Dieting? Alcohol will make you hungrier…
We all know that alcohol contains sugar – something we need to avoid if you’re on a diet. But drinking alcohol, already high in calories, also makes you hungry, hence the success of the late-night kebab and offal shop…
A pint of beer contains about 200 calories, a glass of red wine, 160 calories, and a glass of white, as many as 350.
Carefully conducted research has shown that even people who had unknowingly ingested alcohol would end up feeling more hungry and eating more within three hours.
There’s a reason restaurants offer aperitifs before dinner – it’s to stimulate your appetite and the practice can be traced back as far as the 5th century.
It seems that the ‘aperitif effect’ makes you feel hungrier than you really are. A glass of wine before dinner will lead inevitably to the merciless demolition of a large slice of cheesecake after dinner. This has nothing to do with overindulgence – it’s because alcohol tricks your brain into starvation mode. According to a study at London’s Francis Crick Institute, the ethanol in alcohol fires up AgRP neurons in the brain normally activated by starvation, thereby inducing feelings of hunger.
Other studies have confirmed the paradox that alcohol intake stimulates eating, and also correlates with obesity.
Paradoxically, alcohol is the second most calorific nutrient after fat, but instead of filling you up, it has the opposite effect. How unfair is that? What is the evolutionary advantage? Could it be that the effect is merely hedonic hunger, where someone eats for pleasure rather than nourishment?
To put this in perspective, just a little alcohol (say, half a pint of beer) won’t give you the raging munchies – but two pints will interfere with your ability to regulate your food intake sensibly. With some individuals, the drive to eat can go beyond what is reasonable, which is probably why that fry-up looks so good after a few pints.
It is possible that because alcohol reduces our inhibitions, we’re more relaxed about what we eat. The health conscious part of our brain seems to lose all self-control – the result is that all ideas of staying trim fly out of the window.
But this cannot be the whole story. Researchers from Sussex have come up with what they believe to be an answer – alcohol directly interferes with appetite control because after alcohol, food looks more appetising!
The researchers have discovered that carefully controlling the food and alcohol intake of a group of volunteers, there were other, psychological factors coming into play. It could well be that a person’s past experiences of alcohol and food affect what they will eat after a drink. For instance, a person who normally heads to the nearest Indian for a curry after a couple of beers is more than likely to do the same – even if they have been drinking non-alcoholic beer!
This makes complete sense because humans are creatures of habit and prefer to stick with what is comfortable and familiar. It doesn’t matter how revolting that kebab turning in the window may look in daylight, it’s going to seem mouth-wateringly delicious after a night on the piss.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
Montreal Children's Hospital, Quebec, Canada, has embraced hypnosis after the results of a pilot project showed it can reduce pain and anxiety in patients
Johanne L’Ecuyer is a medical imaging technologist at Montreal Children's Hospital in Quebec. One of his biggest problems is getting patients to remain perfectly still during medical imaging procedures.
Desperate to reduce the amount of medication administered to ensure patients to ensure they don't move during the process, L’Ecuyer and colleague Maryanne Fortin flew to France to meet teams at the Rouen University Hospital Centre and Hospital Femme Mere Enfant in Lyon.
So impressed were they by their work, a French hypnotherapist was brought in to train some members of the Montreal hospital's medical imaging department. The result is that now examinations generally done under general anaesthetic are now done under hypnosis.
Eighty examinations were conducted between January and September 2019 using two imaging procedures known to trigger anxiety in children - the insertion of a central catheter and a procedure used to examine a child's urinary tract and bladder. Ultimately, the success of the procedure comes down to trust, but the important thing is to make the patient feel comfortable with the specialist doing the procedure.
Crucial to the success are the technician’s verbal and non-verbal cues, such as smiling, showing empathy, and establishing a bond of trust (rapport) with the patient.
The hypnosis starts as soon as the child arrives in an ante-room, where the technician guides the child into an imaginary world, using the child’s own imagination, creativity and visualisation to dissociate themselves from the procedure they are about to undergo.
The patient decides what they wants to talk about - sports, the beach, movies, music etc. and that subject is discussed throughout the procedure. In fact everything that happens during the procedure must be related to this story: an injection becomes the bite of a mosquito, the noise from the machine, the hum of a spaceship, and so on. A product that heats the skin becomes the sensation of the sun and a machine that rings becomes a police car that passes nearby. In this way, the technician associates what is happening outside the patient's body with what they see and feel in their imaginations.
The technique does require a certain amount of imagination and creativity on the part of the technician, and of course a lot of patience, empathy and kindness, but the results speak for themselves, because there’s now a queue of staff wanting to take the training.
First Reported by The Canadian Press on December 5 2019.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2020. All rights reserved.
Hypnosis in children's medicine
How to improve your intelligence in one easy move
Contrary to conventional wisdom, IQ is not fixed. Intelligence can be boosted right throughout adulthood simply by mixing with more intelligent people, or taking on more intellectually stimulating jobs, hobbies and interests.
The traditional nature versus nurture argument, that intelligence is mainly the result of one’s genetic make-up, with environmental factors – education, social interaction and nutrition – exerting their effect, is not entirely accurate. Neither is the notion that IQ is fixed by the age of 18.
James Flynn, emeritus professor of Political Studies and Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, argues that people can upgrade their intelligence any time in their lives.
Professor Flynn’s work is widely recognised [see Article Smarter Than Your Parents.] A lifetime’s research has led to the discovery of a long-term increase in the intelligence of populations, a phenomenon now known as the Flynn Effect, and has resulted in an average rise of three IQ points every decade since 1930. The cause is believed to relate less to genetic make-up and more to a combination of factors including better education, nutrition and an increasingly complex world that is more intellectually stimulating and challenging.
Flynn believes that intellectual stimulation from others is crucial to this increase – the more you use your brain, the stronger and more efficient it gets. However, the reverse is also true – so people who share a home, workplace or whose main social contact is with the intellectually challenged risk seeing their IQ levels decrease rapidly.
Professor Flynn analysed the results of US intelligence tests over the last 65 years and correlated the results with people’s ages. This enabled him to compile new IQ ‘age tables.’ He found the ‘cognitive quality’ of a family affects the IQ of all members – especially children. It can move them forward or hold them back, depending on the gap between their brightness and that of their siblings and/or parents.
A bright ten-year-old with brothers and sisters of average intelligence will suffer a five to ten point IQ disadvantage compared to a ten-year-old with equally bright siblings.
However, children will a low IQ could gain six to eight points by having brighter siblings or special educational advantage to help pull them up.
Flynn has concluded that although your genes and early life experiences determine about 80% of intelligence, the remaining 20% is linked to lifestyle. This means that people can raise their IQ, or allow it to fall, by ten or more points simply because of the company they keep.
The bottom line is that the best way to boost IQ levels is to socialise with bright friends and find an intellectually challenging job and marry someone smart.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
7 Simple Rules for Easy Weight Loss!
Crash or fad Diets don’t work, so it’s better to set achievable goals. If you lost just 1lb. a week, you would be 25 lbs. lighter by the time your summer holiday comes around! That’s nearly 2 stone or 12 kilos!
Forget the gym – you’re just turning fat into muscle and you always feel hungry after a workout!
Taking a ten-minute walk every day will burn enough calories so you notice the difference in your waistline in just one month! A little aerobic exercise every day really works! That means walking to the corner shop, not driving!
Avoid sugar and the pounds will melt away – and that includes alcohol and sugary drinks!
Eat a meal at the normal rate but then slow down – once food is put into the stomach, you start to feel full and your appetite wanes. And stop eating as soon as you feel full!
Place food out of sight - this has a big effect on consumption. Remember – food gets eaten faster from a stockpiled fridge.
Using smaller plates encourages you to eat less.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
Always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the bright side of life… da dum… da dum… da dum, da dum, da dum…
The colours, vocabulary and music of our culture are the unconscious expressions of the range of our emotions, including the difference between good and evil.
I have always said that music is man’s finest achievement - it can thrill the soul and excite one’s very being. It can also take you to the very depths of loneliness and despair. Music can also aid relaxation – it is even said it can ‘soothe the savage breast.’
You don’t have to be a fan of classical or popular music to appreciate which does which, but now, there’s a new spin on this well known and well understood philosophy. Psychology researchers have found that uplifting music can also alter our perception of colour, making them seem brighter, more vibrant, than they actually are.
During tests carried out by professor of psychology Joydeep Bhattacharya at Goldsmiths, London, volunteers who listened to uplifting music judged a grey square as brighter than it really was, while sad, downbeat music made the square appear darker. This has an obvious relevance for therapy because of the effect colour has on mood. [Red makes children more competitive for example, whereas shades of blue have an effect on concentration levels. Shades of green encourage people to think outside the box.] Music therapy is already used to help depressed people feel brighter.
Professor Bhattacharya claims that “brightness is a metaphor for happiness and we have shown music can have a subtle effect on it - depending on whether it is happy or sad.”
For the series of tests instrumental samples were composed in order to negate the effect of any word-association (such as 'dark' or 'lonely' or 'happy' or 'carefree.’)
Over three experiments carried out with six different groups of 20 volunteers, the researchers found that even relatively short pieces of music could be used as effective emotional triggers for influencing how bright we judge something to be. The tests demonstrated the powerful way in which music can affect not only our mood but also our bias. Importantly, this is the same bias that’s aligned with the way we use and understand metaphor.
With every group, the results were the same, regardless of whether or not the researchers had previously rated the music as happy or sad for the benefit of the participants. Professor Bhattacharya says that merely listening to happy or sad music will affect subsequent brightness judgement – in other words, it is an automatic effect.
A group of Dutch scientists carried out a similar experiment and they rated Queen's 1978 ‘Don't Stop Me Now’ as the top 'feel-good' song of the last 50 years, - it has just the right tempo and lyrics, and is played in the musical key identified as the most likely to produce a happy feeling.
Professor Bhattacharya thinks there is a flow of information between the primary visual cortex and the emotional circuitry of the brain. Given what we already know and have been able to observe, this makes perfect sense. It’s also possible that an individual’s own personal favourites could enhance the effect.
Here are some quick examples, some uplifting, some desolate:
Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen
Final Movement, Symphonic Metamorphosis on a theme by Weber, Hindemith
Star Wars Main Theme, John Williams,
Vincent, Don McLean
Adagio from Gayane Ballet Suite, Kachachurian
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
How to keep your New Year’s Resolution
Researchers from four universities across the United States* have found that asking yourself questions about your addiction is a more effective way of sticking to your resolution. Instead of simply deciding to exercise as from 1st January, it’s more effective to ask yourself ‘will I exercise this year?’
This is the Question/Behaviour Effect. It’s a technique whereby asking questions about a particular decision will influence future actions. Asking yourself a simple question will prompt a psychological response which will influence subsequent behaviour.
So, will I lose weight this year? The most effective answer of course is 'yes' but it works better if you don’t provide a specific time frame for your goal.
The technique can produce significant consistent change and has been shown to influence behaviour more than six months after questioning it – merely questioning the behaviour increases the chance of it changing. If you ask yourself ‘will I diet?' you remind yourself that dieting is beneficial – that will make you feel bad about yourself if you don’t do it and you’ll make an effort in order to avoid any feelings of guilt.
The effect becomes strongest when questions are used to encourage behaviour with personal benefits, such as eating healthy foods.
Asking yourself a question on New Year's Eve could well lead to healthier decisions in the year ahead.
Try it! And repeat it every day.
* The University of California, Irvine, the University at Albany, State University of New York, the University of Idaho, and Washington State University.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
We are becoming slaves to our mobile devices - especially our phones! But this is more that just a habit-forming addiction… Without realising it, our behaviour, thoughts, our needs, our desires and even our most basic beliefs are being manipulated by tech companies. It’s become normal for our lives to be interrupted by the ping of smartphone notifications, but most of us are blissfully unaware of just how much our lives are being controlled by the very gadgets that are — ironically — supposed to serve us!
But some former employees from the world’s biggest tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter (owned by Facebook) and Google are starting to come forward with information that by any stretch of the imagination is deeply disturbing.
In mid October 2020, both Facebook and Twitter were found blocking news reports and comments that were detrimental to the Democratic Party and in particular to Joe Biden and his connections to Ukrainian oil and gas companies, information that could seriously damage his chances of becoming the next US President.
Facebook is practices censorship on a grand scale. Facebook is free - there’s no charge for joining and setting up a page, but you have no say in how it works. The guy that runs it is not only rich, he is omnipotent. Every part of your life is monitored and recorded, even your private needs and worries. And if you say one thing they don’t like, they shut you up.
In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook engineers to tweak its algorithm to throttle traffic to certain news websites in order to focus less on politics. This was because of the spread of misinformation on Facebook before the 2016 election.
Facebook executives were worried the change would have more of an effect on right-wing publications, but Zuckerberg rubber-stamped a change in the algorithm to focus on more left-leaning publications, meaning left-leaning sites would be favoured more than right-leaning sites.
In 2020, The New York Post, one of America’s top newspapers, was told by Twitter to delete six links to the Hunter Biden story which and father Joe Biden’s role in the oil and gas deal. Twitter users who posted and shared links to the story also had their accounts blocked along with multiple Trump-linked accounts with links to it.
But Facebook and Google’s influence goes much further than mere censorship. Big Tech insiders have revealed that information about us — what kind of films we like watching, what we’ve been searching for on Google, who our Facebook friends are… even information about our political beliefs and affiliations — and those of our friends. Sophisticated algorithms read our emails, study our comments, our spending, and also that of all our online contacts. This information is sold to the highest bidder.
In the meantime, news stories that Facebook and Google don’t like are blocked while stories they do like are actively promoted. This creates an entirely false perspective of society’s actual morals and views and creates social division, exactly as happened in the run up to the US election in November 2020. More concerning is that this ‘skewing’ of the facts is creating a generation of addicted children who have an entirely false view of the world. Worse, it has harmed youngster’s self-worth to such an extent their ability to connect to others may be permanently damaged beyond repair.
It is part of the human condition that we need to connect with others. Social media makes makes this connection more convenient. But social media is also addictive — so much so that many social media experts limit their own children’s access to it. Some don’t allow their children to use it at all.
According to a UK Ofcom report, people check their smartphones an average every 12 minutes. If you take your smartphone to bed with you, you have a problem! Even experts who understand the psychology behind smartphone addiction find it difficult to be separated from their phones because companies like Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok have used well-understood psychological techniques to rewire our brains. Every single time you refresh an App, a new item appears at the top. In psychological terms this is known as a positive intermittent reinforcement.
In other words, the refresh button is like a Las Vegas slot machine. Every time you click on Facebook, or Snapchat, or Twitter, or TikTok, you’re unconsciously thinking there might be something interesting or exciting for you, so you play the game again and again. This is not accidental, the system is purposely designed that way.
Google and Facebook are free — they make billions of dollars from advertising. The industry knows that WE are the product because it is WE who are being sold to the advertisers. The more you use social media, the more they know about you… your likes and dislikes, in fact anything that can be targeting by advertisers who want to sell you something… or change the way you vote! They know about every piece of music you’ve ever listened to, every movie you’ve ever watched, everything you’ve ever bought online, where you’ve been, and who you were with at the time!
All that information means the tech companies can predict the kinds of things you’re interested in — and they’ll keep trying to sell you more. In fact, the detailed tracking of everyone, everywhere, is the tech companies’ business model — their profits come from making sure advertisers are as successful as possible. The tech giants are the ultimate middle-man — they sell no actual products, they have no warehouses or delivery trucks, no stores on the high street — they just have your name and all your personal information.
For the tech companies however, selling your personal information is not enough. We are only recently becoming aware that they also want to change who you are… The real goal is the gradual, imperceptible change in your behaviour and perception.
Huge teams of psychologists work at tech companies. They are employed for one purpose and one purpose only — to manipulate your thoughts, and when it comes to children, social media is the instrument of choice. Social media penetrates deep into the brain stem and manipulates the individual’s sense of self-worth and identity.
We have evolved to care about what other people think about us — it’s one of the things that helps us conform and ‘fit-in’. Nowhere is this basic need more exploited than the ‘Like’ button. Facebook’s ‘Like’ button, originally designed to ‘spread positivity and love’ has evolved into an instrument of hate. No one foresaw teenagers would get depressed if they didn’t get enough likes.
Despite a massive increase in depression and anxiety in teenagers as a direct result of social media, using social media for three hours or more a day doubled the risk of teen mental health problems. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of women and girls between the ages of 10 and 24 who committed suicide has almost doubled since 2012, almost entirely due to social media use.
Just like any other kind of addictive drug, the more stressed people are, the more they now turn to their devices. A whole generation who never knew life before social media have been conditioned to turn to their digital pacifier whenever they feel uncertain or alone.
Depending where on the planet you are, if you Google ‘Climate Change’, the results vary wildly according to your location, because the algorithm feeds you what it thinks people in that area want to hear, regardless of the truth.
Tech companies now choose to use the same algorithms to also influence our political and moral beliefs. An MIT study found fake news spreads six times faster than true news on Twitter. Tech engineers have created a system that favours false information because it’s more exciting than the truth, and so makes more money. The inconvenient truth is that each of Facebook’s 2.7 billion users gets their own customised version of the ‘facts’. Over time, people acquire a false sense that everyone agrees with them because everyone in your newsfeed agrees with you. Once that happens, you know you’re being manipulated.
Facebook may be the greatest propaganda machine since the National Socialists. If you want to control the way a whole population thinks, there has never been an opportunity as effective and as powerful as Facebook. Disinformation is part of the persuasive power of social media. Political persuasion in particular neatly fits Facebook’s business model. The insiders say algorithms are now becoming so expert that we’re absorbing propaganda instead of truth. Believe it or not, social media means we have less and less control over what we believe. That has to bed a major concern — especially where children are concerned.
The best way to stay sane? Turn off all notifications and log-off social media altogether, except for family and close friends, and even then, impose limits.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
How your smartphone is controlling you…
In the 19th Century, the Russian anarchist Bakunin wrote, “Don’t waste time on doubting yourself, because that is the biggest waste of time ever invented by man.”
For centuries, much has been written about the origins of the mind. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, is even more written about changing minds. There has been an avalanche of self-help books, tapes, courses, seminars - you name it! The self-improvement business has become a bandwagon on which the self-help gurus and modern day snake oil salesmen have been allowed to bestow upon themselves a status undeserving of their actual ability or the vacuous panaceas they peddle. A good deal of what they have to say can be categorised as vacuous drivel, which it undoubtedly it is most of the time.
The truth of the matter is that books with seductive titles like I Can Make You Thin promise everything and deliver next to nothing. Ask any therapist. Only YOU can make yourself thin, stop smoking, rich, smarter, happier, etc. on and on, ad nauseam. Whether or not you succeed in any of these endeavours is ENTIRELY UP TO YOU. No one else plays any part in your decision making or life changing process, ONLY YOU. It’s ALL down to you. Always has been, always will be.
Having said that, there are some gems of wisdom among the dross, some mental gymnastics that you may find helpful, and so for a change, I offer here a selection of the things that can actually work. No money need change hands, this is free information at no charge to yourself, for you to put into practice, or forget, as you see fit.
Most of the success attributed to self-improvement, or perhaps self-regulation might be a better way of putting it, is based on Visualisation Techniques. But the problem with a lot of the visualisation techniques punted on the Internet and in most books on the subject is that they focus on the goal rather than on the process of achieving that goal. As a consequence, they don’t really work as well as they might: simply visualising the end result might provide some kind of short-term feel-good factor, but that’s only a temporary fix, and a fleeting one at that. In the long run, it’s far more effective to imagine [that is, create mental pictures of] the many steps you have to take to achieve that goal.
This ‘baby steps’ approach is much more useful. In other words, setting reasonable, achievable goals, and then working on them step by step is going to be much more effective in the long term. Nothing happens overnight - Rome wasn’t built in a day - so you will find it easier to set a realistic time frame. When I used to deal with clients who wanted to lose weight, I would always find out what they considered to be a realistic and achievable plan and then we’d take it from there.
So, instead of imagining yourself slim and being able to fit into a size 12 dress, it’s a far better idea to imagine yourself losing, say, 1 pound per week. That is something that is much more realistic and so the process works better. In six months, it means you will lose 25 pounds, or nearly 2 stone [11 kg.] and that’s great going! Carry that on for a year and you lose nearly four stone! [23.5kg.]
Making plans that are easy to stick with is a better way of achieving success.
But what about all those nasty negative thoughts? The very act of trying to suppress the things that make us unhappy makes us think about them even more. It’s rather like trying desperately not to think about pink elephants – the more you try not to think about them, the more they pop into your head. So actively trying not to think about something makes you think about it even more, even sometimes to the point of obsession. It’s the same problem trying to forget about cigarettes or food or anything else that represents temptation. This is a vicious circle and is more likely to increase misery rather than alleviate it.
Far better to focus on the benefits of giving something up, and how much better you will feel.
What about happiness? Being happy simply means feeling better. Really. The happier a person is, the better they perform in life and generally speaking, the healthier they feel, the healthier they are. One of the first things I learned when I was studying hypnosis was that you are a mind with a body first and foremost, not the other way round. Being happy helps the individual to cope with all the stresses and strains of everyday life, improves relationships with others, makes life generally more satisfying and strengthens immune systems. I suppose that’s obvious, but how to make that happen...?
Here’s a good exercise to try, because it’s quick and easy:
Step 1: give yourself a general ‘happiness rating’ on a scale of 1 to 10.
Step 2: now make a mental note of all the things in your life you enjoy and are grateful for, spending a few seconds to visualise each one. Think about the best and most joyful moments and spend a few moments thinking about being in your favourite place and/or being with someone you enjoy being with. Picture all this in beautiful vivid colours and imagine that all this is right up close to you, surrounding you, merging with you, becoming a part of you.
Step 3: Do this at least twice a day, every day, for a week and then on the last day, check your ‘happiness rating’ again on a scale of 1 to 10. Bet you it’s gone up!
This exercise is one of the very few NLP techniques that are of any value. It’s a mixture of creative relaxation and Emile Cue’s ‘every day in every way’ repetition exercise. It also involves your own imagination - images are a lot more powerful than words and therefore exert a greater influence on you. Why does it work? Well, it’s all about association. Emotions are associated with thoughts, so by indulging your brain in some quality time with its happy memories, your emotional happiness level will improve.
People who are materialistic tend not to value experiences such as days out with friends or trips to the theatre, at least not as much as people who are not very materialistic. Materialistic persons tend to spend a lot more on themselves than they do on others. That’s not just on the things they buy, but it includes time as well. Non-materialistic people enjoy the company of others and spend more time going out and socialising. It’s no surprise then, that non-materialistic types are generally happier people than the materialists. Simple acts of kindness to others increase levels of happiness. Changing the way you behave toward others will change the way you think. Don’t believe me? Give it a try. Send me a fiver. I promise you will feel happier!
No, don’t send me a fiver - I’m kidding! OK, you can if you really want to, but I’m being absolutely serious when I tell you that spending time on shared experiences is a good way to feel happier and this in itself will help you shed a few more ounces. Added to which, you are burning more calories when you are out and about than you are when you are sat at home.
Here’s another exercise. Stand upright but with your head down, shoulders slumped and hands hanging limply down by your side. Now try to feel happy. Can’t do it can you? Now try it the other way. Stand upright with your head held high, shoulders back, chest out, and put a big smile on your face. Now try to feel sad. Can’t do that either? Well, it goes to show that just by improving your posture, you can improve your level of self-confidence, which will in turn boost your happiness rating. If you want to feel happier, behave happier. Maybe there was a reason we were told to sit up straight when we were at school! The down side of this is that the happier people are, the more likely they are to make rash or unwise decisions, so be careful out there!
Of course you could always put a mirror on the fridge door, but the real secret is to take everything step by step, keeping to the plans that are achievable. A more detailed list of sub goals is easier, measurable and time-based. Really, I promise you – this is the best way. Actors don’t learn their lines in one go. First they read the whole script to give them an idea of what the story is about, and then they break it down into small chunks that are easier to memorise. NLP calls this ‘chunking’ but in actual fact, it’s a method that has been around for hundreds of years. Musicians do the same thing. When I had to perform solo pieces with the Max Jaffa Orchestra, I learned them all by heart and I did this by breaking them up into eight bar phrases, learning one phrase at a time until I was ready to string them all together for my big moment every Saturday night. I still have every one of them in my head thirty-odd years later!
Telling friends or family about your sub-goals is also a good idea because not only can they can be a source of support, but it helps to reinforce your own decision.
Once you have achieved one sub-goal, it’s easy to experience feelings of success, and this in turn spurs you on toward the next. Every achievement, no matter how small, becomes associated with these feelings and slowly but surely, you inch toward that final goal. Each sub-goal can even have a reward attached to it, so long as it’s not a cake of course!
Don’t overdo it! Working on any activity for just a few minutes teaches you to stick at it and see it through to completion. Everything in bite-size chunks! [Sorry, no pun intended.]
It is also important to decide upon a realistic assessment of the problems as well as thinking about the benefits of achievement, and there are tried and tested ways to reduce your appetite:
Start eating at the normal rate and then slow down
Place food out of sight - this has a big effect on consumption.
Starting to eat a meal at the normal rate and then slowing down has been shown to work because once food is put into the stomach, you start to feel full sooner and your appetite wanes.
Remember - food gets eaten faster from a stockpiled fridge.
Avoid large plates - using smaller plates encourages you to eat less.
Reducing your appetite is one way to get things moving in the right direction, but you can also help things along by giving yourself a natural environment. Every little bit of effort helps!
People function better when there are trees and plants around. We know that workers don’t perform as well in the concrete jungle. We also know that a more natural environment reduces antisocial behaviour. It also makes people more creative. You could also give yourself a more relaxing environment.
A study by Robert Ulrich of Texas A&M University showed that placing plants and flowers in offices made people an average 15% more creative. It increased the flow of ideas and flexible solutions. Psychologists noticed that children engage in more creative play in ‘green’ areas. So why not try it? A bit of foliage around the place can work wonders. Psychologists have also found that looking after a few plants lowers stress levels and improves performance. I bet it will help you too!
People under stress become focussed and risk averse. They tend to fall back on tried and tested methodology. In just the same way, people who are relaxed are more likely to explore new ways of thinking and seek out more creative solutions to problems.
At Nijmegen University in the Netherlands, a team of psychologists carried out a simple ‘thought test’ on a large group of volunteers. Some of the group were asked to think about themselves as hooligans while some of the group were asked to think about themselves as university professors. The results of this experiment are astounding. Those volunteers who had thought themselves as brilliant academics went on to achieve increased scores on a series of simple tests.
Jens Forster, at the International University in Bremen, Germany, took the experiment a stage further. Again, a group of volunteers were asked to think of themselves as either a boring person or a true artist. Again, those volunteers who had concentrated on thinking of themselves as artists displayed increased creativity when tested later.
This is all information we can use to help ourselves. The current vogue is to Think Thin! However, ‘thinking thin’ by itself won’t get you very far. You have to adopt all of the techniques listed above, or at least most of them.
So far I haven’t said a word about will power. This is a serious omission and you are going to have to include it in your regime. In other words, YOU MUST STICK TO THE DIET! One ray of sunshine on the horizon though is that most people, once they see the weight coming off, are spurred on to lose even more! That’s when it starts to get easier.
Accessing your own will power is not nearly as hard as you imagine. After all, who are you doing this for? Yourself, right?
Remember – reasonable goals are achievable! You don’t have to starve yourself or live on rabbit food. Just remember the 5 simple rules:
Eat a little less and stop when you feel full;
Take a little bit more exercise every day. That just means walking to the corner shop, not driving;
Avoid snacks that are high in fat content such as crisps and nuts;
Avoid sugar and sweet things like cakes and chocolate;
Cut down on your alcohol consumption.
The most difficult obstacle you have faced so far, is the will to believe in yourself. Don’t worry, this will happen soon enough when those pounds start falling off! Diets that start tomorrow, never work – you have to start TODAY! And that’s the first baby step.
“If you believe you can, or believe you can’t – either way, you’re right.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
Making yourself thin
Stopping Smoking Is Easier Than You Think
We’ve all made that resolution to stop smoking - and then started again a couple of weeks later.
Every time I do a show or a talk, I’m inundated with requests from people who want to give up the vile weed. Well… it’s a lot easier than you think!
If you’re on a long haul flight or at the cinema, you don’t miss having a cigarette, so why should any other time be different? And in any case, do you wake up in the night every half hour gasping for a cigarette? I don’t think so. Here’s why…
We all know that smoking damages your health (and the health of your children) but surprisingly, it’s not the nicotine that’s addictive, it’s the habit that is the real addiction. This is because the mind associates smoking a cigarette with having a good time. The truth is that the ‘hit’ only lasts for a few seconds – but even so, people feel they have to smoke the whole thing because they’ve paid for it!
Smokers always say they enjoy it, but when pressed, they find it impossible to explain why! Think about it for a moment… there isn’t really any long-term physical pleasure in smoking at all. Remember your first cigarette? It probably made you feel awful, so why did you continue? If you didn’t smoke, would you let someone poison you over a period of time and make you pay for the privilege? Smoking is like a prison where the door has been left unlocked - so why not take ownership of your life and just walk out? No one is stopping you!
Maybe it’s time to ask yourself the question ‘Who is in control – me or the cigarette?’ I mean… would you normally consider suicide? Physical withdrawal symptoms from nicotine last only a few hours and so the physical withdrawal is negligible. Again, it’s the habit that you have to beat!
People tend to exaggerate the difficulty of giving up smoking. Turning your back on cigarettes is not a sacrifice! Giving up the one thing you don’t want in life is actually much easier than you imagine - it’s all about changing your perspective. And guess what - going without cigarettes gets easier, not harder because habits can be broken as easily as they were formed in the first place.
People who light up every time they are stressed are only fooling themselves – the problem will still be there after the cigarette is finished. If you can deal with any situation without smoking, then you can deal with anything life throws at you.
Here’s another little known fact: not one cigarette company executive smokes - even the cigarette companies and their advertising agencies admit that their product will kill you eventually! If cigarettes were invented tomorrow, they would be banned immediately because tobacco is a uniquely dangerous product, and the only dangerous product to be sold legally.
Consider this; the craving for a cigarette only lasts for a few seconds. Every time you overcome the craving you have not only scored a small victory but you are also training your mind to think straight. Think of the money you will save. If you smoke an average of 20 a day, just pause for a moment and work out what it costs you every year!
Stop smoking altogether and you will very soon notice your body getting fitter and healthier. Try not to think about how long it has been since your last cigarette because this creates a mental block – one you can do without. Think of stopping smoking as a huge relief! Your faithful friend is actually a traitor, and one that you’re better off without.
The bottom line is that dependency on cigarettes is always psychological rather than physiological. The idea that there will be terrible withdrawal symptoms is a myth – there won’t be! You are irritated by life’s troubles, not by going without a cigarette. In other words, if you expect to feel this way, the odds are that you probably will. This is just a trick your own mind plays on you, and it’s otherwise known as ‘perception.’ One of the most successful ways to give up is to make yourself aware of your smoking. We are constantly bombarded with information from all sorts of sources that tell us it’s hard to give up and this is an illusion!
Hypnosis can change the way you feel and think about smoking permanently because it focuses your attention on your smoking as soon as you reach for a cigarette. Hypnosis works because it taps in to the area of the mind that is naturally open to suggestion. It’s also a profoundly relaxing experience. And it’s a great cure for stress into the bargain!
This is how hypnosis works – by suggestion and relaxation – no zombie like state or trance or anything like that. In fact the opposite is true – you are fully aware during the whole process. Some people use hypnosis to help them to sleep better at night. Hypnosis is also brilliant for pain relief. I can show anyone how to banish all those aches and pains in less than half an hour (as can any good hypnotherapist!)
You will remember everything that has been said under hypnosis - all you have to do is just enjoy the pleasant feeling of total relaxation as all the stresses and strains of the day disappear. In fact the whole process feels as if you are about to fall asleep – fully relaxed but fully aware of what is going on around you.
Your body may well start to feel light; you may even experience a slight tingling sensation in your fingers and toes, but again, this is perfectly normal. There are no side effects and at no time do you relinquish control. Most people feel very relaxed or even quite sleepy after hypnosis, and often find that they sleep better that night.
So what have you got to lose? Give it a try… enjoy the feeling of creative relaxation and stop poisoning your own body for good.
I dare you to try…
Copyright Andrew Newton 2015. All rights reserved.
Moderate exercise can clear your head
Just 30 minutes exercise can create new neurons in regions of the brain responsible for learning, emotion and memory and even moderate aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain's frontal lobe which leads to clearer thinking.
It is well known that runners often report bursts of mental clarity, enhanced moods and moments of becoming lost in their own thoughts long enough to confront external tasks.
It’s thought that although aerobic exercise can’t prevent people getting sad or depressed, but it can help with recovery.
In fact any kind of exercise can aid cognitive thinking because exercise serves to enhance important adaptive functions – self-reflection, creativity, and attention.
New research has disproved the theory that once humans start to grow older, their brains cannot make new neurons. A handful of recent studies, including one carried out by the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, have discovered that after a run, new neurons are formed in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning and memory. It is now thought that if you exercise so much you sweat, new brain cells will be formed.
Other studies have noted an increase of blood flow to the brain's frontal lobe, the area involved in clear thinking, planning, focus and concentration. This region is also associated with the regulation of emotions, which supports the idea that exercise may help reduce sadness.
To prove their point, the researchers showed the final scene of the 1979 film 'The Champ' (a tear-jerker of note) to a group of 80 volunteer participants. Before watching the scene, some of the participants were asked to jog for 30 minutes, while others performed stretching exercises for the same amount of time. Each participant was then asked to report how sad the film made them feel, following which the researcher kept them occupied for another 15 minutes, before asking them again how they were feeling.
Participants who reported difficulties with concentration or who felt overwhelmed by their emotions, were less affected by their symptoms following the 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. They also reported feeling less sad at the end of the study than those who did no exercise.
In addition to enhancing each individuals's clarity and memory, researchers discovered another benefit of going for a long run – the propensity to daydream or become lost in their own thoughts, something they consider to be important to well-being.
Psychologist Jerome Singer of Yale University and his colleagues suggest that positive and constructive daydreaming serves four broad adaptive functions:
It assists with future planning, which is enhanced by a period of self-reflection;
It enhances creativity for problem solving and attentional cycling that allows the individual to rotate through different information streams to develop and/or advance personally;
It provides meaningful goals;
It enhances learning through short breaks from external tasks.
The full study and its results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
In the meantime… keeping active, along with a balanced diet, is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of dementia, but new research conducted by experts at the University of British Columbia in Canada, suggests regular aerobic exercise can actually reverse the progress of dementia even after it has taken hold. Their findings, published in the journal Neurology, add to growing evidence that physical activity can be used to treat cognitive problems.
A clinical trial carried out with elderly people with an average age of 74 found that those who exercised for one hour three times every week, saw an improvement in cardiovascular health as well as overall thinking skills. They were also able to walk further and their blood pressure levels improved. However, the benefits only lasted as long as they were able to continue exercising.
The important thing is that an aerobic exercise programme may be beneficial for people who already have early memory problems.
Scientists now believe gardening could be beneficial for physical and mental health – pruning the roses and creating something of beauty everyone can enjoy can enhance mental wellbeing, and if you work in a grey office building, spend hours stuck in traffic or constantly stare at computer screen, gardening might be the perfect antidote.
Sheffield University’s environment expert, Dr Ross Cameron, thinks our busy and sterile modern lifestyle is sapping our spirits. He’s coined the phrase 'nature deficit disorder' and he has a point! Dr Cameron believes people notice and appreciate the natural world far less than they used to, and his solution is simple – we need to access the green spaces and get outdoors in the same way previous generations did.
Society is changing and the younger generation especially now spend more time glued to their mobile phones in the virtual world instead of enjoying the fresh air of the natural one. There’s the difference - in the past they would go and play in the garden, in the park or in the woodland, and sadly, that’s now very rare. We really have lost something important in life – humans evolved alongside nature, not in concrete cities and they respond well to nature.
Previous research suggests that just half an hour in the garden has long-term benefits for body and mind. Another study found that the sounds of nature – the wind whistling through the trees or the gurgling of a stream – reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lowers blood pressure.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests regular gardening can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity. It also improves balance in older people, helping to prevent falls, a major cost to health services. Gardening can also help dementia patients, with one trial showing that six months of gardening at home resulted in a slow-down of cognitive decline over the next 18 months.
But for those who have difficulty getting access to the countryside, the garden is the perfect substitute. Green spaces don't need to be in the wilderness to provide benefits – intimate spaces to engage with are just outside the back door…
The physical activity involved in gardening helps relaxation, which is good for mental health, and green spaces are stress-busting environments. Even a little bit of greenery around makes us more relaxed – even a collection of indoor plants is good for wellbeing, one reason they’re so popular in lobbies, offices and rest homes.
It is true, apparently, that jogging for half an hour can burn up about 240 calories – but doctors are [rightly] increasingly encouraging people to take up lighter activities they can more easily include in their daily routine. The Royal Horticultural Society claims that half an hour of digging burns 150 calories, raking a lawn burns 120 and pushing a lawn mower for 30 minutes burns 165.
Even tending a miniature ‘garden’ made up of pots and boxes in the corner of a backyard or in a conservatory can improve mood and wellbeing. Looking after plants gives people something to live for and keen gardeners make friends too!
In a recent article in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Arizona have claimed that going for an early morning run could help to keep you alert for the rest of the day. It appears that part of the brain responsible for decision-making and planning is activated during a short period of healthy exercise.
It has long been known that playing a musical instrument can stimulate the frontal cortex, but this is the first time scientists have linked it to running. In addition, the new research also found it helped to improve memory, attention spans and keeps the senses sharp.
The researchers studied 11 competitive, male runners aged between 18 and 25 and another 11 young men who said that they had not exercised in the past year. (They focused on men because it is difficult to study women due to the effects of the menstrual cycle on their minds and bodies.)
The men filled out questionnaires about their physical activity levels and from these, the researchers were able to estimate their aerobic fitness, following which, each volunteer took an MRI scan to measure the levels of activity in their brains.
It turned out that the runner’s brains showed increased connectivity in areas linked to higher-level thinking. There were not the same levels of activity in the brains of the inactive men. There was also less brain activity in the part of the runner’s brains that indicate lack of focus and ‘mind wandering.’
Increased connectivity between brain regions is known to improve memory and the ability to multitask. Running involves complex navigational skills as well as an ability to plan, monitor and respond to the environment. This would also include juggling memories of past runs, and the ability to continue with all of the motor activities involved in running, which are complex.
However, the study cannot prove that running actually causes the differences in the men’s thinking, only that runners had certain types of thought pattern. It is also unclear whether running on its own has these effects, or if the effects are duplicated in other endurance sports, like cycling and swimming.
Humans have a strong emotional connection to the natural world. But mental wellbeing and our emotional bond with nature varies depending on the type and quality of an environment.
Numerous studies have found that stress levels reduce when people spend time in the natural environment. Spending time in the countryside or at the beach is better for your brain than spending it in city parks.
Researchers at the University of Surrey, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and natural England, surveyed 4,500 people who spent time enjoying natural open spaces and discovered that those visiting rural and coastal locations were more psychologically content than those taking a trip to an urban green space.
Visits to protected areas, such as national parks, rural or coastal locations, result in improved mental wellbeing and greater feelings of relaxation and refreshment. Those who spent 30 minutes or more in natural environments experienced a better connection and received greater psychological benefits.
A separate study of 199 women and 200 men aged between 19 and 76 by social psychologists at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge found that people who spend more time outside also have a more positive body image and also higher self-esteem.
It is possible that experiencing natural environments helps boost the feeling of being an important part of a wider ecosystem, meaning people feel more respect for their bodies. It also helps people feel further removed from the pressures of the modern world and lessens the need to conform to stereotypes, such as being thin or muscular.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
Suffering from Insomnia? Probably not…
I get a lot of clients who tell me they suffer from insomnia. They can get to sleep but wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for what seems like an age before they finally nod off again. They want me to hypnotise them to sleep right through. This I cannot do, and neither should I try. This is why…
Last year, GP’s wrote out more than nine million prescriptions for sleeping pills and equal amounts were bought over the counter. But sleeping pills can be addictive, and in any case, they can only provide a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
Part of that problem is that natural sleep patterns are misunderstood. As we get older, our sleep patterns change. Many people sleep for three of four hours and then wake up, often for a prolonged period, before falling asleep again. This is called biphasic or segmented sleep (as opposed to monophasic sleep, sleeping right through) and people often confuse it with insomnia.
The good news however, is that biphasic sleep is not only perfectly normal – it’s also very healthy.
Roger Ekirch is professor of social history at Virginia Tech who has studied diaries, novels and medical textbooks from the last three centuries. He has discovered that in pre-industrial times sleep patterns were very different! Soon after sunset, people would go to bed and sleep for four or five hours (the first sleep) and then get up. They would stay awake for an hour or so and do household chores or even visit friends before going back to bed (the second sleep.) Members of some hunter-gatherer societies still do this.
So what has caused our sleep patterns and the way we sleep to change?
Professor Ekirch believes that the social changes of the industrial age together with the arrival of gas and electric light in the late 19th and early 20th centuries meant people no longer had to go to bed so early. Instead, they began to stay up longer after nightfall. The advent of radio and later, television, contributed to this change in people’s sleeping habits and encouraged them to stay up even longer. So the habit of first and second sleep disappeared, and sleeping continuously became standard practice.
Evidence that biphasic sleeping may be more natural can be found in earlier studies conducted by Thomas Wehr, a sleep researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
In one study, Wehr recruited eight healthy young male volunteers, housing them in rooms that were lit for ten hours a day but then dark for 14 hours. These regular cycles of light and dark were designed to mimic the patterns of early winter in a world without artificial light. The men quickly fell into a pattern of four hours sleep, followed by a couple of hours of quiet wakefulness, followed by another four or five hours of sleep. While asleep, they were wired up with electrodes so the scientists could monitor their brain activity.
The volunteer’s first sleep consisted mainly of deep sleep. This is the time the brain is busy moving memories from short-term to long- term storage in order to create more short-term memory space for the following day and discarding trivial or irrelevant information. Too much deep sleep deprivation has a significant and detrimental impact on your memory. Other studies have found that students who cut down on sleep and try to do lots of last minute cramming actually do worse in exams.
Entering their lighter second sleep, the volunteers experienced less deep sleep and much more REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the only time when production of noradrenaline, a stress-related chemical in the brain, is switched off. This is so we remain calm and still while our brains process the experiences of the day. If you don't get enough REM sleep, your brain won't have time to process your emotions. This could explain why tiredness caused by sleep deprivation leaves us feeling stressed, anxious and sometimes short-tempered.
This study is important not just because the volunteers slept in a biphasic pattern, but also because they slept much longer than normal – a total of nearly nine hours every night.
In studies where people have been severely sleep deprived, participants often fall asleep in less than a minute, given the chance. Even at bedtime, if you drift off as soon as your head hits the pillow, it's a strong indicator that you are not getting enough sleep.
So if your sleep patterns follow a diphasic pattern, it might be that you are confusing this natural cycle with insomnia. It might be better to accept that your body wants to sleep that way and that you will probably wake up in the night – so start planning accordingly.
If you know you have to to get up at 7am, it might be a good idea to make sure you’re in bed by around 10.30pm. That will allow you a block of four hours for your first sleep, followed by about an hour or so of wakefulness, and then a further three hours or more of second sleep. When you wake up in the night, rather than lie there struggling to get back to sleep, get up quietly and do something constructive – read a book or maybe bring those accounts up to date. When you start feeling sleepy again, which will normally be after an hour or so, go back to bed and you will soon fall asleep.
However, don’t make the mistake of watching TV or checking your emails – the blue light your screen emits will almost certainly interfere with your body's production of melatonin, and that will just make you feel more awake.
I can tell you that there is rarely a night when I don’t get up for an hour – usually between 2.30 am and 4am – and potter about doing various bits and pieces or reading. Once I learned to get used to this pattern, I also started to feel better.
If you can embrace this new way of sleeping, you will feel less tired during the day and less likely to fall asleep in the early evening, or worse, in company! You will also find that the quality of your sleep is better. Instead of drifting in and out of sleep during the second part of the night, your sleep will be more continuous.
There are lots of people who sleep this way! Some take biphasic sleeping to a whole new level – I have known clients who use the time for exercise or hobbies such as astronomy. Some take the opportunity to walk the dog, or even go for a walk on their own, although if you do this, I would avoid cemeteries or red light areas.
One more thing… using your smartphone or tablet before bed can put the quality of your sleep at risk.
As smartphones have become more a part of our lives, so the incidence of insomnia and sleep deprivation has increased. Over two thirds of adults sleep with their phones by their bed and younger users in particular spent more time on the devices and reported having more disturbed sleep.
Light in the blue spectrum, such as that produced by smartphones and tablets, can suppress the production of melatonin, leading to decreased drowsiness and thus difficulty getting to sleep. Engrossing activities during smartphone use may also result in stimulation that stymies sleep.
Poor sleep affects schooling and work performance, it’s linked to depression, and it’s a risk factor for obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and early mortality. Previous studies have shown that hospital patients who used eReaders took longer to fall asleep and had reduced quality of sleep than those who read a traditional book. Those who used screens late at night were the worst affected. Of course it is also possible that the content of what they were viewing was stimulating.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have found devices that emit blue light – which is most of them – are responsible for negative impact on sleep. Their study, published in the journal PLOS ONE involved the analysis of data from 653 US adult participants. The researchers tested the hypothesis that increased screen-time may be associated with less sleep.
Participants installed a smartphone App that recorded their screen-time (defined as the number of minutes in each hour that the screen was turned on) over a 30-day period. They also recorded their sleeping hours and sleep quality. Longer average screen-time was associated with shorter duration of sleep and reduced sleep effectiveness.
However, this does not necessarily mean you will have to stop looking at your phone because there are now Apps that block this light from devices. Apple have recently added a night setting to its software so iPhone and iPad users can avoid blue light at night. Night Shift changes the colour of the screen to a warmer, yellow/red shade at night, the idea being that it will be easier to sleep after using the device. I’ve just installed it on my phone. It is easier on the eye, but time will tell if it does what it says on the box.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is recognised as a genuine condition and there’s compelling research to suggest that SAD exists. Studies suggest around a third of people suffer from SAD, which was first identified by US scientists in the early 1980s.
Symptoms go from lower energy levels to severe depression. Most people find themselves somewhere in the middle - not paralysed with despair, but as the days shorten, they struggle to get out of bed, and have to force themselves to go outside and absorb any available light. Sufferers can feel profoundly miserable, without anything specific reason. Gloom is often alleviated by a walk in the sunshine, or a sun-filled holiday abroad. Most people resign themselves to SAD symptoms being part of winter life.
Symptoms listed by the UK National Health Service include: persistent low mood; loss of interest in normal activities; irritability; despair, lethargy, struggling to get up and craving carbohydrates.
However, a new study of more than 5,200 people conducted by the Netherlands University in Groningen discovered that lack of sunlight does not influence mood - on the contrary, people who are of a natural sunny disposition are unaffected by the nights drawing in.
Some people may feel worse in winter simply because they associate their negative mood to factors outside their control… but winter could simply be stressful because of an increase in other depression-related symptoms. In other words, people think they’ve got SAD because they just expect to have symptoms. The Groningen study’s key finding was that overall, only those already high in neuroticism - those more likely to suffer negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and worry - felt worse at the end of the summer.
People who are already vulnerable to emotional instability are more likely to be impacted by the change in the seasons. Lack of light and the change in seasons increase vulnerability factors that can make people more prone to experiencing depression and low mood - those who suffer from anxiety especially so. In other words, it’s all in the mind, so no surprise that being anxious increases the likelihood of SAD.
However, none of the above makes SAD less real - it simply means that people suffering from anxiety or depression are likely to feel worse. A reduction in sunlight availability can affect the hypothalamus in the brain and cause us to produce too much melatonin, which makes us more sleepy and lethargic. Lack of sunlight can inhibit production of the brain chemical serotonin, without which, we may experience bouts of low mood and depression.
SAD is a genuine condition closely linked to depression, so sleeping patterns can also affect the severity of SAD. In winter, we don’t get enough light to set the biological clock that synchronises our rhythms over 24 hours, so they drift later and later. If you have a 'late’ clock when it comes to sleeping and waking, you may be more likely to be more vulnerable to depression.
Getting up early provides the key to feeling better. Recent research discovered a photo receptor in the eye sensitive to light. As light hits a certain cell in the retina, it transmits information that it’s dawn or dusk, light or dark, direct to your brain’s biological clock.
By absorbing light first thing in the morning, you regulate the rhythms in your body. But without that trigger, the brain fails to receive the right signals, and you’ll struggle to wake up. Worse, you’ll crave carbs and feel gloomy.
However the condition is not necessarily connected to direct sunlight, but to the length of the day, whether sunny or not, which is presumably why some studies have found no appreciable effect of Vitamin D on SAD. One solution is to get up as soon as it gets light.
And then there’s good sleep hygiene - make sure there are not too many distractions in your bedroom, no stimulants before bed and keep the room cool. Some people find a light-box useful. It produces a bright, white light that mimics sunlight to encourage the brain to produce serotonin and reduce sleep-inducing melatonin. One study found A light-box also decreased cravings for carbs.
And then there’s exercise. When you exercise, your brain releases feel-good hormones, endorphins and serotonin, which give you a natural boost and trigger positive feelings. In addition, your body also becomes better at managing the stress hormone cortisol.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2020. All rights reserved.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Working out at the gym is more likely to make you put on weight!
Sudden excessive fitness regimes, like crash diets make our metabolism go into survival mode.
If you exercise for a few months and then relapse into a sedentary lifestyle you will actually put on more weight than if you hadn’t bothered in the first place.
In Britain, nine million of us are members of a gym, according to analysts at the Leisure Database Company. But nearly two-thirds of new gym-goers give up within three months – and it’s making them permanently fatter! This is because our bodies respond to sudden bouts of exertion by cutting down on calorie-burning. Our bodies also adapt to higher levels of activity and conspire to store more fat – something that was once vital to survival in times of food shortage.
Researchers from City University, New York, measured the daily energy expenditure and activity levels of more than 300 men and women for a week. They found that when people undertook strenuous exercise such as that on offer in the gym, the extra work they put in had no effect on the number of calories they burned compared with those who stuck to more moderate exercise like walking. The complete report was published in the journal Current Biology.
Scientists at the University of Missouri showed 10 years ago that our bodies don't just negate the calorie-burning effects of crash exercising, they also retain energy reserves in the form of fat. Just three weeks of intense exercise can reconfigure our metabolisms so that they store energy as fat as soon as they get the chance.
Tests performed on rats found that when the animals were taken off the exercise regime, their bodies were more ready than normal to put on weight by growing new fat cells (a process called adipocyte hyperplasia.) Rather than retaining fit bodies, the rats developed pudgy stomachs, according to their report in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
So periods of strenuous exercise followed by weeks of physical inactivity can prompt increased fat cell production, weight gain and obesity.
Meanwhile, biologists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, who studied more than 20,000 people over seven years, found that recreational runners who stopped exercising also put on significant amounts of weight. Worse, when they resumed the same level of running, they did not reverse the weight gain! This study is available in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in 2008.
Other studies involving swimmers and martial-arts practitioners have shown similar results.
So could this evolutionary survival mechanism be a factor in the obesity epidemic?
The key to staying at a reasonable weight is to remain reasonably active all year, every year, and avoid irregular or strenuous exercise patterns.
Other studies have found that people who engage in fitness binges are more likely to reward themselves with fattening foods and drinks – a survey of 2,000 UK gym-goers in 2016 found half of them indulged themselves with cake, sweets or alcohol after a workout.
People new to exercise often reward themselves with food, but this can backfire. The worse affected tend to be unfit people who suddenly decide to push themselves hard in the gym. Tests on 32 sedentary adults, published in the International Journal of Obesity in 2000, showed that when they exercised at 60% of their maximum capacity for 30 minutes, they were twice as likely to eat fat-rich foods afterwards than if they exercised at only 30% capacity.
Adopting a more gentle and sustainable long-term approach to exercise may be the most sensible option. Half an hour's moderate exercise a day, such as gardening or walking gets the best results! That, together with a more sensible approach to eating will more likely be the answer.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2015. All rights reserved.
Want to lose weight? Stay away from the gym!
HACKS FOR HEALTH & WELLBEING
Coffee could add years to your life.
A study by Imperial College London of more than half a million people in Europe found men were 18% and women 8% less likely to die from any cause than non-coffee drinkers (based on 3 cups of coffee a day.) Similar results were recorded by American scientists who studied 185,885 people.
It makes no difference whether the coffee contains caffeine or is decaffeinated because it’s the antioxidant compounds in coffee that are responsible for life-extending effects – particularly circulatory and digestive diseases. Previous studies have suggested coffee can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, and certain cancers.
Caffeine keeps us awake, improves our mood, reaction time, vigilance, memory and general thinking ability.
Caffeine raises metabolism and improves athletic performance by more than 10%.
Coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by between 23 and 67%.
Coffee protects your brain in old age by reducing the risk of dementia by 60% and Parkinson’s disease by 32 to 60%.
It also lowers the risk of liver cancer by 40%.
Both UK and US studies were published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
A better cure for depression?
A daily dose of over-the-counter magnesium tablets significantly improved depression in patients in just two weeks! Magnesium combats inflammation linked to the condition, but without side effects, whereas antidepressants frequently cause nausea, weight gain and insomnia.
University of Vermont researchers studied 126 adults with mild to moderate depression. Some were given 248mg of magnesium – generally considered a low dose – every day for six weeks while others received no treatment. Participants were assessed twice a week over the phone. Symptoms improved regardless of their age, sex or antidepressant use. 61% of the study's participants said they would use magnesium supplements to manage their depression in the future.
According to study author Emily Tarleton ‘the results are very encouraging, given the great need for additional treatment options for depression, and our finding that magnesium supplementation provides a safe, fast and inexpensive approach to controlling depressive symptoms.'
This is the first clinical trial examining the effect of magnesium supplements on depression in adults. The results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.
For further information, read Dr Irving Kirsch’s book The Emperor’s New Drugs. It’s a serious indictment of the antidepressant drug industry – I promise you will be shocked!
Chocolate is good for you after all!
Dark chocolate in particular is a rich source of flavanol, a natural compound found in cocoa beans that boosts memory and improves brain function.
The benefits of eating chocolate are well known. After a sustained chocolate enriched diet over an extended period of time, test subjects showed that memory, attention, brain-processing speed, visual processing skills and fluency of speech all improved in the hours after eating chocolate – especially in older adults with symptoms of memory decline or other mild brain impairments.
Dark chocolate is also an effective appetite suppressant, but the downside – it also contains calories, some milk and sugar – and caffeine, which is why it can also counteract the effects of sleep deprivation.
Stop trying to be happy!
Celebrities present a false version of life and happiness gurus try to sell you their latest emotional quick fixes.
Happiness as a goal in itself will always be elusive, because the message that we should maximise our positive emotions and avoid our negative ones doesn’t work! Feeling down from time to time is normal – one in five people experience depressive symptoms at some time in their lives, yet society is constantly demanding that we should be happy all the time.
Depression rates are higher in countries that place too high an emphasis on happiness.
A study of 112 patients who were pressurised to feel happy actually experienced worse symptoms.
We need to change our attitude to depression if it’s to be tackled effectively. Anti-depressant drugs often don’t work and many people have been prescribed anti-depressants when they didn’t really need them! [Read Dr Irving Kirsch’s book The Emperor’s New Drugs.]
The best way to achieve real happiness is to seize every opportunity and live for the day. Oh, and care about those close to you and spend time with them.
Research from the University of Melbourne / Published in the journal Depression and Anxiety.
Calm down, calm down…
You can beat stress, anxiety and panic attacks just by controlling your breathing. Here’s how…
Be very conscious of your breathing. Take slower breaths and slowly relax your body bit by bit. Imagine your body becoming numb, from your fingertips to your toes, until every muscle, every joint, every nerve, every sinew, every fibre becomes completely relaxed.
Deep and slow breaths can induce a powerful state of calm, lower blood pressure, sharper and more focussed thinking.
The end result is just like the totally relaxed feeling you get after yoga or a massage.
Breathing exercises have been around for hundreds of years. Controlling breathing can shift your consciousness from anxious to meditative and is a core component of all types of yoga.
Scientists at Stanford University have discovered that the idea of slow breathing is not new-agey nonsense after all, but actually helps the brain to create a sense of calm.
'Transformational breathing' is set to be one of the health trends of 2017. Shallow breaths send messages to the brain that the body is in survival mode, increasing production of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which can lead to chronic anxiety.
The Stanford study is published in the journal Science.
Coffee could help with weight loss
Caffeine helps to burn calories by boosting the release of oxytocin, which affects both appetite and metabolism. Researchers have found caffeine significantly reduces food intake and increases energy expenditure.
Caffeine is safe for consumption in doses of up to 400mg (approx. 4 cups) per day for adults.
Studies suggest caffeine may also have a variety of health benefits, including combating liver disease, type 2 diabetes and could even help people live longer. A Dutch report earlier this year showed that drinking more coffee may help to stave off liver cancer – people who drink just one cup of coffee a day are 20% less likely to develop the most common form of the disease.
Coffee is the world's most widely consumed stimulant and is reported to boost daily energy expenditure by around 5%. Combining 2 to 4 daily coffees with regular exercise is even more effective at keeping the weight off! A 2015 study showed just a couple of cups a day could help millions of dieters stay trim once they have achieved their desired weight.
LESS exercise is the key to weight loss
Want to lose weight? – Believe it or not, LESS exercise is the key to weight loss because intense exercise actually prevents your body from burning fat! Strenuous exercise causes cortisol levels to spike because your body can’t tell the difference between exercise stress and normal stress. High cortisol stops your body burning fat.
WALKING is the best and most natural exercise, but swimming, dancing, gardening & cycling are just as good. Just 20 minutes a day of any of these is all you need.
Your energy levels will be higher – you’ll sleep better and feel refreshed in the morning and not tired from exercising.
A mindful way to lose weight?
A new study carried out by North Carolina State University has found that mindfulness helped people lose seven times more weight than people on standard diets and that mindfulness is more effective than simply trying to eat healthily.
80 people took part in the study – half designed their own diet – they lost 0.6lbs – while half engaged in daily meditation – and they lost 4.2lbs, seven times the first group's average weight loss. The researchers say this is a staggering testament to the power of meditation.
A 'small changes approach' is a weight management strategy that emphasises a combination of diet and physical activity. In other words, eat less – exercise more!
Mindful eating means:
1) Paying attention to feelings of hunger and fullness,
2) Planning meals and snacks,
3) Eating as a singular activity as opposed to eating while doing other activities,
4) Paying special attention to how food tastes and having just one or two bites of special higher calorie foods,
5) Savouring the flavour.
The results suggest a beneficial association between mindful eating and weight loss. They are currently studying mindful eating as part of a diabetes prevention program. Being overweight or obese means risking hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
This has got to be better than saving up for the liposuction. Nonetheless, and cutting through the jargon, it might just be a case of being ‘mindful’ that you need to exercise a bit of will power.
Thinking about a time when you were happy is one of the best ways to beat stress.
Remembering the good times can cut your stress response by 85% because it fires up the reward centres in the brain. Remembering or thinking about happy times, visualising positive things or even dreaming about a happy future works better than simply trying to distract yourself.
The ability to reminisce about the past is important for happiness – the opposite of ruminating on negative memories that can lead to depression.
Researchers tested the effectiveness of pleasant memories on stress on 134 volunteers. The results showed that those who thought about happy times felt calmer, and that the expected rise in stress hormone cortisol was on average only 15% of that of a neutral control group. When their brains were scanned, the participants who thought about happier times showed activity in the circuits linked to reward processing and emotion regulation.
The technique seems most effective for people who were already emotionally resilient, but the study concluded that thinking about good memories is the opposite of [fashionable] mindfulness, which encourages people to focus on the present, rather than the past or the future.
Research by Dr Mauricio Delgado and Megan Speer at New York’s Rutgers University – reported in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
Scientists at the University of Georgia have found that just 10 minutes of walking – not running! – up and down stairs every day will help you lose weight and stay fit. AND it will increase your energy levels – even more than drinking coffee or soft drinks. It will also result in small improvements in attention, memory and motivation.
If you work in an office, chances are you won’t have much time for exercise and won’t feel like going for a walk if it’s raining – but you might have access to stairs.
About 700 steps (equal to 30 floors) will do the trick and it takes just 10 minutes.
You can drop 2lbs per week doing this – that means losing 1.5 stone in time for the summer holidays!
Being more resilient helps to prevent future setbacks.
But it means being tough on yourself. Resilience is an acquired skill and not a fixed character trait, so it can be LEARNED.
According to the journal Frontiers in Psychology, those who learn from their mistakes develop better confidence, determination, coping strategies and tolerance for negative situations. So be prepared to overcome adversity!
Here’s the important thing – teaching young people to set goals, even after failure, will help them to do better in school and generally in life. The importance of working on strengths beyond academic or technical achievement will help you cope positively with all the adverse situations you encounter in life.
Worried about your memory? Here's some good news...
Forgetting stuff makes us smarter because it allows us to make more intelligent and informed decisions. In an ever changing environment, we forget redundant information so we can better adapt to new situations.
Memory holds on to valuable information, but by forgetting irrelevant stuff, the brain can generalise information about both past and present events so we can focus on the things that will help us make decisions in the future.
Multiple conflicting memories make it harder to make informed decisions, but remembering the general gist of an experience creates simple memories that are more efficient at predicting future experiences.
There are mechanisms in the brain that store information and mechanisms that promote memory loss. New neurons and connections integrate into the hippocampus and overwrite existing memories.
This is why, when we are children and our brains are still developing, we forget so much stuff. But it’s our ability to collate important memories that makes us into the people we are today.
Research from the University of Toronto
There’s a connection between happiness, wellbeing, your immune system, a contented life, and improved health.
Conversely, chronic unhappiness is a threat to health – stress and depression can negatively affect your immune system, cardiovascular health, and your ability to fight off disease and heal injuries.
The extent to which a happy, cheerful disposition supports good health is unclear because it varies from person to person, so researchers analysed numerous studies that investigated the link between happiness and health.
Happier people are more inclined to exercise regularly and not smoke. Generosity and altruistic acts also makes people happier because they trigger areas of the brain linked to feelings of contentment. Even small acts of kindness are enough to create changes in our brains that make us happier.
The magnitude of generosity does not influence levels of contentment – even small acts of kindness produce a sense of wellbeing. Generosity and happiness improve individual wellbeing and can facilitate social success. This is why people feel gratification from giving, even when it exacts a cost to themselves.
Research by the Universities of Utah, Virginia and the University of Lubeck, Germany, published in the journal Health and Well-Being.
Doing crossword puzzles can develop sharper brains and stave off dementia.
There are significant links between keeping the brain healthy in old age and reduced risk of dementia. Researchers at Exeter University and Kings College London analysed data from more than 17,000 participants and found direct relationships between the frequency of doing crosswords and the speed and accuracy of performance in cognitive tasks that assessed a range of functions including attention, reasoning, speed and memory. Performance was consistently better in those who regularly did crosswords and generally improved the more they did them.
It has long been known that keeping an active mind can help to reduce decline in thinking skills. The Alzheimer's Society recommends adults do a daily crossword to reduce their risk of developing dementia. Solving crosswords – especially cryptic crosswords – involves several different brain regions working in unison, including memory and visual imagery.
A recent study by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital showed that although keeping body and mind active doesn’t affect the suspected underlying cause of Alzheimer’s (a build-up of protein deposits on the brain) keeping mentally fit and doing crosswords can ease the symptoms and still help brains function.
In the meantime, the best way to reduce the risk of developing dementia is to keep physically active, avoid smoking and enjoy a healthy balanced diet.
Having a good weep is just like giving yourself a hug.
Weeping triggers the release of natural anti-stress endorphins that create a feeling of wellbeing. Weeping is distinct from crying (usually a response to pain) while weeping –unique to humans – is an emotional expression of both grief and happiness.
It can also be an appeal to others for empathy and can also stabilise mood. It can occur during intense positive emotional experiences such as watching a romantic film, seeing grandchildren for the first time, or making an Oscar acceptance speech. Women weep up to four times longer than men.
There are several different historical theories about the origins and purpose of weeping. For instance, it’s possible that when prehistoric humans used fire in farewell cremation rites, tears triggered by the smoke became associated with sadness. It’s equally possible that people feel better after weeping because tears actually remove chemicals built up as a result of emotional stress.
[Research from Siena University Hospital, Italy, reported in New Ideas In Psychology.]
Copyright Andrew Newton 2017. All rights reserved.
In this modern frenetic world, with all its trials and tribulations and hustle and bustle, we have forgotten how wonderful it feels to… simply do nothing… to be at ease with one’s own thoughts… to just lie on the sofa, to go for a walk to nowhere in particular, or just stare out of the window and daydream…
Believe it or not, doing absolutely nothing can be hugely beneficial, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It takes courage and determination to do absolutely nothing, but doing nothing is the perfect antidote to stress.
Trying to do everything creates stress, not to mention feelings of anxiety, insomnia and irritability, even guilt. Chronic stress can also affect the immune system. Because we can’t do everything, our bodies and brains are permanently in a permanent state of high alert, and once our stress responses are activated, it can take a while for them calm down.
Just a few minutes of relaxation every day is enough to lower stress and allow longer periods of relative calm. If there’s nothing demanding your attention, you can feel the stress seeping out of you.
Less stressed people are more friendly - they smile more because they’re happier with their lives.
When neurologist Marcus Raichle at the Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri used an fMRI scanner to measure brain activity, he was able to study how our brains are working when we’re not. The results were surprising - the relaxed brains were more active than those whose owners were given a specific task to do. In fact, the network that lit up when people lay still and did nothing included all the major connections in the brain. It turns out the brain is always active - always ‘on’ - even when you’re not using it.
This is why we’re more productive after a spot of calm relaxation - it gives the brain a chance to reorganise… a chance to reboot. We become better at problem-solving and more creative because our mind unconsciously embarks on a process of problem solving - just like sleeping on a problem and waking up the next morning with a much clearer idea of a solution.
So when we’re taking a shower, sprawling on the couch, or just daydreaming, ideas come together as if by magic. This quiet, seemingly passive work is less obvious, but it’s important… even just a few minutes is enough.
Generally, men find it easier to do nothing than women. Men seem to have more free time than women and they’re better at protecting it. Generally, women protect their husbands’ free time too, even at the expense of their own.
While men and women do approximately the same amount of work, generally men do more paid work, while women do more unpaid work. From the most primitive jungle societies to modern 21st century cities, doing nothing is practically unheard of among women, even in the most gender-equal countries such as the Norway.
Of course a busy life can be happy and fulfilling, but women also need to slow down! It’s no shame to put some time aside for yourself and do absolutely nothing! Really… all you have to do is absolutely… NOTHING…
So forget mindfulness, or meditation, because it’s too much like hard work. Forget being aware of your body, how you breath, the present moment, or your thoughts. Instead, just escape into your head and start daydreaming. Daydreaming requires no preparation, no training, and no special lighting or weird music.
Instead of making a ‘to-do’ list, make a list of the things you want to stop doing. Ask yourself if any of these jobs will really achieve anything, and whether there are any major negative consequences associated with not doing them. Learn to say no to the tasks that don’t move you forward. The time you free up is yours, and yours alone.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2020. All rights reserved.
The Benefits of Doing Absolutely Nothing
The Benefits of drinking water
Water is the most important thing we need to stay alive! Your body body needs water, but it’s important to drink the right amount; not enough and you’ll dehydrate - too much and you’ll literally drown in your own fluids!
A common question is ‘how do I know I’m drinking the right amount of water each day?’ Some people say that you need to drink at least 2 litres of water every day, but that isn’t necessarily true. The answer is, everyone is different and so the amount of water you need can depend on body mass, how much exercise you take, how hard you’re working, and believe it or not, how hard you think!
Losing as little as 2% of your body's water content can significantly impair physical performance. If we don’t stay hydrated, physical performance can suffer. This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat. Dehydration can have a noticeable effect if you lose as little as 2% of your body's water content.
However, it is not uncommon for athletes to lose up to 6-10% of their water weight via perspiration. This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, increased fatigue and make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally. Believe it or not, muscle is made up of about 80% water! So, if you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, then staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.
Your brain is strongly influenced by hydration status. Hydration exerts a major effect on energy levels and brain function! Dehydration can affect brain structure and function. It's also involved in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Prolonged dehydration can lead to difficulty thinking and reasoning.
Even mild dehydration (1-3% of body weight) can impair many aspects of memory and brain function. In a study of young women, fluid loss of 1.36% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration, and increased the frequency of headaches. In a study of young men, fluid loss of just 1.59% was detrimental to working memory and increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
So the common measure of how much water you should drink each day depends on your individual needs. The rule is: if you’re thirsty, drink some water, but if you’re not thirsty, don’t drink it just for the sake of it.
Another way of telling if you are drinking enough water is to look at your pee. If it’s pale or almost clear, then you’re probably drinking enough. If however, its very yellow, that’s often a sign that you might be dehydrated. If you pee is very dark, you might need to see a doctor!
The most important thing is to keep hydrated.
The benefits of water:
Water delivers oxygen to the body
Blood is more than 90% water, and blood carries oxygen to different parts of the body.
Water boosts skin health and beauty
With dehydration, the skin can become more vulnerable to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
Water regulates body temperature
Water stored in the middle layers of the skin comes to the surface as sweat when the body heats up. As it evaporates, it cools the body - this is particularly important if you play sport! If there's not enough water in the body, you are less able to tolerate heat strain.
Water boosts performance during exercise
Dehydration during exercise may hinder performance. It’s also possible that dehydration reduces performance in activities lasting longer than 30 minutes.
Water can help with weight loss if it’s consumed instead of sweetened juices and sodas. Drinking water before meals can help prevent overeating by creating a sense of fullness and boosting metabolic rate. In two studies, drinking half a litre of water was shown to increase metabolism by 24-30% for up to one and a half hours. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. In one study, dieters who drank ½ litre of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks. It’s better to drink water cold, because then the body will use additional energy to heat the water to body temperature, thereby burning more calories.
Drinking water reduces the chances of getting a hangover
Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration, although dehydration and can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headaches and dry mouth. If you’ve been drinking alcohol, Try to have have at least one glass of water before going to bed.
Drinking water may help to prevent and even treat headaches
Drinking water can sometimes help relieve headache symptoms, especially in people who are dehydrated. Dehydration can trigger headaches and migraines in some individuals. Several studies have shown that water can relieve or reduce the intensity and duration of headaches in those who are dehydrated.
Water is part of saliva and mucus
Saliva helps us digest our food and keeps the mouth, nose, and eyes moist. Drinking water also keeps the mouth clean and can also reduce tooth decay.
Water lubricates the joints
Cartilage, found in joints and the disks of the spine, are about 80%water. Long-term dehydration can reduce the joints’ shock-absorbing ability, which can lead to joint pain.
Water helps your digestive system and flushes body waste
The bowel needs water to work properly. Water is needed in the removal of urine and faeces. Dehydration can lead to digestive problems such as constipation and an overly acidic stomach. This increases the risk of heartburn and stomach ulcers. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally do not drink enough water. Carbonated water can give promising results for constipation relief, although the reason is not fully understood.
Water helps maintain blood pressure
A lack of water can cause blood to become thicker, increasing blood pressure.
Water helps clear the airways
When dehydrated, airways are restricted by the body in an effort to minimise water loss. This can make asthma and allergies worse.
Water dissolves minerals and nutrients making it possible for them to reach different parts of the body.
Water prevents kidney damage
The kidneys regulate fluid in the body. Insufficient water can lead to problems such as kidney stones. Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stones.
Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys, which dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they are less likely to crystallise and form clumps. Water might also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but more studies are needed to confirm this.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2019. All rights reserved
HACKS FOR CHILDREN
Why music is good for your little ones. Playing music while playing with your child won’t just make them giggle, it could also boost their brainpower. Brain regions key to music and speech are found to be sharper in nine-month-old boys and girls who attended musical play sessions.
University of Washington researchers said that exposure to the rhythms and patterns of music may make it easier for youngsters to make sense of the ever-changing world around them.
Infants experience a complex world where sounds, lights and sensations constantly change. Pattern recognition is an important cognitive skill, and improving that ability early on could have long-lasting and positive effects on learning.
I believe all children should be given the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. Playing music develops and improves motor skills, increases creativity, and teaches children to work together. Music also gives them an opportunity to takepart in and enjoy one of the things that makes life worth living.
Before becoming a world–renowned hypnotist, Andrew Newton studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK. He is a great advocate of the beneficial effects of teaching music to children.
Games and numbers…
Encouraging your children to count on their fingers and play number games WILL improve their maths skills.
Researchers at Sheffield Hallam and Bristol Universities have confirmed what many parents instinctively knew all along – counting on fingers and playing games with number symbols, like dominoes, card games and snakes & ladders, plays an important part in improving mathematical and quantitative skills. The study shows that fingers provide children with a ‘bridge’ between different
representations of numbers, which can be verbal, written or symbolic. These activities also involve motor skills in different parts of the brain and thus aid memory. Combined finger and number games could be a useful tool for teachers to encourage children's understanding of numbers. Primary school children aged 6 to 7 years old who were encouraged to count on their fingers and play number symbol games like dominoes etc. did significantly better in mathematical and quantitative skills tests than those who just had typical maths lessons.
Music makes smarter children.
Learning to play a musical instrument makes children better listeners. Learning to play music at an early age contributes to better brain development, optimising the creation and establishment of neural networks, and stimulating existing neural pathways. Brain scans show a significant increase in brain connections in children after just nine months of learning to play an instrument, improving youngster development.
Making music enhances their fine motor skills and teaches them to cooperate and work as a team. Music helps with maths skills and gives them an appreciation of the finer things in life. In the case of classical music, it also teaches children some history and an understanding of the human condition. It also helps with their emotional and social skills development.
rom an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience
Music and maths
Many of the skills musicians must master to play their instrument are duplicated for mathematical achievement. However, the precise relationship between music and maths is still unclear. Scientists are still unsure which influences the development of
the other. Some studies indicate that musical training exerts a positive influence on mathematical ability. For instance, individuals who learn to play an instrument are known to have higher scores in maths exams compared to their non-musical peers. Learning to play music involves specific mathematical skills such as fractions and ratios, even though the application of these skills is not always done at the conscious level. Musicians count how many beats there are in a bar and how many bars there are in a phrase. The length of any musical note for example can be divided by two, three, four, five, six, and so on. Volume and tone are also based on comparative
ratios. Musicianship also involves listening, watching, remembering and anticipating. Other studies have suggested that an aptitude for music and mathematics are driven by high-level cognitive processing skills necessary for both. Executive functions such
as the cognitive processes that regulate our ability to learn, reason, remember and plan are known to predict academic achievement in maths. Musicians also develop these cognitive processes when they train their brains to carry out the fine motor
movements involved in varied tempos, timbres, key signatures and interpretation. There may also be other contributory factors that determine success in music and maths. It is equally possible that non-cognitive variables like socioeconomics and
education are involved. Plainly, growing up in a family with significant financial resources means you are more likely to afford music lessons.
Either way, there is no better activity for your children.
The right kind of praise
Parents and teachers often use praise to reward children – but praise can backfire if it’s applied in the wrong way. Children praised for being smart are more likely to cheat in tests because they feel pressure to perform well to live up to their parent’s or teacher’s expectations.
According to researchers from the University of Toronto, children respond better if you praise specific behaviour, because that doesn’t make children feel that they are always expected to perform well. This takes a huge amount of pressure off and removes the temptation to cheat. Pre-school children, praised for being smart, were found to be more likely to cheat in tests than those who were praised for doing well in a single task. In addition, children who were told they had a reputation for being smart were also more likely to cheat.
Of course, we want children to feel good about themselves, but the research shows that despite the subtle difference between the two forms of praise, there were significant effects on behaviour.
The 6 C’s
Instead of focusing on success at school, we should teach our children how to be social, navigate relationships and be good citizens. Interaction between parents and children – rather than gadgets – will help children develop these skills. What teach our children today will have a direct impact on their future. We can teach children how to use computers, but they just spit out facts. We should be teaching them the 6 Cs – according to Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, by Professor Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta
Golinkoff of the University of Delaware.
1) Collaboration: Vital both in and out of school. Children have to learn to get along with others and control their impulses – like learning not to push in etc. Everything a child does, in the classroom or at home, must be built on that understanding.
2) Communication: the ability to read, write, speak and listen.
3) Content: is built on communication. Children can only learn if they understand how to use language.
4) Critical thinking: A practical example of encouraging critical thinking is always taking the time to answer your child’s questions. Even better, encourage them to ask more. Children will be smarter if they understand how other people think.
5) Creative innovation: Children need to understand things well enough to create something new.
6) Confidence: is critical in order to teach children to take safe risks. Outdoor play with others is an important part of this. Wrapping your child in cotton wool? Bad idea! The preoccupation with wellbeing – an edict of the nanny state intended to tackle anxiety and stress in youngsters – is leading children to believe normal emotional reactions to stress are signs of mental illness.
At the behest of the Department for Education (UK) thousands of teachers have been trained in ‘mindfulness’ – supposedly to encourage positive thinking, reduce stress and improve performance. But experts say lessons in wellbeing are making pupils MORE unhappy because they find it difficult to live up to the expectations presented to them by adults.
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment atBuckingham University, has called for the happiness programmes to be put under close scrutiny – I agree. Anyone can set up as a wellbeing consultant and the market has grown to industrial proportions. There is no regulation, no accepted standard, and a great risk that children will be referred for counselling without question. This has to stop!
Feeling stressed and anxious is not a mental health problem and it doesn’t do children any favours to be wrapped in cotton wool. Part of growing up is learning to take the knocks as well as the good things in life. One solution – turn the computer off and explore the great outdoors!
Why we need to prize our teenagers away from their screens… There has been a 75% increase in technology use by teenagers in the last 15 years. Teenagers who become slaves to their devices are risking their long-term health. A 2014 report by World Health Organisation scientists at the University of St Andrews collated responses from more than 200,000 pupils in 42 countries. It put the UK near the top of a European league table for teenage gadget use. Only 25% of boys meet the UK Government recommendation for exercise of at least
an hour a day – including walking. Girls’ greater obsession with social media means that only about 14% of them meet that target.
Sedentary behaviours now dominate adolescent’s lives, accounting for approximately 60% of their waking time, making sedentary behaviour the most common behaviour after sleep. Parents! Limit screen time and get your kids outside, exploring the great outdoors,
playing games, having conversations… that sort of thing… you know – all the things we used to do when we were truly free…
For more information about screen addiction, please go to:
Want better exam results? Look good, feel good!
Researchers and psychologists at Harvard University say that self-esteem has a knock-on effect on memory and confidence and can increase mental ability by as much as 20%. Smart, clean clothes and even make-up make us feel better about ourselves and
more confident during times of stress. 200 female undergraduates, all studying the same subject, all with similar levels of self-esteem, similar make-up habits and similar IQs, were randomly split into three groups and asked to put on make-up, listen to music, or draw. All then took an exam based on a chapter of a textbook they had just read. Results showed that those who used cosmetics scored an average of 24.2 out of 30, compared to 19.9 and 22 in the other groups.
Reported in the journal Cogent Psychology.
Six steps to encourage better teenage decision-making. Bad friends are bad news for impressionable young people. Teenagers are easily
influenced by their peers and can't help taking dangerous risks when they see their reckless friends doing the same.
With the rise of stupid social media challenges, it’s becoming even harder to protect teenagers doing stupid things, even acts of self-harm and in extreme cases, suicide. But good decision-making skills can be learned… Be aware of upcoming events that may present temptation to teenagers, for example, the possibility of drugs or alcohol. Listen to their expectations about the
event. Inform them of possible scenarios which may result in problems, for example, missing the train home or the friends becoming intoxicated. Inform them of the better choices available.
Encourage them to Stop & Think! Teach them that it’s OK to remove themselves from situations that might turn bad. They can always phone home and ask mum or dad to come and collect them. Above all there’s no shame in refusing to take part in activities that present risk. Teach them to consider all the potential consequences of their actions. Get them to ask if a decision is really the right on? Inform them of the possible consequences. Ask themselves if they would want mum or dad to find out about it. Remind them that it’s OK to ask for help. There’s no shame asking for advice! Making a mistake should always be seen as an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson. It’s OK to discuss and explore where, how and why the decision making went wrong, and how to make better choices in the future.
Understanding how friends can influence risky behaviour is becoming more
important, given increasing access to information about others lifestyles and
opinions due to social media.
However, it's not all bad news - the right sort of friends can have a positive impact on teenagers. In fact, the safe choices of others have a bigger effect on influencing choices, and this highlights the effect positive role models can have on young people.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2017. All rights reserved.
The Science Behind Hypnotherapy
Hypnosis and hypnotherapy now has an enormous amount of academic and medical research behind it. The positive effects of hypnosis as a natural and effective tool are now accepted as a stand-alone or complimentary treatment for a variety of medical and
In sort, hypnosis and hypnotherapy are now mainstream, no longer just an ‘alternative therapy’, but an essential and permanent solution to issues that were once thought incurable! Hypnosis is a misunderstood phenomenon, but it can be a powerful tool for change – even
a cure – for a host of problems. It’s also a very effective way of maximising performance. Believe it or not, hypnosis has been used as a tool for positive change for thousands of years, although it hasn’t always been called hypnosis. Today, the use of hypnosis as a
therapeutic tool is widespread. In the process, hypnosis has been subject to intense scientific research. Clinical hypnosis is based on intense scientific research at universities and hospitals around the world prove just how effective hypnosis can be.
Hypnosis sessions are about more than just the hypnosis; addressing emotional or psychological problems always involves examining and interpreting the way we understand ourselves; how we feel emotionally, including our thoughts, feelings, habits and behaviour.
Hypnotherapy for Healing, Pain Management and Immune Response
Hypnosis really can have a profound beneficial effect on the workings of your body. Physicians and psychologists agree that we are ‘a mind with a body – not a body with a mind!’ In other words, the way we think can affect our physical as well as our mental
health, and there are volumes of scientific evidence to back this up. For example, a 2007 study found that women who were hypnotised before undergoing breast biopsies required less sedation during the procedure, experienced less pain, nausea, and emotional distress. Major operations have been carried out with hypnosis as the sole anaesthetic. Hypnotherapy is effective for controlling pain caused by accidents, post operative pain, and the ordinary aches and pains that accompany old age and illness, as well as chronic
long-term pain or disease. There is also a considerable body of evidence that hypnosis can enhance the effectiveness of the immune system. In a study at Washington State University, volunteers who underwent hypnosis specifically to boost their immune systems showed significant increases in their levels of immune cells.
Hypnotherapy for Anxiety, Fears and Phobias
Hypnosis has long been proved successful in overcoming stress & anxiety, and fears & phobias. Many hypnotherapists use a powerful hypnotic technique called disassociation which has been shown to reduce fear by making troubling memories feel ‘safer’. This is
often referred to as creating ‘emotional distance’. Overcoming fears and anxieties becomes an entirely natural and comfortable process.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine carried out a study on 44 children who were anxious about invasive medical examinations. The children had already been through at least one painful examination and reported being fearful when they had to
undergo these procedures again. But the children who had been taught self-hypnosis were much less anxious, and the examinations also took less time.
Hypnotherapy for Motivation
Lack of motivation, procrastination, fear of success and even plain laziness can all beturned around with hypnosis. One highly successful technique is ‘third person motivational visualisation’. Research has proved that people are more able to do something they’ve already rehearsed under hypnosis, just like watching themselves do it in a movie. Hypnosis can be used for all kinds of motivational issues, from starting a business, practicing a musical instrument, getting slimmer and fitter – even just getting out of bed
and starting the day!
Hypnotherapy for Sports Performance
There is plenty of evidence to show hypnosis can help you master a skill and generally improve your performance, giving you ‘the edge’. Ever watched Olympic athletes ‘limber up’ before a race? They are mentally going through the steps they practised under
hypnosis. Hypnosis has long been used to improve focus, reaction time, confidence and even physical strength. Hypnosis can enhance skill as well as actual practice! Of course, rehearsal under hypnosis will never replace actual practice, but an ability to increase concentration could improve your game!
Hypnotherapy for Self-Esteem and Self Confidence
Emotional problems stem not just from what people think, but also from how they misuse their imagination. It’s often easier to imagine all kinds of negative things about ourselves and socially anxious people tend to focus less on other people and more on their own
imaginary shortcomings. Hypnotherapy utilises your own imagination to harness self-confidence and encourage a more healthy and optimistic sense of who you are – and what you can be. Hypnotherapy helps us increase confidence in social situations and focus in the same way that naturally self confident people do.
Hypnotherapy for Addictions and Bad Habits
The National Council for Hypnotherapy recently circulated University of Iowa research about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy as a way of stopping smoking. The study, involving 72,000 people, investigated the most effective ways of stopping. Hypnotherapy was shown to be three times more effective than nicotine replacement therapy. Overcoming addictions involves instilling hope and optimism. Hypnotherapy can successfully treat all sorts of addictions – not just smoking, but also alcohol and drugs, shopping addiction and social media addiction.
Hypnotherapy for Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
Insomnia can be caused or worsened by anxiety and stress. A vicious cycle of stress, exhaustion and insomnia can build up, with one feeding off the other. Hypnotherapy can offer a natural approach to calmness and rest, without the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. Several studies have confirmed that hypnotherapy sessions and progressive hypnotic relaxation exercises significantly improved the quality of sleep. Hypnotherapy Can Make You Feel Younger! Stress, anxiety, worry… all contribute to ageing, but surprisingly, researchers have discovered that ‘living in the past’ can actually make us feel younger! In 1979, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a study of a group of elderly men to discover if they could be made to feel young again. She had them live in an isolated New England Hotel, retro-fitted to how it would have looked twenty years earlier. The men, all in their late 70s and early 80s, were told not to reminisce about the past, but to actually act as if they had travelled back in time to find out if ‘acting’ younger actually made them feel younger.
After only a week, the men in the experimental group displayed more joint flexibility, increased dexterity and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity rose measurably, and they showed improved gait and posture. Outsiders who were shown the men’s photographs judged them to be significantly younger than those of the control group. It was almost as if the ageing process had actually been reversed! Hypnotherapists often use hypnosis to encourage people to feel younger and help them
regain that feeling of youth.
Hypnotherapy in the Treatment of Depression
It used to be thought that hypnotherapy was not a suitable treatment for people with depression. We now know that hypnosis is a powerful tool to help beat depression. Hypnosis helps to calm the mind and body – something that is extremely beneficial. Depressed people have higher than normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol and hypnosis can be used to reduce this. Hypnosis helps you recoup lost energy, rehearse new positive behaviours, and build motivation. These hypnotherapy sessions not only focus on better sleep and reducing anxiety, they also improve self-esteem and self-confidence, helping depressed clients regain ownership of their lives.
Hypnotherapy as a Treatment for Anger
Anger can be very damaging to relationships as well as your own peace of mind. Chronic anger is the biggest predictor of early death through heart disease – even more so than chronic smoking. Anger, jealousy, hypochondria, pessimism, can be generated and
aggravated through the misuse of the imagination. In a study conducted at Stanford Medical School, heart patients were asked to recall times when they had been angry. Although the patients said that the anger they felt on recalling the events was only half as strong as it had been originally, their hearts started pumping, on average, 5% less efficiently (cardiologists view a 7% drop in pumping efficiency as
serious enough to cause a heart attack). Imagination and recall are processed in the same parts of the brain. You can generate angry feelings by remembering past anger, or even imagining you are angry – both create very real physical changes, so it makes sense to use hypnosis constructively to stop anger being triggered too easily or too often. “Hypnosis can be a powerful tool for change – even a cure – for a host of problems and subject to intense scientific research at universities and hospitals and has significant academic and medical approval. The positive effects of hypnosis as a natural and effective tool are now understood and accepted as a treatment for a variety of psychological problems. In short, hypnosis and hypnotherapy are now mainstream and no longer just a complementary therapy, but an essential and permanent solution to issues that were once thought incurable!”
Copyright Andrew Newton 2020. All rights reserved.
Your technology addiction is harming your kids!
It's not just kids who are addicted to technology – parents are just as guilty. Parent’s use of mobile technology around young children can cause tension, conflict and negative interaction in parent/child relationships.
Parents are thought to use smartphones and tablets for at least three hours everyday. More than that, parents are finding themselves inhabiting two places at once – looking after their children while at the same time trying to catch up on work emails and social media. Modern technology has blurred the line between work, home and social life and some parents are struggling to find a healthy balance – indeed, some are blissfully unaware of the harm they are doing to their own children.
There is a popular assumption that it’s parents who complain about their kids being glued to their devices, but a recent survey has found that a staggering 34% of children believe their parents are more addicted! The survey was carried out by Jenny Radesky M.D., a child behaviour expert and paediatrician at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, in conjunction with colleagues from Boston Medical Centre.
The study monitored 35 mothers, fathers and grandmothers, and asked them about their mobile technology use.
The team found that each participant consistently experienced internal battles between multitasking mobile technology use, work and children. Many of the participants felt they were suffering from information overload and emotional tension that disrupted family routines such as meal times.
During the course of the study, one mother said it felt like 'the whole world is in your lap.’ Other parents explained it had a trickle-down effect – whatever they were reading on their device determined how they responded to their children.
Parents also found their children would crave more attention when they were heavily involved with their mobile devices, which prompted negative interactions such as snapping at them.
However, the mothers, fathers and grandmothers also said that mobile technology provided an escape from the boredom and stress of parenting and the demands of running a home. Another mother said that being connected after a long day is a reminder that she had a life beyond her kids.
Technology allows us the ability to work from home and makes it easier to communicate with other family members, giving us a more concise view of their lives without the need to converse face to face or on the telephone. Social media means that conversations can be carried out inside a time frame that fits in with a parent’s own hectic schedule.
It is important for parents to feel relevant at work as well as other parts of their lives but parents should not necessarily be available to their work or to their children all the time. What is important – and needed – is a sense of balance. It's healthier for children to have some independence but it’s when parents get overloaded and exhausted from being pulled in too many different directions at once that problems start.
So, it’s up to parents to put some simple rules into practice. And here they are…
First off, it is important to set boundaries which will help to avoid web activity that increases stress levels. There’s a time and a place for everything – there must be times when technology is absent, like mealtimes and bedtime.
Leading by example and practicing what you preach is vital – maybe you should cut down on your own use. Don’t use your own phone at the dinner table either. If your child is using their mobile at night, it’s time to take it off them.
Try to eliminate answering stressful emails, text messages or even reading the news online when you’re with your children. Stress communicates to children and they will react to your negative emotions. Leaving problems until it’s appropriate to deal with them means that you are able to think more clearly about them.
You definitely shouldn’t allow yourself to be distracted by technology when your child is trying to talk to you! There’s no problem making rules about technology use – especially when it is for your child’s protection. For example – never use your mobile in the car, not even when you’re stopped at traffic lights!
Finally, it’s never a good idea to share information – especially pictures – of your children online. The reasons for this should be obvious! A good safety measure would be to tape over the web cam on your child’s computer or smartphone – you never know if your child’s device is being hacked!
Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.