ZooFit 101- Fundamentals of Conservation (Part 2)

We’ve come to the end of ZooFit 101. In this last class on the Fundamentals of Conservation, we see more of how the fundamentals for our health and well-being are truly the foundation to ensuring a healthy planet. Let’s do our part to take care of ourselves and the planet as we find these conservation connections in all that we do.

Big Idea #10- Fundamentals of Conservation- Sleep

If eating and moving are the pillars of health, then sleeping is the foundation upon which these fundamentals stand. There have been more than 17,000 studies confirming the benefits of sleep. It enhances your memory and creativity. Getting enough sleep is known to protect us from cancer and even dementia. It helps keep you slim and motivated to knock out our goals. And it increases our happiness while decreasing anxiety. 

This is a wonder drug, and it’s absolutely free. If you want the absolute biggest bang for your buck in terms of the most effective, most efficient, least effort and potentially biggest impact, improve your sleep.

However, there are so many nay-sayers against prioritizing sleep. The fact of the matter is, the more sleep deprived you are, the less you know how sleep deprived you are. And remember, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” You are more likely to be struck by lightning than to be a person who can get by with less than 6 hours of sleep.

Sleep is the queen of fundamentals, and the goddess of what I call Hummingbird actions.

Sleeping With Conservation in Mind

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

How on earth can getting enough sleep save the planet?

That’s a super fun question. Remember all my talks on the Hummingbird?

These small actions have a ripple effect and spread out into all areas of your life. If sleep is the foundation of fundamentals, then it is also the support for the fundamentals of conservation. Just improving your sleep by one hour is enough to boost your mood, willpower, energy, and focus exponentially. This ripples into our conservation action, as well. But it starts with small actions. 

Photo by Benjamin Wong

Our day starts the night before. If you want to have an excellent day filled with positive energy, get your sleep right and in order. Same goes for conservation actions. If you want to tackle big conservation projects or challenges, start with basics and, well, fundamentals.

Some of the best tips for helping you sleep well at night also help with conservation efforts:

  • Turn off electronics at least one hour before going to bed
  • Create a sleeping environment that is quiet, cool, and dark. No electronics with bright glaring lights and keep your television/computer out of the bedroom.
  • Turn down the heat to make your home more conducive to sleeping well
  • Stop eating as close to 3 hours before you go to bed as possible.
Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

But these suggestions are so infinitesimally small, you might say? How can these be the cornerstone to conservation?

Like the hummingbird, we start small, doing what we can. Through positive reinforcement, and improving our behavior in small steps, we are motivated to do and be more. And with plenty of sleep, we have the energy, focus, and willpower to achieve it all. We are inspired by our sleep habit to do other small acts to protect our health and the environment. And that is what ZooFit is all about.

Big Idea #11- Focus on Conservation

Photo by Kyran Alderworth

For the longest time, I could not wrap my brain around meditation. Even with all the wisdom Brian shared about it in Optimize, my first year as a coach, I did not get it. Optimize tried to help me understand, with dozens of books and nuggets of wisdom from masters on meditation and focus. I was a lost sheep.

It wasn’t until midway through my second year as a coach that I finally understood the true concept. But it wasn’t Optimize that taught me what I needed to hear. It was more ZooFit than anything I ever experienced. I learned how to meditate by watching a station-training session with a meerkat.

Station Training Our Brain

Photo by Wayne Godfrey

If you aren’t familiar with training concepts, let me help explain. When working with multiple animals in the same space, it can be a little (*a lot*) chaotic. Many trainers deal with this chaos by training the animals to go to a specific spot where they receive reinforcement. This is known as a station. 

However, most animals don’t stay on their station. It’s what animals do. They fidget and wander off. And that’s perfectly okay. It’s actually somewhat expected of them. All the trainer has to do is ask the animal to return to its station, and it will get reinforced. The animal wanders again, the trainer points them back to their spot, and they get another treat. But the more station-training is practiced, the better the animal gets at returning. They hold still for just a little while longer. Or they return just a little bit quicker.

As I watched a session on this training with meerkats, I marveled at the patience and consistency of the trainer. And I marveled at the meerkats getting just a little bit better at staying on their spot for slightly longer durations of time. Then it hit me. OMG! This is exactly how my brain acts when I’m trying to meditate.

Photo by Melissa Keizer

It was another moment where lightning had struck my brain. Meditation is station-training for the brain. When the mind wanders, as minds tend to do when you are meditating, all I have to do is ask it to return to its station. Why was this so hard for me to grasp beforehand? It’s so simple!

Focus on Fundamentals 

Most people have the same assumption of meditation as I did. We are teaching our brain to think of nothing. Focus on one thing and don’t let your mind wander. 

But that’s not the case at all. Meditation is training to notice when your brain wanders and to bring it back to focus quicker.  You are never going to get your brain to stop thinking. You can’t. Thinking is what brains do! I can no more expect my brain to stop thinking any more than I can expect a tiny prey animal like a meerkat to stay still for an entire training session. Fidgeting is kind of what meerkats do.

But the more we practice, just like with animals and station training, the better we get. The longer we can focus on the task at hand, and the quicker we can return our focus when we catch it wandering. It takes practice, and that is what meditation is for. Practice on focusing our minds and bringing them back to center when it’s important.

For animal care staff, this is life-altering. How many times did I return to work because I wanted to be sure I locked the barn door? Obsessive lock-checking is a zookeeper’s curse. But imagine not having to double-check, or you know, quadruple check, because you were fully present when you closed up the gates? If you aren’t a zookeeper, you may not completely understand, but it’s potentially a game-changer for this field.

Photo by Beth MacDonald

Learning this one fundamental could save hours throughout the week, and give peace of mind to those riddled with anxiety. Enter a room and remember why you went there. This isn’t an age-related issue, it’s a focusing and mental clarity issue. Meditation can help us all.

Focus on Conservation

Photo by Joshua J Cotten

I admit, I don’t have a direct link to conservation with this fundamental (yet). The connection to animal training makes it powerful enough to join the ZooFit 101 class. But practicing meditation can be a powerful tool to help us think outside the box and discover ways to solve challenges and problems our world is facing.

Just as we need to strengthen our muscles with exercise, so we need to strengthen our mind with meditation. It’s really as easy as finding a comfortable spot, close our eyes, breathe in through our nose, deep into our belly, and exhale through our nose slightly longer than our inhale. And when our mind wanders like a meerkat, just bring it back to station. Repeat. And unleash the inner heroine within.

Fundamentals of Conservation 

Photo by Geran de Klerk

It’s a long class, but that is the essentials of ZooFit 101. A hero’s guide to changing behavior through the fundamentals of conservation.

It starts by loving yourself, what we call Love 0.0. WOOP your ideas and goals out– make a Wish, figure out why it’s important (Outcome), determine what obstacles you will face, and devise a plan of action. Get good at turning parasites into pearls by practicing with intentional little irritants. And enjoy some salty hero bars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Become the hero the world needs by making behavior change easy, so easy we cannot fail. Delete habits that don’t serve us by switching to Healthy Alternative Behaviors. And when things go wrong (which they will), focus on what we can learn from the situation so we can always celebrate– win or learn.

And finally, let’s figure out why these behaviors are important by learning the fundamentals of conservation. Eating green for our health and the health of the planet. Train our bodies to override our desire to stop moving by making fitness a fun game. Sleep like a hummingbird conservation boss to ripple out for huge actions. And hit the focus gym by station-training your brain.

What idea sticks out the most to you as something you can start incorporating to change your life for the better, so you can change the world?

Keep rocking. Eat clean, live green, train positive. And keep connecting to the earth in a healthy and positive way.

One Response

  1. Sleep! So important! It’s how we can show up at our best for ourselves and the planet.

    Even though the acts we take are small it feel great to be on the side of making a difference instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

    Meditation has really changed my life but I’m like you I don’t see a more direction connection with it and conservation besides improving us so we can show up how we want for the planet.

    Thank you!

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