What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Sleep (Part Four)

In Part Three of this anti-aging series we looked at exercise and its powerful role in combating inflammation, which as you now know, leads to many of the chronic diseases associated with getting older.

In this article, we will be exploring how sleep affects aging and specifically how getting the right amount of sleep can literally turn back the clock. When you sleep, your body not only rests, but also recovers and repairs itself. But you have to get enough sleep. Most sleep specialists recommend seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.

If you are currently sleeping six hours or less per night, you’ll be delighted to hear that adding these extra hours of sleep will directly affect your physical appearance. After just a few weeks, your skin will improve and you’ll notice less fine skin lines, as new collagen is manufactured while you sleep which will prevent sagging. Plus, that extra sleep will improve circulation to your skin, leading to both a brighter complexion and brighter eyes.

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Adequate sleep also plays a vital role in learning new information and memory, both areas that many people are concerned with as they age. Scientists have found it’s both the quantity and the quality of sleep that affects learning and memory. Sleep also plays a vital role in your body’s immune functioning as well as your metabolism. People who continuously do not get enough sleep, or whose sleep is constantly interrupted, tend to get sick easily and also may put on unwanted pounds that are difficult to get off.

Knowing the benefits of good quality sleep, getting more of it would seem a simple thing to implement. For many, busy lives, parental or elder care responsibilities, financial worries or other problems interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep they are getting. What can you do to get the sleep you need? Here are five easy suggestions that at first glance may seem simple but, if you put them into practice, you’ll be surprised at how much your sleep improves!

One: Adhere to a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine

An hour or so before you go to bed, start to wind down with some relaxing activities such as light reading, taking a bath or practicing relaxation exercises. Avoid overly stimulating mental or physical activities and especially avoid discussing emotional issues, as this is associated with the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can keep you awake.

Also avoid exposure to bright light, as this can keep you awake later. Dim the lights in your house. You may also want to employ an app that works as a filter for your computer or smartphone and which blocks out stimulating blue light. If you have an iPhone, look under your Settings and enable the Night Shift function as evening approaches.

Two: Don’t Go to Bed Until You Are Truly Tired.

If you go to bed but do not fall asleep after 20 minutes, then get up and read or listen to music until you feel sleepy. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, found in tea, colas, chocolate as well as some pain relievers for six hours prior to sleep. Avoid eating a heavy meal just before bed and don’t drink so much water that you have to get up to go to the bathroom during the night.

Three: Transform Your Bedroom into a Sleep Chamber

A quiet, cool, dark environment is best for sleep. Use blackout shades or an eye mask to block out light and keep the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side. Use earplugs or heavy curtains to block out outside noise if necessary.

Four: Pay Attention to Your Internal Clock

Go to bed and arise at the same time each day. This is important. It’s this consistency that will set your body’s internal clock. Try to stick to this schedule, even on weekends and when you have not slept well the night before. Get out into the natural sunlight as soon as you can each morning, even if it’s just for five minutes, and take a sun break for a few minutes during the day. Natural sunlight is a powerful biological agent that will help to regulate your body’s internal clock and can help you consistently get a better night’s sleep.

Five: Know When to Get Help

If none of these things are helping and you are significantly sleep deprived or suffer from insomnia, you may benefit from a consultation with a sleep specialist. She may recommend an overnight sleep study to rule out such conditions as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, both chronic conditions which can lead to other health problems.

Next time, we’ll wrap up this series on anti-aging with a look at how to improve your emotional reserves. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you are doing implementing these better sleep suggestions in the comments below!

What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Exercise (Part Three)

In Part One of this series on anti-aging we delved into nutrition and its effects on anti-aging. Plus, I reviewed how I am sharing my anti-aging practices focusing on four big life areas: nutrition, physical conditioning, the quality of your sleep and your emotional reserves.

In this article, we will be looking at the area of physical conditioning (exercise) and anti-aging. Almost everyone knows that exercise is good for your heart and lungs but you may not realize just how profoundly regular exercise can positively affect your mood, your stress levels and perhaps most importantly, can significantly lower inflammation in your body as you age.

In Part Two of this series you learned inflammation is the driver behind many of the chronic diseases that too often come with getting older, so knowing that exercise can be very effective in combating inflammation provides you with a powerful motivator for getting and staying active. A recent study in the well respected medical journal Circulation looked at the association between regular exercise and the results of blood tests for inflammation in a group of 4289 men and women over ten years. Study participants who were regularly physically active had strikingly lower levels of inflammation in their bodies.

Since exercise is a powerful tool in your anti-aging tool chest, you likely have questions as to what kind of exercise and how much. You may even be thinking this means long hours sweating your way through a tough cardio routine on a treadmill, spin bike or training to run half-marathons. Not necessarily. Another large research project, the Harvard Health Professionals study, found it’s not how long you exercise or your endurance but it’s how intense your workout is.

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And yet another study from Quebec’s Laval University compared two groups, a ‘long duration’ group which cycled up to 45 minutes without stopping and a ‘short duration’ group which cycled in short 15 to 90 second bursts with rest in between. As expected, the long duration group burned twice as many calories as the short duration group. Here’s the surprising finding: researchers expected that because the long duration group burned twice as many calories, they expected them to also burn more fat. But when the two groups’ body fat measurements were compared, the short duration group not only burned more fat, but lost a whopping nine times more fat for every calorie burned than the endurance group!

Based on these findings, try incorporating short duration bursts of intense activity into your exercise routine. If you want to know more, a helpful book which incorporates these findings is:  PACE: The 12-Minute Fitness Revolution, by Al Sears, M.D.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is another excellent resource and offers guidelines for the quantity and quality of exercise necessary for cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness for healthy adults. (http://www.acsm.org) Whichever route you choose, any movement is better than none.

Next time, we’ll shine the spotlight on your sleep, including how much you should be getting and how to improve your sleep quality to achieve maximum anti-aging benefits. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on exercise, as well as how you are doing in the comments below.

What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Nutrition (Part Two)

In Part One of this series on anti-aging I explained how I am sharing my anti-aging practices focusing on the four big life areas where you can make small changes that will have a powerful impact. These four areas are nutrition, physical conditioning, the quality of your sleep and your emotional reserves.

In this article, we will be looking at the area of nutrition and anti-aging. Your diet is profoundly important and is the one area where you can make small changes and see almost immediate results in the way you look and feel. And when I use the term ‘diet’ I’m not talking about a traditional calorie restricted approach for weight loss. I’m also not talking about fad diets such as drinking nothing but green smoothies for a month and things like that. Yes, you may need to cut back on your daily calorie intake in order to lose extra pounds, but weight loss is not our primary focus here. When you begin to eat with anti-aging in mind, you will may be surprised to find unwanted pounds coming off quite naturally.

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What I want you to understand is that current research points to inflammation as the driver behind the development of many of the chronic diseases we have come to accept as an inevitable part of growing older, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s and cancer.  The right kind of nutrition can throw cold water on this damaging inflammatory fire. Plus, there is evidence the foods we eat can actually serve to turn off ‘bad genes’ and flip the switch to turn on ‘good genes!’ In effect, food is actually a powerful drug of sorts and one that has the capacity to dramatically change your health for the better.

So what is an anti-aging diet exactly? Well, turns out it’s really not that complicated. Certain foods have been proven to promote inflammation, such as excess sugar and alcohol as well as  highly processed foods such as white flour and ‘junk’ foods with their heavy loads of preservatives and artificial ingredients.  It goes without saying you should eliminate or greatly reduce your consumption of these foods. So what do you eat instead?

Here’s how to maintain a healthy and sustainable anti-aging diet:

One – Make fruits and vegetables the centerpiece of your nutritional plan. I’m not talking about fruit juice, but whole fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges, with healthy fiber and other vitamins and minerals. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards prepared simply without pouring fatty or cheese based sauces over them.  If you can get fresh, seasonal organic fruits and vegetables, all the better but don’t let that stop you from adding these nutritional powerhouses to your plan.

Two – Consume moderate amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts in small portions.

Three – Add fish to your diet if it’s not already a part of it. Choose fish which has loads of life giving omega oils such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.

Four – Limit your consumption of red meat and avoid highly processed foods and sugar. For some people, red wine in moderation is fine and even advisable.

I guarantee if you begin to eat this way, especially if you are a heavy consumer of sugar and other highly processed foods, you will begin to feel better and have more energy almost immediately!

Next time, we’ll focus on your body and how physical conditioning (yes, the dreaded word ‘exercise’) can stave off the effects of aging.  I’m not going to advocate going to the gym for hours of cardio a week, though.  I’m all about making sustainable changes that will last over time, so that’s the view we’ll come from.

I’d love to hear  your thoughts on nutrition, as well as how you are doing in the comments below!

Bon appetit!

What You Can Do Now to Prevent Untimely Aging Later (Part 1 of 5)

When you think of anti-aging, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Many people think of cosmetics of some kind such as wrinkle creams, skin masks, and even makeup or plastic surgery to hide the effects getting older has on our skin.   Although many of these cosmetic formulas are over hyped as ‘miracle’ cures for the inevitable, some are actually excellent products and do deliver what they promise in terms of making skin smoother and somewhat younger looking.

But the kind of anti-aging I’m referring to has little to do with smearing on expensive creams or going under the surgeon’s knife and everything to do with actually greatly slowing and, in some cases, reversing the aging process on various organ systems by working from the inside, not just on surface appearances. Aging is, of course, inevitable.  The onset of chronic disease, loss of energy, muscle weakness, fatigue and other ailments the majority of people have come to accept as a normal consequence of getting older, however, are definitely not inevitable.

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Anti-aging medicine and longevity studies are complex specialties all their own and it’s hard to figure out with all the chatter out there what to think about this vitamin or that enzyme, much less what you should do to start an anti-aging regimen of your own. I’ve found that my own clients want advice on a few powerful, practical things they can do on their own to slow the aging process and keep them in the best mental and physical shape possible. And they want advice that has been tested and not just the latest fad.

Of course, the best anti-aging findings are of great importance to me personally, so lately I’ve been doing some research to uncover the best practices to bring into my own life. And now I’m sharing these suggestions with my clients and with you, my readers. In this article and others to follow, we will be looking, based on my research, at four big areas of your life where small but significant changes can make a huge impact. These areas are:

One: nutrition – with an emphasis on reducing inflammation in your body.

Two: physical conditioning – muscle strength, body flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning.

Three: the quality of your sleep.

Four: your emotional reserve – the ability to bounce back from an unsettling event and the ability to keep your stress under control.

 

And please know this. You don’t have to incorporate everything at once. Just implementing one or two suggestions every couple of weeks can have a profound effect on your well-being and get you started on an anti-aging regimen that will serve you well in the years to come. I’m excited to have you join me on this journey!

Ready to Boost Your Productivity? There’s an App for That!

As I write this, I’m listening to some special sounds that help me keep my focus on my work and boost good productivity habits. All I have to do is put on my headphones, adjust the settings to my liking and touch the play button on an app installed on my smartphone. You might be surprised to learn these special tones are not my favorite music, sounds from nature or even recorded affirmations urging me to keep going, but are a particular kind of high tech sound known as binaural beats.

Binaural beat technology is becoming increasingly popular and is used in a variety of ways; by students and writers to focus and develop good work and productivity habits, by people who suffer from anxiety to help alleviate distress, by people who want to learn to meditate without practising for years and by others who just crave the sense of peace and well being this new technology can bring. And all delivered without the sometimes dangerous side effects of drugs or alcohol. Plus, this technology is extremely inexpensive.

Sound too good to be true? Let me assure you, the benefits are real, as illustrated by this study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Plus there are a variety of excellent binaural beat apps from which to choose. But first, let’s talk for a moment about this technology and how it works. As it turns out, as remarkable as this technology is, it works by using a fascinating and little known attribute of your brain, namely the brain’s ability to manufacture a ‘third tone’ in response to hearing sounds of two different frequencies played separately in each ear.

This third tone, produced entirely by your brain, is only audible to you and no one else. And here’s something even more fascinating: research has shown that your brainwave frequencies and your state of mind are closely related. For instance, if you are deeply asleep, your brain will produce delta waves which have a frequency from 0.5 to 4 Hertz (Hz). If you are awake, but you are resting and in a relaxed, almost meditative state, your brain will produce waves at the 8 to 13 Hz frequency. And when you are wide awake and fully alert, which is exactly the state you want to achieve to be your most productive, your brainwaves are characterized by beta frequencies ranging from 14 to 30 Hz. But unless you are a Tibetan monk, it’s unlikely you are trained to produce these beta frequencies, or any of the other brainwave frequencies, on command.

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Here’s where this new technology comes into play. Whenever you are about to start a task that demands your sustained concentration, such as writing, just grab your smartphone, open your favorite binaural beat app, choose the concentration mode and adjust the settings to your preference. Then put on your headphones, press the play button on the app and turn your attention to your task. Your brain will produce the beta frequency automatically in response to the tones and keep you pleasantly focused on your work.

Almost all of the binaural beat apps let you pick your favorite background sounds, such as crashing ocean waves, gentle rain, a rolling thunderstorm or even pink noise. You can adjust the volume so the actual ‘beat’ of the tones underneath the background sound is minimal or, if you like hearing the beats come though as I do, then just dial up the volume. Also, you will probably want to experiment with different settings as well as different apps, as what works well for me may not be to your liking.

There are many companies that do an excellent job at producing binaural beat apps. For boosting my productivity and focus I really like the apps from Banzai Labs, such as Sharp Mind, which has a menu of productivity programs such as Concentration Boost (my favorite!), Problem Solving, Brainstorming, Creative Thinking and others.

Binaural beat technology is not just useful for increasing your productivity but is also very effective at helping you get into deep meditative states as well as helping you get to sleep. AmbiScience is a good company to try for these purposes. I particularly like their Power Sleep and Nap app for help in the sleep area and their Brain Power app for meditation. Banzai Labs also has another app called Altered States (don’t let the ‘woo woo’ name stop you!) that has some great meditation presets and even some settings to induce dreams.

So the next time you find yourself not being able to settle down and get to work, or you just can’t seem to focus on the task at hand, try one of these apps with their binaural beat technology to improve your focus and concentration.

I’d love to hear what you think about this technology, particularly how these apps have affected your concentration and productivity habits. Just leave me your thoughts in the comments below!

First Impressions Count

If you have an upcoming interview, first date, networking event, or are meeting a client or someone new for the first time—you will want to make a lasting first impression. The average person, consciously or subconsciously, forms their opinion of you in just seconds. Here is how to make every second count.

The Importance Of Looking Presentable

Being authentic must always be a priority, but it’s also important to be suitably dressed for the occasion at hand. The key is to be dressed appropriately, in clothing that is both comfortable and figure-flattering. Also, look for colors that complement your skin tone and clothing that simply makes you feel more confident when you put it on. This is a good time to bring out that navy pinstriped suit that always looks and feels great on you.

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Body Language Speaks Volumes

Your posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, and fidgeting (or lack of) all send messages to those around you. One of the best ways to prepare for a meeting or event you are nervous about is to do mirror work. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but is an excellent way to see yourself as others do. Stand in front of a full-length mirror and practice your interview questions or initial greeting. If you have no full-length mirror, your bathroom mirror will do. Be kind to yourself in this process – it’s not about coming across as perfect.  The goal is to deliver body language that is confident, calm, and competent.

Be Authentic

The thing to remember when meeting someone for the first time is that you want to be you. When you invest energy in trying to be whom you think your client, date, or other half’s friends and family want you to be, it you can come across as insincere. Inauthenticity is also a leading cause of fidgeting, nervous sweating, and being unsure of what to say next.  Remember, no one can do you as well as you can.

No More Awkward Silences

First and foremost, silence isn’t always a bad thing—so don’t feel pressured to fill every second with conversation. You do, however, want to do your homework before you arrive. If meeting with a potential client, you will want to research their company history, the background of the person you are meeting with, and what value your products and/or services can offer. If it’s someone personal, look for common topics to discuss, or inquire about their personal interests. Also, equip yourself with a few non-controversial current topics, or general icebreakers.  Asking open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer is a great way to keep a conversation going, as well as to learn more about the person you’re meeting.

Finally, sometimes, your first meeting with someone is spontaneous. Since you don’t have time to prepare, you might feel surprised or the timing could be less than ideal. If you find yourself in an unexpected introduction, and things are going south—take a deep breath (or a few)  to regain your composure. Then, if needed, acknowledge or apologize for the rocky start—and  begin again. For example, sharing that you just sat in 30 minutes of traffic this morning, and are running severely behind schedule is something we can all relate to and that’s key – to be relatable. Then, focus on being present, and being you. The more you do this, the more comfortable (maybe even fun!) these meetings will be.

Enjoy today!

Time-Out for Mindfulness – Part II: Cultivating Mindfulness

Most of us wish to be mindful and present in our day to day life.  Between our to-do lists, personal commitments, and professional obligations, we often are electronically connected from dawn till dusk.  I regularly speak to people who feel they live in a perpetual time crunch. It’s been said that it’s the little things that make life worth living, and there is no better way to achieve this than by practicing mindfulness.

The Art Of Being Present

We all know at least one person who, every time you are with them, makes you feel as if you have their undivided attention. This is a shining example of the mindful art of being present. How do they do it?  They may have as equally full a schedule as the next person, but they have mastered the art of setting all else aside but the present moment.

A good way to be more present is simple – silence your phone and step away from the electronics. If you are face-to-face, eye contact is essential. Take the time to engage first. Sincerely ask how their day is, and really listen. Ask questions about previous conversations. Also, take some time to respectfully observe the person —to notice how they present, what they are wearing, the joy or concern in their tone.  This will take practice to achieve, and certainly won’t be 100%, but practice makes perfect.

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Stop And Take 10

Meditation and deep breathing exercises can work wonders in terms of mindfulness. A common misconception is that you need to invest a significant amount of time for both, but 10 deep, mindful breaths can be enough to reconnect. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program developed the STOP model—which can be practiced anytime, anywhere.

  • S: Stop whatever you’re doing now.
  • T: Take a breath and reconnect to the body.
  • O: Observe what’s happening now in your body, what thoughts and feelings you’re having, what sounds you hear around you.
  • P: Proceed with what you were doing.

Active Mindfulness

Cultivating mindfulness has become so popular, there are endless options of mindful practices to choose from. Knitting, coloring, mindful eating, or mindful listening are just a few that can be incorporated into daily living.  Even, maybe especially, on the busiest of days, we must allow ourselves to be more than our schedule. Ten minutes of listening to meditative music or a soothing guided meditation can work wonders for how we feel going through the rest of the day, particularly on the days we are feeling a bit overwhelmed.

The benefits of mindfulness are many:  reduced stress, improved quality of life, increased immunity, a sense of purpose.  And please remember that you don’t have to do it perfectly.  The point is to make it a consistent part of your life.  I hope these ideas will help you get started.

Should you wish to explore the topic of mindfulness further, I’ve included a list of resources below!

 

Books & Articles

Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress… by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Mindfulness Revolution, edited by Barry Boyce and Shambhala Sun – Leading Psychologists, Scientists, Artists and Meditation Teachers on the Power of Mindfulness in Daily Life.

Multitasking does not enhance wellbeing and productivity. This article discusses some of the latest research on how it affects the brain, efficiency and performance:   http://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/08/multitasking-damages-your-brain-and-career-new-studies-suggest/

Useful websites and information:

Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society – University of Massachusetts Medical School; http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/

Pocket Mindfulness; http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/ Great site for those new to mindfulness practices as well as those more advanced.

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center:  http://marc.ucla.edu/

Greater Good – The Science of a Meaningful Life: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/