Tag: mental health

Do Fear and Anxiety Define Your Health Journey?

Think for a minute about the health messaging sources in our culture. Think of the pharmaceutical ads in every magazine and television show. Think of the medical talk shows and evening exposes on obscure conditions, the nightly newscasts depicting the ravages of epidemics in far flung corners of the globe and “expert” sound bytes warning of pathogens closer to home. Then there are the messages themselves. How many doom and gloom health statistics and inflammatory stock images do you encounter in a day? How many times do you hear “Ask your doctor if [insert medication] is right for you”? This doesn’t, of course, even begin to scratch the surface, but you get my point. Aside from the marketing blitzes telling us why this pharmaceutical is the next best thing or this box of snack food is heart healthy (hint: it’s not), the most commonly viewed/heard “health” related information spinning around in our culture paints a pretty negative, agitating picture.

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Autism: A Brain or Whole-Body Disorder?

You could say this post is a long time coming. In the last few years, I’ve lost count of the huge number of emails I get from parents with kids who have special needs either asking for advice or explaining how The Primal Blueprint has made a significant difference for their children. These are parents who love their kids for all their abilities and differences and who want to explore every reasonable lifestyle intervention they can to make their kids’ lives everything they can and should be.

I’ll state the obvious here. I’m not a disability expert, but I’ve been moved and motivated by these parents’ emails. From a general health perspective, I’ve wondered how our modern lives could be contributing to the epidemic. Likewise, I’m curious how research can illuminate potential benefits of lifestyle interventions. What is the biological picture behind the dysfunction in these conditions, and how can biology be harnessed to restore functioning? A recent approach focused on the whole brain and whole body is asking those exact questions – and finding answers.

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Why Fast? Part Four – Brain Health

Pretty much every feature of the human body can be found, in some form or another, on other species. Opposable thumbs? Great for building and using tools, but apes have them, too. Even the giant panda has an opposable sesamoid bone that works like a thumb. Bipedalism? Helped us avoid direct mid-afternoon sun and carry objects while moving around the environment (among other possible benefits), but plenty of other creatures walk upright, like birds and Bigfoot. The human foot? Okay, our feet are quite unique, but every other -ped has feet (just different types), and they all work well for getting around. So, what is it that makes us so different from other animals (because it’s got to be something)?

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Your Brain and The Primal Blueprint

Hi folks! I’m Emily Deans, M.D., a psychiatrist who normally blogs over at Evolutionary Psychiatry and at Psychology Today. However, Mark Sisson was kind enough to ask me to do a guest blog for Mark’s Daily Apple, and of course I am thrilled to oblige. My main interest is to explore how the differences in our modern lives and diets compared to a traditional/evolutionary experience may influence how our brains work and leave us more vulnerable to mental illness. If modern diets and lifestyle do leave us ragged in brain as well as body, The Primal Blueprint, being a practical diet and lifestyle that specifically emulates evolutionary conditions, would then theoretically be part of an antidote to modern mental health problems.

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Dear Mark: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Light Box Therapy

With holiday fun come and gone, it’s the time of year when we all truly settle into winter. Spring is a long way off at this point. The cold and darkness aren’t going anywhere any time soon. Most people find their way through the season with a mixture of enjoyment and impatience (and maybe a warm weather vacay), but others have serious reason to dread it each year. Few of us, I think, like giving up our extra hours of daylight. The relative darkness of winter, however, presents a particularly harsh challenge to those who battle SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – a form of depression associated with fall and winter’s more limited sunlight.

Dear Mark,

I’m curious if you’ve done any research into the viability of full spectrum light lamps in combating SAD. I can’t get outside much during the limited daylight hours this winter and I’m noticing a marked dive in my mood – I was diagnosed as clinically depressed in college and while I’ve been able to combat it mostly through living Primally, I’m finding it especially difficult this winter (again, probably due to the fact that I really can’t go out during the day right now.) So have you done any research or know of any studies stating how harmful or beneficial these lights are, especially regarding UV rays? Thank you!

Katie

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15 Ways to Fight Stress

Do I need to really even say the holidays are a stressful time of year? Every lifestyle blog, magazine, evening news program, and newspaper will have a stress-related feature right about now. I bet Dr. Oz has a “holiday stress relief” show airing. It’s part of the culture – we expect holiday stress and seem to love wallowing in it. So I’m not going to go on and on about how stress is a problem, or even why it’s a problem (I’ve already done that), because we know it. So, how do we avoid it and, once it’s here, how do we deal with it? That’s the important part. How do we hack it?

Well, we don’t want to hack it all to pieces. We need stress, too – just not too much. It bears mentioning that many things can be considered stressors depending on the context. Lifting heavy things is a stressor, and the right amount causes muscles, connective tissue, and bones to respond by getting stronger, which are desirable; too much, or too little recovery, and muscles, connective tissue, and bones suffer and atrophy, which is undesirable. It’s about context, quantity, and quality. With that in mind, I’m going to break down anti-stress strategies into categories.

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Monday Musings: Dirt Deficit Depression, Active Learning, and Thought for Food

Things are nice and clean nowadays. You can easily go a day without seeing a single speck of visible dirt, while hand sanitizer stations dotting the modern landscape take care of the less visible stuff. This is, of course, an environmental novelty with big implications. We”re all familiar with how the extreme sterility of modern environments negatively impacts the ability of our immune systems to do their jobs. We get more exaggerated and sustained inflammatory responses to things that don’t really merit them. We get a lot more asthma and allergies, especially as kids. Well, a recent review in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests it goes even further – all the way to clinical depression. To be more precise, dysfunctional inflammatory responses of imbalanced immune systems due to sterile environments are causing depression in kids. A lack of exposure to “old friends,” or the microorganisms normally present in dirt, food, and the gut, increase levels of depressogenic cytokines, so the natural inflammatory response to psychosocial stressors is “inappropriately aggressive.”

So, like I’ve said a bunch of times already, don’t fear the dirt. Exercise caution, however, when using this study as justification for shirking household chores.

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Engage Your Brain

Today’s contest post will be published at 1 p.m. PST. It is a time urgent contest so you’ll have to move quickly. The first contestant to solve every brain teaser is the winner. Check back in a few hours for all the details.

As Tuesday’s post noted, we’re now midway through our 30-day challenge. I hope the second half of your adventure has gotten off on the right foot. What are your thoughts, reflections, questions since the halfway mark? What are you looking forward to in these last couple weeks? Where do you hope the experience will take you by month’s end? As we enter into the second half, two challenge points take center stage – points that call up powers of the mind more than the body. The Primal Blueprint of course garners its foundation from evolutionary principle, but it’s delineated by good, old-fashioned common sense and a modern interest in overall wellness. There are guidelines, tools and even challenge points, but you direct your own practice from there. I tell people, it’s less about formula and more about experience. Specifically, an ongoing Primal practice hones your ability to read your own body’s signals. Because you’re eating, moving and living in accordance with your body’s natural, optimum functioning, you gain a new appreciation for living in tune with it, responding to its signs. Additionally, when you’re feeling healthy and taking control of your well-being, the process get you thinking about other means of wellness actualization. Pursuing better health, readers often tell me, leads to ultimately pursuing a fuller life for themselves.

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Dear Mark: Embodied Cognition

The following reader email brought to mind a NY Times article I read a few weeks ago. The article discusses a fairly new field of research that is uncovering the surprisingly fundamental and intricate ways our bodies influence our thinking and vice-versa. We’ve discussed the mind-body connection in the past, but embodied cognition puts the relationship in a new cast. Think motion-emotion, action-thought. It’s all integrated in ways you wouldn’t expect….

Hey Mark,

I’ve been a PBer for a couple years now and feel better than I ever have. I’m at this point interested in digging deeper into new areas of the PB. I’m intrigued by the mental-physical connection some of your posts and book refer to. Other than the relaxation and stress influence, what kind of sway does the mind-body thing really hold? How do you suggest harnessing it? Thanks and Grok on!

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Dear Mark: Your Brain on Junk Food

Clearly, we eat not just to fill our stomachs but to satisfy a whole host of biochemical drives. The brain is built to incentivize our efforts not just with the quieting of hunger pangs but the kick-starting of an intricate hormonal “reward” system. When it comes to diet, I’ve always said what nurtures the body nurtures the brain. The proof is in the biochemical picture. And while I wholeheartedly believe that we each choose what we eat and how we treat our bodies, there’s something to the science that shows addictive properties in junk food. I occasionally get emails on this topic. Here’s a timely one from last week.

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