Why Christmas 2020 is so different?

Where to begin with Christmas?

Why is Christmas so different this year?

Christmas is a time for being with loved ones, for indulging in delicious food and decadent drinks, for long walks, for playing board games, for reflection and long conversations, for sitting and watching the latest feel-good movie… It’s a wonderful time to be happy, joyful and grateful.

As soon as the kids break up from school, millions of households  travel to far flung relatives, grandparents, mothers, sisters, to share this wonderful time with the people that matter most in their life.

My wife and I would normally head to London, to meet our adult “kids”, and carry on our trip to our beloved Ireland. Although I am Spanish, we have spent most of our Christmases in Ireland.

Christmas in Ireland
I have many fond memories of Christmas in Ireland.

There are many reasons for this, for a start I was fortunate enough to marry a beautiful Irish woman, my Jane. We lived on this evergreen island for more than 5 years. During this time we had our two most beautiful and amazing babies, Yannick and Matilda. We realised how hospitable Irish people are, how very magical this country is and from all of this I began a relationship with the festive season I had never known…

And for this miracle, I have to give full credit to my wife Jane who has always made our Christmas feel magical and special, but especially to Valerie (my mother-in-law, who very sadly passed away in April) who would make us feel so welcome and literally showered us with tons of presents, delicious meals, and handfuls of sweets, but also had tremendous patience and love to give to all of us. I will be forever grateful to her, wherever she is now, for this constant love and generosity that she distributed to all of us, without ever expecting anything in exchange. She made Christmas so very special and unique for us.

Valerie
Our dearest dodee ❤

So why is Christmas 2020 so different? 

  • This year has been one of the toughest for the human race that I have ever experienced in my lifetime. But with so much sadness, anxiety and depression, I feel mentally and emotionally ready for that joy the Christmas holidays normally bring: closeness, family, tradition and new memories. This year we will be starting our new family tradition as this will be our first Christmas season without our dearest Doedee. I also hate the fact that so many elderly people will be spending Christmas on their own, without friends and family around them. It makes no sense, almost as if we are celebrating and grieving at the same time.
  • I don’t need to remind you of what’s going on right now, as it seems that almost every part of the world is on partial or full lockdown with very strict travelling measures put in place. So, no travelling to Ireland for us this year, and instead we are spending Christmas in Mallorca. We will, for the very first time, be spending Christmas at home in our hometown of Puerto Pollensa with our son, his girlfriend and our daughter…

Public health experts say that the safest, most prudent approach to the holidays this year is to stay home. To be “all in this thing together” means we must stay apart.

My daughter Matilda will be apart from her loved one, so she has composed a Christmas song for all those people in the same situation.

  • Millions of households have been severely hit by unemployment, or business closure and are struggling economically. I personally have been furloughed for many months and I have to admit that we have had to cut down on our extras and keep a watchful eye on our expenses this Christmas.
  • Our Christmas bubble is restricted to 6 people (all from the same cohabitation group), so you must pick carefully who you decide to share your turkey dinner with! And remember to order a smaller turkey this year, but if meat is not your thing I have left here a few vegan options for you to enjoy this Christmas. Find here 6 turkey substitutes for a vegan Christmas.
  • This year’s work celebrations seem certain to take place on Zoom or to be cancelled altogether. So seeing friends for a pre-Christmas drink or meal will probably not be allowed.
  • All the following prevention measures must be maintained as much as possible; wearing face masks; washing hands frequently; maintaining social distancing; maximising ventilation, keeping windows and doors open and minimising the number of people we have contact with.
Christmas in Palma
Walking the street of Palma feels so christmassy!
  • And If you have the misfortune of being infected with Covid 19 or have some symptoms you should not attend any family or social gatherings.
  • This year most of your present shopping will be done online. As more and more shops are compelled to close, there will be a whopping 30 to 50% surge in online sales.
  • And finally, if the pandemic was not enough for 2020, another life-changing event is happening a few days before Christmas.  On December 21, a rare alignment between Jupiter and Saturn, also known as a Great Conjunction, is set to shake things up politically, socially, and in your personal life as well.

The last time Saturn and Jupiter, the largest planets in our solar system, orbited as closely as they will on December 21st and were visible in the sky, the year was 1226.

Almost 800 years later, on Monday, these titanic orbs will once again appear in the heavens just one-tenth of a degree apart — about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length, according to NASA.

Astrophiles and other skywatchers are so excited, to say the least, as this once in a lifetime event is predicting a time of rebirth. This conjunction falls on the winter solstice so close to Christmas that it is also called the Christmas star.  Basically, it’s going to be cool. Or as Renu Malhotra, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona, put it to The Times: “It’s a very romantic event to see these planets approaching each other.”

Christmas Star
Great conjunction happening on 21st of December!

Such powerful forces acting in conjunction are bound to have some effect on us, on our home planet earth. I don’t understand too much about astrology but I know I will be meditating during this week. I hope to take advantage of these huge forces to wish for health and prosperity for this coming decade.

I am sure there are many more reasons why this Christmas 2020 is so different, and maybe you want to share with us which ones are yours?

My conclusions!

Way beyond all this sadness, anxiety, and depression that has gripped the entire human race in 2020 I want to remain positive and hopeful for next year. But primarily my message is one of gratitude, for my extraordinary health and for my loved ones, for having adequate food and shelter, for having my amazing kids back to Mallorca with us, for the incredible privilege of sharing my days with my darling wife, and finally to live on such a beautiful island.

I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future but I doubt that in my long life I will see so many life-changing events happen in one year. Whatever happens in the future constant change is guaranteed !!!

Take care, my friends, Merry Christmas to all and I will be back next week.

Smart Living To 100.

Feeling stressed? Adaptogenic herbs might be the answer! Part 2.

What are the 12 best adaptogenic herbs?

As herbal treatments, adaptogens date back hundreds and maybe thousands of years in the Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, but they’re having a renaissance today.

adaptogens
Ginger is one of the best adaptogenic herbs!

 They have become the buzzword in the wellness world, and they are popping up in every podcast, health studies and lifestyle blog. What we know is that they help us counteract the effects of stress. But what are they, really? How do they work? And what are the 12 best adaptogenic herbs, that will ultimately make your life easier? 

I don’t know about you but with all that’s going on in the world right now, any help, and I really mean, any help is welcome! I have only used a few of them but I believe that these adaptogenic herbs can really help in alleviating the weight of many modern stressors like pollution, noise, unhealthy foods, job uncertainty, difficult relationships, etc. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, according to research on adaptogens, they might actually be as good as they sound.  Keep on reading, and find out what are the remaining, 6 best adaptogenic herbs and what they can do for you!!!

What are adaptogen herbs?

Adaptogens can be thought of as herbal pharmaceuticals( and some mushrooms) that support the body’s natural ability to deal with the effect of both short and long term biological and physical stress. They are called adaptogens because of their unique ability to adapt their function in accordance with the specific needs of the body. Some of them are stimulants and others are relaxing, they are found in a growing list of teas, drinks, extracts and powder. They are also used as a healthy alternative to prescribed medication like anabolic steroids and stimulants containing caffeine, and sugar, and have no side effects.  There are dozens of these plants that grow naturally around the world in the harshest environments, and I have included 12 of the most popular one with their associated benefits, in the 2 lists, Part 1 ( last week’s blog), and Part 2 with the remaining 6 on the list.

How do adaptogens work?

 Stress can cause real physical changes in the body, by harming the neurological, endocrine, and immune system.   Dr Brenda Powell, co-medical director of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute says,” Adaptogens may do for your adrenal glands what exercise does for your muscles. When we exercise, it’s a stress on our body. But as we continue to train and exercise, our body becomes better at dealing with the stress of it, so we no longer get as tired or as high a heart rate”. 

Powell says the plants do this by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, both of which are involved in the body’s response to stress. Adaptogens may tweak hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body—from your mind to your immune system to your energy levels—functions as it should, Powell says.

DrTeiraona Low Dog, a well-known western doctor who specializes in herbal medicine, said ¨Adaptogens could be the most important class of plants that we are going to find in the 21st century. “On top of daily meditation, healthier eating, and writing daily in a journal, these herbs could be an essential part of helping you manage your stress.”

ginseng
Both types of ginseng are beneficial to your health!

What are the best adaptogenic herbs? And what are they used for?

Studies now show over 75 different plants could be classified as adaptogenic herbs. The list down below will contain some of the most researched adaptogens and what they are used for, including  Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera​), Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus), Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi), black seed oil, Curcumin (Turmeric),  Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus​), Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthamoides) and Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea​).

Find the first 6 adaptogenic herb in Part 1;

Garlic

Garlic is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive and Chinese onion. It is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been a common seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. Garlic is most commonly used for conditions related to the heart and blood system. These conditions include high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol or other fats (lipids) in the blood (hyperlipidemia), and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Adaptogens should not be considered as a ‘miracle cure’, experts caution. They should be considered as part of a whole-body treatment that includes a proper diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep.  Researchers have found they have several effects on the body:

  • neuroprotective elements
  • anti-fatigue properties
  • antidepressive effects
  • stimulant for the central nervous system
  • increase mental work capacity
  • attention enhancement

As a word of caution, while there are some health benefits to adaptogens, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor the quality or purity of herbs and supplements like over-the-counter products. Talk with your doctor before taking adaptogens.

What are the best adaptogenic herbs? And what are they used for?

Studies now show over 75 different plants could be classified as adaptogenic herbs. The list down below will contain some of the most researched adaptogens and what they are used for, including  Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera​), Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus), Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi), black seed oil, Curcumin (Turmeric),  Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus​), all in Part 1, and Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthamoides) and Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea​) all in Part 2.

Ginger

Ginger is a plant with leafy stems and yellowish-green flowers. The ginger spice comes from the roots of the plant. Ginger is native to warmer parts of Asia, such as China, Japan, and India, but now is grown in parts of South American and Africa. It is also now grown in the Middle East to use as medicine and with food.

Ginger is commonly used for many types of nausea and vomiting. It is also used for menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis, diabetes, migraine headaches, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.

One of the chemicals in ginger is also used as an ingredient in laxative, anti-gas and antacid medications.

Ginkgo Biloba

As the most commonly used adaptogenic supplements for brain health, ginkgo Biloba also offers impressive cardiovascular and nervous system benefits.

Ginkgo is the world’s oldest cognitive-enhancing plant.

Because ginkgo trees are the oldest living trees, at over 250 million years, the use of ginkgo as a cognitive enhancer likely precedes these 10,000 years of recorded history.

Much like curcumin, ginkgo has a wide array of confirmed health benefits.

Many like the fact ginkgo is one of the most well-researched supplements one can use.

Ginkgo Benefits

• Anxiety

• Antioxidants

• Blood Pressure

• Blood Flow (Brain, Eyes, Cutaneous, and Peripheral)

• Depression

• Diabetes and Diabetic Symptoms

• LDL Oxidation

• Eye Health

• Peripheral Nerves

• Skin Appearance

Dosage and use: Standardized extract of 120 mg used twice a day. EGb 761 is the most common ginkgo extract we find in research studies.

ginseng
Ginseng!

Ginseng

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and the more commonly used Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) are the two main types of ginseng.

Only Panax and American ginseng are actually ginseng, as all other ginseng come from different plant families.

Asian ginseng also called “Red Ginseng” is recognized as the only “true ginseng.”

In Chinese medicine, Panax ginseng stimulates “yang” energy, which is stimulating and heating, while American, or “White Ginseng”, is thought to promote “cooling” energy.

Ginseng Benefits

• Alzheimer’s (Unconfirmed)

• Antioxidants

• Erectile Dysfunction

• Cognitive Function

• Colon Cancer

• Fatigue

• Fertility (Male)

• Immunity

• Inflammation

• Ovarian Cancer

• Overall Cancer Risk (Men Only)

• Pancreatic Cancer

Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthamoides)

Rhaponticum carthamoides, also known as Maral root or Rhaponticum, is a herbaceous perennial plant from the family Asteraceae that inhabits the sub-alpine zone as well as alpine meadows. It can be found growing wild in Southern Siberia, Kazakhstan, the Altay region, and Western Sayan Mountains.

Modern herbalists have used Rhaponticum to support physical and mental endurance and natural resilience. The herb can help promote stamina, and it can support lean muscle mass and healthy oxygen levels in muscles before and during exercise. As an adaptogen, it helps support the body’s healthy physical stress response, which is controlled by the adrenal glands. In human studies, Rhaponticum has been shown to support normal glucose levels, and it has been shown to offer antioxidant and immune support. Rhaponticum has also been used to support healthy transitions during menopause.

 Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)

Rhodiola Rosea is a perennial flowering plant in the family Crassulaceae. It grows naturally in wild Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America, and can be propagated as a groundcover. Traditionally, it was used to attempt to increase endurance, work performance, and tolerance of high altitudes and to treat fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms. Today, Rhodiola is promoted to increase energy, stamina, strength, and mental capacity, improve athletic performance, resist the effects of stress, and help manage depression, anxiety, and other symptoms.

My conclusion

 Adaptogen herbs could be an essential part of helping you manage stress, but they should not be considered as a ‘miracle cure’. Instead, they should be used in conjunction with a whole-body treatment and care that already includes;

Love
Adaptogens are a great help, but in the end love conquers all!!

I believe stress in small and controlled ways can be a good thing because it can mobilize our body to cope with changes and challenges. But on the other hand, too much stress can damage your health. So maybe the key to a long and healthy life is being able to manage this fine line between too much and too little stress. In this continuous tug of war, adaptogens can be a great help.

The list of adaptogen herbs here above is non exhaustive, and if you know of others please share them with the community. 

Until next week, take care my friends.

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.

Feeling stressed? Adaptogenic herbs might be the answer! Part 1.

What are the 12 best adaptogenic herbs?

As herbal treatments, adaptogens date back hundreds and maybe thousands of years in the Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, but they’re having a renaissance today.

Ginkgo biloba
What are the best adaptogens?

They have become the buzzword in the wellness world, and they are popping up in every podcast, health study and lifestyle blog. What we know is that they help us counteract the effects of stress. But what are they, really? How do they work? And what are the 12 best adaptogenic herbs that will, ultimately, make your life easier? 

I don’t know about you, but with all that’s going on in the world right now, any help, and I really mean any help, is welcome! I have only used a few of them but I believe that these adaptogenic herbs can really help in alleviating the weight of many modern stressors like pollution, noise, unhealthy foods, job uncertainty, difficult relationships, etc. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, according to research on adaptogens, they might actually be as good as they sound.  Keep on reading, and discover what these 12 best adaptogenic herbs can do for you!!! To be more precise Part 1 will unveil the first 6, and Part 2, the others!

stress
These are stressful time! Adaptogens can help couteract the effects of stress!

What are adaptogen herbs?

Adaptogens can be thought of as herbal pharmaceuticals that support the body’s natural ability to deal with the effect of both short and long term biological and physical stress. They are called adaptogens because of their unique ability to adapt their function in accordance with the specific needs of the body. Some of them are stimulants and others are relaxing, they are found in a growing list of teas, drinks, extracts and powder. They are also used as a healthy alternative to prescribed medication like anabolic steroids and stimulants containing caffeine and sugar and have no side effects.  There are dozens of these plants that grow naturally around the world in the harshest environments, and in the list below, I have included 12 of the most popular ones with their associated benefits.

How do adaptogens work?

Stress can cause real physical changes in the body, by harming the neurological, endocrine and immune system.   Dr Brenda Powell, co-medical director of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute says,” Adaptogens may do for your adrenal glands what exercise does for your muscles. When we exercise, it’s a stress on our body. But as we continue to train and exercise, our body becomes better at dealing with the stress of it, so we no longer get as tired or get as high a heart rate”. 

Powell says the plants do this by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, both of which are involved in the body’s response to stress. Adaptogens may tweak hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body—from your mind to your immune system to your energy levels—functions as it should, Powell says.

DrTeiraona Low Dog, a well-known western doctor who specializes in herbal medicine, said ¨Adaptogens could be the most important class of plants that we are going to find in the 21st century. “On top of daily meditation, healthier eating, and writing daily in a journal, these herbs could be an essential part of helping you manage your stress.”

ginseng
Both types of ginseng are beneficial to your health!

Adaptogens should not be considered as a ‘miracle cure’, experts caution. They should be considered as part of a whole-body treatment that includes a proper diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep.  Researchers have found they have several effects on the body:

  • neuroprotective elements
  • anti-fatigue properties
  • antidepressive effects
  • stimulant for central nervous system
  • Increase mental work capacity
  • Enhance attention

As a word of caution, while there are some health benefits to adaptogens, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t monitor the quality or purity of herbs and supplements like over-the-counter products. Talk with your doctor before taking adaptogens.

What are the best adaptogenic herbs? And what are they used for?

Studies now show over 75 different plants could be classified as adaptogenic herbs. The list down below will contain some of the most researched adaptogens and what they are used for, including  Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera​), Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus), Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi), black seed oil, Curcumin (Turmeric),  Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus​), Garlic, Ginger, Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthamoides) and Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea​). So here they come n alphabetic order…

Ashwagandha: Indian Ginseng

Both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine have used Ashwagandha as a popular adaptogenic plant, and now its popularity is growing in the western world.

Ashwagandha is popularly used for boosting immunity, anti-ageing, joint pain and insomnia. Due to its active ingredient called withanolides, Ashwagandha is also used as an “adaptogen” to help the body cope with daily stress, as a general tonic and for improving thinking ability. It also improves the brain’s memory functions like attention and concentration, hence helping with the symptoms of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. It enables the body to reserve and sustain vital energy throughout the day while promoting sound, peaceful sleep at night.” These varied benefits are what makes Ashwagandha a go-to choice in Indian herbal medicine.

Ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, delivers clinically proven anti-anxiety effects comparable to lorazepam. Dosages vary depending on your needs, but 250–500 mg per day for at least one month seem effective.

anxiety
Is anxiety stopping you? Ashwagandha could help!

Astragalus (Astragalus Membranaceus)

Astragalus is an essential Chinese anti-ageing adaptogenic herb with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can be used topically for wounds.

Possessing antiviral properties, astragalus has been used as an immune-stimulant in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Recent studies are showing astragalus might be the top kidney and urinary system adaptogenic supplement.

Dosage and use: Proteinuria clinical effects in kidney disease studies are achieved using 15 grams of astragalus per day. Patients with kidney disorder, nephrotic syndrome, using 7.5 to 15 grams of daily astragalus after three to six months experience a 38% improvement in their condition.

Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)

Bacopa monnieri is a perennial, creeping herb native to the wetlands of southern and Eastern India, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. It is known by the common names water hyssop, Brahmi, thyme-leaved gratiola, herb of grace, and Indian pennywort.

Bacopa monnieri is a popular nootropic supplement from traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

Multiple studies confirm Bacopa’s adaptogenic benefits through lowering cortisol levels during stress while improving cognitive performance for individuals dealing with chronic stress.

Naturally, bacopa is thought of as an adaptogenic supplement for anxiety and cognition.

While studies show bacopa anti-anxiety effects as mild, studies show its effects on memory improvement as notable.

Dosage and use: Standardized extract of 300 to 450 mg per day is the average bacopa dosage range.

Black Seed Oil

Nigella sativa is a small flowering shrub with purple or white-tinged flowers that grows in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and western Asia.

While it may look unsuspecting, the shrub produces fruits that have tiny black seeds. These black seeds have been used in remedies for thousands of years.

Archaeologists even found black seeds in King Tut’s tomb, emphasizing their importance in history for healing and protection. They’re also used in cooking to add flavour to bread, curries, and pickles. When eaten, the seeds have a bitter flavour that’s often compared to cumin or oregano.

balck seed oil

With Islamic historical records showing black seed is, “a cure for every disease (except death)¨, black seed oil or black cumin oil can protect against cellular damage.

Pressed from the seeds of Nigella sativa shrub, black seed oil is a plant loaded in thymoquinone, a phytochemical compound we believe to possess anti-cancer properties, along with an array of other benefits.

With antioxidant, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic, antiallergic, antitussive, and bronchodilatory actions, black seed is also likely effective for other respiratory disorders, such as asthma. Lung protective black seed oil is an effective adaptogenic supplement for allergies and nasal congestion.

In use for thousands of years for medicine, food, and even cosmetics, many use black seed oil in the same way as aspirin or ibuprofen.

Black seed oil is being researched as a COVID-19, coronavirus inhibitor, because of similar effects on previous respiratory viral infections.

Dosage and use: Standardized extract of 500 mg one to two times per day is the average black seed oil dosage.

Now onto our next one, Curcumin…

Curcumin

Curcumin is arguably the top overall supplement for health optimizers, after the 5 core supplements.

As the “King of Adaptogens,”, curcumin acts as “Nature’s Anti-inflammatory.”

Inflammation and our immune system are critical wellness regulators as they are both involved with practically every known modern disease.

Studies show curcumin can promote healthy cells while improving our immune system’s response in detecting and interfering with the replication of pathogens and cancer cells.

With 4,000 years of use and as a member of the ginger family, turmeric, (Curcuma longa), is a sacred plant in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and now has growing support for its use in western medicine.

From antioxidants to anti-inflammatory actions to cardiovascular and cognitive support, and beyond the polyphenol, curcumin is a top supplement for all health optimizers.

Curcumin acts as a popular anti-inflammatory with extensive supporting research offering noteworthy body and brain benefits.

Curcumin Benefits

Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most studies used turmeric extracts that are standardized to include large amounts of curcumin.

Chronic inflammation contributes to many common Western diseases. Curcumin can suppress many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation.

• Curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects. It neutralizes free radicals on its own but also stimulates your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.

Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by joint inflammation. Many studies show that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis and is in some cases more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.

• Curcumin leads to several changes on the molecular level that may help prevent and perhaps even treat cancer.

• Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to lead to various improvements in the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease.

• Curcumin boosts levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which increases the growth of new neurons and fights various degenerative processes in your brain.

• A study in 60 people with depression showed that curcumin was as effective as Prozac in alleviating symptoms of the condition.

•Due to its many positive health effects, such as the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer, curcumin may aid longevity.

Curcumin has beneficial effects on several factors known to play a role in heart disease. It improves the function of the endothelium and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant.

Dosage and use: Up to 2,000 mg per day in standardized extract form depending on the indication. Quality and type are critically important in getting curcumin to work as an adaptogenic herb.

Curcumin
Curcumin, the king of adaptogens!!

Eleuthero or siberian ginseng

Eleuthero is a small, woody shrub. People use the root of the plant to make medicine. Eleuthero is sometimes called “Siberian ginseng”. But eleuthero is not related to true ginseng. Don’t confuse it with American or Panax ginseng.

Eleuthero is often called an “adaptogen.” This is a non-medical term used to describe compounds that might improve resistance to stress. But there is no good evidence showing that eleuthero has adaptogen-like effects.

Eleuthero is used for diabetes, athletic performance, memory and thinking skills (cognitive function), the common cold, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence supporting most of its uses.

The next 6 adaptogens will be revealed next week, in part 2...

My conclusion

Adaptogen herbs could be an essential part of helping you manage stress, but they should not be considered as a ‘miracle cure’. Instead, they should be used in conjunction with a whole-body treatment and care that already includes;

Love
Adaptogens are a great help, but in the end love conquers all!!

I believe stress in small and controlled ways can be a good thing because it can mobilize our body to cope with changes and challenges. But on the other hand, too much stress can damage your health. So maybe the key to a long and healthy life is being able to manage this fine line between too much and too little stress. In this continuous tug of war, adaptogens can be a great help.

The list of adaptogen herbs here above is non-exhaustive, and if you know of others please share them with the community. 

Until next week, take care my friends.

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.

10 reasons why love can make you live longer!!

As you know far too well, what you eat and how you move your body matters for longevity. But what about Love?

Loving relationship
Love conquers all!!

According to the Beatles, “ All we need is Love”, not entirely true, of course, but a loving relationship, loving someone and being loved in return, not only makes you happier, it can help you live longer. All these benefits are especially important during these difficult covid times when loneliness and isolation are high. In our household, there is no shortage of love, and it has been and continues to be, a real lifesaver in this uncertain and ever-changing world. In my quest for a long, healthy and fulfilling life to 100, I have come up with a list of reasons why we should make a conscious effort to focus on love and meaningful relationships rather than disempowering and negative thoughts.  So here they are, in no particular order, the ” 10 reasons why love can make you live longer”.

Reason nº1: Love is free.

The world of wellness is a 4.2 trillion dollar industry. From supplements to superfoods, stem cell infusion, detox programs and much more, people are constantly chasing the latest and best habit or miracle product to help them live longer. A very costly pursuit, to be sure.  But loving is free, all you need is love in your heart and the willingness to share it and spread it. Scientists call these factors soft health drivers and love is not the only one, gratitude, optimism, kindness, compassion and volunteerism are a few more. They can make everyday living better and add years, if not decades, to your life.

loving couple
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” …

Reason nº2: Love is healthy for us!

These soft health drivers appear to be connected with reducing stress and inflammation, increasing feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin, having positive effects on emotions and supporting your overall brain health. 

Meaningful touch, like intimacy from a loving relationship or even non-sexual touch amongst friends, can have positive effects on our immune system, on our nervous system and on our mood. It can lower blood pressure, improve the way we fight illnesses and increase oxytocin which plays a role in social bonding. In fact, the power of touch from a positive relationship and its effect on the body is such that in some cases people have recovered much faster from an illness or an injury. Martha Zaraska, author of the book,” Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100” says “The truth is, it’s extremely biological and physiological,” and explains that. “We are social apes. We evolved to be living in our tribe and this is how our bodies function the best.”

Reason nº3: Protects the brain!

Love and meaningful relationships have a positive effect on the brain as they tend to slow down mental decline over time. It’s as if it protects your brain, and keeps your memories sharper for longer!

love increases oxytocin
The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard but must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

Reason nº 4: Love Reduces stress!

To say that love heals all might be a bit of an overstatement! But from a medical point of view, a strong connection with loved ones protects the body from producing high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And this, in turn, offers protection from various diseases including cardiovascular diseases, heart attack in particular..

Reason nº5: Love helps you cope with work!

As an employee or a business owner, we are all too well aware of the challenges and demands that work has on our daily life. It’s been even tougher during this covid pandemic. Believe it or not, love can help us cope with this area of life too. When you love and you feel loved at home and in your close social circle, you tend to build a solid ground around you, and it’s this place of security and confidence that helps you to endure and/or thrive in your workplace.

Reason nº6: Love Prevents Broken heart syndrome!

I had never heard of Broken heart syndrome until now. This syndrome results from acute emotional stress and can lead to actual heart failure. It is believed that high levels of stress hormones which are released in response to fear, anxiety, loneliness, etc, may trigger the syndrome. Love and meaningful relationships can be a powerful remedy to this Broken heart syndrome.

Love is for always
The best thing to hold onto in life is each other. Audrey Hepburn

Reason nº 7: Love helps release oxytocin!

Oxytocin also is known as “ The love hormone” is released after childbirth to build a solid bond between mother and baby. Oxytocin plays a major role during relationships and many other human interactions. This hormone has antidepressant effects, lower cortisol levels and boosts your immune system.

Every time you gaze lovingly into your Dogs or Cats eyes, its levels of oxytocin, also know as the “attachment hormone” — go up. And so do yours. Oxytocin is released when we hug, touch, or look lovingly into someone’s eyes. 

Dog releases oxytocin
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Anatole France, French Poet

Reason nº 8: Love requires training!

If you look at the huge flow of decisions we make on a continuous base, those that are motivated by thoughtful consideration come from our higher mind (frontal lobe), whereas those based on fear and survival instincts come from a more primitive mind (amygdala). When decisions are informed by our higher mind, they are more likely to lead to positive outcomes. Alternatively, decisions driven by survival instincts from the past don’t have such a positive outcome and tend to hold us back.

At any given moment we have the choice of allowing our thoughts and actions to be moved by impulses such as anger, frustration, jealousy, and boredom, or to consciously switch to acting out of love, kindness and compassion. And just as physical health requires exercise, good emotional health requires regular and conscious efforts to focus on more positive emotions. And you will soon notice that by choosing love over any other negative emotion, your body will immediately be filled with a sensation of calm and peace.

Try it! It’s so satisfying and it might even bring a smile to your face!  Devoting time to the art of love is a smart investment, as it plays a major role in your own happiness, but also helps you live healthier for longer.

loving your kids
The giving of love is an education in itself. Eleanor Roosevelt

Reason nº9: Love keeps our brain growing!

Louis Cozolino, professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, emphasizes that “Of all the experiences we need to survive and thrive, it is the experience of relating to others that is the most meaningful and important,”. Our brains, Cozolino writes, are social organs, and that means that we are wired to connect with each other and to interact in groups. A life that maximizes social interaction and human-to-human contact is good for the brain at every stage, particularly for the ageing brain. I couldn’t agree more!!

“How we bond and stay attached to others is at the core of our resilience, self-esteem and physical health,” Cozolino writes. “We build the brains of our children through our interaction with them, and we keep our own brains growing and changing throughout life by staying connected to others.”

Reason nº10: Love helps us lead extraordinarily long lives! 

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks! For far too long we have associated ageing with loss and mental decline.  Since the human brain is almost endlessly adapting throughout the life cycle and new neurons continue to grow until the end of life, change is as possible for older people as for infants. As we grow older, what may be lost in short-term memory is balanced by an ability to reflect and to hold multiple perspectives and may become more compassionate. 

loving grandparents
To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Cozolino’s conviction is that “ People who lead extraordinarily long lives are those who have maintained close ties to others. Centenarians tend to be more extraverted and have higher morale, indicative of reaching out to others, giving and receiving support, and maintaining attachments.

I totally share this conviction, and as a father (not yet a grandfather) my prime mission in life is to continually enrich my close ties to others. Primarily, to my wife and kids, and extending this circle to family, friends and possibly to strangers as well.

 My Conclusion!

I do believe Love to be the biggest contributing factor to living a happy, healthy and fulfilling life until your 100th birthday! I am not diminishing the importance of what you eat, and how much you move, but ultimately it’s the quality of your close relationships that matter most.

So, more than ever, this is the time to unglue your hands from your mobile phones, refrain from scrolling through Facebook, and take a break from watching your favourite TV series. Instead, reach out to old friends you haven’t spoken to in a while, learn a new hobby with your spouse, engage more with your kids or grandkids because the key to a long and happy life is nurturing the relationships that bring you the most joy!

As a final note, I would like to add one of Cozolino’s practical advice gems for older people. “Those who are grandparents have a clear opportunity to nurture their grandchildren, help that is sorely needed in this day and age. For others, volunteering in various capacities can foster healthy relationships. Not only are such connections good for aging people themselves, but they are also beneficial for society as a whole. 

He writes, “Instead of putting our elders out to pasture, we might learn to harness the experience, affection, and time they have to offer.”

Take care my friends, until next week!

Don’t forget to spread the Love.

Smart Living To 100.

How to start a fasting routine that works for you?

feeling energized.
Fasting activates the rejuvination process!

I believe that each and every person on this beautiful planet, including you, was born with a unique purpose or calling and to achieve this purpose we must equip ourselves with a sound body and mind and take the necessary steps to live for as long as possible. My purpose is to get to my 100th birthday, feeling happy, healthy and fulfilled. Fasting is one of my primary strategies and whether you do it daily, weekly or monthly, this ancestral practice is probably the most important and potent tool to promote healthy ageing and longevity, as well as improve and maintain ideal body composition (weight loss), optimize performance and just to feel energized and amazing.

Now that we got the belief part out of the way, the real question in everybody’s mind is: How to start a fasting routine that works for you? By the time you finish reading this week’s blog, you will see why you should fast, learn the various forms of fasting and intermittent fasting that anyone can start and, most importantly, how to implement fasting in your routine.

Why Should We Fast?

Three years ago if you had asked me to skip breakfast, I would have laughed and walked away! Like most people, I was grazing all day, having snacks, energy bars and power drinks between my meals and to give me a boost for my daily workouts. Little did I know at the time that this constant feasting mode could have some serious long term implications for my health and my longevity, such as…

  • Increased risk of inflammation
  • Inefficient digestion and elimination of waste
  • Always using sugar for fuel as opposed to fat 
  • Increased fat storage, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor defenses
  • Prevention of the body’s natural process of rejuvenation .

At that time, when a friend of mine told me all the benefits that a simple 12 hour fast could have on your body I started being interested.

intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting and excercise will keep you in optimal shape!

 Here are a few of the benefits of fasting:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased fat burning and the mild ketosis
  • Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
  • Improved mental clarity and concentration
  • Increased energy due to increased fat metabolism and ketone production.
  • Reduction of brain fog
  • Possibly increasing growth hormone.
  • Can contribute to a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Depending on the length of the fasting, activation of cellular cleansing by stimulating autophagy which is the cellular self-cleansing process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cellular organelles.
  • Better blood lipid markers including cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and blood pressure.
  • Get lean without losing muscle mass by stimulating growth hormone and testosterone.
  • Potentially increase longevity, as when you are fasting your body finds ways to extend your life.
  • Normalise appetite by regulating ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
  • Improve sleep quality

This is like taking a magic pill that extends lifespan and promotes anti-ageing effects. So what is fasting?

What is Fasting and intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is probably the most popular way to get the benefits of caloric restriction without starving yourself. In simple terms, Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. There are several different intermittent fasting times, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods.  Water, black coffee and unsweetened tea during the fasting period are typically fine.

  • Time-restricted feeding: Consuming all foods within a 3 to 12-hour window, so you have at least 12 hours of fasting daily. That’s right, just by changing your mealtimes and reducing the number of hours you eat, you are already getting most of the benefits of fasting. This is not a diet, and during your feeding time, you don’t count calories nor restrict them. 
  • 12:12 Overnight fasting; Fast all night long for 12 hours Feed during the day in the remaining 12-hour window.

14:10 Fast for 14 hours, feed in a 10 hour window.

16:8 The 16/8 method, also called the Leangains protocol is probably one of the most popular ones for weight loss, where you skip breakfast and restrict your feeding window to 8 hours, such as from 12.30 to 8.30 pm. Then fast again for 16 hours.

 8 hour feeding window is one of the most popular ones.

  • Alternate day fasting (ADF): As the name indicates, you eat normally for 24 hours and then not eat ( fast ) for the next 24 hours. Dr Jason Fung outlines that ADF in humans has been found to both improve metabolic health by promoting improved blood glucose management, blood lipid profiles, and metabolic flexibility, while also reducing weight. However, this is not recommended as a long term approach for most people. 
  • Eat – STOP – Eat, is one of the simplest fasting methods as you fast for 24h (for example, fasting from 8 pm to 8 pm the next day) once or twice a week. This a more manageable approach, I used to fast on Mondays and Thursdays. Mondays were easier to do as weekends were my feast days.
  • Warrior diet: Fast for 20 Hours, feeding window 4 hours;

The Warrior Diet is quickly becoming a common option and choice among fitness experts for losing fat and gaining lean muscle. The diet itself was created and researched by Ori Hofmekler, it extends the fasting window to 20 hours and compresses the eating time down to just four hours. The warrior diet encourages some snacking throughout the day, by munching on things like raw fruits and vegetables. Then, it suggests a feast at night, usually in the form of a large dinner.

  • One Meal A Day (OMAD)Fasting window: 23 Hour and only 1 hour eating time

This is one of the most controversial dietary options due to its limited food intake throughout the day. However, the OMAD diet has been proven to be beneficial for the human body.

Feed: Choosing your feeding window is important. It may be best to eat breakfast or lunch to ensure proper sleep. If you choose dinner, ensure it’s at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.

  • Fasting mimicking diet( FMD): For 4 to 5 days reduce your calorie intake to about 40 per cent of your normal food or calorie intake. Then go back to normal.

OPTIMAL TIMING

A 12-16 hour fasting window seems to be ideal for most people. Females tend to do better with longer feeding windows, like 10-12 hours. My most preferred window is also the 16 hours fasting between 8 pm and 12 am because it fits with my working schedule as I simply ignore breakfast and carry on my fast till lunchtime.

Prolonged or Extended Fasts

Amongst the fasting experts, it is believed that the most dramatic anti-ageing benefits are attained if the fast is prolonged between 3 to 10 days. It’s recommended to work with a medical provider before undertaking a fast longer than two days. In essence, the real benefit of prolonged fasting (more than 3 days) is to fully activate the rejuvenation response associated with fasting. Dr Valter Longo believes that this is the time frame when autophagy up-regulates and cellular regeneration peaks. Cognitive function improvement is also frequently reported.

In Jason Fung’s book “The Obesity Code”, he outlines two example methods of fasting; 24 hours & 36-hour fasts. Find out here 2 PDF download.

How do you do intermittent fasting?

Just to quote Dr Michael Eades “Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is the opposite –  it’s difficult in the contemplation and easy in the execution.”

If you have never gone more than 10 hours without eating, you will need to be introduced gently into intermittent fasting.  Gently means that you should do it at your own pace, it is a trial and error practise that must fit around your busy schedule. But the chances are that in your lifetime you have already skipped a meal and therefore have already been introduced to this fasting notion.

Before you start your fasting, make sure your last meal contains protein, fibres for slow digestion and fats to provide you with a long-lasting energy source.

1 – Start by 12 hours fasting and, for me, the easiest was from 8.30 pm to 8.30 am the next day. In truth, pick the time that suits you best, just after your evening meal, add 12 hours and that’s the time you can refuel with breakfast. Then once you have mastered the 12 hours fasting gap, over a 2 week period, then increase it by one hour every 2 weeks. See how you feel, take your time,  this is not a race, and if you want to stop at 12 hours, this is a great achievement.

2 – Regardless of when you fast, stay well hydrated with water and drinks such as herbal tea throughout the day.  Some people recommend black coffee, no sugar, no milk or cream, to stave off the hunger pangs during the fasting time. Needless to say that the water quality that you drink during your fasting is of the utmost importance. So pick some good quality glass bottled water or get it from a countertop reverse osmosis filtration system.

Black coffee is a great help when you start fasting!

3 – On fasting days avoid strenuous activities like a heavy gym session, CrossFit or long-distance running.  Instead, opt for low-intensity cardio, like a long walk or a light yoga routine.

4 – During your eating period, it is recommended to eat several small meals and snacks to stabilise your blood sugar levels and to keep your hunger under control.  The quality of your food is crucial and you should avoid the wrong calories, including refined carbohydrates, sugar/fructose and grains.

5 – Once you have extended your fasting window from 12 to 16 hours, I would recommend maintaining it for at least a month, so it becomes a new habit. I would typically have lunch at 1 pm at work and enjoy my evening meal with my family at around 9 pm. Breakfast was typically a meal that I would eat on my own, so skipping it wasn’t a big deal. Do whatever works for you. 

6-Once you are comfortable with fasting for 16 hours a day and have done for at least a month, then jump to 24 hours fast is your next goal. I’ve done 24-hour fasts in the past, there is a wide range of variations and options but making it work into your schedule was by far my biggest hurdle. For example, in my case after skipping breakfast, if I was to skip lunch or work through my lunch hour, I would then refuel in the evening. Another perfect opportunity to throw in a 24 hour fast is during a long day of travel or the day after a big holiday feast. 

7 – There are many reasons why people fast, mine was merely to promote healthy ageing and longevity, maintain my ideal body weight, feel energized and amazing most of the time. So with this in mind, I came up with my ideal weekly fasting routine. This routine was simple but effective for me.

 Monday 24 hour fast, from sunday 8.30 pm to monday 8.30 pm

Tuesday 16 hour fast, from monday 8.30 pm to tuesday 1.30 pm

Wednesday  16 hour fast ,from tuesday 8.30 pm to wednesday 1.30 pm

Thursday 24 hour fast, from wednesday 8.30 pm to thursday 8.30 pm

Friday 16 hour fast, from thursday 8.30 pm to friday 1.30 pm

Saturday and Sunday, feasting time, I allow myself to eat whenever I feel like it !!

I would follow a 80 to 90 % varied plant based diet. 

plant base diet
Plant based diet.

Frequently asked question?

How long do you fast for? Simply put, it means you stop eating completely, or almost completely, for a certain stretch of time. A fast usually lasts from 12 to 24 hours, but some types continue for days at a time. In some cases, you may be allowed water, tea, and coffee or even a small amount of food during the fasting period.

Is fasting good for your health? Regular fasting can decrease your low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol. It’s also thought that fasting may improve the way your body metabolizes sugar. This can reduce your risk of gaining weight and developing diabetes, which are both risk factors for heart disease.

Is it safe to fast for 3 days? While fasting for 3 days is relatively safe for most people, it can be quite dangerous for some people. These exceptions include patients with diabetes, as it can lead to dangerous dips and spikes in blood sugar, pregnant women, new moms or breastfeeding women.

Should I intermittent fast every day? This cycle can be repeated as frequently as you like — from just once or twice per week to every day, depending on your personal preference. 16/8 intermittent fasting has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, especially among those looking to lose weight and burn fat.

How many hours should I fast to lose weight? While men will typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours, women may find better results by eating for 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours.

Conclusion

During these difficult times, where many of us are forced to be at home, it is easy to revert back to overfeeding, snacking, and constant grazing. I am not here to blame or judge, as my carefully planned feeding week went completely out the window during my first lockdown. Now home again for the second time this year, I didn’t want the same thing to happen again, so I tightened my schedule, injected a bit of discipline and came up with my new lockdown routine. 

I would love to hear your take on fasting during lockdown, and what works best for you?

Take care my friends, eat well ( but not too much) and see you 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.

Why we should support young music artist in 2020?

Do you think the world of music will ever return to normal? In the grip of the Covid 19 pandemic, some say the music scene as we know it is gone forever, while others offer a more gradual and positive view and are convinced we will return to as it was, or it will evolve to something better. Although online consumption has risen, music makers are still struggling. With cancelled concerts, tours and festivals ruled out, venues and gigs closed down, the young music artists are out of pocket for 2020 and possibly the best part of 2021. So, why should we support young artists in 2020?

Today, I want to share a video cover from a promising singer-songwriter called Matilda Gracia. Yes, she is my daughter, and yes I am biased, but like many other musicians she has had her career in London come to a halt because of this pandemic. Now she is back in Mallorca out of pocket but still producing music videos on youtube, writing numerous new songs and using this pause in time as fuel to keep her creativity flowing. As a way to support her as a young music artist, I wanted to share with you one of her latest videos, that we filmed at a beautiful location, on top of a mountain in the north of Mallorca.

Just like Matilda, millions of people around the world have turned to music to help them through the crisis. From balcony-based sing-alongs to megastar global broadcasts, from listening to the latest hits to learning a new instrument, music has become embedded in our responses to disrupted lives. For many people, it might have even been their lifeline to sanity whilst in isolation.  During my first lockdown, thanks to Spotify, I have rediscovered some older artists that I had completely forgotten, it has helped me punch through countless hours of training on my 2m square mat, and finally, music has made time feel sweeter than it really was.

This is hardly surprising, as music has so many health benefits ranging from improving mood, reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory and cognition, and has been proven to help autistic children and premature babies.

So how can we help young music artists?

  • Spare a few coins and donate to a local busker.
  • Do you miss live performances?

I know I do, we can still watch our favourite artists live stream from the comfort of our homes and, even better, donate the price that you would have paid for a ticket directly to them to show appreciation for their art. 

And if times are really really tough for you and you can’t donate anything right now there are still many ways to support independent artists. Sharing their music and videos on Facebook, Instagram, youtube or social media platforms, commenting and sharing directly to friends and family members. There are so many ways in which we can support the music industry, it’s important to support in as many ways as we can. 

I know I’ll do my best to support young music artists as they are the future of our music industry. I am not an avid music follower, but it has always been such a help to me especially during difficult moments.. boosting my morale, energising me and relieving some amount of stress.

So I would put music on my list of essentials, on my journey to 100.

Take care my friends, I hope you enjoy this video, and until next week.

Smart Living To 100

How can I optimize my sleep time?

How can I optimize my sleep time? I have asked myself this question many times…Maybe you have too. Maybe you spend long stressy hours at work and don’t seem to be able to wind down. Maybe you love staying up past midnight, eating and watching your favourite TV series on Netflix and can’t seem to get up in the morning. Maybe being busy parents all day long, you just feel tired and drained all the time. Whatever the case, lack of sleep or a night of poor sleep, can lead to inflammation, lack of energy, brain fog, and inhibit creativity, memory and cellular regeneration.

So, during my trip towards my 100th birthday, a good night’s sleep has become one of my most important travelling companions on the road to becoming a centenarian.

What does it mean to crack the code on sleep? In today’s blog, I will cover a few simple habits that you can implement before bedtime and what to do to limit the damage of a night of poor sleep.

Dog waiting for owner to wake up

How to prepare for a good night sleep?

1- Hack your sleep environment!

  • Your bed has to be comfortable!! Ensure your mattress is not too old.  Experts recommend changing it every 8 years to keep your sleep and rest quality in optimum condition.
  • Make sure to have comfortable pillows and a diffuser/ humidifier that gently releases soothing and relaxing essential oil fragrances. If you don’t have a diffuser just put a drop of your preferred essential oil under your pillow. Lavender works wonders for me. It slows me down immediately. Recent research found that lavender increases slow-wave sleep, instrumental for slowing heartbeat and relaxing muscles. Subjects slept more soundly on a lavender night and were feeling more energetic the next morning. 
  • Keep your bedroom cool or even chilled. I sleep with the window open even in winter as it helps me to sleep better. If you live in a cold climate, keeping the window open may not be a good idea and if you live in warmer countries you could sleep with a chill pad. 
  • Others like a weighted blanket, like our grandparents, had!! Those heavy quilts would pin you down to the mattress and prevent you from moving.
  • If you live in warmer climates having mosquito nets at the windows or over your bed could drastically reduce sleep disturbance. Living in Mallorca, this a necessary precaution if you don’t want to be up all night chasing those annoying flying creatures.
Sleep disturbance
A big meal before bed could disturb your sleep

2- How light affects your sleep?

It is so important to respect your body’s natural rhythm, the sleep-wake cycle, also called a circadian rhythm. This is a biological clock that is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, a group of cells that respond to light and dark signals.

Going to sleep at the same hour every day is so important! This will send a regular message to the body’s internal clock and will optimize your sleep quality. In practice, this means that you need to go to bed when you feel tired and wake up naturally at first light. Ideally, we should sleep between 7 to 9 hours every night, and whenever possible I like to be in bed by 10.30/11 pm in order to wake up at 6.30/7 am. This is not so easy to fine-tune but it is worth spending some time working on this to optimize your sleep quality. 

As you wake up, it is a good idea to go for a light to moderate walk for 10 to 20 mins. This very simple habit will get you moving and quick start your serotonin production. During the day, as you increase your sunlight exposure, your levels of serotonin rise in order to keep you awake and sharp until night time. Melatonin is the sleep hormone your brain produces when it is dark in order to regulate your sleep/wake cycle. As night time approaches, the production of melatonin increases to make you sleepy until it is daytime again. The precursor to melatonin is serotonin, so the more serotonin you produce during the day the more will be converted into melatonin at night, and the better you will sleep.

At night, avoid bright screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer screen, TV etc, prevents and/or delays the production of melatonin. So make sure your bedroom is a dark, restful place, and that no electronic devices are allowed in!

If you must stay up later than usual, wear blue light blockers. These special glasses block this blue light. It does take a few days to get used to the orange glow of those glasses, but once you have, you will notice a soothing and calming effect on your vision and eye muscles coupled with a slight mellow feeling. If you have to work from home or have an online business and work late on your computer, it is imperative that you did your screen from 8 pm onwards and wear your blue blockers.

Finally, stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights two hours before heading to bed. This last recommendation might make you smile…I have to admit, ever since we have Netflix, I haven’t been able to stick to this one. So I wear my blue blockers!

3-How Smells Affect your Sleep

The smell cells in our nose are directly linked to the limbic system. This is the oldest part of the brain and governs emotions, behaviours and long term memory. In a study held at the University of Heidelberg, participants that were exposed to pleasant smells (flower scents) had positive dreams, and those exposed to unpleasant ones (Sulfur lead) had bad dreams or nightmares. So why not use our sense of smell to improve your sleep quality?

Lavender, Rose and bergamot are 3 natural olfactory compounds that induce relaxation as they activate the “rest and digest “ parasympathetic nervous system ( PNS). Once activated, the PNS inhibits activity in organs related to the “fight or flight” response and excites organs used to “rest and digest” in order to calm and relax you.

coffee expresso
I would not include this expresso smell on the following list…

These scents can help you sleep better 

  • Rose: The smell of roses can actually lower blood pressure and the number of breaths you take per minute, which makes falling asleep easier.
  • Lavender: A classic soothing smell, lavender has been proven to lower anxiety, stress levels, pain and more by reducing your heart rate.
  • Geranium: If you are worried or nervous about something before going to bed, Geranium has a relaxing effect on the mood and is often named as a natural antidepressant.
  • Clary sage: Clary sage is different from regular sage, specifically regarding its effect on sleep, as it is considered to be more calming. A study also found clary sage had antidepressant effects for menopausal women.
  • Sweet marjoram: Once a staple fragrance of upper-class ladies, sweet marjoram is one of the most pleasant and classy scents around. There are multiple forms of marjoram, sweet marjoram being recommended specifically for insomnia due to its calming qualities.
  • Jasmine: Another bedtime classic, Jasmine has a rather sweet scent that studies have linked to reduced anxiety levels and higher sleep quality.

I love the smell of Lavender, it’s my all-time calming smell and to be honest one drop is sufficient to help me to drift off and breathe my way to a better night’s sleep.

4-How Sounds Affect your Sleep

As the saying goes, silence is golden. Sleeping in a noisy space not only disrupts the quality of your sleep, but it can also leave you feeling less satisfied with your overall sleep experience and unrested. At some point, you’ve probably laid awake, listening to the distant sound of sirens, barking dogs, noisy neighbours, and a myriad of noises that encroach in your nighttime sleep.  Part of the reason is that during sleep, the brain continues to register and process sounds, affecting everything from heart rate to blood pressure, which in turn can trigger you to wake up.

One of the most effective ways to dampen all those noises is either earplugs or special wrap-around headphones that can play relaxing nighttime sounds to lull you to sleep. 

Binaural beats are another sound hack for enhanced sleep, as they trick the brain into tuning to a specific frequency that will induce a state of sleep.

Coffee can help you stay awake

5-How a cool room improves your Sleep!

Ever since I started the Wim hof method, I am a great advocate of cold showers before my bedtime. This works wonders, especially if I had a big meal, or if I stayed up later than my normal time. As you probably know, the body temperature drops by as much as 2 degrees Cº while you sleep. Your core temperature is high during the day and drops at night. As you sleep your metabolic rate falls and you generate less heat.

So after a busy day of going to meetings, working out, eating too much, etc, it is important to have a cool down time to lower your body temperature before bedtime.

Other than the cold shower, some people prefer a warm shower, a hot-cold contrast shower ending on cold, cold air, or the use of chilipads. These Chilipads use water to generate a cool surface to sleep on. Just slip the pad underneath the sheets of your bed, “ et voila” you have an immediate cooldown effect… Whatever you use, just cool your body before sleep!

How to limit the damage of a night of poor sleep?

1- The first thing as you get up and start your day, is to rehydrate. Your cells need both water and minerals to maintain an aqueous balance, especially after a night of poor sleep. So it is important to drink plenty of water, consume good quality sea salt, and some sort of trace mineral drops.

2-Get moving out in the sun! One of the best ways to reset your biological clock is to get outside and catch some rays of sunshine and start moving. Whether you do a yoga session, a light aerobic workout, or simply a long walk, it’s all good! The subtle combination of daylight, light exercise and vitamin D will help to realign your circadian rhythm.

3- 20 min nap! So if you have missed a chunk of your ideal 7 to 9 hours of sleep, napping can be a good solution to help you get through sleep deprivation. It is advisable to limit your nap to 20 mins. Any longer and you run the risk of interfering with your next sleep cycle. If you feel one nap is not enough, take a second or a third one, as long as you keep it under 20 mins. This works for me, however, some sleep experts advise against it! I suppose because we are all different, the best you can do is try it!

4Limit your caffeine intake! After a night of poor sleep, your first reflex might be to consume large amounts of coffee. I have done that in the past and think” the more coffee the better”! Wrong! Although one to 2 cups of coffee might help your state of alertness, overconsumption of caffeine will interfere with your next night’s sleep, and will only contribute to deepening the sleep deprivation cycle.

5- Eat well! Avoid at all costs opting for refined carbs and fats. This will only make you more tired. Instead consume veggies, nuts and seeds, berries, eggs, porridge, fresh fruits, and if at all possible replace coffee with green tea. 

Sleeping
Sleep what a wonderful gift…

How can I optimize my sleep time FAQ

A-How can I get maximum slepp in less time?

Tips to sleep less

  1. Give yourself time to wind down. The goal here is to train your body to fall asleep when you’re tired. …
  2. Turn off your electronic devices. …
  3. Limit alcohol consumption at night. …
  4. Avoid caffeine late in the day. …
  5. Cooldown your bedroom. …
  6. Reduce noise. …
  7. Stick to a routine. …
  8. Buy a new pillow.

B-How long does it take to ajust to your sleep schedule?

Make adjustments in increments.

If you have less time to prepare for your new schedule, try 30 minutes, she said. (But no more than that.) Give yourself at least three or four nights to get comfortable with the new schedule. If it’s going well, on the fourth or fifth night, shave off another 15 minutes.

C-How can I fall asleep in 10 seconds?

The military method

  1. Relax your entire face, including the muscles inside your mouth.
  2. Drop your shoulders to release the tension and let your hands drop to the side of your body.
  3. Exhale, relaxing your chest.
  4. Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.
  5. Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene.

D-Is sleeping naked better for your health?

Lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes

By sleeping naked, you may increase your ability to fall asleep faster and stay asleep, which could make all the difference when it comes to your health.

E-Is 4 hours of sleep enough?

For most people, 4 hours of sleep per night isn’t enough to wake up feeling rested and mentally alert, no matter how well they sleep. There’s a common myth that you can adapt to chronically restricted sleep, but there’s no evidence that the body functionally adapts to sleep deprivation.

My take on Sleep

For many years I haven’t paid attention to my sleep simply because I was able to slip under the duvet, close my eyes and drop off like a log. Ever since the first lockdown, I seem to have lost this magical ability. I suppose these uncertain times, with a possible job loss and the start of my own online business, were cause for worries and possibly have contributed to me having a lighter sleep than before. 

Nonetheless, after applying some of the strategies listed above and paying attention to my pre nighttime routine, this has been a game-changer for me. Sleep is so important, and it’s not until you experience poor sleep that you appreciate how really essential sleep really is.

With my new revised pre-sleep routine I feel ready to have much more quality sleeps before my 100th birthday.

Take care my friends, and until next week I wish you sweet slumber!!

Smart Living To 100.

DIVING IN EERY GHOST SHIP – 39m Wreck dive, MALLORCA.

For this week’s blog, I am going to take you underwater, for a deep dive to almost 40 m. As a dive instructor, I have taken many divers down below the surface to discover the wonders of this blue planet. Although I have enjoyed almost all of them, for me there is nothing like diving with your family. Today I will be diving with my daughter Matilda. It’s her first dive below 30 m, so she is very excited! It is a perfect day to dive, light southerly wind, sunny, blue skies and calm sea! All this promotes excellent visibility!

Matilda all ready for her descent into the deep blue…

And if that’s not enough, this deep dive will be centred around a wreck with a mysterious history!! This wreck is called the Andrea Ferrara, an old wooden trawler approximately 25 m in length, and in her heyday used to float around Puerto Pollensa bay. Approximately 15 years ago, she totally disappeared from these beautiful waters. Two years ago some local divers performing their exploratory dives found her at the bottom of the sea, right slap bang in the middle of the bay in very good condition, but this time surrounded by thousands of fish and covered in underwater flora. To this day nobody really knows what happened to the “Andrea Ferrara”!

Chilling before our dive…

I hope you enjoy diving deep down with us. Personally, I love diving and snorkelling so much that I am going to keep visiting the underwater world for as long as possible, at least till my 100th birthday or more.

Thanks for watching, take care my friends.

Until next week.

Smart Living To 100.

12 health benefits of snorkelling!

If you live far from the sea, the only time you hear the word snorkelling is during your holidays. It’s surprising that snorkelling is not a more popular form of exercise. To enjoy snorkelling you just need a mask to see underwater, a snorkel to breathe without lifting your head, and possibly a pair of fins and all of these are fairly inexpensive. Without these, you’re just swimming. And as I dug deeper into this subject, I was amazed to discover 12 health benefits of snorkelling, making this popular water activity one of my most favourite form of exercise.

Just imagine meeting one of those while snorkeling…

So if like me you are interested in snorkelling and why it’s good for your body, mind and soul, just carry on reading this blog! Maybe these are enough reasons for you to consider this recreational activity as your main form of exercise. I am lucky enough to live near the coast, in Mallorca, a small village called Puerto Pollensa and I have managed to weave this activity into my weekly exercise routine.

Ready , set, go, in no particular order, here are the 12 health benefits of snorkelling!

1- Strengthens your muscles

Moving through water is no easy task! Whether you have fins or not, snorkelling will require your whole body to put in the effort, in order to propel you forward.

Snorkelling allows you to exercise almost every muscle group, including quads, hamstrings, calves, ankles, hip flexors, core, and shoulders. Water produces resistance to your body that demands strength and stamina in order to move.  This entire process is an excellent way to strengthen your muscles. If you snorkel with fins, they add some resistance which your legs have to work against. The type of water you’re snorkelling in will also affect how much it impacts your muscles. Rough water with more waves will require you to make a greater effort to move, which will strengthen your muscles even more. Similarly, it takes more force to move through colder water, and the more you exert your body, the stronger your muscles will become.

2-Helps achieve a better cardio

Sea creatures are constantly on the move from one spot to the next, so you’ll never encounter the same fish, octopus or moray eel. It’s always a unique, exhilarating experience. When you’re snorkelling, you will always be seeking to see something different in the water. This adrenalin rush will cause your heart rate to pump blood faster. Snorkelling is good for your heart, as it increases the heart rate and strengthens the heart muscle. Improved cardiovascular fitness helps decrease the risk of certain health problems, such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

3-Improves your breathing ability

When you’re snorkelling, you’re breathing through a tube and you need to regulate the rate at which you breathe in and out. This limited airflow demands you to breathe more efficiently and calmly than normal. In order to breathe efficiently, it is advisable to take deep long breaths to fully exchange and renew the air in your snorkel with each ventilation cycle. At first, deep breathing may feel unnatural because your body isn’t used to the feeling.  This is like a full-on workout for your lungs which improves your oxygen intake and in the long run, will increase your aerobic fitness. A smooth and well-organized underwater breathing increases your lung function and lung capacity. 

Improved lung capacity reduces your chances of getting heart diseases and facing other respiratory problems.

Find here a simple deep breathing exercise that will help you for snorkelling but also is particularly efficient at reducing stress:

  • Lie on your back on a bed/mat with a pillow under your head, you can also perform it whilst sitting.
  • Put one of your hands on your chest, and the other on your belly, so you can feel the movements of your rib cage and diaphragm, respectively
  • Inhale with your nose for a count of 4.
  • Exhale with your mouth for another count of 5 and keep your lips lightly pursed as if you were blowing a kiss
  • Focus on keeping the hand on your chest from moving as little as possible, concentrating your breath on the movement of your diaphragm/belly

4-Improves overall fitness

Not dissimilar to swimming, snorkelling requires you to move through the water. It is a great way to keep in shape, as it works out quads, hamstrings, calves, ankles, hip flexors, core and shoulders, improves oxygen intake, and strengthens your heart muscle. Snorkelling in itself improves overall strength and endurance, reduces stress and burns about 300 calories an hour.

5-It helps you be more relaxed

Snorkelling is one of my most preferred ways of disconnecting from the day to day stresses. The soothing effect of water, the deep slow breathing at the surface and the physical effort of swimming against currents, waves or tides, all add to a total mind and body experience. Popping your head underwater will further relax you as it is all quiet and peaceful below the waves.  Exercise, including snorkelling, can help relieve stress and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. Trust me, you will never realise how free and relaxed you can be until you spend some time underwater observing the fauna and flora.

6-It prevents you from becoming stiff

People with joint pain and weight problems sometimes find it difficult to perform regular cardiovascular exercises when they are on land. Snorkelling doesn’t put too much pressure on your joints and is a great way to get you started and loosen your body up.  If you’re dealing with muscle or joint pains, even slowly wading through the water can loosen your body.

Exercising in the water reduces the impact forces generally associated with other cardiovascular exercises like walking and jogging. If you have trouble exercising because of movement restrictions, consider snorkelling to start with your exercise program. The buoyancy of water eases joint pain and stiffness, facilitating workouts to improve flexibility and endurance, once you regain some mobility, you can move on to other more traditional exercises or increase the frequency and intensity of your snorkelling workout.

7-Be in a Better Mood

With all types of exercise including snorkelling, the brain releases copious amounts of endorphins that can elevate your mood. The deep and slow breathing that is practised during snorkelling further helps to relax you and put you in a better mood as well. Finally, it’s a great way to connect with people. Observing marine life, and sharing it with your family and/or friends will give you such a feel-good sense.

8-Overcoming the fear factor 

If you fear water, or you are dreading your next dive, snorkelling is a great place to start. You can begin by simply floating in shallow water, and start relaxing in the company of friends or family. If you feel panicked just stand up, catch your breath and try again. Once you have gained a bit more confidence just venture in deeper water, relax and enjoy the snorkelling experience. Snorkelling is helpful in overcoming a fear of diving or water, which is one of the psychological benefits.

9-Enhances athletic performance

Many swimmers or triathletes use a snorkel to build up their capacity to get through the water and the ability to breathe through the mouth. Front-mounted snorkels allow a swimmer to practice body position and arm pulls through the water without worrying about turning or raising the head to breathe. Triathletes, in particular, use the front-mounted snorkel as they work out in the pool with freestyle drills such as side-kick-switch and sculling. The ability to move through the water and to breathe throughout a drill smoothly can build lung and leg strength in a swimmer. When the weather does not allow me to go to sea, I train in an outdoor pool. Find here an amazing underwater workout to enhance your athletic performance.

10-Burn calories to lose weight

Snorkelling will definitely help you burn fat and lose weight. Because you’re mostly working your glutes (the largest muscle in the body) to flutter kick and propel through the sea, you’ll still get a decent calorie burn at 346 calories an hour. Depending on sea conditions and how intensely you snorkel you’ll also use your quads, hamstrings, your arms and shoulders. If you do decide to pop your head beneath the surface and swim a few meters underwater you will be burning even more calories. This is a perfect combination to lose weight. Plus, once underwater you’ll be so mesmerized by the scenery that you won’t get bored, it won’t feel like an obligatory exercise and you’ll want to repeat again and again. So while snorkelling you’ll get to explore incredible areas of the underwater world, you’ll have fun sharing this experience with friends, you’ll take care of your body and lose weight, all in one.

11-Not tough on the body

From age 7 to 97 or 100, snorkelling does not discriminate, there are no strict requirements on physical stamina, skills, and age all you have to do is jump in. I know for sure I intend to keep snorkelling until my 100th birthday or more if my body and mind still allows me to.

Children under parent supervision, as well as the elderly, can snorkel.  The Wolters Kluwer Health Clinic recommends swimming for people with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, conditions that cause inflammation, limited mobility and shoulder and neck problems. Using a snorkel and mask allows arthritis sufferers to limit painful neck movements so they can stick to an exercise routine. Even non-swimmers and beginners can go snorkelling after a bit of practice.

Oldests scuba diver

12-Connect with nature

In our modern way of life, most of us spend too much time sitting indoors, in front of screens, surrounded with artificial light, and totally disconnected with nature. 

There are many ways to reconnect with nature, hill walking, mountain climbing, cycling, and snorkelling is also one of them.  Getting to see these ocean creatures and plants while snorkelling is a great outdoor activity that not only works the body but tends to free your mind.

 Underwater etiquette is compulsory. Whenever you’re snorkelling, just make sure that you don’t try and touch the animals, take some empty shells, damage the coral or pull at the plants. Such actions can be detrimental to the ocean’s ecosystem.

My take on all these benefits

Well, I don’t know about you but I am very convinced that snorkelling is an interesting way of staying healthy and fit, an opportunity to see the beauty of the underwater world and fun activity you can engage with your family during your holidays. 

This ticks all the boxes for me and is definitely in my list of activities to propel me to 100. 

Take care my friends, until next week.

Smart Living To 100

Must watch !! 100-year-old scuba diver breaks world record!

How inspiring! Bill Lambert, 100 years old, celebrated his birthday with a dive, becoming the oldest scuba diver in the world. On the 25th of September 2020, he claimed this world record by completing a 27-minute dive at a depth of 12m/ 40 ft, at a lake in Illinois. He was guided by a member of Lowes Park Scuba dive centre and followed by numerous local news cameras and his daughter.

Oldests scuba diver
The point of SCUBA diving is not to focus on yourself; it’s to focus on the beauty of the underwater world. There’s nothing to accomplish on dives.

“It’s been pretty insane,” said Lambert’s daughter, Deb Steinfeld. “And the fact he’s still doing it and he’s still healthy enough to do it at 100 — he is an amazing guy.”

Bill Lambert’s message is clear,” try new things regardless of age”.

He started scuba diving at the age of 98. Then took a dive trip to Cozumel Mexico but did not submit for Guinness recognition. This time was his second attempt at the world record, having already dived at the age of 99, in the same location, Pearl Lake Illinois.

Bill says before he started scuba diving he was alive, but now, he is living his fullest life. And now his goal is to “live to 101 and break it again!”

Lambert’s final message to the local news was simple: “People should try it. If they like it, pursue it,”

Well, that’s it my friends, I have found my scuba diving role model.

Take care my friends, until next week.

Smart Living To 100.