Our Season of Gratitude

It’s National Gratitude Month – so please join me tonight at 6pm PST to discuss how the super-simple expression of gratitude can be used to dramatically improve your mental wellness.

During these high-stress holiday months (and even more so in the age of COVID), it might be helpful to remember that one of the most-studied and most-effective ways to calm anxious thoughts, alleviate depression, and stimulate mental fitness is to express gratitude.

While expressing gratitude can be effective any time, it seems to be particularly effective as a regular nighttime routine before turning in for bed. The “trick” with a regular nightly gratitude practice is to “think small” – because expressing gratitude for the “little things” is a proven way to focus our minds away from negative thoughts and ruminations on problems, toward positive emotions and joy. 

Little things might include your gratitude that you have a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head; it might be the snoring dog on the floor; it might be that funny text you got from a friend, or the cat video that you saw online; it might even be that this shitstorm of a day is over and you have a “re-do” coming in eight hours. 

Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” might sound hokey – especially when you have a lot of crap to deal with every day – but among all the research into psychological well-being, this is the technique that rises to the top again and again as being the most effective – and simplest to implement – to help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, while also improving myriad aspects of physical health and mental fitness, including sleep quality, which we delve into in the next section.

Why Does “Expressing Gratitude” Work So Well?

It is important to understand that our brains are actually wired to be more attuned to negative experiences than to positive ones. This “negativity bias” is why we can feel terrible after hearing a dozen compliments or getting numerous likes—and then a single complaint or rejection can ruin everything. Some studies have shown that we need three positive experiences to counteract each negative emotion—and that is just to keep us in a neutral emotional state. As such, one very effective technique is to try to create a daily diet of happy micro-emotions by using mindfulness techniques and gratitude moments sprinkled throughout the day to continuously buffer the negative emotions that come at us on a regular basis. (I personally use the reminders to stand and breathe that my Apple Watch sends me throughout the day to quietly express gratitude for little things, such as the cup of coffee I might be enjoying, the sunny day, or my goofy dog.)

Physical Performance and Mental Wellness

Please join me tonight for a discussion about how Mental Wellness is related to Physical Performance.

I’ll talk about the gut microbiome, gut-brain-axis signaling, neurotransmitters. stress hormones – and how they can all be managed (and improved) NATURALLY to enhance how we feel mentally and perform physically.

Sleep – The Missing Link To Mental Wellness

VOTE!!!

Then take a 60-minute break from Election Night craziness to learn about how Sleep can be the missing link to mental wellness.

In honor of National Sleep Comfort Month and National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I’ll be talking about how sleep and especially sleep QUALITY is associated with mood, metabolism, body weight, and brain health (including your risk for dementia).

Join via Facebook Live or Zoom – links below…

Improve Your Mental Wellness – Naturally

Please join me this month for a series of Tuesday-night seminars about how to naturally improve mental wellness…

Happy Immune System

As my home state of Utah has been hitting daily record after record for COVID-19 cases over the last couple of weeks (and certain knuckleheads have been protesting at the home of our state epidemiologist who is trying to get people to do the right thing) – I wanted to revisit the topic of how to keep our immune systems strong.

Way back at the beginning of 2012, I wrote The Immune Miracle – The all-natural approach for better health, increased energy, & improved mood – where I wrote about how “priming” the immune system could not only keep us from getting sick, but could also help us feel better on a daily basis with higher energy, sharper focus, and improvements in overall well-being.

Think of “priming” as a “tune up” for your immune system – so it is faster and more efficient at identifying problems such as infectious viruses and bacteria. Immune priming has been used for more than a decade to help the immune system fight cancer cells more efficiently during chemotherapy treatments (by making the immune system more efficient at finding/fighting cancer cells and by maintaining immune strength during therapy).

Newer research shows how a properly primed immune system not only protects us at a higher level, but also helps us to feel better on a daily basis, with notable improvements in mental wlellness (measured as “psychological vigor” – a combination of physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being).

Priming should not be confused with “stimulating” the immune system. Both priming and stimulating can bring a suppressed immune system back ”up” – but an over-stimulated immune system can lead to problems such as allergies, food intolerances, and auto-immune conditions that can attack and damage healthy tissues. Priming helps to restore optimal immune system balance (whether it’s high or low to begin with) to help protect us and improve how we feel.

There are a number of ways to naturally prime our immune systems – getting enough sleep, eating high-fiber vegetables and whole grains, and supplementing with specific “glucans” that are found in mushrooms (alpha-glucans) and yeast (beta-glucans).

It’s pretty logical to understand that if your immune system is suppressed in some way (such as by stress or lack of sleep), it’s less likely to protect you from pathogens (like viruses), and you’re more likely to get sick (which is why we often catch a cold when we’re stressed or worn out). 

What many people do not appreciate is that a properly-functioning immune system is also associated with a general feeling of well-being; conversely, a suppressed immune system is one of the primary reasons for feeling fatigued and depressed. 

Vigor is a term from psychology research that measures a combination of physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being (vigor is the opposite of “burnout” or physical and mental exhaustion). When your vigor is low, you not only lack energy and may even be depressed, you also lack the necessary motivation to get up and accomplish the things that you’d like to do. When your immune system is suppressed, your vigor is low — BUT, when you bring your immune system back to optimal levels of functioning, your vigor improves… and you feel great again.

There are basically three “tiers” to consider when it comes to effective immune system support: Protect – Prime – Promote.

Protect

This first tier is where you do whatever you can to protect yourself from exposure to pathogens. Steps like eating a healthy diet, supplementing with a balanced multivitamin; consuming fermented foods and high-fiber foods to nourish your microbiome; frequent hand-washing; getting enough sleep; and reducing stress all come into play.

Prime

Especially during periods of elevated stress (environmental, emotional, physical), the immune system needs to maintain its primary function of protecting the body from harmful invaders. Numerous human research trials of several “immune support” types of dietary supplements have shown that “priming” key immune system cells (macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells), helps them to quickly identify, ward off, and defeat foreign challenges. Research studies show that people with properly primed immune systems have fewer cold/flu symptoms and better indices of well-being, vigor, energy, and mood. The more stress you’re under, the more you can expect your immune system also to be “stressed” (and suppressed), the more likely you are to benefit from a daily regimen of immune system priming.

Promote

This is your last resort – after you’ve tried the first two tiers and you’re down for the count with an established infection (i.e. you have a cold or the flu). The best approach to temporarily promoting or stimulating immune system activity above normal levels is to start consuming higher levels of vitamin C at the first sign of a sore throat or related cold symptom. You can drink more orange juice, eat lots of strawberries, or get an inexpensive chewable vitamin C tablet — and shoot for an intake of 500mg every 3-4 hours (up to 3,000mg/day for 3-5 days). This simple, safe, and inexpensive approach is a good way to help your immune system get a jump on the infection; it might reduce your symptoms by a couple of days.

The immune system is one of the most complex body networks – but, maintaining its proper balance and optimal function doesn’t have to be complicated. Protect your immune function with a healthy diet (antioxidants from fruits/veggies and probiotics from yogurt). Maintain balanced immune function, especially during times of stress with proper Priming, and Promote immune activity above normal only as a last resort (and then only for a short period of time).

Each of the chapters in The Immune Miracle  take you step-by-step toward an understanding of how the immune system works, how stress interferes with immune function and leads to low vigor, and how a properly primed immune system can protect you from disease while helping you to feel better than you’ve ever felt before.

World Mental Health Day is Oct 10

If there were ever a time when the world needed some help with its collective “mental health” it is undoubtedly NOW!

With World Mental Health Day coming up this Saturday, now is a perfect time to reach out to anyone (everyone!!!) to check in with them about their mental health. Most of those people will say that they’re “fine” – but we all know that really just stands for “F@#&ed Up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional”!

This video from my Tuesday night seminar series covers a wide range of safe and effective natural options for improving mental wellness (stress, depression, anxiety, burnout, focus, energy, sleep, resilience, and many others).

Some of these options might help you – or a loved one – with better mental wellness?

Don’t Be Afraid of COVID-19?

Assuming you don’t have access to free medical care and experimental drugs at Walter Reed Medical Center, you might be wondering what YOU can do to naturally keep your immune system strong?

The Wall Street Journal had a nice piece yesterday that explained a bit about how some of the President’s drug treatments are attempting to “boost” his immune system – but as I’ve written about many times, this is NOT the right approach for most people (and can actually backfire later). Luckily, we can get superior benefits by naturally priming our own immune systems.

None of us should be “afraid” of COVID-19, but we need to be smart about how we reduce exposure (wear a mask) and how we prepare our immune systems and our mental wellness if/when we are exposed.

Below is a highlighted version of the WSJ article – and you can read the original here.

Trump’s Covid-19 Treatment Seeks to Boost Immune Response 

Weaker immune systems are a key reason why the elderly are so susceptible to serious cases of Covid-19 

The experimental infusion doctors have given to President Trump seeks to counter a problem affecting many older Covid-19 patients: an ineffective immune response.

Among other treatments, Mr. Trump has taken a drug cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. that hasn’t been approved for broad use but aims to jump-start an immune defense by supplying antibodies to help fight the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The company says its results suggest the infusion can help people infected with the coronavirus who haven’t yet produced their own antibodies.

The approach makes sense in elderly patients, whose bodies are often less able to fight off pathogens, said Janko Nikolich-Zugich, an immunologist and gerontologist who is a professor at the University of Arizona. “You don’t control the virus as quickly as you should” with older patients, he said.

A growing body of research points to the immune system as a key reason why the elderly are so susceptible to serious cases of Covid-19. As a person ages, the system undergoes “immunosenescence,” gradually losing its ability to mount a response to infection as robustly as it once did. The complicated mechanisms of the immune system don’t work together as well, leading to a slower and less-powerful defense.

In addition to his age, 74, Mr. Trump’s weight also may raise concerns about his immunity, as obesity has been tied to impaired response. And a study published in the journal Nature this August also highlighted the possibility that older men, in particular, might tend to mount a less-robust immune response to the virus.

About 80% of deaths in the U.S. have been among those 65 and older, and about 31% of deaths are among people aged at least 85 years, according to death-certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is partly because the elderly are often frailer, and they also have higher rates of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes that are risk factors for severe impact from Covid-19.

But their immune systems are another important factor, researchers say. “When you challenge a body with a virus or a vaccine, there’s just not the vigorous response,” said Cari Levy, a geriatrician who is a professor at the University of Colorado.

Older people often produce fewer, and less-effective, antibodies. These y-shaped proteins are supposed to bind to invading pathogens, neutralizing them and signaling to the body to destroy them.

“It’s slower, it’s unreliable—you probably don’t make as many” antibodies, said Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The hope is that treatments like Regeneron’s experimental cocktail might help fill that gap early in the infection process, potentially slowing the initial spread of the virus.

Elderly immune systems also often have problems generating the powerful soldiers known as T-cells, which supply a main line of defense against invaders. Production of these cells, from a gland in the chest known as the thymus, drops sharply over the course of a person’s life. They can also lose some of their function.

One recent study suggests that older men have a harder time getting their T-cells into action. New research published this August in Nature looked at 98 patients infected with the coronavirus and found evidence that the immune response varied by gender.

“Especially men of older age were very impaired with respect to T-cell activation,” said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University who led the study. Those men who had the least T-cell response tended to have worse Covid-19 outcomes, she said.

There is no treatment currently available that would help with Covid-19 patients’ T-cells, she said. Potentially a future vaccine might do this, but vaccines are often less effective in older patients.

But even as vital parts of an elderly person’s immune system are performing sluggishly, another response can cause trouble by firing up too much. As the body fails to contain the virus quickly, the immune system may produce too many of a type of protein called cytokines. These can damage blood vessels and allow fluid to seep into the lungs.

It isn’t clear why this “cytokine storm” effect is triggered in some patients but not others. But elderly people tend to have a higher level of inflammation, and cytokines, said Amber Mueller, a molecular biologist who is a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School.

This greater baseline level of inflammation is one reason the soldier T-cells are less effective, and it sets the stage for the dangerous overproduction of cytokines, she said.

President Trump remained hospitalized early Monday, after doctors offered conflicting signals about how he is faring with Covid-19. The president sought to project confidence and vigor over the weekend.

Amare H2H Mental Wellness Symposium (2020)

Last week marked the 3rd annual Heart-2-Heart Mental Wellness Symposium – and like all things in 2020, it was unprecedented (but in many GOOD ways)!

Even though we missed the in-person group dynamics that so many of us thrive on, we were able to use some very innovative digital tools to make the virtual meetings as connected and engaging as possible.

If you missed the live events last week on Sept 25-26, they were all recorded and archived, so Amare Wellness Partners can find them in their back office library.

Last night, I gave an overview and recap of some of the Science topics that I covered in my presentations – which you can view below and also here on YouTube = https://youtu.be/xsJm-c1NMFE

Why Success Won’t Make You Happy – The Atlantic

The pursuit of achievement distracts from the deeply ordinary activities and relationships that make life meaningful.
— Read on www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/07/why-success-wont-make-you-happy/614731/

This series by Arthur Brooks is truly astonishingly good – I consider it ‘required reading’ if you’re looking for meaning in life (which we all should be doing)…

How to Build a Life” is a biweekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.

Leaky Gut + Leaky Brain = Faster Aging?

Could imbalances in your gut be causing you to age faster?

How can natural therapies help to restore microbiome balance, gut integrity, and mental wellness?

Check out my latest video to learn how your gut, your brain, and your rate of aging are linked = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BtQrVdZx1o