“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
― Marcus Aurelius
"Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future." (source)
Meditation is a common way to practice mindfulness and the words are sometimes used interchangeably (or as mindfulness meditation).
What is mindfulness?
Practiced consistently "mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and well-being. Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression, and irritability so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily. Other studies have shown that regular meditators see their doctors less often and spend fewer days in the hospital. Memory improves, creativity increases and reaction times become faster." (source)
This important paper goes more in-depth on mindfulness, meditation, and their importance in mental health.
“If you are in a bad mood go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood go for another walk.” ― Hippocrates
The Best Apps
If the neurobiological benefits of regular physical activity were able to be derived from a pill, it would be one of the most profitable and essential drugs ever made. Something with such a sweeping list of benefits would be absolutely priceless. Well, for 30 minutes of your time a day you can experience those benefits. And that time can even be entertaining. No side effects either, although many people who have tried it reported looking much better and receiving more compliments.
The neurobiological benefits of regular physical activity are unparalleled. How much would something with such a sweeping list of benefits be worth to you?
"Persistent improvements in certain cognitive functions.
Healthy alterations in gene expression in the brain.
Beneficial forms of neuroplasticity and behavioral plasticity.
Some of the long-term effects include:
increased neuron growth
increased neurological activity
improved stress coping
enhanced cognitive control of behavior,
improved declarative, spatial, and working memory
structural and functional improvements in brain structures and pathways associated with cognitive control and memory;
Important implications for improving academic performance in children and college students, improving adult productivity, preserving cognitive function in old age, preventing or treating certain neurological disorders;
A potent antidepressant and euphoriant resulting in improved mood and self-esteem, and improving overall quality of life.” (source)
We now know that the benefits of physical exercise are not just limited to your musculoskeletal system. Essentially every major biological system in your body, from your immune system to your circulatory system, is affected positively by regular physical activity. And affected above all is that most precious organ of all—the brain.
Here’s the deal: we must stop just imagining exercise as something we need to do to lose weight, and start viewing it at as something we need to do to gain access to the full potential of our mind, resulting in a longer, healthier, and happier life. When we start viewing it in that perspective and internalize that sentiment, it just might be easier to get yourself to add more physical activity to your life.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." ― Virginia Woolf
Is losing weight your main priority?
Losing weight is mostly about managing your diet. While exercise is vitally important (and can help you maintain a healthy weight), substantial weight loss will only come with long-term dietary changes. Most people vastly overestimate the calories they burn when they exercise and underestimate the calories in the food they eat. For instance, eating three Oreo cookies (210 calories total), which would at most give you only two minutes of pleasure, can wipe out the energy expended in a 40-minute jog, which is usually much harder to do for people who are overweight. So start with diet to lose weight, and complement it with exercise to have a healthy mind and body. (source) (source)
Nutrition studies on humans are notoriously hard to do and control for (there are too many confounding variables). Also, different populations and individuals respond to various diets in unique ways. Therefore it becomes notably hard to give one size fits all dietary advice. Add in the special interest groups and food industry funding their own studies and the waters get even more muddied. With the number of bad nutritional studies out there, one could make a seemingly sound argument for almost any type of diet (the latest egregious example of this is What The Health on Netflix).
That doesn't mean we have to disregard the science, it's just that we have to be especially diligent when it comes to assessing the claims of the research. Well designed scientific studies still have a lot to say and can point us in the right direction when it comes to our food choices. Using the latest nutritional studies and expert advice, this site aims to give you the most important information you need to have in order to make the best food choices possible. I have done my best to cut through the bad dietary advice.
I will also encourage you to experiment and try different things, because the real truth is, our genetics largely determine how we react to different food, and being mindful of what you eat and how it makes you feel is very important.
Why is so much dietary advice contradictory?
Dietary advice is most effective when it considers your specific circumstances (age, weight, lifestyle, etc). Some people also need structure and like to be told exactly what steps to follow. Those that do may benefit greatly from the Guidance section of the site which takes exactly that into account.
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?” ― Ernest Hemingway
Five Small Changes You Can Make Today to Start Sleeping Better Tonight
If you are getting less than 7.5-8 hours of sleep regularly, you might be chronically sleep deprived. And if you are chronically sleep deprived, it becomes easy to chalk up the bad days to a variety of other factors, mainly because it’s hard to gauge the true negative consequences that lack of sleep is having on your own mind. Too many people end up attributing their bad, unproductive days to other variables.
Take the conclusions of this UPENN study for example:
“Since chronic restriction of sleep to 6 h or less per night produced cognitive performance deficits equivalent to up to 2 nights of total sleep deprivation, it appears that even relatively moderate sleep restriction can seriously impair waking neurobehavioral functions in healthy adults. Sleepiness ratings suggest that subjects were largely unaware of these increasing cognitive deficits, which may explain why the impact of chronic sleep restriction on waking cognitive functions is often assumed to be benign.” (source)
Let me make the conclusions of this study very clear because it is so important: chronic sleep deprivation—in this case, 6 hours of sleep or less a night—causes you to perform at an equivalent level as someone who has not slept for two days straight! And the scariest part is that you might not even realize it. That type of drastic cognitive decline should alarm anyone who wants to perform at a peak mental state but is not prioritizing their sleeping habits.
You might be sleep deprived and not even know it.
Having a hard time eating healthier? Poor sleep habits might be to blame.
Numerous studies have shown the link between improper sleep and poor dietary choices. Not only does sleep deprivation interfere with "hunger and satiety hormones crucial to regulating appetite" but since it also affects impulse control, you are bound to have less self-control when deciding what to eat. You have probably already unintentionally tested this if you've ever had a late night out with some heavy drinking (which absolutely impairs healthy sleep despite knocking you out). The next day you will likely be craving some real comfort food, like pizza. (source)
Unfortunately, it goes the other way too―poor food choices can lead to improper sleep. People who are overweight are even more at risk, as that can lead to sleep apnea. This can all lead to a cruel cycle where it becomes harder and harder to have real control over your eating and sleeping habits. (source)
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