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Mountain Trek’s Guide To Great Sleep

a woman waking up and stretching her arms

Without having to commute to the office and run from the dentist to the bank to the hairdresser to the dry cleaner, you may find you have more time to sleep. But is that sleep actually sleep? Are you tossing and turning for hours? Are you waking up feeling foggy, irritable, and just as tired as when you went to bed? If so, 1. you’re not alone, and 2. we’re here to help.

Between COVID-19’s sneakiness and scariness, and having had a wrench thrown into your routine, it’s no wonder your anxiety levels have skyrocketed, while your sleep quality has done the polar opposite. You’re worrying not just about work, your kids, their school, their happiness, your happiness, but about how much (or little) toilet paper to use. Times are changing.

Pandemic or not, sleep is critical for our health. A bad night’s rest lands you in a fiery place, where a not-hot-enough coffee equates to THE END OF THE WORLD, but what we’ve really got to pay attention to is what happens to our bodies when we’re chronically sleep-deprived. In come heart disease, weight gain and diabetes, a weakened immune system, low sex drive, and mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, impulsive behavior, and paranoia (this is why sleep deprivation is a highly-effective method of torture). Sleep deprivation is not something to sweep under the rug with a tall cup of frothy caffeine–it’s something to take seriously. Otherwise, your life’s at risk.

It’s now clear that it’s not just during developmental years that you need to clock the correct amount of sleep; for the sake of living longer, you need to make sure you get a good night’s rest at every age. But how do you do this? How, with all of today’s stressors, do you get that kind of sleep where you wake up feeling genuinely refreshed?

Just like anything worth pursuing, you need to work for it. Sleep is an essential component of Balanced Health, and something we need to put just as much effort into as our diet and exercise. Follow our guide below to give yourself a headstart on sleeping better tonight, and for the rest of your (now longer) life.

Step 1) Turn your room into a sleep sanctuary

Just like you’d struggle to read a book at a construction site, how can you expect to sleep well in a space filled with disturbances? Here are the basics for setting up your sleep sanctuary:

Never let your phone cross the threshold

Your phone is quickly becoming one of the main causes of your poor sleep. The entrancing blue light your screen emits has a similar wavelength to sunlight, a natural stimulant, they ping and ding throughout the night, and whether they wake you or not, they disturb your sleep. Curtail your spinning brain and fall off into a dream-world by not scrolling through social, news, or email feeds right before, during or after placing head to pillow.

Read Related Article: 9 Ways To Digital Detox

Your best bet is to make a hard and fast rule: never let your phone enter your room. Charge your phone on a table outside of your room, and make sure it is set to “silent” and/or “do not disturb” mode.

Install blackout shades

Humans are hardwired to get up when the sun rises, but that’s not always necessary, like in the summer months. This is where blackout shades, or curtains lined with blackout fabric, come in handy; as the name implies, they create a blackout effect, blocking light from streaming through your windows, and thus letting you clock in all the hours of sleep you need before waking. The summer’s sunlight aside, we also need to block light from street lights and cars; thanks to our semi-transparent eyelids, we register light from all sources even when our eyes are closed. If blackout shades are not an option, or if you are traveling, you can use an eye mask, but beware: eye masks are often uncomfortable.

Keep your room between 64-66°F/18-19°C

Your core temperature naturally decreases during sleep, so matching this cooler temperature with a cooler room promotes not only falling asleep faster, but staying asleep throughout the night. Don’t go wild and turn your room into a refrigerating chamber–your body will react to being cold by raising stress hormones (it thinks it’s in danger)–but strike a sleep-promoting balance by keeping it between 64-66°F/18-19°C paired with a warm and cozy bed.

Control room noise

The really loud noises that wake you up aren’t the only sounds that disrupt your sleep. Every random car driving by, ring, ping, hum, bang, and buzz—no matter how subtle—is processed by your brain and disrupts your sleep cycle. If you live in an area where there are a lot of disruptive sounds throughout the night, try a white noise machine or earplugs. Yes, white noise machines are sounds themselves, but they produce an even and consistent sound that your brain doesn’t react to, making them great options for drowning out the jarring, inconsistent sounds that do disturb your sleep. Earplugs are another option but tend to be uncomfortable if sleeping on your side. If you’d like to try earplugs, try silicone earplugs—they mold to your ear shape for maximum comfort.

Restrict your bed to only sleep and sex

Stop eating, watching, scrolling, and even reading in bed. These actions just train our brain that when we climb into bed, we’re not there for sleep. If you must read before bed, cozy up in your favorite chair, and use a dim, but not eye-straining, light.

Remove all other distractions

Take the TV out of your room—that’s the biggest distraction culprit–but we’re also calling out anything else you might spend time on that’s not to do with sleeping or having sex.

Invest in a good mattress, pillows, sheets, and duvet

The final piece of the sleep sanctuary puzzle is to invest in quality. Every person is different, so it’s hard for us to tell you exactly which mattress, pillow, sheets, and duvet to buy, but what we can tell you is this: you spend 1/3 of your life in your bed, so you might as well be as comfortable as possible. If you’re a side-sleeper, purchase an extra pillow so you can put it between your legs to improve spinal alignment and comfort.

Step 2) Start preparing for great sleep the moment you wake up

From the moment you wake up, everything you do affects how well you will sleep that night. And how well you sleep that night will affect how well you do the next day. It’s a cycle, and these days, it feels like more often than not, a negative one. Take the following steps during your day to right the ship and turn your cycle positive:

Soak in some sunshine immediately upon waking

A blast of sunlight first thing in the morning will stimulate your endocrine and central nervous system, reducing grogginess (and, consequently, our dependence on caffeine) and kick-starting your circadian rhythm, making it more likely that your body will cycle into sleep-mode earlier in the night when it’s best to fall asleep (~10 pm).

Exercise, and do it at the right time

Exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get, which is when both our brain and our body repair themselves. Exercise is also positive for our mental health, reducing anxiety, and slowing down our thoughts; two cognitive processes that help sleep quality.

While it’s best to be active and move throughout the entire day, if your routine allows for only one dedicated daily exercise session, exercise after work, well before bedtime. Exercising immediately after work will help you decompress and will allow enough time for your body to return to a calmer state, where you don’t have endorphins and other hormones coursing through your body, making it harder to settle down into sleep.

Eat the right food, in the right portions, at the right time

Going to bed full is a recipe for bad sleep. Your body innately tries to metabolize whatever food is in your stomach, requiring energy and the attention of your autonomous nervous system in the process. This effectively keeps the “engine” running while you’re trying to do the exact opposite—power down and put things to sleep. Make dinner your lightest meal and finish it a few hours before bedtime to give yourself enough time to digest. Skip spicy or heavy foods, which can keep you awake with heartburn or indigestion, and eat magnesium-rich foods, like fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. Magnesium is a vital mineral that regulates melatonin and the neurotransmitter GABA, which reduces activity in the central nervous system, calming us down and reducing stress.

Going to bed starving is no recipe for success, however. If your body is entering a state of starvation, it will release stress hormones that will prevent you from falling asleep (again, your body thinks it’s in danger). Eat a small calcium and magnesium-rich snack, like a bit of milk and some Seedy Trail Crackers with cheese, before bed.

Avoid caffeine 8 hours prior to sleep

Coffee is the obvious perpetrator, but tea, soft drinks, and chocolate all have high levels of caffeine as well. A cup of black tea has about half the caffeine as a cup of coffee, while a cup of green tea, a can of coke, and a serving of 70% dark chocolate all have about one third as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

Step 3) Power down your brain, and body, properly

Get off all electronics at least 1 hour prior to sleep

Watching anything good on Netflix usually means there’s drama, emotion, action, or violence involved—all of which leave us in a heightened state. And, as mentioned before, the light emitted by the screens of your TV, tablet, laptop, or smartphone is in the blue spectrum, making it very stimulating. Pry yourself off of your devices at least one hour before sleep to give your body enough time to calm down. At the very minimum, reduce screen brightness and ensure you have night mode enabled on your devices so that you reduce the amount of blue light you’re taking in.

Take a warm bath 90 minutes before bed

In line with lowering your room’s temperature to mimic the process of your body cooling heading into sleep, a hot bath, while initially counterintuitive, has the same effect. Taking a 104-109°F/40-43°C bath will cause blood to go to your extremities (why we are red when we get out), and when blood is in your extremities, vs your core, you lose heat easily and your body temperature decreases. This cooling triggers your circadian rhythm, and your pineal gland kicks in, releasing melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Add Epsom salts to your bath to promote natural detoxification and healing.

Add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath to increase relaxation and calm. Similarly to magnesium, lavender regulates the neurotransmitter GABA, calming the central nervous system and reducing anxiety.

Restorative yoga

Supporting your body weight with props and bolsters and holding poses for 5 minutes or more, restorative yoga calms the parasympathetic nervous system and allows you to fully relax and rest.  It’s a great practice for your pre-bed routine. Learn four poses you should try from Mountain Trek’s yoga instructor, Katya Campbell.

Physical stress release

Target acute areas of stress with spiky stress balls. Place these balls directly under knots and other tight and painful locations and just rest, allowing the ball to massage your myofascial tissues to reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow, similar to how a deep massage works. Or actively roll out. Watch this video to see how to properly use the spiky ball.

Step 4) Employ techniques to fall asleep

The inability to fall asleep is usually caused by a spinning mind, which, in turn, is usually caused by anxiety, stress, and depression. Anxiety is regretting the future; depression, regretting the past; stress, regretting the present. Regret is just a feeling elicited by thought. If we can teach ourselves to shift our thinking away from regret, we will be able to fall asleep faster. The techniques below are also great if you wake up during the night and find your mind spinning.

“Download” your thoughts into a journal

By the end of a long day, you’ve got a lot on your mind. Instead of climbing into bed and letting these thoughts bounce around inside your head, write them down first. The act of writing down what’s on your mind sends a signal to yourself that you won’t forget anything, allowing you to move on.

Meditate

Meditation, by definition, is the practice of intently focusing your attention on one single thing. Whether that be a candle, your breath, or feelings of gratitude, when you focus your attention, work, your anxiety, depression, and your stress are unable to possess your thoughts. There are thousands of guided meditations available that are specifically designed for sleep. Insight Timer is a great, free resource for meditations. You can easily filter by sleep. And practices such as Tong-Lin are excellent for ensuring your mind is focused on something positive.

Breathe

Often the most simple act holds the most power. Just drawing your attention to your breath and witnessing your inhales and exhales as closely as you can is often the best way to put yourself to sleep. Be specific in noticing where you feel your breath—is it the rising and falling of your chest, or at the tip of your nose—and follow your inhales and exhales in their entirety. Some people benefit from adding a layer and counting the seconds of their breath. This simple exercise is a great way to practice mindfulness and drift off into a great night’s sleep.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Similar in purpose, progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique where you systematically tense, and then release your muscles. For instance, you might start with your toes and work your way up to your head, tensing each muscle as you go during a long, slow inhale, and releasing on the exhale. This is a good exercise for those who prefer more physical vs mental practices.

Step 5) Develop a routine

Your body craves routine. Routines reduce your cognitive load and energy requirements, which consequently reduces your stress levels, the linchpin to great sleep. It may take you a few weeks to find a routine that works, but when you do find that magic combination, stick to it. Your sleep will continue to improve as your routine becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit, it’s a lifestyle. Congratulations, you have just significantly decreased your risk of mortality.

If you’re still curious how to improve your sleep, contact us below, or come visit us for a week of unplugging, resetting, and sleeping deeply.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How to prevent coronavirus when traveling

Woman traveller looking at plane

With the spread of the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, travel can be a bit scary right now. Many people are smartly reconsidering their plans to highly infected areas like China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Spain and France but does this mean you should cancel your trip to other countries? We have assessed the situation, getting numerous opinions from doctors and virologists and while the fear of catching the virus when traveling to your destination is justified—afterall, the coronavirus is on a path to becoming a pandemic and should be taken very seriously—we feel that you can still travel safely and prevent being infected with coronavirus, if you follow our tips.

What is coronavirus and how do I get infected?

First, let’s do our best to understand the virus.

This virus is spread in large droplets by an infected person coughing or sneezing. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells so a healthy person needs to get these droplets into their respiratory system via the nose or mouth to get infected. These large droplets do not suspend in air, which means that the air around us is not infectious, but rather, all the surfaces where these droplets land and sit for about a week on average. You will not be infected by the air you breath unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed on. Airplanes use high-quality filters when recirculating air that catches these large droplets, so it really is the surfaces we touch and the subsequent contact with our nose and mouth that is the issue.

How to prevent coronavirus when traveling

  • Most importantly, avoid touching your nose and mouth. This is easier said than done—we touch our face on average 90x/day. Wear a mask to prevent yourself from touching your face. The mask will not prevent the virus from getting into your nose or mouth if someone sneezes or coughs on you—it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
  • Disinfect all potentially contaminated areas with alcohol based wipes (at least 60% alcohol) before use. For extra precaution, use latex or nitrile disposable gloves when disinfecting and then dispose properly. Disinfect airplane armrests, tray tables, entertainment systems, and seatbelts when taking your seat.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after touching anything public; door handles, faucets, luggage carts, and counters.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or noticeably sick.
  • Use your hands as little as possible, giving fistbumps instead of handshakes, using only your knuckle to touch light switches and buttons, and using your hip or closed fist to open doors.
  • Carry zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in our throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands.

Remain vigilant when at your destination

If you follow the steps above, you should be able to travel to your destination safely. However, coronavirus prevention shouldn’t stop there—remain vigilant after arriving. Wash your hands as frequently as possible and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Do your best to not touch your face, especially your nose and mouth. Sanitize the door knobs, switches, and remote controls in your hotel room, and continue to avoid close contact with people who are coughing or noticable sick.

Before traveling, ensure you have medical insurance coverage either through your current insurance provider or a 3rd party travel insurance provider. If you do become ill while traveling, seek medical care immediately.

How to stop the spread of coronavirus

To prevent the spread, please do your part. If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain the infectious virus and can be passed on for up to a week or more.

We are hosting two Adventure Treks, where we blend health, hiking, and culture into one unforgettable vacation, to New Zealand and Bhutan in March and April, and we have shared the above with our guests on how to travel safely. We hope it helps you as well.

What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and overworking. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

If You Own A Smartphone, You Need A Mental Health Retreat ASAP

a woman Relaxing, sitting overlooking a lake and mountains

Mental health: this is a trending topic, and for good reason. 1 in every 13 humans worldwide suffers from anxiety, a rate that is even higher in the US (1 in every 5 people). Depression rates have increased 18.4% between 2005 and 2015. Somewhere in the world a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds, and studies show that for every death by suicide, there are approximately 20 other attempts. Seeing a therapist has become as common as going to the dentist, and a study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) found that around 40 million adults in the United States admit to having anxiety. For perspective, that’s basically everyone living in California, or more than the entire population of Canada. These figures don’t even include those who don’t realize they are suffering from depression, stress, or anxiety, meaning the percentage is actually higher. It’s a scary time for mental health, but finally, FINALLY, society is opening a dialogue about why everyone feels as if they are falling apart, and what can be done to help. Mental health is losing its tabooness.

Smartphone Use Leads To Pessimism

Let’s get to the bottom of what’s tampering with our wellbeing. What has led us to our current mental health situation? Why is our depression and anxiety increasing? There is certainly a lot of depressing news about the coronavirus, toxic air, deforestation, global warming, garbage-filled oceans, hunger, racism, sexism, bigotry, and the list drags on, but that’s not what’s causing our depression. Genocide, natural disasters, and epidemics have always occurred. The difference today is our awareness. Thanks to our smartphones, we are constantly connected, and while having easy access to information 24/7 has its perks, such as directions to the nearest hospital in an emergency, it comes with seriously consequential downsides.

Hearing about all the bad things happening worldwide every time you open your phone creates a “sky is falling” mentality. You start to focus on disheartening events, and the weight of the world’s problems weighs on your mind ‘round the clock. The result isn’t just that you trend pessimistic, it’s that pessimism compromises your stress-management capabilities.

First, pessimists naturally dwell on stressful or negative events longer than optimists. This means your stress hormone—cortisol—levels are elevated for longer. Over-exposure to cortisol has been linked to anxiety, depression, metabolic issues, heart disease, poor sleep and weight gain, as well as memory and concentration impairment.

Second, optimistic people have been proven to be more active, eat more healthfully, and they don’t typically turn to excessive alcohol or drug use to get their kicks.

What this doesn’t mean is that you should be like an ostrich, burying your head in the sand, believing unseen danger is no danger at all; rather, it’s important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors.

The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management.Mayo Clinic

Social Media Increases Our Anxiety

Beyond the exhausting stream of negative news, social media is proving to be a menacing opponent to our mental health. It’s the perfect landscape for our insecurities and self-criticism to proliferate. Whenever we log into social media we see “perfect” people who make us doubt our self-worth. I need to be as skinny, or as muscular; I need to make more money; I need to find a way to afford expensive, trendy clothes; my job isn’t good enough; I’m not as adventurous; I need to travel more; I need to experience more; I need to be more.

Incessantly comparing ourselves to a seemingly fabricated reality quickly takes a toll on our wellbeing. We spend more time worrying about what we are not, rather than becoming who we should be, and our anxiety spikes.

Bottom line, the depressing news we receive daily combined with our need to succeed and the constant comparison game we play on social media is a recipe for anxiety. Phones keep us always “on,” prohibiting us from truly breaking away as we constantly search for the instant gratification technology brings, instead of slowing down and relaxing. We are attached to our phones and technology instead of to ourselves, others, and our surroundings, and that allows physical and mental toxicity to thrive.

We Need To Regain Balance In Our Mental Health

So what about today’s environment makes it so toxic? In short, we’re out of balance. Everyone is hyper-focused on career and personal success. We’ve stopped treating our “temples” (our mind, body, and spirit) respectfully, and, resultantly, it’s crumbling beneath us. Popular belief these days is that you have to be the hardest worker, dedicating every spare moment to your work in order to be successful. Taking the time to eat a wholesome meal or get a full night’s sleep somehow equates to not working hard enough. Pushing your body to breaking point has become like a badge of honor. Just read interviews with high-profile business people or celebrities–chances are they’ll talk, in a more braggy way, about their long work hours, lack of time to eat or sleep, and how they prioritize their career and image above all else.

But failing to give your mind, body, and spirit time to rest and recharge isn’t something to brag about, because what’s really happening is you’re functioning at a small percentage of your full potential. Crazy as this may sound, by allowing yourself to actually sleep and actually eat, you’ll be able to get more done. How? It all comes down to having more energy and being more alert. And that’s not all, once you stop comparing yourself to other people, you’ll be able to focus on reconnecting with yourself instead.

Forget “Likes”. Be Real.

Do you remember what it was like before social media and smartphones? Back then, mornings started out by getting ready for your day; nowadays, the first thing most of us do when the alarm sounds is check our phone and tap into social media. Essentially, we’re comparing ourselves to others–and consequently feeling inadequate–before we even have a chance to put our slippers on. Instagram’s test in removing “likes” is a step in the right direction. In a recent press conference, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri stated, “The idea is to try and depressurize Instagram, to make it less of a competition, and give people more space to focus on connecting with the people they love and the things that inspire them.”

The hope is that removing “likes” will help users stop comparing themselves to others, thus removing the stress of being “good enough” or as liked as everyone else. This comparison game is causing many people to feel as if their anxiety is spinning out of control, but few people actually stop long enough to address the cause of the decline in their mental health and wellbeing.

Put Down The Phone

The good news is it’s not hopeless. Just because the odds seem stacked against us doesn’t mean we are helpless. We can do many things on our own to help break the trance of our phones (read our recent article on how to do a digital detox). For instance:

  • Immerse in nature (aka “Forest bathing”). Even just spending 20 minutes a day in nature has been proven to help lower stress and anxiety, decrease blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and decrease your chances of developing a psychiatric disorder.
  • Read a novel. Find a comfy chair and put your phone on silent. You might find you can go more than two paragraphs without getting distracted when it’s just you and a good story.
  • Learn a new hobby. The practice of learning something new is extremely beneficial for our brain health.
  • Take a bath. Alone, without your phone. Light candles and watch them dance instead.
  • Exercise
  • Do yoga
  • Eat healthful foods. Pay attention to the flavors as they hit different parts of your tongue.
  • Connect with other humans
  • Volunteer
  • Pet an animal
  • Take a vacation
  • Visit a spa
  • Meditate. The use of meditation apps in adults in the US has increased from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018. Are you part of that statistic?

…this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t Do It Alone. Try A Health Retreat.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, or perhaps don’t have the time or energy to get things back on track yourself, check out a wellness retreat that incorporates mental health practices.

Mental health retreats are a great place to start—you’ll be surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you and having support from a team of professionals will ensure you stay on track.

Mental health retreats will actually help you break toxic habits and provide you with long term solutions for living a balanced life, but in case you are thinking they just aren’t for you, I’m here to tell you they are. Why? Because they aren’t one-size-fits-all.

There are many different types of mental health retreats available to suit various needs and interests. Some retreats focus on eastern healing practices, like yoga and meditation, while others focus purely on self-care (think spa: mud baths, steam rooms, massage, etc.). Some are open to everyone while others are gender-specific. Others are centered around particular activities, such as farming, clean-eating, creativity, or hiking. Many retreats emphasis connecting with nature, but, for all you indoors personalities, others don’t. And while the word “retreat” might make it sound like something only possible for wealthy people with unlimited days off from work, there are actually retreats available at any budget, for any length of time, and for any lifestyle choice.

Finding a place to unplug and reset is more attainable than it seems.

Mental Health Retreats Are About More Than Just Relaxing

While visiting any mental health or wellness retreat will do wonders for your wellbeing, starting off with one that combines many aspects of your health might be the best choice. Such retreats, like Mountain Trek, are holistic health retreats that focus on five areas of health in harmony: fitness, nutrition, stress management, sleep, and detoxification. Combining these five areas has a profound effect on your health and wellbeing, laying the groundwork to reduce social anxiety, decrease depression, and relieve stress in your life back at home.

Instead of focusing on just one area of your life, these types of holistic health retreats address each of these key areas in equal turn; after all, each one plays a role in our wellbeing and are all equally affected by the toxicity of modern society. For example, fixing your diet is a great place to start and will make you feel better, but if your stress levels are still sky-high your life will still feel toxic and unbalanced. This is why a wellness retreat like Mountain Trek is an ideal choice to get you started on your journey to a detoxified life. Every detail of your stay there is planned and prepared for you–all you have to do is focus on being present in the moment. It takes the guesswork out of trying to learn how to detox on your own.

A visit to a mental health retreat is about more than just relaxing–it’s about changing your life and giving you the tools you need so you can continue to reap the benefits long after you’ve returned home.

Prevent Burnout. Invest In Longevity.

You can only push yourself so hard before burning out. Between the go go go attitude of modern society, the negativity surrounding us worldwide, and the constant need to compare ourselves to each other, it’s no wonder our mental health is in a state of decline.

Our way of life isn’t sustainable; we need to reset our bodies and minds, beginning with purging toxic thoughts and habits. Taking time for yourself shouldn’t be viewed as a treat, but rather as a necessity. We need to take care of our bodies and souls if we want to be able to function at our best without breaking down. We only get one body, after all. Show yourself some respect and tackle the issue before it gets worse!

Visiting a mental health retreat will teach you the skills you need in order to reset and recharge by helping you cultivate valuable practices you can continue back at home. It’ll jumpstart the process and be the catalyst for changing your life and living a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically. There’s never been a better time than now to unplug and reconnect!

To learn more about Mountain Trek, and how we can help you reduce anxiety and regain your mental health balance, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

9 Ways To Digital Detox


I’ve recently become a parent, and because of that, I feel justified in employing scare tactics to warn you of the dangers out there in the world. I’m not talking about the man in the van who looks like a clown. You heard about him waaay back. I’m talking about something that Albert Einstein saw coming 70 years ago when he said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction, the world will have a generation of idiots.” HP, the company that promises, “With our technology, you’ll reinvent your world,” just surveyed over 7,500 people in North America to learn about our relationship with technology, specifically our smartphone screens. Ironic, yes; admirable, even more so.

What HP found in a recent study:

63% think our digital lives and real lives are out of balance.
50% of couples have used their phones to ignore each other.
65% think it’s ok to check their phone during dinner.
58% think it’s ok to check their phone on a date.
40% admit they use their phones in public to avoid talking to others.
63% believe relationships were closer in the past, and the same percentage believe relationships were more meaningful before social media.
60% wish they could return to a time before social media.
91% would rather have 1 real friend than 100 online friends.

I could shake these stats off and pretend they don’t apply to me, but HP also found that parenting has gone digital and that 1 in 3 parents spend over 5 hours daily on their phone, a stat that requires just too many exclamation points to bother entering them. Now that one stung…

Digital Use is Leading To Addiction, Depression, Suicide

I’m worried that if the day Einstein feared isn’t already here, it’s fast approaching. Selfies are up, relationships are down. Everyday it seems like there is more connection, but less connecting, and engaging with the *actual* world is becoming overwhelmingly intimidating. And while this certainly might lead to a generation of idiots, we’re now realizing that the staggering amount of time we spend staring at a screen is also leading to a generation of anxious, depressed, and lonely souls. Einstein had no idea the extent of what this technology dependence would do to our psyche. How could he? Who could have predicted that global depression rates would increase 18.4% between 2005 and 2015 and suicide rates in the US would rise 24% between 1999 and 2014? And that governments would have to step in and impose curfews on gaming for minors to prevent addiction?

Our digital habits aren’t just wreaking psychological havoc–they’re physically harmful too. Sitting 10+ hours a day in front of screens leads to chronic inflammation, which has been proven to be the cause of many serious ailments and diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Cell phone pings and dings distract drivers from red lights, stop signs, children running across the road, and ultimately cause 1.6 million car accidents in the US every year. That’s one every 20 seconds. By the time you get to the end of this paragraph, there’s a chance someone just died texting and driving. That’s not okay.

But I do wonder. If Einstein were to see the amount of time we spend glued to our screens scrolling through an endless stream of emails and social feeds of seeming perfection, where we inevitably compare our mundane, everyday lives to the highlights of everyone else’s, would he really be that shocked? Or would he just say we are all now those “idiots” he theorized we’d become—not realizing the time we spend on our phones would obviously deteriorate us physically and spike our social anxiety… As a new mother, I feel it’s my duty to try and change our current course so that my daughter does not, in fact, fulfill Einstein’s prophecy.

Be aware of your current usage

Just like a dietary detox, the first step in digitally detoxing is awareness. If you want to lose weight, gain muscle, you name it, you have to look at what you’re putting into your body. Garbage in = garbage out. The same goes for your relationship with your devices. Look at how you’re interacting with your devices by building a digital diet sheet. Record how much, how often, and when you’re on your phone, laptop, game console, or TV; seeing just those numbers will do half the detoxing work. Tip: start with your smartphone and enable Screen Time on iOS and Digital Wellbeing on Android. These two stock features will give you a snapshot of how you currently use your smartphone. I personally like the stat about how many notifications you get each day. Just think, each notification breaks your concentration on what you were doing, be it driving, chatting with a colleague, or playing with your child.

If you’re anything like me and the rest of the Joes and Sues and Sallys out there, you’ll see you spend upwards of hours on social media weekly, let alone daily (Larry Rosen, psychology professor and author of The Distracted Mind, says, “Most people check their phones every 15 minutes or less, even if they have no alerts or notifications,”) but stop right there. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge your numbers. Simply be aware.

Technology isn’t to be demonized, by any means–it helped put a man on the moon and sequence the entire human genome–but the way it’s used today tends to keep people inside a bubble. Instead of simply inspiring or enabling us, it’s creating anxiety and tension and zombified trances. It needs to be rebalanced. Here are nine ways you can reprogram your relationship with technology.

Nine Ways To Digitally Detox:

 

Build “No Phone Zones” in your home

This could be the kitchen or the bedroom, places primed for human interaction and bond-building. Place baskets at the perimeters of these zones so you can physically leave your phone behind.

Set “No Technology Times” in your home

If you’re a culprit of looking at your phone before falling asleep or before your feet even touch the floor in the morning, leave it in the hallway when you go to sleep. Mountain Trek suggests stopping device-time at least one hour before bedtime to reduce blue light consumption, which is similar to the wavelength emitted by the sun and triggers our “rise and shine” cortisol stress hormone.

Let your friends and family know you’re taking a break from your phone

This way, you won’t feel anxious about people contacting you.

Turn off notifications

Notifications are the digital version of that person always bothering you. Mostly, they actually fuel potential symptoms of addiction by causing your heart rate to increase. Notifications let your phone control you, as opposed to how it should be, the other way around.

Turn on grayscale

By making your phone less desirable to look at, you’ll be less tempted to tap around on it. Here are tutorials for iOS and Android

Take distracting apps off your home screen

This way, you’ll have to intentionally seek out an app to use it, and, in doing so, you’ll cut down on the “accidental” time-sucks that happen when you mindlessly hold your phone.
Put a learning app like Duolingo or Elevate next to your social media apps, increasing your chance of skipping out on an hour-long social media binge. Learning is one of the best ways to satiate our mental needs.

Play phone Jenga

When you go to a dinner party, or at least host your own, encourage the guests to stack their phones. This way, everyone will be less inclined to look at them; you don’t want to be the one who removes your device and makes the whole stack tumble down.

Set out parameters

Don’t go all or nothing, because when you starve yourself of anything, your mind wants to go to the other extreme. Instead of deleting all your apps at the same time, try deleting Facebook first, then Instagram, and the list goes on. One habit for one day, then one week, then one month. The idea is to make your change a big priority and a small step.

The most delicious things in the world don’t taste so great after a few too many bites, and the same goes for digital consumption. But it’s hard to shake ourselves out of a stupor. It’s hard to “awake” once our brains have been habituated to scrolling through images and videos on devices and apps literally engineered for addiction. Breaking the trance will be hard. But you don’t have to go at it alone. In fact, we suggest getting a friend or family member bought in on the idea as well. Or, join the conversation on our Facebook page (an example of how social media can be used for good—just don’t get sucked into your feed for two hours!). For a full digital detox, come visit us in the lush mountains of British Columbia for a week of unplugging and resetting, physically, emotionally, and digitally! For more information on our award-winning health and wellness retreat, recently named the #1 Health Retreat in the US & Canada by Travel + Leisure, email info@mountaintrek.com or contact us.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Why Sitting Is Bad For You + 5 Ways To Fix It

Most of us commute to work sitting in our vehicle, then sit all day at our office job and then sit on the couch when we get home and watch TV. In fact, most of the Western World spends the majority of their life sitting.

Why is sitting bad for you?

As the video above explains, our bodies are designed for movement. The problem with sitting, is that it leads to a sedentary lifestyle, and chronic sedentarism has been proven to be the cause of many serious ailments and diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Spending hours, days, months, all in relatively the same position not only takes a toll on our bodies in regards to our posture and musculature, it limits circulation. We all have one big organ that pumps fresh, clean blood out—our heart— but there is no organ to return this blood back to our our filtering organs; the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Our bodies rely on movement, bending, flexing, and twisting to create a mechanical pump to move this blood back through those organs. Without movement, we have no return pump. Without the return of blood, we become stagnant, and this stagnation leads to inflammation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “chronic inflammation plays a role in almost every major disease, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression.”

We aren’t getting the habitual exercise and range of motion we need to keep us healthy, moving and fit. Integrating cardio exercise into our regular schedules is of course imperative to health, both now and as we age. We do however, still need to be realistic in our careers; most jobs are after all desk jobs, and don’t necessarily provide the opportunity to work out or go for a hike as part of our daily tasks and duties.

How to combat sedentarism

Fortunately, sedentarism is being addressed as a workplace issue by forward thinking employers, and we are seeing an increasing number of workplaces making clear efforts in addressing employee health, by affording more opportunities to move while working.

The treadmill desk is considered being ‘productive on two fronts’ according to Brown & Brown, an international Insurance consulting firm, and huge supporter of exercising while working. CEO of Priceline Group, Darren Huston, states that where possible, he will go for a ‘walking meeting’, inviting the discussion to take place while on the move in the park nearby his office complex. His reasoning: “walking clears my brain.” The late Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs was reported to be a huge proponent of the walking meeting, and even Barack Obama is said to end his day by doing a couple laps of the White House with his Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough to review the latest political issues.

The above people are certainly on to something. Research at the University of Bristol and the University of Minnesota have concluded that as we move (especially when outside in nature), parts of our brain are stimulated that we usually find stimulated when during creative pursuits and relaxation. Also, worker productivity was said to increase by ‘substantially’ (as per studies above, measured by quality of work, work output, mental sharpness and improved time management) when workers took a walking break in their work day. This shows that parking in a chair isn’t always our best way to a productive workday. Nevertheless, realistically, so much of our working lives are spent in front of the screen, hunched over the keyboard. But we don’t have to take this sedentarism sitting down!

Beyond integrating regular exercise into your routine before and after work, we certainly can make our sedentary work day a little more comfortable with a little more movement. Click here to learn some simple stretches, movements and tips to integrate into your work day:

FIVE FULL BODY EXERCISES FOR THE OFFICE

Aside from those exercises listed in the above link, you can also try a few of these:

Stretching-in-an-office

Stretch

As we bend over the keyboard, our shoulders hunch forward, thereby creating a lactic acid build up and soreness through the upper back, neck and shoulders. Another side affect from this position that we may not realize is that our upper chest muscles constrict, and often for those who do a lot of computer work, these muscles are permanently taught. Opening up through the chest is a liberating release from the keyboard hunch. Find a doorway, and place hands and forearms along the doorframe, then allow yourself to lean forward. Try to release into the pose completely, holding it for several minutes. Feel free to experiment with the pose by moving your arms higher or lower in the doorway.

Sitting-on-a-ball-in-an-office

Use a Ball

Instead of your regular office chair, switch it up by using an exercise ball to sit on. By using a ball (and therefore no backrest), you are engaging core muscles all day, without even realizing it. Core strength is so important for so many aspects of overall strength and injury prevention. As an experiment, try using a ball instead of an office chair for a couple weeks and see if you don’t find yourself standing a little taller. Be sure to find a ball that allows you to sit at the correct height for your desk. If you are concerned about rolling away, they now make stands with wheels for exercise balls, so it has all of the roll around and stability of an office chair, with all of the benefits of an exercise ball).

Take-a-break

Take a break

As per the research by the Universities of Bristol and of Minnesota, mentioned above, you will be more productive after a walk, even a quick one. And as we can all attest, it just feels really good to not be looking at a computer screen for a few minutes. If you’re having difficulty integrating a little break in your day, set yourself an alarm or enlist an office friend to come for that break with you, and you will hold each other to it. After all, it will lead to better health and increased productivity! And if 20 minutes is too ambitious, go for 10, or 5 – a little break is better than no break at all.

So stand up for your health. Fight chronic inflammation and future illness by integrating small but effective movements into your everyday sitting at work. You will be doing yourself a huge favor and may immediately notice feeling less inflamed, stiff and even less tired at the end of the day. And if you have a favorite desk stretch, please benefit us all by sharing on our Facebook page. Here’s to a less time sitting at the computer, and to a more healthy you!

Engaging Your Core For Fitness

Engaging your Core

As the name suggests, our core is integral to every movement we make. It's a complex series of muscles that extend well beyond your abs and include everything except for your arms and legs.

In this article, and in the video below, Mountain Trek's fitness director Cathy Grierson talks about how to engage your core for whatever it is you're doing, whether you're walking, working out at the gym or even just sitting at your office desk. This information goes hand-in-hand with our other article called "Cathy's Core Workout," which describes how to strengthen your core muscles. (You can see all of Cathy's videos and more by downloading our Health Guide in Your Pocket app.)

Before we begin, however, let's look at what exactly the core muscles are. Most of us believe they're the six-pack abs you'll find on male underwear models but that's the the case at all. Your core extends far beyond your abdomen and include two types of muscles: stabilizers and movers. To give you a sense of just how important they are: our stablizer and mover core muscles are integral to almost every movement of the human body! Many of the muscles that make up our core are hidden beneath the exterior musculature of our bodies and include the multifidus, transverse abdominals, diaphragm and the pelvic floor among others.

In this video Cathy explains how to engage your core, our stabilizer muscles no matter what activity you're involved in by using a sequence called "The Wave." 

Whether you're an athlete or someone who's interested in getting back in shape and engaging those core muscles again, we recommend you book Mountain Trek and enjoy Cathy's fitness direction in person as well as all the amenities our all-inclusive resort offers: complimentary massages, delicious boutique spa cuisine, natural hot springs, infrared sauna, outdoor hot tub and cold plunge pool, plus a luxurious lodge in a natural setting far away from urban stressors.

You're also guaranteed to reach your fitness goals with our program that's tailored to each individual. You can keep to your own pace but we'll make sure you get results. We hope to see you soon!

Dr. Josh on How To Eat Smarter & Lose Weight

how-to-eat-smarter-1

Mountain Trek recently started offering Lifestyle Performance Coaching via clinical physcologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, who's also an alumni of the program. It seems the good doctor is also adept at explaining matters of nutrition as well given an article that has appeared on beachbody.com. In it, Dr. Josh is asked to explain how to eat smarter through "mindful eating" (also known as "intuitive eating") and how it can influence your body shape.

In the article called "9 Mindfulness Tips For Losing Weight," Dr. Josh compares mindful eating to mindful existence: “It’s not unlike taking a minute to look at a flower or experience being in nature,” he says. “We can either rush through it with a passing appreciation, or we can spend several minutes and take the entire environment into our senses. Mindful eating is the exact same thing.” He goes on to explain that "By itself, mindful eating is not a weight-loss cure, but as part of an approach or tool it can catapult healthy eating and weight loss.

By being conscientious when you consume foods, you limit distractions, choose healthier options and become more in tune with your body. Here are the nine mindfulness tricks to help you eat smarter, be conscious of what you eat and, ultimately, make better decisions that will help you lose weight. 

  1. Pause before you eat to ask yourself why you're eating
  2. Chew each bite thoroughly and savour it
  3. Drink water before meals
  4. Eat vibrant, flavourful foods
  5. Eat without distractions
  6. Wait before getting seconds
  7. When you feel the urge to snack, make a cup of tea first
  8. Take note of your cravings
  9. Eat with joy, not judgement

All of these tips will help you take more pleasure in your food and to read more about Dr. Josh's take on "mindful eating," log on to beachbody.com.

For an even more well-rounded culinary experience, book a stay at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa to enjoy the delicious spa cuisine prepared by our master chef Bonnie VanTassel. She's renowned for creating healthy, farm-fresh food that you can't help but savour. Book your stay at Mountain Trek now.

CN Traveler Awards Mountain Trek

Conde Nast Travler Magazine

More than 300,000 travelers took part in Condé Nast Traveler’s 29th annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey submitting millions of ratings and over 75,000 comments to create a list of winning favourites – and Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa was one of them. In fact, Mountain Trek made it onto the list of the 15 Best Wellness Retreats in the World! “Whether you’re into hiking or yoga, or just need a nap-inducing Swedish massage, book now to rejuvenate both mind and body” is what the article says and that’s exactly what you can find at Mountain Trek.

Condé Nast Traveler, one of the most popular travel magazine and websites in North America, listed Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa along with 15 of the most exclusive wellness getaways in the world including Six Senses in Portugal, BodyHoliday in St. Lucia and Ananda in India. Mountain Trek was the only Canadian resort listed.

This is what the CN Traveler had to say about Mountain Trek: “You may be on vacation, but there’s no reason you can’t throw some self-improvement in the mix, too. At Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat Resort & Health Spa, way up in the clean, clear air of British Columbia, you won’t lament the week-long cheat day that could’ve been. Instead, embrace the granola life with day-long hikes led by one of the eager local guides, and sunrise yoga classes taught by certified professionals. Everything here is targeted toward achieving optimal health, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be shoving kale down your throat, or scraping bark off the nearest tree to kill the hunger pangs. Quite the contrary: The on-site nutritionist and head chef develop locally sourced, nutrient-rich meals, with lemon ricotta pancakes just one of the many fan favorites.”

“The 15 Best Wellness Retreats in the World” article was recently published on CNTraveler.com and you can read the story in its entirety here: http://www.cntraveler.com/gallery/the-best-wellness-retreats-in-the-world.

Whether you’re interested in improving your own fitness, losing weight, or just want to relax in the fresh mountain air, we recommend you book Mountain Trek and enjoy the amenities that only our all-inclusive resort can offer:

  • complimentary massages
  • delicious boutique spa cuisine
  • natural hot springs
  • infrared sauna, outdoor hot tub and cold plunge pool
  • luxurious lodge in a natural setting far away from urban stressors

You’re also guaranteed to reach your fitness goals with our program that’s tailored to each individual. You can keep to your own pace but we’ll make sure you get results. We hope to see you soon!

 

Bedtime Yoga

Bedtime Yoga

One of the reasons we have difficulty sleeping at night is because we are over stimulated. Our brains are wired to process all incoming information from our five senses to predict the appropriate state for our body’s systems. "Should I be ready? Or should I rest?" These two autonomic nervous system states are called the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest).

Staring at screens and/or hearing loud noises automatically puts us into a state of readiness. This is why it's so important to shut off our digital devices at least 30 minutes before bed and to follow the other "insomnia busters" we've detailed in previous posts. Another way to calm your mind and prepare your body for sleep is to use such tools as relaxation breathing or restorative yoga to promote our parasympathetic system, the state we need to obtain in order to sleep deeply.

For this instructive video, we enlisted the help of Mountain Trek's yoga teacher and fitness instructor Katya Hayes, who's been teaching yoga for 15 years. When not at Mountain Trek, Katya practices at her own studio and she studies yoga, Buddhism, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa.

 

Here are the four poses Katya recommends to do in order to prepare your body and mind for a perfect night's sleep.

Legs up the wall

Legs up the wall pose

Begin by sitting on the floor or the bed with one hip against the wall. Swing both of your legs up the wall as you lay down on your back; your body should form a 90-degree angle with the wall. For increased benefits, slide a firm pillow or yoga bolster beneath your hips. Relax and belly breathe for several minutes.

Supported forward twist

Supported Forward Twist

Sit on the floor and have a firm pillow or bolster nearby. Bend both knees and swing your feet to the left side of your body. Place the bolster to the outside of your right hip extending away from you. Lengthen your spine and twist to the right. Lay your torso along the bolster, resting on one cheek. Breath into the sides of your body for 10 deep breaths. Repeat rotating the opposite way.

Supported child's pose

Supported Child's Pose

Get onto all fours. Sit back on your heels, separating your knees so that they're about shoulder width apart. Place a firm pillow or bolster between your legs extending away from you. Fold forward from the hips, lengthening the belly along the bolster. Rest deeply as you breath into the back of your bbody for one minute.

Reclined butterfly pose

Supported-Forward-Twist

Sit on the ground or the bed with several firm pillows or a bolster propped up behind you. Bring the soles of your feet together, allowing the knees to fall outwards. Support the knees if you like with pillows. Lay back on the pillows so that you are at a 45-degree angle. Place a folded towel beneath your neck for support. Place an eye bag over your eyes if you'd like and belly breath for several minutes.

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