Why Stress Affects Your Happiness

If You Want To Be Happy, Make Your Gut Happy

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that contributes to your overall happiness, among other things.

It just so happens that 95% of serotonin is produced by gut nerve cells.

So it makes perfect sense to make your gut happy, if you want to be happy yourself.

Because everything that’s happening in your gut is relayed to your brain via the nervous system. After all, the small intestine has as many neurons as the spinal cord.

In the words of Mark Hyman, M.D, author of The Ultramind Solution – “fix the gut, and mood, behaviour, and cognition will improve.”

Happy gut, happy mind.

But some foods can be misleading.

Sugar, for instance.

You eat some sugary food and you feel a pleasure come over you in an awesome wave.

That’s because sugar causes a burst of serotonin.

So yes, temporarily, sugar will make you happy.

But sugar also causes inflammation.

And inflammation leads to low serotonin levels.

This is interesting – in the short term, sugar will make you happy. But in the long term it will make you miserable.

Why does inflammation lead to low serotonin levels?

Stress – The Enemy to Your Happiness

Because where there is inflammation, there is the stress hormone called cortisol.

And cortisol happens to stimulate the activity of enzymes that break down tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin.

In other words, tryptophan is needed to create serotonin.

Trytophan is an amino-acid which comes from food protein like nuts (e.g. almonds, peanuts), eggs, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, oats, chocolate, red meat, chickpeas, and poultry.

Cortisol reduces vitamin B6 and Magnesium

But cortisol doesn’t only stimulate enzymes that break down tryptophan; it also happens to reduce tryptophan-to-serotonin-converting enzymes.

More specifically, stress (as well as alcohol or birth control) reduce vitamin B6 levels – an important catalyst for enzymes that convert trytophan into serotonin.

Enzymes needs B6 to tranform tryptophan into serotonin.

What else prevents the creation of serotonin?

Magnesium deficiency, which can also be caused by high levels of stress.

Also, people who have a diet high in caffeine, alcohol, or sugar are likely to have less magnesium in their bloodstreams.

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Patience is Overrated

Patience is a virtue, they say.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been patient (for the most part) and even prided myself on being so (especially in the presence of people that clearly didn’t have it in them to be patient).

But this isn’t my way of tooting my own horn and/or bashing those who’d rather spend their time on anything else other than waiting.

It’s just that time and again I run into scenarios that suggest that patience doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Having been on both ends of the service industry at some point in my life, I realised that customer is god and the service provider is the unlucky S.O.B who has been sentenced to a lifetime of pleasing angry people and catering to their each and every whim.

And you know what?

If you were to build a totem pole that would illustrate how service providers treat customers, the impatient lot would be at the top and the poor patient guys would be at the very, very bottom.

Why?

Because patient people give you breathing room; impatient people prove suffocating and compel you to act fast in their favour.

Imagine the scenes if every customer was an impatient customer?

I see visions of total anarchy. Broken windows. Looting.

In all seriousness, I feel like people take patient people for granted.

Because patient individuals are easier to control, they’re predictable, it’s plain sailing when they require any customer service.

And it’s true:

The saying “squeaky wheel gets the oil” trumps the other saying of “the nail that stands out, gets pounded out.”

Because I’ve noticed, time and time again, that the squeaky wheel does – in fact – get the oil.

The squeaky wheel won’t have to wait 4-5 days for their X-ray report to return to their GP but instead will receive it the next day.

The squeaky wheel that keeps calling/emailing but isn’t receiving the right answers will not only get priority/preferential treatment, but will probably get a better deal than they originally bargained for in the first place to compensate.

The squeaky wheel will get priority in whatever they demand because the worst thing that can happen to a business is to be responsible for a dissatisfied customer.

So does it really pay to be patient?

For argument’s sake, let’s say that most people are patient.

What this means is that being impatient will be rewarded with special treatment which will only go on to reinforce this sort of behaviour, leading to more future impatience (because hey, it’s more worthwhile that way), and so the cycle continues, on and on, forever and ever and ever…

Rather than condone people for their impatience, it’s being rewarded.

***

Any thoughts, comments, criticisms?

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Lifestyle and Dietary Revelations Part III

Avoid Drinking Water From Plastic

Plastic has thalates which seep into your water.

I’ve recently switched to glass and have started using a glass jug.

But I’ve also started to boil my water and let it cool as this gets rid of the toxins in tap water. Plus it actually tastes better.

Watch Out For “0 Trans-Fats”

Take a close look at trans-fat content on the labels on your food.

Dr Hyman emphasises that food companies are allowed to state that there is 0 trans fats in a food as long as there is less than 0.5mg of trans fats per serving. Crazy, huh?

Be mindful that there is more than one serving in a, say, 450g pack of chicken kievs.

Are “Health Bars” Really Healthy?

I recently travelled to Barcelona for a few days and swung by to a few “health bars.”

In one of them I ordered eggs Benedict with a black creme cheese waffle and hollandaise sauce.

All of this was great until I got so jacked up on sugar that I couldn’t finish the rest of my waffle. The creme cheese waffles had such a high Glycaemic Index that I ended up being jacked up on sugar and slumped an hour later.

My friend on the other hand ordered an acai bowl. He too felt really, really stimulated after it and I wasn’t surprised. Granola – a key ingredient in these bowls – is oftentimes so loaded with sugar.

Anyway, in short: our breakfasts were loaded with hidden sugar giving way to our respective pancreatic onslaughts, leaving us temporarily jacked up but lethargic and sleepy shortly afterwards. Not a healthy start to the day and definitely not a “health bar.”

Vitamin C, Iron bioavailability & Potatoes

It’s interesting how cultures started pairing ingredients to maximise nutrient absorption from the foods they were eating.

The food pairings on your plate aren’t all that accidental – these pairings are actually the end product of generations and generations of accumulated dietary knowledge.

Through trial and error, cultures figured out that vitamin C increases iron bioavailability.

This is why hot peppers (high vitamin C) are paired with meat (high iron) because you’ll maximise iron absorption this way, getting a better nutritional bang for your buck.

For this same very reason, it is common to add dairy to potatoes. Potatoes have high levels of vitamin C and aid iron absorption.

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Why Recycling Isn’t Good for the Environment

Remember what Mr Miyagi said about balance?

Mr. Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Daniel: Yeah.
Mr. Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better. Understand?

The Karate Kid (1984)

Life is all about balance.

Perfect balance is what you find in the exact middle of the spectrum, in between one extreme and another.

Between work and play.

Homeostasis.

This lesson about balance can inform us why recycling might not be the best solution to our environmental woes.

Is recycling actually a bad idea?

The environmentalist will say that recycling is good for the environment. You reuse resources such as paper and that means that less trees will get cut down.

On the other hand, the office that hasn’t gone green and isn’t recycling is wasting resources.

S. Landsberg says that if you recycle too much paper, trees won’t get chopped down, and forests will shrink.

“Environmentalists can quote reams of statistics on the importance of trees and then jump to the conclusion that recycling paper is a good idea. But the opposite conclusion makes equal sense. I am sure that if we found a way to recycle beef, the population of cattle would go down, not up. If you want ranchers to keep a lot of cattle, you should eat a lot of beef. Recycling paper eliminates the incentive for paper companies to plant more trees and can cause forests to shrink. If you want large forests, your best strategy might be to use paper as wastefully as possible-or lobby for subsidies to the logging industry.” 

Following the logic of the above statement, if everybody was an environmentalist, we’d all go green and that would be a problem.

Conversely, if everybody wasted paper, that would also be a problem.

It looks like there has to be a balance between recycling paper and wasting paper.

In actuality, the ongoing tension between environmentalists and anti-environmentalists is wherein the nugget of wisdom lies.

Paper conservers are the yin to the yang of paper wasters.

Without either side passionately fighting for their ideology – there would be no balance.

What pesticides can teach us about balance

Turns out that pesticides can have harmful effects on our health.

But if we were to stop using pesticides on fruit, for example, then there’d be less fruit for people to eat which would also be bad for our health.

Landsberg credits this observation to biologist Bruce Ames:

“Environmentalists call on us to ban carcinogenic pesticides. They choose to overlook the consequence that when pesticides are banned, fruits and vegetables become more expensive, people eat fewer of them, and cancer rate consequently rise.”

You have to strike a fine balance between using pesticides and refraining from using them.

If you’re really bothered about pesticides on food, going organic is a great option. No point cutting corners on the food you eat to fuel your most precious asset – your body.

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High Pressure Processing (HPP) in a Nutshell

Every now and then, I’ll happily share with you lifestyle- and diet-related things that just blew my mind when I first found out about them.

High Pressure Processing (HPP)

HPP is a form of pasteurisation that uses high pressure to pasteurise food.

I learnt a lot about HPP from this pretty cool website.

Here are the key takeaways from it:

HPP heats juices
High pressure creates heat that changes enzyme and protein structure of the juice.

HPP reduces microbial content
Pasteurising food kills bad bacteria to increase food shelf life.

With HPP, even the good bacteria (a.k.a probiotics/ commensal microflora) is killed off. Which is a shame because commensal microflora safeguards us against pathogenic microorganisms.

Some nutrients in juices just aren’t shelf-stable
HPP is used to extend the shelf-life of juices but some nutrients in juices aren’t shelf-stable so anything beyond 3 days and the nutritional value of juices are affected considerably.

Antioxidant, enzyme, and vitamin content degrade as juice is allowed to sit.

Which nicely leads us into the next point:

Be wary of nutrition labels on HPP juices

Why?

Because the vitamin content for the nutrition label was determined shortly after juice extraction.

Which means that the nutritional value on these labels are no longer valid information the longer the juice has been sitting around.

Know where to buy your juices

All juices available in gyms, supermarkets, and spas are required to be pasteurised.

You won’t be getting the best nutritional bang for your buck if you buy these.

How to drink juice

Having read all that about HPP you might be wondering well how should I drink juice to make sure I’m getting all the health and cleansing benefits?

According to this website, cold-pressed juice is the way to go:

“When drinking juice for cleansing, cold-pressed juice is the gold standard when the juice is fresh, organic, and consumed within 5 days of being pressed (…)

Cold pressing extracts juice from fruits and vegetables to retain more of the phytonutrients, vitamins, enzymes but only for a certain amount of time.”

To ensure your juice is as nutrient dense as possible, cold press raw organic fruits and/or vegetables as soon as you can.

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Habits Built Are Not Habits Lost

Over and over and over again I find that consistency, a little and often, goes a long long way.

Whatever project you might have going on at the moment – whether it’s a passion project or working on your fitness – just keep at it a little and often.

There will be doubts along the way (i.e. this might not work, this is sh!t, what’s the point, I not seeing any immediate returns/success) but doing something consistently will ALWAYS yield great results over time.

ALWAYS.

And just having faith in that conclusion is what should carry you to achieving it in the end.

Doing something consistently is the reward in of itself

Framing the fact that you’re able to do something consistently is the reward in of itself.

That a huge part of your overall success.

Essentially, that is success.

If you don’t see results in the short-term, keep at it and you’ll reach that point where a sudden influx of results will start coming your way.

Reference experiences

If you managed to go to the gym 3x a week, every week, for 3months in a row, you’ve got a reference experience to back up your routine-building abilities.

But say you were to be suddenly sidelined due to injury, you’d be confident in yourself to be able to easily slip back into your gym routine once fully recovered simply because you’ve done it before and you’d be able to do it again.

It’s only when you don’t have this sort of reference experience to instil that sort of confidence that you run into self-doubt and uncertainty.

You might be thinking how do I know that if I put in the effort, I will definitely gain a reward later?

Well, in the very beginning you simply don’t – you can’t because you have no previous experience that would substantiate this idea that ‘consistency yields good results’. There is no evidence.

But as you accumulate experiences and make habits, these habits will be a testament to you’re ability of building new habits and sustaining them.

Habit memory

So even if you’ve built a good habit but for some reason or another you’ve dropped off – you stopped going to the gym or stopped cycling or stopped flossing – you’ll have the confidence in yourself to be able to get back on in because you’ve done it before.

A habit built is not a habit lost.

Because you have the reference experience, there’s a lot of confidence that stems from that, confidence in the fact that you could easily fall right back into the habit.

This is what you could refer to as habit memory.

Similar to muscle memory (i.e. your muscles getting used to certain exercises), your body remembers your habits and repetitive behaviours.

Because the more you do something, the more automatic the process/behaviour becomes and you don’t have to consciously think about it when you’re doing it.

It becomes a habit.

Discipline is the bridge between a ‘want’ and a ‘have’ and habits are the vehicle which will allow for sustained growth and consistent progress.

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The Truth about Hemp Seeds and Brazil Nuts

Hemp seeds

I bought hemp seeds recently cause I heard they were extremely healthy for you, boasting a very good protein profile as well as being rich in omega-3 acids.

Hemp seeds are known as the little heart-shaped seeds but actually they come in shells that are high in nutritional value like insoluble fibre that is becoming less common in the over-processed modern diet.

What’s shocking is that people de-shell hemp seeds and throw away the shells.

Sure, it’s a bit annoying to chew on the seeds, can get stuck in your teeth, or scratch your throat even, but it’s such a waste to throw away so much nutritional value rather than just eat it and reap the immense health benefits.

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are regarded as a super food of sorts because of the inflammatory, mood-boosting, and anti-cancerous potential.

It’s a good source of magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and above all else – selenium.

In fact, brazil nuts contain extremely high levels of selenium.

That’s why it’s best you limit yourself to 1-2 Brazil nuts daily.

If you eat more, you risk selenium toxicity which can lead to diarrhoea, nausea, brittle hair as well as hair loss, and a metallic taste in your mouth to name a few effects.

The realisation I had that blew my mind was that even a superfood that has all these health benefits can actually have dangerous health consequences if misused.

Nuts in general (and hemp seeds…again)

Turns out that because nuts and hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, they can go rancid if not stored properly.

For instance, Brazil nuts have a high amount of polyunsaturated fats in them so they can go rancid fairly quickly if not stored properly.

I read somewhere that hemp seeds can be stored for up to a year if refrigerated.

Bottom line: it’s important to store nuts and hemp seeds in the fridge or at the very least in a dry, airtight container that is hidden from direct light (as light can cause a chemical reaction that could in turn lead to rancidity).

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