Friday, May 20, 2016

"Mind Over Matter: If You Don't Mind, It Doesn't Matter"

The title is a quote that I heard while watching the series on television (cable - I guess) on the training series of the United States Navy Seals -- BDU Class 234 years ago.  Watching this series will either tire you out completely, or motivate you to get up and make a change in your life.  Maybe watching the series will do both -- who knows.  Each of us have our own obstacles toward tackling stress.  I chose the quote above as a "thesis" statement with the following paragraphs as an elaboration of what is stress and how can each of us deal with having stress more easily living each day.




What Is Stress?





Whenever a system deviates away from "equilibrium" the system is in a state of stress.  How that system recovers depends heavily on the system itself.  For human beings, the process of recovery depends on our individual self traits coupled with our ability to move ourselves back to equilibrium.  First, a better definition of "stress" might be the best way to really start to understand the feeling and solutions toward overcoming the negative aspects.  Additionally, later in the blog post, the realization of the positive attributes of using the state of "stress" positively will be discussed.  Many of the readers will be surprised at the different perspectives of "stress" that are available.




Many of us recognize the state of being stressed that is commonly portrayed in society on an everyday basis.  Usually, that state is associated with the feeling of fear, anxiety, and a heightened state of awareness.  If the word "stress" is typed into a search engine followed with the word "Wikipedia," the following image or page will appear:








As you can see, there are many definitions of stress available on "Wikipedia."  Of course, the stress (as mentioned above) that humans typically experience -- is usually a feeling of overwhelmed mixed in with fear and anxiety.  Stress (psychological) is defined by "Wikipedia" by the following excerpt:




In psychology, stress is a feeling of strain and pressure. Small amounts of stress may be desired, beneficial, and even healthy. Positive stress helps improve athletic performance. It also plays a factor in motivation, adaptation, and reaction to the environment. Excessive amounts of stress, however, may lead to bodily harm. Stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, dwarfism, and mental illnesses such as depression.[1]
Stress can be external and related to the environment,[2] but may also be created by internal perceptions that cause an individual to experience anxiety or other negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc., which they then deem stressful.
Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When we think the demands being placed on us exceed our ability to cope, we then perceive stress.




This type of stress is identifiable to most of us as we traverse our daily routines.  Understanding how to identify stress points in our daily lives is very critical.  Especially, if we hope to overcome stress. From a biological standpoint or chemical standpoint, what is stress?  The biology or physiology of stress is rather complex.  First, the traditional chemicals that affect the "neural chemistry" of stress are listed below -- taken from the "Wikipedia" page:




Corticotropin-releasing hormone:
Corticotropin-releasing hormone is the neurohormone secreted by the hypothalamus during a stress response that stimulates the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland by binding to its corticotropin-releasing hormone-receptors, causing the anterior pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone.[42]
Adrenocorticotropic hormone:
Adrenocorticotropic hormone is the hormone secreted by the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland into the body's blood stream that stimulates the cortex of the adrenal gland by binding to its adrenocorticotropic hormone-receptors, thus causing the adrenal gland to release cortisol.
Cortisol:
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, belonging to a broader class of steroids called glucocorticoids, produced by the adrenal gland and secreted during a stress response. Its primary function is to redistribute energy (glucose) to regions of the body that need it most (i.e., the brain and major muscles during a fight-or-flight situation). As a part of the body's fight-or-flight response, cortisol also acts to suppress the body's immune system.
Cortisol is synthesized from cholesterol in the adrenal cortex.[43] Its primary function is to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, suppress the immune system and aid in fat and protein metabolism.[44]
Norepinephrine:
Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter released from locus coeruleus when stimulated by the hypothalamus during a stress response. Norepinephrine serves as the primary chemical messenger of the central nervous system's sympathetic branch that prepares the body for fight-or-flight response.
Serotonin:
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter synthesized in the raphe nucleus of the pons of the brainstem and projects to most brain areas. Serotonin is thought to play an important role in mood regulation. Stress-induced serotonin dysfunctions have been associated with anxiety, fear and depression-like symptoms.
Neuropeptide Y:
Neuropeptide Y is a protein that is synthesized in the hypothalamus and acts as a chemical messenger in the brain. Traditionally, it has been thought to play an important role in appetite, feeding behavior, and satiety, but more recent findings have implicated Neuropeptide Y in anxiety and stress, specifically, stress resiliency.[45]





How do these chemicals actually play into the process of stress?  Meaning, when a person feels "stressed" what is going on in the brain with the chemicals listed above.  According to the Neuroscientist Dr. Kristen Race in her "TED Talk" titled "Settle Down, Pay Attention, say Thank You: A How-To" the stress response proceeds as follows (after the image of the brain):









The stress response in the body proceeds as follows:




Let's take a look at what it looks inside the brain:
1) my eyes sent the image of the bear
2) to the relay center in my brain called the thalamus.
3) The thalamus perceived the bear as threatening
4) and sent a signal to the amygdala
5) which activated a set of responses designed to promote survival.
6) This floods our nervous system with chemicals.
7) Our heart pounds faster.
8) Our breathing becomes quick and shallow.
9) Muscles tighten and senses sharpen.





Upon reading the first bullet point, you might be confused.  The excerpt above was taken from the talk highlighted above about the speaker's (Dr. Kristen Race) reaction to seeing a bear in the woods on a trip years ago.  In her talk, she describes how different parts of the brain play different roles during a stress response as follows using the encounter with the bear:




 Now, that message also goes to the prefrontal cortex.  This is the part of our brain responsible for attention, impulse control, problem solving, decision making and forward thinking.  It's the part of our brain that registers positive emotions and helps us work and learn efficiently.   
Basically, we have the smart part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, and the alarm part of our brain in the limbic system. The alarm part of our brain reacts faster and, at times, can be stronger than the smart part of our brain. 
In this instance, my prefrontal cortex was slow to access the information I had learned about bear because the alarm response had taken over.   
If we were to look at it on a graph, it would look something like this. At our baseline, we feel calm and at ease, and our prefrontal cortex is in charge.   
When the alarm is triggered, our limbic system is in charge. This is a classic fight-or-flight response, or stress response.   
There are, however, stress responses triggered all the time in our lives that aren't necessarily life-threatening, but the chemical reaction and what happens inside our brain is the same.





Here is the corresponding diagram that she uses to illustrate the "spike" in the stress response while the pathways are being activated:





Source: Kristen Race






How does this graph look if a person is chronically stressed over a given day, year, or a number of years?





Here is a diagram that is used in her talk to illustrate the response of "chronic stress" shown below:





Source: Kristen Race






What type of an effect does this series of spikes have on the "immune system"?





To answer this question, we need to turn again toward "Wikipedia"(biology) for the following description shown below:





Stress is the body's reaction to any stimuli that disturbs its equilibrium. When the equilibrium of various hormones is altered the effect of these changes can be detrimental to the immune system.[46] Much research has shown a negative effect stress has on the immune system, mostly through studies where participants were subjected to a variety of viruses. In one study individuals caring for a spouse with dementia, representing the stress group, saw a significant decrease in immune response when given an influenza-virus vaccine compared to a non-stressed control group.[46][47] A similar study was conducted using a respiratory virus. Participants were infected with the virus and given a stress index. Results showed that an increase in score on the stress index correlated with greater severity of cold symptoms.[46] Studies with HIV have also shown stress to speed up viral progression. Men with HIV were 2–3 times more likely to develop AIDS when under above average stress.[46]
Stress affects the immune system in many ways. The immune system protects the body from viruses, bacteria, and anything that is different or that the body does not recognize. The immune system sees these as intruders and it sends messages to attack. The white blood cells, leukocytes, are very important to the immune system.[48] White blood cells have several types including B cells, T cells, and natural killer cells. B cells secrete antibodies. T cells attack intruders and natural killer cells attack cells that have been infected by viruses. These leukocytes produce cytokines which fight infections.[48] But they also are the immune systems communicator in telling the brain that the body is ill. When an individual is stressed or going through a stressful experience the immune system starts to produce natural killer cells and cytokines.[49] When levels of cytokines are higher they combat infections and therefore the brain gets communicated the body is ill and it produces symptoms as if the individual was ill. These symptoms include fever, sleepiness, lack of energy, no appetite, and basically flu like symptoms. These symptoms mean the body is fighting the illness or virus.[48] This is useful for when the body goes through the stress from an injury. But the body has now evolved to do this process during stressful events such as taking exams, or even going through a life changing event such as a death of a family member or a divorce.[49] That is why many times when individuals are stressed because of life changing events or situations such as those, they get these symptoms and believe they are sick when in reality it can be because the body is under stress.[49]




As you can see, the effects are numerous and deleterious.  Or should I say, this is the current understanding and thinking surrounding stress and the toll that is taken on the immune system.  Therefore, to minimize the effects (negative effects) of stress, we must learn how to identify the state of feeling stressed and learn how to capitalize the moment in a positive way, or counteract the negative state quickly.  The possibility of removing stress from one's life is impossible.  In fact, that would be unhealthy.  Stress is good to challenge us in a sense and keep us sharp.  This brings me to the next section of the blog post -- proactive use of stress.




Does the physiological process of "stress" have to be viewed from a negative perspective?  Is there a way to use the "state of stress" as a positive attribute?  In order to do this, we need to recognize the feeling of being stressed and utilize the state in a positive way.




Instead of reacting to the state of stress as a negative reaction, why not use the state as a proactive way to motivate success?




The transition from reacting to stress and utilizing stress in a proactive way is in line with current thought of stress and the concept of mindfulness.  Proactive is equivalent to being "offensive" rather than "defensive."  Having an "offensive" mindset can control their mindset and have a script in their mind that is healthy along with an increased level of commitment toward a healthy life.




Returning to Dr. Kristen Race's diagram approach, what would such a mind look like?





Living in control and see through the clutter (of stress) to have a proactive mindset, their mindset would appear like the following:





Source: Kristin Race





Wow!  What a concept right?  How does a person achieve this control over their mindset?  Lets explore the title of the blog post a little more in detail and see what positive attributes may come about as a result.




Mind Over Matter!





As I alluded to above with the work of Dr. Kristen Race, the stress response does not need to be a negative aspect of our lives.  Instead of "reacting" to stress, why not use the stress in a proactive way.  In order to do so, we must be able to identify stress.





What exactly does that mean -- to identify stress?  Do I need to take a test to see if I am stressed?





No, I do not mean that you should take a "stress test" of which there are many available online.  That is unless you would like to.  Shown below is one such example of a "stress scale" -- the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale:




  




Lets return to the title which states the following motto: "Mind over matter: if you do not mind, it doesn't matter."  The quote is extremely powerful.  How can a person turn this quote into a proactive statement.  Commander Mark Divine does so with the following statement in his video titled "Mental Toughness Navy Seals" with a quote:




"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win"




Notice how the preparation is the key element in the above quote.  Preparation is a large part of relieving stress.  Especially, when a person feels stress residing in their body or building up.  There are multiple avenues by which to deal with the stress that builds up in a person's body.  Exercise and meditation seem to be the best way to lead a proactive approach to avoiding the build up of stress in your body.  Commander Mark Divine is the author of the book titled "Unbeatable Mind."  I have yet to read the wonderful book, but have heard quite a bit about the book while listening to his podcasts -- which are freely available on his website -- click here and enjoy.




Warriors like Commander Divine have mastered the technique of controlling their mind.  In the title, "Mind Over Matter: If You Do Not Mind, It Does Not Matter" there is a powerful meaning which everyone should ascribe to mastering.  The power of controlling your mind is overwhelmingly powerful.   Each of us has the ability to learn how to do so.  Furthermore, each of us have the ability to do so with our own mind!  Reading widely and practicing a variety of techniques is not going to solve your problem of dealing with your stress and controlling your mind.  But you know how to control your own mind -- better than anyone else.  Meaning, you have to explore what works for you.  What works for you may not work for others.




Sometimes I laugh to deal with stressful situations -- is that alright?




Of course, not only is laughing healthy, you will be practicing what cutting edge science is discovering a powerful way to utilize stress in your body.  Current research by Dr. Kelly McGonigal suggests that this is the case.  I recently watched a wonderful TED talk by the Psychologist Kelly McGonigal titled "How To Make Stress Your Friend" which opened my eyes to a new vision of stress.





In her talk, she talks about a variety of stress responses that can be constructive rather than destructive.  During the typical stress response as discussed above, your heart rate will elevate and as a result the blood vessels will appear like that shown below -- with a thick wall rather than a thin wall:





Source: Kelly McGonigal




This constriction is believed to be the reason that stress is associated with the onset of cardiovascular diseases.  Now, what was revealing and absolutely amazing about Dr. McGonigal's insight into a study down at Harvard was that perception of stress was a "game-changer."  In a study done, two groups of patients were formed with opposite perceptions of stress.  One group was told that stress is good for them, challenging their bodies and will help them live longer.  Whereas the second group was told of the negative impacts of stress on the body and the shortened lifespan that could result with years of chronic stress.  What do you think the results indicated?




In the first group, the blood vessels measured indicated that they appeared normal - relaxed (i.e., in the diagram above -- thin walled -- less constricted).  Whereas in the second group, the walls of the blood vessels increased in thickness and constricted while their blood pressures rose.  This profile resembles the state of a cardiovascular disorder.  Not good.




What if we could have our bodies
Another surprising revelation of the TED talk was the contribution of the chemical "oxytocin" to the stress response.  Stress makes you social -- really?  Yes, check this out.  Oxytocin is shown below:





Source: Kelly McGonigal





Now, oxytocin makes you want to forge relationships and gather help from others to deal with the stressful situation -- seek support.  A biological response to help you deal with the stress -- get help or support.  The human heart as shown below has a number of oxytocin receptors on the surface:





Source: Kelly McGonigal




What does this mean?  Well..what this means is that the process of seeking support and gather help from others during a stressful period actually will strengthen the heart muscle.   What?  Really?  Indeed, that is what the study says.  Wow.




Conclusion...





Where do we go from here?  From what has been presented above, I think the concept of taking a proactive approach toward utilizing stress in a positive manner is a key element to our health -- both of the body and mind. That means that the time has approached to ask one's self: How do I make this stress productive?  The chemicals are already present, might as well use them productively.




Searching over the internet for stress videos elicits a huge number of responses.  Everyone is a professional on how to identify stress and how to deal with the onset.  What I would like to convey is this:




You are the only person that knows exactly when you are stressed!  Furthermore, you are the only person who knows exactly how to get rid of that stress!




Understanding the above statement is critical to your success in dealing with stress.  With the enormous amount of content available online regarding stress, one would be led to believe that the stress in everyone's lives would be alleviated.  That is not the case.  Each of us need to learn what technique works for us individually.




I do this by exploring my mental awareness on my blog located on our website: kaiserwellnesscenter.com.  On that site, I have my mental awareness journey -- click on the left hand side titled "Mike's Mental Awareness Journey" to access page of entries.  What do you use?  What has been successful for you?  Leave a comment below.  Until next time, have a great day.





Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How Do We Handle All Of The Information Coming At Us?

Have you ever heard a friend, colleague, or family member speak of the quantity of books that they have digested (read) in a short amount of time?  Has that conversation (one way) caused you stress?  Maybe you are not a book enthusiast, therefore, the thought has not crossed your mind.  Or, maybe the answer is yes and you have an inner dialogue with yourself asking the following question:




Why don't I have time to read that book that I have been reading for a year off and on?




I have had this dialogue plenty of times.  Furthermore, I have had the dialogue with friends who have the ability to digest a book in a day.  This seems impossible to me.  I used to spend time worrying that I have not been prioritizing my day to accompany the time to sit down and read the stack (rather large stack) of books that I have desired to read over the last few years.  I have been successful in reading.  Just not as fast as I would like.  If I could read faster, then I could digest and understand the deluge of information being hurled at me through books, e-mail, the internet, and newspapers along with journals.  Sound familiar?




What Is Referencing?





What is referencing?  To start with, the word reference implies that a bibliography or citation of a book, journal article, or magazine article is cited as a "reference."  If you visit the definition on "Dictionary.com" you will find the first definition stating the following: "an act or instance of referring."  Of course, scroll down the page further, and the verb form of the definition will be apparent as shown below:








I am attracted to number 13 "to arrange (notes, data, etc.) for easy reference."  Why?  That definition serves me very well in handling the daily deluge of information arriving in front of me via a screen or on paper.  My stress and anxiety are lowered as a result of using this approach toward handling incoming information.  Let me explain further.




Years ago, when my grandmother was still alive, we had a wonderful conversation over lunch -- which I will never forget.  I asked her what book she was currently reading.  She responded with "why do I only need to be reading one book at a time?"  This struck me as odd at the time.  Years later, I identified quite comfortably with her response.




She went on further with "... what happens if I do not like a book?  Am I compelled to read the entire book?  Maybe I only like part of the book?... After all, what is the purpose of reading a book?"  Entertaining these questions took a while -- a few years.




Years later when I was in graduate school studying chemistry, I would have similar discussions with my lab mates.  One of them was quite "well read" as a student of a variety of subjects.  While another held the personal view of the following:




"Having the knowledge of a large amount of books (having read them all) is not as important as having access to that knowledge."




This was pretty powerful for me.  Meaning, knowing where to find the information is just as important as holding that information in one's head.  After all, he said that the mental demand of such storage might well be overwhelming to a persons health -- in a negative way.



Just today, I was watching a talk by an entrepreneur named Tai Lopez.  The title of the talk is "Why I read A Book A Day (And You Should Too): The Law Of 33%" and is worth sitting through.  The length of the talk is around 15 minutes long.









Why am I mentioning this talk?




Often in life and more so today, the amount of information being thrown at us is analogous to drinking water out of a fire hose turned on full blast.  I find this completely overwhelming at times.  I find myself asking myself, how can I remember where I found this article, book, interesting thought?



Use Referencing?





Yes, use the concept of referencing.  Keep a track of the articles with a journal with a brief entry for each interesting article.  The same applies for a book that you find extremely interesting or just an excerpt from a book or a journal article.  The act of writing the excerpt or thought down alleviates your mind from feeling "bogged down" with trying to remember the location and importance of the thought at the moment -- at a later point in time.




Wait, but that is not all.... Be proactive!




In the video above, Tai speaks of reading a book each day.  In all honesty, the title is what drew me to the talk.  I sat through almost the entire talk to hear about reading a book everyday.  I thought that he might read a book each day.  No, he is not a speed reader.  And surprise, no he does not read an entire book each day.  But, he does pick up a book (a new book or sometimes an older book with good advice or thoughts in it) and sifts through the book.




He states in his talk that he reads the "table of contents" then proceeds to the ending.  Sometimes, he will read an excerpt out of an interesting chapter title.  This might sound like cheating.  Remember what my grandmother said, "Why do you have to finish the book?"  In fact, she was a proponent of reading parts of the book, then taking time off only to return later or sometimes not at all.



Does this sound familiar?




The simple act of reading parts that catch our eye, or all of the book is the same in the sense that the act is "referencing" the material.  The same can be applied to any material that comes our way.  With that being said, each person has their own method.  Stick to the one that works for you.




My partner -- Kayla is a skimmer.  She skims through books and articles.  She is referencing at lightning speed.  I am always amazed at watching her.  Whereas -- me -- mike is a slow reader and "references" at a much slower pace.  Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.  What works for you?  How do you handle the information that is thrown your way?  Leave a comment.




Conclusion...





At the moment, I am writing a blog post on "stress" and the effects on our bodies and minds that harboring "stress" has on us.  Stay tuned.  Until then, find a method to handle the tremendous amount of data coming at you.  Don't try to memorize it all.  Or do -- if that suits you.  For me, I take the approach of "referencing" the material to return and digest the information in bits and pieces at my leisure.  That way, I might be reading an excerpt and have a thought which I want to write about but cannot wait until I am finished reading to write about the thought.  Is that confusing?  It was in my mind too.



Each of us deserves to live a good life.  How do you digest knowledge to minimize your stress in life?  Until next time, have a great day.





Saturday, April 30, 2016

What Has Been Happening The Last 3 Months -- "Mike's Mental Awareness Journey" Update?





Note: Initially, I was going to direct you to the page where the post below was intended to be published -- which is located on my "Mike's Mental Awareness Journey" webpage on www.kaiserwellnesscenter.com.  Instead, I decided to publish the update here too.  Without further ado, enjoy the update on my mental awareness journey over the last 3 and 1/2 months.





Original Post:



The last post that I wrote regarding my mental awareness was back at the beginning of the year.  I had just come off of a vacation – learning the importance of “disconnecting from your devices” was the theme.  What has happened since in my mind?  Any great mental revelations?  You must be thinking that I must be either going to be insane or full of a large amount of information that I feel the need to get off my chest.  Well, fortunately enough for you, neither is the current situation.  Below are three different mental awareness realizations that have occurred over the last 4 months:




Health-Wellness:




The first realization that has had an impact on both my mental and physical health for a period over the last couple of months.  I am not perfect.  I happen to be stressed a little more than usual for reasons that I will get to in a minute has opened me up to the possibility of contracting the flu that has been going around.  I went to a super bowl party after spending part of the weekend at my Mother’s house.  If you have read my previous posts on this site, my parents have a tendency to push full schedule throughout the weekend.  The previous few weeks had been stressful.  By the time I showed up at my father’s house and ate a ton of few with deserts, I opened my health up to catching the terrible flu that had been going around. 




I returned back home and went to work while starting to feel worse over the week.  Over the next couple of weeks, I got worse.  My father used to tell me that “rest” is the best way to let the body heal.  I took a few days off (a couple).  After, I started feeling good.  I continued to feel “off and on” with a cough for a couple of more weeks.  Right about now, you are probably asking yourself why am I carrying on about feeling sick?  Especially since people get sick all of the time.  Working at the university has exposed me to a great amount of variation of strains of the flu.




The reason why I carry on is that sometimes when we get sick, we start to feel somewhat depressed and stress only exacerbates the flu symptoms further.  People tend to not factor in the two reasons for making the flu worse.  Stress will only prolong the flu symptoms and further weaken the immune system.  Depression is not any better.  That is why if I get sick, I try to rest and keep a positive attitude and try to heal.  Sometimes that is a challenge.  I still have a slight cough now a couple months later.  What is going on?  I have heard that people who have gotten sick have also started to feel symptoms of “bronchitis.”  I can report that over time, I am feeling better.




Additionally, I remember a thought from my childhood.  He used to tell me that the flu circulates in our bodies every three weeks.  I you do not take care of yourself when the flu comes back around, the possibility of getting sick AGAIN is possible.  So, remember, no stress or anxiety, and rest, and stay healthy after feeling better.  That is part of what has been filling up my time over the last few months.




Starting Up A Non-profit Organization:




Even when a person is feeling great, starting a non-profit organization is not an easy task.  I imagine that this stress has continued to prolonged state of “on and off sickness.”  I should backtrack a little about the origin of this organization.  Originally, the idea of ‘Kaiser Wellness Center’ originated out of a trip down to the beach.  That was part of the process. Kayla has had this idea in her mind for quite a while.  The idea was to demystify science and health/wellness through educating the public.  The other part was to grow and share our experience along the way.  We are normal people.  That is part of the wonderful aspect about ‘Kaiser Wellness Center’ is that the organization is an organic growth of disseminating knowledge to the public.  How did this translate into the beginning of a non-profit organization?




Be true to yourself.  If you feel something is right, then ideas will grow into a concrete realization.  Out of Kaiser Wellness Center grew our organization “Bikecar101.”  There is no surprise that currently, an obesity problem is emerging.  Our society is not getting healthier by increasing the weight that they care carrying around.  I am at fault too.  In order to deal with this emerging problem, there is a motivation among the transportation institutions to elevate the amount of people that are engaging in “Active Transportation.”  Further, we need to track our progress – which we do on our site.  Over the course of the last few years, we have realized that if you really want change, you need to promote change yourself.  How is that accomplished?  First, serve as a role model. 




We started riding the train along with our bicycles to work on a daily basis.  One of the largest addictive properties of a healthy lifestyle is that others are attracted to the benefits such behavior.  Why?  Normally on the train, a typically commuter seems to be quiet and “stand-off-ish.”  This is directly opposite of a rail car filled with commuters with bicycles.  Each person loading and unloading a bicycle onto a train car understands the frustration.   When you board the train and strap your bicycle down – you can then sit down and relax for the remainder of the ride – which is great.  Bicycle commuters tend to share the frustration of being classified on the fringe of the road and up until now – on the fringe of the train (in terms of storage space) too.  That is where we come into change.




As advocates for promoting residents of Southern California and beyond to engage in “active transportation,” we have to push politicians and public transit agencies to change to accommodate a growing bicycle culture.  How do we know?  Over the course of a couple years on the train, we had a few people come over and tell us about the fact that we motivated them to take a step forward and bring their bicycles on the train.  Four of those people now serve on the Board of Bikecar101 (one informally – Duke).  What a great result?  Living a healthy and happy life is addictive.  Even when a person (fellow train commuter) did not bring a bicycle on board, they still wanted to sit around us and laugh with us.  Healthy people who are relaxed by engaging in active modes of transportation tend to attract others.  Typically, the people have been interested in changing for the better.




Do I sound “arrogant” yet?  Believe me, I am not.  I am quite a humble person.  My wife tells me often – sometimes that I am too much.  I believe the reason aside from being happy that people feel comfortable approaching us is that we are NORMAL.  That is a cornerstone of the Kaiser Wellness Center.  We are normal people that want to promote a healthy life.  Change does not occur overnight.  But it does happen in small steps.  We are super happy to have started this organization.




The main point is to advocate for and educate the public on how to engage in active transportation on board the public trains.  Of course, active transportation is not isolated to a use of a bicycle with a train.  The point being is that people need to be educated on how to change.  I say that with all do respect.  That was our first experience after using a bicycle on the train.  We would travel all around cheerfully and enthusiastic about bringing bicycles on board the trains, and the first question of three we would get is: “You mean that you actually take your bicycle on board the train?” People do not actually believe us that we take our bicycles on board.  That was a realization in of itself.  Furthermore, that was hint number one that we needed to bring change.




Hint number two was the fact that each bicycle organization other than us, has been headed toward pushing a “bike-share” program.  “Bike-share” programs are great for tourist.  But for those who want to bring our own bicycles on board, have to fight the organizations that are trying to restrict space.




Hint number three was the fact that the public was in disagreement with us regarding the growth of ridership on board the train (even without bringing a bicycle).  We strongly believe that the combination of the Southern California train systems with a bicycle can reach an overwhelming majority of geographical locations in the area.  That is not to say that the travel time is minimal.  Although, considering traveling on the freeway system here, the times are becoming comparable during rush hour.




Not to carry on.  We know that starting this organization was the best idea that we have had in a long time.  Which is not to say the process is easy.  The most stressful aspect of the paperwork is that we are chemists and not business people.  We are experienced in research.  Therefore, we have a fairly high tolerance toward learning how to improve.  In order to carry out the paperwork process, keep an open and humble mindset. 




The same can be said of improving one’s lifestyle choices.  Education is the key in the entire process.  We are encouraged to educate the public about engaging in active modes of transportation by using our experience in education.  Which brings me to the last subject of this lengthy post – update – rambling session.




Educating The Public:




As I have alluded already to in the previous paragraphs above, education is the key.  Education is the key.  The easiest way to educate people is to use yourself as an example.  I love to learn.  I love to learn about myself.  Especially, if the result of the education is an improvement in my health.  Part of the process involves the inspection of data over time.  Each individual is different.  Change occurs at different rates for different people.  The best approach a person can take is to make education available.  Why do I know this is true?  Aside from working at a university, the following is true:




In a recent study in Europe, a group of tourists were educated before engaging in tourism – specifically, diving in the Mediterranean Ocean.  A scientist decided to study the effect of educating a group of tourists before a diving expedition.  Additionally, the group was given a quiz before the education and then following the diving experience.  The results were staggering.  I wrote about the study on another blog postlocated here.




The point of the study was the same regarding the health of the population of America.  Overall, after educating the public about the marine ecology, the overall health of the ecosystem was elevated.  Over time, the improvement of the ecosystem has continued.  Furthermore, the tourists have helped local divers and regulators make policy regarding spending on improving the environment.  The process of enlisting the help is called “citizen science” and is emerging as a strong proponent to help motivate a sustainable world.  We all need to work together to promote change.




I feel like I have rambled on enough.  I will try not to wait 3.5 more months to write an update.  Until then have a great day.  And remember, each of us deserves to feel health and happy.  Lets all encourage others to join the effort to improve life.






Monday, April 25, 2016

Have You Tried "CT Organics" Natural Skin Care Product Line?

Have you had a chance to try "CT Organics" natural skin care products line?  If not -- why not?  In case you are unaware of this wonderful natural skin care product line, we have provided a little background into the line and a few questions which were answered during an earlier interview with a magazine.  Our friend, colleague, and fellow author on Kaiser wellness center has built a skin care product line from natural ingredients.  We are super proud of her and had a chance to visit her store last weekend.  Here are pictures along with the interview questions from a previous interview.





CT Organics?





I realize that many of you have not heard of this natural skin care product line.  Let me give you a little background into the company.  Dr. Sepideh Yaghmaei is a close friend, colleague, and an author of our website.  Future posts can be expected from her.  She has been spending all of her time building up her business and expanding to new products.  I met Sepideh in graduate school at University of California at Riverside.  I had the honor to work with her on characterizing a compound that she synthesized as part of her research.  The result was a publication in an academic journal.  Therefore, I can back Sepideh's work up to say the least.  She is 'legit' as are the great products that she produces.  Check them out!  But first, read on to find out more about her product line below.




After graduate school, Sepideh decided to be a "stay at home mom" for a while.  She has two wonderful daughters (after which the company is named after).  I do not want to give you too much background because I am sending her some interview questions which will answer these questions and appear on a future post.  Anyways, after teaching for a while, she decided to pursue a dream job of opening her own company.  She decided to take a chance and start making a few products using ingredients in her own kitchen.  This is a sign of a true chemist.  Out of this effort grew the mission statement that is available to read on her website and is shown below:




At CT Organics, our products are scientifically crafted for you using only the highest quality natural and organic ingredients to promote healthy, supple, beautiful skin. Our expertly designed skincare line is rich in plant, fruit, seed and vegetable extracts, and nourishing sea algae. Our founder and chemist, Dr. Sepideh Yaghmaei, uses her expertise to source natural and potent antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids to encourage skin regeneration.




That is how "CT Organics" was realized and brought into a storefront shop that we went and visited last weekend.  Here is a picture of the storefront for "CT Organics" shown below:








Come on inside the store....








Her store is located in Santa Clarita (California) and can be found on Google Maps by clicking here!  Sepideh has done a wonderful job of creating a simple environment in which to shop.  The store is simple and not cluttered.  As you step into the store, you are immediately welcomed by the "olfactory" aspect of her products -- a pleasant smell of various plants, spices, and other aromatic delights.  Here are a few photographs of the inside of the store for you to experience the simple, yet beautiful and relaxing place of business.  At least for me, when I stepped into the store, I felt relaxed and not inundated by a large amount of products.  Her store is not overwhelming, yet offers a peaceful experience to focus on the products that are displayed.
























Sepideh has done a great job of creating an environment that highlights the products.  As a trained Organic Chemist, she wants her products ingredients to be as "natural" and "transparent" as possible -- which is great.




Too many skin care product lines are on the market which have ingredients that are of unknown origin.  Eventually, in the future, skin care product line manufacturers will have to be very transparent about their products (ingredient sourcing, manufacturing methods, waste, etc.).  Fortunately, Sepideh will be on the "cutting edge" of this movement -- which is wonderful for "CT Organics."  She already does this by offering a complete list of ingredients on her website.  




What products does she offer/sell?  Sepideh has a variety of products that are available for purchase online through Amazon.  Here is the webpage to her product line on her website.  In the near future, posts should appear with more descriptive analysis of her products.  For now, lets look at one -- her sunscreen.  "CT Organics" has just obtained FDA approval for the product shown below -- which is exciting:








The sunscreen is a zinc oxide sunscreen -- a "broad spectrum" SPF30 product.  Here is the link to the product on her website.   I took the product description from her website -- which is shown below:




Protect your skin from the sun with all natural ingredients of our zinc oxide and astaxanthin stick.  This rich formulation contains 20% non-micronized zinc oxide and a hawaiian red algea called astaxanthin that protects skin from harmful UV rays. It goes on smoothly leaving your skin look tan and smelling earthy.

Ingredients: wheat germ oil, organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, organic shea butter, raw beeswax, non-micronized zinc oxide, geranium essential oil, astaxanthin.




As I mentioned above, one of the many attractive qualities of products made by Sepideh is that the ingredients are listed.  Plus, for additional information, a customer could contact her and she would be pleased to clarify or answer any questions regarding her products.  We had a chance to try out the sunscreen last Saturday.  The texture of the sunscreen was smooth.   It was easy to apply.  Typically sunscreen is difficult to spread onto the surface of one's skin.  Not this product -- easy application.  Additionally, the sunscreen did not feel oily.  I would recommend the sunscreen along with her other products.





Before I show you the interview that Sepideh had with a magazine, I want to add one more note.  A major benefit to using "CT Organics" products is that there is a level of "individualized" feeling that you get from Sepideh with her products.  She makes a formula that is good for the broadest types of skin.  If your skin happens to have a negative reaction, Sepideh is willing to investigate the issue with you.  She can personalize the product for you.  That is hard to find.  She is always willing to teach people about her products.  "CT Organics" also offers classes at the store in Santa Clarita.  She offers classes to teach customers how to make soap.




Interview Time!



Without further ado, lets get to the interview that was conducted by a magazine a year ago with Dr. Sepideh Yaghmaei.  Here it is below:



Interview:




1.  Please introduce yourself.  Tell us who you are and what you do.




My name is Sepideh Yaghmaei. I am the founder of CT organics, a natural skincare company located in Santa Clarita, CA.  I received my PhD in organic chemistry in 2008 from University of California, Riverside and started CT organics in 2012.




2.  What does “natural” mean?  There are so many products on the market these days with so many buzzwords…what is organic?




The word natural in skincare refers to obtaining a chemical from a natural source like an almond or coconut instead of a synthesized oil or synthetic product.  The latter will always contain impurities that are unnatural to the body.  I like to use ingredients that are made with chemicals obtained from a natural source and stay away from chemicals that are synthesized as much as possible.  The method by which natural ingredients are isolated from the source material is also important.  I use natural ingredients that are unprocessed and isolated from either cold press or carbon dioxide extraction.  These methods provide a whole extract, and keep the integrity of the fruit, plant or seed.




3.  Why Organic?  Why is Organic better than other options?




Organic ingredients are produced in an environment that is free from pesticides therefore using organic ingredients make products that are free of harmful chemicals. We use organic ingredients whenever possible. We make custom all organic products per request of the customer.




4.  What is the biggest mistake you see people make when it comes to skin care?




Ripping nutrients from your skin with too many peels or being afraid of oil based products. 




5.  Is there a one size fits all approach to skin care?




Not really. It really depends on your skin permeability, elasticity and pH. It is important to know the ingredients you are putting on your skin to figure out what works best for you. I always recommend getting sample sizes before committing to a regimen. I also love to custom make products for people that want to experiment with different ingredients, and in doing so discover a personalized formulation that fits their needs.




6.  When should women (and men) start taking care of (or worrying) their skin (any specific age)?




A good face wash and sunscreen is needed for all ages and genders. As you age collagen production decreases making skin lose its elasticity and firmness. Mature skin needs factors that promote collagen production and that can be achieved by using appropriately formulated serums and creams, in order to keep your skin hydrated and avoid fine lines that come naturally with aging.




7.  What prompted you to start CT Organics?




I was a stay at home mom with a one and three year old with a PhD in chemistry and a passion to have my own business, such as a skincare line. So the only way I saw that happening was to start experimenting in my kitchen and learning, by researching and blending ingredients. I totally fell in love with it and nap times became my play time. I ended up helping my husband with his psoriasis with one of my first products. After seeing how effective natural ingredients could be, I decided to develop a natural skincare line for the whole family. Currently we are starting to extract some of our own ingredients via carbon dioxide extraction.




8.  Do you make your own product?




Yes we manufacture our own products.




9.  If I wanted to learn more about CT Organics or its’ products where can I find you?




You can visit us at www.ctorganics.com for more information or check us out on social media.



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We hope that you have enjoyed this interview with Dr. Sepideh Yaghmaei.  One last note is that in keeping with our tradition of health and wellness, it is worth mentioning that we traveled to Santa Clarita by train and bicycle -- using active modes of transportation.  Here is a picture below of Kayla Kaiser with her bicycle:








Until next time, have a happy and healthy day.  Go check out "CT Organics" today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Is "Mike's Mental Awareness Journey" blog?

Hello, this is Mike from Kaiserwellnesscenter.  Today, I want to tell you about a blog that I have been writing for the past couple of years (actually a little longer).  The blog is called "Mike's Mental Awareness Journey."  Why am I introducing a blog that has been going on for so long?  Well, here is the reasons.




Initially, I started writing the blog to document my mental health and physical health from a general and more personal angle.  Remember, that here at Kaiserwellnesscenter, we aim to educate the public about science and health/wellness.   We want to "debunk" and "demystify" science that is confusing and disorienting to the general public.  How are we different from other sites?  Well, to take a little bit of a "tangent" off from my blog, Kaiserwellnesscenter members are motivated to talk about themselves and their improvements in their lives.




Too often, I will read a blog post on health and wellness and think "where does this person live?" -- "in a perfect world or what?"  Or have you ever had the thought . . . "That is great that she or he can run 5 miles a day, but I am struggling on getting out of the house to run a mile."  Well, if you have then our website is for you.  Moreover, most websites are motivated by profit.  Not us.  We are strictly doing this work to show that there exists normal people who have degrees and are struggling day to day or month to month with optimizing their health.  As we say about education, "education is a lifelong process."



Back to my blog.  I wanted to share some struggles and obstacles in my life in hope that my story would help inspire you (the reader) to overcome obstacles that are present in your own life.  I believe that everyone should be able to live a healthy and happy life.  Of course, you will run into difficulties and setbacks (who cares).  The great aspects about these setbacks is that you have your whole life ahead of you to improve.   Is this starting to sound like an "info-mercial?  I feel like I am talking like an advertisement.  I do not mean to.



We just want the world to be more informed about science and how science plays into the health and wellness of the public at large on a daily basis.  For example, did you know that 75% of all U.S. citizens that tried to enlist in the U.S. Army in 2010 were disqualified for obesity.  That is right, 75% were disqualified for carrying too much weight around.  Here is the video from General Hurtling of the United Stated Army:











I would suggest watching the entire video (around 16 minutes).  Now, imagine what the downstream medical costs are for those obese people.  Obesity leads to diabetes which can run onto become cardiovascular disease.  Time to get moving folks.  How much do you have to move?  The time per week varies -- usually around 150 minutes -- 30 minutes Monday through Friday.




If you go to our website, there is a page that has a bunch of links to articles, videos, etc about getting up and moving.  Fitness is the topic of the page.  But what if you are not the type of person to run in the gym or run with a group?  No worries.  As I write on my blog, the most important learning experience that each of us can attain is to learn about ourselves.  Usually when I say this to people, I get a blank stare.  Learning about your body is extremely important.  So important that you will find that learning about yourself is the main obstacle toward success.





Next, how do I find this out about myself?  As you can read over the last couple of years on my mental awareness journey, the learning process is continuous.  Over time, your metabolism will change as will your exercise habits.  As you age, your body might start to develop a thirst for other types of exercise.  An example of this is where I stopped training in Jiu Jitsu and moved toward increasing my time spent on my road bicycle.  Anyways, I have carried on about this too much.




Remember, taking time out of the day to improve your health should not be a major issue for yourself.  How do I know?  Well, I have incorporated my workout into my commute to work.  I ride a bicycle to the train station and from the station to my work.  Then I repeat the reverse on the way home.  I arrive feeling much better at the office and at home.  There are other stories about engaging in active transportation on my mental awareness journey blog -- see Carlos's Journey.




I just wanted to introduce you to a blog that I have been writing off and on for the past couple of years.  I do not post frequently (as in every two week or a month).  Why? I believe that progress takes time and some immediate improvements might just be "noise" (as we say in science when evaluating data).  Real improvements take time and realization through optimization on behalf of our efforts.



Check out "Mike's Mental Awareness Journey" and enjoy the other content on the site too.   Click here for the menu page of my journey.  We will be posting more frequently on this blog post site from now on -- I promise.  I have spoken with other authors/members of Kaiserwellnesscenter and they agree -- more content on the blog.  Look forward to seeing this soon.



Have a great and healthy day!




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Active Transportation Implies That Every Bicycle Trip Is A Commuting Trip!

My name is Mike Kaiser and I am part of Kaiserwellnesscenter.com.  You may find my information on our website under 'bio'.  This blog has been neglected to a certain extent.  Over the next few months, Kayla Kaiser and I will work to turn that around.  Part of the purpose of Kaiserwellnesscenter is to educate the public about health and wellness and the science behind the concepts.  Additionally, we seek to include demystifying science behind consumer products, and fitness concepts and trends.  Are we experts in all areas?  No.  Are we educated?  Yes.  Our staff consists of educated people in their respective areas.  We all bring various contributions to the table.  Let me give you an example of this.


Over the last few years, Kayla and I have been riding a bicycle and train to work.  How do we do this?  Well, the concept is called "blended commuting" -- due to the combination of riding a bicycle to the train station and then a train into the valley.  Follow this by a short bicycle ride to the university at which we work.  Kayla and I are concerned about our health and the health of the population in th midst of a growing obesity problem.  We have been engaging in "active transportation" over the last few years.  As a result, we have started a non-profit 501(c)3 organization (see www.bikecar101.com) to educate the public about bringing bicycles on board the public trains.  Why do I carry on about active transportation?

One reason is that we all are faced with various trips during the day.  How we choose to travel around is grounded in a choice of mode of transportation.  How do you travel around town?  Do you walk?  Do you ride a bicycle?  What are your limitations toward engaging in active modes of transportation?  What are the real barriers?  Some are legitimate.  Some are fictitious.  Regardless, how we view trips actually influences how we engage in active transportation.  Here is an article I wrote on my own blog site:

http://jmkthought.blogspot.com/2016/04/active-transportation-implies-that.html

The purpose of the blog post was to challenge the public to re-think our idea of commuting.  Why do we let our children walk or bicycle to the park?  Why do we then tell them that in order to commute to school, we must drive?  Where is the line between bicycling as a child and obtaining a driver's license at a teenager?  Why do we choose to engage in driving rather than riding a bicycle?  I am guilty of driving too sometimes - I admit.

The point is that we need to instill the value of walking and biking whenever possible.  Even to engage in active transportation during our commuting.  In the coming days, I will write more about this subject and others.  Leave a comment if you have a topic that you would like covered.

Sincerely,

Mike


P.S. I write about my own "mental health" and "physical health" at the following page on our website www.kaiserwellnesscenter.com.  Remember, each of us deserves to live a healthy and happy life.


Link to my mental health blog:


https://sites.google.com/site/kaiserwellnesscenter/home/mike-s-mental-awareness-journey/



My last post in Jan. on disconnecting from your devices:


https://sites.google.com/site/kaiserwellnesscenter/home/mike-s-mental-awareness-journey/disconnecting-from-your-devices-with-a-bicycle-and-train



Have a great day!




Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happy Birthday GAMC!

We recently attended a public event celebrating the 110th year of Glendale Adventist Medical Center. Considering the Adventist community in Loma Linda, CA is a "Blue Zone," which is a land area researchers have identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world, we thought it would be good to listen to the advice GAMC physicians were giving the public.

The topic we listened to was about family health.  The title was something like "Back to School, Back to Basics."  Dr. Emil Avanes's message impacted me enough to get me thinking about it this entire week since his presentation.

Get a pocket-guide summarizing the talk here.  Instructions for folding your book here:
http://www.pw.org/content/diy_how_to_make_a_pocketsize_book_0

Here's the contents of the pocket-guide:

Quick Tips
1. Walk (7 days/week)
2. Sleep (8 hours/night)
3. Drink (8 glasses/day)
4. Ask for Help
5. Trust your Helpers

Exercise
7 days per week
Ask yourself, how many days per week do you sleep?  Get active!
Even if you have an active job, exercise outside of work.
Create health by starting with 5 minutes per day.
Find a friend to help you get a foot in the door of fitness!

Nutrition
What you put in your body creates all your cells.
Drinking water is a healthy habit, like putting gas in your car.
Drink at least 5-6 Cups of water per day, 8 Cups is better.
Your body will use the water for organs first (brain, liver, kidneys).
If you drink enough water, it will relieve muscle tension & chest pain naturally.

Sugar
Sweets are the ultimate evil.
Sugar is 9 times more addictive than cocaine.
If you have a sugar habit, forgive yourself, it’s not your fault.
When you eat sugar, your body craves more sugar.
Substitute sugary foods with vegetables and protein.

Sleep
Nighttime is when your body releases hormones.
Wind down, shut down, replenish, get deep sleep, and your body will wake up recharged.
Using electronics at night can affect you past the time you put them down.
Try reading a boring magazine instead, review your day, plan the following day.
If you can’t sleep, don’t lay in bed worrying for more than 15 minutes.
Get up, walk around, wash the dishes, but don’t engage in vigorous exercise.  Try again.

Help
Don’t guilt trip yourself.
Humans are altruistic, helping someone else is easier than helping yourself.

Thanks Dr. Avanes!