Your Guide to Fats: Which Vegetable Oils Are Bad?

On the cover of health magazines in the 80s, 90s and even into the 2000s, you would have seen a lot of hullabaloo about how fat was Public Enemy #1 and it was making us all, well…fat. They demonized fat for obesity rates, rise in cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic conditions. The low-fat craze told us how we needed to avoid fat at all costs; then a plethora of reduced fat processed foods hit the store shelves in response to consumer demand.   

Then in 2002 appeared a seminal article written by the science writer, Gary Taubes, “What if it was a big fat lie?” – which started to turn the tide on the evils of fat. Our collective nutrition consciousness has decided that the scientific evidence is not pointing to fat as Health’s Most Wanted. In reality, fat is an essential part of our diet as humans. Fats help fuel our mitochondria, absorb vitamins and minerals, and keep us satiated after a meal. Did you know that our brains are even made up of 60% fat! And oils are some of the best sources of fats that can support our overall health.

However, understanding which oils are healthy and which should be written off of your eating plan is important in creating a balanced diet. In this blog, we’ve reviewed the different types of fat, and which oils to choose or avoid next time you’re at the grocery store or cooking a meal.

 

Types of Fats

There are three main types of fat: saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fats.

Saturated fats mean that the fat molecule—also called a triglyceride—is completely “saturated” with hydrogen molecules. In the picture below, you’ll see how saturated fat is full of H’s (hydrogens); this allows saturated fats to stack on top of each other and build up easily, causing things like plaque buildup in your arteries. Some of you may remember restaurants transitioning from saturated fat (lard, tallow) to all vegetable oils (corn, soybean) in an attempt to switch to a healthier source. How ironic this is – we all know that saturated fats like lard are less processed and much more stable for cooking or frying. The moral of this lesson is that overall, you only need saturated fats in moderation for health. If I could find a restaurant that serves fried chicken cooked in lard again, I would love to go splurge!

Unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds (=) where the molecule is not saturated with hydrogens. This creates a kink in what would otherwise be a continuous, stackable chain. These kinks created by the unsaturated areas keeps the fat from building up as saturated fat does; as such, unsaturated fats are generally a healthier choice than saturated!

Trans fats: Do you remember when Crisco shortening was a main ingredient in many of the recipes then? Trans fats are formed when unsaturated fats are refined in a process called partial hydrogenation; these are fake oils and should be avoided. Consumption of trans fats has been linked to increases in heart attacks, inflamación. in the body, and blood cholesterol levels. The city of New York leading the way with the first ban on trans fats in restaurants has demonstrated improved public health and lower rates of hearts attacks and strokes. Way to go Big Apple!  

 

Healthy Oils

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which has been linked to lowering LDL cholesterol and promoting heart health. Olive oil which hasn’t been processed with chemicals is called virgin olive oil, and the highest grade of virgin olive oil is called extra virgin olive oil.

Christine Palumbo, a registered dietician, explains, “[Extra-virgin olive oil] contains more than 30 different phenolic compounds, a group of phytochemicals that include many with anti-inflammatory and blood vessel-expanding actions.” Olive oil is perhaps the most common choice for healthy oil, and it’s a clear example of fat that will actually help your heart health. Unfortunately, not all olive oil is actually olive oil – there are many blends and fakes out there. When the world’s production of olive oil does NOT match what is being sold as ‘olive oil’, there’s plenty of reason for suspicion. We will highlight what to look for in olive oil in a later blog.

2. Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is also teeming with monounsaturated fats and all the health benefits that come with them. This oil is especially unique because it retains its nutritional content at high and low temperatures; others, like olive oil, have a low smoke point, so the oil begins to break down sooner while cooking. Avocado oil is a great, neutral tasting option with high health benefits. I tend to use avocado oil for stir-frying as it’s more heat stable than olive oil. 

3. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil has naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats, which are also helpful for heart health! Research has reported that sesame oil has anti-inflammatory effects while also providing antioxidant support. Together, these properties help fight heart disease and plaque buildup in the arteries. Sesame oil has been a staple in Asian cooking for centuries, and is a heart-healthy addition to your own pantry. Keep in mind that sesame oil should only be used as a topping or a seasoning oil as it’s not heat stable for long-term cooking or frying.

 

Oils to Eat In Moderation or Avoid

Although we need fat in our diet for optimal health, there are some oils that we should only consume in moderation or avoid like the plague.  

1. Coconut Oil – Moderation

Coconut oil’s reputation has been up and down in recent years: some dieticians used to claim it was the best fat for your health because of its medium-chain-triglycerides, while others staunchly recommend against it for its high saturated fat content.

The research on coconut oil is mixed, with some studies pointing to it raising your HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), while other research shows that coconut oil might raise your LDL cholesterol (the artery-clogging bad stuff).

Because of its mixed reviews and high saturated fat content, the Cleveland Clinic and many others recommend you use coconut oil in moderation. I like coconut oil when making popcorn but due to the strong flavor, it’s usually reserved for a snack or a dessert dish.

2. Palm Oil – Moderation

Check the label of any jar of peanut butter and you’ll likely find palm oil listed; it’s a popular ingredient in many processed foods. With roughly a half and half makeup of saturated and unsaturated fats, palm oil isn’t as bad as some other options, as long as you’re not eating a lot of it. To me, the bigger issue is that extracting palm oil has been shown to have negative effects on the environment; the World Wildlife Fund reports that it increases deforestation and unethical working conditions. Opt for all natural peanut butter and avoid palm oil next time you’re at the grocery store. Read labels carefully because palm oil is hidden in a lot of snacks and otherwise healthy foods.

3. Vegetable Oils – Avoid

Vegetable oils include corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, cottonseed oil, rice bran oil, and rapeseed (Canola) oil.

New York Times best selling author and family physician Cate Shanahan, MD, notes how the high level of refinement needed for these oils in combination with their high content of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) makes them a poor choice. The refinement process makes the PUFAs more unstable, less nutrient dense, and more likely to lead to inflammation in the body.

Shanahan recommends opting for oils that are less refined and closer to whole foods, whether that might be a cold-pressed olive oil or avocado oil as mentioned earlier.

I love how fats give me energy throughout the day without needing to raid the fridge every several hours. It also gives me mental clarity. It’s necessary to have fat in your diet, and when you opt for healthy oils like olive, avocado, and sesame oil, your body and brain will thank you.  It may be time to clean out your cupboard and re-prioritize your vegetable oil shelf!

Are You Addicted to Your Emotions

Have you felt stuck in self-sabotaging patterns? Like you’re constantly trying to break out of old habits, but for some reason, you can’t quite make new choices stick?

If that’s you, I have good news: your biology may be more to blame than your willpower.

When the concepts of habit change and self-sabotage arise, people normally point directly to willpower and discipline; those are the magic keys that you simply need in order to stop smoking, eat more vegetables, or get your 10,000 steps in each day.

Though willpower and discipline are parts of habit change, the fixation on them overlooks a key need for your body and brain: safety.

Your body and brain evolved to seek out relationships and environments which feel familiar to relationships and environments you’ve experienced in the past. These provide a sense of “predictability” – if you’re around people and in places where you can feel like you “know” what will come next, life feels more predictable.

With a perceived sense of predictability, your brain and body get what they’re really after: safety. Because if you can “predict” what comes next, you can more adequately prepare for it, and you find a perceived sense of safety and control.

This makes sense when we think about evolution; with more predictable environments and relationships, it was easier to survive and create the next generation. In today’s world, however, the brain and body’s grasping need for predictability can be more limiting than helpful.

Let’s take an example: Kayla is looking for a healthy, peaceful relationship. She’s eager for something that’s mature, loving and reciprocal. Growing up, however, Kayla always witnessed chaos and drama in her parents’ relationship, and in adulthood, she found herself in similar, toxic partnerships. And then Kayla meets Craig. He’s sweet, respectful, and sends her flowers after their second date. At first, it feels heavenly: Kayla is so excited to finally be in a healthy, respectful relationship. After a few weeks, however, Kayla begins to feel… bored. Almost apathetic towards Craig. It doesn’t quite make sense to her, though, because when she’s actually with Craig, they have great conversations, she’s laughing out loud, and she’s anything but bored. She gets a feeling that she’s sabotaging this relationship, but she can’t understand why or what she can do about it.

When we think about the brain and the body’s skewed sense of safety, here’s what is often happening in situations like this:

Kayla feels safe in relationships that harbor chaos and drama because that’s what’s “predictable” for her. Those relationships feel familiar, which creates a sense of safety for her brain and body (even if emotionally she feels miserable; the misery is “safe” for her brain).

When she enters the new, healthy relationship with Craig, her brain and body go on high alert because it’s not “predictable.” It’s cued as unsafe, and through a convoluted process called emotional addiction, her brain and body work together to sabotage the new relationship with feelings of boredom.

The sudden disinterest in a long-term goal is just one way that the brain and body can sabotage something new. Other common methods include procrastination, replaying old painful memories, avoidance, seeking out people or habits that are familiar to old patterns, and plain old giving up.

This brain-body-fueled self-sabotage can happen in the macros of our life – our relationships, jobs, and friendships – as well as the micros – our daily schedules, the foods we eat, and more. Your brain’s overarching goal is to keep you safe, and it feels it can most successfully do that by creating a predictable life full of the same patterns, regardless of how those patterns make you feel emotionally.

What can Kayla then do to overcome this sudden disinterest in her goal of being in a healthy relationship?

The first step, naturally, is by creating an awareness of her body and brain’s need for safety. She can begin noticing how the pattern of chaotic relationships has arisen throughout her life, and how it’s showing up with Craig now. With this awareness, she can actively choose new patterns and recognize the old, helping her move over the hump of self-sabotage and into a place where healthy relationships feel safe for her body and brain.

The second possibility comes from a book called Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza. In it, Dispenza outlines the body and brain’s need for predictability as we’ve recounted here, and he posits that we can provide our bodies and brains with the safety they need through a process called “mental rehearsal.”

Mental rehearsal has been used by musicians, professional athletes, and public speakers to improve their performance and reach their goals. It’s the simple process of visualizing yourself practicing a new skill in your mind. Research has shown that mental rehearsal can improve performance in a music performance, healthcare delivery, and sports.

Dispenza takes this a step further and outlines how mental rehearsal can help people create a sense of safety for their bodies and brains in new habits, relationships, and environments. When you visualize yourself in healthy relationships, successfully reaching your goals, and taking on new habits, you begin to give your brain a sense of “predictability” for what that experience will feel like, thereby making it “safe” (Evolve Your Brain, Ch 11).

What’s especially important here is tuning into the emotions of those visualizations – when you imagine yourself reaching your goals, how do you feel? When Kayla uses her imagination to visualize herself in a healthy, reciprocal relationship, what emotions does that bring up? Pride, gratitude, joy, contentment are common answers.

As these emotions become more familiar, the new habits, relationships, and environments triggering these emotions become more predictable and safe; as a result, the brain and body have less of a need to self-sabotage the newness.

If your goals for a healthy lifestyle for disease prevention keep going off track, take the time to create awareness of the old habits and the rationale behind them. This analysis will help you ‘safely’ form new habits. And each day, imagine yourself reaching your goals and how that makes you feel. Whether it is weight loss, better nutrition, positive mental outlook or disease management, these mental rehearsals will teach your brain that these habits are ‘predictable’ and ‘safe’.

In my next blog, we’ll dive even deeper into how the body and brain work together to enact self-sabotage.

I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls – Decoding the Importance of Dreams

When I think about dreams and dreaming, my mind takes me to the hypnotic voice of the diva, Joan Sutherland, singing the aria “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls” from The Bohemian Girl Opera. Whether it’s opera, Les Mis (“I Dreamed a Dream”) or Aerosmith (“Dream On”), dreams have so much meaning in our lives – especially the ones that happen as we slumber.

Dreams can be bizarre, scary, exhilarating and seemingly nonsensical all at the same time. They’re one of the most unique experiences of consciousness (rather, unconsciousness), and research is exploring the potential benefits of REM sleep—the sleep stage we’re in when we dream—and of understanding our dreams. Today, we’re taking a deep dive into both, with tangible tips on how you can start reflecting on your dreams for personal growth and self-understanding.

What are the different sleep stages?

For starters, you should know the general sleep stages we move through while we’re asleep. They don’t always occur consecutively, and we can float back and forth between various phases. They are listed below:

Stage 0 – Awake: This stage refers to the time in bed preparing for sleep. It can also exist as the brief moments you may lightly awaken during the night or a nap.

Stage 1 & 2 – Light Sleep: Typically, we start our sleep cycle in light sleep mode. Your muscles relax, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases. Your body is preparing to move into deeper sleep stages or to awaken.

Stage 3 & 4 – Deep Sleep: This phase is where healing and repair happens. Your body focuses its energy on releasing various hormones, boosting blood flow, and repairing damaged cells. Your brain activity is slow and focused on pruning unnecessary information and data from the day.

Stage R – REM Sleep: In REM, your body takes on a unique set of characteristics. You may have dreams that are fantastical and vivid. Your body moves into atonia, where the muscles are essentially switched off (this keeps you from acting out your dreams).

Why is REM Sleep important?

REM Sleep is an especially important phase for a variety of reasons. A recent article in Sleepline outlines that getting adequate REM sleep has been shown to:

  • Increase ability to read others’ emotions
  • Heighten ability to manage stress
  • Improve memory
  • Boost mood
  • Bolster creativity and problem solving skills

In addition to the benefits of getting enough REM sleep, having a deficit of REM sleep has been shown to correlate with a decreased ability to cope with negative emotions, weight gain, more migraines, increased anxiety, and declining memory.

Lastly, in REM sleep we dream, and many psychologists believe reflecting on these visions in our REM sleep can provide genuine psychological value and benefit.

Why should I care about my dreams?

Dreams are often a marker of what’s troubling you most intensely right now. Your concerns from the past day or two days are likely to arise in your dreams, a phenomena known as the day-residue effect. Similarly, prominent issues can arise in dreams about 5-7 days after the issue occurs; this is called the dream-lag effect. In either case, your dreams are often signaling to you the parts of life most stressful and needing the most reflection or attention right now.

Many also believe that dreams are a way to consolidate memory and new information. As we already reviewed, adequate sleep, especially REM sleep, is important to boosting memory. Some theorize this memory boosting effect is actually due to dreams. A recent Harvard study has shown new learnings are more easily recalled if those learnings were incorporated into a dream, making our dreams a way that the mind seeks to embed important information.

Combining these two pieces, dream expert and psychologist Dr. Sue Llewellyn notes that our ability to spot patterns increases after dreaming. Dreams can feel extremely bizarre and random, but when we begin to notice how the bizarreness of our dreams is strung together with similar emotions, characters, or themes, it can help our ability to notice hard-to-spot patterns in our waking lives. Some even see this as the subconscious mind attempting to relay messages or warnings about what to give more attention to in the waking state (No – we’re not in The Twilight Zone!)

How can I record my dreams?

Psychologist Dr. Jason Holland recommends recording information about your dreams with a dream diary or journal if you’re curious about really getting to the heart of what your dreams mean, and what they may be trying to tell you.

Not only can recording your dreams provide you with insight on your daily highs and lows – it can also show you general patterns in what’s been affecting you.

Recording your dreams can be very simple. It essentially consists of writing down the main points, characters, and emotions of your dreams. When considering the meaning of these different aspects, focus on the significance they hold to you based on your own lived experiences, rather than meanings you might read on various dream dictionaries online.

You can record your dreams in:

  • A journal or notepad
  • The notes app on your phone
  • A voice memos app (Apple phones have this built in; it’s a great substitute if you don’t like writing)
  • A number of iPhone and Android apps: Dream Journal & Lucid Tool como Dreams are two great, free options (note: both include optional in-app purchases)

I started journaling my dreams upon waking and was surprised to learn of the things I dreamt about: giant white snake trying to eat a goldfish, someone looking for their cut-off toe, getting on a plane made of paper, etc. I haven’t figured out what all this means yet but it sure makes great conversation!

Start recording your dreams and see what insights it brings you! When you string together the seemingly nonsensical, you just might find the key to the questions keeping you stuck and the patterns you’re ready to break out of.

Is It Tan O’Clock Yet?

How to avoid Vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer

When I was growing up in New York, I craved the hot weather and longed for tanning time in the sun. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s song of Grease’s “Summer Nights” was my prelude for the season. Well, that was until I moved to the South and realized what summer was really like – LOL!

With summer naturally comes a lot of bright, sunny days and rays. Each year, we’re reminded to stock up on sunscreen, and many of us might opt for the higher SPFs to protect ourselves and family from harmful rays.

Protection from harmful sun exposure isn’t as simple as a higher number on the bottle, however. Even more so, we need some sun exposure to ensure we’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients we need to stay healthy and well. Today, we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of sun exposure do’s and don’ts, with practical tips for how you can stay safe in the sun this summer.

What are the benefits of sun exposure?

Spending adequate time in the sun each day is key to getting enough vitamin D. One of vitamin D’s core functions is assisting with cell division and proliferation, allowing our skin to stay healthy and repair itself when damaged or aging. A vitamin D deficiency has been connected to lower endurance, muscle weakness, and stress fractures, which can be expected from the decreased ability for cells to repair and reproduce.

There are more negative effects of little time in the sun, however; low levels of vitamin D have also been connected to increased depression in women, chronic pain, mood issues, fatigue, decreased immune function, and more. Getting sun exposure each day is important to unlocking your overall wellness; the trick is finding the balance of just enough sun exposure to get what you need in vitamin D.

It is generally recommended that folks with darker skin need more time in the sun – anywhere ranging from 30-45 minutes a day – as their skin is more protective against the sun’s rays. This is great for avoiding melanoma and skin cancers, but requires more time in the sun to get adequate vitamin D. If you are very pale or light skinned, less time in the sun is recommended per day (about 15-20 minutes), as lighter complexions are more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancers but require less time to absorb vitamin D.

How can the sun be harmful?

As we’ve been commonly taught, there are a number of risks with excessive sun exposure, namely painful sunburns and various forms of skin cancer. The National Cancer Institute has reported that the rates of skin cancer have nearly tripled since the 1970s, and the CDC reports about 8,000 people will pass away from some form of melanoma each year. Though skin cancer’s exact causes are hazy, it is clear that sun exposure contributes to its development.

There are two main rays from the sun that contribute to sunburns and skin cancer: UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays move into the more superficial layers of skin, and these are also the rays that provide vitamin D to our bodies. UVB rays are actually the main cause of sunburn, and consequently, most sunscreens are designed to protect mostly against these rays.

UVA rays, on the other hand, go into deeper layers of the skin. Research suggests that UVA rays are predominantly responsible for skin cancer, even though they don’t give you the uncomfortable sunburned splotches like UVB rays do. We run into trouble here because most sunscreens, especially in the United States, are not formulated to protect against UVA rays nearly as much as UVB rays.

When we don’t adequately protect ourselves from UVA rays, we put ourselves at risk of taking in too much of the harmful stuff from the sun, and potentially develop skin cancer down the line. Below, we’ve listed four tips to help you strike the tricky balance of avoiding vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer.

How can I enjoy the sun and protect myself?

Avoid high SPF sunscreens & sprays

SPF stands for sun protection factor, and if you’re shopping at Walmart on your way to the beach, chances are you’ll be inclined to buy a higher SPF sunscreen to feel more protected.

The number on your bottle of sunblock is not as reliable as it seems, however. A recent report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that, on average, most sunscreens provide around half (42 – 59%) of the UVB ray protection that their SPF suggests. In other words, they’re only about half as effective as they market themselves to be.

Even worse, the UVA ray protection was typically only 25% of the SPF on the bottle. As a recap, to prevent skin cancer, UVA protection is especially important, as those rays go deeper into the skin and have the potential to cause cancer over time.

With the lack of effective sunscreens, it’s important to avoid the ones which tout themselves as most effective, which is typically high SPF sunscreens. As the EWG outlines in their recent report on sunscreen, high SPF products, specifically 50+, give users a “false sense of security” for a variety of reasons. With higher SPF, there’s typically a lower level of UVA protection, a minimal reported increase in protection from sunburn (as little as 1% increase from SPF 50 to SPF 100), and overall increased health risks, as higher SPF sunscreens typically have much higher concentrations of chemicals. Sunscreens with SPF between 30-50 provide the protection you need.

In addition, the EWG recommends avoiding any spray sunscreens. They’re incredibly convenient, I know – I’m sad to let them go myself! But these aerosol sprays often include benzene, which is a recognized carcinogen by the FDA, CDC, and International Agency for Research on Cancer. Take your time and spread the screen rather than spray it!

Use different forms of sun protection

Another simple tip is to use a variety of forms of sun protection. If you’ve already been out for a few hours, go ahead and take some time in the shade. Opt to wear hats, beach cover-ups, or get shady under a beach umbrella. Getting out of the sun after substantial time in it is generally more effective than sunscreen, and exposes you to less side effects and chemicals!

Use EWG researched and recommended products

Before we dive into some product recommendations, if you want the full story on SPF, sunscreen, and skin cancer, check out the EWG’s 2022 Guide to Sunscreen, linked here.

We’ve gone through and picked out a few of their research-based recommendations, and have shared their link on Amazon (though they should be available through a wide variety of retailers). Opt for one of these more effective and less chemically concentrated products this summer!

Sport Sunscreen:

365 Everyday Value Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
EWG Rating: 1/10 (1 Best, 10 Worst)

Buy on Amazon Here

Baby / Kids Sunscreen:

Pipette Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 50
EWG Rating: 1/10 (1 Best, 10 Worst)

Buy on Amazon Here

Babyganics Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50+
EWG Rating: 2/10 (1 Best, 10 Worst)

Buy on Amazon Here

Non-Mineral Sport Sunscreen:

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Sunscreen Lotion, Aloe Vera, SPF 30
EWG Rating: 2/10 (1 Best, 10 Worst)

Buy on Amazon Here

Facial Moisturizers with SPF:

Cocokind Daily Facial Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 32
EWG Rating: 2/10 (1 Best, 10 Worst)

Buy on Amazon Here

Is That a Lion Coming My Way? Managing our Stress Responses

Imagine that you’re in the grassy plains a few thousand years back. You’re out alone, gathering plants, when you notice a looming figure in the distance – it’s a hungry lion! As you see it, it sees you. With no weapons on hand, in an instant, your body charges up and you’re sprinting to get back to your village. Your heart pumps faster to send more blood out to your arms and legs, allowing you to run more quickly and with more energy. Your respiration rate increases, bringing more oxygen into your body and powering you up further. You make it back to your village and find sanctuary with loved ones.  

This story is an example from a few thousand years ago and although we no longer have to run from lions, it illustrates how our nervous system evolved and the way our brain conceptualizes stress today.

What is the nervous system?

For starters, the nervous system is responsible for sending communications between the body and brain. It’s made up of miles and miles of nerve cells in our brain, spinal cord, and nerves extending throughout our body.

The brain sends signals through the nervous system to keep your heart beating, take a sip from your coffee cup, pet your dog’s head, and release different hormones throughout your body. The nervous system is how I am thinking of words to type and tapping my fingers on the keyboard right now!

With so many miles of nerves and a wide variety of functions, scientists organize the nervous system into many different subsystems. Only two of these are important for our discussion about stress today: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (NS) are a yin and yang of sorts. The sympathetic is responsible for activating the fight or flight response, while the parasympathetic sends cues to our body when it is safe to rest again.

What is the Fight or Flight response?

The sympathetic NS is often called the “fight or flight” system because it flips on the fight or flight response when a stressor arises. Whether you see a lion off in the distance or you receive a stressful text from your boss, your body responds with fight or flight.

In these moments, your brain signals to your body to either fight or flee. Your heart will start beating faster, your breathing rate will increase, and different hormones will start rushing throughout your body. All of this is a coordinated effort to send energy out to your muscles to fight or flee more effectively.

The fight or flight response was necessary to preserve the human race; we all need the help if we’re being chased by hungry predators.

The issue with fight or flight, however, is that it is still triggered in response to modern day stressors: receiving a hefty unexpected bill in the mail, having a difficult conversation with your partner, living in a 3-year pandemic, and more. 

In these situations, physically fighting or fleeing is rarely necessary or appropriate. When you have an intense text conversation with your boss, running away isn’t going to solve the issue, neither is challenging them to a duel.

Our bodies are constantly entering fight or flight mode, but we aren’t using the energy it supplies us. This “traps” many of us in fight or flight – our heart rates are increased, hormonal secretions are abnormal, and more. We are living with chronic stress and the myriad of poor health effects due to constant activation of the fight or flight response.

The situation isn’t hopeless, however. The good news is you can move yourself out of fight or flight without sprinting away from your stressors or entering into a fist fight.

How do I get out of Fight or Flight?

As I mentioned above, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for moving you out of the fight or flight response. The PNS is often called the “rest and digest” system because it sends the energy from your muscles back into your daily activities like digestion and normal hormonal secretions.

In our lion example, the fight or flight response was turned off by a few different factors (these factors also turned on the parasympathetic nervous system):

  1. Movement. The fight or flight response evolved to do exactly what it says – fight or flee.

Physical activity – whether that’s walking, yoga, or working out – is a powerful way to replace fighting or fleeing. Because we are not literally fighting or fleeing in modern day, we need to release the energy pent up by the fight or flight response and signal to our body that it is safe to enter into a state of calm.

  1. Positive social connection. In the example, you made it back to the village and celebrated with loved ones.

Connecting with others – through physical affection, laughter, and gatherings – literally soothes the nervous system. It’s a signal to the PNS that you are safe and the fight or flight response is no longer needed.

One specific nerve acts as the on switch for the PNS: the nervio vago. When you can activate the vagus nerve through physical activity or social connection, you can signal to your body that it is safe to rest and exit fight or flight.

In my next blog, we’re going deeper into the vagus nerve, and the many different ways you can activate it. Check back for more!

PS: If you want to learn more about this topic, check out the first chapter of the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski!

The 5-Minute Morning Routine for a Fantastic Day

“How you wake up each day dramatically affects your level of success in every single area of your life.” – Hal Elrod, Author

I listened to an interesting podcast on a 5-minute morning routine that anyone can implement and follow. The routine framework is based on Dr. Rangan Chatterjee’s book: Happy Mind, Happy Life: The New Science of Mental Well-Being.

Do you have a morning routine that is consistent and positive to kick off your day? Even if you do, read on for tips on how to make the most out of your morning coffee (or walk)…

Here are the highlights:

  • If you struggle with being consistent in the mornings, the goal isn’t about the routine but taking time for yourself to start the day GROUNDED. And believe it or not, 5 minutes is all you need to transition into the day.
  • We all know that changing behavior is hard so an easy way to implement a habit that will stick is via habit-stacking. According to Dr. BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, stacking a new behavior on top of old ones will provide the impetus to do them. For example – use the time for brewing your morning cup-a-joe or taking the dog for a walk to do your 5-minute self-care ritual.

Here are the 3 Ms of the morning routine to include:  

M1: Mindfulness – 1-2 minutes:

  • Practice being in the present moment. The past or future are only ideas in your head. Enjoy the power of NOW.
  • Mindful breathing for 1-2 minutes is sufficient. Close your eyes. Notice your breath coming in and going out. Let thoughts and sounds come and go. Come back to the breath. Try some deep breaths – hold it and then exhale out. If you need guidance, try this video to follow along.
  • Even a minute of ‘falling still’ makes a difference in our lives.  Another falling still practice to try is to get sunshine on your face for 1-2 minutes to center the circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. 

M2: Movement – 1-2 minutes:

  • Do some squats while coffee is brewing. Or push ups if you are motivated.
  • The key is to wake up the body and get not only your blood flowing but also your lymphatic system. Unlike blood, our body does not have a pump for the lymphatic system so the primary way to move it is through exercise. Try squats, jumping jacks, push-ups or even dancing.
  • Here’s an exercise you can try. Grab a chair and practice getting up and sitting down without using your hands. Then try getting up with no hand movement and balancing on one foot.
  • Once you’ve mastered that, then try sitting down on the floor and getting up without using your hands to assist. This type of balance is key to longevity. This video shows how:

M3: Mindset – 1-2 minute:

  • For a positive mindset, try practicing gratitude. You can do this with journaling.
  • Or if you are not a fan of writing in journals, you can send a text or a short note and give gratitude to others. How about a nice memory of your time with a loved one and reminding them how much fun that was? Or thanking someone for a job well done – no matter how small.  
  • You can also read scripture, books, or whatever gets you into the positive mindset.

If you are worried that doing squats while walking the dog is going to look weird, remember what Dave Ramsey of The Ramsey Shows says: “If being broke is normal, I want to be weird for the rest of my life”. Weird is how you get to health – most of us are sedentary and overweight.  Our  population is sick and unhealthy – so we need to be weird. Gosh – how many times have I heard that? People think I’m nuts and beyond weird for all the things I’m doing to stay healthy and young. But my goal is to live well so that I can focus on the priorities in my life – family, leadership in business, friends and community.  

Try these techniques – you will notice how much impact 5 minutes can make to your day.  Remember that you have to come first so you can help others. Don’t jump into social media or into the priorities of others UNTIL you’ve taken time for your 5 minutes to ground yourself.

Here’s the podcast on the 5-minute morning routine.

The Neuroscience Behind Hypnosis Part 2: The 5 Brainwave States

Did you know that your brain is actually a highly complex, well-tuned electrical engine?

It’s true! Your nervous system—which includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves—communicates through fast-moving electrical signals all throughout your body.

Researchers display the electrical activity happening in the brain as brainwaves, and there are five main brainwave states.

Better understanding these five states can help you go deeper into meditation and hypnosis to gain a sense of inner peace, reprogram old habits and beliefs, and more effectively balance your mental health.

In this blog, I’ve invited a certified hypnotist and colleague (Emma Ehrenzeller, CH) to go deeper into the connection between hypnosis and neuroscience.

Be sure to check out Part 1 to learn the basics of hypnosis! https://community.wholistics.health/are-you-mesmerized-yet-an-introduction-to-hypnosis/

What are the five brainwave states?

There are five brainwave states that we float in and out of each day, and two of them relate heavily to meditation and hypnosis.

Gamma: Gamma is the fastest brainwave state; this means that the brain is more active and creating more electricity!

In the gamma state, the mind is concentrated and likely doing complex problem solving or learning new information. In gamma, you’re highly alert and using a lot of brain power to complete the task at hand.

Beta: The beta brainwave state is the next fastest state, right behind gamma.

When you’re in everyday conversations, doing your taxes, writing a letter, or just getting through the workday, you’re likely in beta. Beta is the state you’re in during everyday consciousness; it’s when you’re alert and focused, but not necessarily hyper-concentrated on a task.

Alpha: With alpha, things begin to slow down. The alpha brainwave state correlates with “relaxed, passive attention” (Abhang, 2016).

In other words, when you’re on autopilot or doing a mundane task, your brain is in alpha. You’re focused and conscious, yes, but you’re also zoned out. When you’re enjoying a walk outside, taking part in a hobby like knitting or pottery, or on a break after a long meeting, you’re likely in alpha.

Theta: Theta is the middle ground between consciousness and unconsciousness. It’s the moment when your alarm goes off and you’re not fully awake, but also no longer sleeping.

Apart from that drowsy state in the morning and evening, we also enter theta when we’re doing repetitive tasks or are immersed in our imagination. Daydreaming and driving for long stretches on the highway often put people into the theta state.

In theta, some people can more easily access their creativity or “flow state,” since their conscious, thinking mind has turned down in volume. Theta can also be accessed through hypnosis and deep meditations, which we’ll dive into in a moment.

Delta: Finally, delta is the slowest brainwave state which we go into when we’re asleep and fully unconscious. We remain in delta when we dream, but our brainwaves slow even further when we are in dreamless sleep.

Hypnosis & Brainwaves

Someone in hypnosis is typically in the alpha or theta brainwave state, depending on how deeply they are relaxed.

Dr. Jan Philamon, who holds her PhD in Psychology, calls the alpha state the “gateway to the subconscious,” while she describes the theta state as the “realm of the subconscious” (Philamon, 2022). 

In other words, when you enter the alpha or theta state, you are able to begin changing the habits and beliefs stored in your subconscious, and break out of old patterns that are keeping you stuck.

People who have gone into the alpha or theta state to alter old patterns through hypnosis have been able to…

And more! And the exciting news is that you don’t have to rely on a hypnotist to access the alpha or brainwave state and tap into your subconscious—you can explore this work on your own time.

How can I access the alpha or theta brainwave state?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a common technique hypnotists use to bring their clients into the hypnotic state (alpha or theta brainwaves). PMR is the process of scanning your body and relaxing each muscle, starting from your face going all the way down to your toes.

Estudios han revelado that PMR is an effective technique for boosting mental and physical feelings of relaxation, especially when coupled with guided imagery and breathwork (Toussaint, 2021). These three in combination essentially build a typical hypnosis session. 

Some versions of PMR also encourage you to tense the muscle group before relaxing it to show your brain and body the difference between the tension and relaxation. The YouTube video below guides you through this process:

After the PMR, you can simply relax, or you can practice different self-hypnosis techniques, such as repeating positive affirmations to yourself, or visualizing yourself reaching your goals or taking on a new habit.

When I tried hypnosis over a decade ago for stress management, the hypnotist guided me into PMR by having me visualize slowly going down a flight of stairs to a calm place – I still remember how relaxing and zen it felt!

Want to get started with a hypnotist? 

There are many hypnosis associations nationally and internationally.

To find a reliable hypnotist, ensure they have a form of certification. The National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) and Hypnotic World both have reputable training programs.

Titles can range between associations, but Certified Hypnotist or Certified Consulting Hypnotist are standard for those who have undergone foundational hypnosis training, and various board certifications are also possible for more experienced hypnotists as well. 

To find hypnotists through the NGH, click here: https://www.ngh.net/request-form/

To find hypnotists through Hypnotic World, click here: https://www.hypnoticworld.com/hypnotherapists/

Sources:

Abhang, P. A., Gawali, B. W. and Mehrotra, S. C. Abhang, P., Gawali, B., & Mehrotra, S. (2016). Technological Basics of EEG Recording and Operation of Apparatus. Introduction To EEG- And Speech-Based Emotion Recognition, 19-50. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-804490-2.00002-6

Crawford, H. J., & Barabasz, A. F. (1993). Phobias and intense fears: Facilitating their treatment with hypnosis. In J. W. Rhue, S. J. Lynn, & I. Kirsch (Eds.), Handbook of clinical hypnosis (pp. 311–337). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10274-015

Elkins, G., Jensen, M. P., & Patterson, D. R. (2007). Hypnotherapy for the management of chronic pain. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 55(3), 275–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207140701338621

Fisch, S., Brinkhaus, B. & Teut, M. Hypnosis in patients with perceived stress – a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med 17, 323 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1806-0

Grégoire, C., Faymonville, M. E., Vanhaudenhuyse, A., Jerusalem, G., Willems, S., & Bragard, I. (2021). Randomized controlled trial of a group intervention combining self-hypnosis and self-care: secondary results on self-esteem, emotional distress and regulation, and mindfulness in post-treatment cancer patients. Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation, 30(2), 425–436. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-020-02655-7

Philamon, J. (2022). Brain Waves and Hypnosis. M1 Psychology. Retrieved 20 April 2022, from https://m1psychology.com/brain-waves-and-hypnosis/

What is the function of the various brainwaves? (1997, December 22). Scientific American. Retrieved 20 April 2022, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-function-of-t-1997-12-22/

Toussaint, L., Nguyen, Q. A., Roettger, C., Dixon, K., Offenbächer, M., Kohls, N., Hirsch, J., & Sirois, F. (2021). Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2021, 5924040. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/5924040

Nature’s Brilliance — Food as Medicine

How 6 Natural Foods Have Impacted Modern Medicine

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is attributed to Hippocrates and although he did not see food and medicine as the same, it’s indicated from his writings that diet and lifestyle are central to health. 

But ancient cultures have used food as medicine for centuries, dating all the way back to the Egyptians who used various plants to treat everything from animal bites to mental health issues. Similarly, Chinese Herbalism and Indian Ayurvedic medicine are rooted in eating different foods to manage or cure different illnesses.

Pharmaceutical companies took notes from these ancient cultures and developed new drugs from the active compounds found on land and sea. My PhD thesis was on the synthesis of an anti-cancer compound that was extracted from natural plants – how cool is that?

This blog will highlight the wonders of nature – I’ll cover six foods and how they have impacted modern-day drugs.

 

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Whether it’s a green Granny Smith or a shiny Honeycrisp, apples have been integral to the research on drugs to balance blood sugar levels.

Apples have always been known to be great for managing blood sugar due to their fiber content, but a newly discovered compound in apples has actually led to the development of a new diabetes drug.

Discovered in the 2010s, the active compound in apples is phlorizin. The compound is found in unripe apples as well as apple tree bark, and it’s now used in drugs to help balance blood glucose levels in people living with diabetes.

 

Yam’s Medicinal Qualities

Yams are known for being sweet potato’s less popular cousin who gets to shine on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But did you know a compound in yams, specifically Mexican yams, has provided a multitude of medicinal benefits?

In the 1930s, researchers found the compound diosgenin in Mexican yams. Diosgenin was first used in the advent of birth control pills in the 1960s. In the years to follow, developers found that the compound was also effective to decrease inflammation for people with arthritis and dermatitis.

The Mexican yam derivative, diosgenin, is still used in drugs today, though it is more likely to be made in a laboratory than extracted from yams themselves. The holidays remain a yam’s time to shine!

 

Willow Bark’s Medicinal Qualities

Willow bark may be less commonly seen in day-to-day life, but if you have a willow tree in your yard, you may encounter it regularly!

In the 1820s, salicin was discovered in the bark of several varieties of willow trees. Since then, its uses have blossomed, providing anti-inflammatory as well as pain relieving effects. Its derivative, salicylic acid, is commonly used in the treatment of acne.

Salicin was also the original source of aspirin, one of the most commonly used pain relieving agents today.

 

Barley’s Medicinal Qualities

Barley is a grain that serves as a base to many foods: cereals, bread, beer, whiskey and more. Barley is a good source of carbohydrates and energy (and a buzz when in alcohol form), and has also opened doors for researchers to develop new drugs to assist with dental surgery.

Within Barley is a compound called gramine, which scientists found in the 1930s. Research on gramine led to the discovery of isogramine, which was then used to design lidocaine.

If you’ve ever gotten a tooth pulled, the dentist likely used lidocaine. We have barley to thank that a trip to the dentist can be (relatively) painless!

 

Peppermint’s Medicinal Qualities

Anyone have any gum? Well, a stick of gum likely doesn’t include peppermint’s active compound, though it takes on the minty flavor.

Peppermint is one of the longest used herbs for its medicinal qualities. Ancient cultures and today’s pharmaceutical companies alike have used peppermint to decrease joint pain, soothe itching on the skin, and manage hives (specifically hives connected to a condition called urticaria).

The compound in peppermint resulting in all of these health benefits is menthol, which is more of a household name as far as drug compounds go. Menthol directly sourced from peppermint is still in use today! BenGay is a commonly used topical pain reliever that uses menthol for pain relief.

 

Chili Pepper’s Medicinal Qualities

Chili peppers add more than a little (or a lot) of spice to your food. They’ve also made leaps and bounds in various pain relief medicines!

In the 1870s, scientists discovered the compound capsaicin in chili peppers. This is actually the same compound that makes your mouth burn when you eat something spicy!

In the medicinal context, however, capsaicin has been used in topical creams to relieve pain, especially for people suffering from osteo-arthritis and nerve pain from the shingles.

“Nature is so smart it put the medicine inside the food”  

Nature has created a plethora of fruits, herbs, and veggies that have been used to support health for centuries, in ways beyond providing basic nutrition. The best part? This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Researchers are currently exploring how herbal remedies, traditional medicines, and other compounds in everyday foods can open the doors to life-changing medicines. If you want to dive deeper into how food is used as medicine, check out the BBC article linked here for more information!Please note: this information is shared out of interest and not as a replacement for current medical treatment or as any medical advice. If you have any of the conditions mentioned in this article, please consult your doctor for medical advice.

Let them eat cake? Merci, Non!

I listened to another great podcast featuring Dr. Steven Gundry, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and New York Times bestselling author of The Plant Paradox como Plant Paradox Cookbook

Dr. Gundry explains what sugar is, why it’s harmful and some options for substituting it.  

Here are the highlights:

  • The average American eats around 153 pounds of sugar a year which is the size of a baby giraffe!
  • There are multiple forms of sugar: glucose, fructose, lactose are all sugar molecules.
  • Table sugar is sucrose which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
  • High fructose corn syrups are ~45% glucose and 55% fructose.
  • Many studies have been conducted indicating that fructose is worse than glucose and is the culprit in causing a fatty liver and elevated cholesterol levels. Bottom line: Sugar is sugar is sugar.
  • Most people do not realize the effect that sugar has on the gut microbiome. Bad bacteria and fungal species like candida yeast thrive on sugar. Good bacteria prefer complex sugar molecules with fiber as it’s easier to ferment.
  • Gundry believes that rationing sugar and flour during WWII was one of the reasons why diabetes and heart disease plummeted around the world during that period.
  • When you grind up whole products like wheat into flour, your body more readily absorbs them; that is why the glycemic index of white flour (85) is higher than white table sugar (58)!
  • Sugar takes a toll on our immune system. Research conducted by Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Laureate showed that any type of sugar consumption (including orange juice) suppresses white blood cell function by 70% for up to 6 hours.
  • Everyone knows about the dangers of saturated fat and cholesterol BUT most cholesterol is manufactured in our body. And elevated cholesterol comes from sugar consumption. How? Sugar is converted into the first form of fat which is triglycerides (TG). TG in turn are carried by cholesterol. Hence, the more sugar you eat, the more TG you make and the higher your cholesterol level.
  • Gundry says that TG is one of the most important markers of coronary heart disease. And NO – having TG levels of 150 is NOT normal contrary to what the lab reference ranges indicate. You need TG levels of 40-50 to be optimal. Go get your TG checked!
  • Sugar is an incredibly addictive substance: Did you know that rats will choose sugar over cocaine if given a choice?
  • Why is getting off sugar so difficult? Because two-thirds of the human tongue’s surface is dedicated to tasting sweets and this was for survival reasons – to gain weight in the summer to store fat for the winter.
  • Gundry is not a fan of fruit either – modern fruit has been hybridized to be bigger and sweeter. And now fruit is available 365 days a year when it is meant to be eaten only in season
  • If you are eating fruit out of season, he recommends “reverse juicing”: buy organic fruit, juice it and throw away the juice! Just eat the pulp which has fiber and rich polyphenols and nutrients. You can mix the pulp in yogurts or put it in shakes.
  • Sugar is hiding everywhere – brown rice syrup, glucose, fructose, agave are all other words for sugar, so don’t be fooled by what’s on the label.
  • Here’s a shocking metric to see how much sugar you may be consuming in a serving:
    • Take the total carbohydrates per serving and subtract the fiber = number of net carbohydrates
    • 1 tsp of sugar has 4 grams of carbs
    • So a slice of bread with 21 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber (16g net) is like eating 4 tsps of table sugar! Making a sandwich? That’s 8 tsps!
  • It is best to retreat from sweets – sugar is hidden in products that don’t even taste sweet.
  • Here’s the skinny on sugar alternatives and why Dr. Gundry says you can have your cake and eat it too:
    • Sucralose (Splenda) is a must avoid. A study conducted at Duke University showed that one packet of Splenda killed 50% of the gut microbiome (the good kind)
    • Honey, coconut sugar, agave are all sugars. If substituting with honey, have only several teaspoons a day – and stick to local or Manuka honey
    • Allulose, monk fruit and stevia are good sweetener alternatives that do not spike glucose.
    • Allulose also contain prebiotic fiber which feeds the gut. Look for non-GMO allulose at the market or online.
    • Stevia is a good substitute but has some bitterness. You can try the Sweet Leaf brand Stevia which is blended with inulin (the sugar in chicory and a great prebiotic).
    • Yacon syrup is another option but has been known to raise triglyceride levels so best not to consume much

What I took away from this podcast? Remember Marie Antoinette’s famous quote: “If the people have no bread, let them eat cake”? I say neither!

Here is the podcast:

https://drgundry.com/healthy-sugar-alternatives/

Are You Mesmerized Yet? An Introduction to Hypnosis

“Hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy, but it’s been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes. In fact, it’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.” — Dr. David Spiegel, Stanford University

In this blog, I’ve invited a certified hypnotist and colleague (Emma Ehrenzeller, CH) to introduce us to the science and possibilities of hypnotism. 

When you think about hypnosis, cliches like a swinging pendulum or the words, “you are getting very sleepy,” may come to mind.

Despite its mysterious reputation, however, leading researchers at Stanford have begun unraveling the science behind hypnosis, and have shown its clinical efficacy in decreasing stress, managing chronic pain, alleviating anxiety, and more.

What is Hypnosis?

Before we dive into the latest hypnosis research, let’s cover the basics: What is hypnosis?

The National Guild of Hypnotists, the oldest and largest hypnosis association in the United States, defines hypnosis as “an altered state of consciousness where the subconscious mind is in a state of hyper-suggestibility” (Harte, 2015).

There’s a lot of jargon in that definition, so let’s break down what it really means.

First, hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness. In the hypnotic state, you are still conscious; you’re just more relaxed and focused on the hypnotic experience. You are completely aware of what’s going on and in control, contrary to a lot of cockamamie you have seen in the movies!

Second, hypnosis is all about working with your subconscious mind.

Your conscious mind is your thinking brain: the mental chatter; problem solving; the focus on your daily tasks; your ambitions, and how you decide to work towards them. The conscious mind correlates to your frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex, among other parts of the brain (The Human Brain, 2022).

Your subconscious mind is where we store our hardwired patterns, beliefs, and habits. “Subconscious” literally means “below consciousness,” so anything you do naturally, without thinking, is a result of the subconscious. The term “subconscious” is more elusive in neuroscience circles, but it can be thought of as hardwired neural pathways which developed from a young age, or with constant reinforcement (such as the process of building a new habit until it is second nature).

And lastly, the subconscious mind is in a state of “hyper-suggestibility” in hypnosis; this simply means that in the relaxed, peaceful state of hypnosis, the deeper layers of mind are open to new ideas or “suggestions.” Depending on one’s goals, those suggestions may be about managing stress, building confidence, cutting out old habits, and more.

Put simply, hypnosis is a deep, guided meditation with an outcome attached. Many people will leave their first experience in hypnosis comparing it to a very deep meditation, with surprise that they were aware of themselves and conscious the entire time.

Here is an interesting analogy: “A guided meditation is like sending your subconscious an email newsletter while hypnosis is like sending your subconscious a handwritten letter.” 
― Juliet C Obodo, Writer’s Retreat New York City: A Travel Guide For Writers, Bloggers & Students

Isn’t It Mind Control?

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Is hypnosis mind control?

It’s a very understandable question to ask. TV, movies, and other popular media generally show hypnosis as some woo-woo act on stage, or an oddball hypnotist using the tool for his or her own gain.

All of these notions are false, however. Per the official definition of hypnosis, a hypnotized person is stillconscious; in other words, they are still completely in control.

While in hypnosis, your conscious mind is still active. I often have people who say they weren’t sure if they were hypnotized because they still had thoughts pop up. This is normal, and actually comforting for many people: it confirms they are still in control. They are simply being guided by the hypnotist, and they choose what they want to follow.

What’s the brain up to?

Un 2019 study from Stanford University outlined the three main brain areas that are specifically activated when someone goes into the hypnotic state. Now let’s get technical:

First, the part of your brain keeping tabs on everything happening in your environment – your dog barking, a car honking, an itch on your toe – is calmed, allowing you to focus more easily on the hypnosis.

Second, the connection between two areas of the brain resulted in a stronger brain-body connection, allowing the brain to more effectively process what is happening in the body.

Lastly, they observed that people in hypnosis enter a sort of “flow state.” As Dr. Spiegel, the senior author on the paper, describes, “When you’re really engaged in something, you don’t think about it – you just do it.”

These findings led researchers to believe that in hypnosis, there is less self-consciousness or doubt about carrying out a certain action or suggestion. It is easy for the person in hypnosis to follow along without devoting as much mental energy to worry about what they’re doing.

What can hypnosis be used for?

In short, just about anything. Clinical studies have found the efficacy of hypnosis for pain management, decreasing anxiety, and reducing stress, but hypnotists have used the tool to cut smoking habits, increase self-esteem, cultivate emotional balance, and much more.

The next post will dive deeper into the science of brainwaves, how those correlate with meditative and hypnotic states, and how you can use brainwaves to reprogram your brain on your own time.

How can I get started?

There are many hypnosis associations nationally and internationally.

To find a reliable hypnotist, ensure they have a form of certification. The National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH) and Hypnotic World both have reputable training programs.

Titles can range between associations, but Certified Hypnotist or Certified Consulting Hypnotist are standard for those who have undergone foundational hypnosis training, and various board certifications are also possible for more experienced hypnotists as well. 

To find hypnotists through the NGH, click here: https://www.ngh.net/request-form/

To find hypnotists through Hypnotic World, click here: https://www.hypnoticworld.com/hypnotherapists/

Sources:

Elkins, G., Jensen, M. P., & Patterson, D. R. (2007). Hypnotherapy for the management of chronic pain. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 55(3), 275–287. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207140701338621

Fisch, S., Brinkhaus, B., & Teut, M. (2017). Hypnosis in patients with perceived stress – a systematic review. BMC Complementary And Alternative Medicine, 17(1). doi: 10.1186/s12906-017-1806-0 

Harte, R. (2015). Lesson One—What Is Hypnosis? In Student Manual (pp. 1–2). essay, National Guild of Hypnotists.

Heidi Jiang, Matthew P. White, Michael D. Greicius, Lynn C. Waelde, David Spiegel, Brain Activity and Functional Connectivity Associated with Hypnosis, Cerebral Cortex, Volume 27, Issue 8, August 2017, Pages 4083–4093 <tel:4083-4093>

The Human Brain: Anatomy and Function. (2022). Retrieved 13 April 2022, from https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/nervous/brain#:~:text=The%20cerebrum%20is%20the%20largest,ourselves%20and%20the%20outside%20world.