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Can Silence Heal Your Brain? Science Says Yes 

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.” 

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”. 

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think. 

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence. 

 A 2013 study on mice  published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. 

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. 

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.” 

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain. 

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence 

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information. 

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.” 

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues. 

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world. 

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way. 

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” 

Silence relieves stress and tension. 

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. 

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says. 

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. 

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources. 

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving. 

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills. 

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

Summation 

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good. 

What do you think? Will you be practicing silence? Let us know in the comments!

How can you live to be 100-years-old? These 52 Centenarians Have Some Thoughts 

Award winning photographer, editor and artist Karsten Thormaehlen based in Frankfurt, Germany has captured gorgeous photos all over the globe of architecture, high-end luxury goods, and fashion models. For his most recent collection of published photos, he's chosen to focus on what he thinks is his most beautiful subject yet: centenarians- or people who have lived at least 100 years of life. 

In his book: "Aging Gracefully: Portraits of People over 100," Thormaehlen traveled from New York, to Japan, to Peru, to the Netherlands, and everywhere in between to take portraits of 52 centenarians. Each photograph in the collection is accompanied by insightful and engaging text about each subject that captures their essence, their insight and their wisdom that only comes from living over 100 years on this Earth. 

When asked about this project, Thormaehlen is quoted saying: 

“Since I’ve worked for many years in the beauty industry as an art director for luxury goods and cosmetic brands, I know what it takes to achieve ‘perfect beauty.’ It’s almost impossible! Like reaching ‘absolute zero’ or ‘squaring the circle.’ I’m convinced true beauty comes from self-awareness.”


                                      Tonaki Tsuru from Japan (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)

 

While selfies seem to have taken over the internet in recent years, Thormaehlen says very old people look at photography in a completely different way than most: 

“Being photographed is and has been something special in the past, only performed on special events, and on certain stages of one’s life: baptism, wedding, first child, all generations together, anniversaries etc. Back then, photographing was a complicated issue, it was expensive — and always very sad if the photo, which you saw days or weeks later for the first time, didn’t come out properly. ... They give me, the photographer, the impression that they enjoy the attention, being photographed. It’s fun for them.”


      Secundo Timoteo Arboleda Hurtado from Ecuador (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)

In order to find his subjects, Thormaehlen searched via many avenues: some he discovered through people who had seen his work, some through their grandchildren and some through advertisements or by talking to managers of resident homes. Some he found through online searches.

          Olivia Hooker from White Plains, New York (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)

Dr. Olivia Hooker of White Plains, New York, (pictured above) was one of the first African American women to join the U.S. Army. As a child, the Ku Klux Klan ransacked her home during the 1921 riots in Tulsa. "I still don't know why they bothered to burn up a little girl's doll clothes, but they did," she told the Wall Street Journal. When Thormaehlen photographed Hooker, he noted that the walls in her home are filled with diplomas and greetings from the Clintons, the Bushes and the Obamas.

                   Sigurgeir Jonsson from Iceland (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)

When speaking about the project, Thormaehlen spoke about how the main theme that continued to show up again and again was a shared love of life. Thormaehlen is quoted as saying: "I learned from almost everybody that they love living, 100 percent. They don’t think about dying, but if it happens it won’t be a problem."

                                      Maria Luisa Medina from Ecuador (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)


When visiting one of his subjects at her home in Ecuador, Thormaehlen had to clime a short but steep path to get to her. When Luz met him at the door and saw how hard the photographer was breathing from the climb, she smiled and said, "Hope this answers your question how to become 100!"

                                      Gaspare Mele from Italy (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)

One question Thormaehlen asked all of his subjects was: "What's the secret to your longevity?" 

In response to his question, Gaspare Mele from Italy shared: "Live and work in peace and harmony with yourself and with others. Always try and distinguish good from evil." 

Most days Gaspare can be found sitting at his kitchen table composing poetry on his timeworn typewriter.


Zoila Donatila Aliaga Melendez vda de Roman from Peru (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)

Zoila Donatila Aliaga Melendez vda de Roman from Peru believes that it's her faith that has allowed her to live so long. She gathers with friends at least twice a day to pray. Zoila has lived a full life - she married at 19 years of age and has 8 children, 21 grand children and 23 great-grandchildren. In addition to praying, she love to spend her time playing cards, knitting and reading.

Gerardus Jacobus Johannes Keizen from the Netherlands (Photo: 'Aging Gracefully' by Karsten Thormaehlen/Chronicle Books 2017)
 

When asked what his secret was, Gerardus Jacobus Johannes Keizen, a centenarian from the Netherlands, said: "A routine life of moderation. Go to bed early, don't smoke, don't drink — although you can always make an exception now and then for a whisky. And for gin, too." 

So there you have it - some helpful tools for living a long and vibrant life include: living in harmony with yourself and others, living a life of faith and everything in moderation. 

This book is a beautiful contribution to the world.

To find it, you can follow this link: http://amzn.to/2kMpC3g
 

Hazardous Chemicals Found in 1/3 of Fast Food Packaging! Is Your Food Affected? 

By now you've probably heard the recommendation to trade out your non-stick cooking pans for cast iron, ceramic or glass ones. Some products that are "stain resistant," "non-stick," or "water proof," might be easier to spot and stay away from than others. What you might not have realized, was just how dangerous some fast food packagings can be. Granted, you might be aware when you're purchasing a fast food burger or burrito that it's bad for your health because of the fat, sugar and salt content, but you might not be thinking of how harmful it can be for your health because of how it's packaged. In a recent report published on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the authors shared their findings that about one-third of the packaging that researchers tested was found to contain fluorinated chemicals.  These chemicals are favored in food packaging because of their "grease resistant" properties.

A study by the Silent Spring Institute found fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the fast food packaging tested. Previous studies have shown PFASs can migrate from food packaging into the food you eat. 38% of sandwich/burger contact paper contained fluorine.
 

You might be wondering "what are fluorinated chemicals and why are they dangerous?" Highly fluorinated chemicals contain carbon-fluorine (C-F) bonds, which are some of the strongest bonds in nature. That makes them both incredibly resistant to breakdown and very useful in many industrial capacities, including fast food packaging. That said, there are several scientific studies that have shown a link between these chemicals and the onset of: 

  • testicular and kidney cancer 
  • liver malfunction 
  • hormonal changes 
  • thyroid disruption 
  • high cholesterol 
  • obesity 
  • ulcerative colitis 
  • low birth weight and size 

Because the chemical bond between fluorine and carbon is so strong, it can take years to break down once it's in the human body, and it will stay in the body for years.

                                56% of dessert and bread contact paper contained fluorine

Laurel Schaider, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and one of the authors of the paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters stated that: "Previous studies have shown that PFASs can migrate from food packaging into the food you eat... These studies have found that the extent of migration depends on the temperature of the food, the type of food and how long the food is in contact with the paper. And it depends on which specific chemical is in the packaging."

                                57% of Tex-Mex contact paper tested contained fluorine

 

The study was conducted by scientists from five institutions. For the study, they collected more than 400 samples of fast food packaging from 27 leading US chains. 

They then split the types of packaging into six categories: food contact paper (sandwich wrappers and pastry bags), food contact paperboard (boxes for fries or pizza), non-contact paper (outer bags), paper cups, other beverage containers (milk and juice containers) and miscellaneous (lids). 

Food contact papers were divided into three subcategories: sandwiches, burgers and fried foods; Tex-Mex; and desserts and breads.

                                20% of the food contact paperboard tested contained fluorine
 

Out of the food packaging tested, food contact paper was the one that fared the worst, with 46% of all samples testing positive for fluorine. Food contact paperboard was next, at 20%, followed by other beverage containers at 16%. Non-contact paper, paper cups and miscellaneous all tested negative for fluorine. 

"For foodservice packaging that requires a barrier coating, 'short chain' fluorochemicals are used today, so it's no surprise that the study would find these chemicals," said Lynn M. Dyer, President of the Foodservice Packaging Institute in the US. "These, like all packaging products, go through rigorous testing to ensure that they meet stringent US Food and Drug Administration regulations, providing the safe delivery of foods and beverages to consumers." 

Dryer added, however, that "some fluorochemical-free products have been introduced since this study was conducted in 2014 and 2015," meaning there are now a greater number of options available for fast food chains to provide oil, grease and/or water resistance.


Based on the information presented in the study, you might be wondering - what can I do to avoid these harmful chemicals getting into my food? Besides the route of cutting out all fast food from your diet, there is not too much a consumer can do. There is no easy way for customers to tell what packagings are fluorinated and which are not. From the findings of the report, you could ask that your fries get served to you in a paper cup instead of the typical packaging, or that certain items not be wrapped in contact paper.

Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself is by pressuring fast food companies to switch their packaging to non-fluorinated products. This information might also encourage you to try to eat more home-cooked meals that you can carry around in your own, chemical free containers.

Life Hacks, Foods, and Habits for A Healthy Heart! 

We know heart disease is not the most pleasant thing to think about, especially because it is the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S., but there is a silver lining. Heart disease is up to 80% preventable, so why not learn some important information and ways to take action?

Nearly 82 million Americans suffer from some form of a cardiovascular disease. Ischaemic heart disease is the deadliest form, causing over 12% of all deaths worldwide. This condition arises when fat deposits cause the narrowing of arteries, resulting in a reduction of blood supply to the heart. This is usually characterized by chest pains and it puts patients at risk for stroke and heart attack. 

Did you know? 

Every 34 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack, and every minute someone dies from a heart disease related event? 

Luckily your risk can be seriously lowered with dietary and lifestyle changes. 

Prevention includes quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising. Furthermore, certain foods work to prevent plaque formation and eventual blockage!
 


Preventing Heart Disease: Life Hacks 


Sleep 

Snooze within the “sleep sweet spot”

Too little sleep can place you at a 48% higher risk of developing heart disease, while sleeping too much gives you a 38% higher chance. The perfect sleep balance is found between 7-8 hours. 

 
Snuggle 

Make time for that extra lovin’


Snuggling actually reduces stress because touch induces the release of oxytocin, a natural de-stressor that also works to reduce blood pressure.

 

Laugh 

There is a reason it is called a “Hearty laugh”

Laughing really is the best medicine! It causes blood vessels to dilate by 22%, increasing blood flow and reducing heart pressure. 


Get Moving 

Today is your day!

Exercise Regularly 

At least 30 minutes of exercise a day significantly reduces chances of developing heart disease. 

Maintain Your Ideal Weight 

Obesity increases risks of developing heart disease. 

Step Away from That Remote! 

Those who sit in front of the television for 4 or more hours a day are 80% more likely to die from heart disease. 


Hydrate 

"Pure water is the world's first and foremost medicine." -Slovakian Proverb

Water 

Aim to drink 7-8 cups of water per day. 

Coffee 

Drinking 1-3 cups of coffee a day can lead to a 20% decrease in hospitalizations for abnormal heart rhythms. 

Green Tea 

Green tea contains the antioxidant catechin that stops the body from absorbing cholesterol and also helps to ward off obesity. 
Enjoy 1-2 cups per day for maximum benefits. 


De-stress 

Don't forget to close your eyes and .... breathe!

Yoga 

Yoga is a great way to focus and relax. Not only is it a natural way to reduce stress, yoga has been shown to be an effective non-cardio workout that significantly reduces risk of heart disease 

Mediation 

To kick-start your mediation practice or to take it to the next level, check out the albums recorded by Inner Splendor Media 

Minimize Traffic Time 

Beyond the emotional stress that is usually caused by traffic, the noise can be harmful for your heart's well-being as well. For every 10 decibels of added roadway traffic noise, the risk of heart attack increases by 12%. 


Dogs 

Better known as man's best friend

Dog owners  have reported lower blood pressure numbers, less stress and weight loss benefits! 



Don’t Smoke 

If you smoke, please quit! Smoking is the most significant risk factor in heart disease development. 

Heredity 

It is important to know if you have genetic risk factors for heart disease.  If it is in your family history, a preventative lifestyle is even more imperative. 

Get Screenings Done 

Going in for regular health checks and screening is highly recommended by cardiologists, regardless if you are at a high or a low risk.


DIET
Beyond our lifestyle tips, managing your diet is extremely important in preventing heart disease.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
 

  • Avocado consumption reduces bad cholesterol levels up to 17% and increases your good cholesterol. 
  • Olive oil reduces bad cholesterol and provides the body with healthy fats. 
  • Nuts promote optimal heart health as they contain the healthy fats needed to lower bad cholesterol levels in the body. 
    • Walnuts and almonds are great! Just half a handful a day provides you with adequate nutrition. 

Fish 

  • The healthy fats found in certain fish help to increase good cholesterol, reduce triglyceride levels and decrease inflammation. 
    • Salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring are all great for reaping optimal benefits. Aim to replace red meat with 12 ounces of one of these fish on a weekly basis! 

Whole grain 

  • The soluble fiber in whole grains helps to lower bad cholesterol because it sticks to the cholesterol, removes it and prevents it from building up in the arteries. 
    • Oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat breads and cereals are great whole grain sources. 



VEGETABLES 

  • Asparagus works hard to unclog the arteries by removing clots and decreasing inflammation. 
  • Broccoli prevents calcium from damaging the arteries due to its high vitamin K content. It helps to lower cholesterol and aids in healthy blood pressure regulation. 
  • Spirulina algae is rich in minerals, vitamin, carotenoids, powerful antioxidants and proteins. Regular consumption helps to regulate healthy blood pressure and relax the walls of the arteries. 
  • Spinach is rich in both potassium and folate. It unclogs the arteries and decreases blood pressure. Consumed regularly, fresh spinach can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 11 %.
 


FRUIT

  • Persimmons are rich in both polyphenols and fiber. Fiber helps to prevent cholesterol buildup and polyphenols are a compound that works to reduce triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Furthermore, this fruit is very high in antioxidants, which offers an extra overall protective effect! 
  • Pomegranates are rich in phytochemicals that encourage nitric oxide production, which then prevents artery clogging and regulates blood flow. 
  • Cranberries are excellent for the heart because they contain a rich source of potassium. Drinking pure cranberry juice regularly can result in a 40 % reduction in heart disease risk. 
  • Watermelon is not only refreshing! It also helps to widen blood vessels by stimulating nitric oxide production. This is aided by L-Citrulline, a type of antioxidant. Just a cup of fresh watermelon each day offers these amazing benefits. 
  • Orange Juice in it's pure form is full of antioxidants that work to improve blood vessel function and help prevent high blood pressure. 
  • Berries are more than a great low sugar and low calorie snack! Eating 3 or more servings of berries per week cut the risk of heart attack among women by 32%. Both blueberries and raspberries are a great choice.

SPICES
  • Turmeric contains curcumin that helps eliminate fatty deposits and decreasing inflammation. 
  • Cinnamon offers up to a 26% reduction in bad cholesterol. It also helps to stop plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries.

Heart disease is a serious issue. Luckily taking action today can make a big difference in your and your loved ones' tomorrows!

AUTHOR: Gal Shyli Dayan

 

Sources: 

http://wordlesstech.com/prevent-heart-disease-with-these-healthy-tips/ 

http://www.simplehouseholdtips.com/the-best-artery-cleansing-foods.html 

http://thepaleomama.com/2013/11/how-im-healing-cavities-without-dentistry/ 

http://www.mapsofworld.com/infographics/poll/preventing-heart-disease-are-we-doing-enough-text.html 

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/7-ways-prevent-and-even-reverse-heart-disease-nutrition1 

http://penn-heart-vascular.pennmedicine.org/2013/02/heart-disease-risk-factors-prevention-infographic.html 

http://www.driscolls.com/nutrition-health/health-benefits/heart-health/raspberries-for-heart-health?crlt.pid=camp.hz7ftJybMG91 

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/health/conditions/heart-disease/yoga-heart-disease/ 

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/fight-heart-disease-with-these-heart-healthy-foods.html 

http://positivemed.com/2012/04/22/heart-disease/

Listen to the Song that is Guaranteed to Reduce Your Stress by 65% 

Have you found yourself feeling more stressed out or anxious recently? How do you deal with your stress and anxiety? In the current age - it seems like technology can create more new ways to feel stressed or anxious, rather than helping to cure people's stress or make people's lives easier. A more recent phenomenon that has arisen in the past few years is the concept of FOMO - or "Fear of Missing Out." It has become such a mainstream concept that the Oxford English Dictionary added it in 2013 and defined it as: 

“…‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’. Under this framing of FoMO, nearly three quarters of young adults reported they experienced the phenomenon.”
 

This phenomenon began to take off, especially among younger generations, during the rise of social media like Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. In addition to rising numbers of young people feeling FOMO, studies published in 2013 revealed that 57% of women enrolled in American Universities reported feeling overwhelming anxiety. Furthermore, a study performed in the United Kingdom discovered that 1 in 3 young women who participated in the study suffered from anxiety attacks. 

The question then arises - what can be done to relieve the seemingly high amount of stress and anxiety that people experience these days? One solution being explored by researches is the use of music. In fact, neuroscientists have discovered that people can reduce their levels of anxiety by listening to specially crafted music. In a study done by researchers in the United Kingdom, it was discovered that by listening to a particular song, participant's stress levels decreased by 65%, and they also exhibited a 35% reduction in their overall physiological resting rates. 

The song that the researchers used to induce heightened states of relaxation in participants was specially composed through a collaboration between the UK band Marconi Union and a team of music therapists. With the help of the music therapists, Marconi Union identified and used harmonies, rhythms and bass lines in the song that would help to slow down the listeners' heart rates, lower their blood pressure, and in turn, lower stress hormones such as cortisol. 

The song was so successful that TIME Magazine named Marconi Union one of its "Inventors of the Year" in 2011. Since its release, the song "Weightless" has been streamed on Spotify and via Youtube more than twenty million times. 

Want to experience the song for yourself? Let us know if you experience it's relaxing effects. 

Listen here now:


 

January 6, 2016 

Rajmani Sinclair

This Patent Could Save the World and Disrupt Monsanto's Business 

Photo: Charles O'Rear via wikipedia; a plane dispensing pesticides.
 

In the current world, pesticides pervade our homes, schools, parks, and public lands. You name it - pesticides are there. 54 years after Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring", raising public awareness about the danger of pesticides in our environment and on human health, the use of pesticides has only increased. Pesticides have been linked to a wide array of negative health problems ranging from headaches to nausea to reproductive issues to cancer. Pesticides are toxic and harmful to all life, and the continued use of pesticides is not sustainable. 

In the field of agriculture, there has been a resurgence of people looking for alternative means of pest management. Beyond organic options, a growing number of farmers are looking to biodynamic methods of farming that are not only a chemical-free approach to farming, but also produce healthier food and soil.

Photo: Dusty Yao-Stamets via Wikipedia; Paul Stamets holding an Agarikon Mushroom.
 

In the field of mycology, the study of fungi, there have been several exciting advancements that offer another, chemical-free method of pest management. Ten years ago, Paul Stamets patented 200,000 entomopathogenic fungi, a type of fungi that destroys insects. In a talk he gave in 2008, Stamets shared that several executives from the pesticide industry told him that that his work with fungi is the "most disruptive technology" the industry had ever witnessed. The fungi that Stamets developed and patented is able to attract different pests to it and, upon eating it, the pests eventually turn into fungi from the inside out. 

Paul's work with fungi presents a very exciting new avenue for pest management - a method that works with nature to fight off unwanted pests. 

To learn more about Paul Stamet's work, check out his website here: http://www.fungi.com/ 

And be sure to watch his TED talk from 2008 below:



Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, September 27, 2016

 

Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Found in the USA 

                                              The superbug resistant even to "antibiotics of last resort" is a strain of E. coli, pictured above.
                                             (Photo: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently stated that a superbug, reported to have been discovered in a US woman, could mean the "end of the road" for antibiotics. 

A 49-year-old woman from Pennsylvania went to a military outpatient clinic on April 26, 2016 due to a urinary tract infection. When treated for the infection, doctors discovered that she was resistant to all antibiotics, including Colistin, an antibiotic of last resort that's given to people when treating what are known as "superbugs" - highly resistant strains of bacteria. 

This strain of superbug was later discovered in individual cases in Europe and Canada. Back in November 2015, health officials were alarmed by a number of cases reported from China and from a colistin-resistant strain of bacteria found in some pigs. 

Other patients in the aforementioned Pennsylvania clinic were tested and found negative for the strain of colistin-resistant bacteria. The woman reported to have the superbug had not traveled within the past 5 months, so it's unclear if this superbug is be present within her local community. 

Thomas Frieden, chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is reported to have stated that the arrival of the superbug on US soil, "basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics—that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics."

                                              Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 

The rise of such superbugs can be contributed to the overprescription of antibiotics by physicians and in hospitals. The use of antibiotics in agricultural livestock also plays a significant role in the crisis of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Al Jazeera reported that within the US, antibiotic resistant bacteria have been cited as the source for over 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths. 

Furthermore, the National Resources Defense Council found that more than 70% of antibiotics sold in the US end up going to livestock and are given to animals who are not even sick, but rather as preventative measures and to promote quicker growth. 

Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, May 31, 2016
 

 

Results of a 50-Year Study Show that Spanking has Significant Negative Effects on Children's Mental Health 

         Photo Credit: Getty
 

Recently, the University of Texas in Austin and the University of Michigan published a study citing that spanking is linked to aggression, antisocial behavior, mental health problems, cognitive difficulties, low self-esteem, and a whole host of other negative outcomes. The universities used data collected from over 150,000 people over a 50-year period, and concluded that there are no positive benefits to spanking children. Rather, there are 13 significant negative mental health issues that arise from spanking.
 

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, the lead author of the study, told CBS News that by the time children enter school, at least 85% of them have been spanked. She also states that spanking is ultimately a euphemism for beating or hitting one's children. Some people might counter that they turned out okay, or that they need to spank their children in order to clearly define who's in charge. To such comments, Gershoff says that people turned out okay "in spite of being spanked, not because of it," and that there are better, healthier ways to discipline children. 

Children do need discipline in their lives, and a better way to do this is to set clear boundaries, be consistent about the boundaries, be organized, and be a role model. Bottom line, corporal punishment only leads to negative effects on the long term mental health of children and sets a precedent for future violence. 

Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, May 31, 2016

Is Sunscreen Really Protecting You? Here's What the Companies Don't Want You to Know. 

                 Photo Credit: Rajmani Sinclair

With only 6 more days until Memorial Day, it's time to start thinking about sunscreen and skin protection again. As you take to the beach (or pool, river or lake) in the coming days and months, have you stopped to consider how you will protect your skin this summer? 

Over the past 10 years, several studies have shown that many sunscreens are actually toxic and do not necessarily protect us from sunburns or skin cancers. In fact, when people end up relying on sunscreens that boast extra SPF and extended protection, they tend to stay out in the sun for extended periods of time, thereby damaging their skin more.

                        Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just published their 10th annual guide to sunscreen in which they list the best and worst sunscreens on the market in the US. The EWG also clearly states that the use of sunscreen should be the last resort in terms of sun protection. Before resorting to sunscreen they suggest these tips: 

Wear Clothes: Shirts, hats, shorts and pants shield your skin from the sun’s UV rays, reducing risk by at least 27%. 
Find Shade or Make It: Picnic under a tree or take a canopy to the beach. Keep infants in the shade, reducing the risk of multiple burns by 30%. 
Sunglasses are Essential: Not just a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV radiation. 
Plan Around the Sun: Go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. 
Don't Get Burned: Red, sore, blistered skin means you’ve gotten far too much sun. 
Check the UV Index: The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure. 

While these tips may seem to put a damper on your summer plans, following these guidelines as much as you can will keep your skin healthy and more protected from both burns and skin cancer in the long run.

                 Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If you must be out in the sun for long periods of time and do not want to follow the tips listed above, then do wear sunscreen. When choosing the safest sunscreen, here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • There is no proof that sunscreen prevents skin cancer 
  • Don't let high SPFs fool you 
  • Vitamin A - a commonly used sunscreen additive - may actually promote the development of skin cancer 
  • European Sunscreens proved better UVA protection than American sunscreens 
  • Sunscreen doesn't protect the skin from all types of sun damage 
  • If you avoid the sun, check your vitamin D levels. If they're low, consider taking Vitamin D supplements
     

To learn more about these topics, check out this in-depth article on the "8 little known facts about sunscreen.

For lists of the best sunscreens for adults and children visit the EWG website, where they rank sunscreens in terms of safety and effectiveness. 

Written by Rajmani Sinclair, May 24, 2016

Tired of Being Anxious? Try this Simple Strategy to Reduce Stress in Your Daily Life. 

Everywhere you look these days, people seem to be professing the benefits of mindfulness. Yogis have been talking about it for thousands of years, and now Western science is finally starting to catch up with what some sages have known for ages. But what is mindfulness anyway? And why should you care? 

To put it succinctly, Ronald Siegel, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School, states that mindfulness is: "awareness of present experience with acceptance." 

Sounds simple enough, but it can be trickier than you think. 

How often are you really present and aware? 

In this age of social media, cell phones, computers, tablets and smart watches, how often do you pause, disconnect from the media-saturated digital world and connect with the world around you? How often do you wait in line or for the train or bus, for example, and really just wait? Can you do it without listening to music on your iPhone or checking the latest snapchats or emails? 

The iPhone was released when I was in college, and I remember vividly the day when I looked around campus as I was walking to class and thought - Does anyone just walk anymore? I looked around and saw that nearly everyone had headphones on or was talking on the phone. Not many people were simply walking and interacting with the environment around them. With time, I started to get uncomfortable walking across campus without talking on the phone or listening to something on my phone. I noticed that it took a lot of energy and discipline to go against the sudden social tendency to never be fully present and aware. 

After I graduated I got a job, and before I knew it I was attached at the hip to my iPhone and all my work emails and texts. I was never alone - someone could always reach me. I started to resent my phone. I yearned for a simpler time when people had to pick up the phone to reach people, or had to type things on a typewriter rather than answer hundreds of emails and update several spreadsheets a day. 

Did that idyllic time ever exist? 

Probably not.

Regardless of the current technology, humans will always find ways to not be present. We are so often lost in our own thoughts about the future or past, and rarely are we fully aware and present. So I can blame technology if I want, but ultimately, as I realized, the choice to be present is mine and mine alone. 

If any of what you've read so far resonates with you, you might be wondering, "okay, so why should I care? What can a mindfulness practice offer me?" 

While it won't make all your troubles away - it will help change how you respond to daily life and ultimately live in a way that reduces anxiety and worry. 

In simple terms, here are 5 basic principles of mindfulness that, when understood and put into practice, can take you a long way: 

  • Recognize that you are not your thoughts. 
  • Observe your thoughts, but do not judge them. Don't try and suppress them or get rid of them. Just notice your thoughts and allow them to float by without engaging with them. 
  • Practice becoming immersed in the environment around you. Take off your headphones. Turn off your smartphone. Look at the world around you. 
  • Take note of patterns of thoughts that occur often and label them so that when they come up again, you can say, "Oh, there's that thought pattern again..." Acknowledge it, and move on. 
  • Return to your breath - be in your body, and take in the world as it presently is around you.

What's even more important than all of these tips is actually making time for them! We often get wrapped up in the runaway train of our thoughts because we think we don't have enough time. Don't get on that train. Pause. Breathe. Take time for yourself, even if it's just a minute, and see what happens. 

Written by Rajmani Sinclair, 05/17/2016

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