Tag: mental health
A few months ago, I explored the benefits and applications of cold therapy. Today, I’m going to talk about the benefits and applications of heat therapy—one of the most ubiquitous and ancestral therapies in the history of humankind. You name a culture and—as long as they didn’t live in perpetual tropical heat—they probably had some form of heat therapy. Native Americans had the sweat lodge, those of Central America the temazcal. The Romans had the thermae, which they picked up and refined from the Greeks. Other famous traditions include Finnish saunas, Russian banyas, Turkish hammams, Japanese sentó (or the natural spring-fed onsen), and the Korean jjimjilbang. People really like the heat.
It’s about that time: the start of the school year. Bleary-eyed kids everywhere are dragged from bed, thrown into clothing, handed an energy bar and glass of juice, and shuttled off to spend hours sitting at a desk. They come home, do hours of homework, squeeze in some screen time, squeeze some vaguely edible goo into their mouths, update their Facebook status, post a few Instagram pics, and climb into bed by 10 PM sharp, Snapchatting their way to the land of Nod. Then it starts all over again.
I’m exaggerating, a bit. Things aren’t this bad—childhood Facebook usage is actually down! But too many children aren’t getting enough sleep.
It’s been a long time since I published the Definitive Guide to Fish Oils.
Oh sure, here and there I’ve cited some research supporting the beneficial effects of fish fat, but it almost goes without saying that omega-3s are important. Everyone knows it. Even the most curmudgeonly, conventional wisdom-spouting, statin script-writing, lifestyle modification-ignoring doc will tell you to take fish oil. And research in the last few years has not only continually confirmed the health advantages but illuminated new applications—and new physiological explanations—for their essential function in the body.
But what are those benefits, exactly? Why should we be eating fatty fish or, barring access to high quality edible marine life, taking fish oil supplements?
You can “hack” a lot of your health, diet, and lifestyle. You can cook the entire week’s meals ahead of time, buy high-quality prepackaged foods and ready-to-cook meals, cover your nutritional bases with smart supplementation. You can condense your training time by choosing the right exercises and upping the intensity to a sufficient level. You can fast-track your stamina in a fraction of the time with sprints and intervals.
But you can’t hack sleep. There are no shortcuts to sleep. You can’t escape the need for 7-8 hours (perhaps 4-5 if you’re genetically gifted). The human body needs those hours. The human brain needs those hours to pick up trash and clean up around the cranium. And it needs to arrive at them naturally.
Yet, we try to hack it just the same, with terrible results.
Humans are a tribal species. We form alliances, align ourselves along ethnic, familial, religious, and cultural lines. Still, for the vast majority of people, “tribal” carries a negative connotation. Bitter partisan politics, ethnic genocides, religious wars, and the long history of bigotry make that connotation almost unavoidable. But I don’t think tribal in its true essence is all bad. The basic instinct to form and belong to groups is a simple fact of human physiology. It’s how we work, so we’d better make it work for us.
Even after I fixed my diet, ditched the chronic cardio, and cleaned up my overall lifestyle to be more in line with our evolutionary upbringing, one big problem remained: my response to stress.
This had always been an issue for me. Part of it was that I kept a full plate at all times. Whether it was my training load, my businesses, my overall type A personality, stress was simply unavoidable, I thought.
How did I approach the situation and manage my stress differently over time?
Both fasting and carb-restriction appear to operate along similar physiological pathways. Both lower carbs. Both increase fat-adaptation. Both have the potential to get you into ketosis. Both lower insulin and blood sugar.
But is one better than the other? Are there certain scenarios in which an intermittent fasting protocol works better than a low-carb diet, and vice versa?
Let’s find out if the distinction matters.
And what scenarios are most impacted by any difference.
As humans, our most important bodily endowment isn’t our claws, sharp teeth, powerful haunches, iron grips, prehensile tails, venomous secretions, or aerosolized musk. It’s the brain. We use it to shape the world around us, to bend physical reality to our will, to manipulate matter and create powerful technological terrors. These days, the human brain is more important than ever. If you want to enjoy life, pursue and succeed at your passions, to conquer your little corner of reality—you need a healthy brain. Brain health is key to total health—and quality of life.
By some analysis at least, however, neurogenerative diseases remain on the rise and take an ever more extreme emotional and economic toll. So, how do we keep our brain health intact? While much of it comes down to doing the things that keep your brain healthy and avoiding the things that harm it—exercising instead of sitting on the couch, breathing exclusively fresh air instead of tobacco smoke, sleeping instead of staying up—another big variable is the food we eat.
My staff and I are quite close. Things stay busy these days, so there isn’t a lot of downtime, but I’ve worked with some of these folks for over a decade. We don’t discuss every grisly detail of our lives with each other. But we do share. We care about each other.
So when one of the Worker Bees mentioned he was having some potentially serious medical issues, I asked for details. Turns out he went to his doctor for a hard lump on his throat that was getting progressively bigger. Initial pokes and prods were inconclusive. An MRI led to a biopsy, which led to an email in the middle of the afternoon with the results and a hell of an opener: “This may be a cancer.” May helped. It wasn’t a sure thing yet.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. I’ve come down hard against phones in bedrooms in the past. Is there a “good way” to use your phone in the bedroom? Reader Kathy offered some good reasons for keeping a phone there; what do I think? Next, HealthyHombre laments having to take antidepressants (but he shouldn’t lament). And finally, I cover the differences in omega-6 between pastured eggs and conventional eggs.