Minimalism: A Complete Introduction

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Joël

Minimalism, what do you think when you hear these four syllables? Often the word sparks the imagination with images of people living on the street with little to no belongings. Otherwise of guys writing blogs about how they only possess 10 things, nomads that are always traveling, or people below the poverty line. However, is minimalism really about having nothing?

In this blog I cover the following topics:

  1. What got me into minimalism
  2. Where minimalism comes from
  3. What minimalism stands for
  4. How minimalism is a solution to everyday problems
  5. How minimalism can improve your life

Discovering Minimalism

As I traveled through South America I hitchhiked, I camped, I ran into the widest variety of people, and I experienced plenty adventures. It didn’t matter how uneasy the adventures were, in the end there was always a friendly hand that reached out. All the while though, I was carrying a backpack with 17 kilos of my belongings. Even though, I was carrying this tiny amount of my belongings, I still didn’t use parts of it. This made me wonder, why am I carrying this extra baggage around? Do I really need this stuff that only makes me tired when I walk in the burning sun? As a consequence, my interest in minimalism was born.

backpack

Now you might think: “you want to minimize when you are carrying around only 17 kilograms of your belongings, are you crazy?” Before I explain myself better here, let’s start with figuring out where the idea of minimalism comes from.

The Origin of Minimalism

Minimalism started out as a movement nowhere else than the United States. Why do I say “nowhere else than”? Because minimalism is basically the opposite of consumerism, and the US with around 21.000 trillion dollars has the biggest consumer market in the world. China comes in second place with 33% less.

I believe it’s logical therefore, that the counterpart of consumerism was born there as well. Somehow there were people that realized constantly buying stuff isn’t the way to happiness. Prominent people in this movement at the time were, and still are, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Colin Wright from Exile Lifestyle and the Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. Nowadays, Matt D’avella, a famous YouTuber known for the Netflix documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, generates a lot of interest on the subject as well. He uses attractive documentary style filmed and edited YouTube videos to generate attention for the lifestyle.

These minimalists show that there are huge advantages in owning less. Some of them travel the world, others maintain a healthy bank account because of it, and others inspire newcomers.

The Strength of Minimalism

Now you might think, these people were far from the first to engage in lifestyles aimed at possessing less. This credo is a central part of Buddhism for example, Jesus didn’t have a lot either and there are plenty other prominent people in history that were already aware of the toxicity of owning a lot of stuff.

If there are alternatives to minimalism, the following question is only logical: “Do we need minimalism at all?”. Yes, I believe we do. Western society is about earning more, buying more and owning more. This process puts immense stress on our planet and adds little real value to our lives. Nowadays depression is the leading cause of disability on the planet and there is no way to buy yourself out of it.

Minimalism is an answer to these destructive consumerist tendencies. It’s a comprehensible philosophy: own less feel better. Most importantly though, it has a name. The simple fact that it has a name makes it easier for you to integrate it into your life. Further, it allows you to talk about it to your friends and to find the latest information by googling it. And by giving it a name you can identify with it. You can feel good and say, “I am a minimalist!”.

Stuff drags you down and don’t make you happy. They cost money and fill your life with emptiness. Throw them out and be happy again. That’s a lot easier to understand than the thousands of pages that come from religious scriptures.”

Minimalism and Western Society

A closer look at western society shows that minimalism is way better to help people live a simplified and meaningful life, than for example, religion. Here is why:

  • It’s recent. Religion has a hard time applying it’s thousands of years old scriptures to today’s rapidly changing society. As a consequence certain teachings become unbelievable. Minimalism on the other hand, talks about something that is relevant today and has a clear cut answer.
  • It has a direct answer on one of today’s major issues. Stuff drags you down and don’t make you happy. They cost money and fill your life with emptiness. Throw them out and be happy again. That’s a lot easier to understand than the thousands of pages that come from religious scriptures.
  • It reflects western society. Religion usually comes from one or two hard to understand books. Minimalism however, is on social media, blogs, YouTube and in easy to read books.
  • It is easy to identify with for citizens in Western Societies. Western citizens went to school, enjoy above average opportunities in life, and have to worry less about money than most of the world. This feeds into the philosophy of consumerism. Minimalism however, provides an alternative to this paradigm.
wall-closet

Getting Started

As I am a white male from north western Europe I had and have all the opportunities I could wish for. However, that filled backpack got me thinking anyway. As I mentioned before, I was carrying too much and at the same time I had a hard time finding my stuff. It turns out I am not that organized after all. A variety of people I have lived with over the years have notified me repeatedly of this quality, however, I only realized it recently. It’s hard to blame someone else for your mess when you are traveling by yourself.

Even though, I was already a minimalist by living out of my backpack, minimalism is not about having little things. It is about having the optimal amount of things. The idea is to live a life filled with things that actually add value. For me the trigger to think in this direction was the literal weight of what I was carrying, and the difficulty I had finding my stuff in a 60 liter backpack.

For you though, this could be a simple question: “What things around me do not add value to my life?”. If you realize that that’s most of your stuff, that’s ok. If you feel like it’s too much to get rid of all of it, that’s ok too. I think minimalism is a process that everybody can engage in on it’s own terms. What for the one means living out of a backpack, could mean to you organizing the attic or cleaning the garage.

organized-closet

As you get better at seeing what really adds value to your life, you will notice that most personal belongings don’t add any value.”

The Advantages of Minimalism

To finish this blog, here are the advantages of minimalism:

  • It’s fun. Minimalism is a sport you can get better at. At first it might be hard to reduce your belongings, but over time you see more and more what really adds value to your life and what doesn’t.
  • It saves money. You buy less so you spend less. At the same time you can sell all the stuff you don’t need anymore to earn some extra money.
  • It clears your head. You reduce the mess around you, which reduces the mess inside your head. Once you organize your surroundings with less distractions, you will notice the increase in concentration and peace in your mind.
  • It helps you reduce your environmental impact. You consume less so you create less waste.
  • It helps you generate time for the important things in life. Unconsciously all these things around you demand time. Be it to clean them, to organize them, to use them, to not break them, or worse even: think about them. With all that stuff out of your life you can enjoy time with your family, friends, do sports, travel or whatever makes you happy.
  • It shows you progressively how unimportant things are. As you get better at seeing what really adds value to your life, you will notice that most personal belongings don’t add any value. More and more you can disconnect, and live happily regardless of what you have or don’t have.

Why You Should Question More

The question was, in between the mountains in the south of Brazil, what the hell happened on 9/11 in New York? Right after the tragedy went down there were various stories making rounds and over the years a fierce battle of truth was (and still is) being waged between so called conspiracy theorists and mainstream scientists. Regardless of why things happened there are certain things that every person can see for himself, however the mainstream story deviates from this. However, not only when it comes to 9/11, also when it comes to diet, your perception of yourself and what you experienced last weekend can be different in many ways. For me this is all the more reason to question. This is why you should as well.

Questionable Truths

How many buildings went down on 9/11? Two? Or three? There were three buildings that went down, nevertheless, little people are aware of this. Why isn’t this known to the general public, because it seems quite relevant right?

In a recent blog I wrote about Your Ultimate Personal Diet Guide because there is so much conflicting information around diet. I tried to lay out the commonalities between all this information. The main message is though, there is no one perfect diet. Even though, there are different sides that question each other – paleo, vegan, no gluten, no lactose and sugar free all have there supporters that claim to thrive on their choice.

On a similar note, when I come back after a holiday and my girlfriend is asked the same question as me, she will answer severely different. Where I will say it was awesome and I had a good time, she however, manages to create a detailed extravaganza of every small thing that happened. A couple of minutes into the story you have a strong visual image that stimulates your taste buds, visual capacity, and sound perception. However extrapolated from my perspective, we were both there. My question is then, who is right?

In Physical Therapy school in my first year I had to study for my living anatomy exams. I needed to know all the origin, endings, and functions of muscles, every bone, every ligament and a bunch of other things. More over, I had to be able to approach and show them physically to my examiner. One day we learned about the muscles of the forearm. A particular muscle there, the palmaris longus, that runs from the elbow to your hand palm is not present in all humans. I was one of the two people in my class that didn’t have it. Which body is right?

In his books People Like Us and A Good Man Sometimes Beats His Wife, Joris Luyendijk writes about his experiences as a news reporter in the Middle East. One thing in particular that I remember well of his books, is the news he reported on. It turned out that he was almost never allowed to have a look first hand. Because of security regulations and bureaucracy he always had to go through news agencies like Reuters. After, there is a whole process of finding out what actually happened and a struggle to put this into a two-minute item at the 8′ o clock news. I can’t help questioning then, what is left of what really happened once it reaches the sleepy post-diner public in the Netherlands?

Different Truths

In philosophical terms truth is explained as how the world actually is. The truth is though, that everything that we think and do we always perceive through our senses. This empirical way of perceiving the world is of the highest importance in our scientific understanding of the world. That is, something is only true once we have empirical evidence for it.

glasses

However, the result of this philosophy is that we build our ideas of what is true on what we belief is true rather than what actually is. Everything we say and write about truth is nothing more than a representation in either spoken language or writing of a supposed truth. 9/11, the stories on the 8 o’clock news, the holiday stories of me and my girlfriend, and the differences in anatomy are all subject to our beliefs. It get’s even more tricky once you talk about these things from memory.

Memory

According to Daniela Schiller, a professor at Mount Sinai School, our memory is all but to be trusted. It seems that memory isn’t static, but something that changes every time it is recalled. This means that every time I ask you how your weekend was, the memory of this experience changes. During my teenage years in high school I experienced this first hand week after week. As one of my friends would come on the bus he would tell me in colorful details how his weekend was. Upon arrival at school he would at least tell that “same” story at least three more times. Since we were in the same class I had the honor of hearing it over and over again. Interestingly every time the story got more colorful and exciting.

photo

I believe there is always a tension between what actually happened and what is experienced by someone. It depends on the state the person was in at the time of experiencing the event things might be memorized totally different.

No Independent Truth

As a consequence I realize that is hard to be sure if there is an independent truth out there. It always depends on the observer or the person experiencing it. This is something you become very aware of once you cross cultural boundaries, start working with new people, or move in with somebody you else.

If this knowledge becomes a common part of your belief system there is all the more reason to question, and subscribe less to one form of truth. This will not only allow you to adapt better in all day every day situations, it also leaves you free to redefine your beliefs any moment.

How To Use Your Daily Irrationality

As children we are often irrational, cruel, unforgiving, crying, screaming, laughing, and very irresponsible. I remember how I tried to rip my brother off on regular basis proposing shaky deals to make his toys mine. I remember screaming and cursing at my parents for no reason (in retrospect), I remember running through the house being frustrated, and I remember drinking so much beer when I was a bit older that I offered the sink in the upstairs bathroom a taste of the insides of my stomach. In the field of economics humans are considered rational beings. When you say A you do A. When you did that one time, you will do it another time as well. Children though, are far from capable of thinking and acting this way. Look at me as a child. However, are adults really that different?

If somebody scratches the screen of your television do you get angry? Have you ever screamed at somebody cutting you off in traffic? Have you ever drank alcohol and driven your car home anyway? All these things we would be able to explain when we are kids, but adults?

pillowfight

As adults we have developed prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is at the front of our skull, and is supposedly what makes us the most awesome animal on earth. However, why do we get in the car when we drank alcohol, even though we know the risks will never outweigh the cost? Why do we get angry when something material breaks down, even though this emotional state gets us far from what we want. And, why do we wage war across the globe, when this consequently, instantly or ultimately backfires?

Predictably Irrational

In his books Predictably Irrational and the Upside of Irrationality, behavioral economist Dan Ariely seeks to answer questions like these. Behavioral economics reasons that, unlike in the field of economics, humans are not rational. Humans are influenced by tons of factors like emotions, social norms, and relativity that make us a lot more irrational than most animals.

The crux lies in the fact that we are usually unable to recognize that we are limited in such profound ways. At the same time we have constructed our society with ourselves on top of  the world, that it is hard not to think that we are gods, compared to all other animals on this planet. This failure to recognize our own limitations makes it only more plausible that we cut ourselves short.

Relativity

The most important thing I learned from reading the books on irrationality is that human behavior is always subject to relativity. I believe this subject is so powerful because it makes a difference every day.

You walk into a store to look at shoes. You see two different pairs of which one is on sale. This is amazing, you are definitely going to buy these because you like them and they are cheaper than the other pair. However, did you need shoes in the first place?

I remember when I was traveling through Uruguay. There is this beautiful place called Cabo Polonio which is a protected area at the coast. Beautiful beaches, sandy roads, and only accessible by walking 10km or a half an hour off-road truck ride. Obviously this place is very expensive. After I continued hitchhiking and ended up at an Eco Camping the day after. Even though it was cheaper than Cabo Polonio, my friend considered me crazy. She had booked her stay at Cabo Polonio earlier and had payed a lot less.

cabo-polonio

You are selling your car, your customer bargains a €100,- discount, however you still earn €5000,-. Then when you walk into the supermarket and you are not buying the strawberries today because they are €1,-, more expensive than normal.

This relativity is being used on us all the time by marketing companies making us buy stuff we don’t need. Therefore to be aware of this, might not only make decisions more satisfying in the long term, it might also save you a couple of bucks.

Next time fight a bit harder to keep the price of the car you are selling up, and buy the strawberries. The next time you walk into a store compare the clothes with what is hanging in your wardrobe at home instead with what’s on offer in the store. And, the next time you start fighting with your spouse over an unorganized living room, zoom out and wonder what would you like your interaction with the other to be like in this very moment, instead of going berserk over an easy to solve issue.

Failure to Consider Human Adaptability

This fascinating concept I had never really considered but is truly remarkable. I for myself realized that I have very little trouble traveling alone, living abroad, learning new languages, and taking on the challenge to integrate in different places. Nevertheless, plenty friends, family and others I know regularly comment “that they could never do that”.

wheelchair-racer

In his books Dan Ariely uses his own example being severely injured after being hit by an exploding magnesium flare. After this he never managed to live without pain. Particularly his right arm has never fully recovered. At the time the doctors proposed amputating the arm and installing a prosthesis. He decided not to, as he could not see himself live without the arm.

Now imagine the last time you lost a loved one or you broke up. This usually is accompanied by grief, confusion, and often also hopelessness. “How can I live without this person?” you wonder. Over time however, the pain gets less, and life continues.

If you would have taken your adaptability into account at the time, what would the situation have looked like?

Or on a more material note – remember when you bought that awesome new Iphone with retina screen, the most beautiful on the market. Two weeks later however, you drop your new phone and there is a giant crack in the screen. First you are angry and frustrated, but 4 months later you are still walking around with that crack in you screen.

Take Home Messages

Once you realize that you are probably more capable of adapting to difficult situations life should already become a bit brighter. Similarly if you manage to zoom out at any moment of comparison – is this what I want to compare or should there be other factors included?

I am a firm believer of the fact that once you know your limitations they are easily dealt with. Only being aware of them already makes a huge difference, at the same time this allows for using them. Ultimately, I know this will create freedom.

Harmony is Where Business, Buddhism, and Belly Come Together

Harmony is an interesting thing, I recently noticed how it’s an essential part of very different things. The previous months I have been learning about “The Learning Organization”, how to create a sustainable business that doesn’t revolve around producing, but rather around learning where the production is a natural consequence. This has been an attitude natural throughout my life with all the necessary characteristics I had to develop. Most of all however, fall face down to the ground plenty of times. Interestingly, this is the state of the art in business. This surprised me and made me wonder why this attitude isn’t more prominent around me. What’s curious though, is that the whole idea of creating an organization around learning made me think about Buddhism. And my belly.

Business and the Learning Organization

Let’s start with business. As I used to be naturally resistant to anything that had a monetary ring to it. Be it capitalistic attitudes, investing, and choosing money over health and quality of life, I had also nullified everything with a business-air to it.

business-man

However, The Learning Organization is different. It is a concept coined by, and after the work and research of Peter Senge. He wrote all about it in his book the 5th discipline. A learning organization is all about creating an working environment that improves the ability to learn. This should both benefit the individuals that make up the organization as the collective whole. Consequently, the organization is not about producing, but about learning where the production is a consequence.

The 5 pillars of the learning organization are shared vision, personal mastery, systems thinking, mental models and team learning. Sounds familiar? Probably not. Shared vision is the idea that every single person in an organization has their own vision, generated by themselves, that adds to, and supports, the shared vision.

Personal mastery is self-improvement, reflecting on a regular basis, making mistakes, a lot, and learning from them. Team learning is about: yes you’re right, learning as a team. Think about a sports team becoming more and more fluent over the course of the season in their playing together, and winning the title. Now apply this to your office job.

Mental models are the assumptions we hold about the world, it is our personal lens through which we see things. These are deeply held beliefs, that can save energy in everyday life, but can also limit us from seeing reality clearly. Think of the idea that government officials don’t work hard. Surely, everything you see them do is at least slow. Your little sister is annoying because she always wants attention. After that, everything she does is asking for attention. But is she? Now apply this to your work environment, what are you thinking about others? Is this really true? Or did you just install a thought a couple of years ago that you have been reinforcing until now.

And finally, systems thinking. Seeing that problems occur systemically is something I was trained to do as a physical therapist. My shoulder hurts here! Treating “here” would mean I neglect the entire system (the body) that is made up of so many subsystems (joints, connective tissue, muscular system, neurological system etc.) that all are part of the problem. Instead of responding to losses in sales by lowering product prices, a systemic approach would mean that you question why your sales went down and aim to resolve that. Even though, this might be painfully confronting.

Buddhism

Now on to what Buddha said. Yes, Buddha, and it’s not that long of a shot as it turns out. Stick with me.

monk-hands

Buddha spoke of the noble eight-fold path to “enlightenment”:

  1. Step one is right view, seeing things as they are
  2. Step two right intentions
  3. Step three right speech or speaking truth
  4. Step four right action, the art of living
  5. Step five right livelihood, where love through work is made visible
  6. Step six is right effort
  7. Step seven right mindfulness
  8. Step eight right concentration

Living up to these steps will help you realize anything from 0 to a 100 on the scale on enlightenment. What I find thought-provoking is that step one to three, right view, right intentions and right speech are basically what is part of the mental models described before. Personal mastery is right action, and right livelihood. Right effort is personal mastery again and right mindfulness and right concentration could be part of a shared vision. Between your body and mind in this case.

The idea of Buddhism is to see reality as it is, to leave destructive thoughts, fairy tales, and everything else that clouds you from seeing it, at the door. This is equally important in the learning organization, where you want to act on reality, not what every person in the organization perceives as reality.

Where the idea of the learning organization is aligning you as an individual with the organization and vice versa. In the case of Buddhism it is about finding this alignment between mind, body and spirit.

The Belly

Now the belly. Still with me?

belly

So your belly is full of organs, mainly with your food processor starting with your mouth until, euh, the other side. The intestine with it’s brain-qualities is highly important in determining how you feel and behave. The easiest way to communicate with it, is through what comes in through your mouth. Alignment!

Are you thinking about what you will feel like after that stuff made your tongue jump from excitement?

Your belly will be happy if you accept that happens at point A will have consequences for point X, regardless if you are able to see it’s journey. This is why Buddhists aim to live a non-invasive lifestyle, and this is why it’s essential in the learning organization that you become aware how the individual affects the whole and the other way around

Harmony

The thing all these ideas have in common is harmony. Harmony between colleagues, harmony between mind and body, harmony between thoughts and emotions, and harmony between what your tongue likes and what your stomach has to digest. However, it is impossible to achieve this harmony without learning. Nobody ever managed to do anything substantial overnight. To create a functioning learning organization is a long process, just like progressing along the 8-fold path set out by Buddha, and the way your body responds to different types of food, diet, and environmental stress. There is only one way to figure all this stuff out: try, and fail (more!).

If you find these things hard to connect I would ask you, why? Why are these long shots, why are these different things? Why do you believe that? Where does that idea come from?

I believe we divide the world to understand it better. Think of hierarchies so high you need binoculars to see the one on top, political parties, countries, ideologies, religion, body parts and time frames. All of these are mental models created to make the world easier to digest. I know it’s important to be aware of the fact that these things are nothing more than useful for navigating the physical world.

When it comes to more profound issues a holistic view is required. I recently read in Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (in my next life I want to be a physicist), by the Italian Physicist Carlo Rovelli, that space, time, and matter are all the same. It’s a big moving whole of which it’s individual parts cannot be perceived. What we see is the connections between all of it. Supposedly, humans are too limited in their perceptions that we cannot see this whole. As a consequence we think that we are progressing in time and that things and stuff are divided.

I find it not surprising that the things that work across the board all have this similar harmonious origin. If you want your organization you need to respect it’s individuals’ parts needs, if you want to reach you maximum spiritual potential you have to align every part of the self, and if you want to feel good in your belly, you have to figure out how to align everything from top to bottom. I hope that left you with an interesting image in your mind.

Why Do We Eat?

 Yesterday I had nothing to eat for dinner. I left home after lunch to go to work and only when I was far enough to not be able to return, I realized that I forgot to bring my food. As I wouldn’t be home before 22:30 I decided to skip dinner. When I woke up today I decided to not eat until midday to complete a 24 hour fast. Well, it turned out to be 22 hours, because I had to little concentration working. However, there did arise a fundamental question in me. Why do we eat?

Food Culture

In the Netherlands it’s common to eat bread for breakfast, a warm meal for lunch or dinner, and the other meal bread again. In Spain it’s common to eat a light breakfast accompanied by coffee, or sometimes a small glass of beer, lunch will be extensive, and only around 22:00 a light dinner is served. In Italy breakfast is usually a cup of coffee and a sweet pastry and in Brazil breakfast isn’t much either. Everything revolves around the lunch. In Indonesia it’s not uncommon to eat fried rice for breakfast, and for lunch, and for dinner – honestly though, I don’t remember exactly, that was what I preferred at least.

nasi

My point being, that in none of all these countries I visited anybody was eating their food because otherwise the decision to not eat, would be the last one they ever made. It seems to me that eating is more a behavioral pattern than an outright necessity in most of the cases.

Not only habitual factors play a role, but also social factors. When you would otherwise not have eaten, you are going to eat something because your friend asked you to.

From this perspective it makes a lot of sense what I mentioned in my previous blog about your ultimate personal diet guide, that the best way of eating is the one that you can adhere to. As you know now, diet is a behavioral pattern, where eating only is the final step.

So now that we have established that perhaps we mostly eat because it’s time to eat, what do we actually need?

Not Eating

In an article on the Scientific American about not eating there is substantial evidence for people to be able to survive 40 days of starvation, however this all depends with how much muscles or excess body fat you start losing weight. Mahatma Gandhi went on a hunger strike of 21 days when he was already a skinny man, and above 70 years of age. By the same token, there is a remarkable story of a Scotsman named Angus Barbieri that fasted for 382 days. He started when he was carrying around 209kg (!) of bodyweight though, he finally stopped his fast when he weighed 86kg.

Then in Autobiography of a Yogi, a book written by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1946, aimed to enlighten the west with the science of Yoga. In there he provides anecdotal evidence of a yogi that doesn’t eat at all through applying a certain yoga technique, she proved her ability various times by staying in closed quarters and observation for up to 30 days. Nowadays, equally there are people that claim to be living on little to no food as well.

When food is broken down it gets converted into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), this is essential for cells and our body to function. However, theoretically there seems to be a way to generate ATP without food.

This might make all your bs-sensors to go on red-alert. As this is entirely understandable, to me it shows that as soon as you stop looking at food as something that is preventing you from dying, there is an opportunity to look for different ways to live.

My Fast

As I went into my spontaneous fast of only 22 hours, I quickly realized that my mind started playing tricks on me. What? You are not going to give yourself food? What if you are hungry when you sleep? What if you can’t do it? My mind did what it is good at, trying to stay comfortable.

I ate at midday, and went to bed without feeling hungry. When I was in bed I felt a little hungry, but totally manageable. After falling asleep, I only managed to get around 6 hours of sleep in. When I woke up however, I was more awake than usual. I felt light, and during my morning routine I noticed how little stiffness I experienced as opposed to other days. Later on, I started working on my computer and felt my concentration being slightly reduced. Overtime this increased, together with slight dizziness. After eating I went for a 4km walk which felt very light to begin with, but was quite hard at the end.

unhappy-plate

These are all normal symptoms, and you should take them into consideration before you start a fast. For more information on fasting do your research well, here is an article about the fasting mimicking diet, which might be more accessible for most people. This diet makes your body believe you are fasting, while you are still eating something.

The Science Behind not Eating

Fasting has been shown to reverse age related declines in stem-cell function, by stimulating it’s regenerative capacity. Then, a fasting-like diet, that means eating so little your body perceives it as fasting, combined with chemo-therapy was 50% more effective than chemo-therapy alone. By the same token, fasting 72 hours before chemotherapy reduced the toxicity of the treatment. In a small observational study they found that three man were able to reverse type 2 diabetes by fasting 24 hours every other day.

I believe it’s important to realize through which lens you are viewing the act of eating. Are you comparing it to deeply wired cultural beliefs, all the bogus being thrown at you by the media and social media, or by what your friends think? Probably all play their role in how you eat. Nevertheless, eating is essential to survive, but how much, to what ends, when, how often, and what can totally differ.

It’s important to realize through which lens you are viewing the act of eating.

The Body as a System of Balance

I see the body as a system of balance where there is a lot more going on than food or calories in, and exercise or calories out. Sleep, water intake, stress, beliefs, the people with whom you eat, and the way you cook all play their role. At the same time, when you eat your body needs to digest and has no (less) time to take care of regenerative processes, like regenerating damage related to aging or cleaning up cancerous cells.

The bottom line is, that we usually eat because it’s time to eat. If we eat because of what we need, a totally different equation evolves.

Underneath a video by Wim “The Iceman” Hof, explaining why he eats only one time a day. If he eats at the same time every day, he fasts for 24 hours, always.

How Dialogue Can Save the World

Ok, here we go. One last time I will take the current political situation in Brasil as an entree for a blog. As the final round of the elections approaches this Sunday, it is all but clear what will happen to Brasil. One of the electoral candidates’ business backers was funneling money to advertising companies that abuse WhatsApp to influence voters. To me it was little surprising that things like these were going on, however it did all but help to unite Brazil. Now, there is even more reason to hate the opposing political party and its’ proponents.

Who Will Save Brazil?

What is astonishing to me, but also understandable given the situation, that nobody seems to realize that not one of the electoral candidates will save Brazil. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, politics is a popularity contest. The fact that there was money going to advertising companies that use whats-app to influence voters unfortunately strengthens my case. It’s like a football game being stuck in the 90th minute at 0-0, on the one side Jair Bolsonaro, on the other side Fernando Haddad. Obviously not one of the supporters is going to give way. Both believe there is just one that deserves to win. Everybody forgets that the supporters themselves (shouting, tweeting, boinking their horn), together, are the people that will eventually have to do the work to change Brazil.

christ

Even though, the next president will have power to give a direction to the country, there is not a single president ever in history, nor a member of a political party that builds houses. Nor do they plant trees, protect wildlife, cook food for the poor, teach in schools or clean the roads. That’s what the people do, that’s what you do. The same people, that instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue, are currently fighting each other for supporting the other candidate.

20th Century Tribal Life

Nevertheless, not only in politics people choose sides. Also, when it comes to dietary choices there are tribes. Be it vegans, paleo-proponents, carnivores, or keto-diet lovers, somehow in every group there are people that think that only they are right.

From diet, to sports, to religious orientation, to field of work, to nationality, to the city you are from, or the skin color you were born with. All of these things have been made part of peoples’ identity, therefore distancing themselves from “the others”.

Let’s take religion as an example. As Rabbi Alan Lurie writes in a Huffington Post blog on “Is Religion The Cause of Most Wars?“, that it is not. However, in another blog Alon Ben-Meir argues that even though 10% of the wars in history were fought in the name of god, far more had a religious component to it. The moment one religion says that their god is the only god, all the other religions are wrong. The same goes for communism and the mix of consumerism and capitalism that reigns in today’s western societies. In this case there is no god, but these ideologies are quite dogmatic anyway. In the case of communism it was worth 100 million deaths spread over various regimes. And in the case of consumerism there are at least 18 million people dying every year. Yes, Heart Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes are all consequences of a lifestyle based in consumerism.

Does this seem like a long shot to you? I believe not, at least, if you allow yourself to look at things in a more profound manner. The Communistic philosophy doesn’t preach to kill people by itself, nevertheless making communism a crucial part of your identity makes it a lot more likely. Along these lines it is similar to consumerism. The idea of working, getting payed, consuming, and working again doesn’t necessarily say anything about killing yourself. Do it with enough dedication though, and it ultimately will.

Identity

In Me, Me, Me, is not Me I already wrote about how we are not what we identify with. How that so, you ask? Well in short; everything we identify with is a human creation and could therefore be anything. “But”, you say, “at least we are our body, right, that’s ours?” Then, why do most people care more about cars, money, and status, than their body?

The whole crux lies in the fact that as soon as you identify with something, be it veganism, paleo, religion, a political party, a sports club or the country you are from, you are part of the group. Once you identify with one part of the identity, you are prone to all other parts of the identity as well.

However, if you manage to think critically of your position you are open to be criticized by people within your identity group. As a consequence this will create distance between you and the fundamentalists, ever more prone to criticism for you not living up to your identity. On the contrary, when you are fundamental about your identity you will be criticized by everybody outside of your group. This is all the more reason for you to not like the others and reinforces your belief in your identity. Do you see the system at work here?

This is exactly what is happening now in Brazil, what happens between the US and “terrorists, what happens during heated soccer games, and what happens when fundamental vegans and paleo people get into discussions. This polarization leads to rigidity which is only reinforced by the other doing the same. This creates evermore distance which reduces the chances on real dialogue.

The Solution is Dialogue

So, here comes the solution. Dialogue, I already mentioned it a couple of times. What, dialogue? Yes, people actually talking to each other, leaving all assumptions about the other on the table. As Peter Senge writes in his book the 5th Discipline, it is essential for people to work and learn together that they are able to speak to each other in a truthful and non-judgmental manner. This is one the essentials for any organization, or country in this case, to flourish. However, more often than not, you respond to what you think somebody else is saying than what they are actually saying. That is, you will have to ask the other what he means if you want to be sure about what the other says, however that is not what you usually do. We assume what the other means, and respond.

The clue with dialogue is that it becomes clear which of you assumptions are true and which are not. Finally you learn to speak the same language.

dialogue-box

The real power of engaging in dialogue, from my perspective, lies in that you cannot engage in it, without accepting that you are in the same boat with the other person. This is fundamentally different when you engage in a debate or discussion, where there are opposing forces.

Consequently, you can start directing your collective energy in the same direction, you can start developing new ideas, and come up with solutions that you never thought of because you were so busy trying to discredit the other.

Use Your Imagination

Imagine, you, your boss, and all of your direct colleagues sitting down, leaving status and hierarchy at the door, and talk about how you all can make the most of the company. Imagine the Brazilian electoral candidates sitting down together, trying to figure out a strategy to, really, improve violence, poverty, and education. Imagine, the western governments sitting down with so called “terrorist” organizations. Imagine two opposing groups of soccer fans uniting to create the most awesome soccer experience ever. Imagine, everybody ditched their identity, and saw that there are more similarities between every single one of us, than there are differences.

In case you think this is impossible – I would consider that a lack of imagination. So, what do you imagine?

old-young

How to Use SMART Goal Setting to Change Your Perception of Time

In the first part of this blog post about how our perception of time is limiting us, we discovered how there is a difference between how we perceive time and how things actually develop over time. This tension is largely subject to how we experience time, that is, how our thoughts and emotions are influencing our perception of objective time. As things go, thoughts and emotions are the only things in our lives that are not bound to space nor time.

Underneath I will discuss how you can relieve yourself of this tension and make your life a little easier. The tool to this, is nothing less elementary than goal setting.

The Power of Creating Focus

The power of goal setting comes from two things. First, the fact that humans excel in focusing. Not only in a abstract manner but also in a physical manner. Try to look at a point in front of you and see how everything around that sight blurs eventually. Any person playing sports, or having experienced anything of heightened importance will have experienced this ability someway or another. This phenomenon was beautifully shown in an experiment where study subjects were asked to count how many times a group of people threw the ball around in a video. Most of them counted right. Nobody saw the gorilla walking by though. Later they redid the experiment, since everybody was focusing on the gorilla now, little people saw the color changes in the background.

Goals are Context

Second, in an abstract manner, setting goals in the future has been shown to improve performance and the capacity to overcome mental trauma. Also, it supposedly closes the gap between ethnic and minority achievement rate.

The combination of using human excellence and the fact that goals allow us to compare everything we experience in relation to it, makes goal setting remarkably useful. As Dan Ariely mentions in his book Predictably Irrational:

Most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context.

Thus, goals not only bring our perception of time and objective times closer towards each other, it also creates context. A set goal is is like something slapping you in the face when you start imagining things other than what is actually going on, a written reality check.

For reference, I added the list of objective times again that I used in the first part of this blog post.

objective-times

SMART Goal Setting

Now to the practical part. A commonly used system for goal setting is the SMART system. They tortured me with this in university time after time. “You need to set SMART goals, otherwise you won’t know if your treatment is having any effect”. And really, it’s true, definitely when working with people, there are so many variables, it’s nice to have something to relate to.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Let’s take an example here, you want to improve your fitness. This goal by itself is hard to test but once put into SMART form it will get tangible. First you need to be more specific, you can use the 5 W’s for this. Who, What, When, Why, and Where. In this case this could be you alone (who) goes running (what), after work (when), to improve fitness (why) in the park (where).

run-in-park

To make your fitness increase measurable you decided you want to be able to run 5k, since you can run 2k now this is achievable. It is also realistic depending on your current situation (you run 2k already). This might have been different if you decided to run a marathon. However, this all depends as well on the time you designate to achieve your goal.

The SMART goal would come together like this:

I want to be able to run 5k after work in the park to improve my fitness 8 weeks from now.

This goal is simple to construct because the specific part is easily described. If you take a look at the list of objective times above, there are some things that are inherently harder to describe and to measure. If you want to prevent chronic disease in 20 years, how do you make that goal? Or when you want to change cultural beliefs?

What to Do With Goals that Can’t Be Made Specific or is Difficult to Measure?

The key here is to figure out what the indicators are that lead to these things. In the case of preventing chronic disease these are markers like cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure and fat percentage. However, what are the markers for change in cultural beliefs? Or for that sake what are the markers for political change?

In some cases these markers or predictors might be there, but culture and politics are systems that are the result of our collective beliefs. At the same time changes take years. From my perspective the only sensible way to deal with these things is that first, you have to accept that you can influence these things, and second that it starts with you thinking and acting differently. If you want to put this into SMART terms, I leave up to you.

Hey there! You can also follow on me Twitter now, click here! Thanks and see you around, Joël

How Your Perception of Time is Limiting You and How To Change It

It’s new to me, how much politics is influencing my thinking the previous weeks. These Brazilian elections have provoked me to research more than I ever did for Dutch elections. I have been trying to understand on a more fundamental level how, from my perspective, a destructive force is helped into power by the public. In an earlier blog I explored why long term solutions in politics are unattractive, but also how our perceived discomfort in certain situations forces us in the direction of short term solutions. Politicians are well aware of this discomfort and capitalize on this to gain popularity. However, not only in politics, but also in healthcare, business, and our private lives is this a relevant topic. I realized that a common provoker of this discomfort is an inadequate perception of time.

Our perception of time is on the one side bench-marked to the world around us, how is time culturally perceived, what is early, what is late, and where is the future and where is the past (more on that below). Secondly, I personally belief the most relevant aspect of time perception; the speed of our thoughts and emotions and the intensity with which we experience them.

Cultural Perception of Time

The first one, our cultural perception of time, has one common denominator across all cultures. Every culture uses a time-in-space metaphor. this means that all over the world people describe time related to space. However, it depends on where you live, which space-metaphor is used. In western society the future is in front of us and the past behind us. In Ayrana (native people from the Andes), the passed is in front (that what can be seen) and the future behind. The Yupno people from Papua New Guinea and the Tzeltal from Mexico think of the passed as being down hill, and the future uphill.

Culture also largely defines how you behave related to time. Where in Germany and Switzerland on time, means arriving exactly at the agreed time, because they see compartmentalization as the surest route to efficiency. In the Netherlands you can be a couple of minutes later and still be on time, nevertheless the Dutch otherwise relate to time in a similar way as Germans and the Swiss. In Brazil I have come to understand time as it’s 9 o’clock until it’s 10 o’clock. Even more “creative” with the clock they are in Colombia. I was recently told by two Colombians that agreeing to meet at 2 o’clock is okay, showing up at that time is foolish. Don’t come before 4.

colombian-street

Another significant difference, is if time is perceived as linear or cyclical. In my very first post on this blog I proposed a different perspective to time, and I explained my adoption of a more cyclical view. In western society this is novel, because time is generally perceived as progressing linearly. In eastern cultures though, the Japanese and the Chinese have always perceived time as progressing cyclical.

Subjective Perception of Time

Second then, the speed of our thoughts and emotions play a significant role as well. As our perception of time on the one hand is influenced by our external environment (culture, society), it is also subject to our internal environment. Are you feeling good or bad, are you doing something you like, or something you hate. The way you experience time in these cases can be totally different. That boring school assignment seems to take ages, where watching an exciting movie can pass by in seconds. Then again, once we are in severe pain it seems like time lasts forever.

alexander-michl-724529-unsplash

Now that we are familiar with what influences our perception of time, the moment is right to become familiar with how long things objectively take. I believe this to be of essential importance because we usually adhere to our perception of time, forgetting that there is actually a lot known about the objective duration of things.

Objective Times

Underneath is a list of objective times as I have come to understand them from literature on history and medicine plus my own experience:

objective-times

When you read this list, it is important to consider that thoughts and emotions are the only things on there, that are not in someway or another limited by time and space. At the same time they are the portal through which we experience everything else.

I believe that most discomfort and hardship that we experience comes from two things. First, to be unaware of, or failing to accept how we are objectively progressing in time. This could be failing to comprehend the time that is needed for a political situation to change or a fractured bone to heal.

Cause and Effect Can Be Hard to Connect

Second, very often cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. The burger you started eating weekly at age 25 might be the initiation of the behavior that led to your diabetes at age 45. Similarly when I start eating beans instead of beef I instantly reduce my carbon footprint. This might help turn around climate change in 15 years, saving thousands of lives of people living on islands that would have run under water otherwise. It is hard to see these connections, if not impossible. However, if you accept the possibility, there is a lot in life that you can influence from this moment on.

beans

When you accept the possibility that your actions can have consequences that you have no way to experience or connect with each other – that leaves you with the challenge to accept that as long as you live on earth there are certain time frames you cannot evade. I often try to raise awareness to this fact with my clients. The mind jumps from past to future, and back again within seconds. However, our body acts more like a plant, and adheres to a slower and gradual time frame.

Where the objective time frame of the body, often with the support of a skilled healthcare practitioner, can be understood and experienced first hand, changes in environment, culture and politics are harder to experience objectively. As things go, they do not hurt us directly like a bone fracture does, and there are less people taking the time to explain this phenomena in full. Also because the systems underlying these changes are often very complex and hard to understand.

Nevertheless, in our private lives, in politics, in your business or regarding your personal health, there is a very simple thing you can do to deal with all the discomfort from the tension between how you experience time, and the time it takes for things to happen. Read all about that in the second part of this blog on SMART goals here.

Why in Healthcare and Politics Treating The Root Cause is Not The Solution (Yet)

Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch The Invisibles. A movie about Jewish people in Berlin during the second world-war. As Hitlers’ regime declared the city “jew-free”, there were still 7000 of them underground. They basically became invisible with the help of brave fellow Germans. Unfortunately, only 1700 would see the war end. I realized the importance of the movie, as the second world war has been visualized in films time after time – but now in times where right wing politics is gaining popularity more and more it seems that the relevance of this topic is higher than ever.

One of the arguments people often bring up is that we shouldn’t forget what happened then, so we won’t repeat it now. Since most of the world-war two survivors are slowly passing away because of old age, there won’t be a lot of time left before we can only rely on history books, movies, and second hand stories for us to know what happened at the time.

The Movie Bias

What made me think though, is that all the movies about the second world war, the Vietnam war, and more recent movies about the war in Iraq, all depict the horrors and the consequences. Even though it’s important to be aware of what they were, there happened a lot before (regular) people became mass murderers.

helicopter

In comparison, 10 months ago I twisted my knee while climbing. After more or less successfully rehabilitating my knee, there was a moment during yoga class where my knee made a loud SNAP! It swelled right away and hurt like hell. A couple of days later I made an MRI, it turns out my medial meniscus was torn.

If I would make a movie about this it would be about me tearing my meniscus, all the pain I felt and how I did my rehabilitation and how I eventually resolved it, with or without surgery. Nevertheless, what happened before I injured myself? What were my thoughts, convictions, and decisions that led me to that situation in the first place?

In the case of Hitler – him writing a book explaining his philosophy is a boring movie and also speaks less to the imagination than millions of minorities killed in gas chambers. Complex belief mechanisms mixed with capitalist-communist politics and protection of interest is a lot less spectacular and hard to understand than soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, missing limbs, helicopters shooting in the Vietnamese jungle and the napalm coming after.

Not only in movies we are biased to viewing consequences and symptoms, but also in healthcare and in politics we tend to go for short term gain instead of treating the root cause.

I believe there is a combination of two phenomena that is responsible for the fact that we end up circling through similar situations over and over.

Pain and Money

The first one is pain. In the case of our body this literal pain can be a sign of damage, but it is mostly a signal for you to pay attention. When it comes to politics there might be situations that provoke discomfort: violence, refugee crisis, lack of job opportunities and economic setbacks.

The second one, is the fact that one way provides more money and power than the other. I believe in general money leads to power and vice versa. When we look at healthcare that means that highly invasive treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and medication are usually preferred over investing money in providing knowledge, tools, and empowerment to people so that they don’t get to a place where such treatment might be indicated in the first place.

surgery-tools

Pain and Money in Politics and Healthcare

In politics the reduction of available resources (money) or lack of control (power) provoke short term solutions as well. An example is the wall that was build between Turkey and Syria, with funding from the European Union, to block the crossing of immigrants. “We cannot control the refugees, so we literally block them from coming in at all”. This will reduce the amount of immigrants entering the European Union, that’s true, but on the other hand it increases the chances that the same people will be more susceptible to be recruited for radical purposes. Interestingly, according to the Swiss Historian Daniele Ganser, the US and the UK, together with a couple of other countries want to overthrow the Assad-regime to keep the oil flowing west.Therefore, the whole fact that these refugees want to flee Syria in the first place, is our own fault. So much for treating the root-cause.

j-s-romeo-629384-unsplash

Back to money in healthcare. I believe that as soon as there is more money to be earned with preventive than curative medicine, the medical system will change radically. However, I think it is important to remember that the most natural solutions to our health, are far from lucrative. If you grow your own crop, buy products from your local village, and exchange other products with fellow inhabitants all the while moving on a continuous basis, there will be little to earn for big corporations.

As you can see money plays a big role both in health care as in political decisions. What I think is interesting though, is how is feasted on our lack of knowledge and capacity to deal with pain and discomfort. The amounts of times I have treated clients that preferred a shot of cortisone from the doctor than sustainable holistic treatment just because they wanted the pain to be gone. Equally, I have been proposed nothing but surgery by knee specialists for my meniscus even though it bothers me little in everyday life. I am in luck that I have an education that allows me to make more informed decisions in this case.

When we go return to politics, discomfort is capitalized on immensely as well. U.S. president Trump capitalized on the dissatisfaction of the public by shouting so loud, but most of all differently from what everybody else was doing, that people flocked his way. He managed to be very obviously different than the rest of the candidates. In a similar way president elect Jair Bolsonario in Brazil is about to succeed with an exact copy of Trumps strategy. He is in the final and deciding round of the election process with 18% more votes than his opponent Fernando Haddad.

As you might realize now the equation money/power x pain/discomfort is feasted upon continuously. Lack of knowledge and perspective leads people to be influenced easily. This holds true for politics as much as going to see a knee specialist. I personally always appreciated the informed client a lot. As things go they are the ones that have to live with their body, not me. When you are more informed I can help you better. However, it might not earn me the most money. Politicians would agree if they were looking to solve root-causes. So generally, it is best you are uninformed.

Alternatives and a Questioning Attitude

I think therefore, that it’s essential to increase your knowledge and be aware that there are always alternatives. Humans have a hard time comparing two (on the surface) unrelated things. Shall I buy the better TV for $700,- or the cheaper one for $500,- that’s less good? As you stand there scratching your head, mouth dry, and about to go for the more expensive one, you could also walk home, and buy two plane tickets for a weekend get-away.

In recent times there are still big powers at play, twisting information and trying to make money of the ignorance of people. Lucky for us however, we don’t have to rely on a couple of brave people sending underground news through the post like in the second world war. Today, within a minute you can share whatever with the world. This creates a lot of noise, but if you take control and look, in stead of consume, there is a lot of value available.

I believe that if you take control of your life, a questioning attitude is key. When it comes to health and healthcare as the decisions you are required to make in politics. On the surface things might look unrelated, but wars in the middle-east about oil, and walls to prevent refugees from crossing, and your personal health have a lot more in common than you think. For once, they might or might not be subject to your own ignorance. So I wonder therefore, what’s your next question going to be?

why

Why You Should Sleep Well Every Night

AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH!

Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?

Matthew Walker. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

We tend to know more about things that aren’t part of our body than the things that are. Hammers, cars, politics and economics are usually better understood than what is going on inside of us. Interestingly, there is little education and mainstream information available on the thing that every single human (hopefully) spends one third of their life on. I am wondering therefore, how much do you know about sleep?

Before I started reading Matthew Walkers´ best-seller Why We Sleep, I knew that it was important to sleep between 7.5 to 8.5 hours a night. I knew that screens from laptops, telephones, and tablets radiated blue light that mingles with your circadian rhythm (wakefulness rhythm). This is a natural part of our life that is influenced by sunlight but doesn’t depend on it. Also, I had recently come to believe that “night-owls” (late sleepers) didn’t exist. They were just people that ignored their sleep impulse earlier in the evening.

Before I bought the book I was trying to optimize my sleep for a while already. I keep my phone away at night, and I engage in little demanding activities. Preferably I eat early so that I don’t go to bed on the verge of explosion and I aim to go to bed at the same time to stay in my rhythm. Let’s see what remained of that after reading Why We Sleep?

Waking Up in the Morning

To figure that out, let’s go through a day of sleep. Are you with me? 06:00 BEEP – BEEP – BEEP. Wake up, you get out of bed after falling asleep at 23:00. Did you sleep enough? Regardless of how you feel, you didn’t. Every human being needs around 8 hours of sleep each night. After a couple of days sleeping 7 hours, only one hour less, you perform like you didn’t sleep an entire night. How crazy is that.

When you come into the kitchen you pore yourself a cup of coffee – why? Because you like it, or because you can’t wake up otherwise? If it’s the latter, you are sleeping too little. Coffee increases your wakefulness, but it doesn’t decrease your sleepiness. It also stays in your system for a long time and modifies your sleep quality, unless you are a genetic outlaw. Which you are probably not.

Time to get into the car to work. Hopefully you are awake now, because there are more car accidents happening in the U.S. as a consequence of drowsy driving, than of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs together.

Sleep is Your Solution

When you fall into your desk chair, and you login to you computer your brain starts to make weird noises. Still this issue you can’t find a solution to. Why haven’t you found a solution? First question that should follow after: did I sleep enough?

dreamcatchers

During our REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, or our dream sleep, our brain becomes highly active. It starts reorganizing, activating, and connecting neurons. New knowledge gets transferred from your short-term memory to your long-term memory and your brain integrates this new knowledge with what already was. If you sleep well, this sleep feature greatly increases your creativity and the probability that you solve that issue at work.

For lunch you eat a big sandwich and talk to some colleagues. After you feel sleepy. You always eat to much for lunch. That could be, however you are also experiencing a natural dip in wakefulness under influence of your circadian rhythm. The best thing to do right now is to lie down and do a nap. Humans are biphasic sleepers (two times per day) even though this is not recognized in today’s (western) society. From now on you never have to feel guilty again for napping during the (preferably early) afternoon.

Let’s say you did nap, and you return to your computer. All of a sudden you find the solution to that everlasting problem. I told you sleep would help you..

Getting Ready to Sleep

When you arrive home in the evening you crash into the couch and get out your phone. Finally time to binge on social media and check what your friends are up to. Don’t do that too long because the bluelight coming out there reduces your sleep quality. At the very least install Twilight on your Android and F.lux on your computer to filter this light out, if you must use them at all. Better read a book, or talk to the person(s) you live with.

If you did that well you will get sleepy. During the day the hormone adenosine has been accumulating in your brain, creating an ever bigger sleep pressure. At the same time your wakefulness has been reducing. Depending on what type of person you are, the rhythm in which this happens is different. If you are an early sleeper this would be around 21:30, when you are a late-sleeper around midnight, and if you are in between around 22:30.

Sleep-model

School Times

Interestingly, children around 15-16 years old usually get sleepy later than their parents. A significant amount of time that should be honored according to Matthew Walker, also a UC-Berkely Professor. Early school times have disastrous effects on the development of the brains of our children. Later starting times have been shown to result in an increase of SAT score of 200 on average. Finally I understand, why I would fall asleep every single time I sat down in the bus to high school.

You made it to bed. As soon as you really fall asleep your sleep pressure is going down and your brain starts doing some valuable maintenance. It cuts away what is not being used, it clears out plaque that might turn in to dementia later on and it processes emotional experiences.

The Power of Sleep

Emerging from this research renaissance is an unequivocal message: sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day—Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death.

Matthew Walker. Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Why We Sleep has immensely increased my believe in the value of sleep, and how it all by itself can counter a lot of the issues thatmost of us encounter in our everyday life. Be it from feeling depressed, to diabetes to our performance on the soccer field. Sleep is the basis for everything to thrive upon. The single most important thing you can do according to the book is go to sleep at the same time and get up at the same time. Also during the weekends.

Oh and yes, read the book yourself. If you are going to read one book on health this year, or in your entire lifetime, read this one. Otherwise as well.