new ideas. We can operate more quickly, make fewer mistakes and make leaps of logic. So in actual fact we are more productive after a good nights sleep than we are when we push ourselves to stay up for long hours.

I don’t think there is a magic number of hours that you need to sleep. Listen to your body. But if you have a fight with an alarm clock every morning that is a sure sign that your body is asking for more sleep.

So that is my summing up of the very obvious, but often-missed essentials to a happy life. So obvious and so fundamental, that as a species, we really should have them covered by now. Right?