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11.19.2012
Intelligence for Life from John Tesh—How He Cured His Insomnia…Got in Shape…and Discovered His True Calling

Ten years ago, I launched Intelligence for Your Life, a radio program offering effective strategies for living. When my staff and I interview experts and gather ideas for the show, I often learn things that I use in my own life.

Here, six life lessons from Intelligence for Your Life that have dramatically improved my life…

HEALTH AND FITNESS                                                                                                             

Best health life lesson: You can learn to sleep better, then sleep your way to better health.

Sleep deprivation is one of America’s most widespread—and most overlooked—health problems. Insufficient sleep doesn’t just cause drowsiness and diminished memory, it also has been linked to heart disease, weakened immunity, weight gain and diabetes.

Sleeping pills are not the answer—there’s evidence that they bring health risks of their own. Cutting down on alcohol consumption and caffeine in the evening is just a start. Michael J. Breus, PhD, a clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, shared some sleep strategies with Intelligence for Your Life that have truly helped me fall asleep and stay asleep.

I use blackout drapes in my bedroom to make the room completely dark. I wear earplugs to bed that block out virtually all sound except the high-pitched ring of my alarm clock. The plugs are custom-made by an audiologist to fit my ears perfectly. I stop eating within three hours of bedtime.

I no longer use electronic devices and bright lights within one hour of bedtime. The light emitted by TVs, computer screens, smartphones and high-watt lightbulbs suppresses the brain’s release of the hormone melatonin, making it more difficult to become drowsy and get to sleep.

Another thing that helps me is to write out my to-do list for the following day immediately before bed. Once it’s written down, I don’t worry about it and that helps me drift off to sleep.

When I have particular trouble falling asleep, perhaps because of jet lag, I count backward by threes—100, 97, 94 and so on. This works better than that old standby counting sheep because, unlike simple counting, subtracting three takes just enough mind power to distract us away from sleep-preventing thoughts.

Best exercise life lesson: Aerobic interval training is more effective than pushing hard throughout a workout.

I used to spend at least an hour each day on a treadmill to stay in shape. Now I exercise just 30 minutes a day, and I’m in better shape than ever. My resting heart rate is 48 beats per minute, lower than it was when I was playing sports in school.

The secret is intervals—alternating short bursts of intense exercise with periods of relative relaxation. Rather than run fast the whole time that I’m on the treadmill, I now push myself very hard for two minutes to get my heart up to 145 to 165 beats per minute, then spend one minute relaxing at a slow jog. I repeat this on-and-off process for 30 minutes. This strengthens the heart muscle and burns calories much more effectively than maintaining a steady effort level.

I also learned that reading while on a treadmill or elliptical machine—something I used to do all the time—is not a good idea. People who do this burn 25% to 35% fewer calories and sometimes develop neck problems as well.

Best weight-loss life lesson: Consider the size of your plates, not just your diet. From Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab, I learned that we tend to fill our plates at mealtime, then eat everything on those plates—regardless of the size of our plates. The average American puts 22% more food onto a 12-inch plate than a 10-inch plate, for example—yet feels no more or less full whichever plate size he/she chooses.

My wife, Connie, and I now use salad plates rather than full-sized dinner plates for our meals. Dr. Wansink is right—we eat less without feeling any less full.

We also make sure to dish out the food to our plates before sitting down to eat, as opposed to, say, putting the pot on the table where it’s too easy to help ourselves to seconds.

LIFE AND CAREER                                                                                                                            

Best relationship life lesson: Count to three, and keep listening.

Like a lot of men, my natural inclination when my wife tells me about a problem is to try to solve it. But I learned on Intelligence for Your Life that when wives share their problems with their husbands, they usually are looking for a sympathetic ear, not for their husbands to provide advice.

Now when my wife speaks, I turn off my cell phone and simply listen to what she has to say. When I feel like I should offer input, I silently count to three and keep listening instead. If she wants my advice, she’ll ask for it.

Best job-hunt life lesson: Expect to be evaluated when you don’t realize that you’re being evaluated. My own company has adopted this idea when we hire new employees—we try to evaluate potential employees when they don’t realize they’re being judged.

Thus, it’s crucial for job applicants to behave professionally throughout the job-search process, not just during interviews. Be very pleasant, calm and positive with the receptionist when you arrive for your interview even if you’re feeling distracted and nervous. Many human resources reps now ask receptionists for their opinions of applicants because receptionists see applicants during unguarded moments. Keep an industry publication in your briefcase to read while you wait for interviews to begin—it makes you seem like a productive person who finds efficient uses for downtime.

Clean your car inside and out before driving to interviews. Some employers ask job applicants to park in a particular parking space, then check their cars to make sure that the cars are clean and orderly.

Also, take a critical look at your Facebook and Twitter pages, YouTube postings and any other Internet presence before applying for jobs. Make sure nothing about you that’s available online seems unprofessional.

Best life lesson about finding direction: Ask five people who k
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