60 Isn’t What It Used To Be

From an article on the glamorous grandmas of Instagram in NYTimes this week:

“Our collective understanding of what later life looks like remains woefully outdated,” Marie Stafford, the European director of the JWT Innovation Group, wrote in her introduction. “Age no longer dictates the way we live. Physical capacity, financial circumstances and mind-set arguably have far greater influence.” (Emphasis mine)

The Big Four

The four areas of health on which I have been focusing – sleep, nutrition, movement and stress control – are the fundamentals, the bedrock, of my health. I focus on no, or very low, cost interventions that anyone can implement. I was going to list my top recommendations to optimize each of these when I realized they are all elements of one main thing – health! They aren’t separate and alone. Each of them feeds the success of the others, and its impossible to say that what you eat does not impact your sleep, or vice versa.

Having said that, here’s what is working for me right now:

Eating a ketogenic diet and fasting intermittently each day (limiting eating to the hours between 11 am or noon and 6 pm)

Moving for a minimum of one hour each day, including some HIIT and some balancing.

Keeping a gratitude journal daily.

Thinking happy thoughts  😉

And … getting 8 hours of sleep every night, enhanced by:

1. A very dark room. No lights but moonlight.
2. Cooling the room, the bed, and my body.
3. Getting away from blue light well before bed time and reducing EMFs as much as possible. Basically, the mobile device must be put in another room, in airplane mode, in the earlier evening.
4. Generating my own melatonin by walking outside in the mornings.
5. Reducing nasal stuffiness by reducing histamine-rich foods, particularly red wine, dark chocolate, and aged cheeses. (I know, could I have listed three foods I love more?)
6. Getting enough vitamin D (with K2) and enough magnesium.
7. Drinking sleepy time tea before bed.
8. Getting to bed by 10 pm so I have at least three hours of sleep before the witching hour of 1 am.

 

Every stupid thought I have

Brain Tree

One of the doctors I have learned about in my quest to improve my health is Daniel Amen. He runs a number of clinics focused on optimizing brain health and decelerating the aging process, among other things, and one of his recommendations is this:

Don’t believe every stupid thought you have.

The brain is noisy, and skews negative. There is no imperative that you must believe every thought that is rattling around up there. Instead, ask yourself, “is it true?” This will help reframe the thought, and re-focus your mind.  I have found this helpful and I hope you do too.

What’s your story?

I love this video of Michele Cushatt and Michael Hyatt talking about the stories we tell ourselves and how these stories either empower or constrain us.

What is the story I am telling myself about my situation? How do I feel, and behave, when I tell myself this story? If I stopped telling myself this particular story, over and over, what else might I see, hear, or experience?

September Focus: Sleep

Sleep is one of the four main pillars of good health, and something I continue to focus on. I used to be a sound sleeper, but in the past five years have found myself awake for significant hours of the night, or waking in the morning with no sense of being rested. I’m focusing on building some new sleep habits in September to continue to optimize my health.

Recent research from the University of Rochester shows that when you sleep, your brain removes toxic proteins (by-products of neural activity when you’re awake) from its neurons. Your brain can only adequately remove these toxic proteins when you have sufficient quality sleep. When you don’t get high-quality deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc.

Besides the obvious attention I give this area of my health – a good mattress, keeping the room cool and dark enough, going to bed early, and limiting exposure to my iPhone for the last hour of the day – I found an article on Inc. yesterday that had some tips that were either new to me, or framed differently. I summarized it below, but urge you to read the article at the link if you believe your sleep could be improved.

Titled This Is What Your Overactive Brain Needs To Get A Good Night’s Sleep and written by Dr Tara Swart, it suggests:

“While falling asleep might seem like a passive process, there’s a whole cocktail of neurotransmitters involved in it, including histamine, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine. But that means there are many physiological “levers” you can pull on your way to a better night’s sleep. Get your evening routine right, and you’ll be able to enjoy the spoils that come with it–better concentration, memory, and moods, enhanced creativity, and reduced inflammation and stress.”

Dr Swart’s recommendations include:

Lose the routine glass of red wine before bed. Why?
Because your liver uses more resources to try to break down the toxin, your brain is starved for the energy it needs to recuperate effectively for the next day.

Eliminate as much artificial light as possible after the sun sets. Why?
Because darkness triggers the pineal gland to release melatonin, and it may be confused by all artificial light. Try switching to either paper books, or an activity that doesn’t rely on light once the sun goes down. I think campfire light is sleep enhancing!

Skip the snack before bed. Why?
Many foods stimulate the brain, at a time we want to be calming it.

Smell some lavender, or jasmine. Why?
Lavender is a powerful neuromodulator, which means that it lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, making you more relaxed and likelier to fall asleep.

Drink nut milk with turmeric before bed. Why?
Make your own relaxing bedtime drink using almond milk (full of magnesium that reduces the stress hormone cortisol) plus turmeric (anti-inflammatory) plus a little Manuka honey (boosts immunity).

Soak in the tub with Epsom salts. Why?
It is a great way to relax – both the warm water, and the cool down afterward – signal your body that it should get ready to sleep. Plus you can add magnesium salts to the bathwater, and that helps decrease cortisol levels.

Doctors on Video [updated]

I have been watching a lot of online videos of doctors lately.

I’m trying to learn more about the ketogenic diet, its impact on health, and how to take the diet further. But I have to say the whole alternative, or functional, medicine field has a bit of a strange tinge to it. I’d like to recommend something to a friend of mine who has a serious autoimmune disease, but not a single video I have seen since I started researching the link between diet and health has the overview information plus the professionalism I’d like to see.

It might be the bravado of an I’m-wildly-successful-and-right-about-everything-with-a-southern-California-gold-necklace kind of expert.  Or it might be the former-hippie-turned-M.D.-lecturing-the-camera-without-collecting-his-thoughts-first-or-presenting-this-information-in-any-kind-of-systemic-way type. It could be the making-a shake-in-my-kitchen-with-so-many-supplements-that-you-probably-can’t-afford-to-replicate doctor.

I believe these doctors are on the front edge of nothing less than a medical revolution. But sometimes they come across as if they are shilling in an infomercial. There is a certain amount of faith I have mustered to trust their research plus the anecdotal evidence they cite. I do not yet have a functional medicine health practitioner, so I will need to make their arguments to my medical doctors, who are trained in the allopathic approach to health. I can see the eye rolling now, as soon as I mention “I researched this on the internet.”

It’s all how you frame it

Old Truck

There is really not that much actual difference between my fearful vision of being old, impoverished bag lady living in the van down by the river, or being a thrill-seeking elder who is documenting adventures by Instagramming her #vanlife.

There is a pretty big delta however, between the mental states that take me toward one or the other. And that is the challenge with this thing we call retirement. Managing your money, your time, your productivity, and your relationships are nothing compared to managing your mindset.

My personal expectation is to pay my way, support myself, share my know-how, and bring enthusiasm to all that I do. My personal fears are also for the worst case, feeling un-needed and unable to contribute, and not able to remember how to get things done. Every day I have to actively choose the expectations, not the fears. Every day I have to recognize when I am actualizing the positive expectations, and reinforce them. As I focus more and more on the positive, I think it gets easier.

Yesterday, I rode on one of the marvelous bike paths nearby. Going out felt slightly downhill. I was with a friend and didn’t have the inclination to worry about the uphill climb on the return trip. And guess what? Coming back felt slightly downhill. Yeah, downhill. Both ways. That’s what happens when you stop worrying and just enjoy the moment.

Changing Your Brain

Mediation Hands

Here are a few recently-discovered resources that offer strategies for changing your brain:

I first heard Rick Hanson speak at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, where he talked about neuroplasticity and the kinds of regular practices that enable your brain to actually change. That talk was the first time I realized that it might be possible for me to use these practices to control my little dopamine problem called Parkinson’s Disease. His organization, The Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom offers an outstanding inventory of the practices Rick discussed. This is an amazing resource that I hope to utilize more in the future.

I also recently discovered Wildmind’s site, and in particular, their very thorough and helpful guide to meditation posture. Very helpful.

Finally, this short article on rewiring your brain to be positive is not too deep, but it does give a nice overview of how to notice when you are being negative so that you can make the shift to positivity.

Alexander Calder

In 2005 we visited Stockholm’s National Museum, where there were some fantastic Calder pieces interwoven with 18th century paintings. I wrote home that “Heather was reminded of the etiquette of museums.” Twice she was scolded by the guards for touching or trying to otherwise make the mobiles move.

Today, New York’s Whitney Museum announced an Alexander Calder exhibition where the guards will actually be tasked with moving the mobiles so museum-goers can see the pieces as the artist intended.

To bring them to life, several of the Whitney’s art handlers, who ordinarily work behind the scenes, have been cast into a new role as performers. At scheduled times during the run of the show, a handler will “activate” a sculpture in the gallery with the prod of a gloved finger or the poke of a wooden stick.

Mobiles must move!