Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Sweet Peace #37: Codegas of Confidence

Rainbow Spiral

“In Venice in the Middle Ages there was once a profession for a man called a codega—a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection through the dark streets.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert

Codega: Illuminator of the night. Bringer of light into dark places.

For those of us who are afraid of the dark, finding a codega seems like it would be a miracle, a blessing that would brings us confidence and courage. The monsters who lurk beyond the dark edges would be pushed back and we could walk strongly on through a path of light.

But I didn’t know about codegas until recently, and fear has been a constant companion even when seldom justified. Night, dark waters, strangers, unknown streets, crowds, lonely paths leading through unknown forests. Maybe it came from reading … things always go bad in books … or maybe it was part of my DNA, handed down from days of lions and tigers and bears … or perhaps from an angry family where I always felt alone and unsafe. I wanted a big brother to protect me, however, it’s hard for an only child to have a big brother.

Somewhere during my 20s, with a big brother-husband for protection, I began to recognize fear as my constant companion. Life offered me choices that demanded fear in payment. So, I studied courage; baby-stepped my way toward the bright baubles that lured me. Decades passed in a dance that zig-zagged toward a future that called, fear always pulling me back to a safe place before I struggled forward once again.

Eventually though, years of doing what scared me began to overpower fear. When my husband died fifteen years ago, I grew stronger about making choices in spite of niggling fears. I travelled by myself, lived in Mexico for two years, entered into and exited from relationships that weren't right, and moved often, trying on different situations. Fear was a reminder to examine situations, however, it was no longer calling the shots.

By my 70s, although I was well armed with the courage and confidence to make decisions about my life, there was one dark area that still stubbornly resisted my efforts: rejection related to my creative life: my writing and art. I’ve learned enough about art, and writing, to know that the judgment of it is subjective, with little predictability as to what will catch the public eye or what will become classic over time or fade into oblivion.

And, it shouldn’t matter because I can’t imagine life without writing or art. It’s as fundamental as food. However, both are a means of communication and sending writing or art into the world without someone receiving it, is a form of rejection. I was learning to live with this void … this rejection … imagining myself dying surrounded by a computer full of unseen art and writings and shelves of little books I’ve published for myself.

Available at GratitudeMojo.com

Then I began the Gratitude Mojo journal/workbook with Lynne Snead and things began to change. Lynne, in all ways the co-creator of this work, and Barbara Gaughen-Muller became my codegas, shining their light by reading and responding to the gradually developing workbook, being actively involved in its shaping. Their insights and encouragement shone a light that let me see a brighter path. It was like the three of us were skipping down the yellow brick road.

We’ve been on this path for over a year, and what I now feel sprouting is a confidence, a sudden willingness to risk rejection, to put this work out into the world, without expectations of success or financial reward. I have confidence that this is my best possible work … and what more can the world ask of me?

I am grateful to Lynne and Barbara for being my codegas of light. I also realize that other friends have each added their own light to my journey and, without them, this would have been a long, dark, and scary path.

If you would like to see a light-hearted overview of the Gratitude Mojo Path, click here.

And, all writings about gratitude, self-awareness, and self-appreciation will appear in the new newsletter GratitudeMojo.substack.com ... it's a free newsletter and you're invited to join the conversation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Sweet Peace #36: Tips for more deep sleep

College kid prank: money glued to street

     I’m coming in under the wire on this one. A fun project held me hostage, a nap needed to be napped, and amazon delivered what I hope is a key to better sleep so it just had to be installed. So, it’s now 2-hours before bedtime and time to start taking eyes off the computer, so this is going to be quick.

Deep sleep is important. According to VeryWellMind.com, deep sleep is the third stage of non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep. Deep sleep is also known as slow-wave sleep. This is the stage of sleep where your brain waves are at their slowest. Your heartbeat and breathing also slow down.

More important than its definition is why it’s critical for our health. During this type of sleep, memories are reinforced and body tissues are repaired. This is when our bodies heal. Not getting enough deep sleep is related to several major diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

I’ve been wearing a Fitbit for several years but paid little attention to the sleep metrics until recently when I started tracking deep sleep. Recommendations are that between 13 to 23% of our sleeping time should be deep sleep. So, if you sleep 8 hours per night on average, you should get about 62 minutes of deep sleep. After looking at my numbers, I’m not getting enough, so I went looking for ideas about how to improve my numbers.

Funny how almost everything has the same recommendation: eat healthy, exercise regularly, limit caffeine and alcohol. To be a little more specific: 

Exercise: Try to get 150 minutes of cardio exercise per week (thanks to my Fitbit, I’ve discovered that a brisk walk in the morning gives me more cardio minutes than the same walk in the afternoon). Intense exercise in the late afternoon or evening can actually interfere with sleep.

Caffeine: Avoid for at least 7 hours before bed.

Eat: More fiber and avoid snacking before bed time.

Alcohol: Avoid before bedtime.

Routine: create a relaxing routine 30 - 60 minutes before bedtime, such as a hot shower, gentle yoga, gratitude journaling.

Bed and bedroom: Cool, dark, and comfortable.

Sound: calming nature sounds (pink noise) has been found to increase deep sleep. Soothing music and binaural beats may help.

The American Sleep Association states, “The most important thing that you can do to increase your amount of deep sleep is to allow yourself adequate total sleep time.”

In our over-busy world, I can hear the eyeballs rolling of workers and parents around the world. Here is an article from Forbes that might help:

12 Effective Tips For Better Sleep As A Busy Professional

So that's it ... sleep well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Love Letter to My Life #50: Asking for what I want

Wisdom Moon

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my joy-filled life. In  December, I get to celebrate both my birth and death days on the same day. Joyce Wycoff)

"No matter what your condition in life, 

you can always be grateful."

 -- David Meltzer, Co-founder of Sports 1 Marketing

    The podcast with David Meltzer on Erik Huberman’s “HawkeTalk” was a happenstance. I had miles to go and had run out of my favorite podcast episodes. Meltzer was a sports guy, a rich sports guy, not my normal fount of wisdom, but there I was. Plus, one of my repeating life lessons is that you never know where wisdom and inspiration will show up. Once again it happened; listening to David Meltzer changed my trajectory.

Perhaps I was intrigued by his stated mission: empower OVER 1 billion people to be happy. And also by his focus on gratitude and his primary advice: ask for help. Everyone needs help and, if we believe we live in abundant Universe, there are people in the world who can help us. All we have to do is ask.

Like a lot of us, I grew up in a world that believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness, in schools where asking for help was often called “cheating,” in jobs where asking for help could be seen as not being competent. 

Several years ago, I got to see the other side. I lived with my favorite aunt for two years. She was the person who took in kids who had no place else to go; the one who baked cookies and always had another place at the table for anyone who was hungry. In our final time together though, she had become frail and needed care. Family and friends came from all around to help, to show their love and repay in some way all that she had given them. But, she had a difficult time accepting our help. She needed to be the giver and never realized what a gift she was giving us to be able to take care of her in small repayment of all of her kindness.

It's easy to understand that asking for help is a gift, since it is an implication of trust and respect. However, it takes courage to risk the possibility that the answer might be “no” or that we would be seen as weak or needy.

Jeffrey Davis from Tracking Wonder states, “Social psychology shows people are eager to help—if you know how to ask.”

Davis goes on to explain our reluctance to ask for help, “The mere thought of asking for help can eat away at our ego, undermine our confidence, make us question our abilities, and even paralyze us with anxiety. Yet in modern life—at a time when we are more digitally connected and emotionally detached than ever—the stark reality is that no one can go it alone.

When David Meltzer encouraged his audience to start asking for help, I felt like he was speaking directly to me, pointing out a weakness of mine that needed work. 

So, I made a commitment to practice asking … 365 times!

At first, I thought I would find a way to ask for something every day and then realized that was a bit whacko. But, I liked the number and set forth to figure out how to ask for what I wanted in a way that might elicit an occasional “yes.” Surely, if I asked enough, someone would say, "yes."

Jeffrey Davis had some great tips … until I got to #3 Make it personal. Don’t ask for help over email or text. I almost abandoned the project right there. Getting a “no” or a no response by email is relatively painless. To actually call someone would put a whole lot more skin in the game. Plus, I don’t really know some of the people I want to ask for help.

By this time, I was on #31 of my goal to ask 365 times. While I had received two substantially positive responses, I realized I was approaching this project with an expectation of failure. I was playing safe when this deserved so much more. If I wasn't willing to risk more, why should I expect someone to support me?

This is where I am today and I’m making a commitment to learn more, risk more, be more personal, find a way to be clear in what I’m asking for and know how to craft win-win asks that have a better chance to succeed.

One of the reasons I'm willing to keep going on this project which is definitely outside my comfort zone is my passion for the project I want help with: Gratitude Mojo ... your transformation journey for a better life. For the past 13 months, Lynne Snead and I have been creating a journal/workbook focused on gratitude, self-awareness, and self-appreciation based on ancient wisdom and current neuroscience. We have seen major shifts in our own lives and in the lives of a few friends who have been on the journey with us. 

The deeper we go, the more we find that GRATITUDE is the foundation of everything ... happiness, health, success, relationships ... even huge things like peace, and climate change. What we are grateful for, we protect.

The journal/workbook is in final edit, the website will be done in days, and there is now a newsletter to support people on their journey into gratitude practice, which we believe is as necessary as brushing your teeth ... and almost as easy. However, current neuroscience has revealed that it's not as simple as what is commonly claimed. Noting 2-3 things a day you're grateful for is a lovely start, but there is more and doing the right things for a few minutes a day can make a major difference in the results you see.

So here's my ask #31: Please subscribe to the Gratitude Mojo Newsletter. It's free and will help you deepen your understanding and practice of gratitude. Eventually, you may want to buy the journal/workbook ... subscribing now will provide you with inspiration, research and notices of the upcoming release of the journal/workbook and webinars.

More next month.


7 Keys To Asking For What You Really Want (So You Get It!) by Dr Margie Warrell, Forbes, April 24, 2013

4 Tips to Effectively Ask for Help—and Get a Yes, by Jeffrey Davis, Psychology Today, February 28, 2020

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Sweet Peace #35: Cardio can be fun

Early morning light

(Thanks for joining me on this 52-week journey toward peace which began with sugar and food and now reaches out to every aspect of my path. May it sweeten your own journey. -- Joyce Wycoff)

150 minutes … that seems to be the standard recommendation for the minimum number of minutes of cardio exercise per week. So, what is cardio exercise?

Verywellfit.com provides a simple answer: any exercise that gets your heart rate up. It is, of course, slightly more complicated since it needs to get you into a specific cardio zone of 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate. There’s a ton of internet information to help you figure out your own numbers … or you can depend on Fitbit or other devices that will track your cardio minutes for you. 

I’ve been wearing a Fitbit for about five years and never paid attention to the cardio minutes until recently when I kept hearing the 150 minutes number repeated in several places. So I decided to make it one of the metrics I track. For the month of July, I had 403 cardio minutes … and 152 of those were related to three long walks. Not exactly meeting the recommendation of 675 for four and a half months.

    The same pattern continued into this month and I realized that my normal, two+ mile daily walks were NOT getting me into cardio. If I was going to take the cardio recommendation seriously, I needed a different approach. I could power walk but that would interfere with the pleasure of walking and the joy photography. I immediately ruled out gyms … I hate gyms and most types of weight training and have donated too much money to underused gyms already.

Two things happened that changed everything. First, I discovered Flow Rope … a simple, easy movement of ropes that involves no jumping. (see YouTube instruction) I have a very small apartment, but I can turn on music and do flow rope for 10-15 minutes and most of that will be cardio. Turns out that raising and moving your arms is great for these lesser exercised parts of our bodies and creates more cardio-worthy minutes.

The second discovery came in a side door. I’m a huge fan of Andrew Huberman’s neuroscience podcasts and I’ve heard him talking about the value of getting morning sunshine for the past year. However, after listening to a recent podcast about the value of morning sunshine viewing to sleep quality, I decided to try it. The recommendation is to get 5 minutes of direct morning sun viewing, outside without sunglasses, but not in a way that harms your eyes and best done within the first hour after waking up.

I decided to pair it with a mile and a half early morning walk. After returning home and checking my numbers, I was shocked … 23 of the 30 minutes were cardio. It was a brisk walk but definitely not power walking. The next morning showed similar results. Additionally, my energy level throughout the day improved noticeably.

While I’m only a few days into this new routine, I am amazed at the changes in energy and sleep and plan to continue.


Huberman Lab podcasts are long form, generally averaging 2 hours. I have summarized his latest episode on sleep and will be happy to send you a copy if you send an email request to info@gratitudemojo.com

Flow Ropes can be pricey, but I ordered a regular rope with nice handles from amazon for about $20. You may already have one in your garage. Watch the YouTube for length and basic forms.

If you’re serious about your health, I highly recommend Fitbit, Apple watches, or any other device that helps you track exercise, heart rate, and sleep.

If you’re hesitating because of age, I’m 76. Make allowances for your own health condition.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Sweet Peace #34: Breaking Through

Break on through 

(Thanks for joining me on this 52-week journey toward peace which began with sugar and food and now reaches out to every aspect of my path. 

May it sweeten your own journey. -- Joyce Wycoff)

With the Doors hit in my mind, I wonder what it’s going to take to “break on through to the other side.” On the 34th week of this journey, I can recognize the progress made as well as some of the steps yet to be taken.

For the first time in my long life, sugar isn’t actively in charge of my mind. However, yesterday as I hung out with my 17-year-old granddaughter, we found ourselves in front of a pastry counter featuring a most gorgeous lemon curd tart (as well as many other stunningly beautiful pastries). I felt little other than visual appreciation and joy at the sweetness of the moment. I also knew I was but a choice away from falling back into the gravitational pull of sugar. 

    Processed carbohydrates are infrequent and I should be a dietitian’s delight … except … except my blood sugar is still running slightly elevated: 111 this morning. A bit of googling confirms the thought that age could be a factor. So, what now?

As the rhythm and lyrics of “Break on Through” play on endless repeat in my mind, it makes me wonder if I need to define what the other side is. At this stage of life, it could be death, but since I’m really not in control of that event, it’s not a helpful metric. What makes more sense is how to live the rest of the years in front of me. My body will never again be like my granddaughter’s (actually never was like hers) but it is relatively healthy and energetic, for which I’m extremely grateful.

There are many things left to do and enjoy in the years left … continuing to be healthy is a prime motivator, even if the results cannot be guaranteed. 

So, perhaps I’m back to sweet peace … now defined as mind/body peace. Decades of dieting created an adversarial playing field pitting body against mind in a struggle of deprivation, guilt, and shame. I’ve often thought there was a rebellious teenager deep within me who demanded the right to consume whatever she wanted whenever she wanted without consequences.

Now I believe that my wisdom woman is breaking through, knowing that everything is related and the laws of the universe are always in play. Whatever it is that I am lies within the dance of mind and body, swirling through the uncontrollable Universe around me. While I can’t control my outcome, I can respond to everything that comes my way with as much physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health as possible.

Breaking through to Sweet Peace is a journey of choice.

Simple as 1-2-3

I like simple and felt the need to articulate some guidelines for the journey ahead of me. 

1. Practice gratitude daily

2. Maximize active engagement with the beauty of the world

3. Understand and share my authentic self generously 

Trust the Path

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Sweet Peace #33: One peace lesson is not enough

Beauty Survives

   (Thanks for joining me on this 52-week journey toward peace which began with sugar and food, and now colors every aspect of my path. 

                      May it sweeten your own journey. -- Joyce Wycoff)

   My building is being painted. It is a quadrangle with a central courtyard with my apartment overlooking the courtyard. It’s a peaceful scene with trees, bright flowers and a gazebo where people often gather and I can hear their voices and laughter.

However, we are now in week two of a building painting project and the sounds have gone mechanical. The moving cherry picker growls and back-up shrieks as it takes a painter to the upper story. Something on the ground makes a sound from past years … the repetitive and irritating rhythm of trying to start a car on a cold morning. Over several days of leaning into this continuous grinding, I’ve decided that it must be some machine that controls the flow of paint and that it will never stop starting until this project is done.

Non-mechanical sounds come from the painters, mostly Mexicans speaking Spanish, sharing the details of the job, occasionally laughing, providing human grace notes between the creaking, grinding sounds of machinery.

    I treasure silence and sounds of nature so I awaited this project with impatience and dread, wanting it to be over, wanting it not to interfere with my workflow. Now I seem to be becoming entrained to it, waiting for the rhythms of starting and stopping, watching as parts of the walls become an unbroken, warm beige, appreciating the workmanship of prepping the walls, trimming the bushes and trees, power washing walls which have stood here for over fifty years, housing students and now seniors.

    I am melding into these walls, this space, this place and it's rhythms, becoming a part of the fog that seeps into the mornings and gently rises with the day, and recognizing the perfection and rhythms of this particular dance of life, this particular now. Perhaps that is one lesson of peace, adjusting to what is, understanding our place in the scheme of things.

And then I try to apply this lesson to the war in Ukraine and the whole thing falls apart. What is the lesson of peace there? What is the lesson of peace in a country so divided it's as if we all are speaking different languages? What is the lesson of peace as we destroy the planet we call home? These answers may take more than 52 weeks.