The question of whether it is possible to slow down aging is one that has interested us, humankind, our entire history. It is as relevant to us today as it has ever been. Recent scientific progress indicates that the aging process not only can be slowed down, but under certain circumstances it can be reversed. In plain terms, your physical body can get younger!
Here we would like to introduce you to the research of David Sinclair, a Harvard professor and one of the leading scientists in the field of aging, who made Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014. In his research he acknowledges that our lifespan has definitely increased over the past century, thus we do live longer. But the integral question of his research is: Can we live better? In his book “Lifespan: Why we age and why we don’t have to” he states that “instead of fighting for youth, we fight for life. Or, more specifically, we fight against death….We have gained additional years, but not additional life – not life worth living anyway.”
Our teacher Carlos Castaneda liked to show off a little bit his astounding youth, at times, even in his seventies. He would pull up one leg from his pants while he would remark: “These are not the legs of a seventy year old man!”, and then add: “To be young when you are in your thirties…no big deal. To be young when you are in your seventies…now that is sorcery!” Old-Age was, according to him, the fourth enemy of a man of knowledge that cannot be overcome, but it could be slowed down. His message, 25 years ago, was that the practice of energy passes, meditation and a healthy diet can slow down age and turn on the youth genes.
In his research Sinclair identifies a protein called sirtuin, which plays a major role in our body’s ability to interpret our genetic information and repair our damaged DNA cells. We also have molecules in our bodies, called NAD, that activate that protein. However with age, our body starts running low on NAD, which causes malfunction of sirtuins. This, according to Sinclair, is a single cause of aging.
Throughout our lives we get NAD from what we eat – milk, yeast and green vegetables. In his research Sinclair identifies a body’s survival circuit – practices through which we can tell sirtuins to boost the defense for our DNA cells. Those practices are regular physical exercise, exposure to cold and limiting our food intake. Though this research is still ongoing and many more experiments need to take place to further Sinclair’s findings, there is a large body of studies that supports his research. So, simply put, if you spend 15 min a day exercising, occasionally take a walk without a jacket and skip a meal sometimes, you are actively investing in staying younger.
We want to mention here that there are a few companies that manufacture NAD supplements that can be taken orally daily. It is hard to make any claims about whether those supplements do the work intended, but if any of you have tried them or intend to try them, please let us know your feedback. That should at least make an interesting discussion.
We do however recommend reading Sinclair’s book “Lifespan: Why we age and why we don’t have to”. It is full of fascinating discoveries and useful information.
Let’s live a life worth living!
By the time I met Carlos Castaneda he was very disciplined with food. He emphasized that food had a direct impact in our emotions and our thought processing. It influenced our perceptual capabilities.
“Es muy simple señorita,” he used to tell me in Spanish, “si comes mal, te sientes mal y ves todo mal.” In other words, if you eat crap, you feel like crap, and perceive the world like crap.
I met Castaneda in 1995 in Los Angeles, at one of his events where he taught sequences of movements to revitalize the mind and body. I had read all of Castaneda’s books in Argentina in my young teen years. His bestseller books from the 70’s described the possibility of mysterious, unfathomable parallel worlds laying beneath the ordinary, repetitive and boring mundane world of everyday life. He described how he gained purpose in his life and found meaning even in daily affairs. He had found a new description for himself, and, he said, and it was available to all.
I was imbued with a longing for gaining, meaning and direction at the time. I wanted to learn to live like a warrior: effectively and with daring. I wanted to experience strength, confidence, and above all, to know that my life had meaning and purpose, that I mattered. Meeting him was like meeting a mystic, a legend like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or the Pope.
At his event, he walked to the stage wearing dark jeans and a yellowish polo style shirt. He was short and, as I heard someone saying behind me, he was in his early 70’s. However, the fluidity and precision in his movements and the lack of wrinkles in his face made him look much younger. He stood up and looked around at the large group of more than 300 people.
“I would like to invite you all to suspend judgment” he said with a large smile. “Don Juan Matus, my mentor, told me new ideas and concepts about the world that were hard for me to grasp, because they contradicted what I knew as a Western man. So I warn you, that the practices that you will experience in this class will challenge your perceptions and the ideas of who you are and of the world around you.”
‘For example”, he continued, “if you come from Argentina, and you had a capuchino this morning, it would be harder for you to remain calm and focused. Caffeine accelerates mental activity and digestion in your intestines. And you may need to run to the bathroom as I speak and miss the lecture,” he said mocking and gesturing as if holding the need to pee. Everyone laughed, including me.
A second later I realized he may be talking about me, even though there were a group of 25 Argentinians. I had had a capucchino in the morning, and a croissant, the typical traditional Argentinian breakfast. And I was holding from going to the bathroom! In the break before his lecture, there had been a large waiting line in the women’s restroom and I had opted for what was familiar for me, holding. Constipation was one of the issues I had as a child, since my basic diet consisted of meat and dairy, with low fiber and green intake. My diet made it challenging for me to digest and eliminate.
“Stimulants, including sugar and salt, weaken your energy systems and for that I urge you all to avoid them, while taking this class. Imperative for those of you suffering from hypoglycemia,” he added. And, again I felt he was talking to me. Low blood sugar was my default state that made my moods swing and my thoughts foggy. I was also used to living on a low-budget, so food was not something that important; if I ate once a day, that was enough.
Castaneda continued walking on the stage with his hands on his pockets as if he was dancing, with ease and largesse, making jokes and joining the laughter with all. For moments he embodied the joy and warmth of a child, and for moments he seemed detached and reflective. All in all, he made us feel like he was one of us, making remarks and jokes, even about himself.
“When I met Don Juan I was chubby and stubborn. I was an intellectual, I did not exercise and I smoked like a pipe. I was a true addict. Don Juan had to trick me to stop,” Castaneda continued. Uncomfortable, I changed the crossing of my legs and straightened my back. Sitting on the floor was hard for me. I was in my early twenties but my back hurt often. I was also a ‘social’ smoker” and I crunched thinking about quitting smoking, yet another thing on my list that I needed to change.
“One afternoon,” Castaneda continued, “Don Juan took me on a long walk to the desert. I needed to buy cigarettes and a new notebook and was walking toward my van with my keys in hand, when he announced he knew a short cut into town. I hesitated but then I agreed. After having a big lunch, it was a good idea to take a walk. As we walked, Don Juan was teaching me about the life in the desert and I didn’t realize that hours had passed until nighttime was upon us. Don Juan told me he was lost and that we needed to spend the night in the desert. We were lucky that he had brought in his backpack some dry meat, covers and water.
I was upset at myself for accepting his invitation, but I didn’t have any other choice. I had no idea where I was and besides, the information Don Juan was sharing with me was invaluable and I enjoyed his company immensely. I couldn’t sleep well that night neither the following nights. We spent the next two-days walking lost and by the fourth day I knew he had tricked me. We finally reached the road, and I realized we had been walking in circles. In town, I was so hungry that I forgot about the cigarettes. And I quit smoking,” he opened his arms to the sides in a triumphal smile.
“I used to carry the cigarette pack on my left pocket” he continued, “and Don Juan suggested to remove all pockets from my shirts to erase the habit of reaching for them. Still, once in a while” –he said bringing his right hand to the left side of his chest, — “I automatically reach for my pockets,” he said laughing with humbleness as admitting the things he couldn’t change.
“But of the things that we can change, are the “auto-pilot” interpretations we made about food,” he explained.
He further said that food was energy, and as such, was meant to not only sustain our body’s energy systems, our health and vitality, but also food was directly related to our states of consciousness, how we experience and feel about ourselves and the world around us.
“When you cut down the stimulants you can sustain mental focus and alertness.” He was now standing still, looking directly to each person in the group, “the real work starts. The question is, What is eating you? What is it inside you that stops you from reclaiming your vitality, your daring, uh? What is it that makes you forget that you are a being that is going to die? Who is eating you?”
I felt so moved and inspired to change my habits and to find out what, inside, was stopping me from feeling vital and strong. After he finished his lecture, he taught movements that resembled martial arts. He said the movements would return the energy back to where it belongs, to the internal organs in the body that he called centers of life and vitality.
After the workshop, I was invited to the lecture he offered to Spanish speakers, and from there to the first, of many lunches with him. I changed my return flight and stayed in Los Angeles with a group of friends. I practiced the movements, the meditations and all what he suggested, and I became part of his inner circle. I learned to use food as energy. I learned to eat food with CHI, energy, to sustain mental alertness and balance my moods. I healed my hypoglycemia and swinging moods. And, most importantly, I learned to OBSERVE thoughts and emotions and not identify myself with them.
In the last year of his life, Castaneda shifted his diet to a plant based one. And that inspired me to shift my diet also to a more plant based one, which supports detoxification at all levels, including addictions. I have been teaching what I learned from him in my classes, and what I have learned from my experience of more than 22 years practicing movements for vitality and increased awareness. But now my question is towards you, my dear reader, what is eating you?
As the summer wanes, so does the outward flow of energy that summer naturally brings. The exuberant activity recedes, and what lies underneath comes to the surface. The same seems to happen with our body chemistry.
This is the time of year when people frequently come to me for help with hormonal balance. From the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view, the endocrine system offers a beautiful expression of yin-yang balance. Hormones act powerfully in incredibly small amounts, the alphabet of a complex system of bidirectional communication between all areas of the human body, a biochemical mind. Activity and rest, also at the level of the mind, influence this balance. So, as we move toward the fall season, let’s look at the question:
Do I need to balance my hormones?
Thyroid hormones, Vitamin D, estrogen/progesterone, testosterone/DHEA and cortisol are our basic “hormone awareness pack.” We should know what our levels are with each of these. An imbalance of a member of this group might show up in any of the functions they help regulate. So let’s dive deeper into the above question. Do any of these aspects hit home for you?
If any of these issues ring a bell, you might want to take a look at your hormones.
What can I do to balance my hormones?
A fine biochemical orchestration needs a clear, clean environment, free of impediments. In our world today, a jungle of toxins bombards us from everywhere, from invisible radiation from electronic devices to chemicals in cosmetics and home cleaning supplies and preservatives and artificial additives in our food and drink. ALL of this complexity comes into the body through the lungs, the intestinal mucosa or through skin absorption. From there, it travels to the lymph, the blood and then everywhere else. It is accurate to say that we live within a sea of toxins, either moving through our body, stuck to a physical structure in our body or attached microscopically to an active enzyme or chemical process in our system and potentially interfering with it.
There are many types of detoxification and hormone balancing programs available today. We support our students and patients in participating in any well-balanced and well-researched protocol. In fact, a proper detoxification program is a key in balancing hormones in today’s world.
At the Energy Life Sciences Institute clinic, and in our Being Energy programs, we offer the Being Energy Detox Program along with personalized nutritional supplement recommendations. Our patients and clients have experiences outstanding results with this program.
There are also some useful things you can do yourself at home:
Always regulate both from the outside (toxins, proper nutrients, supportive environment) and from the inside (behavioral patterns and spirit level). We are spiritual beings first and foremost, and we are having a physical experience secondly. Both levels of being are important to attend to, and they complement one another.
Our spiritual experience is rooted in our biochemistry. Indeed, we could also describe hormones as “messengers of spirit.” When we are having a spiritual experience, what my teacher Carlos Castaneda called a “non-ordinary” reality experience, it also changes our hormones. When our spirit is “off,” when we kind of “feel off,” our biochemistry, our hormonal balance, is also often off. When we are in inner silence, our homeostasis is enhanced, and the psycho-neuro-endocrine axis shifts to a more balanced regulation.
In states of meditation, purposeful mind states can trigger a change in any of the diverse glands in the body. The hypothalamus regulates the pituitary gland and the pituitary regulates the rest of the glands. The hypothalamus is the central connector of this fantastic neuroplasticity mechanism. You can exercise your focal attention (associated with the prefrontal cortex) by specifically holding in your attention an emotional experience—being the observer changes the pathways through the hypothalamus and, consequently, the secretion of hormones throughout the body changes.
Research has shown that the number of pathways between the prefrontal and the amygdala determines how fast we bounce back from adversity. Our thinking self can calm down our feeling self, so we can act with purpose and decision instead of being ruled by negative emotions. This resilience, how fast we rebound, can be of great support for the hormone universe inside of us. Our inner mind can influence what happens with those “messengers of spirit.”
In summary, you can help balance your hormones from within using YOUR MIND. It is like becoming your own best friend!
Try this practice:
Give yourself a few minutes without interruption. Sit or lie down comfortably. Now visualize, or have a feeling of, the areas I describe here in any way you wish—there is no need to know the actual anatomy.
For more tips and empowering information, join our next online Feed Your Body + Spirit class on September 3rd: Balance Your Hormones: Change Your Body + Your Life.
Best to all!
Dr. Miles Reid
It would not be an exaggeration to say that young vessels equate to young age and that a healthy, vital flow in the blood vessels makes every other part of your body shine and function well. Open yourself up to discovering the universal flow and connections that are inherent in your arteries, veins and lymph glands.
Our Vascular System is one of the most amazing elements of our body. As a teacher’s assistant during medical school, I was able to see firsthand the incredible complexity of our network of vessels, the arteries, veins and lymphatics. A few years ago, the German medical artist Gunther von Hagens toured Europe and the United States with an exhibition called “Body Worlds,” where, through a medical education process called plastination that turned the liquid within vessels into an acrylic compound, he was able to show whole segments of just vessels, with no other structures. Smaller and smaller tubes that ultimately became thin as hairs, spreading in shapes that made out the exact body of each organ—a sight to behold! A true community where every single corner is linked to the 3 main attributes of the system:
In Eastern thought and martial arts practice, the term vessels was the original description to what later was translated in the West as meridians, or channels. It was the observation of circulation by the ancient physicians and healers which gave them an understanding of how to move information and resources—energy, throughout the human body.
In shamanistic principles, as I learnt them from my teacher, Carlos Castaneda, the body can revitalize by means of a process that he called energy reallocation. The circulation in this case occurs through a network of vessels carrying a vital force called tendon energy. During the practice of physical movements, which in Being Energy we call Energy Passes, we deliver jolts or strikes to a certain count, stimulating the flow of tendon energy along vessels from the feet to the head.
Learning how to feel our vascular system, and how to activate each of its three parts, can bring lots of benefits and it can also be fun to do. Join our last class of the year this coming Saturday, November 12 to learn more!
As a doctor in a busy clinic, I often find myself in a similar predicament as my own patients, that is, how to stay focused and stay present, without feeling that there is not enough time to take care of all that is on my plate. From early morning professional meetings to a lively stream of patients throughout the day, to important time with family, it’s key for me to be vital in every moment—to be physically, mentally and emotionally present.
I need to engage in active listening, critical thinking, business planning and fine motor skills and deliver medical interventions at the same time. As I do all of this, I need my heart to be open and connected, and my spirit to be grateful and joyful. I need my memory to be clear, my muscles to be relaxed yet springy, my body functions to perform in balance, and in general to generate the necessary energy to sustain my day. This is just the basic demand, without any additional emotional or relationship experiences that might be playing out in my mind at any time. Welcome to modern life! And hold on to your seat because this ride is just going to get more intense over the next few years. Time is accelerating.
No matter what is happening in my life, I am sustained by the practices that I learned from my teacher Carlos Castaneda. In particular, he taught me various series of movements to revitalize the body and mind. One of his favorites was a very simple yet powerful one he called Turning on the Body. A practical, descriptive name (quintessentially Castaneda).
To “turn on the body” means to first completely relax the body and then, in a split second upon a sudden command, engage the totality of ones muscles, joints and even internal organs, followed by turning everything off again. The effect of this on the nervous system is to trigger a state of readiness and ease at the same time—much in the same way as taking a short cold shower and then drying the skin briskly to warm it up again creates a circulatory flush from the blood shunting, which is very invigorating. The idea of turning on is alluring, but the real gem lies in the corresponding opposite state: turning off. Our capacity to be on wears off unless there is an equal and opposite capacity to turn off.
“You have to turn off to turn on,” Carlos Castaneda told me. The longer the distance between the off muscle state and the on muscle state, the stronger the activation of the body awareness. When we apply this to the heart muscle, we call it Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and the longer the variability, i.e., the more distance between the heart beats, the healthier the long term outcome of not only the heart, but of health markers across the board in all bodily systems.
Biologically, turning off is a given. Though we may have forgotten how, we are naturally designed to be able to turn off with no effort of our part. That is our nature. That is what I saw with my very own eyes while on safari once in the Serengeti plains. A pack of female lions chased a group of Impala. The gazelles seemed to freak out and run everywhere. The lions finally caught one of them, rounded up to eat it, and then, right beside this, the rest of the Impala returned to grazing, as if nothing had happened. So why is it then that when, for example, we feel betrayed by what someone said to us, we stay contracted and anxious for days or months or even years?
Peak performers know that the ability to turn off is as important as that moment when they turn on. Elite tennis players are a great example of this. How does a player sustain energy throughout a match that lasts hours? They cycle through being on and being off from moment to moment. With some players, it can seem like they have all the time in the world to return a serve across the net.
We, too, can have all the time in the world and operate at our highest level.
In our September Radiant Energy + Radiant Health Los Angeles Retreat, we will show you how to retrain your body to turn off when it doesn’t need to be on so that you can get deep rest, tap into your well of energy and move with suppleness. You’ll learn how to identify holding patterns held in your fascia, the fascinating network of soft tissue that turns on to help us do all the things we need to do in life, and release these patterns so that they no longer interfere with the on-off cycle that is required for you to perform at your best.
Times have changed, and in our world today, learning how to better adapt to the growing demands that life places on us is vital. It’s also of great help to receive specialized treatments to help your body restore and investing time in seeking neurological balance. These things are not luxuries. They are now, more than ever, necessities.
In health, joy and energy,
Dr. Miles Reid
Really? There are foods that can help me stay energized, focused and positive all day long? Yes!
Sustain your activity and enjoy calm focus throughout the day by favoring foods that have a low glycemic index (GI). The key to these foods is that they help maintain balanced blood sugar.
Changes in our blood sugar level correlates to changes in our energy level. Low GI foods are those that produce gradual changes in blood sugar levels. High GI foods—those to avoid—cause your glucose levels to spike and your energy to crash. Even worse, these spikes in glucose levels followed by the crash put pressure on the insulin axis and if this happens often, it ultimately damages our stress response, adrenal function, and thyroid function.
Favor these seven foods! The following foods are examples of low GI foods:
A good resource for more information can be found at www.diabetes.org.
An even more detailed approach is something called the glycemic load (GL). The glycemic load takes into account a food’s whole array of nutrients, which shows a more complete picture. The other components in a food can offset the glycemic index ratio and slow down gut absorption, leading to a more gradual impact on blood sugar levels. The desired scale we want to look for are foods with a GL of less than 10. Take carrots for instance. Pure carrot juice, which represents mostly the fructose component has a high GI of 71 (watch for those big pure carrot juices!) whereas a whole carrot has a relatively load GL of 6. GL is of great importance. For sustained activity and focus during the day, we need to maintain a balanced level of sugar in our blood.
Maintaining a balanced blood sugar level not only helps with our energy. It also helps our mood. Studies have shown a correlation between eating foods with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, proteins and nutrients (a vegetable-focused vegan diet, for example), and the ability to stay more alert and positive, compared to eating high GI or GL foods such as simple carbohydrates.
One study that monitored glucose levels and glycemic variability in women with type 2 diabetes revealed greater glycemic variability to be associated with negative moods and lower quality of life.
The gist is that your ability to stay engaged and alert during the day depends on your ability to maintain balanced energy and balanced blood sugar.
I believe that we need to get familiar and educate ourselves about grains, legumes and seeds. In my Feed the Body + Soul cooking class on February 6, I taught how to wash, soak and cook these important, energy giving foods. When properly planned, a plant-based diet contains all the proteins you need for life!
It is important to consider not only the biochemical breakdown of proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates of each food, but also the LIFE ENERGY and ESSENCE of each food. Food is alive and so are we, and we want to feed our LIFE FORCE with foods that have energy.
Large corporations and businesses have a vested interest in making us believe that we need to eat animals for protein. It is not true. There are more than 600 million people on planet Earth today who follow a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, and they are doing just fine. Moreover, it is interesting that fundamentally SPIRITUAL cultures such as in India, are largely vegetarian.
It is important to understand that there is nothing “wrong” with eating animals. It is just a conscious choice that we can exercise or explore.
We suggest that you slowly make changes, and start incorporating more pant-based products (not only vegetables, but also grains, legumes, nuts and seeds) into your diet and minimizing animal products. This in itself can have a positive impact on your energy. But make sure you increase your intake of plant proteins to replace the animal sources that you are reducing or eliminating. You can start by cutting down or eliminating dairy products, because these create inflammation and weaken your intestines.
I am not 100% vegan. I sometimes eat fish, or a piece of cheese. I don’t like to define myself. But most of my diet is plant based.
We are energy. We need foods that contain not only protein and vitamins, but energy, life and essence.
I hope this information helps you to have a broader view of foods and nutrition.
One of the first questions I had for Carlos Castaneda was about food. He placed so much emphasis on wellbeing, on gathering one’s energy, and on being vital, that I was wondering what type of diet he followed.
“What shall I eat to stay vital?” I asked him during one of the many lunches we had together at that time. His answer was unexpected. “The question first is, what is eating you?” he said with a smile in his eyes.
What was eating me, at that time, were negative thinking patterns, heavy moods, fear and anger. The awareness that question brought was a source of inspiration to me, and marked the beginning of a search into how to nourish my body and spirit. Through my apprenticeship with Castaneda, I realized how important food is. Every time he would see me tired or moody, he would ask me: “What did you eat?” Or “Have you had lunch yet?” or “Lets go and eat something.”
Food and the practice of movements were and are key components in my gathering enough energy to tackle deeper issues, heal, and revamp my energy.
Carlos Castaneda was super disciplined about food during my association with him. He took no stimulants of any kind—drank no alcohol and didn’t eat sugar, salt or bread. And even though he enjoyed eating outside, he would suggest that we cook our own food. Actually, he also worked closely only with those who cooked their own food.
I followed Castaneda’s suggestions 100%. My mood swings improved, I got stronger and slimmer and I felt more grounded. I learned to cook my food, and watch for moments when I would eat out of emotional compulsion.
In the last two years of his life, Castaneda shifted his diet and avoided eating meats and animal products. That further inspired me to continue to learn, research and study the effects of different foods and how they influence my emotions and my ability to be in my heart.
Spirituality, and our ability to feel connected to higher forces, is also related to what we eat.
For this reason, Miles and I have created a new series of Nutrition classes that we’ve named Feed Your Body + Soul. The class series will feature guest professionals who specialize in topics such as spirituality, food and addiction and emotional eating, and it will include cooking classes! I’ll teach you what we learned with Castaneda and what we’ve learned through cooking and experience with food throughout the years.
It’s undeniable. The holidays are on the way! How can you keep yourself healthy during this busy season? One key is to strengthen your digestive fire.
Holiday celebrations almost always include rich foods. While we all know that it’s important to eat well, we can get a little derailed this time of year. Also, if you aren’t digesting properly, then you might not be absorbing the nutrients you need from your food.
Good digestion is absolutely a pillar of good health. To feel your best, you’ll want to make that pillar strong. With that in mind, here are some vital things to know about food and digestion:
Today, let’s focus on absorption. To aid your absorption of nutrients:
* This supplemental suggestion does not constitute medical advice. Please consult with your medical doctor before taking any nutritional supplements.
With the holidays just around the corner, the last tip of adding ginger to your meals is especially useful. It’s a simple, tasty way to kindle your digestive fire. So, when indulging in the season’s rich fare leaves you feeling sluggish, turn to fresh ginger.
Carrot Ginger Soup
Serves 4 to 5
Warm the oil in a soup pot over medium heat, add onions, carrots and sea salt and cook until the onions soften, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes). Do not let the vegetables brown.
Add the vegetable stock, water, ginger and strips of orange zest. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the carrots are soft (about 20 minutes).
Remove the strips of orange zest and discard. Working in small batches, pour the soup into a blender and puree until completely smooth. Only fill the blender bowl a third full with the hot liquid and keep one hand pressing down on the lid of the blender to keep it secure. Add more sea salt to taste.
Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with the chopped chives, parsley, dill or fennel fronds.
We hope you enjoy this as much as we do, and that you’ll join me for ELSI’s next Feed Your Body + Soul class—all about the heart. The class will include some useful tips for navigating through for your emotions during the holidays.
The science is in: Happiness matters!
It turns out that happiness and a strong social network are key components in your health and longevity. As the poet W. H. Auden put it, “We must love one another or die.”
This statement is borne out by research showing that social relationships can both extend your life and improve its quality. Studies prove that social connections—family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, churches and clubs—reduce risk of death by 50 percent. A stunning statistic!
Conversely, loneliness poses a very serious health risk. Comparable to smoking and twice as dangerous as obesity, loneliness can:
Scientists have found that people are happier and feel safer when they are with other people than when they are alone, and that happiness is contagious.
Conducted over 20 years, the Framingham Heart Study, published in the British Medical Journal, concluded: “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.”
Interestingly, being happy also influences our health at the level of our genes. Researchers at UCLA studying the human genome learned that people with a deep sense of happiness and sense of purpose in life had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger immune systems. The opposite was true for the type of happiness that is momentary and based in self-gratification (enjoying an ice cream cone for example).
The head of the research team, Steven Cole, said that one of the things this 10-year study shows “is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion… Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds.”
True happiness is as much a state of mind as it is an emotional and physical (and genetic!) expression. Experiencing gratitude and looking for the good in life is an important part of it. As the fictional Pollyanna said “… there is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it.”
There is even more reason to be glad if you can share your happiness with friends and family.
Happiness, and how your emotions affect your biochemistry, is one of the things that we’ve addressed in ELSI’s Feed Your Body + Soul classes. Join us for our next class to gain tools and information to start the New Year filled with happiness, hope and abundance.