I really dig Huffington's advice to enhance our lives through committing to serve, exploring meditation and mindfulness, practicing gratitude and regaining our child-like sense of wonder though art and nature. Her exhortation to view coincidences as meaningful messages with "a kind of magic power?" Not so much.
But one section of the book gave me support for a little self-help secret I've been reluctant to share: I like to sleep more than eight hours a night.
The confession is tough to make. I don't admire the macho one-up-manship of competitive sleep deprivation but still, isn't eight hours adequate? Not for me, apparently.
Huffington compares the benefits of sufficient rest to that of performance-enhancing drugs -- good sleep can improve concentration, increase focus and creativity, lower stress, suppress appetite, enhance mental performance and even reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.
Makes sense to me. I know well the difference between the frazzled day I drag myself through after a short night and the pleasure of a vacation day. But Huffington's book inspired me to take a further mindful step, to start actively scheduling my sleep and treating the bedtime hour as if it were an important appointment. Instead of guess-timating how quick I could throw together my fifth-grader's lunch before her bus arrived and subtracting eight hours from that to set my bedtime, I made sure I was in bed by 9:30. Even though the girls had said goodnight only a few minutes before, even though delicious episodes of Mad Men and Cosmos were calling my name, even though it felt indulgent and even indolent, I stuck all last week to my schedule.
And last week was a busy one - I was planning the elementary school's Earth Week activities AND a Brownie overnight while reading Huffington's book in spare moments. But stuff got done. And more stuff. There was a chugging quality to my work: emails, emails, emails; phone calls, phone calls, phone calls; errands, errands, errands, packing, packing, packing. I didn't feel more energetic, but more, well, solid. Less "multi-tasking" (code word: distractions like Facebook) and more accomplishing. And of course, more patience with the girls, even at night when we were all tired.
And the results of all the planning? Sixteen little third-graders had a fun weekend at camp, got fed, learned archery and candle-making, traded handmade SWAPS crafts, made bookbags and bookmarks for Chicago Public Library patrons, rolled down hills, sang songs, Tie-Dyed, played parachute games, ran a scavenger hunt, hiked, jumped, climbed, got fed, and slept a little on Saturday night.
Nobody cried, only one use of the First Aid kit.
S-U-C-C-E-S-S! That's the way we spell SUCCESS!!
And Sunday? I took a three hour afternoon nap, then went to bed at 9:00 p.m.
You can read more responses to Huffington's book on the From Left to Write website. Members of the bookclub received copies of the books with no obligation.