How To Get A Great Night’s Sleep

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Everyone knows that getting plenty of deep, restorative sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. But the stresses and demands of daily life can interfere with your ability to sleep soundly. Even worse—it’s easy to allow a vicious cycle of high stress and troubled sleep to become the norm.

By adopting a few good nightly habits, you can begin to establish a healthy sleep cycle, restore your nightly rest and feel refreshed and energetic during the day.

Give Yourself a Bedtime

Most children are told to go to bed at the same time every night, but it’s important for adults to maintain a regular bedtime, as well. By falling asleep and waking up at the same time every night (yes, even on weekends!), you can establish a regular sleep-wake cycle and encourage more restful sleep. Once your body is used to the routine, you will begin to naturally fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day.

Don’t Toss and Turn 

There is an exception to the bedtime rule: if you don’t fall asleep in about 15 minutes, get up and do something soothing (like reading a book or taking a hot bath) before returning to bed. Lying in bed and stressing over a lack of sleep can backfire and leave you tossing and turning all night.

Nap Smart

There are some of us that just need those daily naps. For most, however, frequent napping can just make nighttime insomnia worse. Consider eliminating daytime naps, and if you need to make up for lost sleep or get a mid-afternoon energy boost, restrict your nap to less than 30 minutes.

Develop a Before-Bed Routine

Get into the habit of relaxing before bed to boost your body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Don’t watch TV or browse the internet for a few hours before bed—the light from the screens will suppress melatonin production. Ban your smartphone from the bedroom so you’re not tempted to check emails in bed. Instead, read a few chapters of a book (as long on it’s not on a backlit e-reader or tablet!) or meditate. When it’s time to turn in, make sure the room is completely dark—that will tell your body it’s sleep time.

It can be difficult to change bad sleep habits, but by establishing a routine and sticking to it, you will begin to sleep deeply every night and feel rested and restored every day.

How to Wake Up Without Caffeine

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You know the feeling. The alarm clock goes off. You hit snooze. Then it goes off again.

Finally, you drag yourself out of bed.

And the only thing that can get your motor going? A piping hot cup of coffee.

According to the National Coffee Association, you’re not alone. About 83 percent of adults drink coffee in the United States, the world’s biggest consumer of the beverage. That’s up from 78 percent in 2012, according to the organization’s 2013 online survey.

Most of us drink coffee because its caffeine helps us wake up. But a caffeinated jolt is not the only way to get you going in the morning. Here are five ways to wake up without drinking coffee.

Get some sun. As much as the darkness helps you to doze off, the sun helps to wake you up. A study at the University of Liege found people who were exposed to bright light early in the morning were more alert and had more activity in the parts of the brain responsible for cognitive processes.

Add aerobic exercise. Studies show that exercising is a great way to boost your brainpower and increase your energy levels. So what better time to take advantage than in the morning? A morning workout means that both your brain and your body are in good shape all day. Get your blood pumping by walking, jogging, swimming or any other aerobic exercise.

Start with water. Being dehydrated can make you feel tired. Make it a point to drink a cold glass of water when you wake up to hydrate and increase your energy level.

Maximize your breakfast. You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Not only is skipping it a bad choice, so is scarfing down the wrong foods. Opt for a combination of proteins and fiber. Eggs, fat-free milk, low-fat yogurt, turkey sausage, nuts and peanut butter are great options for proteins. Fruits rich in fiber include bananas, apples, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Additionally, choose foods that contain whole grains for an extra dose of fiber:

·       Whole-grain cereals and granola

·       Oatmeal or oat bran

·       Toasted whole-grain breads, English muffins or bagels

Turn up the tunes. Ever notice how certain songs can change your mood? Create a “high-energy” playlist and allow it to get you going in the morning. In fact, it could be just the thing that transitions you into your morning exercise routine (see No. 2).

Foods that stimulate brain activity

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“You are what you eat.” Chances are you’ve heard that phrase a time or two. It’s meant to remind how you important a balanced diet is for your health.

Though many associate healthy eating with physical health, it’s equally as important your mental well-being. Below are 10 brain-boosting foods that will help improve brain function, protect against age-associated cognitive decline and encourage focus.

Celery

Not many people are familiar with the plant compound luteolin. A 2010 study from the University of Illinois at Urmana-Champaign determined that a diet rich in luteolin reduces age-related memory loss. Celery is one of the best sources for luteolin.

Seeds

Seeds such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seed are great sources of protein, beneficial fat and vitamin E. They also contain stress-fighting antioxidants and magnesium, which is an important brain-boosting mineral.

Blueberries

Blueberries have long been considered a superfood. The antioxidants and other phytochemicals in blueberries have been linked to improvements in learning, thinking and memory. They are also low in fructose compared to other fruits, which makes them one of the healthiest fruits you can eat.

Red Meat

Red meat, such as grass-fed beef, is a great source for vitamin B12. Low levels of vitamin B12 have been shown to speed brain shrinkage and lead to memory decline. People with vitamin B12 deficiency are also more likely to score lower on cognitive tests.

Crab

One serving of crab contains more than your entire daily requirement of phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is an amino acid that helps make the neurotransmitter dopamine, brain-stimulating adrenaline and noradrenaline and thyroid hormone, and may help fight Parkinson’s disease. Crab is also an excellent source of brain-boosting vitamin B12.

Wild Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your brain health. These healthy fats have been linked to improved cognition and alertness, reduced risk of degenerative mental disease, improved memory, improved mood, and reduced depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and cardiovascular disfunction.

Tuna

In addition to being another rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, tuna has the highest level of vitamin B6 of any food. Studies have discovered that deficiencies of the vitamin B6 are associated with neurological and psychological dysfunction and congenital defects. B vitamins are also among the most important for balancing your mood.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables, such as romaine, spinach, kale and arugula, are excellent for your brain. That’s because they are high in iron and manganese. People who are iron-deficient often struggle with poor moods, foggy thinking and other cognition issues.

Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans or chickpeas are a great source of magnesium, which is highly beneficial  for speeding message transmission to brain cell receptors. Magnesium also relaxes blood vessels, allowing more blood through to feed the brain. A cup of raw chickpeas delivers more than 230 mg of magnesium.

Tumeric and Curry

Tumeric is one of the main components of curry powder. It also contains a spice that in turn contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells.

6 Simple Exercises That Will Increase Your Energy at Work

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If you want to forgo coffee, soda and sugary snacks to increase your energy naturally at work, consider the power of exercise. In a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2008, University of Georgia researchers found that inactive folks who normally complained of fatigue could increase energy by 20% while decreasing fatigue by as much as 65% by simply participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.

Sure, you may not be able to take the afternoon off to go exercise, but you don’t have to. Here are seven quick energy boosting exercises you can do at work.

Walk at a pace brisk enough to increase your heart rate. As you walk, actively tighten/engage your abs, monitor your posture while ensuring you’re taking smooth, deep breaths. Got a set of stairs in or around your office? Use them. Walk up the stairs as quickly as possible, then attempt taking them two at a time. Walk at a normal pace on the way down. Do this for 1-3 minutes.

Jump rope. There’s a reason boxers jump rope. It’s a great cardiovascular workout. If you’re at work in a confined space, don’t worry about having an actual jump rope. Simply start with standard jumps. Then jump laterally from side to side. Finish by imagining a box and jumping around the four corners. Do this for 1-3 minutes.

Jumping jacks. Whether it is in your cubicle, office or break room, jumping jacks are a familiar exercise great for getting the blood pumping and raising energy levels.  As you perform your jumping jacks, breathe deeply and tighten your abs to engage your core. To add a muscle building component, instead of returning to a standing position after your legs are wide, simply transition down into a squat. This will target your thighs, glutes and abdominal muscles. Do this for 1-3 minutes.

Chair squats. While sitting in a chair, lift up until your hips are just hovering over the chair while your arms our stretched parallel to the floor. Hold for 2-3 seconds, stand all the way up and repeat 8-10 times.

Side Bends. Hold a water bottle with both hands and stretch your arms over your head. Gently bend towards the left as far as you can, contracting your abs while keeping your back straight. Come back to center and repeat to the right. Repeat this 10 times.

Ab Twists. Hold a water bottle at chest level and, keeping the knees and hips forward, gently twist to the left as far as you comfortably can. Twist back to center and move to the left. Repeat this 10 times.

If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you will need to do more than just these moves. Just remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. This is especially important if you haven’t exercised for a long time and/or have have chronic health problems.

5 Healthy Ways to Increase Your Energy and Improve Productivity

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I know you’ve been there before.

Struggling to find energy in the middle of the day.

With so much on our plates, we search for ways to get an instant jolt of energy. Maybe it’s a candy bar. Or an energy drink. Although those are common choices, they aren’t ideal and healthy ways to give yourself an energy boost.

Here are a five healthy ways to increase your energy and improve your productivity.

Exercise

Everyone knows that exercising is good for your health. When we think of exercise, we focus on the process of working out and exerting energy. But exercising can also increase your energy. In an often cited study conducted over 20 years ago, Robert Thayer, PhD, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, compared the energizing effects on 12 different days when 18 people either ate a candy bar or walked briskly for 10 minutes. Walking increased participants’ energy for two hours. While the sugary snack initially boosted energy, after an an hour the participants were more tired and had less energy.

Sleep

Do you routinely function on a lack of sleep due to business or pleasure? If so, you are likely going through your day with a lack of energy. In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers evaluated whether or not there was a connection between partial sleep deprivation, energy levels and weight. They discovered that a reduction in sleep caused a disruption in hormones that regulate appetite and in turn energy balance. Strive to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Eat Breakfast

If you are one of 31 million Americans that regularly skips breakfast, you are missing a great opportunity for an energy boost. In addition to helping you maintain a healthy body weight, eating a breakfast high in fiber and carbohydrates will help fuel your body throughout the day. Examples of foods your should choose for breakfast include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, high-fiber cereal, fruit and dairy.

Drink More Water

When it comes to finding energy in liquid form, most of us reach for something high in sugar and/or caffeine. Skip those options because drinking water is a great way to increase energy. Water helps us remain hydrated which results in added energy. If you miss flavored drinks, simply add lemons, limes or other fruits to your water.

Eat Less Sugar

Does sugar give you a boost of energy? Yes, but for no more than an hour. When the sugar is used up, your energy level will plummet and you will experience fatigue. This is commonly referred to as a sugar crash.

7 Ways to Stimulate Your Mind Throughout The Day

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Want to be more productive at work?

Silly question because we all do.

If being productive is your goal, taking breaks should be a big part of your day.

Studies show that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity. Conversely, skipping breaks can lead to additional stress and exhaustion.

Now that we’ve established that taking breaks are good, how can you maximize them to make them most effective for you?

After all, most of us think of work breaks as opportunities to smoke cigarettes or chat with a coworker.

Here are 7 simple ways to maximize your breaks at work to be more productive.

1. Listen to an audiobook or podcast. Whether it is self-help or business, listening to a good audiobook or podcast can stimulate your mind. There are plenty of topics and subjects we all would love to learn more about but don’t have time to read a physical book. Do grab your earbuds, press play and enjoy learning. Apps like iTunes and Audible makes this a simple ways to gain knowledge.

 

2. Take a brisk walk. It’s easy to become sedentary since most of us sit in front of a computer at work. Taking a brisk walk allows you not only to get your blood flowing, but takes your mind off of the task at hand.

 

3. Meditate. Ever considered meditation? Maybe you should during your breaks. A recent study discovered that mediating at work can help increase focus, productivity and decrease stress at work may involve nothing more than learning to meditate.

David Levy, a computer scientist and professor with the Information School at the University of Washington, found that those who had meditation training were able to stay on task longer and were less distracted. Levy and his co-authors discovered that meditation also improved test subjects’ memory while easing their stress.

 

4. Get some fresh air. Staying inside a stuffy office can leave us feeling a bit blah. Go outside and get some fresh air. Get stimulated and rejuvenated by the sun’s warmth and a fresh breeze.

 

5. Turn on some upbeat music. We all love music. So crank on your favorite upbeat tunes during your break to feel great at work. Research shows that listening to upbeat music can lift your mood and ultimately lead to a greater quality of life.

 

6. Eat a Snack. Eating a snack is something that most of us do during a busy day. But instead of grabbing something from the vending machine in break room, opt for healthier snacks that can increase your focus and energy. Choices such as nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and tuna contain nutrients that boost your energy without the sugar crash experienced from candy bars.

 

7. Create a Gratitude List.Chances are if you sat down and wrote all the things and people you are grateful for, you’d have a long list. Well according to several studies, doing so can keep you healthier and happier. Designate time during your breaks to create a gratitude journal and write coworkers thank you notes showing appreciation for helping you with tasks or projects.

 

 

Agent Success Story: Steven Fischer

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Steven Fischer, from Gig Harbor, WA joined the Alliance in November 2013 direct to managers Joe and Tawnee Walker. Prior to The Alliance, Steven was a Counselor 7 years for hospital patients that were battling Chemical dependency. Steven was able to get his license by December and writing business in January 2014. He is currently #47 on the Leader-board for May, making well over $10,000 already this month.

Steven has a natural love and concern for people, so when he saw our opportunity in protecting America’s families from financial devastation… he was in.

He loves the freedom of working his own schedule, while he is able to be a caregiver to his mother.

Steven appreciates the team, and all their help and support that are available.

Agent Success Story: Roy Ponder

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Introducing to all of you …

Roy Ponder and his wife Chris. They live in McKinney, TX have 2 boys Dylan 8 and Dalton 6, with 2 Jack Russell Terriers. In their spare time they enjoy running. Roy has completed every race there is from 5k to a 100 mile run including back to back marathons. His wife is also a marathoner and will be running her 6th marathon in Seattle on 06/21.

Roy has been part of The Alliance and direct to Chris and Courtney Long’s agency since March 2012. Before joining the Alliance Roy was a personal trainer, in design and construction business for 10 years before he decided to get his Insurance License in 2004. He began with Health Insurance and quickly moved on to Annuities which had him going to schools and setting up 403b retirement accounts for school teachers. He joined The Alliance 2 years ago starting just part-time while he continued with his personal training clients. In January 2014 he decided to move his focus by going “full time” and said he has no regrets.

I asked Roy what he liked best when he saw our opportunity and his response was he saw the potential of a viable business that he could build and grow for years to come. He also knew the benefits of having flexibility with his own schedule and building a team of agents. They are looking forward to creating lasting friendships and many more years with The Alliance.

Here’s A Toast to the Good Life …

Four Ways To Be Your Best Self!

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You expect a lot out of yourself.

And you should. You are smart, driven and committed to your goals and dreams. And you have a lot to give the world.

Which is why being the best version of yourself is so important. But if you want to do so, you have to be willing to put the work in. Being your best self requires action and a commitment to improving.

Because you are reading this article, we know you are willing to do you have to do to be your most authentic self.

Here are four simple habits that will help you become your best self.

 

1. Stop Caring About What Others Think Of You

Do you want to know the quickest way to lose control over your life? Focus your energy and actions on what others think of you. It is common for us to allow the perceptions of others such as family, friends and co-workers to influence us. We allow this influence because we are afraid of disapproval and we want to impress others. By caring what others think, it dictates our actions and as a result, makes us live our lives for others instead of ourselves.

 

2. Exercise

Being mindful of your mental and physical health is a big part of being your best self. When it comes to exercise, we focus so much on the physical benefits such as losing weight, gaining muscle and endurance. But exercising can also reduce stress and boost brainpower. The total package that we get from exercising allows us to feel good about ourselves with contributes to reaching your personal and professional goals.

 

3. Find Your Passion

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” When it’s presented like that, who wouldn’t want to do things they are passionate about. Unfortunately, many people avoid their passion(s) because they’re afraid of what others may think of them (as we just stated in point #1). When it comes to work, doing what you are passionate about makes it easier to remain committed when things get tough. In addition, you get more joy out of the successes. When it comes to your personal life, finding hobbies that make you happy forces you to enjoy life. You may want to learn how to play an instrument, write a book or travel the world. Once you realize how short life is, you’ll understand the importance of spending as much time as possible on our passions.

 

4. Live In The Moment

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.”

That anonymous quote best summarizes why it is important to live in the moment. With so many things going on everyday, it can be a chore to stay in the present moment.

How many times have you found yourself reflecting on an experience in your past that was either positive or negative? By doing so you can diminish the power of today.

On the flip side, we can become so consumed with thinking and planning for the future, we forget to experience and enjoy what’s happening right now. 

Living in the moment is best done by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to be be more aware of our present actions. It takes an effort to stop and appreciate the moment we are in. When your mind wanders to the past or future, gently work to bring your thoughts back to the present.

How This Daily Practice Can Help You Limit Distractions and Reduce Stress Once and For All

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You have a lot on your plate, right? It’s understandable. With so many responsibilities, you may find juggling everything tough at times. Have you ever found it difficult to concentrate on one task because you can’t help but think about the other things you still have to do?

Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. But there’s a simple practice you can add to your daily routine that can help you manage it all. Several celebrities including Oprah WinfreyHugh Jackman and Ellen DeGeneres do it regularly and credit it as a major reason for their success.

We’re talking about meditation. Meditation has gained in popularity in recent years as a way to reduce stress and stay focused. Maybe you’ve brushed it off because it sounds too new-agey to actually work, but don’t discard the concept just yet. A recent study has shown that mediation can help lessen distractions and reduce stress. In 2012, a computer scientist at the University of Washington teamed up with a neuroscientist at the University of Arizona to see if meditation could help eliminate distraction and lower stress.

They selected 45 human resource managers to participate in the study. The researchers gave a third of them eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training, a third of them eight weeks of body relaxation training and a third of them no training at all. Each group was given a stressful multitasking test before and after the eight weeks. The results showed that the mindful-mediation group reported less stress as they performed the multitasking test than both of the other groups.

Want to give meditation a try to help reduce your stress levels? There are several different meditation techniques, but here’s a simple way to get started:

Be comfortable in a quiet place. Find a quiet place where you where you won’t be interrupted for 10 to 20 minutes. Try to keep your body in a stable position, whether you want to stand or sit. Beginners may want to start with five to 10 minutes of meditation.

Become “present.” Close your eyes and become present. Becoming present simply means that you’re totally aware of your current surroundings. What do you hear? How does it feel to sit? Are you tense? Where are your thoughts?

Focus on your breath. Take long and deep breaths through your nostrils. Your mind will wonder, but don’t worry. When it does just bring your thoughts back to breathing deep breaths. Take it a step further and hum “Om” as you breathe out.

Make it a routine. Find a way to make meditation a regular part of your daily routine. According to the behavioral smartphone app Lift, 90% of people with an 11-day meditation streak went on to have a 12-day streak. The odds remained in their favor after that date.