Unlocking the Gates of Mindfulness Through The Power and Benefits of Nasal Breathing

Unlocking the Gates of Mindfulness Through The Power and Benefits of Nasal Breathing

I stumbled upon what’s called the Buteyko method years ago when my friend told me he swore by it as the ultimate panacea to his anxiety, back pain, you name it. Buteyko method is essentially retraining your breathing patterns to combat chronic over-breathing attributed to our sedentary, hunched-over sitting culture. From that, we lose our natural diaphragmatic breathing and move toward the less healthy and metabolically inefficient chest breathing. The Buteyko method revolutionized my perception of breathing’s importance and the fact that apparently, I was doing it wrong my whole life. It was a lot to handle to find out your lifelong belief was wrong (reminding me of the scene below); I didn’t realize there was a HOW to breathing, I just took it for granted that it was more of a binary pass/fail situation.

There’s a growing consensus suggesting that nasal breathing is better for you that mouth breathing, for various reasons from better blood oxygenation to increased nitric oxide production during workouts. Sleeping, walking, or working out, it appears you’re better off breathing through your nose. 100% nasal breathing during exercise is challenging, particularly during high-intensity workouts or sprints. It’s an adjustment that you can make though, as I have done it. If it’s not embarrassingly obvious to you already, if I can accomplish something, you really have no excuse.

The issue is, developing new habits can be an arduous process; consistency and motivation often dwindle. Learning how to hack your motivation for something is your best bet. For instance, I am more motivated by the fitness and health benefits of nasal breathing than I am by the anxiety-reducing and calm of mind promises of mindfulness. Like most things, we know what we’re “supposed” to do, but we still don’t do them for whatever reason.

“If information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” – Derek Sivers [BRIAN: This begs the question if there’s any use in this blog.]

The “hack” here is using the habit formation process for nasal breathing of constantly coming back to your breath throughout the day as a vehicle for increased mindfulness. Coming back to breath or any part of your body is an opportunity to pause and ingest the present moment, i.e. mindfulness. In effect, you’re killing two birds with one stone, but using your interest in killing the first bird to enable killing the second. Morbid, but hopefully intelligible.

The meta-lesson here is figuring out what motivates you, and how you can leverage that get to the other tasks on your list that have fallen by the wayside. I’m giving you 7 puzzle pieces to a 400-piece self-improvement set. Or do you think it’s closer to 3, or 30 pieces? Let me know below!

 

3 Biohacks To Physically Exercise Your Way Into Mental Brilliance

3 Biohacks To Physically Exercise Your Way Into Mental Brilliance

I love double-dipping and stacking health benefits; anything that smells of efficiency thoroughly excites me. Examples include getting vitamin D while forest bathing or walking in nature, or perhaps you fancy a meditative trance while walking. We live in an age where brains are valued over brawn, so anything that enhances mental clarity and cognitive performance is worth its weight in gold. Instead of cheesy tricks to remember people’s names (which I also need) let’s review some exercises you can do to literally change your brain. Each of these biohacks is beneficial as a standalone fitness exercise, so use the knowledge of their brain boosting benefits as further motivation (or vice versa, depending on your values, either way you get both).

Biohack #1: Handstands

Free, fun, no equipment required, with infinite progressions, handstands are a dream come true. They offer a full swath of fitness-related benefits, but inverting your body rushes blood into your brain, building new capillaries, making it easier to get blood to your brain, which increases oxygen uptake and mental performance. Handstands also stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands, vital for hormone and body balance. Inversion tables will have the same brain blood flow benefits, but they are the clunky, expensive, lazy way to accomplish what a handstand can do (parallel to the free weight versus machine argument in the gym).

handstands, yoga

Biohack #2: Juggling

Juggling won’t tax your nervous system and fatigue you the way other exercises will, yet they offer a potent brain upgrade. Juggling enhances connections in the brain by changing the white matter (provides the electrical circuitry to connect disparate parts of the brain, sharpening concentration and enabling one of the greatest manifestations of intelligence: connecting disparate phenomena). Learning any new skill can trigger these changes, but juggling is the most universally studied and accessible to anyone. Reason #99 to never stop learning.

Biohack #3: Aerobic Exercise

This one was actually a bit disheartening to learn since I don’t sit comfortably knowing there’s an exceptionally compelling reason why I should be running more. Ignorance is bliss; I was happy just doing my high-intensity workouts, but the goal of life is to continually expand your Bounded Rationality. Sustained (20 minutes or more) aerobic exercise has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis in the hippocampus (improves learning ability). You can literally jog yourself into growing new brain cells. If that isn’t better living through science, I don’t know what is.

jogging, running, aerobic exercise

You now have the brain boost trifecta: increasing blood flow from handstands, increase white matter and effectively brain power from juggling, and increasing total neurons from aerobic exercise. You’re getting more gas pumped into the engine, a more efficient engine, and a bigger engine. I don’t give a @#$% about cars but (wo)man am I excited, and that’s what this article is all about!

 

The Story of the Taoist Farmer (How to Develop a Resilience Mindset)

The Story of the Taoist Farmer (How to Develop a Resilience Mindset)

We’ve all dealt with setbacks – perceived setbacks rather I should say. And if I’m being honest, setbacks honestly suck every time, frankly.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” – Steve Furtick

But, similar to the power and benefits of mindfulness meditation, the key is to bounce back as quickly as possible. Shorten the time gap between negative event, emotional response, and return to equilibrium of general positivity. How does one reliably accomplish this? No idea, but I think doing what it takes to build, foster, and maintain a resilience mindset helps.

As is with (and hence my love for) comedy, stories pierce through our psyche in a way that factual dribble drabble or self-help generic white noise can’t. So with that logic, I’d like to present to you another favorite short story.

The Story of the Taoist Farmer

This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to condole over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”

A month later, the horse came home–this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”

The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”

A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.

You can look at the farmer’s life over the course of time, and see with 20/20 hindsight vision what was initially thought to be tragic ultimately was not. Do you ever give yourself the same advantage? Have you ever looked back on negative events and reframed them in a positive, “because of X-negative event, Y-great things manifested in my life,” light? That’s level 1 that most people can do. As Steve Jobs said, you can always connect the dots looking back.

Level 2 is taking things in stride, with the resilience mindset, minimizing your emotional downtime. I’ve found it most helpful to maintain the farmer’s open curiosity, questioning how things will unfold in the future. Since we never have the privilege (would it be?) of knowing happens in our future, merely speculating with a positive outlook helps tremendously.

  • Lost your job? Wonder if this will open up new doors for you that ultimately put you on a career path more closely aligned with your interests.
  • Injured? Wonder if your extra time not exercising will lead you to better leveraging your mind, possibly finding your next passion.
  • Wasted your time reading this blog post? Wonder if my apologies will suffice.

Level 3 is refusing to conform to everyone else’s opinion and maintaining your independence of thought. This will help with investing and finances as well.

“Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful” – Warren Buffet

‘The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.” – Colin Wright

There are no isolated incidents, so deeply question how any event will affect other aspects of your life now or in the future. Seeing things in full connection to everything else is your right brain’s highest calling.

How Bad Is Your Fish Oil? (And How to Find the Best)

How Bad Is Your Fish Oil? (And How to Find the Best)

It was a truly disheartening and tragic day when I found out my go-to, widely recommended fish oil brand (Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil) is apparently rancid. Rancid in the oil world is precisely defined as a colossal waste of money and an atrocity to your health. In god we trust, all else bring data, so here is the report if you care enough to read it (likely not if you’re a true Leveragist): Hook, Line & Stinker: The Truth About Cod Liver Oil.

Here’s a piece from the report:

“Lab tests indicate the Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil is rancid; putrid; low in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K; apparently diluted with a trans-fat containing vegetable oil — and not even from cod. We have reliable reports that the X-Factor Gold Butter Oil comes from Argentina, not the Great Plains, and it tests rancid as well. And contrary to Green Pasture’s advertising, Dr. Weston A. Price’s own words make it clear that these are not products he would ever have endorsed.”

If you’re in the health world at all, you’ve likely heard of Green Pasture. If not, who cares, that’s why you’re reading a watered down blog like this one. What happens when one of the most widely recommended and marketed fish oil brands turns out to (potentially) be less than it claims?  We learn, we adjust, and we only go with brands meeting the highest levels of certification.

I don’t have any allegiance/affiliation with any brand, but if you consume fish oil of any kind, with all it’s wonderful, science-backed health benefits, you owe it to yourself to verify that you’re getting a non-rancid/oxidized, mercury and toxin-free supplement. There are two ways to accomplish this.

Supplement Independent Analysis & Review Sites

The first, less robust way is to leverage sites like LabDoor to get a stack ranking of several brands, with their respective rankings on label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy. These sites aren’t perfect, but LabDoor is the best I’ve found, and it doesn’t heart to cross-verify your purchases with this site. They go well beyond fish oil, so you may use them for the most popular forms of supplements, ranging from BCAAs, creatine, probiotics, and now even dark chocolate and green tea! Look at that, a supplement review site that doesn’t know the definition of supplement! Kidding…I love that they are expanding constantly into all popular health inputs.

Third Party Certifications

The gold standard for supplement quality assurance is to verify that they have the valid 3rd party supplement testing certifications. The gold standard of that gold standard is the NSF Certified Dietary Supplements. If you were hyper-diligent, you could use their database to check if the brand (field: manufacturer) you’re using is certified with NSF. Carlson is another popular fish oil that I’ve used and was dismayed to find it lacking here. Positive note: not all brands that aren’t certified are necessarily low quality, but all brands certified are reliably high quality – basically.

My Recommended Fish Oil

If you’ve tired yourself checking the review sites and certification databases before even commencing, you’re not alone, and there’s a final solution: find someone else who took the time to do so. Thanks to the steadfast diligence of Dr. Rhonda Patrick, I happen to know a brand that passes the NSF certification test: Nordic Naturals. She also happens to make me feel dumb listening to her, and I like those kinds of people.