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December 16, 2014

Food For Thought
0

3 Technologies That Will Improve Your Life

(Note: I do not have any vested interest in any of the companies below. I simply love their products and use them regularly for myself and with my clients)

Technology is the double-edged sword of the modern world. On one hand it brings us great convenience. And on the other hand technology can greatly decrease the quality of life. One way we can deal with the negative effects of technology, is to use technology itself.

I once heard an environmentalist say that the way we are going to solve the global warming problem that was essentially caused by technology, is to find better, cleaner technologies that can replace the “dirty” ones.

Over the past year I have found three “cleaner” technologies that can help mitigate the negative effects technology might have on us. They have had a profound impact on my life, and my clients lives.

1. Inner Balance

Inner BalanceThe research on meditation is abundant, and we now know that the benefits of meditation are many. The (very!) short list of benefits include:

  • Improved immune function 1
  • Pain control 2
  • Decreased inflammation 3
  • Anti-depressive effect 4
  • Improved memory 5
  • Increase in brain size 6

Although many people are well aware of the benefits, they don’t regularly partake in the practice. I’ve heard a variety of reasons from my clients, which I believe are common amongst the general public. Some of them include; “meditation is too hard”, “I can’t clear my mind”, “I don’t know how to meditate”, and “meditation doesn’t work for me”. Usually, when I  push on and ask them how many times they’ve tried it, more often than not the answer is “once”.

One of the biggest limiting factors that prevents people from sticking with meditation, is that the effects are rarely felt in the short term. Meditation gradually changes the brain, and the brain slowly rewires itself to be more prone to the relaxation response. This happens over repeated meditation sessions. There is a great book on this phenomenon called neuroplasticity called The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.

If you are not training the relaxation response into your brain, then by default you are  training the stress response into your nervous system. Meditation, and meditation-like activities, help to train the relaxation response.

A piece of technology which I personally use daily, and use with my clients, is called Inner Balance. It can actually map how relaxed or stressed you are in real time. It works by monitoring heart rate variability (HRV). The definition of HRV is a physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. 7. When we are in a relaxed state, the time between heartbeats becomes regular. Think of a drummer keeping a steady beat. But when we are stressed, the spaces between heartbeats are varied.

The inner balance system helps your body train the relaxation response by relaying back to you in real time your heart rate variability. It’s biofeedback mechanism allows you to adjust how you are breathing and thinking, to influence your physiology. You can literally see your thoughts change your physiology (the mind/body connection in action!). Studies have shown that when your HRV is balanced you are able to concentrate better, students get better marks, creativity flourishes, and stress hormones are reduced. 8

2. f.lux

FluxDo you know what the best thing on the planet is for repair, healing and recovery? It’s sleep! If we could encapsulate the benefits of sleep, it would surely be the top selling supplement in the world.

Sleep hygiene is as important as the sleep itself, as it determines the quality of our sleep. All too often my clients are reporting that they use their phones or computer, or watch television before bed. This greatly disrupts an important hormone called melatonin.

Melatonin begins to be excreted by the pineal gland at around 6:00-8:00 pm when there is an absence of light. It is a hormone made from tryptophan (more on this here), and has potent antioxidant activity. Higher levels have also been shown to be associated with lower breast cancer risk. 9 10 11 12

melatonin

Back in the day when there was no artificial light, but only the sun and the moon (and maybe a little fire), we would wake up with the rising sun and go to sleep with setting sun. This was an optimal situation for melatonin production. Today, we have artificial light, phones, television, cell phones, and street lights. These all emit a blue spectrum light, that disrupts melatonin production.

The American Medical Assocation published the following statement in a 2013 article:

Recognizes that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment. 13

F.lux is an app that will remove the blue spectrum light from your screen as the evening progresses. In fact, as I write this, my screen has begun to turn a reddish colour. The red part of the light spectrum does not affect melatonin production.

3. Think Dirty

Think DirtyDo you think that your body care products (fragrance, deodorant, antiperspirant, makeup, toothpaste, shampoo, shaving cream, etc.) are non-toxic? Think again. Estimates are that women apply over 100 chemicals to their body before they even leave the house in the morning. Remember this rule, whatever goes on the skin, goes into the bloodstream.

Over 80,000 chemicals have been introduced into our environment over the last hundred years. We need to make the best effort possible to limit our exposure in order to prevent various diseases such as cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, and many more.

The founder of this app, Lily Tse, was inspired by the story of cosmetics (below).

After downloading Think Dirty on a smartphone, you can scan barcodes of skincare products and learn if they are toxic or non-toxic. This is incredibly empowering as you learn that you can take control of a significant source of chemical exposure.

Technology is great, but we must treat it with respect or it can wreak havoc on our lives. Bringing mindfulness to our usage of technology can help to mitigate some of its harmful effects and even provide a net benefit.

– Josh

References:

  1. http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2003/07000/Alterations_in_Brain_and_Immune_Function_Produced.14.aspx
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3090218/
  3. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112004758
  4. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:COTR.0000045557.15923.96
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810010000681
  6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811909000044
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate_variability
  8. http://www.heartmath.org/research/research-library/research-library.html
  9. Melatonin. Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2005 Dec;10(4):326-36.
  10. Lissoni P, Barni S, Meregalli S, et al. Modulation of cancer endocrine therapy by melatonin: a phase II study of tamoxifen plus melatonin in metastatic breast cancer patients progressing under tamoxifen alone. Br J Cancer.1995 Apr;71(4):854-6.
  11. Cos S, Gonzalez A, Martinez-Campa C, et al. Estrogen-signaling pathway: a link between breast cancer and melatonin oncostatic actions. Cancer Detect Prev. 2006;30(2):118-28.
  12. Sanchez-Barcelo EJ, Cos S, Mediavilla D, et al. Melatonin-estrogen interactions in breast cancer. J Pineal Res. 2005 May;38(4):217-22.
  13. Stevens et al / Am J Prev Med 2013;45(3):343–346