20 Facts & Tips About Your Body Clock

I really enjoyed reading The Secrets Our Body Clocks Reveal (you can read my full book review by clicking here). From this book, I’ve begun implementing a few of the tips I discovered. Here are a few of the facts and tips that I found interesting. 

  1. “Most of us reach our peak of alertness around noon. … We are least alert during the early morning hours—specifically, between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.” 
  2. “Your immediate, or short-term, memory is best during the morning hours. … Your long-term memory is a different matter, however. Afternoon is the best time for learning material that you want to recall days, weeks, or even months later. … How well you remember things depends on when you learn them, not when you recall them.” 
  3. “On average, we tend to do best on cognitive tests—things that require the greatest mental effort—during the morning hours, particularly the late morning hours.” 
  4. “All of your senses—taste, sight, hearing, touch, and smell—are their keenest during the twilight hours of late afternoon and early evening.” 
  5. Tips for keeping your daily rhythms on beat: (1) get out in the sun for at least fifteen minutes each day, and (2) try to follow a regular daily routine.
  6. “Fortunately, there is another way to avoid the Monday morning blahs. Stay up as late as you like, but make sure you get up at your regular wake up time. In other words, don’t sleep in. And don’t take naps during the day. Then, when night rolls around again, you’ll find yourself able to fall asleep at or before your regular bedtime, and you’ll avoid pushing your cycle ahead.” 
  7. “Scientists have also discovered that short naps (twenty minutes or less) are just as revitalizing as long ones—and less disruptive to regular sleep rhythms. In addition, regular nappers wake up more refreshed than those who take only an occasional nap. When naps are part of the regular daily rhythm, they are less disruptive.” 
  8. “Generally, our moods peek around four hours after we awaken.” 
  9. “A regular exercise program can go along way toward easing the physical effects of stress. … The exercise program must be regular, however; sporadic physical activity, such as an occasional game of tennis or softball, or an activity that is not appropriate to your physical condition, can be a harmful stressor.” 
  10. “Melatonin’s daily rhythm is similar to that of legendary vampires: it appears at the onset of darkness and begins to disappear at the break of dawn. In other words, darkness triggers the chemical’s release; sunlight suppresses it. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that melatonin reaches its seasonal peak in the body during the dark winter months.” 
  11. “Beards tend to grow the most on Sunday and the least on Wednesday.” 
  12. “If you wake up in the morning with a temperature of 99° F, you are very likely coming down with a cold, the flu, or some other kind of illness. But if you have that same reading around dinner time, you may be in perfect health. The reason, of course, is that your temperature rises during the day. A high reading early in the day is a greater indication of illness than the same reading late in the day.” 
  13. “Take a commonplace drug like aspirin, for example. When swallowed at 7:00 a.m., aspirin stays in the body for up to twenty-two hours. When the same dose is taken at 7:00 p.m., it is completely out of the body within seventeen hours.” 
  14. “When you know your rhythms are out of sync, be aware that you are particularly vulnerable to illness. It is the time to be extra careful about keeping your distance from people with the flu or other viruses.” 
  15. “The best thing you can do for a tension headache is to learn how to relax. As soon as the headache begins, lie down, if possible, so you can take the strain off your neck, since this is the location of most of the muscles that tense up and cause a tension headache. Close your eyes and breathe deeply to return oxygen to your strained muscles. Better yet, ask a sympathetic friend or loved one to gently massage your neck and shoulders.”
  16. “Eat your biggest meal at breakfast, your next biggest at lunch, and your smallest at dinner.” 
  17. “About every ninety minutes, most people experience an urge to put something into their mouths. … Generally, it will pass in about fifteen minutes.” 
  18. “According to recent studies conducted at Northwestern University, both morning and night people perform simple mental tasks better during the morning hours after consuming the caffeine equivalent of one to three cups of coffee. But when the tasks become more complex, only night people do better under the influence of caffeine. For morning people, the higher dose of caffeine, the more mistakes they make.” 
  19. “Carbohydrates help calm and focus your mind.” 
  20. “Protein foods increase your alertness and help you feel more energetic. … Protein can be eaten either alone or with a carbohydrate food to energize the mind. For carbohydrates to have their calming effect, they must be eaten alone.” 

I’ll be sharing some of the research that Susan Perry and Jim Dawson uncovered about the importance of sleep soon, so stay tuned! 

Alien Anxiety

“A recent survey of primary care physicians in the United States revealed that at least one-third of office visits were prompted by some form of anxiety.” —Lanny Hunter & Victor Hunter 

The Greek word for anxiety means to be pulled in different directions. In the context of “Aliens and Strangers,” it means being pulled between Earth’s way and Heaven’s way. Other biblical definitions for anxiety that the Amplified Bible brings out include—

    • being perpetually uneasy…about your life (Matthew 6:25) 
    • a troubled mind unsettled, excited, worried, and in suspense (Luke 12:29) 
    • drawn in diverging directions, his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God (1 Corinthians 7:34) 

Unchecked anxiety can negatively impact our physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual health, so it’s imperative—if we are going to live differently than Earthlings—that Christians handle their anxiety in an alien way. 

Peter gives us an alien response to our feelings of worry and anxiety—

Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Notice that Peter doesn’t say, “Don’t be anxious,” but he does say, “Here’s what to do with your anxiety.” Being anxious is not a sin, but hanging on to your anxiety may cause you to behave in a sinful way. 

So what do we do with our anxiety? In a word cast it off—throw it somewhere else! The verse tense here means it’s something we must keep on doing, so Peter is really saying keep on casting your anxiety on Jesus. 

Why can we keep on casting our anxieties on Jesus? Because He cares for you. Jesus has taken charge of your care; He’s made it His goal that you aren’t missing out on the abundant life He paid for! This verb is in what’s called the indicative mood. That means it is something that has happened in the past, and it is happening now, and it will continue to happen forever and ever! 

Even if you cast an anxiety on Jesus 30 seconds earlier, you can do it again right now because that’s how much He cares for you! 

At the risk of oversimplifying it, here is the prescription for anxiety in four steps: 

  1. Recognize that you are anxious—admit it to yourself and to God. 
  2. Remind yourself that Jesus cares for you. 
  3. Reject your anxieties by counteracting your worry with God’s truth—I like to read something like Psalm 23.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3. 

“Your natural tendency when you’re feeling anxious is to focus on yourself and your problems. The more you do this, the more you forget about Me and all the help I can supply. This worldly focus only increases your anxiety! Let the discomfort you feel at such times alert you to your neglect of Me. Whisper My Name, and invite Me into your difficulties. … A problem-preoccupation makes you anxious. So I urge you to cast all your anxiety on Me—trusting that I care for you. You may have to do this thousands of times daily, but don’t give up! Each time you cast your worries and concerns on Me, you are redirecting your attention from problems to My loving presence.” —Sarah Young, in Jesus Always 

Join me next week as we continue our series called Aliens and Strangers. You can join me in person or watch via Facebook Live. 

A Surprising Way To Relieve Stress

Paul writes some pretty straightforward words to the Christians at Philippi about how to overcome anxiety.

Just to be clear, we’re not talking about a problem-free nor a stress-free life. That’s simply not possible. Our bodies were created to deal with stress in a healthy way. But stress that is unhealthy, or unnecessarily prolonged, or not flushed properly from the body becomes anxiety. Anxiety is the culprit responsible for a whole list of bad things!

When we face a stressor, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. The main function of this hormone is to prepare us to fight or flight. Sometimes this looks like over-engaging in problem-solving, and sometimes it looks like complete withdraw from life. Sometimes cortisol leads to sleeplessness and a diminished appetite, and sometimes it makes people sleepy and craving comfort food.

But the bottom line is the fight-or-flight response is very me focused!

The strategies Paul lists for us take the focus off me and put it on God. He especially counsels us to pray to God and to praise God. Between these two healthy responses is something unexpected. He writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

What in the world does gentleness have to do with relieving stress?!

First, let’s consider the motivation: The Lord is near. I think this could mean:

  1. The Lord’s name is near, as in we are called “Christians” and so we should act in a way that glorifies God.
  2. The Lord is near to help us.
  3. The Lord’s return is closing in where we will have to give an account of how we have lived our lives.

Then there is this word gentleness. This word means:

  • moderation
  • considerate of others
  • patience toward our situation and toward others
  • or as The Message says: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.

Cortisol is naturally removed from our physical bodies through rest and exercise. Anxiety is naturally removed from our emotional lives the same way—resting in God’s presence (honk!) and gently and considerately exercising a blessing for someone else.

THE BEST WAY TO DE-STRESS IS TO BLESS! 

When anxiety builds:

  1. Honk
  2. Bless
  3. Repeat

Don’t let stress win by making you self-centered. Defeat stress and anxiety by praising God and blessings others. And then make that a daily habit!

The Power Of Laughter

“Laughter increases the number and activity of some white blood cells called ‘T’ and ‘B’ cells, natural killers that fight viral infections and some types of cancer cells. It multiplies the antibody IgA, which fights upper respiratory tract infections. A hearty chuckle builds up gamma interferon, which stimulates the various components of the immune system.

“Laughing speeds up our heart rate, and some have likened this to ‘internal jogging.’ It’s an aerobic activity that works the diaphragm and increases the body’s ability to use oxygen. That’s why after a big laugh you often feel the need to sigh and take a big breath of air. It sure beats thirty minutes on the treadmill.

“As we laughed, our blood pressure temporarily is elevated; however, that is followed by a prolonged, mild decrease in blood pressure. Laughter also lowers various hormone levels—the kind associated with the fight-or-flight response—and makes us feel less stressed, more relaxed. That’s why people say things like ‘I laughed so hard I couldn’t get up’ or ‘I laughed so hard I fell over.’

“Science is figuring out that laughter is good for the body, something the Bible told us long ago—Proverbs 15:30; Proverbs 17:22.” —Lynn Eib, in Peace In The Face Of Cancer

To read other quotes from this exceptional book, click here and here.

9 Quotes From “Take Your Life Back”

take-your-life-backStephen Arterburn and David Stoop have given us a great resource if we are struggling to free ourselves from the wounds that are trapping us in a reactive life. I truly believe Take Your Life Back will start many people on a journey of healing. Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then check out a few quotes from this helpful book.

“When we’re constantly looking at what’s happening with other people and measuring our satisfaction based on how fairly we feel we’ve been treated, we are forever at the mercy of what is going on over there. We’ve wired ourselves to react to whatever scale of comparison we’ve established.”

“The real self, quite simply, is the self that God sees. He sees it all, with all its flaws. He does not approve of or endorse everything He sees, but He loves the person He sees. He does not see an idealized self, free of sin. He sees the real self—sinful, doubtful, and flawed—and yet He accepts the reality of it and loves us in spite of it all.”

“Our reactions to pain and our adaptations to it are unique to ourselves; we are not all the same. But we have several things in common: In one way or another, we have turned our back on reality, and we have allowed all, or portions, of our lives to be controlled by another person, a destructive pattern, or unrealistic expectations. We live on the edge of almost. We are almost breaking free, or we are almost free. We are almost fed up or almost ready to take our lives back.” 

“Denial keeps us from addressing the things we can change, causing us to think that our inability to change everything means we can’t change anything. … Because we either don’t or won’t see how far we are from living the life that God intends for us, we stay in our denial and wait for the magic cure that never materializes. But when we admit that we’re in denial, and when we are willing to break through it, we can begin to move into recovery.”

“When we talk about the elephant in the room, we have a way of describing it as a small rodent. Our internal application for minimizing language automatically converts words like pain into irritation; devastating into difficult; abusive into insensitive; and horrific into unpleasant. Our self-talk is unrealistic, so whenever we communicate with someone else, we present our overwhelming problems as manageable situations that we have completely under control. Because we don’t acknowledge the full scope and intensity of our struggles, we don’t act in realistic ways to free ourselves and take our lives back. We minimize in order to give ourselves permission to do little or nothing to change.”

“Toxic shame undermines our will and our power to stand up for ourselves. … Toxic shame carves out a new normal for those who partake of its poisonous fruit. Rather than seeing themselves as human beings who have made a few mistakes—maybe even some really big mistakes—people who are saturated with toxic shame see their failures as an objective expression of who they are. Before long, they don’t even try to avoid future mistakes. They don’t learn from their errors because they don’t think they can, or need to, learn anything. Repeated mistakes are simply a self-fulfilling prophecy that their shame as written for them. …

“Toxic shame…blinds us to wisdom and insight. It prevents us from cleaning up after ourselves. We start to live in the debris of past mistakes, and that leads us to more debris-producing decisions. We fill our lives with problem after problem because we don’t think we can do any better.”

“There is such a thing as good shame. A better term for it might be godly sorrow. …

“Godly sorrow is a warning sign that we are on the wrong path and need to make some adjustments. Any mistakes we make are not seen as the inevitable result of who we are but as stark reminders that—because of who we are, created in the image of God—we can do better. We are genuinely sorry that we fell short, hurt ourselves or other people, or simply created a lot of hassle that has kept us from living in the good things that God has for us. However, our defective behavior is rightly seen as separate from our identity. Making a mistake doesn’t mean that we are a mistake; it’s simply evidence that we are like every other human being—completely capable of many things, including mistakes. …

“Godly sorrow is a prompt from God, and from a well-developed conscience, that we need something more to achieve all that we want to accomplish. We respond to healthy shame with the desire to get better or do better….”

“Tough love says that I will choose to not give you what you want if it prevents you from attaining what you need.”

“Taking your life back is not just about deciding to defend yourself. It is about finding and removing roadblocks, sinkholes, and dead ends that have disconnected you from other people and stopped your journey from going forward together.”

#MOWT

justice-mercy-graceLast week I blogged about justice, mercy, and grace. Justice is getting the penalty we deserve, mercy is not getting the penalty we deserve, and grace is getting blessings we don’t deserve.

If we are truly grace-full people, then we should be thank-full people as well. As we approach Thanksgiving Day, people are naturally thinking about things for which they can give thanks during this past year. But Christians should be the most full-of-thanks people on the planet, because we have been showered with so much grace! 

I’d like us to think about a word that I believe will increase our level of thankfulness: Appreciation. Appreciation goes beyond merely being thankful for blessings, as it sees the high value in those blessings, and then continually looks for ways to express even more gratitude for them. In other words, appreciation can begin a cycle of gratitude that grows and grows and GROWS!

Check out three parts to the definition of appreciation

[1] Gratitude; thankful recognition. Did you know that being grateful is actually good for you? Research has shown that increasing your gratitude levels increases your:

  • Physical health. “A state of gratitude, according to research by the Institute of HeartMath, also improves the heart’s rhythmic functioning, which helps us to reduce stress, think more clearly under pressure and heal physically. It’s actually physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time” —Jon Gordon
  • Emotional health. Dr. Robert Emmons says gratitude decreases envy, resentment, and feelings of retaliation; and increases empathy, emotional resilience, and self-esteem.
  • Spiritual health. Notice how ingratitude is included in the list of a whole lot of ugliness (2 Timothy 3:1-4), but spiritual health is restored simply by being thankful (Ephesians 5:3-4).

[2] Estimating qualities and giving them their proper value. In order to determine value, we must have a standard of comparison. What’s your standard? Is it what your neighbor has? Is it what you don’t have? Or is it thankfulness for what God has given you? 

Max Lucado said, “To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse His accomplishments is to discover His heart. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread.”

[3] Assessing the true worth of our blessings. Assessing leads to appreciation, and appreciation begins to give us a return on investment. I like how Jeff Anderson says it: “If you want to grow your faith, grow your gratitude. To grow your gratitude, take time to count your blessings.”

Remember: gratitude isn’t gratitude if it isn’t expressed. David made his gratitude known, and other afflicted people around him began to join with him in thanking God for His blessings (see Psalm 34:1-3). In other words, David’s thanksgiving went viral!

mowtHere’s how we can make our gratitude go viral: #MOWT. Let’s count our blessings every day, and let’s appreciate what God has done for us. Then let’s share our gratitude not only with God, but with others as well. Post it on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram with #MOWT: my one word thanks. Maybe include a photo and “family” #MOWT, or “protection” #MOWT, or even “paycheck” #MOWT.

Let’s give God so much glory for His grace gifts, that we tell the world about our appreciation!

7 Tips For A Better Night’s Sleep

Psalm 4.8It’s no secret that being tired can lead to a lot of not-so-nice consequences. Everything from automobile crashes, to poor work performance, to foot-in-mouth statements, to giving in to temptations, to health issues are all traced back to not getting enough peaceful sleep.

But did you know that sweet sleep is something God wants to give you?

Psalm 127 says, “God grants sleep to those He loves.” Guess what? God loves you, and wants you to have a peaceful night’s sleep!

Here are some benefits to getting solid sack time:

  1. Muscles are repaired—the body “turns off” muscles during sleep so they can repair themselves.
  2. The hormone leptin, that regulates your appetite, is adjusted.
  3. Your blood pressure is lowered.
  4. Your heart rate is lowered.
  5. The energy-producing cells we all need are restocked.
  6. Your immune system is re-energized.
  7. Memories are consolidated from short-term memory banks to long-term memories.
  8. The hormones that allow you to concentrate are replenished.
  9. Your “database” of decision-making options is re-calibrated.
  10. Bottom line—you get healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

All of this God wants to give to those He loves. “God loves me, so I’m going to sleep peacefully tonight!”

The problem is we often sabotage God’s blessing of sweet sleep by our own poor decisions during the day. So here are seven things you can do to cooperate with God’s blessing of sleep:

  1. Reduce stress. Stress causes your body to release cortisol, which prepares your body for fight-or-flight. This means when you’re trying to quiet down for the night, your body is still screaming, “Go, go go!” Stress is mainly triggered by worrying over things outside of our control, so check out what Jesus said to us about not worrying—Matthew 6:25-34.
  2. Reduce late-day caffeine. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours, so if you are pouring it into your body late in the date, you might fall into bed exhausted but the caffeine is keeping your brain buzzing. As a result, you don’t have the normal deep sleep patterns.
  3. Eliminate emotional caffeine. Arguments with other people release cortisol and adrenaline in your bloodstream. If these disagreements are happening later in the day, your body is fighting against God’s plan for your tranquil sleep. So take care of any disagreements quickly (Ephesians 4:26).
  4. Exercise. Getting some movement into your daily routine flushes cortisol and adrenaline from your bloodstream.
  5. Go to bed and get up at the same time. There’s a reason God made the sun to rise and set at predictable times. Your body also functions best on a predictable schedule.
  6. Reduce “blue lights” close to bed time. The blue light waves of dawn tell our bodies to stop releasing melatonin, the sleepy hormone. The red light waves of dusk tell our bodies to increase melatonin so we can go to sleep. But when we’re staring into the blue light of our phones and tablets, our body is being sent a conflicting signal.
  7. Pray. Two great passages you can pray before bedtime are Psalm 4:8 and Proverbs 3:24. Claim those promises of sweet sleep!

God loves you. He wants to give you the blessing of peaceful sleep. If you’re going to sleep peacefully tonight, make sure you are not sabotaging what God wants to give you.

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