Over the course of the past century, the Western culture has faced numerous health epidemics, from obesity to opioids. Today we are facing an epidemic of a different nature. The epidemic of loneliness.
We're more connected than ever, but are we feeling more alone? In the last 50 years, rates of loneliness have doubled in the United States. In a survey of over 20,000 American adults, it was found that almost half of respondents reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. Further, one in four Americans shared that they rarely feel understood, and one in five people believe they rarely or never feel not close to people. Loneliness is on the rise for Americans regardless of geographic location, gender, race, or ethnicity.
Human beings did not evolve to be alone. Sociality plays a fundamental part in the wellbeing of Homo sapiens. Conversely, social isolation and loneliness are known risk factors for premature death, more so than being obese (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015). Individuals who feel socially isolated and alone also have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, alcoholism and suicidality, physical diseases related to stress and compromised immune function, and in later life, greater risk of degenerative dementia. Even worse, researchers have observed that geriatric individuals who are considered lonely have a 45% increased risk of mortality (Leland, 2012; Perissinotto, Stijacic Cenzer and Covinsky, 2012).
Moreover, lonely individuals experience reductions in reasoning and creativity. In addition to these reduced abilities, loneliness affects workplace productivity, as lonely individuals report less job satisfaction and are more likely to face unemployment. Not surprisingly, loneliness is commonly correlated with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Similarly, loneliness is often associated with poor coping mechanisms, such as compulsive technology use, smoking, and self-harm. In other words, loneliness has both physical and psychological implications, many of which could be long term.
Alone versus Lonely
Before determining yourself as lonely, there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone and feeling lonely are not mutually dependent. Loneliness is a subjective experience, a feeling of sadness stemming from isolation or abandonment. But, a person can be alone without feeling lonely, since alone describes a state of being and lonely describes an emotional response to one's circumstance. For example, most people don't feel sad when they go to the restroom by themselves. A person can be alone in the sense that no other people are present, or alone in the sense that they are unaccompanied, even in a crowd.
When assessing loneliness, introverted and extroverted personalities should be taken into account, because some people enjoy the presence of being alone with themselves, whereas others are dependent on others to cope with not being by themselves. Being at either end of the spectrum, whether it is total isolation or complete dependence, is not considered a healthy behavioral pattern.
Factors Influencing Loneliness
The predictors of loneliness is the basis for the identification of factors that cause and contribute to loneliness. The are three broad categories that influence the feeling of loneliness:
These categories may be subdivided into multiple factors that increase loneliness:
While it is impossible to avoid loneliness completely, it may be alleviated. It is recommended to investigate the contributory factors towards loneliness because knowledge of these may substantially lessen the impact of loneliness on people's mental health status. Such knowledge will contribute to an improved quality of life, productivity and health.
Sleep Deprivation-Induced Loneliness
The "loneliness phenotype" can be triggered by sleep deprivation. Researchers have observed that a lack of sleep induces critical changes within the brain, altering behavior and emotions, while also disturbing essential metabolic processes and influencing the expression of immune-related genes. The end result is that people who are sleep-deprived avoid social interaction. This asocial profile is recognizable by other people, who, in turn, shun the sleep-deprived people in a psychosocial loop that perpetuates in a vicious cycle of loneliness and other mental health disorders.
Some Solutions to Loneliness
Ali, S. (2018). What You Need to Know About the Loneliness Epidemic. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201807/what-you-need-know-about-the-loneliness-epidemic [Accessed 1 Sep. 2019].
Harris, R. (2015). Are we lonelier than ever?. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-loneliness-epidemic-more-connected-than-ever-but-feeling-more-alone-10143206.html [Accessed 1 Sep. 2019].
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T., Baker, M., Harris, T. and Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), pp.227-237. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614568352
Leland, K. (2012). Loneliness Linked to Serious Health Problems and Death Among Elderly. [online] UC San Francisco. Available at: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/06/98644/loneliness-linked-serious-health-problems-and-death-among-elderly [Accessed 1 Sep. 2019].
Perissinotto, C., Stijacic Cenzer, I. and Covinsky, K. (2012). Loneliness in Older Persons. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(14). https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1993
Ben Simon, E. and Walker, M. (2018). Sleep loss causes social withdrawal and loneliness. Nature Communications, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05377-0
Meditation is the practice of being in the here and now. Researchers have long observed that meditation, or the sense of presence, has the ability to:
Meditation has the ability to fundamentally change the way you live. Researchers have observed individuals who meditate and have discovered that the human mind wanders nearly half of the day. Moreover, research suggests that a wandering mind is a better predictor of happiness, independent of financial security. In essence, if your mind is wandering, you are much less likely to be happy. The sense of the present moment determines happiness.
Meditation develops two important skills to help keep the mind from wandering. The first is the ability to remain focused and attentive. The second, is the ability to recognize when the mind wanders so that it can gently be returned to the present moment.
An crucial concept to grasp before diving into meditation is the relaxation response. In the modern world, stress is chronic. The modern world is deluged with a vast amount of information and moves at such as fast pace, and this places everyone experiencing it in a state of stress. This often results in a surge of cortisol and adrenaline, hormones released by the adrenal glands, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight or flight response. As a result, the mind turns outward, seeking to evaluate and resolve anything that is the source of the stress. Unless you are relaxed, out of fight or flight, you cannot meditate. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system must occur (the mind must be turned inward) in order to practice meditation. This balance can be achieved by learning the relaxation response. Relaxation is the first step to meditation.
The key to the relaxation response is noticing what happens in your body when the response is activated. What physiologic cues are revealed to you when you are relaxed? It is different for everyone. Some may experience a release of tension in the shoulders, others in the neck, many in the jaw. What is important is knowing when your body is relaxed and is ready to begin meditating.
In 1975, Herbert Benson wrote the book "The Relaxation Response". As a cardiologist, he noticed that many of his patients who had high blood pressure felt worse with the medications that he prescribed. Patients simply visiting him made matters worse. Benson discovered that stress was the culprit and relaxation was the cure. Benson reluctantly began working with transcendental meditation meditators because they claimed to be able to reduce their blood pressure. He observed that they were in fact correct. The meditators were able to successfully reduce their heart rate, metabolic rate, and breath rate. Benson coined this effect the "relaxation response". After researching this phenomena more he discovered that the relaxation response could be triggered easily, quickly, and anywhere.
Just as stress can be triggered in a variety of ways, so too can relaxation, including meditation. Benson later discovered four key components underlying the relaxation response:
Eventually, Benson later discovered that only the last two are required, a mental device and an allowing attitude, to activate the relaxation response. This means that anyone can tap into the relaxation response anywhere and anytime.
Benson, H., & Klipper, M. (2000). The relaxation response. New York: HarperCollins.
Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045-1062. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0013262
How many hugs have you had today? Neuroeconomist Paul Zak, also known as "Dr. Love," recommends at least eight hugs a day to feel happier and more connected, as well as nurture relationships. As psychotherapist Virginia Satir said:
"We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth."
There may very well be a "hug threshold" that allows your body to produce ample amounts of oxytocin, which is released in response to physical touch such as breast-feeding, orgasm, hugs, snuggling, holding hands, partner dance, massage, bodywork, and prayer. The neuropeptide oxytocin, released by your pituitary gland, is a naturally occurring hormone in the body with incredibly powerful, health-giving properties.
This "love hormone" is also a key reason why the simple act of hugging is such an incredible way to enhance bonding with others but also boost your physical, and emotional, health.
How Hugging Makes You Healthier
Hugging increases levels of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that acts as a hormone. This, in turn, has been observed to have beneficial physiological effects on your cardiovascular health and emotional happiness. One group of researchers observed, for example, a reduction in blood pressure among adults following a brief episode of warm contact with their partner. A 20-second hug, along with 10 minutes of hand-holding, reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including its impact on your blood pressure and heart rate (Grewen, Anderson, Girdler & Light, 2003). This makes sense, since positive physical contact as hugging and reduces cortisol, increases oxytocin, and lowers systolic blood pressure in stressful situations (Holt-Lunstad, Birmingham & Light, 2008). But researchers suggest there is even more to it than that.
The skin contains a network of tiny, egg-shaped rapidly adapting mechanoreceptors called Pacinian corpuscles with a large receptive field that can sense pressure and vibration and which are in contact with the brain through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve winds its way through the body and provides input and receives sensation from the heart, liver, and digestive tract. (Freberg, 2006). The vagus nerve is also connected to oxytocin receptors. One theory is that stimulation of the vagus triggers an increase in oxytocin, which in turn leads to the cascade of health benefits.
A 10-second hug a day can lead to biochemical and physiological reactions in your body that can significantly improve your health. Hugging has been observed to stimulates your nervous system while decreasing feelings of loneliness, combating fear, increasing self-esteem, defusing tension, and showing appreciation. According to researchers, hugging has been observed to (Forsell & Åström, 2012):
The effects of connection
There's no doubt that physical touch of all kinds feels good. Whether it is a hug or a handshake, physical touch has a powerful effect on the human psyche resulting in us feeling happy, regardless if you are the toucher or touchee; connection, big or small, results in happiness.
Yet, many people are touch-deprived. One poll found that one-third of people receive no hugs on a daily basis while 75 percent said they wanted more hugs. Findings such as these, coupled with the emotional and health benefits of human touch, have led to the emergence of cuddle therapy centers, where people can pay for a lunchtime cuddle.
However, some have questioned whether or not physical contact from strangers has the same impact as those from someone you know and trust. While cuddling with a spouse or partner has been shown to boost satisfaction in relationships, some researchers have observed that hugs are only beneficial if trust is involved.
Neurophysiologist Jürgen Sandkühler, Head of the Centre for Brain Research at the Medical University of Vienna actually cautioned against worldwide "free hugs" campaigns (where strangers offer hugs to others), saying that this may be perceived as threatening and actually increase emotional burden and stress. However, significant benefits have been found from cuddling with a pet, which shows hugs don't have to only be between humans to be beneficial to your heart and overall health.
The Importance of Hugging
On average, people spend on hour a month hugging. That doesn't seem like much, but when you consider that the average hug is 3 seconds long, that adds up to be a lot of hugs.
And if you had any doubt about the importance of touch, consider that children who lack physical connection have delays in walking, talking, and reading. The act of hugging has a near-immediate impact on health, lowering your heart rate and inducing a calming effect while also leading to a more upbeat mood.
Touch is described as a universal language that can communicate distinct emotions with startling accuracy. Researchers observed that touch alone can reveal emotions including anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, and sympathy, with accuracy rates of up to 83 percent (Hertenstein, Holmes, McCullough & Keltner, 2009).
Hugging is a way to encourage your body to release oxytocin, and the more oxytocin your pituitary gland releases, the better able you are to handle life's stressors.
Moreover, oxytocin quite likely plays a role in why pet owners heal more quickly from illness, why couples live longer than singles, and why support groups work for people with addictions and chronic diseases.
Oxytocin has also been found to reduce the cravings of drug and alcohol addiction, as well as for sweets. It even has a positive influence on inflammation and wound healing. Even beyond this, regular hugs have the added benefit of:
Do You Need a Hug?
Often making a concerted effort to hug the people close to you is one of the best ways to get more hugs in return. This can include your spouse, children, and other family members along with close friends. But even if you're not currently in a life situation conducive to getting daily hugs and producing enough of your own oxytocin on a regular basis, the good news is there are some alternatives you can use to help you deal in a healthy way with your emotional response to stress and anxiety.
With the already known and still-to-emerge health and quality of life benefits to be derived from the natural release of oxytocin in your body, your best course of action is to make sure you're cultivating warm, loving, intimate relationships, no matter what stage of life you're in. Additionally, if you have a pet, just a few minutes petting your dog or cat can promote the release of your body's "happiness" hormones, including oxytocin. Since touch anywhere on your body, as well as positive interactions and psychological support, are known to increase oxytocin levels, you might also consider:
Chillot, R. (2013). The Power of Touch. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch
Forsell, L., & Åström, J. (2012). Meanings of Hugging: From Greeting Behavior to Touching Implications. Comprehensive Psychology, 1, 02.17.21.CP.1.13. https://doi.org/10.2466/02.17.21.CP.1.13
Freberg, L. (2006). Discovering biological psychology (2nd ed.). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.
Grewen, K., Anderson, B., Girdler, S., & Light, K. (2003). Warm Partner Contact Is Related to Lower Cardiovascular Reactivity. Behavioral Medicine, 29(3), 123-130. https://doi.org/10.1080/08964280309596065
Hertenstein, M., Holmes, R., McCullough, M., & Keltner, D. (2009). The communication of emotion via touch. Emotion, 9(4), 566-573. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016108
Holt-Lunstad, J., Birmingham, W., & Light, K. (2008). Influence of a “Warm Touch” Support Enhancement Intervention Among Married Couples on Ambulatory Blood Pressure, Oxytocin, Alpha Amylase, and Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(9), 976-985. https://doi.org/10.1097/psy.0b013e318187aef
Mercola, J. (2014). How Hugging Makes You Healthier and Happier. Retrieved from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/06/hugging.aspx
Richardson, J. (2014). 9 Reasons You Need To Be Giving and Receiving Hugs Everyday. Retrieved from http://preventdisease.com/news/14/012314_9-Reasons-Need-Giving-Receiving-Hugs-Everyday.shtml
Zhivotovskaya, E. (2012). Oxytocin: Go Out and Touch Someone. Retrieved from https://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emiliya-zhivotovskaya/2012032321636
What can we all do to overcome the stress and anxiety that seems to pervade our news and daily interactions these days? In other words, how do we keep ourselves peaceful, healthy and thriving in these chaotic times we find ourselves in?
In this interview, Rosemary Gladstar shares a handful of herbs that can be used to keep your body centered and at peace – including one slightly controversial plant if you’re feeling adventurous. What is most striking about this interview is the deep wisdom that the legendary medicine woman shares. Her perspective is one worth listening to.
The stress-healing herbs Rosemary mentions are:
Wim Hof is an autodidact and taught himself how to control his heart rate, breathing and blood circulation. All this is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. Conventional science says that the autonomic nervous system is a part of the body you just can´t control, yet Wim can, by steering his hypothalamus (an area in the brain which regulates the body temperature). Where the body temperature of an untrained person drops dangerously after exposing it to extreme cold, Wim is able to retain his core temperature around 37 degrees Celsius, constantly. Even after 1 hour and 52 minutes sitting in ice, Wim’s core temperature stays the same. Scientists around the world baffled by this exceptional performance. In the Netherlands, Prof. Maria Hopman of the UMC St Radboud Nijmegen examined Wim’s physiology as he was affected by the cold, while he was up to his neck in a cylinder filled with ice cubes.
Wim Hof, aka "The Iceman" holds the world record for the longest ice bath lasting over one hour and 52 minutes and 20 other world records for feats performed while withstanding the cold. He has climbed Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro in just shorts and shoes. His method enables him to control his core body temperature and immune system, which can be learned by anyone including. Wim's ultimate goals are to end all disease to facilitate a paradigm shift towards health to promote care for our planet and to bring back love and happiness for all people by encouraging them to get in touch with the cold, and he plans to do all this under the scrutiny of science.
Determining The Daily Dose of Nature
Humans are ancient beings living in a modern world. We have been hard-wired through evolution to require and seek contact with nature. A healthy, balanced life, physically and emotionally, requires this contact. Exposure to nature is one of the key foundations to a meaningful life. Indeed, a growing body of evidence overwhelmingly suggests connecting with nature is paramount for optimal health.
Connection with nature has been associated with:
How much exposure to nature and outdoor natural environments is necessary, though, to ensure healthy development? Are there such things as minimum daily requirements of nature?
Determining a daily dose of exposure to nature is comparable to the nutrition pyramid that has been touted as a useful guide for the types and quantity of food consumption necessary to be healthy. It has been dubbed the Nature Pyramid,.
Referring to the standard nutritional pyramid, towards the top are things that are less healthful in larger quantities—meat, dairy, sugar—and should be consumed in the smallest proportions. Moving down the pyramid are elements in the diet—fruits and vegetables—that should be consumed more frequently and in greater quantity, and then finally the foods that contain the most nutrients that are needed on a daily basis. The Nature Pyramid would work in a similar way.
The Nature Pyramid challenges us to think about what the analogous quantities of nature are, and the types of nature exposures and experiences, needed to bring about a healthy life. Exposure to nature, that is direct personal contact with natural, is not an optional thing, but rather is a necessary and important element of a healthy human life. So, like the nutritional pyramid, what specifically is required for optimal health? What amounts of nature, different nature experiences, and exposure to different sorts of nature, together constitute a healthy existence? While researchers may lack the same degree of scientific certainly or confidence regarding a specific quantifiable amount of connection with nature necessary to ensure a healthy life, the pyramid at least begins to ask the right questions.
Nature-Deficit Disorder and the Nature Principle
In 2005, in Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv introduced the term nature-deficit disorder, not as a medical diagnosis, but as a way to describe the growing gap between humans and nature. Every day, our relationship with nature, or the lack of it, influences our lives. This has always been true. But in the twenty-first century, our survival — or thrival — will require a transformative framework for that relationship, a reunion of humans with the rest of nature.
The Nature Principle is an amalgam of converging theories and trends as well as a reconciliation with old truths. This principle holds that a reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, wellness, spirit, and survival. Primarily a statement of philosophy, the Nature Principle is supported by a growing body of theoretical, anecdotal, and empirical research that describes the restorative power of nature — its impact on our senses and intelligence; on our physical, psychological, and spiritual health; and on the bonds of family, friendship, and the multispecies community. What would our lives be like if our days and nights were as immersed in nature as they are in electronics? How can each of us help create that life-enhancing world, not only in a hypothetical future, but right now, for our families and for ourselves?
Our sense of urgency grows. In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lived in towns and cities. The traditional ways that humans have experienced nature are vanishing, along with biodiversity. At the same time, our culture’s faith in technological immersion seems to have no limits, and we drift ever deeper into a sea of circuitry. We consume breathtaking media accounts of the creation of synthetic life, combining bacteria with human DNA; of microscopic machines designed to enter our bodies to fight biological invaders or to move in deadly clouds across the battlefields of war; of virtually-augmented reality; of futuristic houses in which we are surrounded by simulated reality transmitted from every wall. We even hear talk of the “transhuman” or “posthuman” era in which people are optimally enhanced by technology, or of a “postbiological universe” where, as NASA’s Steven Dick puts it, “the majority of intelligent life has evolved beyond flesh and blood intelligence.”
This collective disorder threatens our health, our spirit, our economy, and our future stewardship of the environment. Yet, despite what seem prohibitive odds, transformative change is possible. The loss that we feel, this truth that we already know, sets the stage for a new age of nature. In fact, because of the environmental challenges we face today, we may be — we had better be — entering the most creative period in human history, a time defined by a goal that includes but goes beyond sustainability to the renaturing of everyday life.
Symptoms of Nature-Deficit Disorder
Do you or does someone you know experience nature-deficit disorder (NDD)? In this day in age, it is common to develop mild or severe forms of NDD. Here are several symptoms to look out for:
Interpreting the Nature Pyramid
At the bottom of the pyramid are forms of nature and outside life that should form the bulk of our daily experiences. Here there are the many ways in which we might daily enjoy and experience nature, both suburban and urban. As adults, a healthy nature diet requires being outside at least part of each day, walking, strolling, sitting, though it need not be in a remote and untouched national park or otherwise more pristine natural environment. Brief experiences and brief episodes of respite and connection are valuable to be sure: watching birds, hearing the outside sounds of life, and feeling the sun or breeze on one’s arms are important natural experiences, though perhaps brief and fleeting. Some of these experiences are visual and we know that even views of nature from office or home windows provides value. For school aged kids spending the day in a school drenched in full spectrum nature daylight is important and we know the evidence is compelling about the emotional value of this. Every day kids should spend some time outside, sometime playing and running outside, in direct contact with nature, weather, and the elements.
Moving from the bottom to the top of the pyramid also corresponds to an important temporal dimension. We need and should want to visit larger more remote parks and natural areas, but for most of us the majority of these larger parks will not be within distance of a daily trip. Each week, we should seek out a local park or area larger than your backyard. Each month, we should seek out a larger, national park. At the top of the pyramid are places and nature experiences that are profoundly important and enriching yet are more likely to happen less frequently, such as remote verdant areas, perhaps only several times a year. They are places of nature where immersion is possible, and where the intensity and duration of the nature experience are likely to be greater. And in between these temporal echelons (from daily to yearly) lie many of the nature opportunities and experiences that happen often on weekends or holidays or every few weeks, and perhaps without the degree of regularity that daily neighborhood nature experiences provide.
Like the food items higher on the food pyramid, the sites of nature highest on the Nature Pyramid might best be thought of occasional treats in our nature diet—good for us in small and measured servings, but actually unhealthy if consumed too often or in too great a quantity. For many urbanites from industrialized nations, large amounts of money and effort are expended visiting remote areas, from Patagonia, to the cloud forests of Costa Rica, to the Himalayas. It seems we relish and celebrate the ecologically remote and exotic. While they are deeply enjoyable nature experiences, to be sure, they come at a high planetary cost, as the energy and carbon footprint associated with jetting to these places is large indeed. No longer are such trips appreciated as unique and special “trips of a lifetime,” but fairly common and increasingly pedestrian jaunts to the affluent citizenry of the North. The Nature Pyramid sends a useful signal that travel to faraway nature may as glutinous and unhealthy as eating at the top of the food pyramid.
A Solution - Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing)
Forest bathing—or Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy—is a Japanese healing method that allows an individual to immerse in the forest’s atmosphere. It stills the mind, leaving bathers focused and more alert. Researchers have observed that evergreen trees secret a natural chemical called phytoncide, which directly reduced stress levels and boosted immune systems in subjects (Li, 2009).
Researchers (Hansen, Jones and Tocchini, 2017) have determined with the healing components of Shinrin-yoku specifically hones in on the therapeutic effects on:
How to Forest Bath
Beatley, T. (2012). Exploring the Nature Pyramid – The Nature of Cities. [online] The Nature of Cities. Available at: https://www.thenatureofcities.com/2012/08/07/exploring-the-nature-pyramid/ [Accessed 21 Mar. 2018].
Hansen, M., Jones, R. and Tocchini, K. (2017). Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(12), p.851. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080851
Li, Q. (2009). Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, 15(1), pp.9-17. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12199-008-0068-3
Louv, R. (2012). The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. Algonquin Books.
More than 2000 references on the biological responses to radio frequency (RF) and microwave radiation, published up to June 1971, have been documented. Devices that emit RF and microwave radiation include, but is not limited to, cellphones, two-way radios, Wi-Fi routers, cellphone towers, smart watches, bluetooth devices, Smart meters, cordless cell phone base stations, wireless baby monitors, microwave ovens, and any WiFi-connected smart devices that receives and transmits data. Particular attention has been paid to the effects on man of non-ionizing radiation at these frequencies.
Reported Biological Phenomena (*Effects') and Some Clinical Manifestations Attributed to Microwave and Radio-Frequency Radiation
A. Heating of Organs*
(Applications: Diathermy, Electrosurgery, Electro-coagulation, Electrodesiccation, Electrotomy)
B. Changes in physiologic function
C. Central Nervous System Effects
D. Autonomic Nervous System Effects
E. Peripheral Nervous System Effects
F. Psychological Disorders ("Human Behavioral Studies") - the so-called "Psychophysiologic (and Psychosomatic) Responses"
G. Behavioral Changes (Animal)
H. Blood Disorders
I. Vascular Disorders
J. Enzyme and Other Biochemical Changes
Changes in activity of:
K. Metabolic Disorders
L. Gastro-Intestinal Disorders
M. Endocrine Gland Changes
N. Histological Changes
O. Genetic and Chromosomal Changes
P. Pearl Chain Effect (Intracellular orientation of subcellular particles, and orientation of cellular and other (non-biologic) particles) Also, orientation of animals, birds, and fish in electromagnetic fields
Q. Miscellaneous Effects
Glaser, Z. (1971). Bibliography of reported biological phenomena ('effects') and clinical manifestations attributed to microwave and radio-frequency radiation. Navel Medical Research Institute. http://safeschool.ca/uploads/Navy_Radiowave_Brief_1_.pdf
A growing body of evidence suggests that exercise is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.
A recent study, conducted over the course of 11 years, was designed to address whether exercise provides protection against new-onset depression and anxiety and if so, the intensity and amount of exercise required to gain protection and, lastly, the mechanisms that underlie any association.
Researchers evaluated and followed 33,908 adults, which were selected on the basis of having no symptoms of common mental disorder or limiting physical health conditions.
The researchers observed that regular leisure-time exercise was associated with reduced incidence of future depression but not anxiety. The majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity. After adjusting for confounding variables, the results suggests that 12% of future cases of depression could have been prevented if all participants had engaged in at least 1 hour of physical activity each week. The social and physical health benefits of exercise explained a small proportion of the protective effect.
Researchers have established that processed food is addictive, can make you extremely unhappy and will prematurely kill you. Is there a chance that food manufacturers been able to deceive the world about these facts? Dr. Robert Lustig has written a new book, “The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science Behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Bodies and Brains,” in which he explains how and why this occurred.
He is perhaps most well-known for his brilliant research into sugar and obesity, and his previous book, “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease,” was a New York Times Best Seller. Lustig is an emeritus professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, a member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies, and he’s also completed a master’s in public health law.
Tryptophan, which is the precursor for serotonin, is one of the rarest amino acids in our diet. But it’s a mistake to think the answer to depression is as simple as taking tryptophan to boost serotonin. The reason for this is because most of the tryptophan is converted to serotonin in your gut, and it does not freely travel into your brain. Lustig explains:
“Tryptophan is the only amino acid that can be converted into serotonin. Tryptophan is the rarest amino acid in our diet. Eggs have the most. Certain poultry and other avian species have some [tryptophan]. There’s very little in vegetables. Obviously, carbohydrates have virtually no tryptophan whatsoever.
It’s actually pretty hard to get tryptophan into your body to start with. Take processed food on top of that, then it’s even harder because it tends to be tryptophan-depleted. [Moreover], 99.9 percent of the tryptophan you ingest either gets turned into serotonin in the gut for your gut’s purposes, or it goes into your platelets to help your platelets help you clot. [So] very little tryptophan actually gets to the brain.
Top that off with the fact that tryptophan has to share an amino acid transporter with two relatively common amino acids: phenylalanine and tyrosine, which, by the way, are the precursors for dopamine. You can see that the more processed food you eat, the more dopamine you will make because you will have the precursors for that.
They will actually crowd out the ability to get tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier … Yet, serotonin is the nidus of contentment, of happiness. It explains why diet is so problematic … ”
Many try to bolster their happiness through certain food choices, but this actually does not work, and Lustig provides compelling arguments that the foods you crave drive up dopamine and drive down serotonin. Rather, it’s experiences that make you happy. People can make you happy. You can make yourself happy. In his book, Lustig outlines a number of different strategies to become happier.
“Ultimately, the goal is [to increase] your serotonin,” he says. There are four ways to boost your serotonin, and they’re all free. They’re also things your grandmother likely told you to do. First and foremost is making human connections.
“Turns out that Facebook does not count as connection. When we’re talking about interpersonal connection, we’re talking about eye-to-eye,” Lustig says. “The facial emotions of the person you’re talking with activate a set of neurons in your brain called ‘mirror neurons,’ which are the drivers of empathy and specifically linked to serotonin.To be able to generate a feeling of empathy, which ultimately turns into contentment/happiness, you actually have to connect. You can’t do it over the internet. You can’t have a connection with ‘anonymous.’ It just doesn’t work.”
On the contrary, social media generate dopamine, associated with pleasure, and hence can drive addiction. The main problem is that when dopamine goes up, serotonin goes down. So, online communication is actually a major causative factor of unhappiness.
Lustig also elaborates on how companies — both food manufacturers and electronics companies — capitalize on the biology of dopamine versus serotonin to get us addicted to their products. There’s even a book on this topic written by Nir Eyal, called, “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.”
Dopamine Versus Serotonin
It’s important to realize that the dopamine (or reward-generating) pathway is the same no matter what your source of pleasure is. It can be a substance, such as nicotine, alcohol, heroin or junk food; or it can be behavior, such as internet surfing, shopping or pornography. The problem, in a nutshell, is that dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and in excess is neurotoxic.
When dopamine is released, and the neuron on the other side accepts the signal, it can damage that neuron. Over time, excitatory neurotransmitters can cause cell death. To protect itself from damage, the postsynaptic neuron employs a self-protective mechanism — it downregulates its receptors.
By having fewer receptors, the dopamine cannot do as much damage. So, each time you get a “hit” or rush of dopamine, the number of receptors decrease. As a result, you need increasingly larger doses or “hits” to get the same rush. Eventually, you end up with tolerance, a state where even a large dose produces no effect. Once the neurons start to actually die off, you’re a full-blown addict.
“The point that you need to know is that it takes three weeks for the receptors to repopulate. The cravings can go on for upwards of a year when you’re addicted. This is a long-term process that sometimes requires medical intervention and medical management by physicians who understand addiction medicine,” Lustig says.
Serotonin, on the other hand, is not an excitatory neurotransmitter. When it acts on the serotonin-1a receptor (the “contentment” receptor), no damage occurs. Hence, happiness does not lead to addictive behavior. Keep in mind that dopamine downregulates serotonin, so it’s basically impossible to achieve happiness (related to serotonin) through pleasure-seeking behavior (related to dopamine).
One of the cheapest pleasures that stimulates dopamine is sugar. Many reach for sweet junk food when they feel down, thinking it’ll help them feel better, but neurochemical science reveals this simply cannot happen. Add the stress hormone cortisol to the mix, which downregulates the serotonin-1a receptor, and you have a recipe for both addiction and depression. “That’s what we’re seeing throughout all of civilized society, not just in America, but around the world,” Lustig says.
There are three other ways, besides connecting, that boost serotonin and happiness. The remaining three of the four C’s are:
1. Contribute: Meaning the act of contributing to something greater than yourself; making a contribution to society. “You can get happiness and contentment from your job, but there are certain criteria that have to be met,” Lustig says. “Most people, unfortunately, have a boss who is not contributing to their happiness. The workplace is not usually the best place to achieve meaningful contentment.”
2. Cope: Lack of sleep, insufficient exercise and multitasking are all causes of unhappiness. Sleep is extremely important for healthy serotonin production. Here, avoiding exposure to electronic screens is important, as blue light inhibits melatonin production, thereby making sleep more elusive. Electronics will also disrupt your sleep and deteriorate your health by exposing you to unnecessary microwaves, discussed in this recent article on depression.
3. Cook: If you cook, you’re likely going to increase your tryptophan, reduce your refined sugar intake, and increase your omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory) and fiber. Overall, this will result in improved gut health, which has tremendous impact on your mood and mental health.
“Numerous investigators … have shown that your gastrointestinal flora tell your brain what they want through signals that go through the bloodstream, and potentially even neural ones as well. If you do not feed your bacteria, you cannot get happy. Eating real food you prepare yourself is super important,” Lustig says.
The High Cost of Added Sugar
Processed fructose, mostly in the form of corn syrup, has become a major contributor to the $3 trillion health care budget in the United States, and there’s clear data linking sugar consumption to de novo lipogenesis — a disease process associated with fat accumulation in the liver, causing insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, metabolic syndrome and associated diseases. That includes Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.
“We have the mechanism by which this occurs. In fact, our paper in Gastroenterology1 demonstrates that if you take sugar out of the diet of children with metabolic syndrome and substitute starch — calorie for calorie exchange, glucose for fructose exchange with no change in calories … — in 10 days, you can reverse metabolic syndrome.
You can reverse the insulin resistance. You can reverse the liver fat. You can reverse the burden on the pancreas. Basically, all of the metabolic perturbations go away. This is the smoking gun,” Lustig says. “In addition, we have a paper in BMJ Open2 which models what could happen in terms of health care expenditures and disease rates if we reduced our sugar consumption by 20 percent, which is what taxes would do.
Or if we reduce sugar consumption by 50 percent (which is what the United States Department of Agriculture suggested we do), for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease alone … the United States, over the next 20 years, could save $103 billion, just on that disease alone. Ultimately, this is where the money goes. This is why health care will be defunct. This is why Medicare will be broke by the year 2026 …
We have to deal with health. Health is going down the tubes. There’s no amount of health care that can fix what’s wrong with our diet, unless we fix the diet first … The bottom line is we are in trouble. But you can’t fix a problem until you recognize what the problem is. This book, ‘The Hacking of the American Mind,’ demonstrates how the science, how the biology, ultimately has influenced not just our health, but in fact, our policy.”
A Solution: Eat Real Food
As mentioned, a big part of the happiness equation is to increase serotonin by optimizing tryptophan. However, the dilemma is that most of the serotonin produced in the gut is used there locally. It does not enter your brain. Lustig explains:
“There are many diversions for tryptophan away from the brain. It can be metabolized in the intestine itself. It can be metabolized in the platelets. It can be turned into kynurenine, which is a secondary metabolite in the liver. It may not be transported across the blood-brain barrier because of phenylalanine and tyrosine taking up the aromatic amino acid transporter.
In addition, of course, your serotonin neurons must be functional. There are things that will kill off serotonin neurons, including party drugs. For instance, MDMA, or Ecstasy, is a famous dopamine and serotonin killer … Once you’ve lost those serotonin neurons, it’s pretty hard to get any sort of happiness signal.”
So, how do you boost systemic tryptophan? One of the keys is to eat real food, and to make sure you include high-tryptophan foods, the highest of which is egg whites. You also need omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, which is a component of every cell in your body. More than 90 percent of the omega-3 fat found in brain tissue is DHA.
“Omega-3s are probably the single most beneficial thing you can put in your body. They are anti-inflammatory. They are anti-Alzheimer’s. They increase membrane fluidity. Therefore, they increase neuronal distensibility, which means it’s less likely that any given neuron will die,” Lustig says.
“The problem, of course, is that when we took the fat out of the food, we took ALL the fat out of the food. It’s been a real chore to get the medical cognoscenti to turn around on this. I do want to do a shoutout to the American Heart Association, because they have now debunked their long-standing cholesterol-fat hypothesis.
They now recognize that saturated fat was not the demon they made it out to be, and that there are seven classes of fats, and that you actually have to consume omega-3s. You have to consume monounsaturated fats. In fact, you do have to consume some saturated fat because it’s a major component of membranes.”
Mercola, J. (2017). How Corporations Took Over Our Bodies and Brains. [online] Mercola.com. Available at: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/09/10/processed-foods-health-effects.aspx [Accessed 11 Sep. 2017].
The Awareness domain contains research, news, information, observations, and ideas at the level of self in an effort to intellectualize health concepts.
The Lifestyle domain builds off intellectual concepts and offers practical applications.
Taking care of yourself is at the core of the other domains because the others depend on your health and wellness.