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Special Edition Post
The intention behind all the content I’m including in this post is to illustrate some very important patterns that show up in the field of health. After years of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that mainstream views about the mind, the body, and their proper functioning are frequently misguided, and sometimes downright wrong. On the other hand, there are some remarkable truths out there about the factors that lead to health and flourishing; My hope is that this post will help to convey a few of the most important. Some of you might read / watch the content below and become convinced that I’m nuts. It’s a risk I’m willing to take.
- I think diet is very important, as you’ll begin to realize if you make it past the first couple bullet points. The reason for my inclusion of information that might suggest otherwise, is to drive home the point that several other factors seem to play at least as significant a role in health as what you eat and how much you exercise.
The Roseto Effect
- This video summarizes the findings of scientific research on the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania.
- The results of this research strongly suggest that a factor other than diet and exercise is playing a massive role in our health.
- “In the 1960s, a U.S town called Roseto was an anomaly in America. No one under 55 had died of a heart attack, or showed any signs of heart disease. The local death rate for men over 65 was half the national average.”
- “A team of researchers, led by Dr. Steward Wolf, considered whether this was due to their diet, location, family history, or exercise habits, but on the surface, nothing was different from the rest of America.”
Ben Greenfield Quote
“If you want to be healthy, then eating vegetables and exercising is nowhere near as important as sunlight, minerals, water, grounding, earthing, and exposure to, and this is one I get thrown under the bus for a lot, but it’s true, exposure to the proper frequencies of energy. And that includes positive emotions and relationships and being with other people. That is the key to health. It’s not moving or nutrition, which is how I spent the first two decades of my existence in the fitness sector; thinking that everything could be solved with proper diet and proper movement.”
- Ben was voted America’s top personal trainer in 2008
- He has quite the resume
- I disagree with him on a quite a lot of issues, but also think that he has some amazing insights, and is well worth listening to.
Where I get my information on diet: nutritionfacts.org
- Contrary to what the above links might suggest, I think that diet is a massive factor in achieving and sustaining good health.
- I have based most of my dietary decisions based off of the information contained in website linked to above
- I also base said decision based off of extensive self experimentation. If I don’t like the way something makes me feel, I don’t eat it, and vis versa, regardless of what some study says.
- Below, I’ve attached some examples of content that you’ll find on nutritionfacts.org
The Incredible Effects Expressive Writing
- The speaker, James Pennebaker, is Professor of Psychology at The University of Texas as Austin. The lecture is given at Columbia University.
- Few lectures have rocked my view of reality like this one.
- No need to watch the full thing if you don’t want to. The first 20 minutes should give you all the information you need.
- Skip to 1:40 for the beginning of the lecture (The time before that is filled with a microphone issue)
- “I actually got into psychology because I was interested in the mind body problem; how do psychological factors influence biological activity?”
- “One question that blew all the others away was the sexual trauma question. People who endorsed that (Who said they had had sexual trauma at an early age) … had more physical symptoms than any other group.”
- Dr. Pennebaker on a larger study in which the same question was asked: “People who endorsed that item were twice as likely to have been hospitalized for any cause in the previous year. They were more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer, high blood pressure, ulcers, colds, flu, major problems, minor problems…”
- Dr Pennebaker on the results of a followup study: “What we found was, it wasn’t a traumatic sexual experience that was the problem; it was any traumatic experience that you kept secret (emphasis added). And it turns out that the traumatic sexual experience was the one that people kept most secret.”
- “I started wondering: if harboring a secret was so bad, what would happen if you brought people in and had them disclose the traumatic experience?”
- “It occurred to me; wouldn’t it be interesting to have people come in and just have them write about a trauma?”
- “…students who wrote about traumatic experiences went to the student health center at about half the rate that our control subjects did (following the therapeutic writing session.”
- Dr. Pennebaker on the results of a later study: “We drew blood before writing, after the last week of writing, and then again six weeks later. And their blood was assayed for various immune markers. We found that those in the experimental condition (those who wrote about past traumas) showed enhancement in immune function compared to those in the control condition. And they also went to the doctor less.”
Personal anecdote that supports the assertions made in the video above
A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about the nature of the mind. She mentioned that she used to have frequent nightmares. Apparently however, they went away after she thought about the experiences that caused them, and journaled about them an analytical way.
Great Article on the Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
- A study by Kok et al (2013) found that individuals in a Loving Kindness Meditation intervention, compared to a control group, had increases in positive emotions, an effect moderated by baseline vagal tone – a physiological marker of well-being.
- We know that stress decreases telomere length (telomeres are tiny bits of your genetic materials – chromosomes – that are a biological marker of aging). However, Hoge et al (2013) found that women with experience in Loving Kindness Meditation had relatively longer telomere length compared to age-matched controls.
- A recent study by Tonelli et al (2014) demonstrated the immediate effects of a brief Loving Kindness Meditation intervention in reducing migraine pain and alleviating emotional tension associated with chronic migraines.
- I was a bit skeptical of this practice until I tried it. Now I’m completely sold.
- There are different ways of practicing LKM; I usually sit with my eyes closed and think of a person I know, or know of. I then picture them smiling, and or think to myself, “May you be happy, may you be strong, may you be healthy.” It works best for me if the person is someone who I am feeling particularly grateful for at the moment.
- If you try LKM out and get a chance, let me know how it went for you.
Some content on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics
- Note: The use of psychedelics can get you into massive trouble, both legally, and psychologically. That said, psychedelics show a tremendous amount of promise as medicines. These are some anecdotal reports that, in my mind, point to their incredible potential.
Paul Stamets describes his experience with a large dose of psychedelic mushrooms, and the amazing after effects (Don’t judge the quality of this one by the cover image)
- While it’s not mentioned in the beginning of the clip below, Paul Stamets was encumbered by a severe speech impediment during the initial part of his life. In this video, he describes the experience that cured him of this issue.
- Paul also has a fascinating and touching TED talk, which you can watch by clicking here. If you’re short on time, skip to 8:20 and watch it till the end.
Further recommended reading on the topic of psychedelics
- “It’s mind boggling how much it can do in one or two nights.”
- “…in the next few months he realized that something astounding had happened to him. ‘Ninety per cent of the anger I had held on to for decades, since I was a kid, was just gone. Absent.”
- “In San Francisco, Ferriss is convinced everyone is doing it. ‘Ayahuasca is like having a cup of coffee here,” Ferriss told The New Yorker. “I have to avoid people at parties because I don’t want to listen to their latest three-hour saga of kaleidoscopic colors.'”
- “The center is the first of its kind in the country, established with $17 million in commitments from wealthy private donors and a foundation. Imperial College London launched what is thought to be the world’s first such center in April, with some $3.5 million from private sources.”
- “I experienced this kind of unity, of resonant love, the sense that I’m not alone anymore, that there was this thing holding me that was bigger than my grief. I felt welcomed back to the world.”