How To Sleep Well And Wake Up Full Of Energy

An in-depth look at mastering your sleep.

 

 

One of those days again: Your alarm goes off, you open your eyes, and all you want is snuggling back into your sheets and sleep a few more minutes.

But duty calls, so you get up, wash your face, and grab your first cup of coffee to compensate for the lack of recovery from the night. What follows are hours of operating in automatic mode just to get through the morning before you actually feel awake.

While we all know how this daunting scenario feels, a lack of sleep doesn’t only come with short-term sacrifices. In the long run, sleep deprivation significantly harms your health and productivity.

According to Shawn Stevenson, there’s no facet of your mental, emotional, or physical performance that’s not affected by the quality of your sleep.

Contrary to what you might think, sleep is an active process. During the night, our brain processes everything we saw, heard, and learned throughout the day. Additionally, our immune system gets strengthened, our metabolism gets regulated, and our damaged cells are being repaired.

That’s why high-quality sleep boosts your entire day’s output and ultimately increases the quality of your life.

Even though great days start the night before, the majority of today’s population is chronically sleeping deprived and suffering from low quality sleep.

Yet, besides a balanced diet and sports, sleep is the ultimate key to creating mental and physical balance.

According to studies, a lack of sleep leads to less creativity, more stress, and underperformance. This lack of rest leads to millions of people not living up to their full potential because they’re tired.

While many young people get trapped in a hustle mentality, thinking they’d accomplish more if they cut down on their sleep, the reality is the contrary: If done correctly, sleep can be the ultimate performance hack.

Minimizing your sleep to have more hours to work will backfire rather sooner than later.

Yet, also lots of sleep will barely lead to an energized body and a clear mind. Instead, it’s the quality of your sleep that impacts your recovery.

And while being awake is a state of using energy, sleeping is anabolic, it builds us up and fuels us with the needed energy to get through the next day.

“You will factually work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you’re properly rested.”

— Shawn Stevenson

Even though sleep optimization might sound complicated, it can be quite simple. A few uncomplicated habits can already lead to improved recovery and more energy throughout your days.

Understand Sleep Patterns and Build Routines

Even though many successful people and books preach waking up early, getting up at 5 AM is certainly not the holy grail to a successful day or life.

For many people, mornings are the only time when they can focus on side projects or their personal growth. Yet, when you wake up and when you go to bed, don’t matter as much as you might think. The only thing that matters in terms of productivity is how you spend the hours in between.

So instead of focusing on when to wake up, aim to maximize your energy and make the most of your time awake.

Our bodies love routines; that’s why going to bed and waking up at the same time massively affects your recovery.

Abnormalities might happen every now and then, but sticking to regular sleep patterns and going to bed at the same time will help you to fall asleep faster and wake up more refreshed.

Be Aware of Sleep Phases

While sleeping, we pass five different stages of sleep. These different stages of light and deep sleep form so-called sleep cycles, and each stage has different characteristics.

Stage 1 & 2: These are the light sleep phases. During these stages, our body temperature, and blood pressure drop, and we slowly fall asleep. Stage 1 is a transition phase between being awake and sleeping and only makes up to 5% of each night. During this time, we wake up easily.

Stage 2 is accountable for up to 55% of our sleep time. That’s when our brain activity slows down, and waking up becomes harder.

Stage 3 & 4: These stages are considered deep sleep. Our brain activity drops to a minimum, and recovery processes are at a high. Thus, these stages are the most important for getting the ultimate rest and recovery.

Stage 5: The last stage is also called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase. During this phase, our eyes move, we dream, and our brain activity is at its high.

After completing these five stages, a new sleep cycle starts.

Each cycle lasts for around 90 minutes, which means we usually repeat these cycles four to six times per night.

Four such sleep cycles would lead to six hours of sleep while six cycles account for nine hours.

Okay, but why does that matter?!

Well, understanding sleep cycles matters because when you wake up influences your energy levels. Waking up in the middle of a deep sleep stage will make you feel worse for wear, waking up during a light sleep period will lead to an energized morning.

In short: Being ripped out of deep sleep will cause you to feel less energized than waking up during a light sleep period.

How to do it:

As you know that each sleep cycle takes around 90 minutes, you can set your alarm accordingly. Instead of waking up in the middle of a cycle, ensure that your alarm rings when a cycle is fully completed.

Rather than aiming for the standard eight hours of sleep, make sure you complete your sleep cycle and don’t get ripped off of a deep sleep phase.

The easiest and most effective way to understand and take control over your sleep cycle is by using smart devices such as a watch or ring to track your sleep. Yet, even most smartphones can track your sleep if you place them close to your pillow.

If you, however, don’t want to make use of devices, work with the 90-minute rule and calculate when your alarm should ring based on getting a full sleep cycle rather than waking up in the middle of a deep sleep phase.

So, if you go to bed at 10.30 PM, rather set your alarm for 6 AM, instead of 6.30.

Soak Up Sunlight

Studies show that getting more sunlight throughout the day can help to sleep better at night.

We have a built-in 24-hour clock, the so-called “circadian timing system” inside our bodies that helps us to regulate day and night time.

Sunlight signals alertness to our brain and triggers the production of daytime hormones, which are responsible for regulating our biological clock. Thus, too little light during the day and excessive light exposure (e.g., through screens) at night influence the quality of your sleep negatively.

How to do it:

Whenever possible, get your body out and soak up some sunlight early in the morning. This will help to regulate your inner clock and differentiate between daytime and nighttime more easily.

You can, for instance, get to work a little earlier and walk the last mile, take your breaks outside or at least close to a window, or implement a short walk as your new morning routine.

Avoid Blue Light

The artificial blue light emitted by our screens has a negative influence on our sleep patterns as it harms the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us to fall asleep with ease and sleep well.

Due to the exposure to artificial lighting, our bodies can barely differentiate between day and night. Thus, falling asleep is more difficult after staring at our screens late at night.

Engaging with our devices late at night keeps our brains alert and harms the quality of our rest. And even though watching your favorite movie or typing a few messages might not seem like a big deal, it is.

Browsing through the web is keeping your brain active while all you need after a busy day is to disconnect and unwind.

“Disconnecting from our technology to reconnect with ourselves is absolutely essential.”

— Arianna Huffington

How to do it:

Whenever possible, avoid screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Experts even recommend avoiding artificial light through screens 90 minutes before bedtime.

Instead, practice activities that help you calm down, such as reading, stretching exercises, meditation, or any other calming hobby.

If you really can’t stop using your devices, install a blue light blocker on your screens (e.g., f.lux). By doing so, the blue light of your screens will turn into a red light, which is less harmful to your body and sleep. Most phones already have a “night feature”, which also reduces the blue light that is emitted.

Alternatively, you can also grab a pair of blue light blocking glasses.

Darken Your Bedroom

In addition to avoiding screens, dimming the lights of your bedroom will also improve the quality of your sleep.

If exposed to too much bright light, your body doesn’t know if it’s day or night. Thus, sleeping becomes harder, and the quality of the rest drops. Sleeping in an utterly dark room, however, will help you to fall asleep faster and wake up fully recovered.

How to do it:

If possible, completely darken your room through (roll-up) curtains. If that isn’t possible, grab a pair of sleeping masks. These are cheap and effective, plus, you can take them wherever you go, which makes them a great companion during travels.

Minimize Noise

In addition to light, also minimize noises in your bedroom. If you have any digital devices in your bedroom, unplug them and ensure silence during the night.

How to do it:

Close all doors and windows that might lead to unnecessary noises during the night. Additionally, make sure to mute or unplug all devices that might be noisy.

If avoiding noises isn’t possible, get used to earplugs: Just like sleeping masks, these are cheap and effective, plus, you can take them wherever you go, which makes high-quality sleep during travels easier.

Stay Cool

Similar to light and sounds, our body temperature has a significant influence on the quality of our sleep.

When we go to bed, our body temperature usually drops so that we can fall asleep easier. If the temperature in the bedroom, however, is too high, falling asleep becomes challenging.

According to studies, the ideal room temperature for high-quality sleep is around 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius.

However, in addition to the temperature of your bedroom, you should be cool too, meaning you should let go of all negativity and tension in your mind and body.

We all face negative experiences throughout our days. Even if you are an unbroken optimist, you’ll come across annoying people. And it can be hard to control our emotions throughout the day. Yet, at the latest, before going to bed, let go of all the negativity you faced during the day.

How to do it:

Make sure to cool your bedroom down before going to bed. Also, don’t wear thick clothing for sleep. Instead, let your skin breathe.

Additionally, do things that help you cool down mentally before bedtime.

Activities such as meditation or journaling can help you to let go of negative experiences and focus on the positive, even if you had a tough day.

If you want to take it one step further, you can write all your anger down on a piece of paper and burn it down. Literally, burn the piece of paper, but be cautious (e.g., do it in the sink). By doing so, you physically let go of the problem.

Other activities to calm down before bedtime are reading or listening to audiobooks.

Sleep at the Right Hours

One of the least known “sleep hacks” is the fact that our bodies recover most by sleeping between 10 PM and 2 AM.

Sleeping during this time will amplify the quality of your rest and help you feel more energized in the morning.

According to Shawn Stevenson, that’s based on the fact that we are part of nature. We are simply designed to sleep when it gets dark.

How to do it:

The 10 PM to 2 AM recommendation might vary depending on time zones, the time of the year, and other influences. Yet, the core idea is simple: Get to bed within a few hours of it getting dark outside.

“Timing your sleep is like timing an investment in the stock market — it doesn’t matter how much you invest, it matters when you invest.”

— Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary

Avoid Excessive Exercising

Heavy exercising before bedtime isn’t favorable as it boosts your metabolism, pumps your heart rate, and makes it difficult to calm down right before bedtime.

While an excessive workout in the evening might harm the quality of your sleep, a massage, and some stretching can be priceless.

Stretching and massaging your body with a foam roller will not only improve the quality of your sleep, but also help to calm down, connect with your intuition, and let go of tension.

Particularly if you have an office job and spend most of your days sitting, your body will thank you for releasing muscle tightness at the end of your day.

Besides the benefits of typical stretching exercises, a foam roller helps ease muscle pain, increase flexibility and blood flow, and help you relax.

How to do it:

If you want to do something good for your body right before going to bed, choose yoga or stretching exercises. Turn on some calming music and help your body to let go of tension. Not only your body, but also your mind will calm down, which is highly beneficial to have a night of high-quality sleep.

Avoid Big Meals and Caffeine Before Bedtime

Eating late can lead to inflammation and impairments in blood sugar regulation. Thus, whenever possible, avoid eating late at night. Your sleep, your body, and your performance will undoubtedly reward you.

However, if you should need to eat close to bedtime, make sure to consume protein-rich foods instead of carb-loaded, fatty meals.

In addition, avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon so that your body can get rid of the caffeine until bedtime.

Overconsumption of caffeine often leads to sleep problems, which leaves you tired, which again leads to more caffeine consumption, and soon you find yourself in a doom loop between coffee and bad sleep.

How to do it:

Instead of a late-night snack, you can drink herbal teas that help to sleep better. Chamomile tea, for instance, is known for its antidepressant qualities, and lavender tea reduces stress and anxiety.

Additionally, ensure to have some high-protein snacks at home in case you get hungry and want to eat something close to bedtime.

Depending on your body and what precisely you consume, caffeine usually has a half-life of around 5–8 hours. This means that half of the substance will be removed from your body in 5–8 hours. That’s why you should stop drinking coffee at noon or in the early afternoon to ensure your body gets rid of the caffeine until bedtime.

Bottom Line

Preparing for high-quality sleep doesn’t need to be complex, long, or exhausting.

On the contrary: It can be short and fun. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all these ideas about what you could do to improve your sleep, have fun experimenting with them at your own speed. Keep what works for you and screw the rest.

What to avoid:

  • Avoid or reduce blue lights that are emitted by screens.
  • Avoid excessive exercising shortly before bedtime, choose yoga or stretching instead.
  • Avoid big meals for at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine in the (late) afternoon.
  • Avoid waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle and being ripped off of a deep sleep phase.

What to do:

  • Understand your sleep patterns and build a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Get some sunlight early in the morning.
  • Darken your room and minimize all noises.
  • Cooldown the temperature in your bedroom.
  • Calm your mind and let go of negativity, for example, through meditation, reading, or journaling.
  • Get to bed within a few hours of it getting dark outside.

Take your time to experiment with different rituals until you find one that fits your needs and helps you to live a happier, more joyful life.

Choose one or two new routines and try different combinations until you find a pattern that helps you maximize your wellbeing and performance throughout your days.

‘Happy Holidays’ vs. ‘Merry Christmas’: A twist

‘Happy Holidays’ is meant to be inclusive, but knowing when Hanukkah was (a month ago) would be far more so; this ‘holiday season’ really means Christmastime

Before Omicron directed my social life, I went to a Christmas party. a.k.a. “holiday party,” at which everyone was boosted and outside. It was brisk, but not cold enough to keep friends from being together. The hosts greeted me with, “Happy Holidays,” to which I said, “Merry Christmas,” and held them hostage to my lecture on why I hate the greeting, “Happy Holidays.” I was the only invited Jew. Their flustered faces and stutter conveyed that “Happy Holidays” was to help me feel included. I apologized too late. I had ruined their greeting. How should they greet me? Better yet, if one doesn’t know I’m Jewish, is it offensive to wish me a Merry Christmas? Yes and no. It’s complicated. Here’s what is going on for me.

“Happy Holidays” confuse inclusion with equality. The idea behind replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” is that there are minority groups in America, e.g., Jews, who are not included. “Happy Holidays” makes Hanukkah the Christmas-equivalent. But this is a false equivalence, and it not only does a disservice to Jews, in wrongly elevating Hanukkah to the sacred, but also by diminishing Christmas, robbing Christians of something that is valuable to them.

The argument for the “Happy Holidays” greeting is that because Christians have been imperialistic, and have erased everyone else (including Jews) from American culture, they now need to include us. But does including us demand that Christians must be punished by not being allowed to have anything Christian in the culture anymore? If we want Christians to stop erasing us Jews, Muslims, Hindus among others, does the greeting “Happy Holidays” erase the Christians themselves? Is the general wishing of Merry Christmas an assault against Americans of other traditions or no traditions?

Many Jews in my world wish to hear “Happy Holidays.” Greeting them should have nothing to do with Christmas. They want no association with a tradition celebrating the robbing and distorting of Judaism’s face. For example, a colleague’s dog received Merry Christmas wishes on Facebook. My colleague responded: “My doggies don’t celebrate Christmas, but they would like to wish you a happy belated Hanukkah!” At another spot on the December-Jewish-greeting spectrum, Jews with trees seem fine with Merry Christmas. Like Halloween, they explain, Christmas is a secular holiday. One might say that their celebration of Christmas is old school. It has nothing to do with Christianity.

Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are not similar holidays. Conflating Kwanzaa with Christmas in the US seems misguided. Southern enslavers justified enslaving black people through the story of biblical Ham violating his father, Noah; antebellum southern whites argued it destined black people to be enslaved as descendants of Ham. Crazy, right!?! They justified white Christian genocide in the name of a Jew, brown Jesus of Judah. Ham was also brown, but not Jewish. Sarah and Abraham spark the origin of the Israelites. Hanukkah comes over a thousand years later. It celebrates the re-creation of the fourth Jewish state in 166 BCE, when Jewish rebels killed a lot of assimilated Jews. We don’t mention that when we light our hanukkiahs to bring light into the world. Furthermore, it’s not a religious holiday. Jews do not make religious/sacred holidays out of military victories. Jews thus do not desist from ordinary activities and work on Hanukkah. So, what we should say at this time of year to Jews?

The party hosts said, “Happy Holidays” to be inclusive. However, more inclusive inclusion knows the holidays at the time those around us celebrate. Hanukkah has been over for a month. It is Christmastime in the states, not Diwali, not EID, not Rosh Hashanah, not Bodhi day. It’s Christmas, a US federal holiday. A great majority of Americans from differing ethnicities celebrate it.

Ironically, Jews are now included as a December holiday player, just as I was greeted at a Christmas party with “Happy Holidays.” Chabad (a Hasidic sect) lights an annual hanukkiah on the White House lawn, some Jews have trees, a Fox News host recently said a Christmas tree is also a Hanukkah bush, etc. Is it any wonder Christians and non-Jews think Hanukkah is the Jewish Christmas? Let’s stop pretending it is. Let’s wish Christians and atheists who descend from Christianity a Merry Christmas. As for Jews with trees? If you want them, Tu Bi Shvat is coming. And for Jews like me, “Hi!”

Epic 7-day Itinerary To Visit Malta On Holiday

Malta is an incredible island to explore. Nestled right in the Med, it’s is filled with thousands of years of history, stunning bays and the most incredible cities that are just too beautiful to miss. So, to help you get the most out of your trip, we wanted to share our bumper itinerary to visit Malta on your next holiday.

 

Now, you might be wondering if Malta is for you?

Well, let me give you a little snippet of why it should be on every traveller hit list!

First up, Malta (and neighbouring Gozo) is basked in that incredible Mediterranean sunshine that’s just so good. Not only that, Malta is totally chilled and a great place to visit if you fancy a bout of downtime on your trip.

That being said, Malta is also a jewel in the Mediterranean if you fancy a gander around historic cities and ancient sights. It’s an island that can (and totally does) fit with the kind of trip you’d like.  This is why we keep going back, over and over again!

So, as the island starts to safely open up, we wanted to share some places in Malta that you can’t miss.

And, as always, be sure to travel safely. Check your government’s guidance on travel and official information from the Maltese Government on any restrictions that might be relaxed or in place.

 

Take a look, below, at our bumper itinerary to visit Malta on holiday. Oh, and with all our itineraries, feel free to add, take out or follow exactly the places we’ve mentioned – it’s your holiday after all!

Have an amazing time.

Day one: Valletta

 

As far as Mediterranean cities go, Valletta is a gem to visit!

Unlike other large capital cities in Europe, Valletta is not too big to get overwhelmed and not small enough to get bored. In fact, I’d say it’s perfect for a few days exploring.

After arriving, be sure to take a wander to see the Grandmaster’s Palace and the gorgeous Upper (and Lower) Barrakka Gardens. These are stunning first thing in the morning and a great way to stretch your legs before a day head.

For a sugary pick-me-up, head to Amorino (on Republic Street). Here, you’ll get to sample some of the best gelatos in all of Malta. Trust me, you’ll go back for seconds.

In the afternoon, take a gander around the centuries-old Casa Rocca Piccola in the heart of Valletta. Throughout the day, you can join a guide and take a peek into a classic (and affluent) palace that’s too gorgeous to miss.

Before sundown, pop into St. John’s Co-Cathedral which’s stood pride of place in Valletta since the 1500s. It’s so beautiful and a great way to see some of Girolamo Cassar works. After all, he’s one of the islands most famed architects.

Feeling peckish? Head into the gorgeous cobbled streets and pop into Noni (on Republic Street) that fuses Maltese dishes with a modern flare. Their tasting menu is so delicious for an evening treat.

Day two: Valletta

 

One thing I would say is that you should give Valletta at least one full day to explore (though, we prefer a more chilled two-day trip). That being said, if you’re short on time, you can easily pack in the main sights in Valletta in one day; especially if there are other spots on our itinerary to visit Malta that you just don’t want to miss.

For a morning galavant, head for a stroll around the Grand Harbour area where you’ll get some fantastic views across the bay. Plus, you’ll be easily able to partner up a trip to Fort St. Angelo that has historically protected the city. You’ll need to factor in around 2-hours to fully explore the fort; so plan ahead and arrive nice and early.

For dinner, book a table at Rampila; you won’t be disappointed, especially on their terrace. We had the traditional Maltese Aljotta broth for the first course and loved it! 

Day three: Mdina

Nowhere is ever really that far in Malta, which means it’s a great island to traverse and stay at all the Maltese gems. That being said, don’t feel the pressure to keep moving hotels or accommodation each night, you can easily do day trips to all the spots in Malta and stay anchored in one hotel for the whole trip. It’s entirely up to you.

Anyway, where was I… Mdina!

Okay, so Mdina is probably my favourite city in all of Malta and one spot you can’t miss for a day trip. It’s around a 25-minute drive from Valletta and totally easy to visit by car, taxi or tour depending on what you’d like.

Once you’ve headed through the iconic Mdina Gate, be sure to visit the iconic cathedral that overlooks the whole city. It’s stunning and the Baroque architecture dates back years!

That being said, if you fancy going back further in history, get yourself over to Domus Romana; a Roman house that was built around two thousand years ago! It’s a relatively small museum which means it’s a perfect 30-minute visit.

Oh, and don’t forget to grab some of the world-renowned Mdina Glass. It’s so beautiful and you’ll find it all over the city.

Getting hungry? Get yourself over to Grotto Tavern, their gnocchi is so delicious and the restaurant is so unique within a grotto itself.

Day four: Western coastline and beaches

After three days of city-living, it’s time to take in some more of that gorgeous coastline of Malta. So, pack your swimming gear, slap on that sunblock and get ready for a snooze on the sand.

But first, head over to the Blue Grotto, which’s around a 25-minute drive from Valletta (and 15-minutes from Mdina). Once here, you’ll need to get yourself on one of the small boats that’ll whisk you right within the Blue Grotto itself. That being said, if you’re not fancying the boat ride, head to the ‘panorama’ viewing area that’s perfect at sunset.

The views are stunning.

Afterwards, for a little time in the surf, head over to Golden Bay that’s north of the Blue Grotto. It’s a popular spot for sun-seekers and the kind of place that’s great for a morning dip (or evening stroll).

The views are stunning.

Afterwards, for a little time in the surf, head over to Golden Bay that’s north of the Blue Grotto. It’s a popular spot for sun-seekers and the kind of place that’s great for a morning dip (or evening stroll).

If it’s a dip you’re after, pop over to St. Peter’s Pool that’s on the coastline near Marsaxlokk. Here, you’ll get to have a little paddle in the gorgeous Mediterranean waters and bask in those views across southern Malta. Just be sure to watch out for choppy waters and only go for a swim if it’s safe to do so.

Now, we found it best to rent a car for coastal days. Though, if you don’t drive, fret not; there are oodles of different touring companies that you can book and include on your itinerary to visit Malta. 

 

Day five: Hiking around near Popeye Village

 

It’s not every day that you can say you’ve rambled across an island, but it’s quite achievable in Malta, especially from Għadira Bay to Popeye Village.

After a morning dip at Għadira, pop on your hiking shoes and head off for a ramble around the area.

The walk itself won’t take you long at all (though, you can take in some detours). We checked out the Red Tower that’s just shy of the bay itself (around a 40-minute hike).  It dates back to 1649 and is lovely to see, especially for views.

After heading to the west coast, get yourself over to the totally quaint and picturesque Popeye Village. It’s the historic film set for Popeye’s film that was shot back in the 1980s.

It’s well worth a gander for an hour or so and totally worth including on your itinerary to visit Malta; even if you haven’t seen the film.

Finally, for a great view of Popeye Village, head along the coastline road opposite the bay. The views across the cove is gorgeous from here and you’ll get a great view of Popeye Village itself. 

 

Day 6: Gozo

Just shy of the northern shores of Malta, Gozo is a smaller island that’s totally worth the short ferry ride to explore! In fact, it’s a perfect day trip when visiting Malta.

 

Departing from Cirkewwa, you’ll get across to Mgarr Harbour in no time at all. From here, you’ll get to explore all across Gozo and take in some key spots along the way!

One spot you have to visit is Il-Madonna ta’ Pinu, a basilica and shrine that’s as beautiful as they come. Although the basilica isn’t as old as some other sites across Malta and Gozo, it’s still just as iconic.

 

Afterwards, pull out your swimming gear and drive over to the Blue Hole for a dip! It’s a natural swimming pool that sits just shy of the collapsed Azure Window and is well worth seeing as you follow our itinerary to visit Malta.

 

Oh, and don’t forget to grab a bite at The Boathouse in Xlendi Bay.

 

This is the kinda spot that’ll satisfy any seafood craving; especially with their mouth-watering fresh lobster!!!

 

Day 7: Mosta

 

Before departing Malta, there’s one final (and totally lovely) spot to visit. Mosta!

Only around 20-minutes from central Valletta, Mosta is perfect to see on your final day along your itinerary to visit Malta. Even if you’ve only got a few hours before your flight, be sure to take a gander.

Now, one of the things that make this city so special is the Rotunda of Mosta; a massive basilica that’s actually based on the Pantheon in Italy.

Once you arrive, you’ll soon see why it’s such a special spot, especially with it housing one of the largest, unsupported domes in the whole world!

If you’ve still got time, take a wander over to the Ta’ Bistra Catacombs that’s just shy of the city centre. You’ll get to see a heap of historic catacombs that are pretty unique to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

14 Best Things To Do In Jerusalem

Depending on who you speak to, you’ll get lots of different explanations as to why Jerusalem is so important, who the city belongs to and even what the most important place in the city is. One thing everyone can agree on though is that Jerusalem is one of the oldest and most important religious cities in the world.

Jerusalem has a history that spans across millennia, a lot of which is there to explore and experience in the city, making it not just an important spot if you’re religious but also if you have even the slightest interest in history.

One of the biggest surprises of visiting though was definitely seeing how the city’s varied history brought together three distinctly different religions and how the city is important to each one. Typically religious sites in most other places across the world tend to be more important to just one religion, not several all at once and especially so not with how important and highly revered the city is to each religion.

 

Then there’s how beautiful it is too! In some ways, it feels like walking back in time with buildings here that are thousands of years old – except, of course, updated and preserved for modern times.

Suffice to say, a visit to the city is one that you absolutely have to add to your travel plans. Oh, and while you’re here, I’d recommend getting a guide.  You can easily explore without one but there’s so much detail to the city (for instance, the Via Dolorosa below) that you might perhaps otherwise miss if you just wanted around for the first time without know where you’re going to.

Rather than carrying on about how amazing the Jerusalem is, let me show you exactly what I mean, as well as the very best things to do in Jerusalem when you visit.

1.) Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the holiest site in the world for Christians and is reported to be built on the place that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the holiest site in the world for Christians and is reported to be built on the place that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

The building as it stands was built and destroyed several times over thousands of years with what exists now being a rather huge and impressive church.

Given its huge significance, be prepared to queue here if you want to see most of the main sights in the church with some queues lasting hours – especially so the queue to see Jesus’s tomb where he resurrected from.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is also the most important and final spot on from the Via Dolorosa pilgrimage (which I’ll explain further below).

2.) The Western Wall or The Wailing Wall

The Western Wall is actually what’s left of an ancient temple of Jerusalem and is a hugely hallowed site for people of the Jewish faith, Christians and Muslims. The wall was first constructed around 19BCE and is easily one of the oldest places to visit in Jerusalem.

When you visit, there are separate sections for men and women – with men having to cover their heads; women don’t have the same requirement though they need to cover their shoulders and legs.

There’s a whole etiquette to visiting which, while not enforced (e.g. taking a few steps away from the wall, walking backwards so you don’t turn your back to it) is greatly appreciated as this is an important and much-revered site in Jerusalem (having a guide here was invaluable because the knowledge and details provided here really helps you understand why the Western Wall is so important to so many people).

3.) The Temple Mount or Haram esh-Sharif

Haram esh-Sharif is considered to be one of the holiest sites in Jerusalem – revered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims for multiple reasons. I’d attempt to go into each one but I feel like Wikipedia might best serve this purpose as it’s far too long and too detailed to get into here.

It is worth noting that this is one of the harder places to visit in Jerusalem due to its huge importance, making it reserved more for prayer than anything else.

In modern times (i.e. these days), the stunning Dome of the Rock stands proudly on this site and is the most iconic landmark in the city. The central dome of this church glitters with gold and the colorful tiled exterior walls are absolutely beautiful. 

4.) Dome of the Rock

As mentioned before, the Dome of the Rock is actually on the Temple Mount and is an intricately designed Islamic shrine, which – in addition to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

If you want to visit, be prepared to queue as admission is only allowed in at certain times (it’s used otherwise for religious purposes) and as such, be prepared to set aside a fair bit of time to explore it properly.

5.) Armenian Quarter

Jerusalem has played host to a large Armenian community for many years and this quarter is packed full of charming ancient architecture and historical buildings.

Armenians also know quite a thing or two about pottery and ceramic works so this is a great spot to visit to grab yourself a souvenir. (By the way, there are 4 quarters in total in Jerusalem – the Armenian quarter, the Christian quarter, The Jewish quarter and the Muslim quarter).

The center of the Armenian Quarter is located on the Armenian Patriarchate Road and spreads outwards to include the churches of St. James and St. Mark. This is a fantastic part of the city that is often explored less than the more well-known sites.

6.) Via Dolorosa

 

Another hugely important site for those of the Christians the world over, the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Sorrow is reported to follow the route that Jesus Christ took when carrying the cross to Golgotha. It follows all the 14 stations of the Cross and when you’re here, you can follow this same route, ergo why this is a hugely important site for Christian pilgrims.

On Fridays, you can actually follow a procession that is led by Franciscan monks through the Via Dolorosa. If you’re there on any other day (or to make the most of this route), it is worth having a guide who can point out each station as you go along.

7.) Christian Quarter

Situated north of the Jaffa Gate and centered around the impressive Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Christian Quarter is an absolute must.

Within the confines of this quarter is a swath of beautiful architecture from various ages, and a myriad of bustling Souks, markets, and pleasant cafes. Notable sites include the Ethiopian Monastery, the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Protestant Christ Church.

8.) The Tower of David

This complex actually has no connection to King David and is also known as the Citadel. Built in 24 BC, this ancient structure has stood proudly for thousands of years and was erected by the notorious King Herod.

Within this structure is the interesting Tower of David Museum that displays the history of the city and its evolution.

It is also possible to climb to the rooftop of the citadel for fantastic views of Jerusalem across to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. (Highly recommend it, it’s one of the best views of the city and really helps you get a sense of where everything is.)

9.) Muslim Quarter

If you are looking for a place to shop and experience local life, the Muslim quarter is one of the best places to visit. It’s perhaps the busiest of all the quarters with its bustling markets, busy restaurants and refreshing juice spots to cool off in the heat (it was sooooooo hot when we visited).

Starting at Damascus gate, the Muslim quarter is bursting with activity and is a fantastic place to find a bargain, haggle with the locals or visit the historic Pool of Bethesda.

10.) The Cardo

I was so fascinated and excited about this one as I’d just a few months before, seen the oldest mosaic map in the world (in Jordan) which referred to this spot.

The Cardo essentially was like this long as grand walkway with Roman columns adorning the path and a market bustling all around. The map in Jordan (the Madaba map) even showed the Cardo with the columns it would have had back then.

While you’re there, to get a sense of what this once bustling part of the city looked like, keep an eye out for the mural depicting the old city of Jerusalem.

11.) Jewish Quarter

The Jewish quarter is where you’ll find some of the most important spots to visit in the city e.g. Western Wall and the Cardo, amongst others.

Now while you might not necessarily notice when you switch from one quarter to another here, you do notice a big difference in how the quarters are organized. The Jewish quarter being, perhaps with the exception of the Armenian quarter (and the main sight in it – the Western Wall) being fairly quiet compared to say the busier Muslim and Christian quarters.

If you’re looking for a break from the crowds, this is easily one of the best parts of the city to explore.

12.) Mount Zion

Another hugely significant religious site, Mount Zion is the place where Christ held the Last Supper and where the Virgin Mary lived during the later years of her life. For the Jewish community, this is also the place of King David’s Tomb.

Located on this hill today is a variety of stunning shrines and churches; furthermore, you can also see the expanse of the city on a clear day.

13.) Kidron Valley

Located between Mount Zion and Mount of Olives; this is one of the most ancient parts of Jerusalem. This is the area that both Muslims and Jews believe that the Last Judgment will take place.

Archaeological excavations have found structures dating back as far as 4000 years old and various tunnels and temples are open to exploring such as Warren’s Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the Pool of Siloam.

14.) Jaffa Gate

This ancient gate used to be one of the 7 gates into Jerusalem and is quite the architectural masterpiece to behold. It was built in the 1500s and was done in an L-shape as a defensive measure to help slow down attackers.

It’s easily one of the best things to do in Jerusalem you want to get a sense of what it looked like centuries ago and can be done either as you enter Jerusalem or indeed, as you leave.

10 Crucial Benefits of Goal Setting

The benefits of goal setting are tangible and significant.   If you can successfully set and achieve your personal and business goals you will experience many benefits and improvements.  Setting goals gives you greater clarity on your future, increases focus, triggers new behaviours, guides your actions and gives you a clear purpose in life.  Goals provide direction and a clear focus on what is most important in your life.

Setting goals transforms how you invest your time, energy and focus and provides motivation to take action on achieving your goals.  Having goals provides clarity on your vision and ensures that vision is aligned with your daily goal achievement activities.  The benefit of goal setting means you have a greater focus on where to invest your time and energy each day.

Setting goals that are specific and measurable is beneficial as it gives you a clear path and plan to make progress on your goals every day.  This intentionality ensures you achieve a sense of personal satisfaction, momentum and motivation every day.

In this article I’m going to share the importance of goal setting and 10 benefits of goal setting.

The Importance of Goal Setting

Setting goals gives you a long-term vision to work towards and short-term targets to focus on each day.  Goals create the framework to organise your time, energy and focus each day.  Setting goals helps you stay motivated and excited and guides your daily action plan so it always aligns with achieving your goals.

The process of setting goals is important because it helps to clarify what’s truly important to you, and gives you a clear path and plan to pursue those goals.  In addition to improving your daily performance, people who set goals are more productive, more creative, have more confidence and are less stressed.

Effective goal setting gives you clarity on what you want to achieve in life and gives you a proven framework for taking action to achieve those goals in a focused, effective and decisive way.  Understanding the benefits of goal setting improves your ability to achieve your goals.

Goal setting success starts with having specific, measurable goals with a deadline.  These goals are more effective in improving performance than goals that don’t have a number attached or a deadline to achieve the goal in.  Choosing an effective goal that is specific and measurable means you’re committed to actually achieving the goal.  Read more with my complete guide to goal setting.

Benefits of goal setting

Here are 10 benefits of goal setting.

1. Direction

Goals give you a direction, purpose and destination to reach.  Having a clear, exciting goal inspires you to take action.  Goals provide a direction and purpose and a clear destination to reach.  Having clear direction gives you a sense of purpose in life and a specific focus each day to organise your time, energy and actions.

Goals gives you a clearer focus to help you plan better, make better decisions and help you manage your time effectively.

2. Greater productivity 

Goals provide specific measurements and achievements to work towards each day, which increases productivity.  With goals you get to see the measurable progress you’re actually making.

Having monthly, quarterly and annual goals gives you a target to shoot for and a measuring stick to track your progress daily, weekly and monthly.  Read more about setting measurable goals.

3. Improved prioritisation   

Goals give you emotional and intellectual engagement on the outcome of your goals, ensuring you are committed to take daily action.  Having specific, measurable goals guides your action steps every day.  Goals help you clarify where you are now and where you want to be in the future.  Goals help you visualise the future you want, and provide the framework for achieving your goals.  Read more about how to achieve your goals.

4. Increased focus

Goals give you a daily focus which helps you achieve better and faster results.  Without clarity on your goals it’s difficult to stay focused.  Goals provide daily motivation to ensure you stay focused and take action every day to achieve the things that matter most to you.

Having goals gives you a clear plan and path to follow every day, which eliminates distraction, overwhelm and procrastination.  Read more about how to stay focused.

5. Greater clarity 

Goals give you clarity on what’s most important to you on life.  Without goals you will waste time on countless activities that don’t move you forward in life.  Having goals triggers an increased level of clarity and motivation to help you make progress in your life every day.  Effective goal setting gives you control of your future and makes it easier to capture bigger opportunities.  Goals enable you to prioritise your time and energy.  Read more about how to prioritise.

6. Improved accountability

Goals give you greater accountability.  Having goals ensures you are crystal clear on what you want to achieve and how important achieving that goal is.  Goals help you visualise yourself in the future having achieved your goals, and give you the inspiration to take action every day.

This emotional engagement with achieving your goals helps you stay accountable through daily actions.  Read more about the benefits of working with an accountability coach.

7. Better decision making  

Goals help create better boundaries around your time, energy and focus, which improves decision making.  Having goals gives you a clear framework to manage your time and energy.

When opportunities come up, having clear goals, allows you to make decisions about whether to take action or not.  Goals get you clear on your purpose and ensure your daily actions align with your goals.

8. Control over your future

Goals help you take control over your future.  Without goals you lack direction and give the power to other people to choose how you should spend your time and what you should focus on.  Having goals gives you direction and motivation to take action to achieve your goals.

Goals help you take control over the future you want for yourself, which ensures you make better decisions in the present.

9. Increased motivation

Goals increase excitement and inspiration.  Having goals gives you that added bit of motivation you may need when you don’t feel motivated or experience some setbacks.

When your goals are exciting you’ll be motivated to take action, even when you don’t feel like it, because you know the outcome of reaching your goal will be so transformational.  Read more about how to get motivated.

10. Greater inspiration

Goals which are exciting and motivating inspire you to take action every day.  Measurable goals give you a framework to see the progress you’re making every day towards achieving your goals.  Without clear measurements you won’t have a clear destination or know when you’ve reached it.

Making progress on your goals builds momentum, motivation and excitement.  When you see how far you’ve come towards your goal achievement, you’re even more motivated to carry on.

Summing Up

Setting goals can transform your life.  The simple act of setting goals that are specific and measurable can transform your habits, your mindset, your confidence and your daily actions.  The benefits of goal setting are endless.

Goals provide direction and purpose.  Having goals trigger higher performance, greater productivity, greater creativity and greater focus.  Set a goal today and see how far you can go.

 

If you use these 5 phrases, you aren’t as empathetic as you think

Are you accidentally a dismissive listener?

Dismissive listening is the opposite of empathetic listening. It says “I want to fix you” or “I want to fix your problem” instead of “I hear you, what do you need?” While empathetic listeners are able to determine what a conversation partner wants or needs, dismissive listeners tend to be less charismatic in conversation and can be seriously holding back their relationships by leaning on inefficient (and generally less empathetic!) listening skills. As a result, they tend to be less effective leaders, mentors, parents and friends.

The good news: Dismissive listening isn’t a personality, it’s a practice. It can be corrected. The first step is diagnosing the situation. If you use any of these phrases, you may be engaging in dismissive listening. Keep reading to determine how you’re leading conversations down the wrong road — and what to say instead.

It’s worth noting that these critiques don’t apply to conversations that open with someone asking for advice or feedback. Instead, they apply to more subtle, open-ended conversations where empathetic listening is required.

1. “Aww! Don’t be upset!”

If someone comes to you when they’re upset about something — from missing out on promotion to experiencing a difficult life event — countering by telling them not to experience their feelings is reductive and dismissive. While you’re a kind person and want to see them happy again as soon as possible, asking them to simply not be upset may make them feel guilty for bringing it up or feel like their emotional experience isn’t valid.

What to say instead: I’m listening. That sounds hard.

This phrase reconfirms that you were a safe person to have this conversation with and validates their feelings. It also allows them the space to lead how the conversation progresses.

2. “What if you try this?”

Most of the time, people are approaching you with a conversation — especially a conversation about a problem at work or at home — to vent and have their experience validated. You’re a nice person and you want to help, but leading with unsolicited advice focuses the conversation on fixing the problem from your perspective instead of on how the problem is affecting your conversation partner. That’s dismissive of their experience and can lead them to feel frustrated and not heard.

What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?

Saying this allows you to take action and offer help without inserting your own solutions or opinions into space where someone hasn’t asked for them. If they want help, they’ll tell you how you can engage. Or, they’ll tell you they just needed you to listen.

3. “Oh! You should read/listen to this…”

Similar to the above, this well-intentioned phrase offers unsolicited advice — and shallow advice, at that. If someone is approaching you with a difficult experience — from a layoff to getting into a serious fight with a friend — they likely know where they can go to get advice. We all have Google on hand. Unless they ask, don’t offer those options up. It’s a bit deflective and insinuates their experience can be reduced to a problem that can be solved via educational podcast or inspirational memoir.

What to say instead: I want to help. How can I show up for you moving forward?

Instead, focus on their experiences and how they see you fitting into the larger conversation, if at all. Chances are, they just wanted to vent or wanted you to offer a real piece of wisdom. They’ll let you know!

4. “I totally get it. One time…”

While sometimes you really will get what your conversation partner is experiencing, most of the time, you won’t. We all live individual lives, complicated by our personal experiences, identity dimensions and personalities. While this phrase feels empathetic when you’re saying it, it may feel reductive or just plain wrong to the person on the other side. It also centers your experience over theirs. It’s best to proceed with this route only if you’re asked for similar situations or what you learned from them.

What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate?

Instead of assuming you understand what they’re experiencing, repeat back to them your impression of the situation. It centers them, reinforces that you’re listening and helps them progress the conversation in the direction they’d like it to go.

5. “You’ll be fine!”

If someone comes to you with a problem or difficult situation, telling them that it will all work out isn’t just invalidating, it’s not very helpful, either. You’re a nice person and you want to be encouraging and optimistic, but these words reduce the complicated experience someone might have and also deflects the conversation instead of allowing them space to talk through those emotions. This kills your credibility as a listener.

For example, telling a direct report that’s anxious for a presentation that they’ll be “totally fine!” is likely to kill their confidence coming to you for encouragement in the future. Similarly, telling a friend who just got laid off that they’ll be “totally fine because they’re so talented!” makes them unlikely to come to you with complicated, hard situations in the future.

What to say instead: It sounds like you’re saying… Is that accurate? How do you think it will impact you moving forward? How can I show up for you?

To avoid being reductive, reconfirm with someone how you think they’re feeling and how the experience is impacting them. Then, ask how you can help. This centers their experience without reducing it, shows interest in how they foresee the experience continuing to impact them and allows you to expertly diagnose what they’re expecting from the conversation.

MY ALL – Mariah Carey

Honestly one of the most brilliant and expressive songs I’ve ever heard. Her voice is absolutely mesmerizing, sultry, husky, sensual but also powerful, you can feel that she’s truly yearning for her lost love.

You really have to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, ‘I’m proud of what I am and who I am, and I’m just going to be myself.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

 

LYRICS: Mariah Carey MY ALL

I am thinking of you
In my sleepless solitude tonight
If it’s wrong to love you
Then my heart just won’t let me be right
‘Cause I’ve drowned in you
And I won’t pull through
Without you by my side

I’d give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I’d risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
‘Cause I can’t go on
Living in the memory of our song
I’d give my all for your love tonight

Baby can you feel me
Imagining I’m looking in your eyes
I can see you clearly
Vividly emblazoned in my mind
And yet you’re so far
Like a distant star
I’m wishing on tonight
I’d give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I’d risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
‘Cause I can’t go on

Living in the memory of our song
I’d give my all for your love tonight
I’d give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I’d risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
‘Cause I can’t go on
Living in the memory of our song
I’d give my all for your love tonight
(I’d) give my all for your love
Tonight

 

The story behind Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ shows us how to make projects our own

Aretha Franklin, the great American singer who became a defining voice of the 20th century and the acclaimed Queen of Soul, died at her home in Detroit on Thursday from pancreatic cancer, her publicist said. She was 76.

“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on,” Franklin’s family said in a statement.

A preacher’s daughter, Franklin began her career as a teenager in the 1950s, and her inimitable voice allowed her to hop between gospel, R&B, classical and jazz genres with grace. She went on to win 18 Grammy Awards, sell more than 75 million records in her life, and become one of the best-selling selling artists of all time. But out of all the songs she recorded, “Respect,” her demand for dignity, became her signature song that is still played in living rooms and at political protests today. The story of how Franklin took a song originally written and released by Otis Redding and made it her own can be career inspiration for us all.

How Franklin made “Respect” her own

In Redding’s version, “Respect” is about a man pleading with a woman to give him respect in exchange for what he can provide for her. Redding sang: “Hey little girl, you’re sweeter than honey / And I’m about to give you all of my money / But all I want you to do / Is just give it, give it / Respect when I come home … ”

When Franklin recorded “Respect” on Valentine’s Day in 1967, she kept most of the original lyrics but transformed the meaning of the song with the addition of a bridge and the call-and-response of her sisters. Under Franklin’s version, “Respect” became more than a domestic dispute. It became an empowering feminist anthem for women to be treated equally at home and at work.

“Oooh, your kisses,” Franklin sang, “Sweeter than honey / And guess what? / So is my money.” In her most memorable addition, Franklin spelled out her demand for parity for emphasis in the bridge: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/ Find out what it means to me /R-E-S-P-E-C-T / Take care, TCB [take of business].”

 

 

When Franklin’s version hit the airwaves, it became a massive hit, spending two weeks as the No. 1 song in America in 1967. It became a rallying cry for women’s rights and the civil rights movement. Today, it has been referenced and sampled in dozens of feature films. We all want R-E-S-P-E-C-T. “I think that hook line is something we all relate to,” Franklin told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s something we all appreciate and expect.”

It ranks No. 4 on “Songs of the Century,” a 1999 project by the National Endowment for the Arts. “Respect” is now remembered for being Franklin’s more than Redding’s. Even Redding acknowledges this. When he played it himself at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, he said, “This next song is a song that a girl took away from me!”

I Just Called To Say I Love You – Piano cover

I have a love song in my heart and its lyrics are a serenade dedicated to you.  

” I Just Called To Say I Love You” 

====================================================================

Title: I Just Called To Say I Love You

DedicatedYou are the most beautiful love song, the most beautiful music ever created, the most beautiful person in this world.

Lyrics:

I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder

No New Year’s Day to celebrate
No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away
No first of spring, no song to sing
In fact here’s just another ordinary day

No April rain
No flowers bloom
No wedding Saturday within the month of June
But what it is, is something true
Made up of these three words that I must say to you

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

No summer’s high
No warm July
No harvest moon to light one tender August night
No autumn breeze
No falling leaves
Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies

No Libra sun
No Halloween
No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring
But what it is, though old so new
To fill your heart like no three words could ever do

I just called to say I love you
I just called to say how much I care, I do
I just called to say I love you
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

Can we sing it one more time please
I just called to say I love you (I just called to say, I just called to say I love you)
I just called to say how much I care, I do (I just called to say, I just called to say I do)
I just called to say I love you (I just called to say, I just called to say I love you)
And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart, I love you from the bottom of my heart

 

 

 

Along The Ocean Melody –

Mihran Kalaydjian and Ziad Rabie – Along the Ocean

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

================================================================

Music Arrangements:

Edward Khoury

Record Labels:

Paramount Studios

=======================================================

Honor Guests:

Smooth Saxophone Player Ziad Rabie

Violinist: Ramzi Aburedwan

=======================================================

 

Look along the beaches

We have footprints

The sea has not even wiped

See why I say

Respecting my love

 

Send no respect for this

Forget our love

That heart that is mine

Finding the bills

Fit in another heart

You are my heart

No one likes it

Only you call

What do the tracks do?

 

Walk again

Untouched tracks

Love the sea beach

Only sensing for me

Traces of what is waiting

 

You are my heart

Someone who does not like

Only you call

What do the tracks do?

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“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”