Your brain on meditation!

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I love meditation and recommend everyone to not only try it but to make a daily habit out of it. My impression is that a lot of people would like to meditate, but are unsure of how to do it. Unsure of the “rules” and what to expect from it. First of all – don’t believe all the crazy stories about people levitating and having the most blissful or transformative experience in their life. It’s not like that. The essence of meditation is this: a calm mind. No more, no less. Secondly, you don’t need anything, not even rules. If you just sit (or lay down) in a quite room and breathe, that’s enough. You might want to try to focus on your breath or try to feel your body from withing, but it’s not mandatory.

Your brain on meditation

SVDThe cool thing with meditation is that you can actually (physically) change the structure of your brain! Using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) it’s possible to see these differences. It’s also possible to detect differences in the emittance of brain waves.

(To the left) is me in one of the biggest daily newspapers in Sweden, showing the reporters my brain measuring devices! 😀

Parts of the brain being affected by meditation

  • Lateral prefrontal cortex (LPC)-The part of the brain that deals with logic and reason.
  • Medial prefrontalacortex (MPC) – “The me center”
  • Insula – “gut feeling” and empathy
  • Amygdala – The body’s alarm system, “fight-or-flight”. Amygdala + Insula is responsible for “uh-oh” feelings, and Amygdala + MPC give raise to anxiety and impulse based behavior.

Your brain off meditation

Among non-meditators it’s possible to observe a strong neural coupling between MPC and Amygdala. That is a connection between the “me center” and the alarm system. It means that whenever you experience anything physical, you feel the urge to react. If you experience hunger you will put something in your mouth, if you get nervous it quickly escalates into more nervousness (for example)

Your brain on meditation

Meditation weakens the connection between MPC and Amygdana, which makes you less reactive. When a physical sensation appears, it becomes second nature to observe rather than act.

If you suffer from anxiety, you will stop associate the physical symptoms of anxiety to something dangerous. I was suffering from severe anxiety for many years, and I remember the first time that I could just sit through a panic attack. It was a war inside of me, and I could accept it and observe it with a calm mind, until it passed. Everything that arises, passes away.

Amygdala decreases with meditation, and LPC gets an increase in neurons and actually grows bigger. That increases your skills in logic and reasoning.

My personal benefits of meditation

The most profound benefit for me is that I don’t take my own thoughts all that serious anymore. When I think a thought, or feel something – I acknowledge it, accept it, and I let it pass. I was acting on my impulses a lot more before, and nowadays I almost never do that!

I also experience better endurance with mundane work, I can sit for longer hours and just work until the work is completed.

Meditation is truly one of the coolest hacks, do you meditate?

Artificial sweeteners and its effect on weight loss

Aspartame, Sucralose and Acelulfame K are the most popular artificial sweeteners. They are calorie free and “diabetes safe”, as they leave the blood sugar unaffected. These sweeteners are included in many “sugar free” products including diet/health bars,”sugar free” chocolate, diet soda and so forth. They are often used together with sugar alcohols. A sugar alcohol contains both calories and carbohydrates. Examples of these are Sorbitol and Xylitol. They end with -ol. They lower the pH in your mouth and is therefor considered to be “good” for your teeth. That’s why you find them in sugar free chewing gums. Ethandiol and Erythritol are other examples used in pastries, such as sugar free cheesecake for example.

All products containing artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are labeled “Sugar Free”!

Sugar alcohols have a very volatile nature, which is why they don’t stay in the blood stream for very long. This is why they don’t affect the blood sugar as much as other sugars. If you’re counting carbs, cut the sugar alcohols by half. It means that 10g sugar alcohols equals 5g carbohydrates, approximately. Be careful if the number of carbohydrates are suspiciously low on the label. Look for other names such as “dietary fiber”. If you want to be ketogenic, count everything!

Insulin hormone

But how about Aspartame, Sucralose and Acesulfame K, aren’t they un-digestible?

Well… let me do some reversed engineering!

What’s in sweetened light products? The sweeteners, a bunch of chemicals and a couple of acids. Mostly phosphoric acid. The sweet taste is affecting the brain directly when the sweet taste receptors on the tongue are activated. Sweet taste is sweet even if it’s artificially produced. When the tongue detects the sweet taste, it signals to the body that more sweet stuff are on its way. Small amounts of insulin are then being released, even before the food reaches the stomach. If there’s no actual carbs, just a bunch of chemicals, we will experience a drop in blood sugar. It will eventually make us hungry or give us cravings for more sweet tasting things.

Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame affects the serotonin levels in the brain, influencing our mood and behavior. It inhibits our sense of fullness, thus making us eat more than we need or want. This is especially true if we drink diet soda to a meal, compared to a glass of water.

The acids

Acids like phosphoric acid and citric acid are tampering with our metabolism via the citric acid cycle. Artificially produced citric acid doesn’t come from a citrus fruit, but grown from mold. Many people with allergies are experiencing a worsening of their allergy symptoms, when consuming products with artificial citric acid.

Conclusion 

How are you reacting to “sugar free” products with artificial sweeteners? Do you get cravings or does it trigger you to over-eat? If you experience increased hunger or cravings, it means that your body and brain reacts to the sweet taste. Personally I seem to tolerate diet coke pretty well, as I experience the taste as bitter rather than sweet. But I don’t drink it for the same reason I don’t drink random chemicals. Best thing is to avoid anything unnatural, especially unnaturally sweet, as it won’t promote a healthy behavior. As soon as I eat “sugar free” bars, low carb candy and stuff like that I turn into a monster craving more and more! One thing I CAN’T stand is Atkins and Questbars! They are forever banned in my home 🙂

Resources

Hard science 

Identify your cornerstones and increase productivity!

1aQuitting caffeine turned out to be one of my cornerstone activities for maximum productivity, but there’s more. Identifying your top activities can really transform your work days! Let me introduce you to the concept; it’s all about identifying the key factors with most impact over your life.

For example, my top pick is waking up super early, preferably around 5 if not earlier. If I roll out of bed 4.55 am it makes my entire day feel good, and I go to bed early with a smile on my face. Up early almost always equals high quality work.

Next cornerstone is to do the most important thing first. I categorize all my tasks from A to D. A is important and urgent, B is important but not urgent, C is not important nor urgent and D are the things that I can delegate. If I wake up at 5 am and start the day with an A activity, I couldn’t be happier!

Third cornerstone is to refrain from caffeine because it really unlocks skills and abilities in me that I can’t access on stimulants. Without the caffeine I can keep a steady focus all day long, be present and aware without any stress in my body. In other words; I do what I should and nothing else!

If I ought to continue the list I would also like to add strenuous exercise and a strict ketogenic diet. It’s not enough with powerwalks or light training, I need to lift heavy or in some way really exhaust myself. It influence my sleep and general mood a lot, besides; if I do a PR in the gym it affects my confidence as well. As for the keto diet, I actually detect a significant difference in focus if I’m being really strict for longer periods of time, or if I add kidney beans and sweet potatoes. Even a small amount of carbs blunt my focus.

Identify your cornerstones

Try finding routines or things that have the maximum impact on your productivity, mood or your results. This exercise is very rewarding and I had a true aha moment when I did it. If I build my day upon these few things, everything rolls on track.

My cornerstone activities in bullets

  1. Up 05 am
    2. Start with an A activity
    3. No stimulants or caffeine
    4. Strenuous exercise
    5. Keto

What’s your 3-5 activities?

The power of great routines

12362608_450581098483204_1451350123_nI constantly try to improve my routines, so that the large part of my everyday life runs as smooth as possible: What and when I eat and train, who I meet and what I wear is all scheduled to minimize the use of my “decision muscle”. I don’t want to spend a minute on useless decisions like what I’m going to eat for breakfast.

My sunday routine

This is a very cozy routine and I highly recommend it. Every sunday, I sleep in till about 6.30 am. Then I walk to my favorite café just across the street where I live. I bring my laptop, notebooks and planner and start with some journaling. I write down my feelings about the week, my expectations and thoughts. I write down things to improve, things that didn’t work out as planned and so on.

Then I check all my goals; weekly and monthly goals and sometimes even my long term goals just to see if I’m on track. I tick the goals I’ve accomplished, write down new ones and analyze if they are consistent with my long term priorities.

The café is completely empty around 7 so I can sit there in silence for at least 3 hours before the first people drop in.

plannerJournaling and goal planning complement each other

The diary is used to analyze thoughts and feelings, to make sure I really know what I think and feel about stuff. I bet most people use their friends for this, but I don’t want to be influenced by other people. A couple of years ago, I always asked other people what I should do, and that’s pretty pointless. They will just give you their opinion based on their own situation, not on yours! I haven’t met a lot of people that get excited when I tell them about my goals, it’s much easier for them to say stuff like “Isn’t that super hard? Isn’t that too expensive? Dangerous? Too vain?”

Nowadays I act first, and then tell others what I’ve done. It’s a huge difference for the better.

Do you have a great sunday routine to share with me?

The importance of consistency

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The strategy for achieving long-term greatness in almost any category whether it be health, fitness, business, relationships, spirituality or emotional health is to be consistent. It’s absolutely crucial if you want to make any significant change or improvement in your life

Since I’ve been a keto enthusiast for several years now I get a ton of questions from impatient people about health improvements, weight loss and strength gains on the keto diet. When I ask how long they have been on the diet the response is almost always “2 days”, “a week” or “a couple of weeks” which is no time at all. Lowering blood sugar and inflammation, balance hormones and lose weight is a process. It takes time which is why there’s no room for “cheat days” and all that kind of stuff; you just can’t cheat success and there’s no way around consistency.

Let me share my 5 tips for keeping on track!

Keep your eye on your why!

You need to know why you are making certain lifestyle changes, why you want to improve your health, get fit or lose weight. If you know why and remind yourself often it’s much easier to stay on track. What’s your higher purpose?

Narrow down your focus

Don’t try to change a thousand things at once. I know it’s tempting but start with one thing and keep at it until it’s a habit. This is why I always recommend people that are new to low carb not to be too strict in the beginning but to make it a habit first. After the diet feels natural you can move on and look at individual micronutrients, additives, food sources, ketosis etc.

Schedule your new habits

If you want to write a book or get fit or whatever your goals are you need to make time for it. Take a look at your calendar and see what you can leave out. Your new habit will steal time from something else, that’s just the way it is.

Push trough the pain

Everything is a bit painful in the beginning but just stick with it and remember that the day will come when it’s not painful or tedious anymore.

Get back up on the horse!

It doesn’t matter if you miss a work out or fail to be consistent in the beginning. It happens to everybody. Just get back up on the horse and continue according to plan and schedule. Remember that it takes about 10.000 hours to become really good at something. If you are consistent and create new constructive habits you can become world class in anything you want!