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15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

brain function

The human brain is the most complex piece of hardware in the known universe.

It’s an immensely powerful tool.

The brain is also the device through which we decode and perceive reality. So to say that it’s important to optimize brain function is a severe understatement. I think we can all unanimously agree that it would be a good thing to improve brain function, right?

Instead of rambling on with more poetic descriptions of the brain, let’s just get straight to the applicable information.

15 Simple Ways to Improve Brain Function

1. Regular Practice – The brain, like everything else, is like a muscle. To strengthen it, it must be exercised regularly. Learn something new every day. Test your memory regularly. The more practice, the stronger it gets.

2. Variety – While regular practice is the foundation, it’s also important to switch things up. Do new things. Engage in unique experiences. This keeps you on your toes, highly adaptive, thinking spontaneously and builds the skill of learning how to learn.

3. Limit Sugar – Reduce your sugar intake (and processed, refined foods in general). Sugar is highly addictive and keeps you in the wired-then-tired trap of what I call “the insulin roller coaster.”

Limiting sugar will help you have healthy gut flora as well, which is intrinsically linked with brain health.

The brain can run on sugar (glucose) or fat (ketones). In both my experience and that of many other people, the brain operates optimally on fats.

4. Eat More Healthy Fats – Some of the best healthy fats are fish/krill oil, avocado, coconut oil, butter, olive oil…etc. Coconut oil, for example, appears to be an ideal brain food.

Here’s a challenge: Instead of starting your day with a carb-heavy breakfast, start with a cup of coffee (or tea) with a teaspoon of coconut oil in it. I call this combination “steroids for your brain.” Yes, it works. Try it out and feel the effects.

5. Intermittent Fasting – “Human and non-human animal studies have shown that IER (Intermittent Energy Restriction) increases synaptic plasticity (a biological marker of learning and memory), enhances performance on memory tests in the elderly, leads to the growth of new neurons, promotes recovery after stroke or traumatic brain injury, decreases risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and may improve quality of life and cognitive function for those already diagnosed with these diseases. IER has also been shown to play a preventative and therapeutic role in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.” (Stanford)

Want to try fasting? The best introduction I’ve come across regarding intermittent fasting is Eat Stop Eat. It does a great job of explaining the benefits of fasting and gives you a stupid simple protocol that gets amazing results. I’m actually doing a variation of Eat Stop Eat right now.

6. Brain Boosting Herbs – Brain boosting herbs include Gotu Kola (which I personally take every day), Brahmi, Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba. There’s a lot more too. Do a little research and see which one is best for you.

7. Learn a New Language – Learning a new language literally opens up a new world to us. When we expand our horizons, neuroplasticity kicks in and we form more neural connections.

8. Sleep – Sleep is the ultimate recharge for our bodies and our brain is no exception to this. Everyone knows that their brain works better on 8 hours of sleep as opposed to 4. Prioritize sleep and reap the brain benefits.

9. Focus – Limit distractions and cultivate focus. Being scatterbrained severely inhibits mental capabilities. Focus is the precursor to learning and problem-solving.

Tip: When you need to focus, set a timer for a specific amount of time and only work on the task at hand for that block of time.

10. A Morning Routine – Starting the day off on the right foot greatly helps with how our brains function. Having a peaceful, enjoyable morning routine gets us in a clear headspace, which allows us to operate with focus for the rest of the day.

For more on morning routines, read my article The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual

11. ExerciseExercise improves memory and thinking skills. It also boosts mood and reduces stress and anxiety.

12. Walking – “Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits and combat declines in brain function associated with aging and increase performance on cognitive tasks.” – (Live Science)

Walking also helps with creativity and generating ideas, especially when done outside.

13. Positive Thinking – Stress and anxiety kill brain function. Research has shown that positive thinking, particularly in the future tense, speeds up the creation of brain cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.

Also, when you’re in a state of fear, it activates the amygdala and shuts off higher brain function (like logic and reasoning). So positive thinking really does make us smarter.

14. Reading – This one is so obvious. We learn by reading nonfiction and expand our imagination by reading fiction. And sometimes we learn by reading fiction and expand our imagination by reading nonfiction. Reading also improves vocabulary, memory, concentration and helps hone visualization abilities.

15. Meditation – There are so many benefits to meditation, it’s ridiculous. A regular meditation practice reduces stress, improves memory, combats anxiety, improves concentration, helps kick addictions and increases productivity (along with a lot of other things).

Meditation helps cultivate awareness of our thoughts and gives us the choice to indulge in positive thinking instead of energy-sapping, negative thinking.

Meditation also has the absolutely crucial benefit of mindfulness. If you’re unaware of what’s going on in your brain, you’re unconscious and living in reaction-mode. This results in you being a slave to your brain, instead of the master of it. The brain is a powerful tool. It is in your best interest to learn how to use the tool without the tool using you. This is why meditation is so important.

Learn more about meditation here: Introduction to Meditation

Time to Apply

Try incorporating some of these into your daily life. If you want to pick just one to start with, I’d strongly recommend meditation. Meditation is the habit that all other habits build off of, the skill which enhances every other skill and the practice that gets you in touch with the essence of existence.

Want to start meditating? As soon as you wake up, hit the snooze button on your alarm clock and use that time for meditation. Sit upright, close your eyes, take some deep breaths into your belly and simply observe your thoughts without judgment. Do this every morning.

With most of this list, it’s common sense that these things improve brain function. But knowing and applying are two different things. Most people don’t apply what they know on a daily basis. Take action and commit to a daily practice.

Your brain is a miraculous tool. Treat it well and use it wisely.

Much love.

– Stevie P!

Which of these do you apply on a daily basis? Did you learn anything new? Which ones do you want to start applying? Leave a comment below.
 

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The 5 Best Self Improvement Podcasts

podcasts

I’ve always wished to sit in on insightful conversations; to be a fly on the wall during brilliant exchanges between interesting people.

Now I can, whenever and wherever I want. This is the allure of podcasts.

21% of Americans now listen to podcasts. To put this in perspective, that’s the same percentage as Americans who use Twitter. Podcasts are becoming ubiquitous, and for good reason. They are changing the way we experience both entertainment and learning.

The Audio Advantage

I prefer audio to other mediums for the simple fact that you can listen anywhere. It allows you to be a time management ninja and learn while going about your day. You can listen to podcasts while driving, walking outside, cooking, stretching, cleaning, performing monotonous tasks at work or just sitting in the dark while resting your eyes (which I personally love doing). Audio is so much more versatile than something you have to watch. Plus, we all spend too much time looking at screens, so it can provide a much needed break from that.

Authenticity

Podcasts are usually raw and authentic. I really love and appreciate the authenticity of podcasts. They’re generally unscripted and not edited much. So whether it’s a conversation, interview or a one-person rant, podcasts feel much more genuine and real than radio shows or any traditional media. Many people can no longer tolerate the plastic fakeness of overly scripted, heavily edited and excruciatingly politically correct interviews and/or conversations.

Choose Your Own Adventure

With podcasts you choose what you listen to, when you listen to it, when to stop, when to resume…etc. Gone are the days of being relegated to what’s on tv or what’s on the radio. Interactivity, freedom, authenticity and the democratization of information are highly valued in today’s culture.

Want to learn about health? Listen to a health podcast. Want to laugh? Listen to a comedian’s podcast. Want to hear an interview with a celebrity that’s unscripted and more like a conversation? There’s a podcast for that.

There is a podcast for every possible niche you can think of. The choice is yours.

The Perfect Blend

The authenticity factor of podcasts allows the podcaster to be him or herself while conveying the information they wish to convey. That’s why, more than anything else I’ve found, podcasts have the unique ability to create an experience of learning, mixed with entertainment, all while feeling like you’re there listening in on an interesting conversation.

I also love the funny quirks and unique sense of humor that people have. When these genuine qualities and “imperfections” shine through, it allows the listener to relate to whoever’s speaking on a deeper level.

The 5 Best Self Improvement Podcasts

1. The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is an author, entrepreneur and human guinea pig. His podcast focuses on dissecting all forms of greatness. In Tim’s own words, “Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.”

2. The Model Health Show

This is the best podcast on health that I’ve come across. The host, Shawn Stevenson, has the uncanny ability to break down and eloquently explain complex health concepts. Each show often focuses on one specific aspect of health, making it highly informative and actionable. Shawn is well-read, with an amicable personality and a holistic, big picture perspective. The Model Health Show really is the model of health shows.

3. ReWild Yourself Podcast

The ReWild Yourself Podcast, hosted by Daniel Vitalis, is incredibly interesting and packed with useful information. If you want to maximize your entire being and embrace your primalness (instead of ignoring or repressing it), you should definitely check out the ReWild Yourself podcast. Here’s the short description of it…

“I’m Daniel Vitalis, and I’ll be your guide through the world of human zoology and lifestyle design. We’ll explore the strategies that ancient apes need to thrive in a modern world, awakening our instincts, and freeing our bodies –– and minds –– from the degenerative effects of human domestication.”

4. Aubrey Marcus Podcast

Aubrey Marcus is the CEO of Onnit and a master of “total human optimization.” He’s fascinating to listen to and shares valuable wisdom on a wide variety of topic. Anyone interested in practical spirituality and using consciousness to optimize and enjoy life will find tremendous value in Aubrey Marcus’ podcast.

5. The Joe Rogan Experience

Joe Rogan is a comedian and UFC commentator. His podcasts are long, hilarious and interesting conversations about everything imaginable. Joe Rogan literally explores every subject under the sun. His comedic wit makes the podcasts laugh out loud funny while discussing often mindblowing ideas with interesting people.

Though The Joe Rogan Experience isn’t directly self-improvement related, it exposes you to a multitude of topics that will undoubtedly catalyze self-improvement.


I highly recommend you check out these podcasts and see if they resonate with you.

Keep laughing and learning.

Much love.

– Stevie P!


Resources: Apps to listen to podcasts on your smartphone

  • Stitcher (this is what I personally use)
  • Podcasts
  • Overcast
  •  

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    28 Benefits of Floatation Therapy

    floatation tank

    Floatation tanks (aka float tanks, isolation tanks or sensory deprivation tanks) are lightless, mostly soundproof tanks filled with Epsom salt and water at skin temperature, which makes you float on the surface of the water.

    In this setting, you experience little to no external stimuli and are able to relax your body far more than otherwise possible. These conditions provide the space for an incredibly unique experience of stress relief, tension release, self-awareness and journeys into peaceful nothingness.

    I’ve personally been floating for the last two months and have experienced its many benefits. Floatation therapy has the tension release qualities of a massage, the stress relief qualities of drinking a glass of wine in a jacuzzi, the state of self-awareness comparable to psychotherapy and the trauma/fear release potential of ayahuasca. Floating also makes it relatively easy for anyone to dip into the infinitely blissful void described by experienced meditators and yogis. Essentially, floatation therapy provides the space necessary for self-healing on all levels of being.

    28 Benefits of Floatation Therapy

    1. Promotes total calm and peaceful relaxation
    2. Eliminates fatigue and jet lag
    3. Improves sleep
    4. Alleviates stress (mental and physical)
    5. Reduces or eliminates depression, anxiety and fear
    6. Facilitates freedom from habits, phobias and addictions
    7. Facilitates an acute awareness of thought patterns
    8. Stimulates left/right brain synchronization
    9. Shifts brain waves from beta to lower frequency alpha, theta and even delta
    10. Creates mental clarity, alertness and mindfulness
    11. Increases creativity
    12. Enhances problem solving ability
    13. Heightens visualization ability
    14. Deepens meditation (you’re able to go into much deeper meditation than when you’re sitting on the floor)
    15. Expands awareness
    16. Enhances all senses
    17. Enhances hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis
    18. Decreases the production of cortisol, ACTH, lactic acid and adrenaline
    19. Reduces pre-menstrual tension
    20. Reduces post-natal depression
    21. Increases production of endorphins
    22. Speeds up rehabilitation, recovery and healing
    23. Relieves pain (arthritis, migraines, injuries…etc.)
    24. Boosts immune function
    25. Improves circulation
    26. Reduces blood pressure
    27. Improves athletic performance
    28. Makes you feel amazing afterward 🙂

    Fun Facts About Floating

    • The first floatation tank (or isolation tank) was developed by the neuroscientist John C. Lily in 1954. He used it as a form of psychotherapy, often in combination with LSD (when it was still legal).
    • Carl Lewis used in-tank visualization techniques to prepare himself for his gold medal long jump at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
    • John Lennon reportedly used a flotation tank in 1979 in an attempt to kick his heroin habit.
    • Two-time NBA MVP, Steph Curry reportedly floats every 2 weeks.

    Try out floating for yourself. Experience peace like you never have before. Experience your true self.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

     

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    10 Profound Benefits of Listening to Classical Music

    classical music notes written

    I’ve been hanging out with a few old friends lately: Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Bach, Chopin, Handel, Wagner and the rest of those OG’s.

    Classical music has become a staple in my life. It’s a truly beautiful form of music that comes with a seemingly endless list of benefits which we can all reap. The first thing I do each morning is put on those harmonious, orchestra-driven melodies of classical music.

    Why do I listen to classical music all of the time?

    I like to call it “serenading the space.” Playing classical music instantly turns any room into a church of good vibes, a temple of celebration or your own tranquil sanctuary. Turn on some classical music and you’ll instantly experience this for yourself (if you haven’t already).

    Classical music is the background music to my morning stretches, my writing routine and almost everything else I do. It weaves a fundamental layer of peace and harmony into the fabric of my life.

    Now this is coming from a hip-hop head. Classical music was never really my thing. I don’t necessarily sit down and listen to it very intently either, but its benefits as background music are utterly unparalleled. Here’s why..

    10 Profound Benefits of Listening to Classical Music

    1. Increases Physical Performance

    Classical music, especially fast-paced classical music, has been consistently shown to increase physical performance.

    We’ve all experienced that extra push that music can give us when working out. It gets you to squeeze out that extra rep, or run that sprint a little bit faster. And I don’t know about you, but I feel like the hero of a movie whenever I exercise to some epic classical music.

    Also, because it doesn’t have words, classical music allows you to focus more on what you’re doing, instead of focusing on the music. If I listen to hip-hop when working out, I get a surge of motivation, but I’ll be less mindful of the exercise I’m doing. But with classical music, I get a similar surge in motivation, but I’ll be completely mindful and more present when performing the exercise.

    Sources:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10573664

    2. Increases Sleep Quality

    Classical music calms the mind, and when the mind calms down, the body follows. Listening to classical music is greatly effective for people who suffer from insomnia and other sleeping disorders. The soothing effects of classical music are tremendously conducive to sleep.

    The conclusion of one study (entitled “Music improves sleep quality in students”) reads “Relaxing classical music is an effective intervention in reducing sleeping problems. Nurses could use this safe, cheap and easy to learn method to treat insomnia.”

    Sources:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18426457

    3. Eases Chronic Pain

    Classical music has inherent healing properties and has been shown to reduce pain. Along with distracting people from the pain they experience, the relaxing and stress-reducing effects of classical music actually reduce pain as well.

    Many hospitals have caught on to this and now play classical music because of its potent effects on pain reduction.

    On top of easing chronic pain, classical music actually accelerates healing too. But whether it’s just the relaxing effects that stimulate healing, or if the sound vibration itself is healing, is up for debate. But the bottom line is that classical music reduces pain and helps the body heal. So drop the pain killers and put on some Mozart instead.

    Sources:
    http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0021-75572006000300006&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21704068

    4. Improves Mood and Fights Depression

    Classical music is well-known to boost mood, relax the mind and increase dopamine levels. Anyone can experience this too, just play some classical music and notice your mood shift for the better.

    Classical music also has the same physiological effects as a massage, which is an impressive testament to how much music (frequency and vibration) really affects us.

    The flipside of the coin of happiness is depression. So because classical music makes you feel good, depression naturally fades away, making classical music a powerful anti-depressant as well.

    A large-scale example of classical music’s positive effects on mood is that it literally fights crime. Classical music is like a super hero and has been shown to reduce crime rates when played in public places.

    Sources:
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000689930400736X
    http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/06/10/05/how_classical_music_can_reduce_crime_benefit_your_mood_and_increase_your_spending.htm

    5. Lowers Stress Levels

    Going hand-in-hand with its mood boosting properties, classical music notably reduces stress. This makes sense, of course, due to its relaxation and mood enhancing properties.

    Classical music has been repeatedly shown to lower cortisol levels as well. Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone,” so it’s a way to tangibly measure stress responses in people.

    Stress is an epidemic in modern society, so listening to classical music is a great way to fight back against the chronic stress we’re all faced with in our day-to-day lives.

    How can you be stressed when you’re relaxed and happy? You can’t.

    Sources:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1069901/Listening-classical-music-relieve-pregnancy-stress.html
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110826/

    6. Boosts Brain Function

    The positive effect of classical music on brain function is so well known that it’s referred to as the “The Mozart Effect.”

    Here are some examples:
    In 1996, the College Entrance Exam Board Service conducted a study of all students taking their SAT exams. Students who sang or played a musical instrument scored an average of 51 points higher on the verbal portion and 39 points higher on the math portion of the test.

    In a controlled University of California study, students who listened to 10 minutes of Mozart before taking SATs had higher scores than students who didn’t.

    In a University of Washington study, people who listened to light classical music for 90 minutes while copyediting a manuscript caught 21% more mistakes.

    7. Sharpens Memory

    Being so beneficial for brain function in general, it’s no surprise that classical music improves memory as well.

    Studies have shown that music enhances the memory of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. One of these was a UC Irvine study, which showed that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer’s patients improved when they listened to classical music.

    There’s a slight caveat regarding classical music and memory though. In the 1960’s, a Bulgarian psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Georgi Lozanov found that different pieces of classical music were more beneficial to memory than others, depending on what stage of the learning process they were used. The learning process can be divided into three stages: relaxation, active learning and memory consolidation. Lozanov, after 30 years of experiments with music and memory, found that specific pieces of classical music yielded better results in these different stages of the learning process. Some pieces were better for relaxation, some were better for active learning and some were better for memory consolidation.

    Sources:
    http://www.rocketmemory.com/articles/music-and-studying/

    8. Decreases Blood Pressure

    Among classical music’s health benefits is that it decreases blood pressure. The tempos of music have a profound impact on both heart-rate and blood pressure. Slower, gentler music is relaxing, which slows the heart-rate and reduces blood pressure, while music with a faster tempo does the opposite.

    Many pieces of classical music are also in sync with the body’s natural rhythms. For example, blood pressure rises and falls every ten seconds or so, which is a rhythm that many composers mirror in their works.

    Another fun fact is that the second part of Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony is called the “music of a healthy heart” and it is especially recommended for high blood pressure.

    Sources:
    http://www.techtimes.com/articles/59065/20150610/your-heart-loves-music-operas-and-classical-music-can-lower-your-blood-pressure.htm

    9. Enhances Creativity

    Classical music is like a magical creativity catalyst. The good vibes put you in a clear, creative mood which acts as fertile ground for harvesting new ideas and insight. Combine this with enhanced cognitive function, being stress-free and relaxed, and you have a recipe for great creative work.

    Classical music, because it doesn’t have words, doesn’t disrupt the creative process either. I personally get into much more of a flow state, especially when writing, when listening to music without words. Music with words tends to be distracting when doing any creative work.

    10. Improves Productivity

    Want to be more productive? Classical music helps with that as well. An often overlooked advantage of listening to classical music is that it can make monotonous tasks more tolerable. If you’re engaging in a repetitive task, classical music can “get you out of your head” and help pass the time in a more enjoyable fashion.

    I personally would listen to classical music whenever I had to do a repetitive task at my job. It would transform an assignment, consisting of hours of manual data entry, from torturous to “this isn’t so bad” in a matter of seconds.

    Lyric-less music aids productivity as well. According to studies from Cambridge Sound Management, intelligible words can force us to shift focus from our work to figuring out what someone is saying (that’s why it can disrupt creativity too). According to Cambridge’s 2008 study, speech distracts about 48% of office workers. So while classical music can boost productivity, other more-wordy genres of music may actually hinder it.

    Sources:
    http://cambridgesound.com/sound-masking-references/
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0003687072901019

    Oh, and did I mention that listening to classical music instantly makes you well-cultured?

    Classical music comes with a whole host of benefits that you can leverage to optimize your well-being. The composers were geniuses who could create audio medicine, gently speaking to our subconscious mind and harmonizing the totality of who we are.

    So put on some Mozart and compose art. Play some Handel and handle your business. Bump some Bach and get “bach” to being happy.

    Much love.

    – Stevie P!

    PS – I wrote this whole article while listening to classical music.

     

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    The Astonishing Link Between Gut Health and Anxiety

    Announcement: My online course Annihilate Anxiety has officially launched! Join the course today.

    4068577693_1443816347_b

    Do you suffer from anxiety?

    The remedy might be residing in your belly…

    There are about 100 trillion bacteria cells in your gut. Yeah, that’s a lot. This microbiome is critical for the immune system (over 80% of the immune system is located in the gut), helps with digestion and plays a vital role in the overall health of the body.

    One of the more surprising links is the relationship between the microbiome and brain function. Recent studies have shown that there’s a definite link between gut health and anxiety.

    Mental health and mood are negatively affected by a lack of “good” gut bacteria. So optimizing your gut flora will help reduce or even eliminate anxiety.

    The Link

    Holistic health practitioners have long said that gut health is intimately tied to mental health. Before the science backed it up, it was dismissed as quackery. But now the science strongly supports those assertions.

    Dr. Joseph Mercola explains the connection well:
    “To put this into more concrete terms, you’ve probably experienced the visceral sensation of butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous, or had an upset stomach when you were very angry or stressed. The flip side is also true, in that problems in your gut can directly impact your mental health, leading to issues like anxiety, depression, and autism.”

    And here’s what Scientific American has to say:
    “The gut-brain axis seems to be bidirectional—the brain acts on gastrointestinal and immune functions that help to shape the gut’s microbial makeup, and gut microbes make neuroactive compounds, including neurotransmitters and metabolites that also act on the brain. These interactions could occur in various ways: microbial compounds communicate via the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and the digestive tract, and microbially derived metabolites interact with the immune system, which maintains its own communication with the brain.”

    Ever have a “gut feeling”? That’s a testament to this phenomenon.

    What Causes Poor Gut Health?

    Processed foods and sugars destroy good bacteria and enable the proliferation of bad bacteria. Because western diets are dominated by this kind of food (if you can call it that), poor gut health is a widespread issue (and the cascading health problems that result from poor gut health).

    On the other hand, natural, living foods provide a conducive environment for “good” bacteria. Fruits and vegetables contain prebiotics, which act as nourishment for healthy gut bacteria. And fermented foods contain probiotics, the actual healthy bacteria (see the list below).

    How to Optimize Your Gut Health

    1. Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary – They kill all bacteria, good and bad. (Break the word down: anti-biotic = anti-life) It’s like dropping a nuclear bomb, it destroys everything, leaving your immune system completely crippled. So only use antibiotics when you really, really need to.

    2. Reduce consumption of processed junk foods and sugar – This stuff feeds “bad bacteria” and kills the “good bacteria.” Put the pop-tart down, it’s not worth it.

    3. JERF (Just Eat Real Food) – Vegetables, fruit, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, nuts, seeds, berries and some raw cheese should be your dietary staples. As described above, real food supports a healthy gut. Like Jack LaLanne once said, “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

    4. Get your probiotics – Either eat probiotic-rich foods or take a probiotic supplement. This is your gut health insurance.

    Top Probiotic, Fermented Foods

    • Sauerkraut (raw is best)
    • Kimchi
    • Kefir
    • Kombucha
    • Yogurt (avoid the kinds with added sugar)

    Ultimately, anxiety is a fear-based mental projection into the future. So anything that cultivates presence or supports the mind in letting go of fear will annihilate anxiety. And optimizing gut health is a powerful weapon to have in your arsenal.

    For this kind of information and much, much more, sign up for my online course Annihilate Anxiety, which is now open for registration!

    Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great.

    – Stevie P

    Annihilate-Anxiety

     

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    The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual

    clock-316604_640

    Do you enthusiastically jump out of bed every morning, ready to attack your day?

    If not, take a step back and think about why you’re taking a new day of life for granted…

    If you wake up, complaining about “another day,” get ready in a grumpy haze and rush to work, well, chances are the rest of your day won’t be too fun. What you do in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. That’s why it’s so important to start the day off in an empowered, inspired state of consciousness (if you want to live a happy, fulfilling and successful life). It’s no coincidence that the most successful people in any industry are avid advocates of morning rituals. It’s secret-weapon-level effective. What you do in the first hour of your day is the hinge point from which everything else swings. Here’s how to leverage it:

    This is exactly what I do every day, as soon as I wake up. It’s the by-product of a lot of research and self-experimentation, inspired by the highly effective techniques of several others. I call it “The ‘Carpe Diem’ Morning Ritual”:

    1. Reiki – As soon as I wake up, I practice reiki on myself for a few minutes. It makes me feel simply amazing physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I discuss reiki in more depth in this post.

    2. Meditate – 5 minutes of meditation. I breath deeply, focusing on my breath until thoughts gradually stop popping up. Then I bask in the peaceful void of pure consciousness.

    3. Drink a full glass of water with lemon, apple cider vinegar and Himalayan pink salt – I squeeze half of a lemon, add about an ounce of apple cider vinegar and just a pinch of Himalayan pink salt into a glass of water. This cocktail provides a plethora of health benefits, including detoxification, stimulating metabolism, hydration (obviously), alkalinity, digestion, strengthening the immune system, enhancing skin health and much, much more. I personally use this water filter and Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar.

    4. Vitamins C and D – I take these two with the water described above. Vitamin C helps with detoxing and vitamin D supplementation is crucial during the winter months of scarce sunlight. A quick Google search on vitamin D will leave you awe-struck regarding the sheer range of benefits it produces and how important it is for optimal health.

    5. Mobility/yoga – For about 5 minutes, I do some stretching, yoga and mobility exercises. This is done mostly intuitively, depending on what parts of my body are stiff. It breaks the bodily rigidity of sleep and gets the chi circulating.

    6. Walking – On weekdays, because I have less free time, I walk on the treadmill in my apartment building for 20 minutes. On weekends I like to walk outside more. These walks are always accompanied by podcasts or audiobooks so I can learn while walking. The benefits of walking in the morning are also far-reaching (especially in a fasted state). And another bonus is that walking stimulates a ton of creative inspiration. Many of the greatest writers and philosophers knew this and made a daily habit of walking.

    7. Cold shower – I start off with a warm shower. But for the last minute, I turn it as cold as possible. Doing this skyrockets my energy levels. Like every other step of this routine, cold showers have a whole host of benefits. These include increased alertness, better circulation, improved immunity, skin health, weight loss (through thermogenesis), muscle recovery, mitigation of stress, and relief from depression.

    8. Oil pulling – Usually as I’m getting ready, I’ll swish coconut oil in my mouth for a few minutes. You guessed it, oil pulling has a ton of benefits too, especially regarding oral health and immunity. There’s a reason why it’s been practiced in India for thousands of years. Read more about oil pulling here. Just remember not to swallow it, because it pulls all of the bacteria and viruses out of your mouth.

    Then I continue my day like a cross between Tony Robbins and Mace Windu.

    In doing this routine, I wake up ready to maximize my experience of a new day. I feel a sense of purpose and deep-seated empowerment. It is powerfully detoxifying and supercharges the immune system. My body becomes more supple, at ease and at the same time energized. The same goes for my mind, which begets a flood of creative ideas during and after this routine. I get more done throughout the day while retaining my sanity, operating from a place of peace and blissful gratitude.

    You don’t have to do all of that to get the majority of the benefits. I’m not going to tell you to go get attuned to reiki (though I highly recommend it) or buy everything that I personally use. But you can get started with a highly effective morning routine ASAP…

    The simple and easy “Quick Start Morning Ritual” that you can begin tomorrow and steer your life in the direction you choose:

    1. Upon waking, meditate for just 2 minutes. You can stay laying down or sit up, whatever is more comfortable. Breathe deeply into your belly, focus on your breath and simply observe and let go of your thoughts (without judgment) as they pop up. You are the sky, your thoughts are merely clouds passing by.

    2. Drink a glass of water with squeezed lemon, apple cider vinegar and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.

    3. Do Elliott Hulse’s Bio-Energizer Warm Up. It’s a good starting point for priming the body in the morning, as it’s relatively simple and feels awesome. He recommends doing each exercise for a minute, but you can get most of the benefits in as little as 20-30 seconds for each.

    4. Walk for at least 15 minutes. Either on a treadmill or outside. Listen to a podcast or audiobook while walking to learn while reaping the benefits. Don’t underestimate the importance of movement.

    5. Take a shower and make the last 30 seconds of it cold.

    Then get out there and make the most out of your finite time on planet Earth.

    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Gandhi

    Carpe diem.

    – Stevie P!

    Further Information:
    A great podcast discussing morning routines and productivity:
    http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/early-morning-routine/

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    Alcohol: Philosophizing on the Fun Poison

    “Cheers!” You lift your bulbous glass filled with golden liquid, peaked by a touch of foam at the top. Everyone smiles mischievously as an orchestra of “clink” resonates through the air. You close your eyes and take a sip. It tastes oddly delicious. Bitter, yet accented with a potpourri of unique, subtle flavors. Your lips gently smack together a few times as you bask in the primal enjoyment of taste. You’ve come a long way since the first time you tried it, re-living when you almost lost your lunch after glugging that unanticipated, surprising smack of intense harshness.

    You get that familiar warm and fuzzy feeling as the substance slithers into your bloodstream. It’s like being comforted by a seductive muse. You smile, laugh and enjoy yourself, but they are shadows of their genuine counterparts. She has you… And you brush your true essence aside for a deep dive into her delusory bliss.

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    Oh alcohol, the ever-present fun poison. It pervades our culture, to the extent that its presence is demanded at every social event.

    As a teenager, I would indulge in “the fun poison” to shed my inhibitions. It was a double-edged sword I used to cut through my social anxieties. And because “everyone was doing it” it helped me to fit in more and seem cool.

    Thankfully, I didn’t completely depend on alcohol for building social skills and confidence. I developed confidence through more intrinsic means as well (health, fitness, meditation, skill acquisition, writing, reading a lot…etc). But once I became socially confident in most situations, I found myself using alcohol for other reasons…

    One being the random spontaneity that alcohol tends to beget, and the other was to relate to as many people as possible. Regarding random spontaneity, most everyone would agree that you get into all kinds of “random adventures” when intoxicated. Much more than your “paralyzed-with-fear-and-conditioning” day-to-day self. And with relating to as many people as possible, it’s difficult for many unique-thinking-introverts to interact within a culture that glorifies extroversion and disingenuous small-talk.

    This is why alcohol is a profound indicator of the insidious predicaments of our culture and collective psychology.

    Let’s dive into some of these:

    Escapism

    Though escapism has not driven my alcohol consumption, it’s the case with many people. Life is difficult for so many, and alcohol, like any conscious-altering substance, provides a temporary refuge from the pain. It’s a short-sighted way of forgetting about problems (And will, in fact, exacerbate problems in the long-run). We all know that there are far more beneficial ways to address this issue (that’s another tangent) but alcohol’s omnipresence in society makes it all too accessible. Combine that with a society based on fear and limitation, and we have fertile ground for escapism.

    Social Anxiety

    The overwhelming majority of people don’t effectively express themselves (myself included sometimes). There is deep-seated, fear-programming that keeps us in an ego-driven state of comparison, feelings of inadequacy and lack of self-love. Most people go about life in a rigid, fearful and overly stoic state. But give them a few drinks, and they start expressing. You see them sing, dance and reveal things you would never have imagined if you saw them a few hours beforehand. Why does everyone have social anxiety? Why don’t we express ourselves like we know we should? Why is it so difficult to just be ourselves? Why can’t we sing and dance our hearts whenever the feeling arises? Why can’t we be random and spontaneous without drinking? These are the deeper questions we must ask ourselves.

    Relating to the Masses

    The philosopher/writer/speaker Alan Watts was a brilliantly unique man. He dove into the depths of human consciousness and shared profound insights on literally everything. But what people rarely mention is that he was an alcoholic. Watts would be invited to give presentations in front of large crowds, and noticed that he could relate to his audience more when he had a few martinis prior to speaking. This also applied to the after parties that often accompanied the events. Watts was a deep-thinker, who probably found it excruciating to engage in meaningless small-talk. He used alcohol as a crutch to make talking about the weather less cringe-worthy and as a bridge to discussions about deep, meaningful subjects. I’ve found this to be the case with myself and several other “deep-thinkers” I know as well. We must learn how to incorporate meaningful conversation and connection without compromising the health of our mind, body and spirit in doing so.

    We need to ask ourselves some important questions… Why do we choose to indulge in this toxic substance? And are there more beneficial alternatives to give us the same “results” that alcohol produces? (like shedding inhibition, openly expressing ourselves…etc.)

    Starting today, I choose not to consume alcohol. For how long, I don’t know yet. But I also aim to be freely expressive, socially fearless, ridiculous and unabashedly myself at all times. I started a habit on the app Lift called “Alcohol-Free and More Fun.” I welcome anyone else to participate there and join me in this challenge, especially if what I said resonates with you.

    Life is a party , you just have to make the decision to step in the door (and not destroy the house while you’re at it).

    Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great.

    -Stevie P!

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    Yoga: Essential For Every Body?

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    Heyheyhey, Namaste.

    I spent this past weekend at Kripalu for a yoga retreat. Kripalu is nestled in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts and the energy of the place is so peaceful and positive. It was a great experience, so it only makes sense to write about yoga right now.

    Yoga came into my life full force this Spring. I started taking yoga classes in April and immediately loved it. The feeling you get during and after yoga is simply amazing. You know that feeling after sitting in a car for 8 hours? (Tense, constricted, anxious..etc.) Well, yoga makes me feel the exact opposite of that.

    What is yoga?

    To me, yoga is the art of bringing every level of being into harmony through the means of the physical body. It’s leveraging the physical body to optimize the totality of self.

    The practice of yoga is like a fun manual for inhabiting a human vessel. It’s a tool-kit for these flesh vehicles we’re piloting. Basically, if you have a body, it’s in your best interest to do some yoga. And I think yoga it’s so fundamental that it should be one of the first things taught to children. (But that’s another tangent.)

    Don’t give into the stereotypes surrounding yoga. It’s for every ‘body’ (see what I did there?), not just middle-aged housewives. Plus it’s fun to break out of comfort zones and shatter realities. Just the concept of being a young, muscular guy at a yoga retreat shattered some realities in and of itself. Especially when I let my guard down during a little writing workshop and read my freewriting aloud. The subtle reactions of people were priceless.

    Awareness

    The practice of yoga tremendously strengthens the mind/body connection. It creates body awareness, making you far more in tune with your body. This allows you to know what your body is telling you and what it needs. On another level, yoga helps with awareness of thoughts. Because it’s a meditative practice, it cultivates a higher perspective, allowing one to witness thoughts without attaching to them. This perspective is crucial in mastering your reality.

    Yoga also fosters breathing awareness. As you probably know, deep breathing is ridiculously beneficial in a lot of ways. Breath is the gateway to self mastery.

    Carryover

    You can draw from yoga to enhance so many aspects of life. Being aware of your body and its needs helps in maintaining optimal health. Being aware of your breath, and breathing deeply, can immediately reduce anxiety. Increased flexibility from yoga will make you more resistant to injury. (Think about how many people hurt their back just picking something up from the floor. I ain’t ’bout that life.)

    Yoga positions are done instinctively by athletes as well. Think about the positions a pitcher goes through, or a basketball player preparing to jump for a rebound, or a sprinter crouched at the starting line. Yo, that’s yoga!

    Another great benefit of yoga is that it begets structural integrity. It corrects imbalances and creates harmony in the body. So this means that yoga can provide a solid foundation for you to build upon. A foundation for increased strength, power, speed, muscle…etc.

    What it doesn’t do:

    It’s not going to get you jacked (though it will help). Yoga will definitely build strength. If you’re looking to get strong and muscular, you need to incorporate some resistance training. However, yoga will provide you with the structural integrity to take your strength training to the next level.

    It’s not going to shed off of a ton of fat (though it will help). As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen. Why are there so many chubby yoga enthusiasts (and even instructors)? Because the vast majority of fat loss is based on diet. For fat loss, I highly recommend diets along the lines of Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet or the Carb Nite Solution. (Both have worked well for me.)

    It won’t allow you to eat like a fat kid and stay lean and ripped. Yoga doesn’t give you the same hormonal effects as deadlifts, for example. A heavy, compound movement like a deadlift creates a hormonal cascade in which you can eat a whole pizza after and have it go to muscle cells instead of fat cells. (Look into Carb Backloading for the specific types of resistance training that produce the most conducive environment for indulging.) So back to the point above, your diet has to be on point if you want to be lean.

    All in all, yoga is a practice that is fundamental in inhabiting a physical body. Any ‘body’ can benefit from it, and in my opinion, it’s crucial for any form of self-improvement.

    I strongly encourage everyone to explore yoga. Take some classes, hit some poses, whatever floats your boat. Try it out. Get acquainted with your body.

    Optimize your vessel and maximize your fun.

    Namaste.

    -Stevie P!