I recently came across this wonderful website called Kiss the ground. I dove deeper into regenerative agriculture and learnt a ton of valuable information. I had no idea that we could participate in making our soil the great carbon sink it was supposed to be. This is such precious and valuable information that I want to share it, with the millions or billions of people who like me were unaware of how powerful the soil can be in reversing climate change. And Hopefully, when I reach my 100th birthday we will have learnt this valuable lesson.
If like me you see value in this video, please share it with as many people as possible.
Thank you, and until next week, take care my friends.
Believe it or not but the amount of people living to 100, or more, is on the increase. This is hardly surprising as science, medicine and technology have advanced so much over the last 100 years. No matter what age you are now, the chances are that you will live to a more advanced age than your parents. So here are 10 of the best habits you can implement and weave in your modern daily routine to assist you along in your journey to your 100th birthday. This does not guarantee living to 100, but it’s a good start.
Here is my miracle list !!
1- Do not smoke!
This is a fairly obvious one that has been around for the past 20 years!! I will not explain the negative aspects of smoking here as I am sure you all know.
2- Filter the air you breathe!
Air pollution is a mixture of solid particles and gases in the air. Car emissions, chemicals from factories, dust, pollen and mould spores may be suspended as particles. Ozone, a gas, is a major part of air pollution in cities. When ozone forms air pollution, it’s also called smog. It’s very well known that air pollution can affect respiratory function and health. There is mounting evidence that suggests inhaling polluted air is also toxic to the brain, particularly for children and adolescents. So here are a few suggestions to reduce the effects of air pollution.
Nose breathe! Your nose is fully designed to filter and warm the air you breathe. With slow, silent nasal breathing you can oxygenate the body far more efficiently than with mouth breathing. The health benefits of nose breathing range from improving sleep, eliminating snoring and sleep apnea, to reducing inflammation, enhancing memory and an overall increase in your immune system function.
Wear a mask! In 2020, during this COVID 19 pandemic, wearing a mask has become the norm. There is a huge debate whether these masks offer any protection against coronavirus or air pollution, however, a good quality, a well-fitting mask will offer some protection against these air pollution particles.
Cycle more, drive less! I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but air pollution is more harmful inside cars than outside. The inside of the car acts as a box collecting toxic fumes and trapping them inside.
Filter the air at home! You could fit an air filtration system in your home or office to improve the air quality that is inhaled. A good HEPA (high-efficiency particle air) filter is the Pure Zone air filtering device. These air filtration devices simply pull the air in and force it through a filter, in order to retain as many tiny particles as possible, making the air you breathe so much cleaner !!
3- Eat a diverse plant based diet!
When you open the pantry of people living in the blue zones they have real food. Handpicked roots or tubers, pickled food in jars, fresh produce from the farms nearby, some wine locally produced and a vast selection of wild plants and their meat consumption is very occasional. Packaged and/or processed food are very handy and practical in our fast-paced lives, but it comes with a high price to pay. Those foods ( even the healthy ones ) contain sugar and some sort of vegetable oil. In general, sugar will cause your blood sugar levels to rapidly fluctuate and poor quality vegetable oil will cause your inflammation levels to go up and down during the day. Instead, introduce high amounts of legumes, a wide variety of plants, fruits, nuts seeds. It’s also a good idea to introduce wild plants, herbs and spices, like nettles, mint, thyme, rosemary, turmeric and cayenne amongst others.
The Japanese have this amazing practice called Shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing). This is to take advantage of all the polyphenols and essential oils that emanate from plants and trees and have healing effects on the lungs. It is as simple as walking in a forest, breathing deeply, opening your senses to nature and feeling present in the moment.
The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:
Boosted immune system.
Reduced blood pressure
Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
Increased energy level
Once you make this a regular practise you will start experiencing other benefits such as:
Deeper and clearer intuition
Increased flow of energy
Increased capacity to observe and understand nature’s processes
Overall increase in a sense of happiness
4- Low-level activity all through the day!
People in blue zones don’t go to the gym, their natural way to be strong is to be outside all day.. building fences, lifting rocks, working the land, walking for miles to another village, feeding the animals, dealing with cold or heat, and any other activity that demands a continuous movement and body adaptation.
Our modern lives are far from this model, however, we can simulate some low-level activity in our daily routine. If you are working at a computer all day, try a standing workstation, carry around your office something weighty such as a 5-litre bottle of water, a barbel, a kettlebell, maybe you can even fit a pull-up bar, take frequent breaks outside, stretch, do 10 air squats every hour, etc. Before and after work, walk as much as you can, to work, to the supermarket or go for a walk with your friends.
While there are benefits to mild forms of exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is where exercise for longevity hits full stride. Even more so when you’re older.
“To engage our longevity genes fully, intensity does matter,” Dr David Sinclair reports.
“It’s high-intensity interval training — significantly raising your heart and respiration rates — that engages the greatest number of health-promoting genes, and more of them in older exercisers.”
As Sinclair summarizes exercise for longevity, “Exercise turns on the genes to make us young again at the cellular level.”
So in other words, the lesson we can take from the blue zones is; move as much as possible and incorporate short bursts of high-intensity exercise!!
5- Social engagement!
There is a growing epidemic of loneliness in our modern societies because people tend to interact more digitally than physically with one another. When you are face to face with someone you are exposed to their pheromones, to the electrical signals of their brain, to their smells (which is not always a good thing!!!), to the oxytocin hormone that they release when you hug them, touch them, or shake their hand. You simply cannot simulate or replace this with digital interaction. In truth, you need a certain amount of physical exchange and communication with real people. In the blue zones, they eat together, drink red wine, they laugh, they get louder, they play card games, dominos, or board games together and have a fully emotional, physical and social interaction. I said they drink together… this must be explained. Drinking one alcoholic drink a day for women and two drinks for men is acceptable. For example, if you drink some organic red wine with no pesticides, it is full of antioxidants and polyphenols that are beneficial to your health. In general, people in the blue zones drink in moderation and usually wine, so don’t feel guilty about enjoying your glass of red wine.
A word of caution! At the time of writing this post, social distancing, mask-wearing, no physical contact and limited gathering are the norm.
One of the most powerful ways of increasing your longevity is to eat less. Whether you skip a meal, do intermittent fasting or fasting, eating less equates to improving your lifespan.
Fasting is the wilful refraining from eating for a period of time. After 12 hours without eating the body goes into a phase called cellular autophagy. This autophagy is a cleanup procedure of cellular debris, a clear out of old cells and a renewal of the body. Fasting or intermittent fasting is not a calorie restriction diet but more a window of time in which you do not eat at all. Some of the most popular intermittent fasting techniques are 12 to 16 hours without eating and, for the more seasoned fasters, 24 hours is quite common. In many cultures and religions, fasting is not only synonymous with cleansing or purifying your body but also it is a time to develop your mental clarity and perhaps a certain connection to a higher power. Fasting has many health benefits such as improving your immune system & brain function, speeding up your metabolism, helping to stabilize your hunger, aiding in weight loss, and most importantly improving your longevity.
It’s essential to have a good reason to get up in the morning. My mantra is…”I, Pedro Gracia endeavour to inspire people to live a joyful, healthy and fulfilling life until they are 100 or more..” This one sentence sums what my purpose or mission in life is. So when the going gets tough, when I am stressed or feeling low, when I lose track of my purpose, when life itself becomes overwhelming, this single sentence will remind me what it’s all about.
In the blue zone, people seem to have a mission, a sense of belonging to a larger community, some sort of motivation or vision, that keeps them going. Very few feel tired, almost all of them live their lives, getting up out of bed every single day and living with a purpose.
So how do you find your purpose or Ikigai ( Japanese term for life purpose)?
Very simply answer the following question and make a list:
What do you love to do? ( your passion)
What are you good at? ( your vocation )
What do you get paid for? ( your profession )
What can you bring to the world? ( your mission )
So once you have your list of answers, put them in the circles of the Venn diagram ( see down below ) and look at the intersections of this diagram. Look at the complete picture and find some connections. This will give you some strong indication of your passion, your mission, your profession and vocation. Give this some time, let your ideas and impulses a chance to emerge. With this, you are better equipped to make a plan and find your purpose in life. Take your time to do some soul searching,it’s well worth it !
8- Low-stress levels.
This year alone many people have lost their job, have fallen ill or lost someone close to them and some others are struggling to survive. So across many populations around the world, the levels of stress are on the increase. Ongoing, chronic stress, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems including mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke can sometimes be caused by stress. Now more than ever is when we need to be kind with ourselves and with one another and be equipped with simple techniques that allow us to regain control, or even totally dampen our stress. We often rely too much on external sources such as watching a series on Netflix, listening to relaxation music or binaural beats, meditation apps, etc, in order to calm our daily stress. Don’t get me wrong, these tools are great and with time can help you along the way. But we have an almost instant way to regain a state of calmness. It’s with our breath! Every hunter-gatherer or tribal society around the globe has practised some type of breathwork to help them cope with their daily challenges. With these next three techniques, you can regain almost instant control over your levels of stress.
Box breathing is the first one – slowly breathe in to the count of 4, hold that breath to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4 and then repeat until your heart beats slows down.
Alternate nostril breathing is our second hack to control stress, long and slow breath in through the right nostril, long and slow breath out through the left one.
Finally in third position the 4, 7, 8 technique. Breathing in to the count of 4, 7 count hold and 8 count exhale.
So if you practice these techniques you will find it to be second nature and you will be able to take control of your stress levels in an instant !!
9- Engage in some kind of spiritual discipline or belief in a higher power.
Over the last few years, I have become increasingly convinced that caring for one’s spirit is as important as caring for one’s body and brain. Unfortunately in this fast-moving world, it seems that we relentlessly pursue our physical fitness and seem to totally ignore the spiritual disciplines…such as meditation, gratitude, prayer, fasting, studying the great thinkers and philosophers, continually seeking wisdom, journaling, visualizing, solitude, breathwork, yoga, prioritizing family dinners, etc. After all, as our physical body and brain decline, our spirit could remain as bright and as strong as ever. So it’s of the utmost importance to weave some of these spiritual practices in our busy daily schedule.
The daily practice of meditation, breathwork, fasting and prioritizing my family has made me more grateful for what I have, less materialistic, less judgemental, more compassionate and has opened my connection to a higher power. I think engaging in some kind of spiritual discipline will give you hope, a sense of purpose and the knowledge that you are playing a role in the grand scheme of things. And this my friends, will boost your longevity by years and possibly decades. Many of the centenarians in the blue zones engage in some sort of spiritual discipline.
10- Sex and intimacy.
Research has shown that a person who continues to be sexually active into old age is sending her body a very powerful biological message. The body believes that this person is still active in a procreation sense and will do all it’s best to maintain him/her well and healthy, not only in the immediate future but for many years to come. Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones”, states the following “we know that people who are having sex after the age of fifty, at least twice a week, have about half the rate of mortality than people who aren’t”. A close and loving relationship that includes intimacy, both physical and emotional, is one of the most powerful antidotes to ageing!!
These 10 habits are easy, free, and can be simply woven into your life. If you are not already practising them, try to introduce them one at a time and see if they are beneficial to you or not. This is not a one size fits all!!!
I hope this is helpful, I can’t wait to hear your comments, feedback and maybe you can share them with friends and family.
Hi everyone! For those of you who don’t know me, I am Jane Gracia, married to Pedro, joining his quest to live smartly, happily and healthily to 100 and beyond. I believe, in order to keep the mind sharp and create new memories, we must continually strive to do new things, experience new sensations and have more adventures. We have, in the past, lived on a sailing boat and the free nomadic lifestyle it gave us was, in equal measures, enriching and exciting coupled with frustrating and sometimes scary !! But I do believe the more “negative” aspects only served to make the positive ones even better.
Last weekend we decided we would have a mini-adventure in Menorca, camping in our car, not a roomy van I might add, a Peugeot 206 hatchback!! We were inspired by our daughter, Matilda, who just a few weeks previously had carelessly thrown a few things in the back of the (even tinier) Ford Ka and off she and her partner, Matt, went… What struck me was the mindset of youth. Let’s go exploring and camp in the car, they said.. and that is exactly what they did. I thought to myself, surely if we do “young people’s excursions, activities or adventures, this must act in a very positive way on the mind, keeping us youthful and promoting longevity!!
So, the inflatable mattress was purchased, the back seats removed to create a flat base, a dummy run followed and all fitted perfectly. We are lucky to have a ferry service literally on our doorstep as Balearia run a regular service from Alcudia to Ciutadella. As residents of Mallorca,we are able to obtain a 75% discount on all travel to other islands or to the mainland! Car packed, tickets in our hand.. let’s go!
The crossing was smooth and speedy and we arrived in Menorca one hour and 15 minutes later. Due to COVID 19 restrictions, the ferry was not as full as it would normally be in August so all passengers had plenty of room to maintain social distancing. We have been to Menorca several times but did not know the north coast very well so that was where we headed… The island is small and in 25 minutes we arrived at Cala Morell. It felt a little bizarre because the first thing one usually does when arriving at a new place on a mini-break is to go and check-in at the accommodation… Instead, we had a little drive around looking for an overnight “camping” spot, but all too residential. We didn’t have those very smart sun blocker pads to stick on our windows so we had planned to pin sarongs and towels for a bit of privacy. We reckoned that some concerned residents might call the local police if they were to spot our car parked outside their house all night, festooned in brightly coloured fabric like some type of travelling market !!
So, after a bit of lunch and a swim, we decided to explore a little further along the coast… Cala d’Algaiarens was our next stop and ticked all the boxes. A large sandy parking spot, plenty of other people with the same idea I might add, camper vans galore!! A delightful afternoon on the beach and then we headed into Ciutadella to buy some provisions for our evening picnic…
Fast forward a few hours and picture us ( a few glasses of wine later!!) standing beside our car thinking.. “right, now we have to transform the vehicle into our bedroom!!”. For any of you out there thinking to do this, I have some very important advice.. before you begin the “transformation” be sure you have all you need for the night ahead in one bag, whatever that may be… For us it was toothbrushes and paste, torches and books, reading glasses (vital) and toilet paper (very vital!!). The reason behind this is that once the car has been prepared for sleep and all our belongings were squashed and shoved into whatever space we could find, it is impossible to find anything, and I mean IMPOSSIBLE!! So, the front seats were moved forward and the backrest inclined as far forward as possible, then the inflatable mattress was pumped up, on went the cotton/linen fitted sheet (Just a tiny touch of “luxury”) and up went the makeshift curtains… As we were leaving the windows and the hatchback partially open we threw a giant mosquito net over the whole car… However, despite being plagued by these blood-sucking demons in Mallorca, strangely not one single bite did we receive over there.
So, how did we sleep..? Well, it was a little hot, to begin with, but the mattress was very comfy so that was a plus and I think I would have slept well if it hadn’t been for the noise of fellow campers! Not so much the ones parked nearby but there was a large group of midnight revellers in a wooded picnic area about 50 metres away and they partied until dawn!! However, that didn’t dampen our camping enthusiasm, and our dawn swim as the sun rose was perfection! I did have a bit of a laugh at myself as I hadn’t anticipated the fact that other people would be out there camping just like we were!! What did I think? That we would be on a desert island?
That day was spent exploring the delights of northern Menorca with a stop off for lunch in Fornells. It has many similarities to Mallorca but yet is so different, the countryside, the vegetation, the Fresian cows in the fields!! Menorca is a big cheese producer, so that explains it! We enjoyed a swim and snorkel in Cala Pregonda, such a breathtaking spot, and rounded off the day with supper overlooking the harbour in Ciutadella. To enjoy the full camping experience we decided to sleep on the beach that night and that proved very successful. In the Balearic islands, it is prohibited to pitch a tent, although some people do it anyway, but you can sleep outdoors almost anywhere you fancy… Within reason !! However, if we had been in a tent we wouldn’t have seen the glorious night sky, liberated from light pollution, and more shooting stars than we could count.
Menorca has a pathway called the Cami de Cavalls (the horses’ trail) GR223, and this path winds its way all around the island, staying as close as possible to the coast. On Sunday, we decided to have a taster walk, as one day when we have the time, this circumference trail is one we really want to explore. We headed off westward from Cala d’Algaiarens and walked for hours, stopping to swim, picnic, and admire the beauty of the coastline.
That evening we cracked it with our choice of camping spot!! True, it was a Sunday evening so definitely fewer people were camping out, but we found a parking spot in a large sandy layby, a short walk to the beach and the best news of all.. it was empty !! We had the camping prep down to perfection and had the best sleep ever.
We stayed only 3 days in Menorca, but it gave us so much. The thrill of stepping away from home comforts and camping in nature, the beauty of this gem of an island and the excitement of discovering it. The perfect undiluted time together, no interruptions and no distractions. We will return!
Stepping out of our comfort zone, and giving new experiences to both our body and brain has become one of our favourite strategies to keep us youthful on our journey to our 100th birthday and beyond !!! You should try it too.
Take care my friends, until next week.
Smart living to 100.
PS: We were really inspired by Marissa Peer’s youtube video. Here it is, I hope it inspires you too.
During this pandemic, we have all been and continue to be, under high levels of stress, with isolation, loss of income or work, social distancing, constant sanitizing and maybe going through some health issues. In order to cope with this new stress, some of us have increased our alcohol consumption, turned to junk food for comfort, are smoking more and exercising less than before. All of this is ultimately affecting our health and more specifically our gut health! In this blog, I will share with you my latest research in the gut microbiome, how it is linked to our immune system, and how a diverse plant-based diet can ultimately improve your health. So no matter where you are at in your journey the key to health is plant diversity.
How important is our gut microbiome?
One of the main reasons why your gut is so important in determining your health is that 70% of your immune system resides behind your gut. It is jam-packed behind the thin gut lining and If you were to zoom in to this layer, called the epithelium lining, you would see it is only one cell thick.
Intestinal epithelial cells (IECs), plays an important role in the digestion of food, absorption of nutrients, and protection of the human body from microbial infections, and others.
This layer is a separation between 30 trillion human microbiome on the one side and the immune system on the other. This microbiota is composed of protozoa, archaea, eukaryotes, viruses and predominantly bacteria that live symbiotically on and within various sites of the human body.
Since the gut microbiota is so complex, it is difficult to pinpoint certain bacteria as the most beneficial. “It would be great if we could identify 10 or so bacteria and say these are the ones you need most, but it doesn’t work that way, and there is no magic bullet,” says Dr. Hohmann ( Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann of the infectious diseases division at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital). “There may be a community dynamic at play as well as good mixtures of communities.”
Our gut is a barrier that separates what we choose to put in our mouth and the inside of the body, it is also where we interact with our food coming from the outside world so it’s our place of most vulnerability. Hence why the immune system patrols these borders identifying what is good and what is not and what to attack. So to ignore what food we decide to ingest is ultimately putting us at risk and damping down the immune response to any intruder.
This microbiome is intimately connected to our immune system but also to our mood, our hormonal system and to our entire metabolism. There are many species and they are mainly good guys that outnumber some bad guys (like salmonella and e-coli). This is how this micro-ecosystem works. There is harmony in all of them working together and helping us to thrive.
Dysbiosis is the damage done to the gut microbiome as opposed to Eubiosis which represents balance and harmony. Dysbiosis starts affecting the thin single-cell barrier (epithelial layer) by allowing bacterial endotoxin to leak into the body and this activates the immune system. This, in one word, is inflammation. And if this inflammation happens on a daily basis it becomes chronic inflammation which is the leading cause of most modern diseases.
Your brain’s best friend is the gut. The brain is up there at the top, but brain health goes through gut health, they go hand in hand, this is a 2-way street. They are continually talking through the vagus nerve, through hormones that are released and even through your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Stress alone can induce dysbiosis.
The gut produces neurotransmitters. Ninety per cent of Serotonin is produced in the gut and it is capable of passing the gut-brain barrier and of altering our mood.
Short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate and propionate, which come from the consumption of fibre, also help communicate with the brain and possibly alter brain function in a positive way. This happens on an ongoing basis; they are actually talking to each other now as you are reading these lines.
How can we improve our gut health and immune system?
From better mental health to greater immunity and less reactive skin, we are starting to recognise how vital healthy gut flora and diverse microbiome is to our overall wellbeing. Scientists have found that the Hadza tribe, which numbers around 1000 people, has one of the most complex and beneficial spectrums of gut bacteria in the world. In an exercise to examine whether it’s possible to diversify gut flora by adopting a Hadza style of eating, Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College London, travelled to Tanzania and ate with the Hadza. He discovered that after just three days, the variety of “good” bacteria in his microbiome had increased by 20 per cent, and he had even acquired said rare strains of bacteria that are now acknowledged as mightily favourable to human health and longevity. With a diet based on tubers, meat and baobab fruit in the dry season, and an abundance of berries and honey in the wet season, the Hadza hunt over 30 different species of mammal, and forage for plants on a daily basis. They eat no processed foods and never take antibiotics, which is a big plus from a gut microbiome point of view. So what can we learn from the Hadza?
Here are a few suggestions:
Shop in season. Be aware of what fruits and veg are in season in your location. This will benefit your gut, your wallet as they are usually more economical, and most definitely will reduce the carbon footprint of your shopping basket.
Ideally grow your own vegetables, in your garden or on your terrace. There are more and more inventive ways to do so in a limited space.
Fill up on fibre! On average, Europeans consume 15g of fibre per day. The Hadza get around 100g a day. Fibre ferments in the large intestine, allowing healthy gut bacteria to flourish, so alongside keeping you regular, it’s key to maintaining good health across the board.
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fibre cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, and instead, it passes through the body undigested. Fibre helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. The best sources of fibre are whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Soluble fibre, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fibre include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
Insoluble fibre, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibres include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Eat when you are hungry! The Hadza are hunter-gatherers, so the outcome is quite unpredictable. This involves long walks, climbing, crossing rivers, running and they might have to go many hours without food. But they are never starving, they eat when they are hungry and they only eat what they need.
Diversify your plant intake! On this planet, there are about 300,000 different types of edible plants. The Hadza in Tanzania eat approx 600 different plants in a year and in our modern society this number drops down to between 15 to 20. We are totally ignoring this huge plant diversity, by focusing on 5 or 10 so-called superfoods. Don’t get me wrong they are not called superfoods for nothing, but it is important to keep adding a wider variety of plants into your daily consumption.
Vary your shopping! So now at home, we take it in turns to shop and add a new plant or fruit every single week. I have to admit that this requires some effort because as humans we want to know what foods are the most nutritious, the healthiest for our daily consumption. So we go along and get the same foods every week. I would get broccoli, carrots, courgettes, red beetroot, a mixed bag of salads and tomatoes, and although all of this is very healthy and nutritious I am not helping to promote a happy and thriving gut microbiome. You are better off eating 20 different types of plants per week than just focusing on kale and broccoli because they are superfoods. Every type of plant has its own single fibre, and they all have minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals that are unique to each one of them, like resveratrol. Resveratrol is capable of changing the microbiome all by itself and has anti-ageing properties. This is just one of them and all the plants that are edible have their own phytochemicals. Plants have microbiome of their own that evolve with the plant from the seed to the flower and then to the plant. So when you are eating an apple you get the fibre, vitamins, the phytochemicals and the apple’s microbiome. And each plant is showing similar behaviour. They all want to bring something positive to your health. So start incorporating a huge variety of plants and fibres in small amounts. It’s like rehabbing your gut so you restore variety to your gut microbiome.
Eat real food! Stay away from processed foods as much as possible. processed food has been stored on a shelf for months or years it’s completely lifeless. They have no microbiome and we have pumped them full of chemicals, additives etc. So imagine what happens to your microbiome when you eat this food for 30 years.
I know it’s hard to resist the craving for chocolate, ice cream, crisps, or a salty pastry but researchers believe that the lack of refined and processed foods in the Hadza diet contributes towards their generally glowing bill of health.
Listen to your cravings! I know this sounds counterproductive but cravings are only a call out from your gut microbiome. They are basically asking to be fed. So if you are planning on changing your gut microbiome you will change your cravings and eventually your taste buds. This will mean gradually reducing your favourite foods and supplementing your diet with more plant-based products.
I remember when I spent a month in Thailand, my food had completely changed and was mainly plant-based, but as I was flying back home I was already salivating at the thought of a pizza or a hamburger. Some of my microbiome had not been fed for a month and was asking for their favourite foods.
So whatever choice you make the gut will change and adapt. It is trainable, in less than 24 hours it can change. So think of the gut as a muscle it can be trained, change and adapt. And when you decide to work on it the magic will happen. So for example, if you haven’t been consuming beans for a while, a good idea is to start with a small amount of them on your plate. Your gut microbiome will have time to adapt to this new food and your family will probably thank you for it as well…
Eat more fermented foods. Include naturally fermented foods containing probiotics (live bacteria), such as sauerkraut, pickles, miso, certain types of yoghurt, and kefir (a yoghurt-based drink).
“A healthy, varied, balanced, high-fibre diet with complex carbohydrates is good for the bacteria living in your gut and encourages a diverse ecosystem,” says Dr Hohmann.
My daughter and I have just started doing our own sauerkraut.. we followed a Youtube tutorial, chopped up a cabbage, added salt, squeezed it to death and compressed it into a sealed jar… et voila. Truth be told we haven’t tried it yet… we will tell you in two weeks.
For future parents! As a man, I feel a bit awkward giving women some suggestions, however as a father I wish I had known these wonderful facts 27 years ago when my first child Yannick was born. So every parent should know that optimizing gut health for your newborn child starts when he is born. Having a vaginal birth will give the baby a sample of the mother’s microbiome. This is where mum is donating a sample of her gut microbiome to her newborn child. The relationship between the mother’s microbiome and her child starts very early. The child is as close to sterile in the womb. He is wide open to recruiting new microbiome into his new ecosystem, and this will go on until he is 2 to 3 years of age. By then his gut microbiome will be fully formed like mum’s and dad’s. It is also when the child’s immune system is developing and when it decides what is good and what is bad. Adequately breastfeeding her baby, the mother will make sure she is doing everything possible to provide her child with a robust ecosystem enabling him or her to thrive.
At 36 weeks mum’s vaginal microbiome starts changing to resemble her gut microbiome so she can donate it to her child. The mother’s breast milk has everything it needs to nourish a newborn child. Human milk oligosaccharides HMO are contained in the breast milk but they have zero nutritional value for the child however they are programmed to feed the child gut microbiome, they act as a prebiotic for the gut microbiome and consequently help the development of the child’s immune system. So breastfeeding is essential for the child’s future development.
Sharing is caring!
When I met my wife Jane, we used to practise the half and half rule. We would order or prepare one dish and share it. Now at home, we have implemented a fun routine. Just before digging into our food, we take 3 deep breaths and start appreciating this meal by visualizing it nourishing us, reaching all parts of our body and giving us tons of energy and goodness.
The Hadza never eat alone. All the food is shared, mealtimes are communal and everyone pitches in. While this does not directly benefit your gut microbiome, the rituals and conviviality around food and mealtimes likely improve social bonds while fostering an appreciation of food and preventing any one individual from having more than their fill, all of which have to lead to better health in the long run.
Consume a broad variety of plants and be 90 to 100 per cent plant-based. That’s what has been practised in the blue zones and how we can bring the highest nutritional value to our body. Beyond feeling good and healthy, this is also helping the health of our planet, it’s reducing this damaging industrial meat industry and making us more compassionate towards the way these animals are treated.
When we abuse our planet and all it’s living life forms, they are probably going to fight back in some shape or form. It’s all linked, our gut health and the health of our planet. Our soil health and all its lifeforms are intimately connected to human health via the nutrients it produces.
This conversation goes way beyond any specific diet that you may be following now, it’s based on how you can diversify your gut microbiome by adding more variety. It’s not about reducing but building new things. 10 different plants are better than 1 superfood. So, as wide a variety of plants as possible, and make superfoods your friends.
Here is a quick reminder for your next shopping trip;
F fruit and fermented
G greens and whole greens
O omega 3 superseeds chia, flex
A aromatics flavours foods onions garlic shallots
L legumes and whole grains are foundational for the microbiome
S sulforaphane is a phytonutrient that you find in cruciferous veg like broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and is the most powerful cancer crusher. And the highest content of sulforaphane is contained in baby broccoli sprouts, 100 times more than in mature broccoli.
This is now part of my eating strategy to live a long and healthy life to 100.
Take care my friends, until next week.
Smart Living To 100.
DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am Jane Gracia, Pedro’s wife, and as the title suggests I long ago realized that I have to get on board and follow all these tips, practices and bio hacks to live happily and healthily to 100 and beyond. This Blog explores an important aspect of keeping the mind and spirit “young”.. stepping out of our comfort zone.
I haven’t always been a huge fan of swimming, however, I have always loved the beach. My siblings and I spent every summer out at Templeton shore with our parents, at a time where one could park the caravan for the whole summer and no one paid any attention. We all have wonderful memories of that time, playing in the sand, searching for crabs in rock pools, climbing the hill behind our campsite and sliding down on sheets of cardboard… giggling and laughing, windswept and carefree, truly precious memories.
I was not a strong swimmer, slightly nervous of the grey Irish sea and the rolling waves, but at the same time, I was drawn to it. My darling mum insisted on swimming lessons at the local leisure centre and my confidence grew. By the time I moved to Spain in 1986, I delighted in the warmth and clarity of the Mediterranean sea. However, I was not very eager to put my head under the water, and although I tried snorkelling I quickly rejected it.
Then I met my husband and all changed. Pedro was a dive instructor working in a centre attached to the hotel where I had secured myself a summer job as a travel rep. He was and continues to be, passionate about the sea. His confidence in the water inspired me and before I knew it I was learning to scuba dive. It was a very special time, early morning excursions out on flat calm waters, discovering all that the underwater world had to offer.
A magical time, as I fell in love with him, I also fell in love with the sea, worked my way up to divemaster and we spent many years travelling around the world and diving together.
Fast forward many years… My last dive was 8 years ago on a trip to Thailand. It was not a very enjoyable truth be told. Murky water, strong currents, very choppy sea… I could barely see my hand in front of my face, never mind any marine life! Now, as we live in Mallorca you may be wondering why we did not dive here every summer, I can`t really answer that… The summers go by and we do go snorkelling a lot, out in the kayak and on the paddleboard. At the end of last summer, Pedro booked himself a wreck dive with a local dive centre. It was spectacular and he came back and said: “why do we not do this all the time”?
Despite having 100s of dives in my logbook I felt reticent about diving again. As we grow older I think we find it harder to step outside our comfort zone and this needs to be addressed. Stretching ourselves by doing activities we do not usually do is vital for longevity. The dive was booked for last Saturday. I reckon by the Wednesday I was starting to feel nervous about it, I was even dreaming about it!! There was even a part of me thinking that maybe the weather will be rough and it will be cancelled. Saturday dawned bright and beautiful, the sea looking like the proverbial millpond. We live close to the dive centre so we strolled down in the cool of the early morning.
I had some concerns about how they were handling the COVID pandemic, (you know, the lying awake at 4 am type of thought, I mean really !!!!) were they cleaning the equipment thoroughly etc, but as soon as we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see how ordered the centre was. Cristina had our equipment laid out, and she talked us through the hygiene protocols they have in place. I will take a moment now to say Scuba Mallorca in Puerto Pollensa, you guys are fab, I was very impressed with everything, highly recommended !!
Another 200 metres walk down to the pier and onto the dive boat and off we headed to Cap de Formentor, the famous lighthouse sitting majestically on Mallorca’s most northern tip. So, I thought to myself, no backing out now!! The boat trip out to the dive site is very familiar to me, but every single time it takes my breath away. The sea cobalt blue, the towering cliffside with hundreds of brave little trees hanging on for dear life, the wondrous beauty that is nature.
Once anchored, Tom, our dive leader, briefed us on the dive site. The butterflies had subsided and I actually started to feel excited. I easily remembered how to prepare my dive equipment and before I knew it I was standing at the stern ready to take the giant stride into the water. It is actually called a giant stride entry, basically a big step off the platform into the sea to ensure one’s equipment doesn’t knock against the back of the boat. But, for me, there was a double meaning, a physical and a mental giant stride. My first dive after an eight-year break. A giant stride indeed, right out of my comfort zone.
Suffice to say it was beautiful, the giant boulders adorned with purple sea plants, the electric blue starfish, the many purple and gold moray eels and the hundreds of fish both big and small. It was beautiful in other ways, the light splitting though the blue of the water, the silence, the perfect weightlessness. I felt very much at peace and quiet calm. I was quite proud of myself that I hadn’t let those little fears take over. It felt good to be back.
I quite like this stepping out of my comfort zone…
Next week we are off to Menorca, camping in our Peugeot 206… let’s see how that goes.
Climate change is real!!! Glaciers are shrinking, the sea level is rising, violent storms are more frequent, temperatures are rising, plant and animal species are struggling to cope, trees are flowering sooner, etc and the list goes on…
Most analysts believe we must stop burning fossil fuels to prevent further increases in atmospheric carbon, and remove carbon already in the air. Nature has already her own natural carbon sinks, oceans, forests and the soil. One practical approach is to restore this carbon back into the soil with regenerative agriculture. The advantages of this regenerative agriculture are obvious for farmers but also very beneficial for consumers. In the long run, it could have positive effects on the food we consume, our health, our planet and possibly could reverse climate change. But this change in perspective needs large amounts of people to take part in and change their consumer habits. In this short article, I will explain what is regenerative agriculture, how it works, and how it benefits us as consumers.
What is regenerative agriculture?
By definition, regenerative agriculture practices are:
A way of farming that uses systems and principles that promote biodiversity, soil quality, improved water management and nutrient cycling, better yields, long term business resilience and enhanced ecosystems. The word “ regenerative “ would insist on the concept of putting more back into the environment than we take out. This means that when a farm chooses to operate in a regenerative organic manner, it is focusing not only on yield but on the entire ecosystem that the farm is built on. Soil health is the foundation of that system.
The aim of regenerative farming is to use farming for restoring carbon into the soil, which has the potential to both improve soil quality and food quality, while also possibly reversing the current global climate change trend that is threatening our planet.
How does this work?
Our 2 major carbon sinks (meaning it traps carbon from the atmosphere and keeps it safely below ground or under the sea) are the oceans and the soil. We cannot safely store more atmospheric carbon in our oceans. For the past 3 decades, this excess co2 has dissolved in the oceans, forming carbonic acid, and subsequently dropping oceanic ph. This mass acidification of our oceans has been killing many forms of sea life, including shellfish, corals and plankton.
Our degraded soil could serve as a major carbon sink, locking away carbon, supporting farmers’ livelihood, making the soil more resistant to drought and floods and increasing soil health.
Scientists estimate that the Earth loses roughly 23 billion tons of fertile soil every year through deforestation and burning, excessive use of synthetic fertilizers, and other toxic chemicals. One of the biggest contributors to soil degradation is the common practice of soil tilling (Tilling involves turning over the first 6 – 10 inches of soil before planting new crops). At this rate, all fertile soil will be gone within 150 years.
Fortunately, a growing number of farmers realize the importance of preserving and improving their soilby adopting no-till practices. They converted to practices that include:
– Using manure or compost to fertilize the soil
– Keeping the soil covered with plants at all times
– Using a broad mix of cover crops
– Minimizing tillage
Soil naturally stores carbon. When soil is ploughed, carbon, in the form of organic material such as plant roots and microorganisms, rises to the soil’s surface. Soil carbon is exposed to oxygen in the atmosphere, it transforms into carbon dioxide, contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet.
Rich fertile soil is literally alive. It is full of bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes and many, many other creatures. In fact, in a teaspoon of healthy soil, there are more microbes than there are people on earth. Of course, in order to survive, this teeming community voraciously consumes this carbon available in healthy soil. If the top layer of the soil is covered in plants or no-till farming is used, it will minimize soil disturbance which will help keep carbon in the soil.
WITH GOOD SOIL QUALITY COMES NUTRIENT RICH FOOD!
When I was a child I loved to hear my grandmother’s life stories. As a spanish refugee money was extremely tight but Granny Francisca ( we called her Mémé ) always managed to put food on the table. Like many people during these war times, she had to grow her own vegetables and buy meat or eggs once a week at the local farm. In fact, 50% of the food at that time was homegrown. She would tell me about composting, replanting, seeding, how useful birds, butterflies and worms were… I was fascinated. Most of it went right over my head but now all these snippets of information are coming back to my mind.
Nowadays all we need to do is walk down to the local supermarket, walk down the aisles and buy anything we desire. We live in an age where the idea of seasonality is almost obsolete, we have access to fresh blueberries and strawberries in the dead of winter, asparagus in the fall, and avocados whenever we feel like. But what do we really know about the way this food was grown, how much has it travelled, was it sprayed with pesticides, etc?
And the healthier the soil, the healthier the crop. When plants have the nutrients and root systems they need to thrive, they build compounds to help protect against insects and disease. There is also growing evidence that a healthy soil microbiome full of necessary bacteria, fungi, and nematodes is more likely to produce nutrient-dense food, promoting better human health.
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE PRACTICES
Support Local: One of the best things you can do to support regenerative agriculture practices in your local community is to support the small farmers who are choosing to farm in this way. If you buy locally you may even be able to visit their farm and see how their food is grown. If you have to shop in your supermarket buy local fruit and vegetables and if possible in the season. This may be a bit more costly but in the long run, will make you healthier and could save you money in medical bills.
.Choose Brands Who Support Regenerative Farming: When you choose to support companies that are involved in the regenerative farming movement, you are choosing to use your money to vote for the kind of food system you want to see in the future. For example, Danone sees regenerative agriculture as resting on three pillars: protecting soil, empowering a new generation of farmers and promoting animal welfare.
Advocate For Regenerative Farming: Lastly, become an advocate for regenerative farming in your local community. Simply by sharing this article, engaging in conversations, doing your own research, showing up at town meetings, finding where your local regenerative farms are. No matter how small your contribution to this regenerative agriculture is, it will no doubt contribute to a healthier future for people and our planet.
Only 3 weeks ago, I knew nothing about regenerative agriculture and it’s huge potential to reverse climate change.
I am now more optimistic for the future of mankind and this beautiful planet we have the privilege to share for a brief moment in time. If you are interested I strongly recommend to find out more, by listening to Zach Bush MD, and his project called Farmer’s Footprint.
Take care my friends, don’t forget to share, until next week.
At this point in time, talking about plastic pollution in the ocean may seem futile. We are faced with so many other crises that are affecting our health, our economy, our jobs, our livelihoods and our climate.
However, with climate change, things have accelerated at an alarming rate. We have now entered a period in history where we need to act quickly for the survival of our planet and, eventually, the human race. We have been too reliant on the government to take action but so far very little has been done. The extent of the work to be done is so huge that I thought for many years that I alone couldn’t do anything to help. Having spent many years as a dive instructor in various oceans around the world, I have seen first hand the damage done to the sea. Being aware is not enough. I had to take some sort of action. So now my daughter and I have a mission. We live in Mallorca and every single time we go into the sea we collect plastic. This is a huge task. But we have started it one plastic bag at a time. Either swimming, kayaking, snorkelling or with our paddleboard. All we need is will power, patience and enthusiasm. I also wanted to share with you the shocking facts about marine plastic pollution. Hopefully, this raises your awareness even more and prompts you to take action too!
13 shocking facts about marine plastic pollution!
It has been estimated that 8 million tonnes of this plastic waste enters the ocean every year. If we carry on at this rate we face an ocean with more plastic than fish by 2050.
Single-use plastic is everywhere in our lives, it wraps our food, our technology, and the vast majority of our consumer goods. What is shocking is that single-use plastics, primarily made from fossil fuel-based chemicals, are meant to be disposed of right after use, often within minutes, but will outlive us by hundreds of years. They will end up in landfills, littering our landscape and destroying our oceans. 80% of marine plastic pollution originates from landfills.
Global plastics consumption is predicted to grow dramatically, to reach close to 400 million tonnes a year by 2025.
It has been documented that five countries in Asia (China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) are estimated to account for as much as 60% of the plastic waste entering the Ocean.
The plastic debris floating on the ocean surface accounts for only 5% of all the plastic trash dumped into the sea; the other 95% is submerged beneath the surface.
Many of the products we use in our day to day like toothpaste, face wash, abrasive cleaners, etc, also include billions of tiny pieces of plastic, called microbeads. These microbeads are small enough to easily pass through water filtration and sewage treatment systems to end up polluting the Ocean.
Biodegradable plastics are an alternative to conventional plastics. However, they are not a long term solution as they are expensive to produce, energy-intensive and they may encourage us to believe that it’s ok to throw them away anywhere because they are biodegradable. Furthermore, they remain highly toxic and dangerous to marine animals if ingested
Plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change.
Floating plastic waste has been shown to accumulate in 5 subtropical Gyres that cover 40 per cent of the world’s oceans. There are five major Gyres: the North and South Pacific Subtropical Gyres, the North and South Atlantic Subtropical Gyres, and the Indian Ocean Subtropical Gyre.
The most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fish and turtles mistake plastic waste for prey, swallow them and consequently die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris. They also suffer from lacerations, infections, reduced ability to swim, and internal injuries. Floating plastics also contribute to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which disrupt ecosystems.
Invisible plastic has been identified in tap water, beer, salt and is present in all samples collected in the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. Several chemicals used in the production of plastic materials are known to be carcinogenic and to interfere with the body’s endocrine system, causing developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune disorders in both humans and wildlife.
Plastic debris often contains chemicals added during manufacture that can absorb and concentrate contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs). These harmful substances can transfer into the tissue of aquatic species like the fish we consume, and subsequently into humans.
The main sources of marine plastic are land-based, from our cities, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping. Ocean-based plastic originates mainly from the fishing industry, nautical activities and aquaculture.
What can we do?
Stop using plastic and create new habits.
Ninety per cent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Refuse plastic whenever possible. We must wean ourself off disposable plastics, say no to straws, lids, plastic bags, and plastic takeaway containers. Instead carry our own reusable mugs, glass water bottles, cloth bags to the stores, wooden utensils, etc. Replace plastic items at home with alternatives made from natural materials (bamboo toothbrushes, glass jars, wooden toys).
2. Stop buying water.
Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash, many of them will end up in the ocean. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and use your local tap water. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, it is worth investing in a reverse osmosis water unit. We all carry our own reusable bottles now and use our home filtered water supply.
3. Cook more at home.
Not only is it healthier and cheaper in the long run, but also making your own meals from the comfort of your own home doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. Purchase loose fruits and vegetables or shop at the farmers market. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the restaurant you don’t need any plastic cutlery or cups or plates. I have to admit that one positive aspect of the lockdown period is that it did oblige me and my family to eat in. We have thoroughly enjoyed it and we all took turns to cook, add variety to our meals, and be creative with our shopping.
4. Recycle More!
The plastic you put in the bin ends up in a landfill. Some of this plastic rubbish will end up in the river and eventually in the ocean, during transport or being swept away by the wind.
It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled. So let’s make a conscious effort and recycle more.
5. Whenever possible buy second hand.
Many second-hand items have barely been used. Start searching online, at your local charity shop, thrift store or your local neighbourhood garage sale, you will be surprised to see how many items you can buy at a fraction of the new price, still in impeccable condition and without plastic packaging, hard to crack shells and twisty ties. Also by reusing these items yourself, you are making sure they don’t end up in landfills in your countryside.
6. Stop throwing down the drain!
Many of the products we use daily are flushed down toilets, including wet wipes, cotton buds, dental floss and sanitary products. Microfibres are even released into waterways when we wash our clothes in the washing machine. Microbeads found in so many beauty products once flushed down the drain may end up being consumed by small marine species, eventually even ending up in our food chain.
7. Start buying in bulk.
Stop buying Single-serving products, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts. Instead, start buying in bulk. Consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time. Bring your own glass container or mesh bags and buy grains, nuts, and other items in the bulk section.
8. Take action!
It is time to take action! Whenever you see plastic in nature, or in the streets, please collect it, put it in the bin or, even better, recycle it. Litter dropped on the street doesn’t stay there. Rainwater and wind carry plastic waste into streams and rivers and through drains. Drains lead to the ocean!
Careless and improper waste disposal is also a big contributor – illegal dumping of waste adds greatly to the plastic surge in our seas.
When I read these facts, I was at first in denial. After some time, my feelings went from resignation and deep sadness to embracing the need to take immediate action.
I have realised that living to 100 does not just involve my health and well being, but it is also about caring for our beautiful planet and our future generations. So in the future when I am 80 or 90 I can take my grandkids diving and show them how amazing our blue planet really is.
As I said before I hope this prompts you to take action, for you and our future generations.
It’s seven in the evening, on a beach in the north of Mallorca, Spain. The sun is low on the horizon and the evening breeze is cooling us. I feel physically tired from my 90 mins martial arts training and mentally drained from my stressful day at work. It’s hard to unwind. Quan, my friend and Wing Chun instructor offers to teach me meditation. After a brief explanation, we sit cross-legged facing the ocean. 30 mins later, I emerged from this meditation a new man. I had tapped into my inner ocean of calm and tranquillity, and therefore had reduced my stress and anxiety and somehow felt physically refreshed. This was 12 years ago, and since then I have not stopped learning about meditation and of course, practising it. At the time all this felt a bit mystical to me. Now backed by research and science, I realise the benefits of meditation far exceed my imagination. In this article, I want to share with you how meditation can be beneficial for us, in our pursuit of a happier, healthier and longer life.
In a research from the University of California, 30 participants were asked to meditate for 6 hours a day for 3 months. Their meditation was centred on mindfulness, focusing solely on breathing, being present in the moment, and on feelings of love, kindness and compassion towards others.
After the three months, they compared them with non-meditators. The meditators had on average about 30% more activity of the enzyme telomerase than the non-meditators. Telomerase is responsible for repairing telomeres, the structures located on the ends of chromosomes, which, like the plastic caps at the tips of shoelaces, prevent the chromosome from unravelling and fraying. Each time a cell reproduces, its telomeres become shorter and less effective at protecting the chromosome, and this, in turn, is a cause of ageing. As the chromosome becomes more and more vulnerable, cell copying becomes sloppier and eventually stops when the telomeres disintegrate completely.
Shorter telomere length in cells is also linked with poorer immune system functioning, cardiovascular disease, and degenerative conditions like osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
So this implies, people with higher levels of telomerase can possibly slow down ageing and show overall psychological improvements. The longer the telomere, the more times a cell can divide and refresh.
For many years it’s been widely accepted in the scientific community of the benefits of meditation. In less than 8 weeks of regular practise, one can notice a substantial reduction in stress and anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and enhanced happiness. Although these benefits are fairly immediate, meditation practices can have a long-lasting positive impact, that can potentially add years to our lives and improve cognitive function well into old age.
Starting at the cellular level, meditation seems to affect the physical body in different ways. Scientists have isolated length of telomeres and telomerase as indicators of cellular aging.
Telomere shortening happens naturally as we age, but research now shows that it can be accelerated by stress, speeding up the ageing process of the body.
In 2004 research, Elissa S. Epel and her team found that psychological stress is significantly correlated with shorter telomere length in leukocytes, antibody cells that fight disease. The study compared telomere length of two groups of premenopausal mothers. One caring for a chronically ill child and pre-identified to have higher objective stress and the other of mothers with a healthy child with lower objective stress. Women with the highest levels of perceived stress in the study had telomeres shorter on average by the equivalent of one decade of additional ageing compared to low-stress women. In a 2009 follow-up paper, Epel’s research team suggested that mindfulness meditation may also have potentially positive effects on the preservation of telomere length and telomerase activity.
As they predicted, results revealed that those with more experience in meditation had longer telomere length overall, compared to women non-meditators. These findings further support meditation’s positive effect on reducing stress levels and healthy cellular ageing.
Another way meditation may help slow ageing is through its effects on the brain. Depending on the individual, our brain’s grey matter ( part of the brain that helps with our, learning, memorising, focusing, balancing, coordination and more…) volume typically decreases from the age of 30 at varying rates. With time we also lose white matter ( responsible for the smooth and proper operation of the nervous system) volume and enter a slow structural degeneration. Meditation has been shown to alter our individual brain structure and potentially reduce this brain degeneration, in order for us to maintain our cognitive function sharp and thrive for many years. The effects on the brain don’t stop there. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) researchers have shown that cortical thickness of meditators aged 40-50 was similar to non-meditators age 20-30. So meditation may support the preservation of brain structure over time.
It is clear that meditation cannot stop the natural ageing process. However, these findings strongly suggest that meditation is a helpful tool to slow down the brain structure degeneration, reducing stress levels and adding years or possibly a decade to your lifespan.
It’s a no brainer in my books, and it’s one of my non negotiable strategies for living to 100.
It has become a pillar of my daily routine. Up at 5 am, when my body is rested, and my mind is still in that semi daydreaming state. It’s the best moment to focus solely on breathing, feeling love and compassion for others, being in the present moment and filling my mind with gratitude.
That’s how I start my day. In these challenging times, that many of us are experiencing, I have found huge comfort and peace in my meditation practice.
Wouldn’t you love to feel good for no reason, or to be able to trigger empowering images just with a simple technique, or maybe to instantly slip into relaxation? I don’t know about you but that sounds great to me and this can be easily done using a Neuro-Linguistic Programming( NLP) technique called Anchoring. In this article, I will share with you what is anchoring, how to use it and how you can instantly apply it.
Your life has been affected by anchors, even though you may not have set them up intentionally. For example, hearing a song on the radio that reminds you of your high school date when you had a crush. Just by hearing this song, you are transported back to that moment and probably start feeling the same emotions that flooded your mind and body at that time. I have been using this anchoring for many years and it has helped me to maintain calm, happy and relaxed even through difficult times. It is part of my arsenal of techniques and tricks that will assist me in living to 100. Keep reading and by the end of this article, you too will be able to instantly feel good for no particular reason. Pretty cool hey!!!
So what is NLP Anchoring?
Bandler & Grinder founders of NLP define it as:
“Anchoring refers to the tendency for any one element of an experience to bring back the entire experience”.
The most famous example of NLP anchoring was demonstrated by a Russian scientist called Ivan Pavlov. He rang a bell every time he fed his dog. Very quickly the dog was associating the smell and taste of food with the sound of the bell. Sometimes he would ring the bell and the dog would start salivating even if no food was present. He was able to prove that an external trigger ( the bell ) caused a physiological response from the dog (salivation ) in the absence of food or smell.
The same can be applied to humans. We can use NLP anchoring to psychologically associate a signal or trigger with a physiological response (an emotion, mood or mental state) of your choice. The trigger or” Anchor” can be squeezing your fingers together, placing your hand on your heart or on your chest, or snapping a rubber band on your wrist. We usually want to elicit a positive physiological response like a feel-good emotion, a relaxing mood, an empowering state of mind, or simply a happy feeling.
This NLP anchoring also works if you are drowning in negative emotion. Just by triggering a positive emotion, you can extinguish the negative one, and if you repeat it enough times it will disappear altogether. When you master this NLP anchoring technique you can choose to experience peace, joy, gratitude or relaxation no matter what is happening in your life.
NLP anchoring can be especially useful in clearing the past. Often we hold positives as random experiences and negatives as patterns. By intentionally anchoring positive experiences, the brain can also experience them as patterns, furthering brain integration.
By now you must be dying to give NLP anchoring a go!!!
5 Easy Steps to learning NLP Anchoring Technique:
1. Think of how you want to feel (e.g. confident, happy, calm, loving, empowered, etc.). For this example I will pick, feeling happy!
2. Pick a place on your body where you would like to place this anchor. This could be grabbing your wrist, tapping your chest, a clap, a gesture, pinching your fingers, touching your knuckle or squeezing a fingernail. This physical touch will allow you to trigger the positive feeling at will. It doesn’t matter where you choose, as long as it is unique. For example, give your right index and your right thumb two long squeezes.
3. Think of a time in the past when you felt that state (happiness in this case). Mentally go back to that time and float into your body, looking through your own eyes and reliving that memory. See what you saw, hear what you heard and feel the feeling as you remember that memory. You will begin to feel that state of happiness invading you as you pay attention to all the details of that happy memory. The more intense the experience that you are having at the time of setting the anchor the stronger the response is going to be. It is important to add as many senses as possible to your happy memory. Pay attention to the images you are seeing, how bright or colourful they are. Sounds are important too. Did you hear voices, a particular piece of music, or simply a noise, how loud were they, etc? In that memory, also recall where in your body you felt this happiness, did you have butterflies in your stomach, did you experience this well being in your head, did it move up and down your body or did it stay still.
Don’t view the memory from a distance; the feelings won’t come back. You’ve got to ‘be there’ again.
Relive the memory until you begin to feel the happiness coming over you in the same way you felt it at the time.
4. Just at that precise moment apply the anchor you have chosen ( in this case squeezing my right thumb and index twice) and check that the desired state of relaxation occurs again. Hold this anchor squeezed for a few seconds, until just before the feeling of happiness starts decreasing. Then you can release the anchor. As you do the second squeeze, make the picture of the happy moment larger, bringing it closer to you, and imagine the happy feeling multiplying in strength.
5. You may need to repeat the anchoring process a number of times to make the experience sufficiently intense and to encode it into your neurology.
What is happening in our brains when we do this?
Our body is controlled by our Nervous System. Consciously and Unconsciously. So nerves are running through our body. When you press with your right index finger on your right thumb it is registered by the nervous system that you press. This pressure takes a fraction of time to be registered by the brain. Hence why you hold your fingers together before the happy memory and you release them just as the memory starts decreasing.
By using this anchor, you are psychologically associating this neural signal with a “happy” state of mind. Therefore it stands to reason that the more times you lay the anchor (as above) and the more clarity you have in the feeling, the better this technique will work. This is known as conditioning.
ONE OF MY MOST POWERFUL ANCHORS
This anchor brings me back to our holiday in Thailand. We decided to spend 4 weeks trekking from Koh kut, Koh Chang all the way north to Chiang Mai. While in Koh chang I booked myself on the best wreck dive in Koh Chang, the HTMS Chang Wreck.
Formally known as the USS Lincoln County, HTMS Chang is Thailand’s longest wreck at 117 metres / 384 feet and sits at 30 metres / 100 feet underwater. After more than 50 years’ service in the Royal Thai Navy, it was sunk in 2012 to create an artificial reef.
I was so excited as I boarded the dive boat. I was paired with a Russian diver, as I was the only one on the boat who could utter a few words in Russian.
The second I hit the water and started descending in the deep blue, I was invaded by an immense feeling of well being and deep happiness. During my descent I felt the warm water around my face, my ears softly adjusted to the pressure, the colours fading as the deep blue took hold. As the shadow of the wreck appeared, I enter a huge school of fish, all pointing in the same direction and calmly swimming in the current. Thousands of them surround me, I looked up and still could see the boat, the sun and more divers descending. It was utter bliss, I felt so happy, grateful and fulfilled at that precise moment that my eyes fill up with joyful tears. The emotion was intense and probably lasted for a minute or 2. I was noticing everything. The sounds of the bubbles coming out of the regulator, the fish crunching on the coral, another diver humming a tune…As I slowly glided around the wreck, I noticed a few more eels, some lazy stonefish, snappers dancing around the mast, it was absolutely bursting with marine life...and then it was time to ascend back to the real world. Finally I climbed the ladder to the boat and sat down to remove all my diving equipment and although my body was out of the water, my mind was still 30m below the waves.
I could go on and on to describe the full array of feeling and sensations I experienced on this dive but it would take many more paragraphs… this was by far one of my richest sensory moments and I have used this image or mind movie many times as an anchor to elicit a happy feeling.
Now it’s your turn to recall those beautiful memories and anchor them.
Hi everyone, my name is Jane Gracia and I live in Mallorca. A very different Mallorca to the one I have known and loved for 22 years. From the 15th March to the 22nd May we were in a very strict lockdown, not even granted a daily “sanity” walk. Now, as we move freely around, I am so very grateful for all this beautiful island has to offer. For our economy, I am happy the restrictions are being lifted and we are welcoming visitors to Mallorca once more. However, I am also a little bit nervous, as I do not want to repeat the aforementioned lockdown. It was tough, very tough. I hope all that we have been through until now has made us wiser, more prudent. I hope visitors will respect the 2-metre rule and remember that mask-wearing in public is now mandatory.
So, as this wonderful island slowly wakes from the deepest of slumbers, I head off to the east coast with my daughter to appreciate it all. We head to Cala Figuera, a small fishing village, new to me. I realise I am not seeing it as it usually is, one or two small hotels have opened, several restaurants, but little else.
We check in to our aparthotel, the Marblau, (Room 107, clean, comfortable with a kitchenette and the best air con!!) perfectly adequate for our one night stay, and head off to explore. A lazy afternoon on the nearby Cala Santanyi, surprisingly busy despite the lack of tourists. We check out a colourful juice bar and scroll the menus of nearby restaurants for vegan options… the Cala Santanyi Hostal, by the way, did not disappoint in that department !! So, the plan was to head back to our room, quick turnaround, and walk back along the cliff path to enjoy the delights of the beachside restaurant. It was perfect, the little track took us close to the cliff edge, an unbroken view out across the Med, a single sailing boat.. normally at this time of year we would see many boats returning to port after a day out at sea, everything feels different this year, everything is different this year.
The following day we decide to explore Cala des Moro. This is a beautiful rocky inlet close to Cala Llombards. However, I feel it needs to be said that this is a perfect spot for an early morning snorkel, not for a full “beach day”. It fills up quickly, with locals I might add, so what would it be like in a “normal” summer!! One must park in the free car park and from there it is approximately a half-hour walk… It took us longer, as we brought a sunshade, (no sand to stick the pole into, so definitely not needed!!), quite a hefty cool bag (go for a snorkel and return, that way all you need is a bottle of water) and of course we had the snorkel gear, towels and suncream !!! Travel light, especially in the heat of late June. We were glad we went, as neither of us knew this delightful little bay, but I would not rush back.
I am enjoying our local beach, Puerto Pollensa. No sunbeds, no parasols, no facilities.. this year all is different. As I walk through town this morning, I see more restaurants are now open, the Hotel Daina has a team frantically working on it, day and night… I can only guess they must have plenty of bookings for the coming months. After many months of the back and forth of “will we/won’t we have tourists this year” it is encouraging to see.
We rely heavily on tourism, so thank you for coming to our amazing island. Enjoy your stay, eat in the restaurants, drink in the bars, have a fabulous holiday. But, please respect the rules, this summer is different, like no other we have had. The threat of Covid-19 remains a dark cloud on the horizon. Keep your distance, wear your mask, disinfect your hands. Thank you!
Take care my friends, until next week.
Smart Living To 100.
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