The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
In yesterday’s post, “My 7 Favorite Practices for Engineering the Good Life,” I included a curveball of sorts—right at the end. Chase down fear.
While all seven have been game changers, that one claims the pinnacle. The fact is, it’s the hardest one to embrace time and again, but it’s never ceased to move my life forward in very clear, tangible ways. Still, every time I have to talk myself through the same process.… How can I possibly take on something this substantial? What am I thinking? That one’s just too big, too complicated, too ambitious. This time, surely, you’ve overstretched, Sisson.
I’ve never strayed from my basic assertion that the Primal Blueprint is about attaining hedonism congruent with good health. So, when I talk about engineering the good life, I’m not sacrificing health, or wellness, or fitness. I reject the assumption that enjoying oneself implies degrading one’s health. That’s often true, but it doesn’t have to be.
Engineering the good life often requires that you sacrifice immediate pleasures for lasting ones.
Engineering the good life is about removing negative inputs as much as it is about adding positive ones. If a negative input confers momentary pleasure, removing it will remove some pleasure but add more.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, did I mess up by not mentioning meditation in the neuroplasticity post? Yes, and you’ll find out more below. Next, what are my thoughts on taking astragalus for fighting off colds and flus? Does it work? And finally, does red light therapy have the potential to reduce chronic pain? Does it do anything else?
I’m sorry that meditation is not mentioned, but magic mushrooms are. Meditation increases white matter in the brain (which influences efficiency of electrical signals in brain), and lessens shrinkage due to age. Meditation also has a positive influence on the preservation of telomere length and telomerase activity (when these shorten, we experience adverse aging effects). I would much rather do it the natural way (via meditation) than taking a chance with hallucinogens.
Thanks for your comment, Susan. This is why I love my readers. They call me out.
Everything you say is true. Meditation is a powerful trigger for neuroplasticity.
Mindfulness meditation can undo stress-induced changes to connectivity in the amygdala (the “fear” center).
Like seemingly everything else out there, the relationship between meditation history and neuroplasticity follows a U-shaped curve. Beginners show less neuroplasticity activation than more experienced meditators, who show more activation than advanced meditators. How can this be?
“Women carry trauma in their hips.”
(The stray remark got my attention, too.) I was walking along the beach when I heard it. Two women, deep in conversation, had passed me. Between the waves and my dog’s bark, it was the only snippet I caught. One had matter-of-factly professed it, and the other offered a knowing sigh in agreement. As a trainer, the thought jumped out at me—not so much the gendered suggestion (I have no claim on expertise there) but the idea that emotion gets stored in our bodies and not just in our memories. All of us are at various points in life subject to pain, loss and suffering. Whether we contend with something as severe as trauma or something difficult but normal like grief, anxiety or resentment, how do unresolved emotions linger within our physiology or even particular locations or functions within it? How might these feelings that we retain act as a wild card in our overall health? Finally, in keeping with this possibility, does “moving through” emotional suffering oblige us to move bodily toward healing?
Particularly when you’re a parent, October can be a transitional month. I remember feeling like we’d just gotten the kids settled in school and suddenly we were knee deep in extracurricular activities, class projects, parent-teacher conferences—and the holidays. On my more exhausted days, I felt like we were navigating a two-month bender of parties and concerts, costumes and events. On the one hand, it was fun to see the kids’ excitement. It made for good memories, but it also exacted an extended toll. When every week is “special,” it’s wearing. These days life is simpler on the family front, but every once in a while I’ll remember those more frenetic patches. It’s easy to be nostalgic on the other side of the dogged years, but I haven’t forgotten the harder truth of parenting. Sometimes it’s a slog through overwhelm, and research reflects that much. But does it need to be as heavy as we often make it?
A little bird told me the other day that it might not be a bad time to talk about the impact of emotions on our health—particularly our choice to express or not express them. I’ve heard people around me share that they’re worn out lately—that emotions have imposed a toll regardless of how well they keep their own in check. It got me thinking. Increasingly, researchers uncover the remarkable imbrication of mental and physical well-being. How we nourish or neglect our physical selves affects how we feel psychologically. Likewise, the emotional terrain we traverse throughout a day, in turn, elicits its own physiological feedback. Yet in this culture, there’s a certain esteem for the stiff upper lip. We restrain ourselves for the sake of others—our perception of their comfort and/or of their opinion of us. But are we sacrificing something in doing so? When does the polite instinct to suppress our emotions benefit us, and when does it backfire?