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The Point of Life Isn’t To Go On a Tour of Gas Stations

Woman Pumping Gas --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisHow much money do you need to be happy? Ben Casnocha has pondered perennial existential problem:

“…Just 100 years ago, the ultra wealthy enjoyed privileges average folk could never access: fresh food, medicine, safe childbirth, etc. Today, there are relatively small differences between the rich and the middle class in terms of quality of life. Today, no Americans will die in childbirth. Virtually all can buy good food, can fly anywhere in the world, access all the world’s knowledge and culture with a click of the mouse, and so on.

What “average” people in America share with the super rich like Bill Gates is far more significant than what we don’t share with him. Gates has a bigger house than you or me, but for what really matters, we’re quite similar.

It can be pleasant to be super rich, Ben admits. You fly in private jets or at least first class every time. You’re able to eat expensive food whenever you want, you have aides and servants who will save you time. The problem is, we quickly factor in these material comforts – what psychologists call the “hedonic adaptation.” The private jet doesn’t feel so special the 10th time you’re on it. Rather than marveling at the fact you’re on your own plane, you’re more likely to compare it (oftentimes unfavorably) to other private jets you’ve seen.
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An Easy 12-Step Program to Keep Leaders Healthy

executive-health-work-life-balance-wellbeingCall me hopelessly naïve, but I think it’s possible to run a major corporation and still work less than 15 hours a day.
There is no leadership message more destabilizing than hearing that a chief executive is unexpectedly taking time off because of “fatigue”. Taking a sudden unplanned break is bound to raise doubts about a leader’s ability to manage his or her “work/life balance.”

That phrase “work/life balance” has always annoyed me because it suggests that work and life should be and can be kept separate. They absolutely cannot be isolated from each other for many people, especially most highly successful people.

A better term might be “work/health balance”. This helps leaders focus on the fact that too much time and energy spent on work can be detrimental to one’s health, something almost everyone understands already. If you are a CEO the precarious state of your health, of course, pose a great risk to the whole organization.

Imagine you’re the chief executive on a multi-million dollar compensation package. How might you arrange things to keep yourself healthy while still working 12 or 13 hours a day? Here’s a checklist:

Step One: Ask your personal administrator to find a top-notch nutritionist who specializes in working with senior executives

Step Two: Have two one-hour appointments (in total) with said nutritionist (they’ll of course visit you in your office if you pay them enough)

Step Three: Have said nutritionist design a daily and weekly meal plan and, in cooperation with a local high-quality restaurant or caterer, arrange for them to deliver two to three ultra-healthy and highly palatable meals (it *is* possible!)
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Mindful Dishwashing Reduces Anxiety By 27%, A Study Shows

Mindful dishwashing can decrease stress and calm the mind, new research shows.

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Your Mother Was Right: Go Outside and Play

go_outside_and_play
Most of us – especially if we grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s – heard this exhortation from our mother on a regular basis: Go outside and play!

Four words packed with almost infinite wisdom.

And yet many of us rarely or never do so, not even on the longest days of the year, which in the Northern Hemisphere are now here for our nourishment!

A true story, although admittedly we’re talking about an extreme case: Somehow last week our teenager managed (and somehow we let him) avoid almost all direct exposure to the sun’s rays for a 24-hour period, except for 20 minutes sitting outside during lunch. He did leave the house to watch a soccer game at a sports bar in the late afternoon, but direct outdoor exposure consisted of 5 seconds from house to car, and another five seconds from car to restaurant and vice versa.

Sitting near a window in your home or office doesn’t count as direct exposure to the sun’s rays, no matter how bright the light coming in. Nor does driving. In both cases, the glass windows filter out the parts of the visible spectrum that have health promoting effects.
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More Tips and Tricks For Better Sleep

Better Sleep MindfulnessRestfulness is next to godliness. Or at least let’s understand that it’s very hard to live mindfully when you’re exhausted all the time. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson has some good sleep tips

– Make a deal with yourself to worry or plan during the next day, after you get up. An hour or so ahead of sleep, “dump” your worries on a piece of paper and put it away in a drawer, preferably in a room that isn’t the bedroom.

– Shift your attention to things that make you feel happy and relaxed, or simply to the sensations of breathing itself. Bring to mind the warm feeling of being with people who care about you. Have compassion for yourself.

– Really relax. For example, take five to ten long exhalations; imagine your hands are warm (and tuck them under the pillow); rest a finger or knuckle against your lip; relax your tongue and jaw; imagine you are in a very peaceful setting; progressively relax each part of your body, starting with your feet and moving up to your head.

– Certain nutrients are important for sleep. Unless you’re sure you’re getting these in your daily diet, consider supplementing magnesium (500 milligrams/day) and calcium (1200 milligrams/day). If you can, take half in the morning and half before bed.
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Time In The Sun Might Be The Ultimate “Bio Hack”

smiling-woman-in-white-hat-in-sun-on-beachAvoiding the sun may give rise to numerous serious diseases. Low sun exposure may be as big a health risk as smoking cigarettes – and the latest research is backing these assertions up, writes Phil Maffetone.

The big caveat – be very careful not to get burned by the sun.

Our sun-phobic society, influenced largely by companies selling products, has resulted in generations of people avoiding the sun, significantly raising the risk of poor health and disease, including skin cancer.

For decades, the benefits of sun exposure have been suppressed by the commercial interests of companies selling skin-care products. These companies enlist the media to keep promoting their scare tactics.

Instead of hiding inside and slathering gloopy chemicals and “nano technology” all over, we should be exposing our bodies without protection like all our ancestors did to improve both health and fitness in our brains and bodies, including protection against diseases. Moderation is the key word – avoiding overexposure while slowly getting and maintaining a protective, gentle tan.

Time in the sun might be the ultimate “bio hack”

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How To Sleep Better By Using An Evening Alarm Clock

woman alarm clockSet your alarm for an hour before you hope to be asleep.

Most people use electronic alarm clocks simply as a method to wake up in the morning. However, there is very little effort focused on the much harder problem of helping people get to sleep on time, John Durant notes. Our biological clock helps us both wake up and go to sleep. Waking up is a lot easier after a good night’s rest.

When the alarm you have set goes off in the evening (for example around 9:15pm), finish any work on your computer, turn off the TV, switch off and/or turn down any unnecessary lights, and start to mellowing yourself into the night. Reading some non-problematic literature using a low powered headlamp is an option that somewhat replicates reading by candle light in days of yore.

Winding down in the late evening has only been a challenge for human beings for about the past 100 years. Right before Edison introduced the first commercially viable light bulb, the average American was sleeping about 9.5 hours per night. That dropped to approximately 8 hours throughout the 20th century to around 7 hours today. For that, we can partially credit the inventions of the good folks at Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Dell and others.

Source: Brian Johnson

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Tiredness Causes Depression Which Causes Pessimism and Vice Versa

happy-sleeping-baby-anti-depressionPeople who are depressed do, in fact, have good memories, but alas for negative information rather than positive information.

Brian Johnson highlights a study in which researchers showed subjects images and then tested people who were sleep-deprived and those who weren’t on recall of the images. The images had obvious emotional content, for example a cuddly puppy or a photo of a battleground. Sleep-deprived people had difficulty recalling the positive images but not the negative images.

Folks struggling with depression typically can remember only the negative aspects of their lives. And they are are often sleep deficient.

Everyone needs eight and half hours of sleep out of every twenty-four, Brian asserts, citing research. Everybody. If you need an alarm clock to wake up every day, if you can’t get rolling until a shot or two of espresso, and you find that you sleep long and hard on weekends, then you are probably not getting enough sleep.

The body is wonderfully homeostatic; that is, it has mechanisms to enforce its need for sleep. It’s almost as simple as this: if you are sleepy, sleep. Note: You and I would fall into that “everybody” category. If you’re committed to feeling depressed, definitely make sure you get inadequate sleep,” Brian says sarcastically.
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12 Foods That Can Help You Sleep

woman-eating-nuts foods that help you sleepKeep evening snacks light and eat no later than a half-hour before bed. This allows sufficient time for your body to digest the food and absorb the nutrients before you go to sleep.

Almonds
Almonds contain magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that plays a key role in regulating sleep. A handful of almonds or a tablespoon of almond butter before bed may help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Bananas
These nutritional powerhouses contain tryptophan, an amino acid that has been linked to sleep quality. They also contain potassium, which may prevent muscles cramps in the middle of the night.

(Breakfast) Cereal and Milk
Milk contains the sleep-promoting tryptophan, which the brain uses to make serotonin and melatonin, hormones that promote relaxation and control sleep and wake cycles. The carbohydrates in cereal make tryptophan more available to the brain. For the best results, choose a small bowl of whole-grain, low-sugar cereal.

Cherries
Cherries, especially the tart varieties (e.g. Montmorency), are one of the few food sources of melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates your internal clock. Recent studies have found that volunteers who drank tart cherry juice daily fell asleep sooner and slept better and longer.
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Top Tips For Lifting Mood, Fighting S.A.D.

1- Reduce clutter
Even if I want nothing more than to lie in bed, I try to get up and clean, says Jennifer Lutzon. Tidying up reduces the clutter in our home, gets our muscles moving and allows our energy to flow freely. This counteracts the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and lifts the mood, especially once we see the fruits of our labor. Having order at home helps promote a relaxing and stress-free environment during the winter season.

2- Let the sunlight in
Sunlight helps our bodies produce serotonin, the hormone that affects our mood, appetite and sleep. Open up windows to let the sunlight inside the house and get enough serotonin to stay upbeat. Taking walks out whenever the sun is shining also helps the body get enough sunlight to produce serotonin.

3- Lose the shades
Human eyes have evolved over 3 million years to live outside during the day. Expose them to natural sunlight and build up comfort being outside with sun glasses. Certainly protect yourself from direct, powerful light by wearing a baseball cap, but more than that is rarely needed, unless you are out for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time.
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Eight Practical Tips for Coping With Anxiety

breathe_cope_with_anxietyIn the U.S. and the U.K. about one in five people reporting that they feel anxious all the time, or a lot of the time.

The most popular ways to cope include speaking to a friend, exercise and taking a walk. AsapTHOUGHT, a Youtube channel, has compiled a useful list of additional ways to cope with anxiety:

Don’t google your symptoms
When you’re in the midst of a panic attack it¹s easy to feel like your symptoms are a signal for something bigger. Often panic attacks come with physical symptoms such as chest pains or nausea. While it¹s tempting to search online to see what¹s going on, don’t.

HALT ­- Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?
These are all things that can contribute to a potential anxiety attack. If you can figure out what the trigger may be, you may help solve it.

Breathing
It sounds obvious, but focusing on your breathing can help calm you down. Try a 4-7-8 method: Breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7, and breathing out for 8. By focusing on your breathing, it’s easier to ignore any bad thoughts trying to creep their way into your subconscious.

Find a distraction
Perhaps you have a favorite podcast that you enjoy listening to, or a favorite Youtuber.
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It’s Very Hard to Have a Healthy Mind If You Don’t Have a Healthy Brain

healthy_brain
This is obvious, but very often overlooked. People spend hours of their day, their month and their year cultivating their minds through meditative practice and other Mindfulness-type exercises. But what about the grey matter, the mass of neural networks that process these thoughts and feelings?

For many of us, the difference between the brain and the mind is a head-scratcher (excuse the pun). But a distinction is necessary. The human brain is an organ and one not very dissimilar to a gorilla’s brain. But the human mind? That’s another thing entirely! My short-hand definition is that the *mind* is the human brain (evolved over about 100 million years) plus human culture, i.e. language, norms and customs, art, beliefs, religious practices, science, mathematics, sport, law, norms and customs, etc. Human culture has been evolving too, of course, but it’s much more recent than human physiology. Let’s pick a nice round number like 1 million years since the beginning of human culture.

In theory at least, a human with a human brain could be dropped off in the jungle at birth, and raised in the wild by gorillas. But contrary to what you might have been led to believe by the Tarzan cartoon series, 10 years later this creature would not have a human mind, and certainly wouldn’t be able to do algebra or play chess, or write interesting short stories, as my friend’s 10 year-old already can.

There is the individual human mind and what is sometimes called the “collective mind,” which is, by the way, one way of seeing the Internet. But let’s focus for now on the individual mind. It exists inside a human body, with a specific concentration in the brain (as well as, perhaps, within the gut, the heart and other organs).

This human brain can be healthy or unhealthy or something in between. The health of the brain is dependent upon many if not all of the same factors that drive the health of other organs. And it’s especially vulnerable to inflammation and its deleterious effects. So what inflames the brain beyond that which inflames other organs? Answer: highly elevated stress levels, unproductive conflict, lack of sleep, lack of rest, lack of play, lack of quietude, lack of time in nature, lack of beauty, lack of art, lack of music, lack of poetry, lack of story-telling with loved ones by the fire.

Sure, many of us can get by with semi healthy brains that get minimal amounts of brain nourishment. And we can do OK most of the time with substitutes, for example watching TV in the evening instead of sitting around the fire telling and listening to stories. But at some point in the absence of most of these sources of brain nourishment, inflammation increases and the brain become overwhelmed, inefficient and even incoherent.

The human mind kicks in to try to fix things, but often this merely results in a hyper state of arousal and anxiety. The mind is trying in vain to fix the brain when what is first needed is the whole human being seeking out and receiving nourishment from a benign natural environment.

In summary, a healthy mind starts with a healthy brain. And to keep that simple, a healthy brain is developed with: sleep, good food, sunlight, fresh air, and exercise – ideally every day. It’s that simple and that difficult!

Topics: Healthy brain, healthy mind, mental healthy, Mindfulness, inflammation, stress reduction, hyper arousal, sleep and the brain, brain health

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Mindfulness Isn’t About Ignoring Your Thoughts

woman-meditating-city

From “How Mindfulness Can Improve Your Mental Health” in The Huffington Post UK:

…Mindfulness meditation seems to have taken the UK by storm, with so many of us becoming more in tune with the notion of being “present”

It’s one of the oldest forms of meditation and is based on the idea of being consciously aware of yourself and the world around you.

Mindfulness isn’t about ignoring your thoughts, but acknowledging and accepting them while focusing on what you are doing in that moment.

The ABCs of mindfulness:

A for awareness

B for “just being”

C for creating that gap between experience and reactions

Five key points about Mindfulness, from Dr. James Arkell:

  • Practicing mindfulness helps you connect to the present, and involves noticing and acknowledging thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
  • Mindfulness means being present with oneself, being connected to the present moment and being able to pay attention deliberately and non-judgmentally to where you are right now.
  • We spend so much time thinking about and regretting our past and also worrying about the future and how we are going to cope with life’s pressures and demands; Mindfulness helps us not to do this so much.
  • Mindfulness involves recognizing that your thoughts are mental events not reality
  • Once you have mastered the basics, you can do it anywhere; on the bus, at your desk, in the park – and it only takes a few minutes of complete focus every day.Link to the full article:http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/05/13/how-mindfulness-improves-mental-health_n_7273350.html

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In Search of the “Original” Mindfulness

phil jackson nicks mindfulness meditation

Words evolve; they change meaning over time. Get over it!

Virginia Heffernan has written an eloquent but ultimately convoluted critique of the Mindfulness movement. Some of her more amusing and insightful comments are reprised below, but let’s get to the heart of what’s problematic about her article.

Had Ms. Heffernan been alive in Elizabethan times, one imagines she would have panned Shakespeare’s plays for their impure “Continental influenced” language. The Bard rather brazenly borrowed and invented words, and developed disruptive forms of theater that initially annoyed many in the establishment.

It was ever thus and ever shall it be. Meanings of words, of entire concepts change from decade to decade, from century to century and, of course, from widely different culture to another.

What exactly does the word “jazz” mean in 2015 – especially compared to 70 or 80 years ago? How about the word “gay” or “queer”? Another example of a word that has changed its meaning over time: “artificial” — it used to mean “full of artistic or technical skill.” In the realm of religion, just consider the Catholic Church’s concept of “indulgences” in 14th and 15th centuries and compare it to the way the word is used now.

Yes, we don’t use Mindfulness in the same way a related word might have been used in the Pali language 2,000 or more years ago any more than we use the word “angst” as Goethe used it in the original German in the late 1700s.

More to the point, wide-ranging concept like “self” and “mind” have always had meanings that are contentious and highly dependent on context, in time and in place. In fact most people would struggle to compose a succinct definition of the word “mind” right now, without confusing it with the word “brain.” And how does the concept of “mind” relate to the concept of “cognition”? All this is fodder to endless academic debate.
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