How To Slow Down Time

Person holding a clock

Person holding a clock

By Sam Makhoul

Have you ever looked back on a day or week or month or year and thought, “where did the time go?” You are not alone.

Almost everyone is experiencing this phenomenon where time feels like it is flying by. For some limited number of people however, they look back on the same period and feel, “wow there was so much I did.” 

People in this latter category will one day lay on their death bed and think, “I lived a full long life. I am grateful for every minute.”

What is the difference between the two mindsets? We all have 24 hours in the day. For some, it feels full, but most others, fast and uneventful.

In the present moment, time is the same for all of us. It has an infinite feel about it, especially if you are in a state of flow or meditation.

But the passing of time is only evident upon reflection. This is where it is relative and feels different for all of us.

Therefore, you cannot slow downtime in the present. But you can either look back on it as if it went fast or as if it went slow. 

Have you ever gone for a long road trip and noticed that it took forever to get to your destination, but on the way back, it felt so much faster? This gives you a clue into the reason for the relativity of time.

Everyone Dies, Not Everyone Lives:

The answer to the conundrum of time lies in your five senses: seeing, touching, smelling, hearing and tasting. When your five senses experience the same thing every day, they become numb.

Consequently, you become too familiar with the known. Some call that their comfort zone when in reality it is a dead zone where you spend your seconds, minutes, hours and days living predominantly from the subconscious.

You are not really conscious of your thoughts, feelings and decisions. Consequently, you look back on your life and feel like nothing much happened and you interpret that as time flying.

So, while everyone is pursuing a long life, the real answer is to pursue a conscious one. The big question is how do you live a conscious life?

What is the formula? We hear so much about being mindful, but mindfulness is very different from consciousness.

The former is all about witnessing. The latter is more about decisions and actions that help you live a purposeful life where the speed of time is in your control.

The latter can only happen when you choose to live with fearlessness and adventure. This is where your five senses come alive.

I (Sam Makhoul) have been teaching a five-step method called the Circle of Conscious Living, which I have personally lived by from a very young age. I explain this method in great detail in my book, A Higher Branch.

7 Useful Ways To Reboot Your Emotional Health 

husband and wife hugging
broken heart fixed with a bandaid

By Dr. Guy Winch

You put a bandage on a cut or take antibiotics to treat an infection, right? No questions asked.

In fact, questions would be asked if you didn’t apply first aid when necessary. So, why isn’t the same true of our mental health?

We are expected to just “get over” psychological wounds — when as anyone who’s ever ruminated over rejection or agonised over a failure knows only too well, emotional injuries can be just as crippling as physical ones. We need to learn how to practice emotional first aid.

Here are seven ways to do so:

1. Pay Attention To Emotional Pain:

Recognise it when it happens and work to treat it before it feels all-encompassing. The body evolved the sensation of physical pain to alert us that something is wrong and we need to address it.

The same is true for emotional pain. If a rejection, failure or bad mood is not getting better, it means you’ve sustained a psychological wound and you need to treat it.

For example, loneliness can be devastatingly damaging to your psychological and physical health. So, when you or your friend or loved one is feeling socially or emotionally isolated, you need to take action.

2. Redirect Your Gut Reaction When You Fail:

The nature of psychological wounds makes it easy for one to lead to another. Failure can often drive you to focus on what you can’t do instead of focusing on what you can.

That can then make you less likely to perform at your best, which will make you even more focused on your shortcomings, and on the cycle goes. To stop this sort of emotional spiral, learn to ignore the post-failure “gut” reaction of feeling helpless and demoralised, and make a list of factors that you can control were you to try again.

For instance, think about preparation and planning, and how you might improve each of them. This kind of exercise will reduce feelings of helplessness and improve your chances of future success.

Two people hugging outside

3. Monitor And Protect Your Self-Esteem:

When you feel like putting yourself down, take a moment to be compassionate to yourself. Self-esteem is like an emotional immune system that buffers you from emotional pain and strengthens your emotional resilience.

As such, it is very important to monitor it and avoid putting yourself down, particularly when you are already hurting. One way to “heal” damaged self-esteem is to practise self-compassion.

When you’re feeling critical of yourself, do the following exercise: imagine a dear friend is feeling bad about him or herself for similar reasons and write an email expressing compassion and support. Then read the email. Those are the messages you should be giving yourself.

4. When Negative Thoughts Taking Over, Disrupt Them With Positive Distractions:

When you replay distressing events in your mind without seeking new insight or trying to solve a problem, you’re just brooding, and that, especially when it becomes habitual, can lead to deeper psychological pain. The best way to disrupt unhealthy rumination is to distract yourself by engaging in a task that requires concentration.

For example, do a Sudoku, complete a crossword, try to recall the names of the kids in your fifth-grade class. Studies show that even two minutes of distraction will reduce the urge to focus on the negative.

5. Find Meaning In Loss:

Loss is a part of life, but it can scar us and keep us from moving forward if we don’t treat the emotional wounds it creates. If sufficient time has passed and you’re still struggling to move forward after a loss, you need to introduce a new way of thinking about it.

Specifically, the most important thing you can do to ease your pain and recover is to find meaning in the loss and derive purpose from it. It might be hard, but think of what you might have gained from the loss.

For instance, “I lost my spouse but I’ve become much closer to my kids”. Consider how you might gain or help others gain a new appreciation for life, or imagine the changes you could make that will help you live a life more aligned with your values and purpose.

Man with his face in his hand

6. Don’t Let Excessive Guilt Linger:

Guilt can be useful. In small doses, it alerts you to take action to mend a problem in your relationship with another person.

But excessive guilt is toxic, in that it wastes your emotional and intellectual energies, distracts you from other tasks, and prevents you from enjoying life. One of the best ways to resolve lingering guilt is to offer an effective apology.

Yes, you might have tried apologising previously, but apologies are more complex than we tend to realise. The crucial ingredient that every effective apology requires — and most standard apologies lack — is an “empathy statement.”

In other words, your apology should focus less on explaining why you did what you did and more on how your actions (or inactions) impacted the other person. It is much easier to forgive someone when you feel they truly understand. By apologising (even if for a second time), the other person is much more likely to convey authentic forgiveness and help your guilt dissolve.

7. Learn What Treatments For Emotional Wounds Work For You:

Pay attention to yourself and learn how you, personally, deal with common emotional wounds. For instance, do you shrug them off, get really upset but recover quickly, get upset and recover slowly or squelch your feelings?

Use this analysis to help yourself understand, which emotional first aid treatments work best for you in various situations (just as you would identify which of the many pain relievers on the shelves works best for you). The same goes for building emotional resilience.

Try out various techniques and figure out which are easiest for you to implement and which tend to be most effective for you. But mostly, get into the habit of taking note of your psychological health on a regular basis — and especially after a stressful, difficult, or emotionally painful situation.

Yes, practising emotional hygiene takes a little time and effort, but it will seriously elevate your entire quality of life. I promise.

Guy Winch with a quote that reads "emotional pain should not be a constant companion. Do not let it become one."

Have People Lost The Ability To Have Fun?

Man jumping into the water

Man jumping into the water from the jetty

By Sam Makhoul

We are all in the business of selling ourselves. What sells is not just the product or service, it is the person standing behind it.

People connect with you first. And if they like you they will use every justification to do business with you.

Does Having Fun Make You Successful?

The more fun you have in your life, the more attractive and successful you will become. You smile more, have more energy and you magically attract good things and good people into your life.

People are naturally attracted to the smiling, enthusiastic person in the room. Be that person and you will attract more customers. It’s that simple. Trust me, I know.

I have built the entire MSA National business on this fun mindset. Without fun, a KPI is met, a box is ticked and another dull day goes by without empathy and connection with the customer. 

With fun, everyone is excited to be at work (we even have to force people to go home at the end of the day), emails are written with smiley faces, phone calls are filled with laughter, and settlements are completed with purpose. Yes, fun is important, at home and in business.

So, Why Isn’t Everyone Having Fun?

Most people have lost the ability to have fun. Or worse still, have the wrong idea on what fun is.

  • Fun is NOT getting drunk on a Friday night.
  • Fun is NOT watching TV or surfing the internet.
  • Fun is NOT attracting likes on Facebook.
  • Fun is NOT in the next new car or pair of shoes you buy.
  • Fun is NOT found in walking around a shopping centre.

What Kills Fun?

Four people dancing together

As children, having fun comes naturally and easily. Making friends and being funny was a daily joy.

But then as school, parents and even religious institutions start to influence our belief systems, we start to do things to please others and spend precious energy worrying about what they think. We stop smiling as much and taking ourselves too seriously.

We are told to sit still for long periods, follow orders, and conform. We are asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, instead of “how would you like to help others and contribute to society”.

Then as we become adults we start watching the news and learning fear. We learn to complain.

We start to blame. We focus on fault. We become cynical, even miserable or at best, mediocre.

Most of all, we stop scheduling time to have fun as we focus more and more on the material world. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with owning things, as long as those things don’t start to own you.

Do You Need To Be Happy To Have Fun?

Yes and no. Being happy makes having fun easier but having fun also makes you happy.

Being unhappy or in a bad mood is a signal from your body and mind that you need to change something in your life. You need to change your thinking, change your diet or lifestyle or even change the people you hang out with.

These changes require effort and time. Having fun should not wait for those changes to happen.

So, the shortcut is to force yourself to do fun things so you can be happy in that moment. Most of us don’t feel like having fun when we are in a bad mood, but that is when we need it the most. You need to force yourself to get up and get out.

So, How Do You Have Fun?

Girl swinging on a swing

1. Turn your frown upside down and for God’s sake change your posture:

Your body language has a huge impact on your mindset (and vice versa). I make a point of laughing out loud every day. There is a lot of research on this subject but my favourite layman’s talk is by Amy Cuddy on TED, (with over 14 million views) titled “your body language may shape who you are”.

2. Watch and listen to comedy movies and stand-up:

Scientists have shown that doing this makes you a funnier person, which puts you in the mood to have fun. It also makes you smarter, which is an added bonus. I personally watch a short comedy skit every night as part of my nightly routine. My favourites are Arj Barker, Kitty Flanagan, Jim Jefferies and Russell Peters.

3. Surprise your family and friends:

Be a prankster and do the unexpected. Go home at the end of the day with a bunch of balloons for the kids. Print your favourite funny family photos and stick them in the most unusual places.

My daughter Amelia taught me this. She transposed her mum’s face on an image of the Mona Lisa and stuck it on the inside of the pantry cupboard, wardrobe, etc. You should have heard the cackles every time a door opened! This went on for days.

4. Surprise your customers and/or staff:

I have coached a few mortgage brokers on how to have fun with customers on the phone and in person. And it works! Instant rapport.

Turn up to an appointment with a box of chocolates or a funny book or movie tickets. Be thoughtful. Your choice depends on what info they give you over the phone before the appointment. 

Make sure you make the customers feel like its obligation-free. It’s all in the delivery. Please email me and I will forward you a list of what else you can do and how this works best.

At MSA we constantly surprise our team with fun and unexpected things. One day we filled the breakout room with delicious treats in a Willy Wonka theme and we had Adriano Zumbo deliver them.

The vibe in the office was electric with smiles and selfies. We are all big kids in a candy store waiting to come out!

5. Use fun emoji’s and be funny with your emails and texts:

This does not make you unprofessional as long as this fun approach is coupled with displays of competence. Fun communications just make you more human and interesting and people will be genuinely intrigued to meet you in person.

With one client I coached, we simply made her voicemail message more fun and customer referrals increased significantly. She became known as the fun mortgage broker who also knew her stuff!

With another client, we changed his email auto-response and the rapport with customers increased dramatically! He started getting more appointments.

Here Are Some Ways I Have Fun:

  1. Organise a cards night with whisky, cigars or whatever turns you on.
  2. Go on a country drive on weekends with a cavalcade of cars.
  3. Pretend you are a tourist and/or put on an accent for the day. My daughter loves this.
  4. Go to the farmers market or better still, go fruit picking at a farm.
  5. Invite your neighbours over; especially the weird ones.
  6. Host a movie night with popcorn and ice cream.
  7. Share your bucket list with others and talk about what each means to you.
  8. Go through your old photos and relive stories. This does not mean you live in the past. Rather, it inspires future adventures.
  9. Go on a bike ride. The wind in your hair makes you smile.
  10. Go bowling or better still, play lawn bowls.
  11. Take turns cooking. Boys cooking for the girls always ends in laughter.
  12. Go to the park and on the swing set with your kids.
  13. Play board games and charades.
  14. Tell or read your kids stories at bedtime.
  15. Play backyard cricket or touch footy.
  16. Attend a seminar with colleagues – yes learning should be fun.
  17. Organise a surprise party for a friend or family member.
  18. Go dancing! My wife’s favourite.

Do you notice how all of the above do not require much if any, money? Did you also notice that all of the above is best enjoyed with friends?

Life is boring without friendships.  Some measure their wealth by their bank account.

I measure it by the quality of my friendships, which includes my own family and my work colleagues. So, how many close friends do you have?

Do you hang out with people that make you laugh? These are the most important questions you should first ask yourself.

Making friends with the right people is your first step to having fun. How do you have fun? 

Learning: Essential Daily Ritual #4

Images of books

Jim Kwik sitting on a table encouraging positive learning

By Sam Makhoul

This article is in a series of articles about the system of daily rituals, habits and hacks you that will completely transform your days. When you live by this four-five-six system, you will find that obstacles and setbacks will not trip you up.

You will find that on the days where motivation abandons you, you will still stay on track.

Diagram of the four-five-six methodology

In case you missed the three previous essential daily rituals here are the links. It’s a good idea to go back and read them as a refresher anyway.

Essential Ritual #1: Journaling

Essential Ritual #2: Movement

Essential Ritual #3: Meditation

But this whole series started with this article that so many people absolutely loved: Is Motivation Destroying Your Identity

In this article we will go through:

  • Why continuous learning is important to your success?
  • How and when to infuse learning into your day?
  • What books and podcasts should you learn from?
  • Who or what are the best teachers on earth?

Why Learning Is Important:

Learning is how we grow personally and professionally. It is the sixth most important area in our lives and the foundation upon, which A Higher Branch has been established.

It is the essence of our philosophy of climbing higher in life and the quest for constant upgrade and improvement in all eight areas of our life. Without learning, we stagnate in those areas.

We do the same things every day because we do not know any better. Learning empowers us to try new things and reach for new goals and dreams.

All the latest brain research also shows that continuous learning and looking after your brain is good for our health and longevity.

3 mistakes we make when it comes to learning:

Gentleman drinking a drink while learning with a book

  1. We stop learning after we finish school and/or university.
  2. We only continue to learn about our job and subject matter expertise. True learning is a lifelong adventure where you continuously learn about each of the eight areas of life.
  3. We learn from the wrong sources. We live in an era of information overload and making sense of this information is difficult when digested in an unstructured way. The internet is also filled with information designed to promote one fad over another; one diet over another; one lifestyle over another; one product over another.

When Should You Learn Daily?

Something becomes a ritual when you do it at the same time every day or on cue. Learning should not be done as part of your morning and nightly rituals.

These times are reserved for movement, meditation and journaling for the reasons previously discussed in those articles. Welcome to Commute College.

Most of us commute to and from work daily. This is the perfect time to plug in, listen and learn.

Learning should be done whenever you have dead time. Boredom should be your cue to read, listen and learn.  In the car, on a plane, train or bus or whenever you having nothing to do.

You need to resist the temptation to drift to mindless entertainment on radio, television, and social media. You need to be in conscious control with what you let into your brain.

This is what the highest of achievers do. Learning is their daily ritual.

What Should You Learn?

Two ladies learning a podcast recording

You should be seeking books and podcasts about all eight areas of your life and not just one area of interest (typically health). This is a problem in itself.

I know some people who become obsessed with one area and start to neglect other parts of their life, especially relationships. It is important that you spread the learning equally among all areas.

We are so fortunate to live in an era where we have so much to read, listen and watch. We not only have so many books written by pioneering minds, but we also have audible, we have podcasts and we have YouTube.

But we need to be discerning and distinguish between entertainment and information. Two decades ago the challenge was the lack of information and lack of scientific research.

Today the challenge is to sift through all the overwhelming and often conflicting information. To help you on your learning quest, check out the below podcasts.

  1. Kwik Brain with Jim Kwik
  2. Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu
  3. The Joe Rogan Experience with Joe Rogan
  4. Found my Fitness with Dr Rhonda Patrick

In these podcasts, the hosts are caring, knowledgeable, authentic and share information generously with no strings attached. They also interview experts, researchers and actual practitioners across the eight areas of life.

Is JIM KWIK The Best Teacher On Earth?

Jim Kwik standing on stage

The standout and foremost world-renowned expert on the superpower of learning is Jim Kwik. He is a world expert in memory improvement and optimal brain performance.

1 (founder, Sam Makhoul) attended one of Jim’s workshops and implement his brain training methods and let me tell you, it is unbelievably effective. It has helped me think smarter and faster in meetings.

Jim is also one of the humblest people I have ever met. He has worked with actors on the biggest Hollywood blockbusters, top global organisations and CEO’s that includes Harvard, Virgin, Nike and GE.

His personal story is also compelling. One of the principles I learned from Jim is that your own curiosity is the best teacher on earth.

If self-awareness is a great teacher of all things internal, then curiosity is the greatest teacher of all things external.

Applying Curiosity To Information:

So, it is important when you read or listen to books and podcasts that you apply a curiosity mindset. Are you accepting everyday information as it is or are you adding to it or contradicting it with your curiosity?

This means having your own opinion and questioning everything you learn. Do this by asking yourself, “yes and…” or the “yes but…” principles.

To apply these principles, we must let our curiosity break through our fear barrier. We all have this curiosity inside of us as children but over the years fear tends to keep it locked away.

Trust that curiosity. Unleash it. You will find behind every curious thought is the potential to discover your own wisdom on what you read. It is that curiosity that leads to genius or a genius idea.

Applying Curiosity To People:

There is also another huge area of knowledge, apart from books, where we can learn from – people. This is the fastest way to acquire knowledge.

Therefore, we must master the skill of listening with undivided attention. We can never know everything in life but by listening to others we can learn from their experience and that accelerates our learning.

Listening is a dying art. Many people overindulge in constant talking that they go through life never really learning from others.

But my advice is that the people you must listen to first come from the eight areas of life, in the following order:

  • Your partner who often knows you best.
  • Your mother, father or grandparents – they have experience and perspective.
  • Your work mentors, colleagues and customers.
  • Your closest friends.

But as always you need to filter any knowledge from these sources by using your own curiosity and asking the two questions above. This does not make you a contrarian. This make you progressive where you build on wisdom from others to create what’s right for you.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

Mindfulness Meditation: Essential Ritual #3

Woman meditating

Man in a suit performing mindfulness meditation

By Sam Makhoul

This article contains a very special video presentation of the meditation session presented by Tom Sullivan from our Upgrade Your Life event. Never-seen-before footage and compelling viewing.

But first, this article is third in a series about the four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks. If you have not read the first two essential rituals here are the links:

Essential Ritual #1: Journaling

Essential Ritual #2: Movement

Diagram of the four-five-six methodology

All the research shows that these rituals, habits and hacks work. Living by these protocols helps get back on track every single day.

The sceptic inside of you may tell you that these rituals, habits and life-hacks will not make a difference in your life. The cynic inside will also tell you that you can’t change.

We all have those voices. But we are asking you to dismiss them because how you live your life is totally within your control.

Forget about the outcome. We are asking you to own your greatness. Show courage. Be motivated by love for yourself and honour the potential you were born with.

Although this series of articles are written in what we consider to be the order of importance, the sequence in which they should be performed every morning and every night is as follows:

  1. Movement
  2. Meditation
  3. Journaling

The fourth ritual of learning can be performed anytime throughout the day.

Why Meditate?

Person sitting down meditating

We are now all competing with a new breed of high achievers across all industries. They eat like athletes, train religiously and meditate like monks.

In today’s world, success no longer belongs to the smartest or the most knowledgeable. It belongs to the most effective.

And that’s what meditation delivers. Effectiveness. It’s the new secret weapon.

Mindfulness meditation is a practice that should be infused in your day much like eating and sleeping. It is that important.

So, don’t quit because you get impatient or find it irritating to sit there. You might have a bad meal or a bad night’s sleep, but you still eat and sleep, right?

Meditation is not about perfect practice. It is about doing it no matter what, whether you are stressed, on business travel, on holidays or whatever.

Mindfulness Meditation is Like Fitness:

You see, meditation is like fitness. You really do not know how physically unfit you are until you get really fit and look back on your old self.

Once you practice mindfulness meditation it will become your daily detox for your mind. One of the life-hacks we will talk about in this series of articles is a unique way of fasting from food, otherwise known as going hungry by our ancestors.

Well, you can think of meditation as fasting from thought. And when you fast from thought daily, you will be amazed at how fit your brain will become.

You will be amazed at how much clarity and creativity you will achieve. You will be amazed at how mentally sharp you will be in your job and how attractive you will become in social gatherings.

Mindfulness meditation also de-clutters the brain and gives you clarity in a world full of noise. We could ask you to cancel your social media accounts, disable notifications and stop listening to the news but you probably would not do that. So, you need meditation to quieten the mind from all these daily distractions.

What Type of Meditation?

There are two types of Meditation that we encourage at A Higher Branch:

  1. Visualisation meditation in the morning
  2. Relaxation meditation in the evening.

We find this to be a practical and realistic approach to meditation. More on that below but first we would like to share with you the power of group meditation.

At Upgrade Your Life, Tom Sullivan, meditation coach, rocked the room with stillness when he performed group meditation for over 200 people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sydney. It was incredible – see it for yourself.

Morning – Power Of Eight Visualisation Meditation:

This type of meditation should be done in the morning after exercise (for the reasons stated in the last article on Ritual #2 Movement). Visualisation meditation in the morning is all about preparing and priming you to take daily, decisive, and deliberate action in each of the eight areas of life depicted below.

It is about visualising your best day in each of the eight areas. Humans are all born with the innate ability to visualise.

This faculty known as creative imagination was not given to us by some evolutionary accident. It is there to help us materialise what we visualise.

It triggers the mind’s reticular activation system (RAS), which has been described as a manifestation superpower. Your mind starts seeking out the actions, solutions, and opportunities for you to achieve your goals for the day.

For example, if one of your visualisations is to start a new exercise regime, you may see or hear an advert or billboard of that gym you drive or walk by every day. If another visualisation is of you and your partner on a perfect date, you might notice a lifestyle article of a new restaurant that just opened featuring your partners favourite food. In both cases, your RAS serves as a prompt.

You still have to take the action. Cycling through, your morning visualisation can look like this:

Health:

Visualise yourself with strong posture, smiling, and full of energy.

  • What will you nourish your body with today?
  • How will you feel sitting and soaking up the sun?
  • How powerful will your body feel while exercising?
  • How relaxed will you be for sleep tonight?
  • Is your body soft and supple?
  • Is your skin glowing?
  • Is your hair shiny?
  • Are your eyes bright?
  • Is your heart beating calmly?

Love:

Visualise smiling at your partner with love. Touching their hand. Kissing them goodbye and hello again. Cooking with them. Eating with them. Reading together. Hugging and anything else you want to visualise that brings you closer.

If you are single, then imagine meeting someone with all the qualities you desire in another person. How will they look? Act? Are they affectionate? Are they witty? Imagine yourself loved and loving. Wanted. Desired.

Now continue visualising for each of the eight areas of life.

Evening – Review And Relaxation Meditation:

Your evening meditation should be performed in the same order as your morning rituals: movement, meditation, and journaling. It is important you perform these before your dinner.

All three will neutralise the impact of daily stress that builds up. All three will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the rest and digest system.

This will ensure you enjoy your food and engage with your family in a loving, calm manner. Meditation in the evening is all about relaxation.

It is about healing any rejections and failures that may have happened to you during the day. It is about the breath. It is about calm. It is about forgiveness.

It is about acceptance. It is about acknowledging your humanity and reminding yourself that you will always be a work in progress.

Our mindfulness meditation coach and faculty member, Tom kindly prepared this guided audio practice for your personal use.  Listen to his Nightly Guided Meditation now.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

Movement: Essential Ritual #2

Man running in Sydney Harbour

Image of a lady performing some body movement

By Sam Makhoul

This is part of a series of articles relating to the four rituals, five habits and six hacks that systemise your life. Remember don’t rely on motivation alone.

Rely on repetition and automation. Not just in your personal life but also in business. A well-drilled team will always outperform a motivated one.

In our last article, we shared with you the most important daily ritual of all – journaling.  Now we will share with you the second most important ritual you need to do before journaling, without compromise every morning and early evening – movement.

A lot of us make excuses to abandon a ritual. Don’t blame yourself too much. We are hard-wired to crave food and comfort.

Recognise this and let it be your cue to fight the urge for comfort and go for growth instead. Let it be your trigger for tenacity.

All the research shows that delayed gratification is the key to success in all areas of life. You study hard, you graduate.

You work hard, you out-perform the competition and make more money. You save and invest your money, so you can afford to have more freedom later in life.

You put in the effort in your relationships, you have more intimacy and build bonds for life. You exercise, you have better health and energy as you get older.

You stretch, you get more flexible and supple. You eat live unprocessed food, you build healthier cells in your entire body including your eyes and skin.

You learn new things and meet new people, you get a sharper mind as you grow older and bolder.  Rarely does anything good in life come easily. You need to put in the conscious effort but that makes it all the sweeter.

Movement In The AM And PM:

Person performing movement activities

 

Before you perform the first mentioned ritual (journaling), it is absolutely critical to start your day with movement. Anything from a four-minute Tabata routine to a 30-60 minute jog, cycle, swim or whatever gets you puffing and sweating.

Exercise is best in the morning when your cortisol levels are highest; but not too early in the morning. There are a lot of experts who preach early morning exercise (before sunrise) but the science shows that this is not the most optimal time.

The optimal time starts at sunrise and peaks around 7-8 am. Exercise later in the day should be milder as the cortisol curve tapers off for rest and sleep.

What Type Of Moving?

Moving, just like going hungry, is natural. You need to listen to your body every morning and adapt the length and intensity to suit.

But there is never any excuse not to do anything. Even if you are unwell, still muster the effort to do a brisk walk for 15-30 mins – you will always be surprised by how much it lifts your mood and energy.

And the best form of exercise is one that you enjoy. Think competitive sport, dancing and training with friends.

The second best and most natural source of movement is walking, jogging or running. Generally, the shorter the time you have to exercise the higher the intensity should be.

When you don’t have much time, do at the very minimum a 10 minute Tabata routine. But never ever skip moving in the morning.

Why Is Exercise An Important Morning Ritual?

Person running up stairs

We live in a world where people rarely sleep straight through the night. Our mind is racing as soon as we wake.

We can be confrontational and edgy in the morning and our energy crashes and burns around mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon. Exercise neutralises these abnormal afflictions.

Most people think that exercise is for the body. Its biggest impact however is on the mind.

Science tells us that when you are in motion, your mind is on fire! All parts of the brain are active.

This kick-starts your cognitive engine in the morning and keeps you mentally sharp throughout the day; which means you will perform tasks faster and you will get more done in less time. And that means you can spend more time with your partner, family and friends.

Exercise also impacts your emotions in a profound way because it changes your body chemistry. It replaces adrenalin and cortisol (fight or flight) with dopamine and serotonin (inspiration and calm).

These are the neurotransmitters you should be running on all day and it all starts with morning exercise. Exercise also kickstarts your metabolism and stimulates your lymphatic system (for immunity).

Especially when you exercise in the sunshine without wearing sunglasses. Exercising in morning sunshine also promotes a deeper and longer sleep that same night.

In fact, exercise in conjunction with sunshine and sleep has been proven to be more potent than Prozac as an antidepressant. Sleep is the ultimate superpower for your overall health.

Why Is It Important To Exercise Before The Three Other Daily Rituals?

If you try to journal on waking without first moving you will have trouble calming the mind. Your mind is no match for adrenalin and cortisol.

You will be edgy. You cannot sit still let alone think straight.

We are wired to hunt and gather on waking, so we need to respect this natural rhythm and get moving. We need to also respect this cycle by eating low carb meals in the morning (if anything at all), moderate amounts of carbs during the day.

Think substantial salads and higher amounts of carbs as the last meal of the day. Think, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli; not pasta, pizza and bread.

Carb cycling in this way promotes healthy cortisol levels. After you move in the morning, you will find your body gets calmer and your mind clearer and these two qualities are the perfect prerequisites for journaling and the other morning rituals.

But can some exercise be doing you more harm than good? Find out by clicking here.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

Journaling: Essential Daily Rituals #1

Lady journaling

By Sam Makhoul

The Foundation for Identity Change

In the last article I, wrote about defining your identity clearly by asking yourself, “who do I want to become in each of the eight areas of life?”

I write to start you on the journey for identity change using the four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks, which we use in our Higher Branch workshops. Today I start with the first most important ritual – journaling.

I will share with you the simple techniques for journaling that I use in my one-on-one coaching. There are so many journals out there for sale that make it too complicated and frankly too airy-fairy. 

All you need is a simple blank journal and a system for journaling that I will teach you. So, let’s start.

Why Change is Hard:

Most people don’t realise that they spend up to 85% of their day, living in their subconscious in cruise-control, thinking, doing and feeling the same way they did yesterday and the day before that; effectively living in the past. This is fine if this 85% is filled with positive stuff that serves your growth.

After all, the subconscious is there as an automation tool for us to do things without thinking. This frees up the conscious mind to focus on high impact, high return, high reward activities like creativity, strategy, and meaningful connection with others.

But what if that 85% is filled with a lot of unwanted behaviour that just gets repeated without thinking? Stuff like procrastinating, eating too much, binge-watching TV, mindlessly scrolling through social media, shopping online for stuff you don’t need, or picking fights with your family. It is difficult to erase these behaviours, but you can replace them with better behaviours that serve the identity you want to create.

You cannot stack the habits and hacks without mastering these four rituals first. The reason will become clear.

Infusing these four4 rituals daily is difficult at first, but know this, rarely does anything good in life come easy. You will feel the need to skip them because you are just too busy.

You need to stay committed to them until you cross, what scientists call the line of automaticity. This simply means that when you repeat something enough it becomes second nature and easier.

Some scientists say it takes two lunar cycles to cross this line but in my experience, it all depends on the difficulty of the ritual and the frequency in which you repeat it. The former is subjective for all of us.

What is extremely difficult for some can be lightly challenging for others. What is difficult may take you many months.

What is easy may only take you a few weeks. Either way, I will outline a method that works for me and I trust it will work for you.

Journaling:

Image of a blank journal

Journaling is the most important ritual out of the four. It is also the most difficult to stick with because it can be confronting when done right.

Mainly because this ritual is all about self-accountability. Ignoring it or skipping it is a big mistake because it has been the single most important success factor in my life.

Most people don’t journal because they don’t know how, or they underestimate how beneficial it is. The other reason why people don’t journal is because they wake up late and hurry to get to work on time, so they skip this ritual and the three other rituals because they don’t have time.

Know this. Time is the great leveller. We all have the same 24 hours in the day so the difference between us can only be our discipline and the systems we follow (i.e. our rituals, habits and hacks).

You may have heard the phrase “win the morning, win your day”, which is so true, but the bigger truth is that winning your morning starts the night before. Getting organised the night before is the real secret to your morning success.

Getting a night of deep sleep is the second biggest secret to winning your morning. So, ask yourself, how do you spend your nights?

This is where most people (even some high performers) waste their time because they feel like they’ve earned the right to flop in front of Netflix, scroll social media and snack. When rather it should be the time to hit repeat on the four-morning rituals and get ready for the following day, by packing your workout gear, your work bag, your lunch, turning off all technology and socialising in person with your family or by phone with a friend.

Why Is Journaling So Important?

Journaling is important for many reasons:

  • It is a conscious conversation you have with yourself.
  • It helps you notice any negative self-talk.
  • It keeps you focused on your priorities.
  • It helps you take stock of your life, so you don’t drift aimlessly.
  • It helps you notice whether you are neglecting parts of your life.
  • It holds you accountable to the promises you make to yourself.
  • It helps you process and review any negative or hurt feelings.

All these reasons will become apparent when you start to journal properly.

How do You Journal Properly?

Pen sitting on paper ahead of journaling

At A Higher Branch, we developed a unique journaling technique that shows you how to become your own life architect. We do not like the idea of an accountability coach.

People need to hold themselves accountable and journaling is the ultimate accountability tool. The template below gives you a guide.

You need to devote two pages every day. Once you use this template a few times, you will remember it.

Morning Journaling – Action Page:

The left page of your journal is for your morning ritual. It is for the mind. The right page is for your heart.

In the morning you need to focus on your actions for the day. So, it is future-focused.

It is all about visualising as you write what you need to do for the day in each of the eight areas of life depicted in the diagram below.

If this is your first time journaling, I suggest you devote the first few pages of your journal to write your long term goals and dreams in each of the eight areas of life. That way, the front of your journal becomes your big picture reminder to reference from time to time.

Nothing is too trivial or too small to write. Once it is written, it can be reviewed throughout the day to see how you are tracking.

I always keep my journal in my bag and check-in throughout the day to see if I have forgotten to action anything. I do one final check before I leave work and do a brain dump at the end of the day.

If I have missed anything I write it on the next day’s action page to get it out of my head and onto paper so I can shut down when I get home. As a guide, see below a few examples of daily action items I have written in my journal in the last week.

You will notice that nothing is too trivial to write. You will also notice that there is an action item for each of the eight elements of my life. We often make the mistake of thinking that our wellbeing is fuelled solely by diet and exercise.

In truth, it is all eight elements that make us whole and complete us mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And so we cannot neglect them.

Health:

  • Do F45 today at 12 noon.
  • Stretch for 10 minutes afterwards.
  • Book a massage for Saturday.
  • Use the stand-up desk between 8:30 am – 11:30 am.
  • Buy blue-light blocking glasses.
  • Fast till 1 pm today. Have a no-protein day today.
  • Order more turmeric & ashwagandha.
  • Go to bed at 10 pm.
  • Rest day, do brisk walk after work.
  • Go out in the sunshine at lunch.

Love:

  • Book a surprise dinner date for Saturday night.
  • Light candles tonight and read together.
  • Go for a hike together.
  • Go home early today and cook her favourite pasta.

Family:

  • Play backgammon with my daughter.
  • Share chapter eight of David Goggins with my oldest son.
  • Book lunch at a Lebanese restaurant on Sunday for the whole family.
  • Check-in on my nephew who is studying for HSC.
  • Call mum.

Work:

  • Keep a separate diary for your work to do.

Friendship:

  • Organise tickets to the footy this Sunday with mates.
  • Call mates to organise run on Saturday around the bay.
  • Have breakfast after.
  • Help a mate with his wedding prep.

Learning:

  • Listen to latest episodes of Dr Rhonda Patrick and Jim Kwik.
  • Research whether autophagy accelerates with exercise.
  • Research whether coffee breaks a fast.
  • Re-listen to chapter 11 in David Goggins book, You Can’t Hurt Me.

Wealth:

  • Assess the UBER IPO.
  • Look into solar panels and going off the grid.

Charity:

  • Help son with setting up his new website.
  • Spend 9 am-12-noon training new recruits.
  • Write the next article for A Higher Branch community.
  • Write cards to my World Vision sponsored children.
  • Give legal advice and business strategy to a friend who is starting a new business.

Journaling in this way helps you keep track of your commitment to each of the eight areas of life otherwise you will end up focusing all of your time on work. I do a stock-take on Sunday night for the week in review to see if I have neglected any area.

This helps me pivot for the next week. There is so much more I can write about morning journaling.

Evening Journaling – Reflection Page:

Man sitting on the side walk journaling

The right page is for your heart. It is to review and reflect on what happened during the day.

So it is best done in the last hour of the day before bed. This nightly journaling is extremely powerful and useful for three reasons:

  1. To heal any hurt feelings, rejections, failures, disappointments that you had during the day.
  2. To list everything that happened in the day you are grateful for.
  3. To list all your achievements for the day.

Processing Feelings:

Processing your feelings is all about acknowledging them. The worst thing you can do with hurt feelings is to deny them and sweep them under the metaphorical carpet of your subconscious, only to manifest itself in headaches, poor sleep and irritability.

You cannot hide from your feelings. If you do they will haunt you. If you confront them head-on you will neutralise them. You need to feel to heal.

  • Did someone reject you today?
  • How did that make you feel?

You need to process it by stepping into their shoes and forgiving them. Did you make a mistake that made you feel like a failure? You need to process it by writing down what you learned from that mistake.

Gratitude:

If this is your first time journaling then I want you to go to the front of your journal and just like you listed your goals and dreams in each of the eight areas of life. I want you to devote some of those first few pages to list everything you are for in the eight areas of life to date.

Then every night you should write down what you should be grateful for that happened to you on that day. Simple, powerful and effective.

Achievements:

You may have heard of the power of gratitude but heard little about the equally powerful task of listing your achievements in the eight areas of your life. It will surprise how much you have achieved.

We live in an era of over-achievement and most of us can be too hard on ourselves and fall into the trap of feeling like we are, that we do not have enough, do enough. The reality is that we have achieved a lot and continue to achieve so much daily.

Listing your achievements daily reminds you of your self-worth, builds your confidence and neutralises the anxiety that lives in the gap between where you are now in life and where you want to be.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

The 5 Powerful Daily Habits

Sign that reads habits are to be made

Woman waking up in bed as the hero image of the daily habits article

By Sam Makhoul

This article is part of a series in our academy’s four-five-six system – four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks – for daily living.  Systems like this are powerful because they do not rely on motivation.

Whether you wake up feeling like crap or down on something, this daily system will keep you on track. What most of us don’t realise is that everyone on the planet experiences issues, setbacks and disappointments, some are just better equipped at managing them.

Diagram of the daily conscious living module
We have covered the four daily rituals in detail in past articles; see below. Now we swing into the five daily habits that will absolutely revolutionise your life.

If you are new to our community and have not read the rituals it is preferable you do so. Why?

Because it will be difficult for you to instil these new habits without the four daily rituals as your foundation.

Ritual #1Journaling – is the conversation you have to hold yourself accountable.
Ritual #2Movement – gets you out of your head and into your body where the state of pure consciousness lives.
Ritual #3Meditation – teaches you to be mindful and conscious of your thoughts.
Ritual #4Learning – helps you grow so you continuously tweak your habits and life hacks.

We know, we know. That is a lot of reading.

But do you remember how many hours and effort you put at school, learning Shakespeare or trigonometry? Or at university getting your degree?

How much more important are you than what you do? Your identity is not defined by what you do, but who you are.

So please take the time to learn about yourself. The ancient sears instructed us to know thy self. Why is this important?

In our personal experiences, our lives started improving dramatically when we began to learn about ourselves. That process of self-discovery is where you will discover and unleash your talents and skills.

This in turn boosts your performance in all eight areas of your life, including your work or business. Here’s how:

The Power Of 5 Daily Habits:

Image of a dream capture

We live in an era of self-actualisation where everybody has dreams but so few work on their goals. The difference?

Dreams live in the heart. They ignite passion and excitement.

Goals live in the mind. Goals are what you need to work on to achieve your dreams. (Some people describe dreams as ‘end goals’).

A dream may be to finish a degree. But the daily goals are the lectures you need to attend, the texts you have to read, the assignments you need to complete and the exams you need to pass.

A dream may be to have a loving intimate relationship. But the daily goals are the dates you need to schedule, the hours you need to listen and the support you need to give, the tolerance you need to show in times of stress and conflict.

A dream may be to have a fit and sculpted body. But the daily goal is to show up to the gym or park or oval, the waking early or staying up late to train, shopping, preparing and eating an athletic-engineered diet.

We outline this because people confuse goals with dreams. Why is it important for you to know the difference?

Goals are the tough stuff you need to do daily. Everybody gets pumped up on the dream but then lose motivation on the day to day goals they need to achieve.

So, they give up…Enter habits.

Habits are much more powerful than motivation. Habits are what drives the performance of your goals.

Habits are what gets you through the tough stuff. The work. The grind. The setbacks. The rejections. The disappointments. The energy dips. The sore and sick moments.

Why Do Humans Have Daily Habits?

Habits are an automation tool of the subconscious mind. Through the repetition of an act (that yields a reward), humans are wired to delegate tasks from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind so they end up performing a task without really thinking about it.

This delegation frees the conscious mind up to focus on new experiences, new ideas, creativity, and other important functions. You don’t want to use the conscious mind to tie your shoelaces or brush your teeth.

Waste of attention bandwidth, right? But what if we can use habits to automate actions that are tough but good for us? Really good for us.

Habits that will help you power through the toughest of times. They will get you to show up every time, rain hail or shine. Before we reveal the first important habit you must be wondering….

How Do You Cultivate A New Habit?

Through repetition and reward. Neuroscientists tell us that it takes two lunar cycles to cultivate a new habit. Roughly 60-odd days.

So, at first, it is tough but as you repeat an action it gets easier and easier. You need to persist and have willpower at first.

But to make it easier, habits will yield a strong emotional reward and this is a critical element that makes you more inclined to repeat it until you cross what scientists call the line of automaticity. This is the point where this new task goes from the conscious to the subconscious.

From there the task (and life) gets easier, not because you do not experience issues and challenges, but because you will have the toolset to deal with them. The first habit is…..

Why You Needs To Make Smiling A Daily Habit:

Two women laying down smiling

Smile on waking and smile all day. Smile as soon as you open your eyes to greet a new day.

Did you know that people who walk around with a ready-smile:

  • Are more attractive and charismatic.
  • Have more confidence.
  • Are more trusted by customers or clients.
  • Are less likely to have arguments and conflicts.
  • Are more persuasive and influential.
  • Make better leaders.
  • Have happier children and families.
  • Are more productive at work.
  • Are much less likely to suffer from seriousness, anxiety and depression.
  • Have lower blood pressure.
  • Live longer!

Smiling even boosts your immune system! The science of how our physiology impacts our thoughts and feelings has been established by many researchers.

And there is countless research specifically on the benefits of smiling (even forced smiling). But the most interesting is recent research by the University of Cardiff that showed even people who could not frown due to botox injections were happier on average than those who could frown.

Why Is Smiling On Waking Important?

The simple act of smiling on waking will set the tone for the next 16 waking hours. Science tells us that the first few seconds after we wake and the feeling we wake with stays with us all day.

How Can You Reward This Habit – So It Gets Repeated?

The benefits of smiling listed above will be reward enough. But to make it even easier here are some powerful tips.

  • Watch or listen to comedy before you go to bed – preferably before the last hour.
  • Hang out with people that are fun or funny. There is a tonne of research on the law of attraction and human mimicking behaviour. There is a tonne more showing that the majority of women prefer to marry or live with a partner who has a great sense of humour.
  • Do more fun things in your day. For a detailed list of how to have fun, read my blog, Yes but are you having fun?

How Do I Smile Without Appearing Creepy?

Image of Mr Bean

It comes down to time and place. There is a time to be serious and a time for humour.

There is a difference between child-like and childish. There is a difference between wit and just plain inappropriate conduct.

And just like any other habit you create, the more you practice smiling, the more natural it will start to feel. And then you will find yourself smiling out of pure joy. It’s not about faking it until you make it, it is about faking it until you start to become it.

Want to read the rest of this series? You can find them here:

How To Get The Best Sleep- Part 2

By Sam Makhoul

The Definitive Guide To Sleeping Longer And Deeper:

In part one of this article on sleep, I outlined the latest stunning research which shows that sleep is more important than any other health protocol and impacts not just the body but cognitive performance and emotional wellbeing in a profound way. If you have not read part one, you can here: Is Sleep the Fountain of Youth?

In an age where artificial intelligence and technology is taking over jobs, it is very clear that creativity, imagination, strategic thinking and the ability to connect with others will be the most prized qualities for any person on the planet. Sleep is your superpower in promoting all of these qualities.

In part two of this series, I will outline the scientifically proven factors that impact good quality sleep, as they relate to the four elements:

  1. Duration
  2. Depth
  3. Continuity
  4. Regularity

Dysfunction in any one of these elements will compromise sleep. Knowing this will help you fix the cause. Later I will list some tips that induce sleep, but without fixing the root cause, those tips are useless.

It is very important to note at the outset that sleep is an innate quality. It will happen automatically with the protocols I am about to share.

So, this article will focus on returning you to your natural rhythm, where you will find sleep to be effortless. I know this from experience because I used to find sleep difficult and a waste of time because I had so much to do.

Today my respect for sleep has been deepened by the fact that sleep has transformed my performance in all eight areas of my life.

Depth:

Lady in a deep sleep

Depth is the most important element because, you will recall from part one of this series, that regeneration and repair of body and mind happen when you go into a long-wave deep sleep. Depth activates the mechanism of autophagy and production of human growth hormones.

The former helps you live longer, and the latter helps you look younger. The depth of your sleep is impacted dramatically by the following four factors:

1.    Not Enough Sunlight During The Day – Especially Morning Light: 

Exposure to natural light during the day is critical for the production of melatonin. This neurotransmitter gets produced naturally by the pineal gland.

Melatonin has two main functions. By day, it plays an active role in energy production by your mitochondria because it is a powerful antioxidant.

Secondly, it promotes deep sleep at night. The best way to get more melatonin naturally is to eat out in the sunlight and get as much sun on your skin and eyes, especially in the first hour of the morning.

I recommend you only wear sunglasses when absolutely necessary. I also recommend the ancient practice of sun-gazing. This is beautifully covered in the book Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health by Mark Bunn.

2.    Too Much Artificial Light At Night – Especially From Screens And Monitors:

Research shows that we now spend 93% of our time inside surrounded by artificial light. We eat in front of TVs.

We work in front of computers. We play games on screens. We browse social media on phones. This is wrecking us.

It is disrupting natural processes that heal and regenerate us. It is disturbing critical neuro pathways.

Exposure to artificial blue and white light at night is suppressing the release of melatonin and therefore the depth of your sleep. It also impacts the duration of sleep – see below.

Here are some tips:

  • Replace your LED’s with low lux lighting which can reduce blue/white light by up to 80%.
  • Put dimmers on all your lights.
  • Light candles instead.
  • Eliminate screen time at least one hour before bed. Ideally three hours or as soon as the sun goes down. If you absolutely have to get on your devices for something urgent, then I suggest you use the Apps Flux or IRIS. Both Apps reduce blue and white light considerably, but I prefer IRIS because it also eliminates flicker on your laptop screen. This flicker has been shown to cause a stress response.

3.    Body Temperature:

Getting overheated at night stops you from getting into longwave delta deep sleep levels three and four. You need to ensure that your room temperature is between 17-19 degrees Celsius.

The best way to achieve this is to put your bedrooms on different temperature settings than the rest of the house. Secondly do not over-dress for bed or have thick bed covers. Thirdly, roll away from your partner after the initial cuddle at night.

4.     EMF Interference: 

Electromagnetic pollution from cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, Bluetooth devices and all devices not in aeroplane mode will all impact your depth of sleep because these frequencies activate your sympathetic nervous system and stop you from going into long wave delta sleep. No ifs or buts, EMF is very bad for your sleep.

How Do You Know If You Are Going Into Deep Sleep?

You can measure whether you are going into a deep sleep through the use of biometric devices such as the Oura Ring. But I strongly suggest you put it in aeroplane mode, especially at night, and only sync it with the App when you are not wearing it.

Duration:

Clock ticking

Duration is important because we all need five, 90-minute sleep cycles every night. This adds up to 7.5 hours.

Every cycle serves a unique biological purpose. Duration is mainly impacted when you cannot get to sleep at the optimal time.

You end up going to bed late and reducing the duration of your sleep. It is imperative for your circadian rhythm and thyroid function to wake on or soon after sunrise.

So, sleeping in to make up the time only makes matters worse. (Your optimal time for sleeping and waking according to your chrono-type is discussed below under continuity). 

Here are the factors that impact your ability to get to sleep. Staying asleep is covered under continuity below.

1. Artificial light at night suppresses the release of melatonin so it also affects duration. In fact, for every 60 minutes of artificial light, you get after sundown, you suppress the release of melatonin by 30 minutes. This effectively delays the time for you to start feeling sleepy and ready for bed. You need to get Amish and eliminate all technology at night.

2. Not enough movement during the day makes you feel flat and stagnant. The body needs to get tired during the day for better sleep at night. Movement is also critical to neutralising the effects of work or life stress. 

TIP: If you cannot play a sport or have the time to work out, try minimum effective dose exercise throughout the day. Do Tabata three, four minutes a day and go for a quick walk before lunch and dinner.

3. Stress boosts cortisol and adrenalin to keep you in a state of fight or flight. This will lead to high blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat, which prevent you from getting to sleep. And even if you do get to sleep it will affect your continuity because chances are you will wake up around 3 am-4 am with your heart beating out of your chest.

Stress also raises your body temperature which we discussed keeps you from going into a deep sleep. The best way to neutralise stress is to slow down during the day and perform your tasks at a normal pace. Research shows that it is not the amount of work we do but the speed in which do the work that is the main cause of stress. So slow down. Read the tips by Carl Honore in his book, In Praise of Slow.

4. Too Many Thoughts. Sometimes it is not stress that keeps you up but thoughts that go around and around in your head of things to do for the next day. Getting things down in your diary gets it out of your head. The five to 10 minutes it takes to do this will save you precious hours of lost sleep. 

5. Feelings are bothering you. You will find it difficult to get to sleep if feelings bubbling under the surface are not acknowledged and processed. To heal you need to feel. We all experience rejections, failures, hurts, and disappointments. The best way to process them is to journal your feelings, using the Higher Branch techniques as espoused by our faculty member, Dr Guy Winch in his book, Emotional First Aid.

6. Eating too late and too much can stop you from getting to sleep and consequently reduce your duration. Especially foods that are high in fat. It is best to avoid food within three hours of going to bed.

7. Caffeine Consumption in the 12 hours before bedtime. Caffeine overrides the sleep-inducing effects of melatonin and keeps you awake for longer. Some people can go to sleep after drinking coffee but the research shows unequivocally that the caffeine stops them from going into a deep sleep. Therefore, they never get the benefits of autophagy and HGH.

The Best Tips To Induce Sleep And Improve Duration:

  • Have a bath, steam or sauna one hour before bed. This helps your body temperature to drop which prepares you for sleep.
  • Sleeping meditation.
  • Listening to comedy.
  • Use an acupressure mat. I use the Shakti Mat. It is incredibly effective.
  • Socialising by talking or playing board games or cards. 
  • Essential oils of lavender for stress or rose geranium for anxiety.
  • Exercise during the day, especially in the morning.
  • Do the four, seven, eight breathing technique. Breath in for four seconds, hold for seven and exhale for eight. Do this at least five times before you go to sleep. Do this during the next technique.
  • Ground yourself. Standing barefoot on green grass drains all the positive ions from your system and replaces them with the earth negative ions. The latter is healing and calming. It engages the parasympathetic nervous system.

Continuity:

Coffee cup in bed

It is natural to wake in the last sleep cycle of the night around the six-hour mark. But if you are waking earlier in the first four sleep cycles, then you have a continuity problem.

Some of the factors outlined in the section above on duration will sometimes affect continuity. For example, if your stress is high then cortisol will surge at night and wake you.

Thoughts and feelings that were bothering you during the day will creep in.  But what is it that makes you wake up, to begin with, and interrupt your continuity in the first six hours?

Typically they are:

  1. Drinking too many fluids before bed.
  2. Eating too much before bed.
  3. Consuming more than one drink of alcohol within three hours before bed.
  4. Falling asleep in front of the TV. 

If you do wake at night, the best thing to do is roll over and keep sleeping. Do not get up and out of bed to drink or go to the toilet, unless you indulge in the list of four things just mentioned.

What about sleeping tablets to help you sleep and stay asleep? Research shows that sleeping tablets grossly interfere with your REM sleep, which is critical for resetting your short-term memory.

This will make you foggy during the day and make you ineffective in performing your tasks, especially tasks requiring client connection and creativity.

Regularity:

Sleeping according to your chronotype can improve regularity, especially during travel and work commitments. If you are a night person and you try to go to bed before 10:30 pm, you will lay awake in bed thinking you have insomnia.

If you are a morning person and go to bed too late, you will get over-tired and have trouble sleeping. According to the research, morning people should go to bed around 9:30 pm and wake at 5:30 am.

Night owls should go to bed around 11 pm and wake at 7 pm. If you are an in-betweener, then anytime between 9:30 pm and 11 pm for sleeping and 5:30 am and 7 am for waking.

In all cases, however, it is imperative for all chronotypes to get plenty of sunlight within the hour after waking. If there is a factor that influences sleep and overall energy levels the most, it would be to practice light hygiene.

Direct sunlight during the day will boost your energy, and the elimination of artificial light at night will induce sleep. They both improve your gut health profoundly, where the majority of melatonin is produced during the daylight hours.

Just think of it this way: good bacteria prefer sunshine. Bad bacteria thrive in darkness. I wish you light and the softness of sleep.

Is Sleep The Fountain Of Youth? – Part 1

Lady sleeping in bed

Lady sleeping in bed with brown sheets

By Sam Makhoul

I really dislike this cliché “this will change your life,” but in this case, sleep will literally do so. What happens to us during sleep is truly remarkable.

It is the ultimate detox for the mind and body. It is a reset button. A reboot.

In fact, if there was a magic elixir or superfood that could help you live not just a longer life but a beautiful one, make you look young, boost your brain power, boost your performance, improve your relationship, make you fun and attractive to friends and family, energetic, enthusiastic. 

Humans are wired to value scarcity. So, we go in search of elusive superfoods or medicinal herbs that grow in unique parts of the world.

But we ignore the most potent health protocol that is available to us for free every night. Sleep!

This article is not just about giving the usual list of tips for sleeping better. That is secondary and found all over the internet. 

I write this article with my lawyer hat on to convince you intellectually of the importance of sleep. Only then will you start to respect sleep.

In my experience of coaching myself and clients, the behavioural change will never happen unless you have complete clarity of why you are doing something. So, I will be sharing the science of sleep and how it impacts every part of your life.

When you really understand what goes on at a cellular level, this will have a profound emotional impact on you. It will then motivate you to take sleep more seriously and make the lifestyle changes I will be recommending later.

Straight up, I am not a sleep expert. But I research and retain information really well and I have studied this area for many years and read multiple papers and books by pioneering scientists, especially in the last two years, where there have been huge advancements.

I have also tested the protocols personally and documented the impact it has had on my own health and performance. I do this with the help of my Oura Ring, which gives me all the data I need to track the results of every sleep protocol I implement.

As an entrepreneur, I often say that “data provides the clarity for business strategy”. That is no different in your personal life. 

This is perhaps the most important article you will read from me this year. It is a little long, but I make no apologies for that.

I respect you too much to give you a cursory summary of what I think is the most important element to your wellbeing that impacts not only your physical but also your mental and emotional health.

Sleep Basics

Sleep happens in cycles typically of 90 minutes duration. So, over an optimal eight hours sleep you will get five cycles.

During this 90 minutes cycle you go into four levels of sleep.  Level’s three and four being the deepest sleep where your brain goes into long delta waves.

Towards the end of the 90 minutes cycle you go back up to REM sleep (they call it Rapid Eye Movement because that is when you do your dreaming). As the night progresses and you go from cycle to cycle you have less delta sleep and more REM sleep, which is why you tend to dream more in the morning hours.

Imagine it like going up and down a ladder five times per night. You will notice from the diagram below that most of your deep sleep happens early in the evening.

Typically this peaks during the second cycle. And this is when you go into a state of autophagy (promotes longevity) and experience a surge of human growth hormones (promotes youth).

Diagram of the sleep stages

There are four layers to your health:

  1. Physical
  2. Intellectual
  3. Emotional
  4. Spiritual.

In this article we will discuss how sleep impacts the first three energies.

The  depth duration continuity regularity is what defines high-quality sleep. And it is the combination of all four elements that increases your ability to activate autophagy’and HGH.

Research shows that dysfunction in any one of these four factors negatively alters sleep and accelerates ageing and disease. Depth is how deep your sleep is.

Duration is the length of sleep. Continuity is how long you sleep without waking (especially important in the first four cycles).

Regularity is how often you experience quality sleep. Every day? Five times per week?

How Does Sleep Impact Your Physical?

Long wave deep sleep is critical for activating a mechanism called autophagy. The mechanism was recently discovered in 2016 by Nobel prize winner, Yoshinori Ohsumi.

It is a scientific term meaning your body goes into self-cleaning mode. It leads to the regeneration and repair of all your cells throughout the body via the lymphatic system and the brain, via the glymphatic pathway while you sleep.

Simply put, it destroys the old, damaged, and malfunctioning components of your cells – and rebuilds new and healthier ones. It’s like an overnight spring clean to replace old cells.

So, autophagy is your body’s unique way of naturally rejuvenating and defending itself from disease. Lack of good quality and quantity of sleep will cause a dysfunction with the mechanism of autophagy.

The mind in particular will experience an abnormal build-up of B-Amyloid plaque on the very part of the brain which facilitates sleep – the pre-frontal cortex. Over time, this leads to even more sleep dysfunction, which clogs up the brain even more, accelerates cognitive ageing and contributes to the development of early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s. (Reference: Dr. David Rubinsztein, professor of molecular neurogenetics at the University of Cambridge).

When it comes to the body, poor quality sleep predictably leads to a multitude of physical ailments like:

  • Auto-immune diseases from increased inflammation
  • Poor thyroid function
  • Increased insulin/glucose resistance (pre-diabetes)
  • Shortening of your telomeres (these keep you young)
  • Skin ageing
  • Eyesight dysfunction
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • And a dramatic increase in the risk of cancer.

In relation to cancer, studies also show that shorter duration of sleep has been found to reduce the number of natural killer T cells by up to 30%. T cells are what fight cancer cells.

Over time, chronic sleep deprivation of under six hours per night dramatically increases the risk of cancer, especially coupled with the lack of exposure to daylight and lack of vitamin D. Interestingly, the research also shows that poor quality sleep tends to increase the amount of food you eat.

It increases ghrelin cells, which lead to an exaggerated hunger response.  High quality sleep on the other hand increases leptin cells.

These cells inhibit hunger and regulate energy balance, so the body does not trigger a hunger response when it does not need energy. Additionally, poor quality sleep increases your cravings for the wrong foods.

This is because the lack of sleep impact your gut health. Poor sleep leads to an overgrowth of bad bacteria that crave the wrong type of foods, typically, high in sugar, fat and salt.

In fact, science is now showing that good quality sleep from a healthy circadian rhythm is more important than pre-biotics and pro-biotics in the regulation of good gut health. If this is not bad enough, research shows that people who get six or fewer hours of sleep per night are four times as likely to get ill after being exposed to the flu virus.

But wait, there is more. Poor quality sleep reduces testosterone levels, which is critical for your libido (and relationship), fat metabolism, muscle strength and bone density.

Still, need more evidence of the importance of sleep? Let’s move to the impact on your mental and emotional health.

How Does Sleep Impact Your Intellectual?

Lady waking up in bed

Poor quality sleep (especially influencing depth and duration) impacts your cognitive and work performance in a profound way. As we enter this age of automation and artificial intelligence, the key skills of creativity, imagination and strategising will become super important to your success.

Sleep impacts all of these three key skills in a profound way. In a recent study performed by the team at Berkeley University led by Professor Matthew Walker, they stunningly found that even one night’s sleep deprivation impacted cognitive performance by 40%.

This is a huge impact. They found that you need sleep to prime the brain before learning and processing new information and you need sleep; after learning to retain or store that same information you learned.

So, sleep before, stores information in the short-term memory (the hippocampus part of the brain) and deep sleep after allows you to transfer that same information into your long-term memory (the cortex). This allows you to reset your short-term memory for use the next day.

Meaning, if you do not get enough deep sleep, your short-term memory does not reset efficiently and therefore impairs your ability to learn and process new information the next day, because that part of the brain has a limited storage capacity (approx. 16 hours). Think of it like a USB stick.

Therefore, a good sleep of depth and duration will have the benefit of clearing your short-term memory reservoir for use the next day.

How Does Sleep Impact Your Emotional?

There is a strong correlation between high EQ and personal performance. Poor quality and quantity sleep impact your emotional stability.

It increases activity in the emotional part of the brain (the amygdala), which becomes 60% more reactive due to the dampening down of your rational brain (the pre-frontal cortex). This is an immediate trigger for anxiety which in turn negatively impacts your ability to sleep.

This leads to a vicious cycle of sleeping less and experiencing higher anxiety. Dr Walker’s research lab shows that this negative loop eventually leads to social isolation because people who are sleep deprived show a strong tendency to distance themselves from social interaction.

Moreover, it showed that the issue was compounded because they were in turn shunned by others; which caused more social isolation and inevitably depression. This is what the R U OK movement is essentially trying to avoid.

Depression causes your hippocampus to shrink, which then impacts your short-term memory. Earlier, I outlined these were critical for your creativity and strategic thinking, and therefore your performance at work and in business.

Poor sleep also amplifies the stress response in a unique way. Your tolerance level drops, your irritability rises, and you are quick to anger.

Hardly good qualities for optimal work performance. In fact, the negative emotions of anger, fear, anxiety and depression (even general unhappiness) will drain your physical energy and this dramatically reduces your effectiveness in all areas of life.

The Definitive Guide To Sleeping Longer And Deeper:

In part two of this article (read it here), I discuss the four elements to good quality sleep. They are duration, depth, continuity and regularity.

I list the major factors that negatively impact these four elements. Knowing this will help you fix the root cause of poor sleep.

And when you do this, you will find that sleep becomes as innate and natural as breathing and drinking water. More specifically I outline the following:

  • Depth: The two major lifestyle changes that will increase the depth of your sleep and activate autophagy and trigger high. These protocols will work almost immediately.
  • Duration: The two major causes of a reduction in the duration of your sleep. And how to prevent them with two simple techniques. I also share with you seven techniques that will induce sleepiness so you can get to sleep on time every night.
  • Continuity: The three major reasons why you are having interrupted sleep and how to sleep through the three sleep cycles of the night where you are most prone to waking. Refer to the diagram above.
  • Regularity: How sleeping according to your chronotype can increase regularity, especially during travel and work commitments. I share the exact best time to sleep and wake according to your chronotype.

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

Is Poor Breathing Making You Sick?

Is Poor Breathing Making You Sick?

By Sam Makhoul

This is the last of the six life-hacks, one that is easy to apply, will not take time from your day but will have a huge impact on your physical, mental and emotional health. It is the ultimate detox, the ultimate stress buster, immune booster and the best performance enhancer second to sleep, but in turn, impacts the quality of your sleep.

It is the conscious use of the breath (commonly known as prana or chi), associated with spirit, passion, life, power and magnetism. It is important that you understand what is going on with the breath and its impact on the chemical and physiological activities of the body which includes the mind.

Knowing this gives you ultimate control so you can put yourself in any desired state depending on what you want to achieve at the moment. There are two types of breathing:

  • Subconscious natural breathing. This is controlled by what is going on in your heart and mind.
  • Conscious breathing where you bring your awareness to the breath. This conversely controls your heart and mind. And there are two states or outcomes from your breathing. 

They either step you into your:

  • The parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) – usually associated with nose breathing.
  • Sympathetic (fight or flight) – associated with mouth breathing.

Both states serve a purpose so there is no such thing as good or bad but rather, a natural state or unnatural state. If you are running a race, engaging the sympathetic with mouth breathing is important, but the same mouth breathing sitting at a desk fretting is unnatural.

The breath is a gateway to multiple states and the purpose of this article is to teach you the different techniques so you can use the breath as a very powerful tool. Stressed?

No problem you will know what to do. Needing energy? No problem again. Needing creativity? 

Whatever technique you choose below, there is one powerful element that is common to all awareness! Awareness is the magic ingredient.

I will now share with you the techniques I have learned over the years and read about from pioneers like Dan Brule. His book Just Breathe was life-changing.

Breathing For Stress Relief Or Sleep: 

This is a technique I created for myself that is a combination of diaphragmatic and box breathing. It is the quickest way to interrupt the fight or flight stress response and trigger the body’s normal relaxation response.

The added benefit to this technique is that it strengthens the diaphragm and trains the body to breathe from the belly subconsciously.

“When the breath is shallow, the mind is unsteady but when the breath is calmed the mind is still; therefore, when you control the breath, you control your mind” – Swatmarama Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

The Technique:

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Put one hand on your belly and the other on your heart.

Breath in for four seconds, hold for four, out for 4 four and hold for four. Your belly should rise and fall with each breath in and out.

Repeat 10 times or for as long as you require to notice your body relax. You will know it. When you are in an anxious state the first four reps are difficult but if you persist, you will literally change your body chemistry in a few minutes. Mentally counting will help.

Breathing For Detox:

Use this technique if you feel like you are coming down with something or if you are stuck in air-conditioning all day. Do it outside in the fresh air.

Did you know that 70% of detox happens by the lungs through the breath? So, if you are shallow breathing throughout the day, you are not detoxing efficiently.

We typically shallow breath when we are driving, on devices or in meetings. You will get tired, get brain fog and impact your immune system.

That’s why this life-hack is so important! Especially if you are an office worker like me.

The following breathing technique takes 63 seconds twice a day. That’s all.

A lot of people don’t believe that something so simple will have any effect, so they will not do it. Science has proven that this simple breathing technique, will trigger the release of endorphins, stimulates the lymphatic system and expels carbon monoxide.

The Technique:

Place your tongue against the ridge behind your upper teeth. Close your mouth and inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for seven and exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.

Repeat three times. It may feel weird, but it will feel natural after a few goes.

Breathing For Creativity:

Creativity comes from the heart, not the mind. The heart is where the seat of passion is.

It is no coincidence that the lungs wrap around the heart. And when you take a deep breath, the heart expands and this takes you out of the head and into your heart.

Only then can you tap into your creativity. Try this simple technique to help you get creative.

I do this every morning after meditation. It only takes a few minutes and makes me super sharp throughout the day.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

While sitting, close your right nostril with your right thumb. Exhale and then inhale through your left nostril.

Release your right nostril and close your left nostril with your ring finger. Exhale and then inhale through your right nostril.

And repeat for a few minutes. I do this for five minutes. You can use your left hand. Breath naturally.

Once you get the hang of it, it will start to flow naturally. This technique is also popular with Aussie health researcher and ayurvedic medicine practitioner, Mark Bunn.

Breathing for Performance Enhancement & Depression Relief:

There are many benefits claimed to what is now known as the Wim Hoff breathing method, made famous by the endurance athlete Wim Hoff. Anything from asthma management, Lyme disease treatment, arthritis and fibromyalgia relief, boosting concentration and increasing willpower.

The only well-documented benefits are performance enhancement from boosting energy and significantly relieving depression. I will not list the science here because if you Google it you will find a tonne of info on this method from multiple research universities.

I will also note for the sake of mention that this method is very similar to a technique invented by Leonard Orr.

The Technique:

Take 30 quick and deep breaths inhaling consciously through the nose and exhaling naturally through your mouth. Don’t try and control the out-breath.

Just let it go. After 30 deep breaths exhale the last breath and then hold until you are gasping to breathe in.

Inhale again as deep as you can and hold it for 10 seconds. As a variation, I like to drop to the floor and do as many push-ups whilst holding my breath until I am gasping to take a breath again.

Repeat this as many times as you like but I find that my whole system is well oxygenated after just one set and I am pumped with energy and feeling great! I promise you will too.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #4: The Power Of Laughter

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Child with glasses

Young man brainstorming

By Sam Makhoul

Are You Genetically Gifted:

You could possibly have a gene that gives you a competitive edge in harnessing the power of visualisation. Nobody ever thinks of their five senses as superpowers but all the science shows that it is our five senses that determine how we experience the world, how long we live and the quality of our living.

Now science is discovering a sixth sense that can create everything we ever wanted out of life. Whether you believe in creation or evolution, you have to accept that we are never given a faculty by accident.

Our taste buds are there for the sense of taste and smell for avoiding toxic food, eyes for seeing and finding food and water; ears for hearing your child cry at night and as an alarm for predators; and touch for intimacy and tactile creation. Every sense serves a purpose.

So why are humans the only living creatures on the planet to also have a creative imagination? Why do we have the ability to envision goals and dreams and hold them as emotions?

Before you dismiss this as an article on nonsense such as the secret, I want you to know that I have a bias for action. I believe in hard work. I believe that hope without habit is futile.

I don’t believe in motivation. I believe it is our actions that define our identity and hence our future behaviours.

But what precedes our actions? Visions and thoughts.

We need to have a vision and clarity on where we are going and why we are taking action.

Creative imagination is a faculty just like our five physical senses… but this sixth sense is by far the most powerful.

Most people use it to imagine the worst that can happen in life (I know this all too well. As a trained lawyer I am trained to pre-empt the worst-case scenario and draft contracts to help my clients avert it).

But for those who know how to harness the power of imagination and visualise the best things in life (a healthy body, great relationships, material abundance to name the typical) then this is a faculty you need to know how to use. Please don’t waste it.

It holds the key to a whole dimension so few know how to step into.

Child with glasses

Imagine it. Done:

Creative imagination or emotional visualisation as I call it has helped me manifest just about everything in my life. The person I am married to, the house I live in, my body and mind, the friends I hang with, etc… this is all a manifestation of the future visual I hold deep in my emotions.

If you walk into my Sydney office at MSA National where we have over 100 people and look at every detail from floor to walls to furniture to layout, the smiles on people’s faces, the culture, the innovation, that was once and remains all in my creative imagination. During meditation, I visualised it so clearly and held gratitude in advance that my heart and mind believed it to be true ahead of time.

The first-ever event of Upgrade Your Life is another example of that manifestation. Watch the highlights here and note that every smile, every tear, every experience, every speaker, every aha moment, every dance, was all once in my head. People asked me after the event: did you ever in your wildest dreams imagine that the event could be so beautiful?

A smile always appears on my face, because I visualised it in my heart and mind so clearly. I just had to show up every day and watch the magic of the universe reveal the path I needed to take.

Sure, I did have to overcome all my doubts and fears. Who doesn’t have them? We all do. But if you trust this emotional visualisation you can’t go wrong.

I call it emotional because you have to have that gratitude in your heart in advance. What does that mean?

A beautiful thing happens when you fall in love with your future. When you feel like your future has already happened there is a synchronisation between your energy and that potential in the quantum field.

You start to draw experiences (or synchronicities) that help you manifest that visual because you are connected to that future energy. I am not proposing anything radical here.

Dr Joe Dispenza recently wrote multiple books about this phenomenon and his events, attracting hundreds of people, sell out within minutes of release. People have healed themselves from auto-immune diseases to arteriosclerosis using creative visualisation.

Do You Have A Genetic Competitive Edge?

I was extremely sceptical about this field of epigenetic for many years until I learned that science had discovered a gene that is unique to some humans that gives them the ability to tap into creative imagination at will, to manifest whatever is possible in the quantum field. This genotype known as rs4680(A; A) is in the coding region of the COMT gene.

People with this genotype are associated with higher levels of dopamine in the pre-frontal cortex, a region implicated in the placebo and nocebo response. This phenomenon occurs when a person experiences a physiological response to what he or she thinks is happening.

This is nothing new. People who use their creative imagination to imagine an illness have a psychosomatic response.

The expectation elicits a response. Whether that response is positive or negative all depends on the individual using their imagination.

People who use it to imagine the worst, end up attracting what they fear. People who know how to use it for good, usually are people who enjoy amazing success in their life.

Does this mean that people who don’t have this genotype, cannot tap into their sixth sense? No. It’s just harder.

Just like you have some people who are gifted at running long distances or swimming or whatever, this does not mean you cannot do what they do; it just means you have to train harder (Exhibit A = David Goggins – he was negative buoyant and went on to complete navy seal hell week three times – the most in history). So please do not give up on this faculty just because you discover you don’t have this gene.

I know this life-hack in the series is not as sexy and as easy as the usual diet and lifestyle hacks out there but just because it is a little difficult to understand it does not mean you should dismiss it. It is extremely powerful.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #4: The Power Of Laughter

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

Life-Hack #4: The Power of Laughter

Three people running

Three people running

By Sam Makhoul

Firstly, I need to clarify what a life-hack is. It is a lifestyle protocol that will boost your energy, help you sleep better, boost your immune system and ultimately make you live longer.

Why is laughter a life-hack that is in my top six? Just like a bodybuilder will focus on compounding exercises such as squats, the six life-hacks, including this one on laughter, all have a compounding effect on your health. 

In other words, the impact is far-reaching inside the body. Let me explain why laughter is so important to your health by explaining its impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.

Physically:

  • Decreases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin
  • Lowers blood pressure because it boosts nitric oxide and dilates the inner lining of blood vessels. It even increases HDL.
  • Increases the circulation of antibodies that boosts resistance to infections
  • 60 seconds of hearty laughter relieves tension in your muscles for up to 45 minutes. That makes it more potent than Valium without the side-effects
  • It relieves depression

Thoughts (Mind):

  • Laughter (or even ‘humour’ without having to laugh out loud) boosts dopamine to the brain and thus increases the sense of pleasure and reward.
  • It changes brain wave activity towards what’s called a “gamma frequency” and this amps up memory and recall. 

Ultimately the combination of mind and body benefits lead your mood to greener pastures. You have peace of mind and sleep better at night.

Suddenly everything seems manageable, even pain or loss or failure. You smile more.

You have an air of self-confidence and you start attracting good things and good people into your life, including customers. Most importantly it will improve your relationships with family, friends and your partner.

I coached one client who said that until he learned how to laugh, his kids found him too serious and scary. When he learned to let go and laugh more he was getting more hugs at home.

In fact, research shows that people who are fun, witty and smile often are voted as more attractive. Not bad for a life-hack aye? Which is why it comes in at number four in our series.

How To Increase Laughter In Your Daily Life:

  • Surround yourself with people who feel like sunshine – in other words, who make you laugh and are easy going. Physically, we do feel warmer from laughter.
  • Listen to or watch, comedy – preferably at a live comedy show. One of my nightly rituals is to listen to comedy every night before I go to sleep.
  • Read our article Yes But Are You Having Fun? There are many spiritual teachers who believe that our highest purpose in life is to play, have fun and spread happiness.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Two people hugging

Two people hugging

By Sam Makhoul

Poor oral health has been strongly linked to heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s. In addition, certain diseases such as diabetes can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

But that’s only part of the story. What most people don’t realise is that oral health is not just about protecting your teeth and gums, it is about protecting an important immune function performed by your saliva.

I know this topic might be a little gross but it is important, which is why it made the top 6 life hacks in our 4-5-6 system for daily living.

I will share a simple preventative technique that will impact your health in a profound way, make you more attractive and boost your resistance to disease. It is an ultimate preventative superweapon. And it is quick, easy and cheap.

But first…Science.

Saliva is also one of your body’s main defences against bacteria and viruses. It contains antibodies that attack viral pathogens, such as the common cold and even HIV.

It also contains proteins called histatins, which inhibit the growth of candida. When these proteins are weakened by poor oral health and some illnesses, candida can grow out of control.

Saliva is also good for your sex life because research shows that healthy saliva has testosterone in it, which explains why kissing has been shown to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. It stands to reason that if you have poor oral health, you will reduce your libido and be less attractive, not just on the sensory level (bad breath) but on the hormonal level.

Inflammation, Heart Disease & Alzheimer’s:

Oral inflammation due to bacteria (gingivitis) plays a role in clogged arteries and blood clots. Bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries of the heart and brain.

It enters the bloodstream through bleeding gums. This inflammation causes the development of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, increasing your risk of a heart attack, stroke and the build-up of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which leads to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Most people are taught the three main protocols to good oral hygiene.

1. Avoid sugar
2. Floss your teeth at night
3. Brush teeth morning and night

But there is a fourth protocol, which is super effective at preventing the inflammatory response of poor mouth hygiene. It will protect your heart and your brain, which seem to be the most susceptible to inflammation.

Oil Pulling:

This protocol has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine well before we had toothpaste and toothbrushes. The following is what you should do morning just before you perform the four-morning rituals shared in previous articles.

  • Brush teeth and tongue in the usual way
  • Use a tablespoon of coconut oil and sesame oil
  • Put one drop of essential oils clove and oregano or thyme
  • Swish the oil in your mouth for 5-20 mins. I perform this during my morning jog. It is time-efficient and also forces me to breath through my nose which is much healthier than mouth breathing.
  • Do not swallow because the oil extracts all the bacteria and other toxins from in-between gums and teeth.
  • Spit out thoroughly, preferably in the garden. If you cannot do the garden then do not use coconut oil because it will harden in your drainage pipes. Just use sesame oil.

For a definitive guide on this protocol, please read this article by our faculty member and health researcher, Mark Bunn: Oil Pulling the Ayurvedic Way.

Last Word:

I am surprised at how many people I come across are obsessed with diet and exercise but give very little attention to oral hygiene, eye and hearing health. These three senses are so important to overall health and wellbeing.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life Hack #4: The Power Of Laughter

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

How to eat properly

By Sam Makhoul

Today we focus on the life hack for healthy eating. First, we want to point out that eating healthy can be unhealthy.

We are not against healthy eating, but we are against an obsession with diets and labels. Your emotional wellbeing is much more important to your overall health than what you eat.

Yes, food is medicine at the cellular physical level but sunshine, sleep, socialising and fulfilment is a much more potent medicine on the emotional level. Furthermore, the focus on what to eat is a one-dimensional view of healthy eating.

Eating is a process that starts with what food you buy, how you store, how you cook, when you eat, how much you eat and your mental state when you eat. The process can break down anywhere along this value chain.

The process is only complete when you absorb what you eat.

The Three Essential Tests:

We live in an age where bio-metric testing is accessible. Don’t second guess what is healthy for your own unique cells.

Get tested. Avocado is not healthy for everyone.

Nor is kombucha or coffee or eggs or goji berries or whatever is the latest craze. Conversely, eating gluten or dairy or meat is not bad for everyone either.

So, please don’t buy into fad diets and health evangelists. By getting tested you will find out what foods should be avoided for your genetic type.

You can do three tests to start with. Blood test, hair mineral analysis and the gut microbiome.

See a qualified health practitioner. And yes, some doctors are now also doing these tests – it is not only for naturopaths.

The following 14 eating rules provide the real answer to eating properly. They reflect the fact that our nutritional requirements change in a 24-hour cycle and in an annual cycle of spring, summer, autumn, winter.

So, being paleo, keto or vegan is not really an accurate label to put on yourself. You need to live in tune with the natural cycles of the earth.

This seasonal living is the single most important principle for healthy living. The seasons affect us at a physical and emotional level.

We feel different in winter compared to summer. We want stillness and crave more comfort foods in winter; soups v’s salads.

Summer is about relaxing in the sun. Autumn is about reviewing, reflection and tacking stock of our lives.

Spring is about growth. The more we mirror nature and adapt to these cycles, the healthier we will be.

When To Eat, How Much To Eat And How To Eat:

Lady delivery two plates of healthy food

1. Eat More Protein In Winter:

We are generally less active in winter and so we need to eat fewer carbs. Eating more protein curbs your appetite for carbs.

2. Eat More Carbs In Summer:

Nature produces fruits higher in sugar carbs in summer for a reason. We are more active in summer and therefore need more glucose for fuel.

3. Eat Fruits And Vegetables In Season:

Even meats and fish are seasonal.  Our body needs different nutrients at different times of the year depending on the changing season, especially spring and autumn. Respect that. For example, it’s not always healthy to eat blueberries year-round! Your body needs to create its own antioxidants sometimes and different antioxidants from other sources. Reliance from one source like blueberries can make your cells lazy.  Example two: Some seasons require citrus to ward off colds and flu.

4. Eat In A Window Of 8-12 Hours Preferably During Daylight Hours.

You need to abstain from food the other 12-16 hours. Be careful from fasting for periods longer than this without the guidance of a health practitioner because fasting can boost adrenalin and stress you out. And stress is much more harmful than not detoxing.

5. Don’t Snack Between Meals:

Allow yourself to go hungry before eating your next meal or snack. Going hungry means your body has processed the last meal. How long it takes depends on your activity level. The more active you are the quicker you will go hungry. Don’t reach for snacks simply because they are there.

6. Exercise Or Move Before Your Meals:

Exercise expands the glucose in your cells so they are ready to take in more glucose. If your cells are overloaded with glucose, they will store the excess as fat. In fact, I would rate this as the number one rule.

7. Eat Out In Sunlight Or Nature:

The sun on your skin and eyes produces leptin cells and these are important in regulating how much you eat. They are the on/off button for your hunger.

8. Don’t Eat Heavy Meals After The Sun Goes Down:

If you cannot sleep because you are hungry, then eat very light low-fat foods like papaya or berries.

9.  Eat More Of Your Carbs As The Last Meal Of The Day:

But… only if you have a stressful day and feel like you have been running on adrenalin all day. Make it clean, slow-burning carbs from vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin and broccoli. Whilst eating more carbs at night may not be great for your waistline, it is better for your mental health because carbs will help you sleep. You should always trade sleep for any other fitness goal.

10. Do Not Overeat:

There is a tipping point where the fuel you get from eating is cancelled out by the energy you burn in digesting your food. Overeating also taxes your organs and temporarily surges cholesterol and lipid proteins. Most arteriolosclerosis occurs after a big heavy fatty meal, especially at night.

11. You Are Not What You Eat But Rather What You Digest:

Eating in a relaxed state will help you absorb more nutrients. If you are stressed, all food becomes toxic in your body.

12. Relax Before You Eat:

Exercise will generally put you in a relaxed state but if you are stressed you need to also meditate before you eat to switch on your ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system.

13. Don’t Have Intense Discussions When You Eat:

Don’t watch TV or scroll devices while you eat. You are disrupting the connection between your sense of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. The brain sends a signal to your body to release the right enzymatic spectrum to digest the food you are eating. When you are not engaged with your food, you will not digest your food efficiently.

14. Rest After Eating:

The process of eating has not finished until the nutrients have been absorbed, so it is important that you stay relaxed and rest after a meal. That is when most of your absorption occurs.

Read more from this series:

Life Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #4: The Power Of Laughter

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

Life-Hack #1: Grounding & Sun Gazing

Sign that reads just breathe

Sign that reads just breathe

By Sam Makhoul

I cannot stress how important these three simple protocols are for your wellbeing. When practised together they have a compounding impact not just on your physical but on more importantly your mental and emotional balance.

They are healing at a deep level and they complement your four-morning rituals beautifully to give you the best start and finish to the day. And they only take one to two minutes to perform.

Ground, Gaze, Breathe (GGB):

This life hack should be practised together, preferably within 45-minutes of sunrise and 45-minutes of sunset. I do them religiously wherever I may be in the world.

In fact, I wrote this from NYC and I had just returned from Central Park where I performed these trios just before my jog and meditation. It got rid of my jetlag almost instantly.

The protocol provides the ultimate detox, the best antioxidant and the best elixir for your gut health.

  1. Step 1: Go barefoot on grass
  2. Step 2: Gaze at the sun
  3. Step 3: Breath deeply

Breathe deeply in and out through the mouth for 45-seconds whilst you look towards the sun. Don’t look directly at the sun.

Take in the whole picture without focusing on anything in particular. The sun early and late in the day will not hurt your eyes, especially for only 45-seconds.

Have a break of 15-seconds and then repeat two to three times. I also suggest you do eye exercises during the 15-second break.

Lady running into the sun

Simply look left, right, up, down, diagonal then round to the left and right. Don’t forget to breathe normally while you are doing these eye exercises.

The combination of deep breathing, sun gazing and grounding literally drains all the negative energy and replaces it with the earth’s healing energy. This is not pseudoscience.

There is a lot of research showing that grounding or earthing replaces positively charged ions (bad for you) with negatively charged ions. It has a dramatic antioxidant effect.

It detox’s the body much more than any herbal detox program. Remember that 70% of our detox is done by the lungs through the breath.

Bathing your eyes with sunshine boosts your energy, mood and provides a direct neuropathway through the pineal gland to your gut, where it regulates the diversity of your gut bacteria. This will boost not just the happy hormone serotonin but the all-important melatonin, which is responsible in so many functions including energy production and sleep promotion.

Sleep is the ultimate superfood for body and mind. For more detailed information on all three protocols of this healthy trinity please visit our faculty expert and health researcher Mark Bunn.

My Rant:

This Hack #1 in our series is much more effective than probiotics, prebiotic, juice fasts, herbal supplements and the like. And it is free!

Something the wellness industry will not tell you because they don’t make money from the sun, earth and breath. As an Australian heart surgeon, Dr Nikki Stamp recently said beautifully: “The Wellness industry does not care about you or your health.

“The only thing they want from us is our money and adoration which they take with glee. Each time we like an Instagram post….read their books or juice some vegetable, we’re lining their pockets and making very little impact on our own health.”

Read more from this series:

Life-Hack #2: Eating Properly And Maximising Nutritional Absorption

Life-Hack #3: Oil Pulling & Your Amazing Saliva

Life Hack #4: The Power Of Laughter

Life Hack #5: Your Sixth Sense

Life-Hack #6: Let There Be Breath

Why We Don’t Step Outside Our Comfort Zone

Turtle swimming in clear blue waters

By Sam Makhoul

Stepping out of your comfort zone is a confronting experience. And for many people, it sparks a feeling of anxiousness, fear and worry.

So, what are the key contributors that are holding us back and keeping us feeling safe in an area of life that we feel most comfortable? Well, we investigate.

Is It Fear Of Getting Hurt Or Is It Laziness?

Close up of a ladies brown eyes looking out in fear of leaving her comfort zone

Being adventurous does lead us into unknown territory where we may feel lost and in many cases, it is out of your comfort zone. We get it, but we also fear getting hurt physically and emotionally.

Physically, we may fear getting injured or sick from trying new exercise or a new sport. We tell ourselves, “maybe I am not ready. I feel run down. I may get sick or too tired. I may get injured. My knees, shoulder, ankles or whatever may get worse.”

Emotionally, we may fear getting rejected when we initiate intimacy with our partner or make new friends, or suggest a new idea at work, or help someone we don’t know. Or we may fear failing at a new business, a new course or a new job or a new investment.

Don’t get us wrong, we are not suggesting you do anything without research and assessment. Being fearless does not mean being reckless, but it is your duty to at least make the effort and conduct the risk analysis.

Risk Analysis:

Person walking across a cliff with a rope as he leaves his comfort zone

So, there are essentially two obstacles. Not just fear but LAO taking the time and effort to conduct a risk analysis.

Most people who do not take action blame it on fear, when in reality they are just too lazy to make the assessment. So the question is, which one is letting you down – fear or lack of risk analysis, or both?

For example, when it comes to initiating relationships, ask yourself:

  • “What’s the worst that can happen if that person rejects me?”

Often the answer is “not much”.  Meaning, it is simply fear stopping you from taking action even though you know there are plenty of other people on this planet.

On the other hand, when it comes to trying a new exercise, getting injured is a real risk, but the assessment needs to include risk mitigation. Ask yourself:

  • “How can I ease into exercise?”
  • “How do I warm up before exercise?”
  • “How do I stop before my form is compromised due to fatigue?”

Or it could be enrolling into a new course at uni. The risk is you lose interest in the course or you find out the course is not right for you.

So, the ultimate risk is losing money and more importantly, losing time. The gain is the knowledge you can leverage to invest in your future earning potential. How do you mitigate the risk here?

Or it could be a new job. The risk is you lose an existing job where you have gained respect and trust. The gain is you get a better job with greater opportunity for growth and earnings. How do you mitigate this risk?

In all cases, you need to answer that question for yourself because only you know the nuances and consequences in your life. Below we outline a process to help you.

Get Rich Or Die Trying?

Lady in bed under the blankets

Change ultimately requires not just fearlessness but constant risk assessment. If you are too lazy to make that assessment daily, you may be in a stage in your life where you don’t feel like any change is warranted or necessary.

Consider this, however: most people are in one of three states.

  1. High State: Life is great! They wake up every day with purpose and passion.
  2. Low State: Life is terrible, and they are not excited about getting up in the morning.
  3. Numb State: They are neither happy nor sad, but stuck somewhere in the middle where it is not bad enough to change anything.

We are not judging here. Merely making an observation that the numb state often precedes the low state.

We’ve been in all three states and the one thing that we know for certain is that we have only ever achieved something in life when we have gone out on a limb, got hurt, dusted myself off and tried something new every day. But only when we have learned from it.

Every fail is an opportunity for growth. Yes, it’s a cliché, but ever so remarkable.

It All Starts With New Learnings:

Woman walking a flower field in happiness after learning how to leave her comfort zone

The path to overcoming fear and conducting risk analysis starts with learning. Most people dive into new things recklessly because they are pumped up on motivation.

The antidote to that starts with new learnings. You need to learn before and after you step outside your comfort zone.

  • Before: information allows you to make the right decision through proper analysis.
  • After: if it was the wrong decision, you have to ask “what did I learn from this?”

In both cases, you are gathering information for future risk assessment. Ever heard of millionaires and billionaires who have been bankrupt a few times?

Why are there are so many? Because the ultimate learnings come from failures and experiences.

This is the zone where you should live your life. We are not saying it’s easy, but it’s definitely not numb.

There are steps we follow daily before trying something new:

Step 1: Learn – podcasts, books, people, fails.
Step 2: Decide – risk analysis.
Step 3: Act – take action with no attachment to the outcome.
Step 4: Review and Reflect – pivot.
Step 5 Repeat – this takes courage.

Why Some People Can’t Get Out of Bed in the Morning

Lady laying on top of her bed

Man turning alarm off because he can't get out of bed

By Sam Makhoul

Have you ever wondered why some people just can’t get out of bed some mornings? Well, the real reason is that their mind and body can predict what is going to happen that day.

Most of us think that lacking drive comes from not having compelling goals and dreams but that is half the equation. You can still have a purpose but lack passion.

Why? We all experience life through our five senses and when we repeat the same things every day, we get caught in a negative feedback loop where the five senses send a message from the body to the brain and back again that “this is another mundane day”.

Consequently, our energy dims. When our five senses experience the same thing every day, they become too familiar with the known.

People call that their comfort zone when in reality it is their dead zone. It is where their five senses go numb.

But when we have variety and adventure in our life, our senses come alive. They are stimulated – we too then come alive and experience living with passion and excitement.

Lady struggling to get out of bed

Remember the last time you woke up excitedly looking forward to something? An excursion, a holiday, a new job or business.

It’s because you knew that something unexpected was going to happen. Why do we watch sport? Because something unexpected is going to happen.

Or go on a new date, or to a concert. Visit a new restaurant,  see a new movie or read a new book?

Make a new friend, develop a new strategy,  use a new software program, to take a new route? Whatever gets us into new territory. Imagine living with that sense of excitement and adventure every day.

If you can’t or don’t want to imagine it? Maybe it is because you are trying to control every outcome in your life.

The comfort zone is also a zone of safety, familiarity and well, comfort. Ultimately, we retreat into our comfort zone because we fear getting hurt.

Every time we try and control outcomes in our life, we are giving up our greatness and wasting precious time on this earth. It takes fearlessness to experience living because there is a difference between being alive and living.

“Being alive is an opportunity to live. It is not living.”

Below we highlight how the sense of adventure is impacting some individuals ability to not be able to get out of bed in the mornings.

Adventure:

Man sky diving out of his comfort zone

Living a life where we bounce out of bed every day can only happen when we have a sense of adventure in our life. Adventure is what takes us outside our comfort zone and exposes us to new opportunities for growth.

Adventure is how we practice fearlessness. The adventure leads to living because when we try something new we are stepping into unknown and unfamiliar territory.

When that happens, our body’s five senses are stimulated. For example, when we travel to another country, our senses are stimulated by new experiences.

It may be the aromas of exotic herbs and spices, seeing new sites, feasting on new food or hearing new music from another culture. Or feeling snow or sand between our fingers.

Our senses crave all such experiences. But we should never wait for holidays to feel that sense of adventure.

Every day is an opportunity for adventure. When you do something new in each of the eight areas of life daily, your five senses get stimulated and you will feel alive.

New sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch. Most of us can drift aimlessly in the eight areas of our life because we are not living consciously.

We wake and hit the repeat button every day. So, our challenge to you this week is to ask yourself:

  • What new adventures can you try every day this week, using the eight 8 elements of life as your guide?
  • What new things can you do?
  • Or what old things can you do in a new way?
Diagram of the eight trees of life

Can You Eat Junk Food And Still Be Healthy?

Deep fried foods and lollies laid out on a mat

Deep fried foods and lollies laid out on a mat

By Sam Makhoul

The answer is YES. But we’d like to pose an even bolder question.

Can you eat junk food, smoke and drink alcohol and still be healthier than someone who eats healthy? The answer again is yes.

You hear stories of people in France who live over 100 and yet they smoke and drink alcohol. How is that possible?

The answer is very simple and seems to be lost on a lot of people who oscillate from one fad diet to the next. What most people don’t realise is that there are more important elements to your wellbeing than what you eat.

Food feeds the physical part of you. But your thoughts and feelings are much more powerful than that.

So ask yourself the following more important questions:

  • How much do you eat?
  • How late do you eat?
  • Are you relaxed when you eat?
  • What do you do before or after you eat?
  • Do you play sport?
  • Do you go for walks in the bush or near the ocean?
  • Do you get lots of sunlight?
  • How much deep restorative sleep do you get?
  • Do you socialise and have fun with friends and family daily?
  • What is the state of your love life and relationship?
  • Are you feeling fulfilled at work?
  • Are you waking up every morning with a purpose?

You can eat healthily and still not be a “well” being. Conversely, you can eat unhealthily and be full of life force and incredible performance.

So the secret to a successful, long, rich life is to live a holistic one is where you not only eat healthy but also live healthy. And this is through your eight tress of eight – or as we describe at A Higher Branch, The Power Of Eight.

To learn more about The Power Of Eight and how to live a holistic life, read here.

How To Love Your Life

Three girls in a sunflower field

Three girls standing and smiling in a sunflower field

By Sam Makhoul

I’ve been asked time and time again, what are some of the practical things people can employ to be happier and more successful on a day-to-day basis? To begin with, focussing on the below eight areas will provide you with an excellent foundation for personal and professional success. 

Here’s how:

1. Health:

Cherish your body. Nothing else matters more. Focus on the energy you have. Eat well, exercise and relax daily. Fill your daily life with purposeful activities that give your body a reason to manifest energy.

2. Love:

Love yourself by looking after your health and guarding your mind against negative images, negative thinking and negative associations. Look your best by wearing clothes that make you feel attractive. Have the courage to show and give love to your life partner, whether or not they give it back. Tell your partner daily what you love about them – these words are powerful. Work just as much on your love life as you do on your work.

Family cuddling

3. Family

Support your family at all times. Give them the confidence to pursue their goals and dreams. Help them overcome obstacles. Focus on their strengths and good qualities. Remind them daily of their worth. Tell them you love them no matter what happens – whether they succeed or fail at anything. Spend time developing a relationship with all family members.

4. Work:

Choose to love your work. Always do your best. Focus on the difference that your product or service is making to society. Have empathy for your customers. Value the privilege of serving them from the heart. Be grateful that you live in a society where there is the opportunity to work. At all times be honest in the execution of your work. Master your job by constantly learning and evolving. Always ask yourself, “can I do this job better?” Be impeccable in your conduct at work. Be fearless in your execution.

5. Friendship:

Let your words, laughter and charm bring a smile to others. Help your friends see the lighter side of life and not take themselves too seriously. Act with integrity and hold true to your standards and beliefs. Never compromise them to be popular. Never pre-judge others. Be open to new friendships. Always greet people with a smile and a friendly hello. How others respond is their own reality and has nothing to do with you.

Man reading a book and drinking coffee

6. Learning

Commit to 45 minutes of learning daily about every aspect of your life and not just your work and wealth. Limit watching TV and other popular media. Watch uplifting talks by great thinkers on TED.com. Read books from pioneering minds. Attend courses and seminars organised by people who care and have something unique to share. Listen twice as much you talk. Discover your talents by having self-awareness for your thoughts and feelings. Live a conscious life where you decide what you want to listen to, read and watch. Develop a growth mindset.

7. Wealth

Invest in yourself first before you invest your money. If you have a business invest in your own field of dreams first before investing with others on the stock market. Live a frugal lifestyle and reduce your dependence on money. Spend less, save more. Say no to consumerism and your addiction to buying more and more things that end up collecting dust or in the landfill. Spend money on experiences. But don’t skimp on things that improve your life like better quality food or better quality education for you and your children.

8. Charity:

Learn about the plight of others in need. Don’t shut yourself out to other people’s suffering. Help others by giving your time and/or money. Charity does not have to be grand. A simple kind word of support is sometimes all that someone needs. Help a team member at work.  Share an idea that can help a friend live a better life or simply listen to them without distraction.

The One Big Mistake Parents Make When Raising Children

Child running with fairy floss

By Dr. Guy Winch

Using fear and guilt to get your children to cooperate is perhaps the most damaging mistake parents can make. Parents don’t realise they are making this mistake until it is too late and their children start experiencing disorders such as anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive behaviours. 

“Tom, get off your iPad or you will need glasses! Sally, stop eating cookies, you will get fat!”

Sound familiar? Yes, being on technology too long is bad for your eyes.

And yes, eating too much sugar is bad for your energy levels and weight. But do you know what’s far worse than that physical damage?

The emotional guilt and fear you are dumping on your children. Fear and guilt are a deadly combination of the human spirit.

Little girl eating a donut

They crush curiosity, creativity and zest for living a fun boundless life. Physical damage can almost always be reversed with diet and exercise, but emotional damage lasts a lifetime.

It is far more debilitating. Just ask anyone that suffers from anxiety or depression.

Rather than teaching our kids to do things out of love for self, we are teaching them to do things out of fear. Our own fears.

We think we are educating them when in truth we are terrifying them. As parents, we are much more experienced than our children and so we use Google knowledge to make sure that they do not get physically hurt.

But, the one thing children have over us is freedom from future fears. A pure absence of consequential fear, which is a beautiful human state.

Consequential fear is simply this: If you do this wrong now, you will suffer that in the future. Children, however, live in the present, (where we all should live).

But make no mistake, that does not make them stupid. Children from the age of five know how to avoid present and immediate danger.

“But I care for my child, I cannot let them eat junk food and be on technology all day, it is bad for them! I read books on the dangers of sugar. I watched this video on the dangers of social media and technology!” 

Dad walking with his two children

I get it. I am a parent too. It is difficult.

I am not contemplating you sit and do nothing. But you need to decide which psychology you want to use.

Positive or negative? You need to teach your children to do things out of self-love, not fear.

For example, “If you eat carrots you will have super eyesight”. If we go outside and play soccer you will get big muscles.”

Positive talk like this gets them to do things out of self-love. It builds self-confidence and makes them emotionally solid for life.

Sure they will make mistakes, but they are their mistakes to make and learn from. Don’t rob them of that basic human experience, even if it is painful and makes them vulnerable sometimes. What makes them vulnerable will make them beautiful as they grow older.

Read About Dr Guy Winch Here.

The Power Of Facing East

Sign facing east

Sign facing and reading east

By Mark Bunn

Which direction does your office desk face? What about your bed?

Do you think your work performance or sleep can be affected by whether you are facing north, south, east or west? Recent brain research has shown how facing different directions critically affects our brain’s ability to sustain integrated cognitive functioning and maximum mental performance (keys to business success).

That’s right. Based on the principles of correct building orientation as outlined in many traditional Eastern sciences, principally ancient Vedic science (where it’s known as ‘Vastu Shastra’), studies on peak brain function have shown that the firing patterns of neurons in the thalamus – which regulates sensory information and levels of awareness – are significantly different depending on which direction we face.

Basically, cells in our nervous system detect and respond to changes in body position. Look in one direction and a specific set of neurons activate.

Look in another direction and a different set activate. So, what is the best direction for optimal brain performance and work success?

EAST. That’s right.

Compass facing east

From the research findings, it is strongly indicated that facing east is by far the best direction for peak work performance and all-round mind-body integration. The next best is north.

The early studies suggest facing east for more creative thinking and north for more clear thinking. South and west are considered unfavourable and should be avoided where possible.

The direction we face is not only important at our desk but also when conducting business meetings, negotiations, making presentations and the like. So, if you’re selling something and are perfectly clear on your pitch, you may prefer your audience faces east, so they more clearly see the benefits.

If you’re presenting at a meeting, is it more important that you present the information clearly, or that your audience can assimilate the information better? If practical (it isn’t always), you may vary the direction you and others face to suit.

So What Does The Future of Workplaces Look Like?

workspace facing east

Look out for …

  • Workers struggling with concentration, focus, decision-making or similar, changing their work station or desk orientation to face east (or north if east is not practical).
  • Companies restructuring office spaces to have workers facing east or north.
  • Entire new workplaces being built according to ancient sciences of the correct orientation.
  • New office blocks and buildings being built to face true east and only have east or north-facing entrances. (Ever wondered why many of the great structures of Egypt, Asia etc. face specific cardinal directions?)
  • Re-orientation of meeting rooms, boardrooms and seminar rooms etc. to enhance effective communication and outcomes.

Sleep Troubles?

Man sleeping in bed

According to Maharishi Vedic science – a modern-day restoration of ancient Vedic science, our head direction also significantly impacts the type and quality of our sleep. If you don’t sleep well see if your head while sleeping points north or west.

Both of these are considered inauspicious or unfavourable. Sleeping with one’s head pointing towards the east, (the feet towards the west) is known to promote more enlightened (wakeful) sleep. For promoting deeper sleep, it is suggested one has their head to the south (feet to the north).

This article was written by Mark Bunn, a faculty member of A Higher Branch Success Academy. He is the bestselling author of ‘Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health’ and one of the most caring people on the planet.

Video Games Can Boost Emotional Health and Reduce Loneliness

Man playing video games

Young boy playing video games

By Dr. Guy Winch 

When you think of video games in the context of mental health, what comes to mind? For most people, the association is not a positive one.

Concerns have been raised about video games causing violence; gaming culture being sexist, racist, and homophobic; and whether video game addiction should become an official diagnosis. But while video games and gaming can have detrimental impacts in some contexts, what gets lost amidst the psychopathology-skewed headlines is that they can also provide significant benefits to our emotional health and well-being.

In fact, game developers are now designing games with the specific purpose of addressing psychological issues and boosting emotional health. For example, Sea of Solitude—developed by Jo-Mei Games and published by video gaming giant Electronic Arts—was created by Cornelia Geppert after a painful break up in 2013.

In the game, Kay, the heroine, has to fight humans who have turned into monsters because they became too lonely. To save herself from becoming one of them, she has to fight her own loneliness.

The game is both emotional and compelling. I (Dr Guy Winch) recently met Cornelia at a conference and witnessed firsthand the engagement and immersion of the attendees as they played it. Multiplayer platforms can be especially conducive to increasing social connection, forming community, and reducing loneliness.

Tom, a married man in his thirties, spends roughly 10 to 15 hours a week playing a multiplayer strategy game on his phone, in which he leads a group of sixty other players on complex missions. For the alliance to succeed in the game, they need to communicate effectively and work together. 

Group of males playing video games

As do many gaming teams, Tom’s group established a communication channel outside the game to discuss strategy and delegate tasks. But like on other such channels, discussions go far beyond the actual game.

Players often share personal problems, challenges in their relationships, or difficult feelings such as loneliness. The outpouring of compassion and support they receive from the group in such instances fosters powerful feelings of connection and community. 

Indeed, a study of social interactions within and outside multiplayer gaming platforms found that these kinds of platforms allowed players to express themselves in ways they might not feel able to in their real lives. This has helped lead to the creation of strong friendships, long-term relationships, and even marriages.

And a 2014 review concluded that video games can help gamers flourish psychologically by generating positive emotions, boosting individual functioning, and enhancing social connections; all of which contributed to mental health and well-being. The bottom line is that while video games can be problematic and even potentially addictive for some people (both children and adults), and while some gaming environments can indeed be hostile, we should not throw out the gaming console with the bathwater — so to speak.

As is often the case, it isn’t necessarily the thing itself that is good or bad, but how we use it that matters. Playing games that foster emotional health and psychological recovery, and taking advantage of the connective social fabric that can form in certain gaming environments could offer valuable opportunities for supporting and enhancing our mental health and emotional well-being.

Copyright, Dr. Guy Winch

Guy Winch is a licensed psychologist who is a leading advocate for integrating the science of emotional health into our daily lives. His two TED Talks have been viewed over 20 million times, and his science-based self-help books have been translated into 26 languages.

He also writes for Psychology Today and has a private practice in New York City. Read all about Dr Guy here

5 Lifestyle Choices Of The Longest Living Humans

Four people cheering at a dining table is a big lifestyle choice you should implement

By Sam Makhoul

Have you ever thought about the lifestyle choices you decide on? Have you ever thought how others across the globe continue to have a longer life expectancy and overall, live a happier life? 

I did – and what I learnt on my travels inspired me. Recently, I (Sam Makhoul, founder of A Higher Branch) travelled the Mediterranean – starting in Sardinia – and spent many days visiting the renowned ‘blue zones’ where there is the highest concentration of centenarians. 

What struck me about the people in these areas is the complete lack of focus on health and fitness, yet they live such a long and happy life. There isn’t a gym and green juice bar insight.  

Whereas, we in the west, are obsessed with the physical and the ‘secrets’ too long life and that magic golden elixir. Is it fish oil or turmeric? Is it meditation? Is it eating paleo or eating vegan?

Yes, these things do help (slightly) but they pale into insignificance in comparison to other more important ‘rules’ for living. My sense of curiosity led me to connect and ask many questions of the locals I met.

And there were many — equally curious and friendly.  They always had a ready smile and welcoming demeanour.

You’d be surprised how many speak English!  In one city, I hung out for four days with a friend of a friend named Silvano.

His grandfather is 101-years-old. He was 45 but looked 30. So, this had me thinking, what lifestyle choices can we start implementing to ensure we live a long, happy life?

Below is a list of the main lifestyle choices that I believe contribute to why people in these blue zones live such a long life. You will notice that these rules for a living have less to do with the physical and much more with the symbiotic relationship the physical has with the intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

For example, eating food is not just a physical experience for them. They pray before they eat and the largest meal of the day is a daily social affair – there is music, sometimes dancing.

1. They Are Very Social:

They socialise, almost every night with a wide and close network of family and friends. They are high touch, less tech and therefore very affectionate.

When they greet you with a juicy kiss on both cheeks and a hug, you really feel that they mean it. Conversations are sharp and engaging with little small talk.

There is passion and sometimes debate. They play games – cards and board games.

2. They Eat Food With Flavour:

Lifestyle choice one is an image of a pile of fresh golden bread roles on the table

They are passionate about food with flavour and being true to heritage. They do not eat Chinese one night, followed by Indian and then Italian.

They eat fruit and vegetables that are in season and from the local area. When I was there, it was peaches, apricots and cherries and nothing else.

And yes they eat carbs, lots of it. Coffee, yogurt and pastry in the morning; bread, pizza and pasta are lathered in rich olive oil, usually from an olive grove in the local area.

They eat protein only once or twice a week, usually fish in summer and meat in the colder months. Local wine and seasonal cheese almost every day. But they eat little portions with only one large meal per day.

3. They Are Solar Powered And Move For Purpose: 

Blonde lady spending time in the sunshine

They spend a lot of time in the sun. Especially in the summer months.

They are almost always outside. They move a lot but rarely exercise.

Exercise is dancing or playing sport; you know, having fun. Mind-numbing time on a treadmill seems foreign to them.

“Why do that?” Francesca asked, seeming puzzled at the lack of purpose. “You are going nowhere!” she quipped.

4. They Take Naps:

Lady laying on the lounge having a nap

They sleep long and well and have a nap after lunch, especially during summer when it is hot. They drink spring water and breathe clean air

The air is clean in the blue zones, really clean and it has a softness about it. Taking deep breaths seems easier on the lungs. 

Local spring water is everywhere and naturally high in minerals. I visited a public watering-place where there were numerous taps flowing constantly.

There were people lined up to fill up bottles for three days’ supply. With plastic cup in hand, one man laughed and warned me, in broken English, not to drink too much from one tap as he gestured to his stomach.

I knew what he meant. It was fizzy and would clean me out. He pointed to one tap and said it had minerals to lower blood pressure.

5. They Have Faith:

Man staring infant of the sunset with his arms stretched out

They are religious and go to church. They pray. They believe in a creator and have faith that God has their back.

They are constantly aware of their mortality but not afraid of it. One man, Alessandro, told me that being aware of his mortality makes him live with a purpose without wasting a day.

“I am not afraid to die because I know I would have lived a full life surrounded by family and friends…”

So, why do they live long, happy lives? I think that ultimately it is this fearlessness that makes them live longer.

Read here for the list of lifestyle tips to help you live until you’re 100.

What is Your Type?

Family eating dinner

Family walking through a field together

By Sam Makhoul

What foods suit you best and at what times? What exercise routine best suits your personality and body type?

What are your chrono-type and optimal sleep pattern? What are your creative and analytical hours of work?

What are your natural talents? What is the best meditation routine for you?

What is your core personality type? What wealth creation methods best suit your risk appetite?

What is your ideal relationship? What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?

How can you live until 100? There are so many questions and we can help you find your answers!

No two people in this world are the same. Even identical twins can be remarkably different.

One person’s vegan diet is another person’s energy-downer. One person’s high-intensity routine is another person’s stress.

As western society moves from one fad to another, people are more confused than ever. All the latest research is starting to show that our uniqueness requires a personalised approach to nutrition, exercise, relaxation, sleep, work, social life and even sex.

That is, we all want to be happy and fulfilled but we all have different pathways to that destination. You are the only you in this world and you are unique in every way.

How To Improve Your Immune System Naturally

Immunity boosting foods

By Sam Makhoul

A Comprehensive Guide To Strengthening Your Immune System Naturally

DISCLAIMER: The following information is general in nature and not meant to be a replacement for any specific advice you should be getting from a healthcare practitioner. If you have any symptoms please consult your doctor.

Avoiding viruses and bacteria is difficult because we are so well connected. No doubt you have heard the basics for avoidance such as washing hands.

But what do you know about boosting your body’s own defence mechanisms? At A Higher Branch, we believe this is the ultimate way to take control and avoid the panic.

In this article we will uncover how to improve your immune system by deep diving into:

  • Foods as medicine
  • Morning tonic
  • Supplements
  • Two smoothie recipes for optimal micro-nutrition

These all act collectively to help with prevention, the severity of symptoms and fast recovery.

Using Food As Medicine:

A capsule with fruit and vegetables floating out of it
 

As winter begins to kick off in Australia, we need to research and begin to eat foods that are in season. And here’s how you can do just that:

  • Turn to smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch and soups for dinner. Liquid breakfasts and dinners take the pressure off your digestive system and frees the body’s defences to focus on immune support mechanisms.
  • Use garlic, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric, thyme and oregano in your cooking because they are warming and naturally anti-viral.
  • Use lemon, apple cider vinegar and olive oil on salads to provide yourself with the extra boost.
  • Drink more herbal teas, especially peppermint, elderberry and marshmallow.
  • Drink mushroom coffees with reishi, lions mane, shitaki and chaga. These mushrooms are well researched and proven to boost immune system performance. You will find these mushroom powders online.

Immune Boosting Anti-inflammatory Foods:

Searching foods that are both immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory? Below is a list of foods that do just that and best of all, they are easily accessible.

  • Bone broth – preferably consumed as your first meal. You can also add crushed ginger, lemon juice, cayenne and fennel seeds for some extra benefits.
  • Berries – especially blueberries.
  • Fatty fish – such as salmon, sardines and anchovies.
  • Broccoli – this is rich in sulforaphane; an antioxidant that reduces inflammatory cytokines, which is what spikes from corona-type viruses.
  • Avocados
  • Green Tea
  • Extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • Mushrooms – especially portobello and truffles (uncooked). Portobello is also a great source of Vitamin D.
  • Fruit – especially papaya, kiwi fruit, citrus fruit and grapefruit.
  • Dark chocolate – with a minimum of 70% cacao, cocoa and carob.

Foods To Eliminate To Reduce Inflammation:

  • Coffee, alcohol and sugar.
  • Junk foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, potato chips, pretzels etc.
  • Refined carbs like white bread, pasta, white rice, crackers, flour tortillas and biscuits.
  • Fried foods.
  • Processed meats like bacon, canned meat, salami, hot dogs and smoked meats.
  • Trans fats like shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and margarine.

How Your Lifestyle Can Strength The Immune System:

Diagram of a headline that reads "healthy lifestyle" surrounding by exercise gear and fruit and vegetable.
 

Eliminate Every Morning:

Viruses and bacteria first take hold in your gut. So, you need to ensure you are constantly eliminating waste from your system.

The following tonic will help get you going and kill any pathogens in your gut:

  • Warm water
  • Lemon juice
  • Sprinkle cayenne
  • Crushed ginger
  • Crushed garlic (optional)
  • Manuka Honey

Night Tonic:

Mix together, apple cider vinegar, hot or warm water with manuka honey and a sprinkle of high-quality salt. This tonic is not only cleansing, but it also improves your ability to get to sleep.

Breath Deeply:

Did you know that 70% of our body’s detox happens in the lungs? To ensure this detox pathway happens efficiently, you need to ensure you are not hunched over and shallow breathing.

Take time every hour to breath deeply for four seconds, holding for five and exhaling for six. Do this five times every hour.

Do this standing up with shoulders back and chest out to open up the lungs. Listen to our podcast with Johannes Egberts for more tips on how to deep breath.

Reduce Stress:

Stress impairs your immune system by lowering the body’s ability to produce white blood cells. It is these ‘lymphocytes’ that protect you by killing viruses and bacteria.

  • Don’t work too many hours. Say ‘no’ to workloads that overwhelm you.
  • Don’t work out or train too hard at the gym (and make sure you recover well before your next workout).
  • Get to bed by 10 pm and wake by 6 am. The key is to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep. Sleep is the best way to neutralise stress.
  • Meditate for at least 10 minutes before bedtime and don’t watch stressful TV shows – comedy works best.
  • Improve your relationships with your partner, your family, your friends and your work colleagues. Often it is our relationships that cause us the most stress and by developing loving harmonious relationships we can take the pressure off our bodies.

Want to learn more about managing conflict in your relationship? Then, head over and listen to our podcast with Dr Guy Winch.

Have A Sauna:

They are a great way to normalise your immune system response. They also draw toxins out of the body, lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

How Supplements Can Help Build A Strong Immune System:

Image of spoons with supplements in them

Vitamin D3:

When it comes to vitamin supplement oral sprays work best. D3 is the most potent way to modulate innate and adaptive immune responses.

Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity, as well as an increased susceptibility to viral infection. It also defends the body from foreign, invading organisms, promoting protective immunity from direct sunlight on skin during the middle of the day.

As a side note, when your shadow is shorter than you that is the best way to get vitamin D, but for most of us, this is very difficult to do.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C is preferably received from wholefood sources such as kakadu plumb (purchased as Gubinge powder) and elderberry lozenges. Otherwise, supplement form is great, especially with bioflavonoids.

Zinc:

When it comes to zinc, it is usually found in some vitamin C supplements; so make sure you always read the label.

Cats Claw:

This herb normalises the immune response. It regulates the white blood cell count to ensure that the immune system does not overreact to a pathogen, which is the big problem with the latest COVID-19 pandemic.

Olive Leaf Extract:

This is good for coughs, sore throats and upper respiratory infections.

Echinacea Root :

If you are searching for a supplement to help relieve pain, echinacea root could be your go-to…

Astragalus Root:

Perfect for cold and flu prevention, as it powers the immune system.

Elderberry:

These lozenges are great for kids. It helps boosts your immune system and is great to prevent and reduce the severity of cold and flu.

Curcumin:

An active compound found in turmeric – it is a strong anti-inflammatory that we recommend for all conditions.

Essential Oils:

Also never underestimate this powerful modality! Rubbed on the throat and chest – any one or combination of clove, orange, thyme, cinnamon, rosemary, eucalyptus.

Four bottles of essential oils on the table

Your ‘Liquid Meal’ Smoothie Recipe to Help Improve Your Immunity

Green smoothie on a wooden table

Morning Green Smoothie Recipe:

  1.  Filtered or spring water plus small piece papaya and/or organic banana.
  2. One compressed block of frozen spinach and kale.
  3. A flat teaspoon of spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, moringa powder and matcha powder.
  4. Half teaspoon of broccoli sprout powder (this is an essential ingredient because of its high sulforaphane content).
  5. One teaspoon of bee pollen.
  6.  One tablespoon of flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds.

Post Exercise Or Afternoon Brown Earth Smoothie Recipe:

  • Cold pressed almond milk or water.
  • A quarter of papaya.
  • One whole banana.
  • ¼ cup blueberries.
  •  ¼ cup pre-soaked oats.
  • One tablespoon of cacao and carob powder (try and opt for organic).
  • One tablespoon of plant protein or one whole raw organic egg.
  • One date.
  •  A quarter of a teaspoon true cinnamon (for insulin regulation).
 **If you would like to know brand names for any of these supplements, please email us directly at enquiries@ahigherbranch.com.**

Stay well and stay in touch with us by subscribing to A Higher Branch via the form below or subscribe and follow us on:

The 3 Essential S’s for Immunity

Lady laying in bed asleep

By Sam Makhoul

All three will boost your immune system in a profound way and make you bulletproof to ensure that any cold, flu or virus only has a mild effect.

It will also make you physically more resilient across a host of other more long-term diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc. Often, we don’t worry about these ailments because they impact us slowly.

Here are the 3 S’s:

  1. STRESS
  2. SLEEP
  3. SUNSHINE

Man and woman cooking food together in the kitchen

1. How To Reduce Stress:

Stress will wreck your immune system’s ability to respond in a normal way. The best way to reduce stress is to sleep more.

And the best way to sleep more is to get more sunshine. More will be said about the relationship between stress, sleep and sunshine below.

For now, consider the following things to reduce stress. We must note, some tips are a little unusual but they address things that may be stressing you without you realising:

  • Do not watch the news on the TV, internet or social media. They are designed to shock and grab attention. At the end of the day, they are a business that’s all about ratings to raise advertising dollars, even the ABC gets government funding based on ratings.
  • Stay away from people who are preoccupied with talking about the pandemic. They will infect your mind with fear. And trust us when we say, this is worse than the virus.
  • Live frugally. Instead of eating out, cook at home, cook with your lover or your loved ones. And eat together with the TV off and no phones on the table. Spending wisely takes the pressure off you financially.
  • If you do get stressed at any time, stand up, go for a walk, take a break, breathe deeply in for four, hold for five and out for a seven-second count.
  • Don’t work too many hours. Stop work at 5 pm or your designated time. It’s not about hours worked, it’s about effectiveness at work.
  • Stay productive. Work fulfils us when we give 100%. There is nothing better at the end of the day than the feeling that you have achieved something. It relaxes you and makes you feel worthy of your leisure time.
  • Keep doing what you are doing, just do it differently. Don’t abandon your goals and dreams in the eight areas of life because of social distancing. Can’t work out in the gym? Go outside. Can’t go to the movies? Watch a movie at home or read a book. Commit to life education, not just entertainment. There are thought leaders like Dr Guy Winch, who tick both those boxes. His talks are both entertaining and educational.
  • Focus on the best qualities of the people closest to you, especially your partner. Working from home will bring us closer together and that’s a good thing. But to make the most of it, you need to shift your focus from the things that irritate you to the things you most love. Think of it as the daily ‘vows’ you make in your head every morning.
  • Live with gratitude. Feeling grateful throughout the day is the best antidote to stress.
  • Accept whatever flows in life. Don’t spend precious energy resisting, blaming and holding onto grudges. There is unbelievable power in surrender. You cannot control everything in life, and you cannot always get your way. And every time you resist that lesson you will waste the precious energy your body needs to modulate the immune system.
  • Watch comedy at night.

2. How To Get Enough Sleep:

Lady waking up in bed

Just about every expert I have interviewed on A Higher Branch podcast all have sleep at the top of their list to improve just about everything from beauty to brainpower. The following tips are a compilation of their advice:

  • Avoid artificial light at night for at least one hour before you prepare for bed. Dim the backlight on your TV and turn off all devices one hour before bed.
  • Eat light meals at night and if you are going to have a big meal, make it at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol at night.
  • Avoid caffeine after 2 pm – if you are sensitive to caffeine eliminate it altogether. You can have genetic tests to determine your ability to metabolise caffeine.
  • Socialise in the evening before bedtime. We don’t mean by text, take part in face to face or facetime socialising.

3. Get Out And Enjoy The Sunshine:

Young woman smiling towards the sun on a clear blue day

We are solar-powered. The sun influences not just our immunity but our mood. When we expose our skin and our eyes to the sun a complex series of electrical and biological processes are triggered to boost good bacteria in our gut.

These bacteria trigger the production of serotonin (feel good) and melatonin (energy and sleep). Together they will improve your ability to get to sleep and the quality of that sleep.

And this will reduce your stress levels considerably. So, it is the combination of all three S’s that will make you stronger to resist any viral attack on your body.

But consider one more important point. Sunshine at the right time of the day will boost your vitamin D levels. This vitamin, which is in fact a hormone, is a super powerful to resist, not only the viral and bacterial disease but also long-term disease such as cancer.

Is there a link between Covid-19 and vitamin D? It is interesting to note that the most severe impact of Covid-19 has been in areas of the northern hemisphere at the end of a cold winter when vitamin D levels are lowest.

No doubt in months and years to come there will be research showing the strong correlation between the severity of symptoms and vitamin D levels.
In fact, during the Spanish flu, they started healing patients by taking them outside of the hospitals and into the sun.

Note the following tips for sunshine:

  • Vitamin D only gets produced when the UVB levels are over a certain limit. Check out the governments ARPANSA website for that level. But generally, it is when your shadow is shorter than your height.
  • UVB cannot get through glass windows = no vitamin D.
  • People with darker skin need more time in the sun. Need to know how much sun to get for you? Generally, your body will send you signals that you have enough. If you start to sweat and your heart rate elevates then its time to get out of the sun.
  • The sun needs to hit your skin otherwise vitamin D cannot be produced. It cannot get through clothes or sunscreen. So, it is best to wear a hat and sunscreen for your face but the rest of the body needs to get direct sun.

4. Do Supplements Really Help You? (The Fourth Optional S):

Five spoons with vitamins on them

 

There are so many supplements that we covered in our last article about boosting your immune system. But if we had to choose three of the most essential nutrients it would be the following:

  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D3

Natural sources of these nutrients are best but if you have to supplement then that is better than nothing.

Stay well and stay in touch with us by subscribing to A Higher Branch via the form below or subscribe and follow us on:

We will continue to bring you information not just on health but on all eight areas of your life that may become tested and strained during these uncertain times. We have one coming up on wealth protection.

Please note that the most valued quality during this time and one that people will remember most is your ability to stay calm. This does not mean ignoring health safety measures. It means going about your life in a different way, with no fuss and no Doomsday’ing.

“This too shall pass…”

The Motivation Trap

By Sam Makhoul

3 Things Wrong with Motivation

1. The over-promotion of motivation and happiness is causing anxiety. The expectation to be “on” the whole time is unrealistic and research is now showing that this increases rumination in response to failure. [McGuirk, L., Kuppens, P., Kingston, R., & Bastian, B. (2018). Does a culture of happiness increase rumination over failure?]

2. Dumping on yourself for NOT being motivated. You start to doubt yourself and this…

3. Leads to inaction. How? If motivation becomes the prerequisite for taking action (cooking, cleaning, commuting, reading, learning, exercising, working hard, going on a date, being intimate….you know DOING LIFE) then you will put off doing something until you are motivated.

The combination of all three dysfunctional thinking then leads you down a negative loop of anxiety, doubt and more Inaction, and even less motivation because you start to feel bad about yourself. The negative talk kicks in: “I am not fit enough, I am not smart enough, I am not pretty enough, I don’t have enough time, my parents messed me up, I went to the wrong school, it’s in my genes.”

I am not saying motivation is totally bad. It is just transient, and we should not be relying on it to ‘do life’. Motivation is not what makes for progress. 

Even imagine if business ran on motivation and not workflow systems? There would be no consistency.

Business runs on processes, systems, the performance of essential tasks for customers. Business does not perform those tasks when it feels motivated.

So, we have systems for working, then why not have systems for a living?

Systems For Living:

Let’s hit the reset button. In fact, I suggest you STOP using the word motivation in sentences such as “I am not motivated to….” or “I am waiting to get motivated….” or “I need someone who is self-motivated…”.

It serves no purpose and is a useless cliché.  Let’s talk about what REALLY works.

SYSTEMS. Everyone has goals.

Some people materialise them and yet others don’t. WHY?

Motivation? Definitely not. The key is CLARITY.

CLARITY not just for your VISION but for what you need TO DO on a daily basis to materialise your vision. You know, taking ACTION. 

WHAT type of ACTION? This is where systems come in. Rituals, habits, hacks, frameworks, tools, techniques.

The Biggest CON And MYTH:

Successful people do NOT run on motivation. They run on systems.

The moment you start appreciating this is the time you will take all the anxiety and doubt off your shoulders. Successful people have rituals, habits and hacks that they follow every day, whether they are having a bad day or a great day, whether they feel energetic or not, whether they have had an argument or not, whether someone wronged them or not, whether they have eaten or not, whether they slept well or not.

They show up and follow the process. Sometimes, motivation flows as a result of that, but motivation is not a prerequisite.

The Motivation Trap – Don’t Become A Target:

If you rely on motivation in your life, you will become addicted to positive memes and inspirational people/talks. You will need them like a daily drug to get you going.

And you will get addicted to social media because it fuels this addiction. You will spend your energy chasing instead of doing.

Please don’t. You will end up being an easy target for people trying to sell you stuff to keep you pumped.

A friend recently confided in spending $10,000 on a program that did NOTHING for her. It angered me so much.

Systems are FREE and there are many caring people in the world today sharing systems that deliver. David Goggins is one of them.

Our Speakers Never Talk About Motivation If you really listen to all our speakers who present at our Upgrade Your Life event, you will notice a common thread.

None of them talk about motivation. They talk about principles, values, processes, rituals, habits, hacks and routines.

Even inspirational people like David Goggin’s snubs motivation. He talks ‘being uncommon among the uncommon’, ‘going dark’, ‘callousing the mind’, ‘the new norm’. He is sometimes labelled as motivational, but he tells people not to hero-worship him.

In his book Can’t Hurt Me he tells us that if you follow your own system for living, you will become your own hero and not need anyone, or any course or any program. I share a video below of an interview he gave on London Real, which gives you an insight into the difference between motivation and ‘doing’.

BELOW the video I have included comments from people in our Higher Branch Community and how they have overcome REAL LIFE hardship and their TRANSFORMATION by following the systems that David Goggins espouses. Notice their comments say nothing about motivation! 

Click the thumbnail below or click here to watch the video >>>

 
 

Real-Life Stories

“My daughter was born with Dravet Syndrome a catastrophic form of epilepsy with frequent seizures. Her condition means she has a severe intellectual disability, is non-verbal and very unsteady on her feet. She was hard work and it brought me down. So-called friends and family disappeared out of our lives and it made me depressed. I became overweight was doing the bare minimum and I felt as if the entire universe was against me. Goggins prescriptions taught me how to turn things around and use my struggles as fuel. My dire circumstances became the perfect training ground to be the best father and husband I could be. I now run almost every day I’ve lost a shitload of weight. Most important I’ve been more involved in Sarah’s life. I’ve been able to show up every day for her and do the tough stuff. Ironically life is getting easier #canthurtme.”

“My business was failing I was working long hours for nothing, all I wanted to do was quit. I worked at nights in another job to survive. I came across Goggins in an interview. What he spoke was hard, because I didn’t wanna hear reality, I didn’t wanna face me. But with every principle, he talked about I wrote down and started doing without complaining, 4 months now and mind still strong. Fuck motivation. Avoid distraction. Just do. #stayhard.”

“BEFORE Goggins: I was fat, I was lazy, I wasted money and time. I was in and out of depression. I was in danger of living a life so weak. AFTER: After applying Goggin’s principles and mental toolbox I felt my life start to take on a new shift in perspective and endurance in the face of my problems after. I now own my weaknesses. They don’t own me. I show up rain, hail or shine #stayhard.”

2 More BAD Habits You MUST Break

By Sam Makhoul

Today we will cover the remaining two bad habits you need to replace. I share these with you without judgement.

We all drift in the direction of our bad habits, but by having a system for behavioural change, you can replace these habits with better ones. And so, I humbly share this content with you in the hope it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.

Bad Habit #1 – Doing Things With Haste For No Apparent Reason

In a fast world, people are now addicted to speed. This is a destructive habit that will destroy your health and relationships.

Eating, driving, working, making love, scrolling, reading, texting….everything done in haste for no apparent reason puts a lot of pressure on you and ironically makes you slow, sick and stupid. I say this with the utmost respect.

The science clearly shows that when you do things with haste the stress you put on your mind and body ironically slows you down and makes you ineffective. And the stress hormones (especially adrenalin and cortisol) surging through your system make you physically sick over time.

It will impair your digestion, you will not absorb what you eat, you will have trouble sleeping, and it’s a downhill spiral from there. A lot of people use exercise as a therapy to neutralise the effects of speed-induced-stress but the better method is to SLOW DOWN!

There is usually no reason to speed up. Almost everything we do day-to-day can wait or be done in a slower, methodical manner.

There is not one piece of research showing any benefit whatsoever from doing things quickly. As the godfather of the slow movement, Carl Honore says, “I am not anti-speed but there is a time for doing things quickly and time for slow living.”

How Do You Know You Are Addicted To Speed?

  • You get a rush from meeting self-imposed deadlines.
  • You find it difficult to sit and do nothing for more than 10 minutes.
  • You find it difficult to focus and listen to what the other person is saying.
  • You need alcohol to relax and constantly crave carbs/sweets.
  • You find it difficult to notice the beauty around you. Or you are numb to it.

The Solution:

Speed is an addiction. If you’re used to running on adrenalin, you will feel strange without it.

Here Are Some Tips To Wean Yourself Off Speed:

  • Don’t do more than one thing at a time.
  • Don’t take call waiting – in fact, you should disable this feature.
  • Don’t schedule too many meetings in a day.
  • Take at least 2 renewal breaks throughout the day to stretch, breath and meditate for 5 – 15 minutes.
  • Don’t take on too much work. Learn to say ‘no’.
  • Take a walk after work, preferably in nature. Go alone.

Bad Habit #2 – Watching TV till late for no apparent reason

A surprisingly high percentage of adults get too comfortable in front of the television and mindlessly surf channels or binge. They use this to wind down and induce sleep.

The problem with this is two-fold. Firstly, it delays your optimal going-to-bed sleep time, which depending on your chrono-type is between 9:30 pm -11 pm.

(Don’t know your chronotype? Refer to my articles on sleep starting with: How To Get The Best Sleep). Secondly, the artificial light from the TV may lull your eyes to get tired but it ironically delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin; because the light tricks your body-clock into thinking it is still daytime.

You need melatonin not only to get to sleep but to get deeper sleep; deep sleep is the most important part of your sleep cycle which detoxes your mind, body and emotions. It is the single most potent factor for you to look younger and live longer.

The Simple Solution:

We set an alarm to wake up, why not set an alarm for sleep. My meditation app Headspace has a feature which prompts you with a notification to go to bed and listen to a sleep cast, which is the equivalent of a bedtime story.

Don’t laugh, it works! Plugin your earphones in bed and I guarantee you will nod off in record time!

5 BAD Habits You MUST Break

I’d like to first bring your attention to the top BAD HABITS you need to be aware of. Today I will cover three of them.

Please don’t hate me for pointing these bad habits out to you. I do it without judgement whatsoever.

 I sincerely wish you the best life, which is why I write these articles. I always come from a place of love and if you decide to take action I know it will make a BIG difference in your life as it has in mine.

I don’t believe there is a secret to life nor do I believe in waiting for inspiration or motivation before doing something. I do believe however in a number of incremental changes that you can make to your habits that compound over time to build a great life, brick-by-brick, day-by-day.

BAD – Snacking On Food All Day:

Your body has an intelligence where it naturally heals itself and constantly regenerates and repairs, not just when you are sleeping but also when you go hungry. If you are constantly snacking, you never allow your body to enter this state.

Scientists are now discovering that our bodies are not genetically designed to continuously eat. We need to go hungry and this has been our way of life for thousands of years.

We ate, we rested and then we hunted and gathered, but in between, we went hungry, often. Today we call that fasting. 

We have a primal switch to consuming food when it is available. The problem is that food is available everywhere at any time.

Look, don’t get me wrong, I love my food experiences. I am not saying abstain from food but allow yourself to go hungry by not eating between meals.

You should allow three to five hours between each meal depending on how large the previous meal was. Instead of setting a time period, it’s best to not eat until you actually feel the hunger in your stomach.

BAD – Snacking On Technology Or Social Media:

Having your phone on you the whole time, checking texts, emails, posts and getting constantly distracted by other notifications is an extremely poor habit that you MUST break. It has dire consequences on your cognitive performance and your relationships, especially if you have children.

I have been talking about the harmful impact of pop-up notifications since 2010 but now the impact is a lot worse because it is overlaid by the highs and lows of social media ‘likes’ and the inevitable social comparisons people make. It is very damaging to your physical, mental and emotional health on so many levels.

I recommend the highly acclaimed work of Georgetown University Professor Cal Newport called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

The Solution: 

To do deep work you need to do a digital detox twice a day not once a year. Leave your phone behind whenever you get the chance.

I do this when I am jogging, in the gym, shopping for groceries, attending meetings, cooking and in the bedroom. You need to make a point of detoxing for 20 mins twice a day, every day.

And switch off your phone after 9 pm at home. Disable your email notifications on your laptop.

In a research paper titled Why is it so hard to do my work? Professor Leroy from the University of Minnesota found that people are less productive when they are constantly moving from one task to another instead of focusing on one thing at a time.

She called it ‘attention residue’ and it is a real problem if you are trying to be effective and efficient. Otherwise, you are wasting a lot of precious time trying to re-focus after the interruption and this reduces your ability to finish the task quickly and effectively.

Which means you need to work longer hours for a sub-optimal result. This is time that could be spent socialising with family and friends.

BAD – Shallow Breathing:

Why is this a bad habit? Shallow breathing triggers your sympathetic nervous system because it tricks your body into thinking that you are under attack, i.e. fight or flight response.

The problem with this state is that you cannot digest your food, sleep or do good work. The other problem with shallow breathing is that it builds up toxins in your body.

How? Next time your naturopath talks you into a detox program of herbal tonics and juice fasts, you may want to remind them that 70% of the toxins in our body are expelled by the lungs during proper exhalation.

The other 30% through sweating and elimination (number 1’s and 2’s). Breathing deeply is easy and it’s free!

These are the usual triggers for shallow breathing:

  • Driving in traffic;
  • At your laptop or pc;
  • On your iPad or iPhone;
  • Sitting for long periods especially in meetings;
  • When you are doing things in a hurry;
  • When you are focusing on external things;
  • Whenever you are stressed;
  • Watching dramatic movies.

The Solution: 

It can be very difficult to catch yourself shallow breathing because you will usually do it when you are deep in thought. The next best thing is to set an alarm reminder every hour to stop, revive, survive.

Revive by breathing in through the nose for four seconds, holding it for five, and breathing out for six through your mouth. Do these four times every hour. It only takes 60 seconds every hour and is a whole lot cheaper than buying detox programs.

Essential Habit #5: Review & Reflection

By Sam Makhoul

This article is in a series of four rituals, five habits and six hacks that will revolutionise your life. You will find the series at A Higher Branch Blog Page.

What Are Reflection And Review?

I touched on this habit in Ritual #1 on Journaling. When you develop the habit of reflecting and reviewing throughout the day, you flip any failures and rejections that inevitably happen into opportunities for LEARNING and GROWTH.

Why Is This Habit Important?

Without a process for reflection and review, you will indulge in toxic thinking throughout the day. By the time the day is over and you arrive home, your feelings will be littered with negative beliefs about yourself.

But when you ask yourself two simple questions at that moment you will avoid ruminating, you will feel better and you will sleep better that night ready for growth the next morning. The two simple steps/questions are:

  • NOTICING: How am I feeling right now?
  • LEARNING: What can I learn so I can do it differently next time?

Here are some examples of how we process rejection and failure without reflection and review and then with reflection and review:

Health:

You did exercise and you feel rundown after it.

Without reflection and review your subconscious negative self-talk might sound like this: “I am not fit enough” or “I should wait until it gets warmer” or “I am just not cut out for exercise” or “I must be coming down with a cold”.

With reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Did I eat too much before exercise? Do I need to get more sleep? Did I need to stretch? Did I over-train? Was I dehydrated? Should I train at a different time of day that suits my chrono-type?” What can I do differently next time?

Love And Relationships:

You initiated intimacy and was rejected by your partner. Single? You initiated the conversation and you were brushed.

Without reflection and review: “My partner does not find me attractive. My partner does not love me. I am dull and boring. I am ugly. I have nothing interesting to say.”

Now with reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Did I choose the wrong timing to approach my partner/that person? Did they have a bad day? Were they feeling tired and self-conscious and not in the mood? How can I approach it differently next time?”

Work And Clients:

Customer doesn’t call you back after a consultation.

Without reflection and review: “They don’t like me. I’m not good at my job. Others are better than me. I should try another job.”

Now with reflection and review: “What can I learn from this? Do they fear making a decision and a commitment? Was I coming on too strong? Did I listen enough to the meeting? Are they just not ready? What can I do differently next time?”

Notice from all the above examples, ALL reflection and review starts with step one (noticing and acknowledging your feelings) and step 2 (starting with the question: “WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM THIS?” and finishes with the question “HOW CAN I DO IT DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?”).

Why Do We Dump On Ourselves?

If I can be honest with you, the major reason is that it is easier to indulge in negative self-talk (as much as it hurts) than to confront the pain. It gives us the excuse to fail and stop trying.

It is much harder to stop, feel the pain, and reflect and review what you have learned. Why?

Because your learnings require action and a lot of the time, the action requires you to pivot and step outside of your comfort zone. So review and reflection are tough.

Step one requires you to feel the pain (you need to feel to heal). Step two requires you to learn, grow and do something different.

How Do You Cultivate This Habit?

To cultivate this habit, you need to practice mindfulness meditation. I know you have heard that word too many times but the truth is that mindfulness works.

It helps you realise that you are not your thoughts. You need to step outside of your thoughts and notice (step one) and take different action (step two).

Just like habit two on situational gratitude, this habit five on reflection and review must happen at the moment. It cannot wait until you get home and journal.

By all means, still do that, but for it to be most effective, it needs to be practised right there and then, straight after the interaction that led to the sinking feeling from a fail or rejection. You need to process it on the fly. I often take moments out of my day in between meetings to do that.

Now it’s a habit. This is why this series of articles starts with the four rituals, including the ritual of daily meditation. It is the meditation that helps you to notice your thoughts and feelings (being mindful).

Without the ritual of daily meditation, you will find it difficult to develop the habit of reflection and review at the moment. Our meditation coach, Tom Sullivan, is an expert that can help you and your organisation learn the practice of mindful meditation.

Please reach out to him by emailing our team on enquiries@ahigherbranch.com.

Essential Habit #4: The Power of Posture

By Sam Makhoul

This article is in a series on the four rituals, five habits and six hacks to consciously systemise your days. It will revolutionise the way you live and boost your performance, even on days where you lack motivation. 

Why Is Posture important?

Posture is a habit. And if your posture is not optimal it will affect your thoughts, feelings and your health.

It will affect all personal and business interactions because of how others perceive you. Your clients and customers read your posture.

Your children mimic your posture and mimic your body language subconsciously. What kind of posture do you want them to have? A confident one or a defeated one?

The Science:

For many year’s psychologists have known that there is a feedback loop between our physiology and our psychology. How we feel is reflected in our posture and our facial expression.

In turn, our posture, how we move, and our facial expression impacts how we feel. If you are in a poor emotional state, your shoulders will drop, you will look down more often, you will slouch, you will walk around like you’re tired, and you will start to feel tired.

You become caught in a negative loop where your emotions drive your posture and the habit of your posture then reinforces your emotions. You are no match for your emotions, right?

Or are you? In 2010 psychologists Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap pioneered the research that demonstrated that you can reverse the way you feel by posture alone.

This research merely reinforced what teachers such as Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Norman Cousins have been saying for years. And it works.

Changing your posture will change the way you feel, especially if it is compounded with habit number one in our series.

BUT, and it’s a BIG BUT, how do you reverse the habit of poor posture? A habit is very tough to break.

It is one thing for researchers to prove something but another to provide the solution. NONE of the research tells us HOWto reverse the habit of being yourself (because your posture becomes who you are).

Power posing proposed by Amy Cuddy in her famous TED talk has since been discredited as pseudoscience because it is not a realistic permanent solution.

Change Your Posture In Two Steps:

And therefore to change your posture permanently you need to change muscle memory in a two-step process designed by A Higher Branch in our Conscious Living program.

Step 1:

Just like method actors in Hollywood or Bollywood, you need to develop the habit of being self-conscious. You need to constantly be aware of how you are standing, walking or expressing your movements.

This self-awareness helps you to be more mindful of the circumstances or situations that cue your body to behave in a certain way. This will give you an insight into how you feel at that moment.

Are you in a meeting where you feel uncertain about your competence? Are you in a social setting where you feel shy and introverted?

Notice how your body is reflecting that emotion. Are you hunching?

Are you shallow breathing? Are you shrinking and hoping to be invisible?

Tell yourself that you are not your thoughts or emotions. You are the essence witnessing how you feel.

That’s who you really are. You don’t have to do anything to change your posture at this stage. Just noticing it is enough because the real solution comes in step two.

Step 2:

Step two is not a quick fix. Nothing in life is a quick fix – just ask David Goggins.

Step two is all about doing exercises that build a great posture over time. This is where strength training, yoga and pilates come in.

There is no doubt that all three methods impact how we feel. The combination of breathing and movement dissipates anxiety and relieves depression.

It does this by changing our body chemistry; the pharmacy of our physical. In fact, the benefits of exercise have been proven to be more effective than both Xanax and Prozac. 

But one other consequence of all three modalities is that they improve posture by strengthening the core. So, it not only changes your biology but also your psychology through your physiology.

Your body starts to stand more upright. Your muscles become more toned and support you in a way that is reassuring and balanced.

You will look taller, and therefore feel and look more confident. So, changing your physiology and the habit of your posture starts with exercise that strengthens the core and leads to an effortless posture.

A good posture is NOT one that is forced. It is not in power posing or in a military-style stiff, upright way with head up, shoulders back. A good posture should never be tiring to maintain.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss exercises that strengthen the core and correct the posture effortlessly, but I will say this: yoga and pilates, in particular, strengthen the core, lengthen the spine, makes you feel open, light and effortless. My new friend and yogini, Rebecca Jarvis described the importance of this on the spine as follows:  

“Posture is the framework that allows for energy or life-force to flow through the body.  The spine has an innate intelligence and energy that is inhibited when we’re tense and contracted.  We need the spine to be lengthened, to create an optimal flow of energy, and to serve as an open channel for our breathing.”

My mobility coach and good friend, Phong Thach, put it this way: “Your best posture is in your next movement”. In other words, we need to keep moving.

Sitting all day is the enemy of a good posture, no matter how upright you sit. As a strength trainer, he recommends you take a few minutes twice a day to do exercises such as push-ups, lunges and holding the plank – all simple, can be done anywhere and designed to strengthen the core.

And if you make it to the gym, he also recommends pull-ups and anything that works the back muscles.  You need to train your core and your back muscles to a point where it is built into your muscle memory. 

The habit of a good posture is too important to ignore because it impacts so much of your psychology. And this is why it is in the top five habits of our conscious living series.

Essential Habit #3: Greetings and Goodbyes

By Sam Makhoul

In case you missed them, here are the links to the first 2 habits

Habit #1 – Smile on Waking
Habit #2 – Situational Gratitude

This is a series of articles on the four essential daily rituals, five essential daily habits and six energy-boosting life hacks. 

Why Are Greetings And Goodbyes So Important?

And why is it such an important habit to cultivate? Greetings and farewells are an important catalyst between people and situations.

It sets the tone, pace and energy transfer between people. It’s an impression you leave on people that either engages them or repels them, consciously or subconsciously.

This is critical socially and in business. It can be your secret weapon or your greatest weakness.

And it is a relatively easy habit to implement and has the most powerful impact on all your personal and professional relationships. In this article I will step you through how to cultivate this daily habit with your partner, your family, your friends, your colleagues and your clients; so people get to experience the real you.

“But I am not charismatic or charming. In fact, I can be awkward,” I hear you say. I am not asking you to be fake.

I am asking you to master the art of greetings and goodbyes in a way that attracts people to you, whether you are an introvert or an extravert, forward or awkward, cheerful or reserved, talkative or observant. Some of the most lovable people I know are introverts.

But first some science….

Psychologists have for many years confirmed that there is energy transference between humans which mean people feel your energy first and hear what you have to say second. The ancient sears also declared there is an invisible force that connects all humans and animals, a universal consciousness.

We know it as spirit, Prana or Chi. Microbiologists are now saying there is a cellular basis for it as well.

Our microbiome (gut bacteria) speak to each other and decide whether there is chemistry between us. So, what does it mean for greetings and goodbyes?

It means how you greet and bid farewell to people is an energy transference.

How To Greet And Farewell Your Partner:

As Dr Guy Winch said at Upgrade Your Life 2019, “it’s in the little gestures”. The research shows that lavish gifts are easily forgotten and mean very little compared to the compounding effect of small daily gestures.

You need to get into the habit of kissing and hugging on seeing your partner and on saying goodbye. It will strengthen your relationship and builds connection at a deep level.

Rule:

It does not count if you don’t look at your partner in the eyes. The kiss needs to be on the lips and the hug, full body.

Every time you leave and return, without fail, no exceptions, whether in a hurry or not, whether they reciprocate or not. Back it up with loving words and a smile.

Make it a commitment from this day onwards and watch your relationship transform. It’s in the little things….

Your Family:

The bottom line here is to greet and say goodbye to your family every time. Never ever sneak out.

It sends a message to your kids that they do not matter. Greetings and goodbyes make children feel more emotionally secure.

Have a family meeting and tell your children it is important for the family to greet and say goodbye to each other. Make it a family rule.

It will feel weird at first if you have not done it in a while, but in a few days, it will feel natural and reassuring. It will fill your home with joy and love. It is that powerful.

Children love big hugs– especially big family group hugs. Teenage children not so much but you can still insist on a small hug.

Young children also love secret handshakes as a way of saying hello and goodbye.

Rule:

Do not wait for them to come to you. If you enter the house it is your cue to announce your entry and find your family members.

Be playful, fun or endearing. “How is my gorgeous family tonight?”

Your Friends:

Greeting friends should be done warmly, with a smile and their name is spoken out loud. People love to hear their name.

It is a primal trigger for them to get closer to you. It builds an instant connection, especially if you have not seen them in a while.

Using phrases such as “Hey mate/buddy/beautiful” or “See ya mate/buddy/beautiful” are also terms of endearment you can use for friends you see often. Should you kiss, touch or hug?

If you know them well, then yes otherwise this should be limited to people of the same gender. More discretion should be exercised with the opposite sex whatever your heritage.

An air kiss may be more suitable. You need to treat each friend individually.

Some are affectionate and love a hug, others are uncomfortable and prefer their private space. When saying goodbye to friends always leave them with a compliment that is genuine and leaves an impact on them.

Your Work Colleagues:

Handshakes are usually adequate. High five’s is also okay in a team environment.

It is not appropriate to kiss colleagues unless you are long time colleagues who have become friends and you are meeting at a social function outside of work. If you work in an office within a team, you need to make it your daily habit of greeting and saying goodbye to everyone in that team.

A work environment resembles a family one. And all relationships require a sense of recognition and connection. Greeting and farewelling make everyone feel valued.

Your Clients/Customers:

The bottom line with clients and customers is to always leave the impression that you genuinely care. You need to be professional at all times.

Shaking hands with eye contact and a smile are the general rule. A two cheek European kiss is not appropriate unless they are a long-time client.

A warm but professional greeting captures their attention and builds instant rapport. A graceful and charming exit will make you unforgettable.

It is how you make them feel on exit. It should never be hurried. 

Some Rules:

Be present when you kiss or hug or shake hands. It never counts if you do not look the other person in the eye, warmly. Looking away is a big no-no. Never make too-personal comments, especially in cases of divorce, bereavement or illness.

If you are arriving home from work and in the wrong headspace, stay in your car and do a brain dump in your diary to get your ‘to-do’ list out of your head. That way you can switch off and greet your family from the heart.

If you are at work and preoccupied when someone greets you, bring your awareness to your breath. This will bring you to the present moment where you can switch your attention to them and greet them properly and listen attentively.

Back It Up With Words:

Whether you are greeting or saying goodbye, words in conjunction with a kiss, hug or handshake make it more personal. “I love coming here…” applies when visiting not only family but also friends.

“You always make my day…” is another example with friends and colleagues. Make it genuine and make it appropriate depending on the closeness of the relationship.

What is your trigger?

Ask yourself this question. “If this is the last time you get to see this person, how do you want them to remember your last interaction.”

When it comes to your partner, family or close friends, even more so; you never know what happens in life. I know this is a morbid thought but knowing this helps make you memorable. It puts your greeting or goodbye into real perspective.

My Promise:

I know the habit of greetings and goodbyes is simple and this article is unremarkable, but simple habits such as this need not be remarkable. The fact that it is ordinary should make it an easy habit to infuse into your days. And I promise you when you master the art of greetings and goodbyes, you will become unforgettable and bring joy to everyone around you.

Essential Habit #2: Situational Gratitude

By Sam Makhoul

Did you know that every time you focus on what you don’t have and take what you have for granted you enter into a state of systemic lack of gratitude that leads you down the path of unhappiness; and for some, misery and depression. Did you also know that in this negative state, your mind sends a message to your physical cells to die? 

That’s right. This accelerates your ageing and shortens telomere length that makes you look and feel older. In this article, I will provide you with the antidote – and it’s NOT gratitude as you know it.

Last week I brought you habit one as part of the series in our academy’s daily system for living – featuring four rituals, five habits and six life-hacks. We have already covered the four essential Daily Rituals.

(Incidentally, the difference between rituals and habits is in the timing. Rituals are scheduled so you show up at the same time every day. Habits are something you do throughout the day)

For now, I want you to focus on what I call the battle between 1% and 99%. 99% wins hands down right?

1% vs 99%:

Most people know of the power of journaling gratitude. This is where you sit at the end of the day and write down everything you are grateful for in life.

This way of practising gratitude is mediocre at best (I will admit however that it is better than nothing). Plus you will find it difficult to persist because you can end up writing the same thing every day and will quickly get bored.

I call it mediocre because the rest of your day is unaccounted for. You have on average 16 waking hours.

That is 960 minutes. If you practice gratitude for 10 minutes it means you have spent a miserly 1% of your day focused on being grateful.

The question is, what are you focusing on the rest of your 950 minutes? The other 99% of the time?

What is going on in your thoughts and feelings? What is inhibiting your heart and mind?

Are you truly living in ‘a state’ of constant gratitude? 1% can never defeat 99%.

In the 21st century, we are constantly bombarded with media and material wants designed to keep us on the hedonic treadmill. Which means we are constantly not happy with who we are or what we have.

This is a sad state to be in – literally. If you are spending 99% of your day in that sad state, you are continuously sending signals to your cells to die.

We call it going after our goals or progress or winning or achieving, but in reality, it is discontentment with our life. When we are stuck in this cycle we cannot really be giving thanks for each and every powerful fulfilling moment.

Instead, we are constantly focused on what we do NOT have and this causes us to take what we have for granted. So can 1% of gratitude override 99% of discontentment?

Clearly not. There is a rule in this universe.

If you consistently take what you have for granted, it will either abandon you or be taken from you. Be it the people in your life: your family, your partner, your friends, your staff, your colleagues or your customers.

Or your health, your wealth and your peace of mind. In this 99% state, you are also more inclined to be irritated throughout the day and this puts you more and more in the zone where you are constantly blaming and complaining about the state of your life and how you are wanting change. Pardon the cliche: Change is within.

“You will never materialise a magnificent future if you are not in love with the present”

 

Habit #2: Situational Gratitude

The Powerful Habit I learned from My Grandmother Rose

When you are in a constant state of gratitude throughout the day, you become innately happy without effort. You will not have to write anything down.

I grew up in a peaceful little village at the foothills of Mount Lebanon. As a boy, I was always shadowing my grandmother as she harvested seasonal produce, milked cows and sheep, fetched eggs, cooked slow meals and baked bread.

My role was to run and pick herbs for her as she stirred her old warped but deliciously coated pots that had the scent of fennel seeds, thyme and ghee. But most of the time I was listening to her speak.

She was the type of person who verbalised just about everything she was thinking and feeling. So I grew up hearing her declarations of gratitude.

​What she said:Summer has done its job and autumn will bring figs”.
How it made me feel:There is no good or bad season. Every season is exciting in its own way.”

What she said: “Enjoy these spinach pies, Samuel, our precious neighbour made them with her gifted hands. Look at the perfect way she has shaped them.”
How it made me feel: “People matter. People have special talents and gifts. and I am so grateful to have them in my life.”

What she said: “Don’t worry Samuel, God will make you feel better. He always takes care of you.”
How it made me feel: “Someone in this universe has my back. I cannot lose, even when I fail”

Over time I too developed the habit of being grateful for the little things that happened to me each and every day. I would give thanks quietly and inwardly, whether I am in traffic, sitting in a cafe or in a business meeting.

How to Practice Situational Gratitude

​Simply, whenever you mindfully experience something that engages one or more of your five senses.

Touch:

When you touch your warm furry pet you are flooded with feelings of happiness and gratitude for their constant loyalty, playful energy and cuddles and muzzles. The warmth of the summer sun. The freshness of a cool winter breeze.

Taste:

When you have a delicious cup of coffee or tea be grateful and give thanks to the hands that harvested the beans or leaves, the sun that ripened the plant, the water that nourished it. Give thanks to a meal that you can eat in a cafe or restaurant that has been grown by a farmer, transported by a truck driver and prepared by a cook. You can enjoy all of this at a fraction of the cost of your time.

Smell:

When you inhale the scent of a bouquet of flowers, be grateful for the bees pollinating the plants, the growers, the florists who go to the markets at 3 am every morning to select and then creatively arrange them. The smell of freshly cut grass usually instantly brings happy childhood memories of playing outside and of warm weather.

Hear:

When you hear a beautiful song, give thanks to the musicians who took the time to labour over the music and lyrics. For the engineer that set up the board. Not to mention the radio producer that cues the song. I know they are all getting paid for their work but that does not mean you cannot appreciate all the effort behind the scenes. All so you can enjoy it in a few minutes.

Sight:

The beauty of the sunrise or sunset, the beach, the clouds, the flowers, natures art in the sky, the beauty of eyes, the design of clothes, cars, furniture, food and all things that are created by passionate creative humans. It is truly miraculous when you think about it.

Gratitude When You Have An Irritating Moment

We all experience irritating moments on any given day; sometimes multiple times a day, but when you get into the habit of slipping into gratitude in that irritating moment, you neutralise the irritation. The practice of flipping an irritating moment is extremely powerful. It is simply practised by reminding yourself of all the things you should be grateful for in each of the eight areas of your life.

The roof over your head, your health, your loved ones, the safe and secure country you live in, the clean air and water, the books, the courses, the people, the food, the friendships and the mere fact of being alive. ​So next time you have an irritating moment, let a smile fill your face.

I say to myself: “Sam you are getting irritated, slip into gratitude.” I start to list all the things in my mind and sure enough, the irritation subsides and disintegrates. Incidentally, your high-level gratitude list should be written at the very front of your journal. Click here to read all about the journaling ritual.

I hope this article has made you think of gratitude in a different way. I write with pure love and my ultimate aim is for you to sow the habits that will bring you happiness and joy.

Can’t Hurt Me

By Sam Makhoul

This is a special addendum to our last email about the essential ritual of daily movement. To help inspire you and give you the tools to persist with daily exercise, we would like to introduce you to a very special book.

In an era where there are so many fakers who tell us one thing and do something else, David Goggins shines with integrity and authenticity. His book Can’t Hurt Me tells a very personal story and demonstrates how strong the body really is when you develop the right mindset.

Some of us are too soft on our bodies and underestimate what we are capable of, so we use this as an excuse to skip workouts and exercise. This ultimately makes us weak, of body and mind.

When listening to this book I could not help but feel that the title was also echoing the message You Can’t Hurt You. David Goggins shows us that when it comes to the body you have to be cruel to be kind.

The more hardship your body endures the stronger it gets and in turn, the tougher your mindset becomes. This toughness translates to resilience across all areas of your life including studying and working.

Parents take note. Don’t coddle your children. The stronger you make them the better they will do in life.

His message applies equally to females who have become an easy target for well-intentioned naturopaths and health practitioners who preach self-love to a point that it is fuelling narcissist behaviour, manifested on social media. In adults generally, this pre-occupation with self-care is also leading to relationship breakdowns as people become self-help-alcoholics.

It needs to stop. I say this with the utmost of respect knowing that I too have a teenage daughter.

Women underestimate the physical and mental strength they possess. This book is as much a testament to the strength of David Goggins’ mother, who left an abusive relationship and lived in poverty to raise one of the fittest, toughest, strongest men alive.

Our parents’ and grandparent’s generation endured many hardships and discomforts. We recount proudly the stories of how they overcame odds and migrated to new countries.

Or how they worked tirelessly to give us what we have today. Or how they fought in the war to deliver our freedom.

Yet we baulk at waking early to do 10-30 minutes of exercise? The best thing we can do to honour their legacy is to endure our own pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.

In Greek, this mindset is called Philotimo. It has its roots in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism.

We need more of this in our modern-day ‘soft’ society. We need to harden up and do the tough stuff.

When you set out to do a 5km run, do 7km instead. When your personal trainer tells you to do 15 reps, do 18 instead.

When your boss tells you to hit a target or perform a task, exceed all expectations. Do it better.

Do more than anticipated. Stress is not caused by how much you work but the mindset you bring to work.

In this book, David Goggins outlines 10 challenges that are prescriptive and practical. His life story is confronting but he shares it with us NOT in a self-indulgent way.

It is not only inspiring but also highly instructive. EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!

Here is the download link: Can’t Hurt Me 

The Power of WHEN

By Sam Makhoul

WHY ignites motivation.
WHAT clarifies outcomes.
HOW is the process.
but
WHEN is your point of difference!

There is no doubt that we should all start at WHY. WHY sparks the motivation for change that shapes your beliefs and defines your identity, which is critical for behavioural change.

But in my opinion, if you do not get the WHEN right, the WHY along with your motivation will disappear behind a sea of inevitable setbacks, energy dips, failures, rejections, hurts and disappointments. Timing is everything.

If you get your timing wrong you are more likely to fail or get rejected; whether it is the time of day you wake, eat, sleep, exercise, work, and even initiate sex with your partner. Timing is critical.

You may think you are not good at something, when in fact you just did it at the wrong time of day that is not aligned with your optimal chrono-type. Munich University pioneered the research into discovering your chrono-type with a simple quiz but if you really think about it, you would know intuitively whether you are a morning person or a night owl. 

The research shows that approximately 30% of people are ‘morning’ types, 30% are ‘night owls’ and 40% are in-between. Most modern work schedules favour the morning types.

I know some people who have gone into business for themselves purely so they can be in control of when they eat, sleep and work. Others have asked their boss if they can work different hours that favour their chrono-type.

If you don’t have the privilege of either, don’t despair. Read on….

8 Tips To Get Your Timing Right?

Using the Higher Branch framework, consider how you can get your timing right in the following eight areas of life. These tips can make a huge difference to your energy, motivation and performance.

Health:

There are three branches to your physical health. Nutrition, sleep and movement (exercise).

Sleep is by far the most important factor for your cognitive performance, emotional happiness, immunity and longevity. If you are a night owl, going to bed early may cause you to slip into self-induced insomnia as you lie awake trying to get to sleep before you are ready.

You start developing a negative association with your bed and it’s a spiral into anxiety from there that causes more insomnia. If your optimal time to go to bed is 11 pm and wake at 7 am then stick to that and be true to your chrono-type.

If you prefer to sleep at 9 pm and wake at 5 am then go with that. When it comes to eating, typically morning people can’t survive without breakfast, while night owls prefer to snack at night and fast till midday the next day.

Some can have one or two meals per day, others are primed for grazing throughout the day. For some, exercise first thing boosts their energy level, for others midday or late afternoon is the best time.

Don’t try and be something you are not. You need to listen to your body.

And if you cannot figure out what your body is telling you then maybe it is time to have an Ayurvedic or a genetic consultation with a peak performance coach. We recommend Mark Bunn, Alessandra Edwards and Anthia Koullouros. 

Love And Intimacy:

Couples can sometimes think they have relationships problems simply because they have their timing all wrong. For example, if you try to initiate sex with your partner late at night and they are a morning person, then you are setting yourself up for rejection.

So, it is important to get your timing right. How do you do that?

Start with sleep. In a previous article The Sex/Sleep Connection I talked about how important sleep is to a relationship.

Family:

If you are a morning person, then the best time to spend with your children is in the morning. Driving them to school is a great way to do that.

Otherwise, I know some parents who wake early and go jogging or swimming with their children. If they are too young, then a playground is an awesome way to start the day.

If you are a night person, then flip that around and do those things later in the day. Pick them up from school. Read to them at night.

Play board games. Please don’t watch TV or have any screen time at night with your children.

Artificial light at night will mess up their sleep and yours whether you are a morning person or a night person. More on the importance of your circadian rhythm in the next article.

Work:

If you are a morning person you need to do your most important work in the first 90 minutes after you start work. Why only 90 mins?

Research shows that after 90 minutes, your attention span and focus deteriorate, and you need a 15 min break outside in the sunlight to reset. Why the first 90 mins?

For a morning person, the first 90 minutes at work is the most productive. This should never be spent checking email!

Or in meetings, unless the meeting is for brainstorming or decision making. The converse is true for a night person. You need to ease into the day and do your best work later in the day when your brain comes alive.

Friendships:

Socialising is a critical element to our wellbeing. In fact, all the research shows that the longest living humans in the blue zones of the world all have very strong social networks that keep them happy and mentally sharp.

Friendships help us have fun and bring laughter to our life. BUT only when you socialise at the right time.

If you are a night person then going out at night to the footy or a bar or restaurant brings the best out of you. You will be a lot more fun and energetic.

If you are a morning person, then perhaps you should avoid going out at night and choose a morning cycle and coffee or a long lunch on weekends. Timing can be the difference between being perceived as fun or boring.

Learning:

At A Higher Branch, we consider learning to be an essential element for growth. Our whole mission is built around sharing actionable knowledge with our community. 

Learning is not just about attending seminars about your subject-matter expertise. But more importantly about your personal life.

Your health, how to be a better partner, friend or parent and all the eight areas of life. And learning is no different from working.

You should read, listen or watch when you are most alert. Again, this leads back to whether you identify yourself as a morning person, a night person or an in-between.

The best ways to learn on the fly is during your daily commute. Some call it ‘Traffic University’. By far the most effective exponential way to learn is face-to-face at seminars and events with other like-minded people.

Wealth:

Your appetite for risk varies according to the time of day. If you are a morning person, then the worst time for you to make investment decisions is later in the day when you are more emotional and prone to impulsiveness.

The converse is true for night owls. The morning is the worst time to make an investment or business decisions.

Charity:

Helping others, whether it is the new person at work or a friend that needs someone to listen to is best when you are emotionally solid. Otherwise, you are going to come across as insincere or nonchalant.

It is amazing how your chrono-type can influence the way you help others. I know the timing for helping others may be difficult but if you do have the choice, always choose the time of day when you are most empathetic and patient.

Listening requires both. I hope you enjoyed this article. It is shared with care and the utmost of respect for your time.

In the next article, we will be discussing the most important success factor for just about every component of your life. SLEEP. The absolute latest research reveals some stunning truths about the importance of sleep and the TWO lifestyle changes that will take away all the anxiety that can sometimes be associated with sleep.

12 Rules for Ageing Boldly

By Carl Honore

It comes to all of us in the end: that crushing moment when you suddenly feel old. The trigger might be a milestone birthday, an illness or an injury, a romantic snub or a missed promotion at work.

For me, it was discovering that – at the age of 48 – I was the oldest player at a hockey tournament. Even though I was playing well, the questions crowded in.

Do I look out of place here? Are people laughing at me?

Am I the hockey equivalent of the fiftysomething guy with the twentysomething girlfriend? Maybe I should take up a more age-appropriate pastime; bingo, perhaps?

My wobble was hardly surprising. After all, in a world in thrall to youth, being older can mean being written off everywhere from the bedroom to the boardroom.

These days, the word old is so toxic that Dame Judi Dench has banned its use in her home and age is the first answer to come up when you type ‘I lie about my . . .’ into Google Search. But is growing older so bad it should be a dirty secret?

Is it really all downhill from 35? Clearly, there are drawbacks to ageing.

To hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near can be an existential bummer of the first order. No matter how much kale you eat or how long you spend in spin class, your body will work less well over time and your brain will lose some zip.

Like most middle-agers, I need reading glasses – and hate them. But there is another, surprising side to the story: many things can actually get better as we age.

As the years’ pass, we tend to become more comfortable in our own skin, worry less about what others think of us and enjoy more fulfilling relationships. Perhaps that’s why people often report the highest levels of happiness and life satisfaction after the age of 60.

Even Pete Townshend confessed to feeling more cheerful in his sixties than when he wrote one of the most ageist lines in the pop music canon: ‘Hope I die before I get old.’ The human brain can also go on creating, learning, innovating and solving problems deep into later life.

In Britain, the prestigious Turner Prize rewards original work by visual artists. For years you had to be under 50 to qualify, but in 2017 the age limit was scrapped.

Why? Because, as the chair put it, “artists can experience a breakthrough in their work at any age”.

At any age – three little words to lift the spirits of anyone worried about being over the creative hill. The same goes for the sciences, where Nobel winners are peaking later and later.

Take John Goodenough, a poster child not only for late bloomers but for the idea that you never have to stop blooming. When he started his degree in physics at the age of 23, a professor told him he was already too old to make a mark in the field.

Three decades later, Goodenough helped invent the lithium-ion rechargeable battery. And he wasn’t done there.

Not long ago, in his mid-nineties, he unveiled an even better battery. In the workplace, where brainpower trumps brawn like never before, the idea of being finished at forty is ripe for retirement.

Productivity actually rises with age in jobs that rely on social skills, which often improve in later life. When companies set up suggestion boxes, older staff usually generate more and better ideas, with the best proposals tending to come from the over-55s.

While young guns strut and preen on The Apprentice, their parents – and grandparents – are out there smashing it in the start-up world. A recent study of new businesses in the United States reached a conclusion to gladden the heart of anybody on the wrong side of 40.

“We find no evidence to suggest that founders in their 20s are especially likely to succeed. Rather, all evidence points to founders being especially successful when starting businesses in middle age or beyond.”

By the same token, the human body can deliver fine service long after its peak. I no longer have the strength, speed or stamina of my youth but I’m just as sporty now as I was in my twenties – maybe more so.

And these days I can look to a burgeoning army of role models running marathons in their seventies, climbing mountains in their eighties and cycling cross-country in their nineties. Of course, not everyone will be able – or even want – to emulate these evergreen athletes, but thanks to better nutrition, healthcare, technology and understanding of how we age, all of us can now aspire to keep on keeping on.

To do so, though, we must detoxify ageing – and that’s starting to happen. Fifteen years ago, I spotted the first signs of a cultural shift towards embracing slowness.

Today, the Slow Movement influences our approach to everything from work and sex to travel and education. Maybe you’re helping fuel this shift by tuning in to one of the many Slow Radio or Slow TV broadcasts out there.

The same is now happening with ageing. With more and more of us living longer than ever before, the cult of youth is coming to look as outmoded as the cult of speed. One way to drive this change forward is, to be honest about our age.

Lying gives the number a power it does not deserve – and reinforces the canard that younger is always better. Honesty is certainly my policy these days.

I’m now 51 and going grey – but not ashamed of either. On the contrary, I’m proud to have come this far and excited that good things await me in the coming years.

I’m even toying with wearing a number 51 shirt at the next hockey tournament.

 12 Rules For Ageing Boldly!

  1. Keep on learning and experimenting. The adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks isn’t even true of dogs. Novelty keeps you energised and engaged.
  2. Cultivate strong relationships.
  3. Draw inspiration from role models. Think Helen Mirren, David Attenborough or even Michelangelo, who rebuilt St Peter’s Basilica in his 80s.
  4. Keep the brain and body fit by exercising and eating right.
  5. Channel Marie Kondo. If something – a job, a friendship, etc – no longer sparks joy, drop it. Streamline to make every moment count.
  6. Find a purpose that puts meaning in your life and fire in your belly.
  7. Be honest about your age. Lying gives the number a power it does not deserve – and reinforces the myth that younger is always better. Owning your age is the first step to making the most of it.
  8. Remain flexible and open to change, growth and evolution. As Lao Tzu put it: “Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.”
  9. Ignore the doom-mongers who say sex, love and romance belong to the young: they do not. Make room for all three however you old you are, if that’s what you fancy.
  10. If you think growing older will be bad, it will be bad. Be positive and focus on the upsides of ageing: feeling more at ease in your own skin; deeper relationships; more happiness, altruism, creativity, knowledge, experience.
  11. Cultivate a sense of humour. Laughing boosts health and longevity. As George Bernard Shaw put it: ‘You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
  12. Think about death. Don’t dwell morbidly on it, but don’t shy away from it, either. An awareness that time is finite gives life shape and meaning – and spurs you to make the most of here and now.

Carl Honoré is a faculty member of A Higher Branch Success Academy and was a guest speaker at our annual event Upgrade Your Life 2019 and 2020.

Is Your Working Memory Turning Into A Leaky Bucket?

By Alessandra Edwards

When I was ten years old, I remember my parents getting into a heated argument. It was a typical weekday morning in the household, hurrying to get out of the house to beat the rush hour and drive to work/school.

The car keys had gone AWOL and, in typical fashion, my mother blamed my dad. Handbags were searched, cushions were scattered and drawers yanked open in the futile attempt to find the elusive item.

That day I never made it to school. My father got a taxi to work and my mother came up with a lame excuse to her boss that I wasn’t feeling well and she had to stay at home (I’m guessing it would have been too embarrassing to blame the car keys.)

The Cost Of Fragile Working Memory:

My childhood recollection is not unusual. A survey by Bluetooth tracker Pixie found that, on average, we lose nearly half a working week each year looking for our TV remote, glasses, keys, wallets and shoes and spend billions of dollars yearly to replace these items.

The time cost is even more considerable with 60% of people have been late to work because of lost items, followed by 49% who’ve missed appointments and even 22% who’ve missed flights. Clearly, our working memory is letting us down.

Working Memory And Performance:

We can think of working memory as a sticky note reminder system that allows the brain to hold onto temporary information while it works out what to do with it. For example, when someone gives you the first three digits of a phone number to write down, your working memory holds onto those numbers while you find the pen and paper to jot them down.

A higher level of working memory has been shown to increase our capacity for learning, problem-solving and even emotional control. It is correlated with higher job performance and better leadership skills.

Unfortunately, like many good things that decline with age, working memory is also affected. This is because as we become older the neurons involved in maintaining a piece of information in our short-term memory no longer fire consistently.

Neuroscientists have worked out that as we age our working memory becomes more vulnerable to distractions. This affects our ability to be fully present in the moment and instead allows information to seep out, like water through a leaky bucket.

Don’t settle for an ageing memory:

The good news is that we do not have to settle for a suboptimal working memory as we age. Research is constantly evolving and identifying new drugs, nutrients and lifestyle changes that offer protection to our brain.

For now, there are several measures you can adopt to start future-proofing your brain and prevent as much decline as possible.

Top 5 Interventions That Have Shown Positive Improvements In Working Memory:

1. Exercise:

Regular, moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like cycling, jogging or fast walking, dancing and swimming) increases working memory even after the first session.

2. Stress Reduction

Stress decreases working memory by reducing the firing of prefrontal cortex neurons. Mindfulness meditation techniques have been shown to improve working memory by protecting this mechanism.

3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Research has shown that olive oil protects working memory and learning ability even when not as part of a Mediterranean style diet. Unfiltered, cloudy, cold-pressed olive oil works best due to its high polyphenol content. There are several organic olive oil farmers in Australia now offering this beautifully unadulterated, premium product.

4. DuaL Training

Currently, this is the best working memory training available. You can access it free on many internet sites or download it as an app. The memory improvements it provides have been shown in some studies to transfer outside of the training.

5. Forskolin

This extract from the Ayurvedic plant Coleus forskohlii has been shown to increase levels of cyclic AMP, an important signal carrier that is associated with improved working memory.

Incidentally, my mother ended up apologising to my father that evening when she found the car keys waiting for her in the freezer, where she had placed them the night before. This article is reproduced with permission from Alessandra Edwards and first appeared on www.alessandraedwards.com.

Is Exercise Doing You More Harm Than Good?

By Sam Makhoul

You probably are doing more harm than good. I know this sounds shocking, but it’s the truth and somebody needs to tell it.

Exercise programs, personal trainers and gyms are a huge fad, and big business is cashing in on people’s insecurity, guilt and FOMO. 

What Does The Science Say?

  1. Exercise causes inflammation. Increased oxygen utilisation causes increased oxidative stress from free radicals. This damages the heart and other organs. Arnold Schwarzenegger had to have heart surgery at the age of 49!
  2. Exercise can cause addiction to carbohydrates and cause pre-diabetes. It destroys your discipline to eat the right food because of the body’s natural craving for carbs after a workout. 
  3. Exercise causes adrenal fatigue.
  4. Exercise causes premature aging.
  5. Exercise damages the joints.
  6. Exercise lowers your immune system, and gyms are breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Research shows that people who work out in a gym get sick more often.
  7. Exercise can cause you to neglect relationships, much in the same way that working too much in your job does.

The Japanese believe that the heart has a finite number of beats, the back has a finite number of bends, and the cartilage has a finite number of shock absorptions, and once you’ve reached your individual quota, your body begins to fail.

Is Exercise Good For Your Body Shape?

Most people think that exercise is what brings their body back to its original shape, but this is simply not true. Your body is shaped by the type of food you eat, how much you eat and when you eat.

Your body does not like to be overweight and out of shape. Your organs are primed for bringing you back to your equilibrium, so they have to work overtime to process unwanted food and inevitably store it as fat.

Over the years, this takes its toll on your organs. If you eat just right, the body will naturally return to its original shape without the need to exercise.

And this will also boost your immune system and your energy levels because you have taken the pressure off your organs.  Don’t get me too wrong.

I believe in physical activity, it is great for your mental and emotional health. The right type of physical activity, that is.

But here’s the thing, most physical activity promoted by gyms and personal trainers is not fun. It’s a work-out.

It is stressful, not just on the body (as listed above), but also on your mind and emotions. There is the pressure of keeping up in a class, coupled with body shape insecurities.

Who wants to finish WORK and go do more WORK at a gym? It is ALL work and too much of it causes the stress hormone cortisol to surge through your body. 

Research emphatically shows that physical activity is only good for you if you are having fun doing it. Playing sport with mates is good for you because it is social.

Dancing is the best exercise on the planet, which is why PLAY-outs such as Zumba is so popular. It significantly reduces cortisol and gives you a surge of feel-good hormones.

It’s a PLAY-out, not a WORK-out. Running around the house playing hide-and-seek with your kids is also a great play-out.

Going for a power walk with a colleague at lunchtime is also a good option. The main rule is how it makes you feel.

If it makes you smile, it is fun. If it makes you grimace, then you know it’s stress. It’s that simple.

Most people fall into the trap of WORKING-out because they think it’s the gateway to an awesome life. The truth is that there are other more effective strategies for living with high energy, excitement, a sharp mind, strong self-esteem, and purpose.

These are:

  1. Go out, have fun and socialise more with family and friends. Want to learn the art of having fun? Read this.
  2. Stay away from toxic people.
  3. Eat less, eat in season, eat 70 per cent green, eat slow, eat with gratitude.
  4. Stop feeling guilty. If you do indulge, at least, enjoy it emotionally. The feel-good hormones are good for you.
  5. Schedule intimacy with your partner. Never stop “dating” them.
  6. Sleep more, wake at sunrise and have naps on weekends.
  7. Get more sun on your eyes first in the morning, and on your body on weekends. It’s the best medicine for a good night’s sleep, your mood and your immune system.
  8. Keep reading, learning and developing a growth mindset.
  9. Work with people who challenge you and want the best for you.
  10. Don’t watch or read the news. It promotes a fear mindset. Trust me, you would rather be uninformed than misinformed.
  11. Make alone time to daydream or meditate or pray for what you want. Visualisation is a very powerful and underrated pastime.

12 Tips for Mental Toughness & Emotional Resilience

By Sam Makhoul

Make no mistake, this year is going to be tough for business. This will put many people in a fear mindset.

Your ability to compete will no longer be about how much you know and not even how fit and healthy you are. It will depend on your mental and emotional resilience.

These two elements to your wellbeing are far more important to your work performance and life success. The following tips will keep you in the right state of mind and emotions:

  1. You become who you drink coffee with. Associate only with positive, focused people who will not drain your valuable energy with complaining and uninspiring attitudes.
  2. Start every morning with 10 mins of visualisation meditation, 10mins of ‘minimum effective dose’ exercise and 10 mins of priming and journaling. Don’t know how? Email the team for further info: enquiries@ahigherbranch.com
  3. Start a ‘hero file’. Any time you receive a written compliment, a card, a great report, an award etc… file it away in an accessible location, like an app called Evernote. Refer to this hero file whenever you experience a setback or rejection and you find yourself indulging in negative self-talk.
  4. Use the power of negative thinking. When things are going bad, sit, close your eyes and imagine how much worse life can get. Now open your eyes and thank your lucky stars for what you do have. Most mental health issues come from focusing on what you do NOT have instead of what you do have.
  5. Have a laugh before bedtime. You will have a better-quality sleep and help you wake with a great attitude. Also, make an effort to be humorous throughout the day. Not only is it good for your mental health but it diffuses tension in difficult circumstances and creates an excellent atmosphere wherever you are. As a consequence, people will be drawn to you.
  6. Stay Away from Food that Makes you angry. Food impacts your mood in a profound way. People talk about the gut-brain connection (i.e. thoughts and cognitive performance) but the truth is that foods bigger impact is on your emotions (feelings). Here is a list of foods.
  7. Get more sleep, more sunshine and have more fun socialising. Those three life-hacks are scientifically proven to be more effective than any drug.
  8. Work for Love Not Money. Stay on purpose, not on outcome. In other words, do the task because it is what you love to do or because it will help someone. Don’t do it for the money or the recognition. Those will come naturally. This is the way of the world.
  9. Slowdown. Science emphatically shows that doing things with speed damages your mental health by increasing your stress levels. Read here tips for slowing down.
  10. Learn to Forgive Quickly. You will never have peace of mind nor taste success and wealth if you are hanging on to grudges and regrets. Learn how to practice forgiveness.
  11. Keep a photo on your desk or phone and look at it throughout the day. It could be a photo of your partner, your children or a picture of your next holiday destination.
  12. Other happiness tips: smile on waking, walk tall, breath deeper, smell flowers, hug your family, call your friends, listen to music, sing in the shower, pack a picnic, walk barefoot, visit a farm, ride a bike, spend less, save more, love unconditionally.

Is Your Food Making You Angry?

By Sam Makhoul

Science in the last few years has discovered that your mind is your thinking brain and your gut is your feeling brain. And we all know that your feelings are much more powerful than your thoughts.

Try thinking your way out of anger or fear or anxiety? Difficult right?

Researchers have also discovered that people are getting more serious and angrier than at any time in history. The research further shows that people are quicker to get angry.

That’s not surprising because we are doing everything faster than ever before, so why not anger? The big question is, ‘what is causing all this anger?’

One answer is the pace of life. But the other answer is the food you eat.

More specifically the impact food has on your ‘feeling’ gut-brain. The following is a list of foods known to make you angry because they cause an inflammatory response in your gut and this, in turn, inflames your emotions and makes you, well… an angry person!

Foods To Be Avoided By Everyone:

  • Oil: Foods fried in industrial vegetable oil.
  • Sugar: Stuff like soft drinks, fruit juices, pastries, cookies, cakes etc.
  • Flour: Refined starchy foods – pasta, pizza and white bread.
  • Anything artificial: colouring, flavouring, preservatives, nitrates and MSG.

Foods To Be Avoided By Some:

  • If you are sensitive to caffeine – Coffee, black and green tea.
  • If you are sensitive to alcohol – beer, wine, spirits.
  • If you are sensitive to dairy – milk, cheese, yogurt.
  • If you are sensitive to certain psychoactive stimulants – chocolate.
  • If you are sensitive to gluten – most grains especially wheat.
  • If you are sensitive to lectins – most beans, lentils, soy, corn, cashews and peanuts.
  • If you are sensitive to the nightshade family – tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and Goji berries.
  • If you are sensitive to certain foods that cause a histamine response – such as eggs, kombucha, fermented foods and avocado.

What To Do:

The first list of foods is easy to identify and avoid. The more sinister list is the second one because unless you know your sensitivity you will never know what is affecting your gut and therefore your emotions.

And you will never be in control of your life and your performance at work. How do you discover your sensitivity?

Two ways. One way is by having a sense of awareness and journaling how you feel after you eat certain foods in isolation.

The second and quickest way is to get your gut bacteria (known as the ‘microbiome’) tested. Alessandra Edwards is one of Australia’s leading practitioners in the area of genetic-based human performance.

For more tips on nutrition download Sam Makhoul’s latest FREE EBook, GUIDE TO GREATNESS

Why You Should Avoid Social Media After A Failure

By Dr Guy Winch

One of the things many of us do after a failure or a rejection is to distract ourselves from the disappointment, frustration, hurt, or anger we feel by surfing through social media. Mistake!

Social media is known to impact our moods for the worse in certain situations, especially when we’re already feeling bad. When Nava failed the bar exam for lawyers she was devastated.

Trying to delay telling her friends and family the bad news she did what she often did to pass the time. She pulled out her phone and surfed through friends’ Facebook and Instagram feeds.

She hoped to see some of the inspirational messages her friends tended to post would cheer her up. But the more time Nava spent looking through her friends’ posts the worse her mood became.

And then something happened that happens to many of us. She began to feel bad about the fact that she was feeling bad.

The question is, why did seeing friends’ Facebook and Instagram posts, many of which were inspirational and supportive in nature, make Nava feel worse about her failure? Should they not have made her feel more hopeful and optimistic?

A study recently published by the American Psychology Association looked into the impact our culture of happiness has on how we react to failure experiences. The researchers found that the greater emphasis a culture places on happiness, and the greater the societal pressure is to not experience negative emotions, the more poorly and less adaptively we might react to negative emotions when we have them, about failure and in general.

How To Apply These Findings:

Treating the emotional wounds of failure creates requires a two-step process. In the first, we should always give ourselves time and space to experience negative emotions when we have them, especially when we’re dealing with a failure experience.

This also means we should validate the distressed and negative feelings our friends and loved ones have when they experience failures or rejections. However, since our goal is to bounce back emotionally, we need to limit the time we give ourselves to feel bad so we can pivot to emotional recovery.

The idea is to give ourselves (or our loved ones) enough time to acknowledge and validate the negative feelings we have but not enough time to wallow in them or allow them to become fodder for ruminative thoughts. When our negative feelings are not validated by others, or when, like Nava and the participants in the study, we see around us messages that imply it is wrong or incorrect to have negative feelings, we are likely to experience the double whammy of feeling bad about the failure and then feeling bad about ourselves for feeling bad.

Therefore, we should give ourselves time to feel bad, seek out emotional validation for our distressing feelings (e.g., our disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness) so we do not ‘feel bad about feeling bad’, and then pivot to emotional recovery sooner and more effectively.

Can Meditation Help You Outperform The Competition?

By Sam Makhoul

We are now ALL competing with a new breed of high achievers! They eat like athletes, train like titans and meditate like monks.

Why meditate? Because in today’s world, success no longer belongs to the smartest or the most knowledgeable.

It belongs to the ‘energy elite’ who get more done in less time more sustainably. And that’s what meditation delivers. It’s the NEW secret weapon in business.

You cannot ignore it. Its benefits include:

  • High energy
  • Brainpower
  • Reverses Ageing
  • Telieves Anxiety

The Big Question Is: What Type Of Meditation?

In its essence, meditation is a simple practice where you put all of your awareness and attention on something that is happening in that moment, such as your breath, a flower, rustling branches or any sound. But what if there was a type of meditation that goes further?

One that helps you make an instant connection with people, whether it’s a client or the person sitting across you at a bar. And one that gives you magnetic attraction. There is such a meditation technique. One that has been designed for A Higher Branch community by our faculty member, Tom Sullivan.

We believe it is one of the most powerful meditation practices on the planet that will boost your performance and give you a competitive edge!

Introducing Tom Sullivan:

We are excited to announce that Tom Sullivan, has joined the Higher Branch faculty as our Meditation Coach. Tom is a meditation teacher based in Sydney with over 10 years’ experience, studying, practising and teaching meditation.

He brings a unique and accessible brand of meditation that is completely aligned to the holistic framework pioneered by our Academy. And he has the uncanny ability to guide beginners in a practical way that caters to any hectic lifestyle.

His own experience in balancing a corporate role with a long-term meditation practise makes him the perfect fit for our community.

Are You Ignoring Your Inner Instinct?

By Sam Makhoul

Your instinct is one of five superpowers that you have to help you grow, evolve and survive. Ignore it at your peril.

We live in an age of constant distraction where mindfulness of our inner instinct is failing us. This can make us feel lost, uncertain and confused.

Out of this comes indecision, which is one of the most debilitating afflictions. We can become rudderless with no instinct at all.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant or shop and felt uncomfortable or uneasy? Did you shake aside that inner instinct as nonsense and stay, or did you listen to it and leave?

If you stayed, you were probably subjected to a sensory discomfort and a feeling of being out of place. That’s because every positive has a negative, so like positive and negative charges in electricity, people and places also emit either positive (empowering) or negative (discomforting) energy.

As we are energy, we can sense it straight away but often ignore this inner instinct because we cannot explain why we are feeling that way. However, the problem with this is that if the red flags are ignored at the beginning, they can turn into problems later on.

For example, if you felt uneasy when entering a shop and stayed, you may have discovered that the sales representative was ripping you off. So you’ve just spent your energy on a negative experience.

Or, have you ever walked into a restaurant and felt a negative vibe, ignored it, and felt sick afterwards? Maybe your meal was over-salted, overcooked or prepared by someone who cares more for money than serving good food.

This may sound silly, but I never eat in a restaurant where I sense that the focus is solely on your ‘share of wallet’ and getting you in and out quickly. When it comes to food, I like to eat at places that focus on passion before profit.

Our inner instinct also has a way of pointing us in the right direction with relationships, friendships and work. People radiate an aura of energy and we can usually instinctively sense if this aura is good, kind and empowering or toxic, negative and draining.  We can either listen to this instinct or ignore it.

I would love to hear your personal experiences on this topic. Have you ever ignored your inner instinct? What was the result?

Alternatively, did you ever listen to your instinct? Where did that choice lead? Please feel free to email me sam@ahigherbranch.com. 

Benefits of Walking Barefoot

By Sam Makhoul

Have you noticed how children rip off their shoes and socks whenever they can? That’s because they instinctively know the benefits of walking barefoot, especially on the natural surfaces such as grass.

This practice is known as earthing or grounding and studies now show that standing barefoot on earth improves your health as it channels the free radicals and electric charges that we carry with us, back into the Earth. It is as important as eating foods high in anti-oxidants!

This is because the Earth carries a strong negative charge and anything above the ground such as air or insulated materials such as rubber, carries a positive charge. As our nervous system works on electrical impulses, our heartbeats with an electrical charge and we are constantly surrounded by electrical radiation from technology, it is necessary to neutralise our electric charge by ‘plugging’ ourselves into the earth.

Grounding is important for removing negative radiation and electric waste from our bodies, but it also has the following health benefits:

  • Greater balance
  • Greater strength
  • Healthier feet
  • Greater circulation
  • Better posture
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Calms nervous system

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