Jennifer Hanway

Enliven Your Lightest, Brightest You

Jennifer Hanway is a Holistic Nutritionist, Bio Signature Modulation Practitioner and Certified Personal Trainer, originally from London but now living in Newton Centre and working in Back Bay, Boston.

Filtering by Tag: sleep

Healthy Sleep: Light Exposure, the Sleep/Wake Cycle and Cute Glasses!

This post is written in partnership with Swanwick Sleep, however all opinions are my own. I only work with and recommend companies whose products I love, and I’m so excited to share these with you!

Tim and I have been wearing blue blocking glasses for years, ever since I introduced him to them when we started living together. But five years ago, the choices were incredibly limited, and quite frankly, incredibly ugly. Now my husband could make a trash bag look good, but it was hard to see the dreamboat behind the bright orange, cheap plastic ‘Neo from The Matrix’ blue blocking glasses. And mine were no better, as I had chosen oversized tortoise shell frames, which made me look like a biohacking reject from the seventies…

But, blocking my blue light exposure after sunset is a huge part of my stress/sleep routine, and means I can continue working into the evening on my laptop or other devices should I need to. And I find that if I have an event on until late in the evening (late meaning 8pm to me as I am a Lion Chronotype), popping on my blue blocking glasses helps me wind down before sleep.

I was so happy when Swanwick Sleep reached out to me - finally I had found a pair of blue blocking glasses that were not only effective, but looked super cute as well! I currently have their Night Swannies, and plan on getting a pair of their prescription Day Swannies too, for my days in the office when I am researching and writing (and want to look good at the same time).

How Blue Light Exposure Affects Your Sleep/Wake Cycle

Light is one of the key zeitgebers, or regulators of our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm dictates everything from our energy levels to when we are hungry, mentally alert, crave social interaction, and of course our sleep/wake cycle.

When photoreceptors in the eye detect blue light, they send a message to the pineal gland via the suprachiasmatic nucleus (a tiny area of the brain) to suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that induces the onset of sleep. Whilst this is exactly what we want during the day when we need to be alert and awake (and why I suggest getting as much light exposure as possible early in the day), blue light exposure after sunset disrupts our circadian rhythms, preventing melatonin secretion and the cascade of physiological effects that help us wind down and relax, preparing us for restful and restorative sleep.

Ideally, we would live like our paleolithic ancestors and end our working day at sunset, relying only on the orange hue of firelight until bedtime. But unfortunately, we are all busier and have more responsibilities than every more, and as such many of us are working from home in the evenings. And if we are not working we are watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling through social media, all the while exposing ourselves to blue light and causing dis-regulation of our sleep/wake cycles.  

21.jpg


Now, I like to meet my clients where they are at, and give them workable solutions to our everyday health challenges. Whilst I would love for them to shut off all their electric lights and play board games by candlelight in the evenings, I know that this is never going to be the reality! Here are some simple ways you can regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep/wake cycle throughout the day:

  1. Exposure yourself to as much daylight during the day as possible: use a daylight alarm clock, draw the curtains the minute you wake up, workout outside, try and sit near to a window whilst working, and go for a walk at lunchtime or mid-afternoon.

  2. Use a pair of Day Swannies (they have Custom Rx versions too) for long stints at your computer or smartphone.

  3. Switch overhead bright lights to softer side lighting and lamps after sunset

  4. Use the ‘Night Mode’ settings on your smart phone, and programs such as F.lux on your devices to minimise the amount to blue light your electronics emit.

  5. Pop on your Night Swannies should you have to work or look at screens past sunset, or if you find it hard to wind down in the evenings

  6. Ensure there is no light at all in your bedroom at night - try blackout blinds or curtains, eliminate any LED’s, and use an eye mask too if your partner comes to bed at a different time than you!


To get your hands on a pair of Swannies (they are unisex, and come in Day, Night and Custom Rx options) simply click on the link below:

www.swanwicksleep.com









Live Well: Give Yourself the Gift of Less Stress and Better Sleep

This post is written in partnership with New Chapter, however all opinions are my own. I only work with and recommend companies whose products I love and use everyday, and I’m so excited to share these with you!

The best holiday gift you can give yourself this year? Restful, restorative sleep!

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index of 2014 just 12 % of Americans reported “excellent” sleep, with 35% of Americans reporting their sleep quality as “poor” or “only fair”. Achieving consistent, restful and restorative sleep is incredibly important for our overall health, with most people needing between 7-9 hours a night for optimum health. Lack of sleep, or impaired quality of sleep can have a hugely negative impact on our health and wellbeing, and can result in hypertension, activation of the sympathetic nervous system, impairment of glucose control, and increased inflammation.

One of the most popular topics I am asked to speak on is managing stress and improving sleep, and the (much underestimated) link between the two. The key to consistent, great quality sleep is not what we do in the two hours before bed, or just before we fall asleep (often referred to as ‘sleep hygiene), but the daily holistic health habits we practice from the moment we wake up.

Normalising your circadian rhythm (think of this as the conductor of your body’s orchestra) and managing your cortisol levels (your stress and energy hormone) throughout the day (the two are inextricably interlinked) is the key to managing stress and achieving a restful night of sleep. High levels of stress resulting in the constant activation of our central nervous system (our fight or flight mode) can also be terribly damaging, and can negatively affect our immune function, hormonal balance, insulin sensitivity and cognitive function.

When we experience stress our adrenal glands release cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that can up-regulate body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, which are useful strategies for when we are in real danger and have to fight for our lives. However, our body cannot recognise the difference between a life-threatening situation, and an email from our boss, losing our phones or that last minute holiday gift shopping just before the stores close!

 Thankfully, implementing some super simple holistic health habits throughout the day can help regulate our circadian rhythm, boost cortisol metabolism, and help you get that longed for 8 hours of sleep:

 Consider a natural alarm clock, instead of emitting a sharp piercing noise that spike cortisol levels (cortisol should gradually rise in the morning) these work as the light activates the pineal gland (one of the main regulators of our circadian rhythm) and suppressing melatonin (one of our sleep hormones) and waking us up naturally and gradually.

 Continue the light exposure by opening your blinds and curtains to get as much natural light as possible. Working out outside in the morning can be of double benefit by getting you in to the natural light, and gives you an exercise induced boost of energy raising cortisol when levels are supposed to be high (working out in the morning gives cortisol levels time to lower by the evening).

Comm Ave Workout .jpg

Ensure breakfast is a blood sugar stabilising balance of quality protein, fibre packed veggies and low GI fruits, and healthy fats. Blood sugar swings can also lead to cortisol spikes, and leave us hungry and bad tempered (aka hangry) meaning we reach for the closest high sugar, highly processed treats that can be found everywhere at this time of year!

Following breakfast, I take my New Chapter Perfect Calm Multivitamin – this is my go-to multivitamin at times of stress and a busy schedule, i.e. the holidays! I love this multivitamin as it does double duty as my daily multi and it provides stress supporting vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts such as Holy Basil, Lemon Balm and Chamomile. Vitamin C supports our hard-working adrenal glands and helps promote a healthy stress response (so important at this time of year), and New Chapter’s patented fermentation process ensures each nutrient is available for your body to absorb and utilise (remember, you are not what you eat, but what you absorb)! *

Perfect Calm Multi .jpeg

Throughout the day being conscious of your breathing patterns can be a super simple but incredibly effective way to manage your stress and cortisol levels. Simply by ensuring your exhale is slightly longer than your inhale you can up-regulate your parasympathetic nervous system (your ‘rest and digest’ mode) and down regulate your sympathetic nervous system (your ‘fight or flight’ mode). A simple Box Breathing exercise can be performed anywhere, and is a great tool to use when you may not have time for yoga or mediation, such as in line for groceries the day before holidays, or when about to face another holiday party that you would just rather skip!

To perform the Box Breathing exercise inhale for a count of 4 (through the nose), hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4 (through the nose), and hold for a count of 4.

JH Meditation .jpeg

 

 Following these steps throughout the day will help ensure that your cortisol levels start to drop in the late afternoon and evening, preparing you for much needed deep and healing sleep. However, there are a few extra strategies that I love to employ in the evenings that can help even further, and prioritising sleep quality is essential when low on sleep quantity:

  • Finish eating at least two hours before going to bed so your body has finished the bulk of digestion before sleep. This can also be hugely beneficial for gut health and body composition.

  • Minimise electric light at home and blue light exposure from devices two hours before bedtime. As mentioned earlier light is one of the main regulators of circadian rhythm, and minimising exposure at night can help ensure the release of melatonin (a naturally occurring sleep hormone) from our pineal gland.

  • Your bedroom should be cool, not cold, ideally 65 degrees for deep sleep and efficient repair of all body systems.

  • A great eye mask and ear plugs are essential, especially if you live on a busy street, or you go to bed earlier than the rest of the family. 

  • Block all light in the room including ambient light from outside, and any light from electrical devices. We have light sensors in our skin cells that when activated can disrupt sleep.

JH Sleep NC Turmeric Force.jpg


About an hour before I go to sleep I love to take New Chapter’s Turmeric Force Nighttime – a blend of antioxidant packed Ginger and Turmeric that helps support a healthy inflammatory response, and Chamomile, Hops, Valerian Root, and Lemon Balm that naturally promote restful sleep.* We keep ours in our bathroom cabinet next to the floss and toothpaste to make it an easy to remember part of our nightly routine.

For all New Chapter products (including my must haves) head to: www.newchapter.com/products

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-health-index-2014-highlights

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15133379

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279390/



 

 

 

 

 

My Top Five: Apps for Health, Fitness and Wellbeing

  The new year comes with a lot of resolutions for all of us, and if those resolutions include improving your health and wellbeing then read on!

It has been proven many times that we are more likely to stick to our healthy habits if they are made easily accessible to us, and what could be more accessible than our smart phones, tablets and laptops that we cant seem to live without these days!

You can use all of these apps without having to purchase an expensive gadget such as a Fitbit or Jawbone (I don't own any of these).

I love anything that makes wellbeing easier, and as someone that couldn't live without her iPhone I wanted to share with you my top five apps that I use to help with my nutrition, fitness and wellbeing.

1) My Fitness Pal

Available as an App and via their website, My Fitness Pal is my go-to for food tracking for both myself and my clients. It is so easy to use, and has a huge database of foods ranging from grocery store goods to restaurant dishes. Even better, you can scan barcodes on food packaging for easy uploading.

You can also allow your friends to see your food diaries, and this can help accountability, and also makes it very easy for your nutrition coach to keep track of your food intake too (I see you...)

As with all food tracking apps I do not agree with their 'one size fits all' approach to calculating calorie allowances, so I suggest setting your own custom macros in accordance with your goals.

My Fitness Pal is free.

2) Nike+ Training Club

One of the originals and in my opinion the best of all workout apps available, you cant beat the behemoth that is Nike for a huge variety of beautifully shot and easy to follow workouts.

You can set the workout to music from your iTunes library, reiview all the exercises before you start the workout (I love this feature), and view the workout on your television if you have Apple TV. Workouts range from 15 minutes to 45 minutes so even those strapped for time have no excuses!

Nike+ Training Club is free.

3) Yoga Studio

Yoga Studio by Gaiam is my favorite of all the yoga apps available as it is so easy to use, clearly shot, and easily accessible to beginners. It has options for viewing ready made classes, from which you can select based on focus, ability or duration, or you can create your own class depending on what you want to achieve from your practice. From what I have seen so far all you need is a mat and some space, and you are ready to go. I love the Yoga for Back Pain classes, and the Deep Relaxation ; )

Yoga Studio is $3.99.

4) f.lux / Sunn 

Such a simple concept, but I've really found these two apps life changing. Both apps make the color of your computer or smartphone displays adapt to the time of day showing as warm at night (less blue light) and like sunlight during the day. Bringing down the amount of artificial light you are exposed to after dark can lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and normalize our circadian rhythms, helping us sleep better at night.

I use f.lux for my laptop, and Sunn for my iPhone, as Apple do not allow f.lux unless you jailbreak the phone.

f.lux is free and Sunn is $3.99.

5) Headspace

Headspace is a relatively new app for me but I love it already. Think of it as 'meditation for non-meditators'. You are guided through a series of  'brain training sessions' by the creator Andy Puddicombe (a meditation and mindfulness expert and a fellow brit - this app is worth downloading for his soothing British accent alone), in which you are asked to focus on your breath, physical sensations and noise around you, making for practice that can be adopted by anyone.

Your are also able to track your progress, find friends who are also using Headspace, and pick practices from collections to suit your mood and lifestyle.

Headspace is free for the first 10 sessions, then moves to a paid subscription starting at $7.99 if you sign up for a year.

 

I'd love to hear about the apps you use to enhance your nutrition, training and wellbeing! Please share your suggestions below so we can all reap the benefits!

Rest and Reset: The Importance of Less Stress, More Sleep

The holidays are a wonderful time, but they can often mean self care and sleep get a little neglected. With this in mind I wanted to draw attention to an old post that rings true especially at this time of the year...Isn't sleep a blessing?  Not only does sleep make you feel wonderful, it has some pretty amazing health benefits too: 

  • It helps to control weight and improves body composition (ration of body fat to lean muscle) in two ways. Sleep regulates the hormones that effect appetite, and when we don't get enough sleep our bodies produce more of the hormone ghrelin which in turn leads us to make poor food choices and consume more calories. Research studies have also shown that lack of sleep leads to less energy output, i.e. we are less likely to exercise (or even walk around the block) due to tiredness and lack of motivation.
  • It increases your ability to handle both mental and physical stress. Not only this but sleep lowers both blood pressure levels and the stress hormone cortisol.
  • It has a beneficial effect on our mood and our thinking. Not only does it make us feel happier and less worried (studies show a long term sleep deficit can lead to depression and anxiety) good sleep increases cognitive function, leading to better judgement, improved focus and less tendency to takes risks.
  • It enables cell repair throughout the body, important for both repairing muscles post workout (we are at our weakest state post workout due to the breaking down of muscle fibers, they will repair and get stronger whilst we sleep) and beautiful skin (repair at the cellular level results in less fine lines and wrinkles, and gives us a glowing, even complexion).
  • It decreases inflammation: chronic inflammation is the source of many diseases, including cancer, obesity, and heart disease. We all need some level of inflammation in the body to help heal and fight off infections, but when too much inflammation is present (this can be caused by a myriad of things, from stress to bad food choices and poor gut health) it can cause the immune system to malfunction, relating in auto immune conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and arthritis.

There are many simple ways to improve the quality of our sleep, below are five easy to implement health habits:

  • Introduce a caffeine curfew: for me this time is 3.30pm, for others it may be later or earlier, depending on your tolerance for caffeine. If you find your mind racing the minute you close your eyes start moving your caffeine curfew back by half an hour to see if it helps. One of my favorite alternatives is the caffeine free Turmeric tea from Numi Organics:

Numi Organic Turmeric Tea Amber Sun

  • Get outside in daylight: as the days become shorter we can find ourselves not seeing the daylight hours. By taking just a 10-15 minute walk outside at lunchtime you can normalize your circadian rhythm, letting your body know it is time to ‘wind down’ when the sun goes down.
  • Ensure adequate magnesium levels: due to our modern diets and extra environmental stresses the majority of us are magnesium deficient. Magnesium is needed in over 300 metabolic processes in the body, and is vital for ensuring a restful nights sleep .
  • Do not take the phone into the bedroom! Use an old fashioned alarm clock, or if you must use your phone turn the wifi off and switch to airplane mode for good measure. The electrical signals will have a negative impact on quality of sleep, even if you do not wake up. I love to use a daylight alarm clock for the most gentle, natural way to wake up:

Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light

  • Consider supplements for sleep: they are many natural supplements available that can help aid sleep, my favorite is a product called RestoREM from the Poliquin Group. RestoREM contains the nutrients 5-HTP, Phenibut and melatonin and to improves serotonin levels, resulting in better sleep patterns to leave you feeling refreshed and energised when you wake up.

The Poliquin Store

Sweet dreams everyone!

The information and materials provided in this blog are to support and assist people who are looking to improve their health and wellbeing I understand that all new dietary/supplements/ exercise programs should be undertaken after consultation with a medical doctor. Jennifer Hanway is not responsible for any injury or illness sustained whilst following the information in this blog.

Reader Q & A: Healthy Holiday Travel

Dear Jenny, I am traveling over the holidays and know that eating healthy in airports and hotels can be a struggle. Could you make some suggestions on how to stay on plan while away from home?

Thank you, Whitney

Hi Whitney and thank you so much for reaching out! I'm sure a lot of readers are facing the same challenge this week, so thank you for your question.

So, airport food is not as bad as it used to be. However, that really depends on which airport and where you are flying in and out from, for example, Boston's Logan domestic departures has some great healthy options, including Epic Bars, (also available from Whole Foods) which  I consider to be a 'real protein' bar, and are definitely one of my travel go-tos.

Epic Bars

Most airports also have nuts, go for plain, unsalted and raw to avoid the inflammatory oils used in the roasting  process, and the salt will also mean you will hold extra water whilst flying. Also you should be able to find at least apples and bananas at the airport for the vitamins and minerals.  Grab a green juice and a coconut water, as well as a couple of liters of water to keep you well hydrated in the air, and feeling great when you land.

Another great real protein snack that I like and that is super portable is Krave Artisanal Jerky (also available from Whole Foods).  Unlike other jerkys that can contain gluten, artificial flavorings and nitrates, Krave uses domestic meats and all natural ingredients. My favorite is the Turkey, Chardonnay and Thyme, but all of the flavors are pretty delicious!

Krave

My third portable protein option is a great protein shake. I don't recommend whey or soy proteins, so the best option is a vegetarian protein such as rice or hemp. My two recommendations are Primal Clear 3.0 and Proveg, both available from the Poliquin Group. Throw in a scoop of their Espresso Wellness Greens powder too, adding the benefits of over twenty servings of fruit and vegetables. Make shakes easily on the go and in the hotel room by taking a blender bottle with you too.

Another travel must have for me is a bag of gluten free oats. Most hotel rooms have some kind of device for boiling water, so you can make hot oatmeal by filling the hotel room coffee cup with a scoop of oats, and covering in hot water for five minutes, or until the water has absorbed. I love adding the aforementioned Espresso Wellness Greens to this too for a delicious chocolate flavor.

If swinging by a supermarket on the way to the hotel is an option stock up on apples, bananas, any whole, uncut seasonal fruits and pre cut veggies (such as carrots, cucumber, bell peppers), etc, that you can keep in the hotel room refrigerator.

Lastly, my four other travel essentials are non food related, but I don't travel anywhere without them!

Numi Teas: try the Tumeric or Mint teas if you have overindulged, and as a better option than the super acidic hotel room coffee.

Bucky Eye Mask: the best eye mask I've ever tried. Hotel rooms can be full of LED lights which can disturb sleep, so an eye mask is good insurance for a restful night.

Woodlot Candle: Woodlot offer a selection pack of candles, the small size is perfect for slipping into hand luggage, and help you feel at home in a strange place. For rest and relaxation chose the Rekindle scent.

Wind Down:perfect for stressful travel, being away from home, and family gatherings, this chocolate flavored chewable from the Poliquin Group can be taken when you are feeling harassed or overwhelmed, and has an instant calming effect.

I hope this helps Whitney!

Rest and Reset: the Importance of More Sleep, Less Stress

Isn't sleep a blessing?  Not only does sleep make you feel wonderful, it has some pretty amazing health benefits too: 

  • It helps to control weight and improves body composition (ration of body fat to lean muscle) in two ways. Sleep regulates the hormones that effect appetite, and when we don't get enough sleep our bodies produce more of the hormone ghrelin which in turn leads us to make poor food choices and consume more calories. Research studies have also shown that lack of sleep leads to less energy output, i.e. we are less likely to exercise (or even walk around the block) due to tiredness and lack of motivation.
  • It increases your ability to handle both mental and physical stress. Not only this but sleep lowers both blood pressure levels and the stress hormone cortisol.
  • It has a beneficial effect on our mood and our thinking. Not only does it make us feel happier and less worried (studies show a long term sleep deficit can lead to depression and anxiety) good sleep increases cognitive function, leading to better judgement, improved focus and less tendency to takes risks.
  • It enables cell repair throughout the body, important for both repairing muscles post workout (we are at our weakest state post workout due to the breaking down of muscle fibers, they will repair and get stronger whilst we sleep) and beautiful skin (repair at the cellular level results in less fine lines and wrinkles, and gives us a glowing, even complexion).
  • It decreases inflammation: chronic inflammation is the source of many diseases, including cancer, obesity, and heart disease. We all need some level of inflammation in the body to help heal and fight off infections, but when too much inflammation is present (this can be caused by a myriad of things, from stress to bad food choices and poor gut health) it can cause the immune system to malfunction, relating in auto immune conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and arthritis.

There are many simple ways to improve the quality of our sleep, below are five easy to implement health habits:

  • Introduce a caffeine curfew: for me this time is 3.30pm, for others it may be later or earlier, depending on your tolerance for caffeine. If you find your mind racing the minute you close your eyes start moving your caffeine curfew back by half an hour to see if it helps.
  • Get outside in daylight: as the days become shorter we can find ourselves not seeing the daylight hours. By taking just a 10-15 minute walk outside at lunchtime you can normalize your circadian rhythm, letting your body know it is time to ‘wind down’ when the sun goes down.
  • Ensure adequate magnesium levels: due to our modern diets and extra environmental stresses the majority of us are magnesium deficient. Magnesium is needed in over 300 metabolic processes in the body, and is vital for ensuring a restful nights sleep .
  • Do not take the phone into the bedroom! Use an old fashioned alarm clock, or if you must use your phone turn the wifi off and switch to airplane mode for good measure. The electrical signals will have a negative impact on quality of sleep, even if you do not wake up.
  • Consider supplements for sleep: they are many natural supplements available that can help aid sleep, my favorite is a product called RestoREM from the Poliquin Group. RestoREM contains the nutrients 5-HTP, Phenibut and melatonin and to improves serotonin levels, resulting in better sleep patterns to leave you feeling refreshed and energised when you wake (https://main.poliquinstore.com/?___store=usw&acc=cd00692c3bfe59267d5ecfac5310286c).

The information and materials provided in this blog are to support and assist people who are looking to improve their health and wellbeing I understand that all new dietary/supplements/ exercise programs should be undertaken after consultation with a medical doctor. Jennifer Hanway is not responsible for any injury or illness sustained whilst following the information in this blog.

 

Meditation 101: Scheduling Meditation into Your Busy Day

I chatted with Charity Collier, a Boston based Meditation teacher who is currently enrolled in the pioneering Master's program of Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is also a substance abuse counselor and uses meditation as a tool in her counseling practice. She currently facilitates meditation groups three times a week in the addiction recovery community. Charity's mission is to change the stigma of meditation and make it accessible  to all who are looking to stress less and feel more happiness in their day to day lives.

Case Study: Me, female, 35, Personal Training and Holistic Health and Nutrition Consultant. Understands the importance of meditation for stress relief and all round health and well being, but struggles to find the time and motivation. Has an ‘all or nothing’ approach, I feel I should meditate for 30 mins a day twice a day every day, but of course this does not happen….

 I understand on a basic level the importance of meditation, but can you elaborate?

This question has many layers. Going back to the foundations of meditation in the Buddhist practice, meditation was a form of mindfulness. It was how a person could be enlightened from their suffering mind. Meditation has worked its way into Western culture and is becoming popularized in a secular manner. 

Meditation allows a person to view their thoughts in the present moment. Whatever those thoughts are, the goal is to not judge, or cling to the goals is just to be aware of the thoughts, or of the fact you are thinking. 

By being aware of ones thoughts you can see where our mind is going to, ‘we befriend our mind’. We begin to see what emotions and feeling arise, and in these moments better understand ourselves, realize that we can let go of thoughts, and slow down the physically reaction stress and anxiety cause. The tool of meditation can help heal the stress filled mind. Once stress is lower then the physical benefits can be reaped.

Who can benefit from meditation? 

Every single human being. As a student of the first graduate program in the US for Mindfulness Studies I am seeing my colleagues apply mindfulness meditation to children in schools, children and adolescents with mental health issues such as ADHD and Autism, CEO’s  and employees of companies and elderly people with Alzheimer's. I myself facilitate meditation with people in addiction recovery.

What are the common myths about meditation? 

There are so many. I think the most common one is that people believe they have to shut off their mind, that the mind should not be thinking. That is impossible! Meditation is about being aware that your mind is wandering and just being aware of those thoughts.

Another myth is about people sitting around saying OM - this does not happen in a secular meditation practice. There are mantra meditations that I often do, but that is to help keep me in the present moment. 

 A big myth is that to benefit from a meditation practice you have to meditate for 30 minutes or even an hour. A five minute meditation can be just as beneficial for someone as 30 minutes. Life happens and I can not always get in 30 minutes, some days it is 10 or 15. I have a practice I recommend to beginners for doing meditation while at a red light. That is only a few moments and could change your whole commute.

A common myth is people believe they need to be in an exact environment. While being on a cushion sitting upright is the ideal position, it does not have to be the only position. There are body scan meditations which are done more successfully laying down. Also someone could meditate in bed. Some days when I wake up and have time I either sit right up and meditate or continue laying there and meditate.  

How would you help someone like myself create an achievable, sustainable meditation practice? 

First I would propose a realistic goal of time. Having a goal of 30 minutes 2 times a day is hard to sustain. Then when you do not achieve it you end up feeling bad, guilty and start judging yourself (ie the ‘Suffering Mind as mentioned above). 

I would recommend looking at your schedule. On busy days having the goal of 15 minutes, on quieter days or at the weekend aim for up to 30 minutes. I believe people can benefit from any amount of time in meditation.

Finding the time in the day would be the next step. Perhaps setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier than you have to and getting in a meditation practice before you start your day. Remember you can still lay in bed and meditate! Have videos for meditation in the office; come back to your office 15 minutes earlier from lunch, put on your ‘Do not Disturb’, and meditate for 15 minutes. 

If you find that your day has gotten away from you and you haven't found time to meditate, as get into bed for a night time meditation. It is a great way to ensure a wonderful nights sleep, as well as to let go of the stresses from the day.  

Just like fitness, the best way to start is to not think about it, just get started! Once you do you have already tackled the hardest part. Our ego minds are fearful of us doing something good for ourselves and it will talk us out of anything. It is being aware of that ego mind (which becomes clear with a consistent meditation practice), and when the ego mind starts talking you know not to cling and follow it.

Let go of the idea of a perfect meditation practice!

Please find below a 5 minute stress relief meditation that Charity was kind enough to create especially for us!

[wpvideo cx9C2lCT]

For more information on Charity and Meditating Together check out her daily meditation affirmations, inspirations and education posts on:

Facebook: Meditating Together

Instagram: @meditatingtogether

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meditating2ther

Periscope: @meditating2ther (Every Wednesday I do a live meditation on Periscope at 9pm EST)

Email: meditatingtogether@gmail.com

YouTube: Meditating Together

Charity will be joining me for the Wellness Talk next Tuesday to discuss how meditation can relief stress and aid a restful nights sleep. For tickets please click the link below:

https://www.movewith.com/events/rest-and-reset-with-jennifer-hanway

Contact: jenny@jenniferhanway.com