How To Develop A Skin Care Regime For Your Skin Type

Lady washing her face in the mirror

Lady washing her face in the mirror
For many of us, a skin care regime is pivotal to our morning and nightly routines. But for others, it’s a task that we don’t put too much time, effort or research into.

Many of us tend to buy one product and use that on an ongoing basis, failing to review what our skin needs at different stages in our life. And in the absence of professional care, an enhanced skin care regime will serve the skin well and your mood too, because healthy skin means a happy individual.

So, to help you achieve glowing skin, we have collaborated with the founder of O Cosmedics, Maria Enna-Cocciolone to develop an easy-to-follow guide on acing your skin care regime.

Your Simple Go-To Skin Care Guide:

Step 1 – Cleanse:

Lady cleansing her face

Cleansing is the first and foremost most important step when it comes to keeping your face healthy. This is because “cleansing ensures you have the perfect canvas for healthy skin and that active ingredients in serums and creams can penetrate the skin and get to work,” Maria explains.

But when it comes to cleansing, choosing the right product for your skin type is important. If you suffer from dry skin a balm or oil cleanser is recommended, whereas if you experience oily skin you may require light acids and or enzymes to deep clean the pores.

If your skin type is normal, a gel or light lotion cleanser will do the job. Once you have the right cleanser for your skin “simply apply the cleanser to your fingertips, apply to the face and neck and work in tiny circles to ensure you are cleansing effectively accumulating makeup, pollutants, dirt, and grime,” Maria details.

Remove the cleanser with a damp skin shammy or face wash. If you’ve worn makeup during the day, make sure you double cleanse and for a super-effective cleanse, use a micellar treatment gel to ensure you leave no residue behind.

If you have thoroughly cleaned it the night before, you can opt for a simply micellar cleanse as part of your morning routine. Maria recommends the O Cosmedics Micellar Treatment Gel for a quick cleanse and anti-pollutant support.

Step 2 – Correct:

Liquid being dropping into a hand

When it comes to correcting your skin, using serums allows you to target specific skin concerns. A serum is a liquid or gel that contains high concentrations of skin actives, which can penetrate deeper than other topical products such as moisturisers.

Serums allow you to target specific concerns due to their high concentration and potency. While most basic serums contain a combination of antioxidants that will brighten the skin, Maria advises as part of an effective skin regime to use vitamin C in the morning and retinol (vitamin A) in the evening.

Step 3 – Hydrate & Protect:

Lady adding cream to her face

Keeping your skin looking radiant and healthy at all times can be a difficult task, but it can all come down to ensuring it is hydrated and protected from chemical products and harsh sunlight. To ensure your skin is being looked after, ensure you hydrate it every morning and evening.

“Choose [a product] that not only hydrates and nourishes your skin but also treats specific skin concerns,” Maria advises. “A great starting point is O Cosmedics Immortal Cream,” which contains super-antioxidants and potent concentrations of V8 Peptide Complex.

This product is also a mega-dose of vitamin C and is commonly used to awaken and hydrate the skin, assist relaxation of muscles and help to reverse and diminish the signs of aging whilst providing a feeling of instant lift. Perfect for assisting line and wrinkle relaxation age prevention super hydration youth and radiance.

Skin Care Regime By Skin Type:

Dry, Dehydrated And Flaky:

Lady with dry skin

When it comes to dry and dehydrated skin, they are too different conditions. Dry skin means you are lacking oil, whereas dehydrated skin lacks water.

To treat dry skin, opt for an oil-based cleanser and treatment, as well as essential fatty acids (topically and orally). Dry skin can also benefit from a hydrating booster; whether it is a hydrating face oil, a twice-weekly replenishing mask, or a serum with hyaluronic acid.

It is also important to keep up your water intake and hydrate your skin from the inside out. When it comes to treating your dehydrated skin, different molecular weights (molecule sizes) of Hyaluronic Acid is recommended for use.

Oily Skin:

Oily skin is caused by an overproduction of excess sebum (oil) and requires active ingredients to rebalance the productivity. When it comes to cleansing your skin, choose products that contain retinol (vitamin A) and Niacinamide (vitamin B3).

Sore And Red:

Young lady with red skin

If you are experiencing sore and red skin, it is commonly an inflammatory response and should be treated with TLC. To help soothe your skin, there are two recommended treatment phases:

  1. Calming and soothing
  2. Healing and strengthening

“It is not recommended to use actives, or exfoliating products should be used whilst the skin is crying for help,” Maria explains.

How Often Should I Be Doing An At-Home Facial?

Man having an at home face mask

Facials can now be done in the comfort of your own home (and for a fraction of the price). To keep your skin looking flawless, at-home facials are recommended once or twice a week.

Too often, and you risk overdoing it, which can leave your skin irritated. “Simply dedicating 30 to 60 minutes a week to a home-facial can make all the difference and ensure the skin is clear, even and radiant,” Maria says.

But according to Maria, “the most important thing to remember is to stay true to a cosmedical skin care and giving yourself some self-love is imperative to healthy skin.” 

Read our blog on Iso Skin: What Is It And How Can It Be Prevented?

DON’T FORGET YOU CAN ALSO LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST WITH MARIA HERE.

Iso Skin: What Is It And How Can It Be Prevented?

Lady suffering from iso skin

Lady suffering from iso skin

This year has been the year many of us are ready to say goodbye to. It has challenged us in new ways we never thought were possible.

For the first time in our lifetime, we found ourselves locked up in our homes with nowhere to go. Shops closed, outdoor time and travel restrictions in place and interactions with the human race was a distant memory.

We were forced to isolate due to the world health pandemic of coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19. Since March 2020, our lives changed forever.

Isolation itself changed many different aspects of our lives. While it has changed the way we work and communicate, it also had a dramatic impact on our mental and physical health.

But other than the fear of catching COVID-19, many of us experienced another health concern. One that left us thinking “what am I doing wrong?”

Take a moment to think about this…have discovered you’ve suffered from skin breakouts but you don’t know why? Well, it’s safe to say, you are NOT alone.

That is why we have gone straight to the experts and uncovered the reasons why you’re suffering from the new diagnosis of ‘iso skin’ and how you can stop it in its tracks. But firstly, what is iso skin?

“Iso skin is a result of COVID-19 and the pressure of living through a pandemic, being forced to stay home, living a more sedentary life and not being able to seek professional skin treatments due to clinic closures,” founder of O Cosmedics, Maria Enna-Cocciolone explained. “It can be an existing condition that flares up or a new one that is triggered by the stress that comes with living in uncertain times.”

3 Reasons Why Your Skin Is Breaking Out:

1. Stress:

Lady looking stressed

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that stress is the number one cause to our skin breakouts. Especially after the year we’ve had, where we have continuously been living in a world of uncertainty.

This is because when we stress, it releases hormones that increase testosterone that leads to oily skin. And when we have oily skin, our pores become blocked, causing us to experience breakouts.

“In one sentence, stress and skin are not friends,” Maria explained. “Stress triggers inflammatory markers, which can result in acne, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, dryness, oil imbalance, rashes, and hives.”

Stress can also affect our ability to digest and release toxins from within our bodies. “Stress can slow down digestion, which affects gut bacteria causing a cascade of bacteria in the body and can even be responsible for hormone stimulation that causes oil imbalance and triggers acne,” Maria added.

2. Diet:

Woman holding a glass of red wine

Spending more time at home has its ups and downs. But one thing that many of us can relate to is our growing relationship with the pantry and fridge – especially when we find ourselves procrastinating over a work task.

And as we continue to spend more time at home, many of us find ourselves snacking more and eating foods that are higher in sugar and carbs. This then impacts our hormone levels and causes breakouts around our mouth region.

But is it not just our diet that has changed, so too has our alcohol consumption. A new study from The Australian National University discovered that 20.2% of people reported that their alcohol consumption increased this year.

The study also found that one-in-four women who drank (22.8 per cent) reported an increase in drinking during May 2020 and one-in-five men (17.9 per cent) reported an increase in the same period. So next time you go to grab that block of chocolate or bottle of wine, maybe think twice about the consequences that may follow – your skin will thank you for it.

3. Masks:

Lady walking while wearing a mask

Many of us are now required to wear a face mask when leaving the house, whether it is at the shopping centres, at the doctors or on public transport. But what you didn’t know is that your mask could also be contributing to your irritated skin.

Introducing mascne. Yes, it is a ‘thing’.

“Mascne [acne mechanicha] is a new word and skin condition, which originates from acne caused by wearing a mask,” Maria explained. “Worn correctly and over extended periods the skin sweats, oil and redundant cells build-up, skin dries out and the imbalances clog pores causing mascne.”

We can minimise breakouts by thoroughly cleansing our face morning and night. “[And] if you choose to wear makeup [under your mask] make sure you choose a product that is clean and does not infuse toxic ingredients into the skin,” Maria said. “O Cosmedics 1Skin (pronounced one skin) Treatment Fusion Foundation is 97% Natural, is skin-friendly, preventing breakout and congestion.”

5 Quick Ways To Beat Iso Skin:

When it comes to beating breakouts, there are several approaches you can take. By making some lifestyle changes and switching up your skin care regime, you can help your skin flourish.

Here are five quick and easy ways you can begin to improve the healthiness of your skin:

1. Drink More Water:

Man drinking a bottle of water

We know; you have probably heard this many times, but it is true what the experts say… By drinking at least eight glasses of water a day it helps keep your body refreshed and provides it with the ability to flush any toxins, ultimately clearing your pores.

2. Eat A Healthy, Balanced Diet:

A salad in a blue bowl

Diet is a big contributor when it comes to achieving glowing skin. For healthy-looking skin, it’s recommended you consume meals that are high in fibre, whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables, providing your body with nutrients to feed the skin.

It is important to also keep an eye out on foods that are high in salt. While you may be drinking enough water every day, if you are consuming foods that are high in salt, you are interfering with the positive results because these foods are stopping the water from reaching your skin and ultimately removing all the toxins.

3. Take Time Out And Meditate:

Person at the beach meditating

Yes, meditate. We all know breakouts can be caused by stress, so by taking the time out to meditate helps you manage your emotions and ultimately de-stress.

It also assists in adjusting your sleeping matters and reduces cortisol levels. So, use this time to remove yourself from the noise on social media, and the negativity in the world and meditate to relaxing music – do this daily and you will begin to notice a shift mentally and physically.

4. Move Your Body:

Man tying his shoes to go exercise

We know you probably don’t want to believe it, but exercise can improve the appearance of your skin as it helps balance out your hormones. When you exercise, you are delivering oxygen-rich blood to the skin to allow it to restore.

According to Maria, “lack of movement, fresh air and vitamin D can make an individual lazy, compromise circulation, slow down toxin removal and blood oxygenation.” So, make sure you dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to move your body and preferably outside, so you are exposed to natural vitamin D.

5. Feed Your Skin With The Right Products:

Lady fixing her iso skin with a face mask

While diet, movement and meditation contribute to healthy-looking skin, so does establishing a good skin care routine. When it comes to your skin, it is important to use products that keep it balanced, hydrated and nourished.

From picking out the right cleanser for your skin type and the perfect serums and moisturisers; each step of your regime is important to achieving gorgeous looking skin. Read our blog on How To Develop An In-Depth Skin Care Regime here.

But feeding your skin with the right products doesn’t stop at your cleansing products, it also includes the makeup you. According to Maria, choosing clean beauty needs to become your go-to beauty product.

“Look for Natural, Mineral or Organic,” she explained. “If the product isn’t one of those three then chances are everything else is a ‘chemical shit storm’ under the guise of a pretty camouflage,” the skin expert added.

DON’T FORGET YOU CAN ALSO LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST WITH MARIA 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:

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.

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

Why You Need To Think About Oil Pulling And 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

Why Eating Properly Is Important For Your Body

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

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.

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.

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

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…”

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.

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 

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 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.