The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel (Part 3)

Food and Telomeres: Eating for Optimal Cell Health. You can have a whole-foods diet that has fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts etc. Consider what you eat before you consume it. Often, we struggle over what sort of food is good for us. It is definitely better to eat fresh as compared to processed foods. The first cellular enemy is inflammation. Glucose and sugary foods are bad because they hit your bloodstream fast and hard. Alcohol also is a carbohydrate and is bad for health. Chronic alcohol use is associated with shorter telomeres. However, light drinking is fine. Foods that are good are like berries, grapes, apples etc. Other inflammatory foods include fish oils, nuts, flax oils and leafy vegetables. These foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to keep cell structure fluid and stable. They also help to lower cardiovascular risk. Are fish oil supplements or capsules good? The results are mixed. How well you absorb the nutrients, how well your cells use it are all important factors. Instead of eating omega-3, one can also eat algae. There should be a good balance between the consumption of omega 3 and 6. Vitamin B12 can help to reduce homocysteine. The second enemy is oxidative stress. This is when there are too many free radicals, and they might destroy your DNA. Vitamin C helps protect and gobble up free radicals. One can get vitamins and minerals from a daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Good food items include citrus, berries, apples, plums, carrots etc. Babies who are breast-fed can have longer telomeres. Americans like to drink a lot of soda and they have to watch it. Your pancreas has to work harder to produce more insulin. Liver turns sugar into fat and you want to achieve that sugar high again. People tend to die younger if they consume too much sugar. Avoid sweetened drinks from Starbucks or desserts in general. Instead, focus on foods that are higher in fibre like wholemeal bread, pasta, brown rice, barley, vegetables etc. Higher levels of vitamin D are good too, and is linked to telomere health. The best sources of vitamin D are salmon, tuna, milk, cereal, eggs. You can also consider vitamin D supplements. Fish in general is good for health. The Mediterranean diet is generally known to be more healthy. The Korean diet in good as well. Red meat is a probable cause of cancer, and processed red meat is even worse. It is never too late to start and improve your health. Is coffee good for health? There is not much research in this area but in general, it seems okay to consume. Recent research on telomere has shown that coffee is indeed beneficial. Remember the 3 enemies: inflammation, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress. Healthy snacks which are high in protein are desirable. Make your own homemade trail mix or chia pudding, which can be very healthy indeed. Seaweed is also telomere friendly. If you have a family history of diabetes, focus on your weight gain. Visualize how you want to be like when you grow old, for example: fit and healthy.

In general, antioxidants from food are typically better absorbed by the body and may have more powerful effects than supplements. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Master Tips for Renewal: Science-Based Suggestions for Making Changes that Last. Learning about telomeres is a potent motivator. For a change to be long lasting, it would be good to know why you’re making the change. Study your motivation to make the change. Find one small behaviour that you want to change now. Understand why is this change meaningful to you. Be confident that you can make the change. Get into the self-efficacy positive loop. There are tips for creating new habits. One is to make small incremental changes. Tack a small change onto an activity that’s already a routine part of your day. Schedule the change early in the morning if possible. Don’t decide- just do, as making decisions is exhausting. Celebrate if you managed to practise your new habit. Increase your brain’s ability to execute your plans. Don’t try the change when you are feeling depleted, like when feeling sleepy etc. Shape your surroundings to reduce the number of times you’re tempted by hiding them till there are out of sight. Ask your family and friends to support your new goal. We can all strive to have more days of renewal. The path to permanent change takes time.

Part 4 – Outside In: The Social World Shapes Your Telomeres

Chapter 11: The Places and Faces that Support Our Telomeres. The environment does affect our telomeres. A safe environment certainly helps. Where we live does matter. It would be helpful if you were close to your neighbors as well. Those who live in fear of crime have greater cellular aging. Those who live in an unsafe neighbourhood tend to have shorter telomeres. This is also because they are in a heightened state and may get less sleep at night. Parks and the availability of parks for exercise is also important. The fact that there is a lot of litter in San Francisco is also bad. The people in the city had shorter telomeres in general. Exposure to nature can help in telomere growth. Exposure to green spaces helps to lower stress indeed. Can money buy longer telomeres? Poverty was associated with shorter telomeres as you can’t meet your basic needs. The more educated you are, the longer your telomeres. Carbon monoxide is a bad chemical which should be avoided. Pesticides are bad as well as they increase oxidative stress. Cadmium is detrimental to health and can be found in cigarette smoke and dust, dirt etc. Lead is usually bad as well. Lead in water is extremely bad for health. Avoid polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons too. Other chemicals to avoid are dioxins, furans, arsenic and benzene. Such chemicals are now also being associated with cancer. Avoid microwaving plastics. Human beings crave for social connection. Rats suffer when they are alone. Good friends are like your nightwatchmen and will watch over you. Having mixed relationships result in shorter telomeres. Happily married people have a lower risk of early mortality. Married people generally have longer telomeres. Physical intimacy also leads to longer telomeres. Racial discrimination is bad for length of telomeres. Discrimination is bad as it is a form of social stress. Policemen can get assaulted etc and all these are very detrimental. Blacks are discriminated more than whites. African Americans tend to develop more chronic disease of aging than other ethic populations. We can learn to create supportive environments and in our neighborhoods. Learn to eat less animal and dairy fat. Think about the air when you turn up the eat with meat. Avoid pesticides in your produce. Find personal-care products. Go green and support urban forestry. Smile and acknowledge those around you. Strengthen your close relationships and do not take things for granted. Show gratitude and appreciation. Be present and give your fullest and sincere attention.

It feels so good to belong to a cohesive group. It feels good to be in connection with others – to give or receive advice, borrow or lend something, work together, or share tears and feel understood. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Pregnancy: Cellular Aging Begins in the Womb. The baby’s telomeres get affect if her mother smokes. Parents have the ability to shape a kid’s telomeres before they are even born. Parents can pass shortened telomeres to their children. The education levels of the parents do matter. Telomeres are trans-generational. Hence, babies can inherit the short telomeres from their mum. Hence, social advantage can actually be passed down through the generations. However, understand that biology is not destiny and we can do things to maintain our telomeres in our lifetime. There is never really a level playing field out there. Protein deprivation is apparently bad for the baby. Folate is an important nutrient during pregnancy. Baby’s telomeres are listening to mom’s stress. A mum must take good steps to care for her baby. Avoid chemical exposure at home at all costs.

Conclusion

Entwined: Our Cellular Legacy. We all hope for a long and good life, with a strong wellbeing. We cannot change our genes. To some extent, we can change our telomeres. They are objective and unbiased. When we protect our telomeres, we also spread the good around for others. Stress and adversity are bad for our telomeres. Policymakers should strive for societal stress reduction. In general, the higher the income inequality, the worst the mental health. We can all share knowledge with one another and try to be better. We are all connected with other organisms and have a natural connection with other creatures. We carry a shared part of the outside world. We are all more connected, more so than ever before. The first step is definitely to take care of yourself.

The End!

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The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel (Part 2)

Renewal Lab. Learn to reduce ‘ego threat’ stress. Tell yourself that your identity runs wide and deep. Write down the goals and values that matter most to you and stick to that. This has been proven to help reduce stress responses. When you understand that no one big event can hurt you, you become less stressed over the negative occurrence of any one event. Learn to distance your thoughts from your emotions. Use the third party pronoun and not ‘I’ too frequently. One can also apply time distancing, this means you imagine whether an event will affect you in 10 years’ time. One can also apply visual self-distancing. Imagine that you are viewing an event from afar. Pretend to be a third party witnessing yourself act. This technique of mentally stepping outside of your body can work well.

Mind Your Telomeres: Negative Thinking, Resilient Thinking. Thought suppression isn’t healthy and good for our telomeres. Negative thinking isn’t good too. Try to learn about your style of thinking. Cynical hostility isn’t good at all. A lot of these thoughts are actually automatic. One strategy is to learn to laugh at your negative thoughts. Hostility is associated with anger and thoughts that people cannot be trusted. Pessimists typically predict that a bad outcome is going to emerge. Pessimists are also associated with shorter telomeres. Pessimists tend to hate stressful situations and worry that they are not up to the mark. The human mind tends to wander and not focus on the task at hand. However, activities like sex, engaging in conversation and exercising produce less mind-wandering. If you are not fully engaged in an activity, you tend not to be happy. Multi-tasking actually is a source of noxious stress. To do something effectively, it is better to only do one thing at a time. It would be wise for you to try to eliminate distractions and to focus on the task at hand. Rumination is about rehashing your problems over and over again. Instead of finding a solution, people feel worse in this process. People who ruminate experience more depression and anxiety. Thought suppression is about pushing away unwanted thoughts. The more you try to push something away, the more it will call for your attention. This is also known as ironic error. Scolding yourself when negative thoughts emerge is unlikely to work. One can use resilient thinking, which is based on acceptance and mindfulness. Exercise thought awareness and loosen the grip of negative thought patterns. This is not thought stopping, but simply viewing the thoughts with more clarity. Meditation and long distance running can help with thought awareness. Stand like an observer and witness your thoughts passing by. A lot of the thoughts are repeat of thoughts that came before. Understand that thoughts will fade after a while. It is advisable not to believe everything that you think. Mindfulness is really about training the mind to focus. Now, I can focus better on whatever I do. Close your eyes and breathe once you experience negative thoughts. You do not need to go for a long course on mindfulness to be good. Meditating also increase your sense of purpose in life. A stronger life purpose can definitely give you better resilience in life. Being happy and having a purpose are often closely linked. Having a purpose is associated with eudaemonic happiness. This is associated with a strong sense of values and purpose. Volunteering to help the community can certainly be very rewarding. Volunteering can produce 2 to 3 years of reverse aging. Being conscientious is a good trait for your telomeres. These people tend to have long term goals and longer telomeres. Having good impulse control is important. Self-compassion is also another technique and it means kindness towards yourself and not beat yourself up. Be patient and be tolerant towards others. When you fail at something, do you berate yourself? It is good to be high in self-compassion. Developing self-reliance helps towards building stress resilience. Start your day with gratitude and say ‘I am alive and I will seize the day!’. Learn to understand your habits of thinking. When encountering something stressful, try to take a self-compassion break. Tell yourself that suffering is a part of life and also say ‘may I be kind to myself’. Be wary of the internal critic inside of you. Think about what do you want people who to remember you as in a few words as possible. Articulate what are the more important principles in your life and write them down. If your life is too boring, engage in cognitive exercises and do something out of the ordinary.

We push away our bad feelings, which inevitably roar back, and then we feel bad, and then we feel bad about feeling bad. – Elizabeth Blackburn

The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all. – Leo Rosten

When Blue Turns to Gray: Depression and Anxiety. Some people suffer from a panic attack, an intense episode of fear and anxiety. Depressed people feel that there is no possibility in life. If you have depression, the onset of more serious illnesses will come faster. Anxiety is characterized by dread/worry. Some people have anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are associated with shorter telomere lengths. Women who are depressed have shorter telomeres. Sometimes, people whose cells experience telomere shortening have cells producing more telomerase. However, this attempt at producing more telomere fails. Telomere length can also increase if the anxiety goes away after a while. Mice who are subjected to a lot of stress develop an excessive number of mitochondria. Depression is a dysfunctional response to stress. Negative thoughts are not signs that you are unworthy, but are substances of depression. If you are anxious, you will need to learn to face the fear of the item and deal with it head on, in a brave manner. Depression is chronic in nature. There is a sense of contentment of focusing all your attention on a small task. Take a 3 minute breathing break. Breathe and become aware. Gather your attention by breathing and exhaling slowly. Paced breathing can help to lower blood pressure.

Instead of frantically striving to change things, you can choose to do little things that bring you pleasure, and things that help you feel masterful and in control. – Elizabeth Blackburn

When we breathe in, our heart rate goes up. When we exhale, our heart rate goes down. By having a longer exhalation than inhalation, we can slow our heart rate more, and we can also stimulate the vagus nerve. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Master tips for renewal: Stress-reducing techniques shown to boost telomere maintenance. Meditation has a lot of benefits and has been shown to be able to improve well-being. People who meditate tend to have longer telomeres. Staying at a retreat has a powerful effect as you are unplugged from tech devices. Those without meditation experience can try the mindfulness based stress reduction programme or MBSR. MBSR is good for those who want to reduce stress. There is much literature on the health benefits of yoga. It improves the quality of life and mood for many people. It can improve spine bone density if practiced long term. Qigong is part of the wellness progress for Chinese medicine. Qigong reduces depression and may improve diabetes. Qigong exercises are easy and can give you a sense of calm in minutes.

Help your Body Protect its Cells. Stressful long-term events have the potential to contribute to telomere shortening. Do you suffer from mood disorders? Try to figure out how much social support do you have? The more physical activity you do, the better it is for your body. One should engage in aerobic activity at least 150 minutes per week and engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days per week. Exercising more can increase your telomerase levels too. Do consider your nutritional needs as well. Eat food with antioxidants and vitamins and avoid sugar carbonated beverages. Choose an area to focus on where you have weak scores. Choose one area to work on at a time.

Training Your Telomeres: How Much Exercise is Enough? Try to avoid being a weekend warrior when it comes to exercise. Do not overtrain or over-exert unnecessarily. Over-training is characterized by sleep changes, fatigue, mood swings etc. Telomeres do not need extreme fitness regimes to thrive on. How does exercise work wonders for your body? There are cellular benefits of exercise. Ideally, our cells should have enough antioxidants. When free radicals build up, it is bad for our body. Exercise is very valuable in the short term, as it stimulates the body to produce more antioxidants. When you exercise more, your body produces less cortisol and you feel calmer. People who exercise regularly have a more robust immune system. Exercising regularly can help to delay the onset of immunosenescence. Exercise also helps to maintain your telomeres. Both moderate aerobic endurance exercise and HIIT are useful. Those who increased their aerobic fitness the most experienced growth in telomerase activity. Strength training helps to improve bone density and muscle mass. Fitness is one of the keys for telomere health. Even though you might be naturally fit, exercise will still help you keep your telomeres healthy. Is too much exercise bad? The benefits of extreme endurance do not seem to be useful. It is important to start exercising when you are young, and never be discouraged. Learn to read the signs of over-training and avoid them as much as possible. Even if your schedule is packed, find time to slip in some exercise. In addition to your exercise regime, it is still important to keep moving throughout the day.

People who exercise live longer and have a lowered risk of high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And they avoid dementia for longer. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Exercise can improve your mood for up to 3 hours after working out and can reduce stress reactivity. Stress can shorten telomeres, but exercise shields telomeres from some of stress’s damage. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Tired Telomeres: From Exhaustion to Restoration. How can we get more sleep? Cognitive changes and mindfulness will enable you to get more sleep. If you feel sleepy during the day, it is a clear sign you need more sleep at night. Poor sleep will definitely affect your well-being in life. Insomnia is associated with shorter telomeres. Sleep is the most restorative activity that you can actually perform. REM sleep helps to regulate your appetite as well. Poor REM sleep results in higher level of cortisol and insulin, stimulating your appetite. Sleep helps us to refresh emotionally too. Longer sleep results in longer telomeres. 7 or more hours of sleep is the key. Sleep quality matters a lot too. Going to bed at regular hours help in your cell’s ability to regulate telomerase. When you suffer from insomnia, you tend to worry as you are afraid that you will not be able to function after a poor night’s sleep. When such thoughts come to mind, learn to challenge them instead. How can someone suffering from chronic insomnia get better sleep? Avoid engaging in mind-sapping activities just before bed-time. Avoid light sources like phones/laptops. One can consider some light reading/ some classical music. Blue light can supresses melatonin. Minimize light from windows and digital clocks, if possible. Tune out your environment from light and noise distractions. Always try to eat and sleep at regular times. Sleep procrastination is a big problem in modern society. If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, go for a check-up. Learn to adopt the following 5 bedtime rituals. The first is to spend 5 minutes in transition. The next is to listen to soothing music. Set a mood for relaxation Brew warm herbal tea. Perform bedtime stretches (gentle rolling of the head and neck, forward bend, child’s pose).

When you are well slept, you are better at learning and remembering. Tired people just aren’t as successful at focusing their attention, so they don’t take in new information as well. – Elizabeth Blackburn

If you feel terrible without 8 or 9 hours of sleep. Don’t try to scrape by with 7. Get those extra hours. And remember that rule of thumb, which offers highly customized sleep advice: If you feel sleepy during the day, you need more sleep at night. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Telomeres Weigh in: A Healthy Metabolism. Belly fat is something that must be avoided. It is a good idea to bring a salad to work as it is healthy. Some people find it hard not to think about food. Eating too much does affect your telomeres, but not as much as depression. Weight is a not very accurate measure of metabolic health. Dieting is not the only way to get healthier. You can be of a normal weight, but if you have a belly, it doesn’t bode well for you. Belly fat, high cholesterol and high blood pressures are key risk factors for diabetes. High belly fat might indicate poor glucose control or insulin resistance. Globally, 9% of people have diabetes. People with diabetes find that it is more difficult for glucose to enter the cells. People with belly fat tend to develop shorter telomeres. There is a connection between short telomeres and diabetes. Weight cycling (increase and decrease) is very unhealthy and should be avoided. Constantly thinking about eating less also produces a cognitive strain. Instead of dieting, one could be physically active and eat nutritious foods. Reducing sugar can lead to metabolic improvements and simple carbs are bad. There is mixed research on caloric restriction. Learn to measure your insulin sensitivity by testing your fasting insulin and glucose. Cutting back on sugar will work wonders for your body. When you crave for sugar, surf the urge. Sit down and close your eyes and imagine the snack and the flavour, but do not eat it. Understand that the cravings will pass and dissipate. Stop eating when you are moderately full, at around 7 or 8 out of 10.

This idea – that improving your metabolic health is more important than losing weight – is vital, and that’s because repeated dieting takes a toll on your body. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Our body has a set point that it defends, and when we lose weight, we also slow our metabolism in an effort to regain the weight (metabolic adaptation). – Elizabeth Blackburn

Dieting can create a semi-addictive state, and it’s also just plain stressful. Monitoring calories causes cognitive load, meaning that it uses up the brain’s limited attention and increases how much stress you feel. – Elizabeth Blackburn

To Be Continued 🙂

the-telomere-effect

The Telomere Effect by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel (Part 1)

A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer

Part 1: Telomeres – A Pathway to Living Younger

Preface. We all want a healthy life right up to the very end. We can live better than ever before. Telomere science can really help us. Our DNA can become damaged but it is important why did it become damaged. The main cause might be due to telomeres shortening. Science has revealed that it is able to reverse the attrition or slow it down. Human aging is a puzzle but we have more information now on how to combat it. We now have a better understanding of telomere maintenance. There are also ways to improve cell longevity, without risk. Almost all of the stories are drawn from real-life people and experiences.

A Tale of Two Telomeres. Kara often catches a cold in office. Also, she suffers a lot from stress at work. She also has a haggard appearance. On the other hand, Lisa looks vibrant and energetic. The fact is that both of them are of the same age. However, biologically, Kara seems older. Lisa also suffers from plenty of stress in her life. Kara’s cells are aging prematurely. We all have our own healthspan and diseasespan. Lisa’s diseasespan is much shorter than Kara’s. Why do people age differently? In the past, people thought that aging was a natural process which you could nothing about. Genes matter, however, so do environmental factors. Which is right? Nature or nurture? Genes or environment. It is possible to reverse aging. Telomeres are found at the end of our chromosomes and shorten with each cell division. Therefore, cellular health is extremely important. Elissa and Liz have studied biology and health psychology for ages. There are many factors that can influence your telomeres. Cells divide in a process called mitosis but can only do so for a finite number of times. There is a Hayflick limit and short telomeres help prevent cell division. Stem cells are not subject to this limit. Senescent cells are those which are senile and stop dividing. When your cells stop growing, you tend to age. More people are able to live more fruitfully and to an older age. Age is by far the largest determinant of chronic diseases. Our chromosomes are like shoelaces and the aglets are like telomeres. We can adopt a more positive attitude towards life. Meditation is proven to be able to help reduce stress. Exercise is also great for telomeres. Processed meat is bad for them. Although these actions are not new, if you understand the link of the connection and their actions, the change is more lasting. It is possible to reverse the effects of premature aging. One should always try to cultivate their telomeres. If you are in good health, you will be able to achieve a lot more in life. Try to learn to focus your mind on the current. Focus on what you are currently doing.

Genes load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger. – George Bray

You’re born with a particular set of genes, but the way you live can influence how your genes express themselves. – Elizabeth Blackburn

But short telomeres are one of the primary reasons human cells grow old, and they are one mechanism that controls the Hayflick limit. – Elizabeth Blackburn

Part 1 – Telomeres: A Pathway to Living Younger

How Prematurely Aging Cells Make you Look, Feel, and Act Old. People who look older than their age tend to be sicker earlier. Prematurely aging apples is like a rotten apple among a group of normal apples. We have a lot of renewing cells, called proliferatively cells. Our healthy cells will continue to renew themselves. Stem cells can divide and produce proliferative cells. Once a cell is old and becomes senescent, it cannot divide anymore. Senescent cells are bad and can affect the good cells around it. Ask yourself, ‘How old do you look? How would you rate your physical health? How old do you feel?’ Telomeres play a big part in the aging process and your appearance. Our skin’s fibroblasts secrete less collagen and elastin as it ages. It also becomes thinner and more wrinkled. In older people, skin cells lose their ability to divide. UV rays can damage telomeres. Skin cells should be protected from the sun as much as possible. Similar concepts occur for bone loss, greying hair etc. Your appearance actually reflects inner health. People with short telomeres tend to suffer from chronic inflammation. A shortened telomere is likely to refuse help from other immune cells. Cells of the endothelium need to replenish themselves if you want a healthy heart. People with short telomere length are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease in future. Poor lung health might also be caused by short telomeres. People with early cognitive problems tend to have shorter telomeres. If you think lowly about old people, you might suffer from the stereotype embodiment in future. Try to remind yourself of the positive sides to aging as well. Typically, old people experience more positive emotions as compared to younger people. Older people have a deeper emotional experience. Try to envision what kind of life you would want to enjoy and lead when you are old. Try to keep up your social life and stay interested in your work. Be interested in learning and trying new experiences. Try to give back to the community in your golden years as well.

The Power of Long Telomeres. Melanocytes are the skin’s color cells which help to keep the skin evenly toned. Short telomeres can also lead to scarred lungs, low blood count, weak immune system etc. Inherited telomere syndromes are fortunately, very rare in people. These people might also need stem cell transplants. We have much more control over premature cellular aging. It is easy to study Tetrahyemena’s telomere structure. Telomeres help to protect our chromosomes. The first strand of human telomeres start with repeating sequences of TTAGGG and are coupled with the pair AATCCC. These are coiled in a helix shape that is our DNA. Telomeres is unlike the gene, as it sits on the edge of the chromosome that contains genes. When our cell divides, the telomeres lose base pairs from the sequence at the ends of each chromosome, hence, it tends to get shorter. According to research, short telomeres can predict early mortality. It is also linked to major diseases of aging.

Chapter 3: Telomerase, the Enzyme That Replenishes Telomeres

I continued my research in UC Berkeley in 1978. I saw the Tetrahymena’s telomeres actually growing and that came as a surprise to me. In fact, the telomeres were in fact growing. There was a sign of a new enzyme at work that was causing telomere growth. Telomerase could actually add new telomere patterns on the biochemical sequence. We confirmed this after much testing and research. Could we increase our supply of telomerase and would that lead to a better quality of life? However, inactivating telomerase made the cells more mortal. Those who have a genetic mutation that slashes telomerase levels suffer from severe inherited telomere syndrome. Can we artificially give ourselves more telomerase? However, there is a dark side to telomerase. Uncontrolled cell growth is the hallmark of cancer, where the cells don’t stop dividing. Hence, bigger may not necessarily be better. Instead of artificial means, we should use natural means instead, as they are more gentle. If we could turn off the telomerase in just the cancer cells, it help might a lot to prolong life. Our body knows the right amount of telomerase on telomeres. To help our body, we can adopt a lifestyle full of renewal strategies. We wanted to investigate whether stress could shorten telomeres. We wanted to test mothers with children with chronic illnesses. We can actually change the way we live through lifestyle changes.

Renewal Labs: A Guide. This is an area where you can try practical applications on how to change your daily life to improve your cellular health. Treat it as an experiment, but if you like the results you are seeing, make it into a long term habit.

Part 2: Your Cells are Listening to Your Thoughts

Assessment: Your Stress Response Style Revealed. Think about dealing with the situation. Try not to let a stressful situation affect the rest of your well-being. There are techniques which can be used to change habits. Rumination is also known as brooding. Is your pride damaged? Positive reappraisal is the re-thinking of stressful situations in a positive light.

Chapter 4: Unraveling: How Stress Gets into Your Cells. There are different types of stress: toxic vs typical. Stress can actually affect our immune system. Caregiving can be very stressful experience as it is both emotionally and physically demanding. Caregivers are truly unappreciated and underpaid. Chronic stress can erode telomeres. People experience stress in many different ways. People who are under stress tend to look more haggard too. Short telomeres can lead to depression and vice versa. How much stress is too much? Stress and telomere have a dose-response relationship. A manageable level of stress is good because they build up your coping skills. However, chronic stress for many years will take a toll on you. Long term caregiving can lead to burnout and another cause is job-related stress. Short term stress is fine as it has shown not to have an impact on telomere length. The tactic is to try to get out of long term psychological toxic situations, where possible. It is also possible to use stress as a shield to help protect your telomeres. We tested the mums on how they coped with stress and found out that those who could cope better had longer telomeres. The fact is that people have different stress responses to the same situation. The threat response is not good as it should only be flipped in the event of an emergency. Stress responses can be bad and you must have an understanding of how your body reacts when feeling stressed. Anticipatory threat responses are bad because you feel stressed even before the event has occurred. One can see a potentially stressful situation and frame it as a sense of challenge instead. The challenge response is actually desirable. There are basically 2 different responses to stress: feeling threatened or being challenged. You can’t control difficult events in your life but you can shift the way you view the events. If you were brought up in a poor environment, you might experience the threat response more. However, it is possible to develop the challenge response over time. The human brain is powerful and predicts things ahead of time. Our emotions happen also because of our fabricated image of the world. We can choose to be challenged. Athletes see stress as a useful way to help them perform. Therefore, if framed in this manner, stress can be useful indeed. Learn to relax once in a while. We can choose where to place our attention in the moment. Anticipating a stressful event is bad for us. Hence, worrying over the occurrence of an event is really not a good idea. Chronic stress will weaken your immune system, causing it to weaken. We have a lot of T-cells, which helps us build immunity against viruses. The old are vulnerable to illness, because their T-cells have weakened. People with short telomeres tend to fall sick more easily. Shorter telomeres lead to more inflammation.

It’s not just from experiencing a stressful event, it’s also from feeling threatened by it, even if the stressful event hasn’t happened yet. – Elizabeth Blackburn

To Be Continued

the-telomere-effect

Simplicity of Life by Ivy Tan

Be an Influential Magnet For Positive Change and Abundance in Life

Introduction. Singapore is resilient and was able to navigate the Asian economic crisis in 1997 and the sub-prime crisis in 2008 successfully. Many were worried over their livelihood. Ying was mistreated as a child as her parents favored boys. Ying was not treated well by her parents. Her parents divorced but no one wanted custody of Ying. It was her grandpa that took care of her. The court ruled that the mother would have custody of Ying but later, also had difficulty in raising her. Her mum treated her harshly. This lasted for a total of 8 years as Ying completed her primary school. Grandpa was the only one who cared for her. Ying’s mother was addicted to gambling. Ying did well in Primary 8 and could go on to secondary school. However, despite this, Ying’s mother was not proud of her achievements and hit her. Ying tried to cut herself unsuccessfully and finally decided to go home. She tried to kill herself again, but was yet unsuccessful. She was warded in hospital and Grandpa visited her. Once, she witnessed a guy who swallowed many panadols to kill himself. She reached out and requested for others to help him. Due to Ying’s help, the guy managed to live. Ying was amazed that she could save someone else’s life even though she was in trouble herself. She drew strength from her own journey to help others. This was the turning point in her life. Now, she is an inspirational speaker and an international professional facilitator.

Part 1: You

Discovering life. Everyone is a gift to this world. What’s holding you back from achieving your goals and self-actualization? We all have to go through the different phases of life, including ageing. We all have to be brave and face death head on. On your death bed, looking back at your life, would you have been satisfied with your achievements? What legacy have you left behind in your life? How would you spend your time? The bulk of time would have been used for your loved ones, sleep and work. This leaves you little time for self-actualization.

Part 2: You Can. This chapter is about the 3Ps, Passion, Purpose and Potential. These are integral parts of your life that mustn’t be neglected. Having a purpose will help sustain your drive along a difficult journey. This could be like wanting to find a stable job etc. However, purpose doesn’t suddenly appear from nowhere. It usually comes from your curiosity and desire for knowledge. Working with others who are passionate will also motivate you to work harder. Remember that it is important to have a purpose as it will shut the naysayers up. Having passion can help support or nourish your Purpose. Some leaders apply operant conditioning, which is similar to the ‘carrot and stick’ model. An example of classical conditioning is when one is forced to provide frequent updates. There are 5 levels to Maslows’ Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization. Passionate is not in-born and has to be cultivated. With purpose and passion, can you achieve your potential? Your attitude and behavior will have a great impact over your learning and development.

Part 3: You Can Do. Everyone experiences their feelings differently. For humans, our emotions affect our attitudes and behaviors. The words of others can trigger an emotion in you, leading you to take a course of action. One should not aim to change your emotions, because that wouldn’t be your authentic self. It is much easier to control your choices as compared to your thoughts/ emotions. Do not enter self-denial and let your choices affect the subsequent tone of voice/ choice of words. One should take a breather and think about their choices logically. We tend to only tell the truth towards those whom we can trust. It is hence important to stay logical and tell the truth. Always remember that you have the power to choose. The first C in Choice is Consider. Resist jumping into conclusions. Try to approach life with less expectations as that would lead to less disappointments. One event in a day is completely unrelated to another in a day and you should not link the two. The second letter is H, which is for Hold. This refers to choosing a proactive attitude instead of a reactive one. This also means exploring options and choices. The third letter is O, which is for Observe. Make Sense with SENSES (Seek, Examine, Note, Study, Evaluate, Steer). Learn to observe the pattern and practice a logical questioning technique to get to the root of the issue.

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U-Live Health Talk on Mental Illness

  1. Get at least eight hours of sleep a day

You are more alert and less prone to stress after a good night’s rest. Getting enough sleep can also improve your memory.

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, cut the risk of dementia and mental decline

Good nutrition is a natural defence against stress. Begin your day with a nutritious breakfast, preferably of wholegrain cereals and fruits, and take balanced meals throughout the day.

  1. Keep yourself active. At least 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week, is ideal

Exercising keeps you physically strong, and reduces or prevents stress. Go for a walk or unwind with yoga. It is better to do moderate exercise regularly than to have a heavy workout occasionally.

  1. Interact with others. Talk to another person for at least 10 minutes daily

Talking to people stimulates the brain. A study in the US found that talking to another person for just 10 minutes a day improves memory scores. Also, the more you interact with others, the faster your brain will work.

  1. Pick up a new skill or hobby

Learning to play a musical instrument, acquiring computer skills, starting a new hobby or learning to cook a new dish can help keep your brain active and healthy.

  1. Get a mental workout. Scrabble or Mahjong anyone?

Engaging in mind-boggling games involves a combination of memory, decision-making and strategizing, which keeps the brain active and prevents dementia. In addition, playing in a group will boost interaction.

  1. Do something for others. This is the best remedy when you’re feeling down

Helping a friend or family member, or doing community work helps you to take the focus away from yourself. In turn, you will feel more positive and less helpless.

  1. Learn to manage stress. Shift your mindset and make a list

Make a list of goals and check them off when they are completed. This will help you tackle things one at a time. Seeing problems as opportunities or focusing on the positive can also help to reduce stress. Stress cannot be avoided, but you can learn to manage stress.

  1. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. They are not the solutions to problems

If you have emotional problems, seek support from family and friends, or get professional help. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs provide only temporary relief from stress and unhappiness.

  1. Laughter is the best medicine.

Laugh yourself silly and have fun whenever you can. Laughing can help to keep the doctor away because humo​ur activates the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, generating emotions and relaxing the mind.

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Small Pleasures by The School of Life (Part 2)

Sunday Mornings. It is a quiet morning and you do not have much to accomplish or do. Sundays are the days for us to explore ourselves and to rediscover ourselves. In the past, Sundays were set aside for religion. However, your time on Sundays are special and should be protected. It can be frustrating if your day is filled up with distractions. One has the opportunity to re-engage with the wider horizons of one’s life. We can focus on the silent and the eternal. This is a place of tenderness and beauty. Sunday mornings are our distinct, unusual time which should be guarded at all cost.

You’re briefing liberated from the pressure of watching the clock; you don’t need to keep up. No one will be expecting anything of you until tomorrow morning. – The School of Life

A Beloved’s Wrist. The skin on the inside of the forearm is smooth and delicate. Looking at your beloved’s wrist can renew tender feelings. It can lead to remember why you first fell in love with them. You can trace to their hand actions and remember things from their past which triggered them to perform as such.

A Favorite Old Jumper. It’s one that you hardly wear. There is a hole in it now. However, you know that it has been through a lot with you. It was lovely to wear it. People will come to love us precisely for the small things.

With the jumper we rehearse something key. It is a transitional object that helps us along the path not from childhood to adulthood but towards old age. – The School of Life

Holding Hands with a Small Child. We try to be encouraging and sweet to the little ones we once were. You are fascinated by how charming the kid can be. You become fascinated with the world, just like the kid.

And for a brief pointed time one is astonished by the utter strangeness of the course of human experience which gradually takes everyone from childhood to death. – The School of Life

Old Stone Walls. You do not know the exact date the walls were built, but centuries of harsh weather has affected the stone. It has been around for ages. Time usually brings things to ruin. Thins can be get better as they age. The old wall looks better as it ages. The idea of a wall is something we welcome with a feeling of joy.

The old is a good image of ageing and endurance: it’s not getting worse; strangely, it’s nicer because it is older, counteracting our fears that to be old is to be worn out, unlovable, useless and ignored. – The School of Life

Realising You Both Dislike the Same Popular Person. Somehow, you have learned to be cautious and avoid certain types of people. Sometimes, you don’t like those who keep accommodating and prefer those who speaks their mind. Shared antipathy can bond people together. You feel bonded over the hatred for someone.

It’s lovely not having to explain or defend one’s feelings in a hostile environment. It’s a relief not having to politely nod in supposed agreement just to keep the peace. – The School of Life

Feeling at Home in the Sea. It might require some courage to dip yourself in the ocean, but you gradually realize that it isn’t too difficult. You will bob up and down. You use a mask and snorkel, which enables you to breathe. Now, you can be yourself underground. Shapes and things look bizarre underwater. You are now thrilled by the adventurous part of you.

And when you emerge, dripping and pleasantly tired, and make your way to the warm beach, you bring that part of yourself with you back from the sea, where it had been living in exile, waiting for you. – The School of Life

“Bad” Magazines. You would probably not want to buy such magazines. You wouldn’t want to be seen outside reading it too. It can be oddly pleasing. We are encountering different ways of being. By reading these magazines, we can get more in touch with our other selves. We also become less dismissive of others after reading about them. It is a small pleasure.

The lives we actually lead are tiny slivers of what is imaginatively possible. A slight shift in the past could have led to a very different kind of existence. There are lots of ways we could conceivably have turned out. – The School of Life

The Song You Want to Listen to Again and Again. The song has grown on you. You might have heard it before but have forgotten about it. But now, you want to listen to it all the time and can’t get enough of it. But we can’t explain why we love the song so much. Our brains take cues from sounds. ‘Ave Maria’ enfold us in tenderness. Music has the power to move us and influence us. Hey Jude lyrics – Don’t be Afraid is very powerful indeed. Some songs encourage us to recognize the vulnerability in others. Mozart’s music can be gracious and sad.

A Book That Understands You. A book gets you. The author never knew you but it seems like he did for a long time. Everything is on target. You might feel lonely even though you are surrounded by people and loved ones. Such a good book will tackle problems which you normally ignore. The book can actually validate your sufferings, telling you that it is okay to be who you are.

Our weirder sorrows – or enjoyments – are recast as valid parts of human experience, which can be met with sympathy and kindness. – The School of Life

Crying Cathartically Over the Death of a Fictional Character. Why do we mourn their deaths? Lovely things might seem weak. Things can be transient. We feel sorry when we disagree with them. We often do not express our love fully when the person is still around. We are angry at the idiotic randomness of death. No one deserves to die. When it comes to death, death reorganizes our priorities.

We may only realise the full extent of our love for people too late. We are being agonisingly alerted not just to a possible loss, but to a failure of our own. – The School of Life

Pleasant Exhaustion After a Productive Day. It is 9:45pm and you are happy with your work progress made. Your body is aching slightly but you feel good. You make a nice cup of tea. Your brain has done its work. You thought that it couldn’t be done initially, but you accomplished it nonetheless. You feel confident about solving your own problems in your outside life, come what may. We feel honourable tiredness. It is pleasant tiredness and feel like sleep is our reward.

The pleasure we feel after a good but hard day’s work is linked to a positive experience of willpower. It was tempting to break off; you could have put it off until tomorrow, but you didn’t. You stuck with the big thing. – The School of Life

It’s also to do with a sense of mastery: in anticipation we slightly feared the task. But we got on top of this tricky thing and we tamed it. – The School of Life

We’re capable of rousing ourselves, of focus and of sustained effort. We can stick with something difficult and keep going through the temptations to break off and seek distraction. We’ve been just a little bit heroic and we know it and it feels nice. – The School of Life

Old Photos of One’s Parents. You spot a young photo of your mum, when we was about 8. What was it like to be alive back then? You also spot a photo of your dad when he was much younger. By from these photos, we realize that we hardly know them when they were younger. We know that our parents are trying our best. Our parent’s life wasn’t mainly about us.

Whispering in Bed in the Dark. You are talking to your partner in the dark. Whispering feels sexy. Deep privacy can be very liberating. Whispering in the dark is important. We need the assistance of cues. You can be tender without much fear. You are joining forces with your childhood self.

And this what gives whispering in the dark its special place in our lives. We have all the liberating benefits of being alone – but we are also with another person. – The School of Life

Cypress Trees. You have a soft spot for them, just that you didn’t know. They feel both shy and aloof. They feel private. The tree is a sermon of endurance and can live for ages on end. It will be around long after you are gone. The trees can grow well in places that are not hospitable. It is an image of resilience.

A tree is stuck in the single place where it was planted or where the seed happened to fall into a little crevice. Naturally, we’re attracted to the idea of being able to alter our condition, but sometimes we just have to put up with difficulties. Our bigger commitments tie us to a situation. – The School of Life

News of a Scientific Discovery. It can be charming. All science is interesting. However, scientific discoveries are linked with progress. Nature is a dark mystery but we like to investigate it. We can work together towards these discoveries. It is not by pure luck. Thorough research went into the research. This is the collective power of humanity. A lot of areas have been researched on and understood. Hopefully, these discoveries will be translated into textbooks and synthesized for the young.

Feeling Someone Else is Wrong. Sometimes, we know deep down that someone else is wrong. We feel good because we are absolutely right and they are absolutely wrong. We get an appreciation of our own intelligence. For most of the time, we don’t know for certain whether we are right. It is satisfying to us. You can cope with your terrors and can hold your own in conversations etc. We feel a sense of cognitive progress.

The Teasing of Old Friends. You don’t mind being teased by friends and are okay with it. A lesson is delivered in an interesting form. We do not see it as a form of criticism. However, if knowledge is wrapped in a wrong way, we may reject learning it. You know your friends are not malicious but only want you to learn. We despair knowledge and love – being united. However, when it comes to friends, it is possible to find the sweet spot. You can also tease them back and you know that they won’t mind at all.

Getting Over a Row. You got angry because you wanted to make a point which they couldn’t see. You don’t want to apologise. As we cool down, we might experience small pleasures. At work, you do not dare to be angry because you fear to be so. It also feels good to have cleared the air. You can look at them in a more measured way. At least, you both tackled the troublesome issue. Forgiveness is also important. Sometimes, we can just make do with small problems.

A relationship has to include the madder, more unreasonable parts of ourselves. If I can be overtly angry with you, it’s because you have made me feel safe enough to be so. – The School of Life

Conflict is a pretty much unavoidable part of living closely with another person and being involved in big, complicated mutual undertakings. But we’re all right now and that’s nice – until the next time. – The School of Life

Planning the Ideal Routine. It is nice to write out a plan for your week ahead. Having a schedule means that we should be using our time wisely. We should assign the tasks to distinct slots. You can also include tasks like napping and thinking. Make time for thinking about your past etc. For chores, plan them at one go in a week, followed by a small reward after the chores. A routine can keep you on track and on the ball. You always wanted to be more organized, productive and a routine will help you get there.

You won’t have to decide to do them and summon a special burst of willpower: after the first dozen times they start to become semi-automatic. The day begins to flow. You’re not always prodding and badgering yourself to get on with what you should be doing. – The School of Life

Finally Gaining the Respect of a Previously Suspicious Colleague. Now, your colleague smiles at you. They are happy to see you around. They have sweet sides for you too. They wanted to see if you could prove yourself. Prove yourself you did. It is normal for people not to warm up to you from the start. But that’s okay.

This person’s goodwill is worth having because they don’t give it away automatically. They have warmed to you because you have proved yourself. Their approval is a measure of your own development. – The School of Life

‘Getting’ A Great Work of Art for Yourself. We are worried that we will seem ignorant. Why should one even care about art? Sometimes, you might find works that speak to you. Mood is a crucial ingredient in the experience. In the right mood, things look great. Understanding a piece is a very personal thing. The works exists for you.

That’s why getting one work of art opens a door to the enjoyment of many others. Because you’ve discovered in yourself the key to engagement. – The School of Life

Midnight Walks. You need to get away from something. You glow in the night. The street lamps seem fascinating. You try to touch the moon. Midnight walks help the brain to think. In reality, there could be many things bugging you. Select one to think about when you are walking. Avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly. You don’t really know what is going on in another person’s mind. Our complaints are endless but a stroll in the night will lead you to forget that. Our life’s problems are legitimate and normal. We are mapping some emotional terrain. Learn to define the need. Why am I really stuck with an annoying partner? Sometimes, you must understand that not everything is in your control. Life is short and yet humans want to feel important.

But at midnight, away from others, we can briefly get enough distance to recall the strangeness of being human. We are deeply peculiar organisms; we are mysteries to one another and to ourselves; we don’t really know why we ourselves do what we do half the time. – The School of Life

In the night it’s a little easier to keep in mind that the human condition is sombre; we are frail creatures inhabiting the outer crust of a minuscule lump of rock orbiting a very average star. – The School of Life

But at other points it is sweet to feel that maybe our actions don’t matter – they will be lost in the greater tides of human existence, and all our follies and errors will melt away very soon, as if they had never been. – The School of Life

Flirtation. You often have to speak to someone else from another company over the phone. He seems to be flirting with you. It’s a flirtatious moment. You might flirt with an old friend at a party. Flirting is a mating ritual. However, it might not be erotic in nature but more aligned with friendship. Not everything should be viewed as foreplay. We need reminders from others that we are lovely. Flirting can be also seen as a demonstration of kindness and interest. Flirtation is safe in a workplace environment. It is a safe version of seduction.

Essentially, when we flirt we are showing another person that we like them and find them attractive. – The School of Life

The First Day of Feeling Well Again. You were sick for the past few days. Being unwell sucks. Someone bought you a gift to make you feel better. When sick, you suffered from low energy levels and didn’t bother much about work. Your sexual appetites waned and you felt calm. Feeling energetic is important. Your appetite is now back in order and you feel much better. When sick, you start to imagine things, just like a child.

Daisies. They are simply too small and can live from year to year. It is one of the nature’s most charming colour arrangements. The petals close up when in the dark and re-open in the day. Like the daisy, biological factors dominate and control us too. We get affected by events and it affects our moods etc. Daisies are abundant.

We disdain the daisy for an unfortunate reason: it is abundant. It’s a victim of the unfortunate idea that to be special something has to be rare. – The School of Life

Figs. You might encounter it once in a while. You don’t think much of it. However, it seems charming and tastes pleasant. Rituals are important. It provides a sense of appreciation in order to get us into a valuable state of mind. The ritual comes as a timely reminder for us. Rituals are usually developed over a large period of time. Similarly, small pleasures need rituals. The pull of it is smaller and that is why we need reminding.

The pull of small pleasures is much weaker than that of sex or video games or drinking wine or wolfing down a bar of chocolate; these are pleasures we need no reminding of, and we often have to painfully struggle to limit their sway in our lives. With small pleasures it’s the opposite. We’re more likely to lose touch with them. They easily get crowded out. We actively need to build up their presence in our lives. – The School

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Small Pleasures by The School of Life (Part 1)

This book will guide us to the life’s small pleasures

Preface. This book examines the 52 of life’s small pleasures. These are not usually widely celebrated. This book covers each one in detail. Small pleasures are often not well understood.

Small pleasures turn out not to be small at all: they are points of access to the great themes of our lives. – The School of Life

It can at first sound slightly strange to say that we don’t automatically and naturally know how to enjoy ourselves. But the pursuit of pleasure is a skill which we need to learn. – The School of Life

The Fish Shop. You stare in awe of the beauty and strangeness of the sea creatures. Oysters have their own home. They might seem weird, but we co-habit the same planet. We share the same ancestors. Looking at a dead fish can re-enhance us. We become fascinated by nature. Learn to appreciate the smell of salt and water and ice. Learn to develop a sense of pleasure of something wholesome and full.

We’ve been too hasty; we’re overlooked almost everything. The world is full of fascination; there is so much to be explored. And we have been led to this renewed appetite by the head of a fish. – The School of Life

Small Islands. You examine the island from afar, from the comfort of a passenger airline. You will big and in control on a small island. You will feel large. The island is small enough for you to take a drive. The scenery is impressive and you can spot hills and various streets. Life’s problems are not easily solved. Our longing for control leads to frustration. The small island feels good because it is contained and you can get anywhere in a short drive. Things start to become familiar on a small island and you become intimate to them.

A small island is not just a place on the map; it’s a psychological destination, a model of simplifying your life and making do with what is immediately to hand. – The School of Life

Stars. There are so trillions of trillions of stars out there, but we don’t notice them. We feel humbled being so small. From Earth, we can appreciate the magnitude of the cosmos. The stars look packed but in essence, they are so far apart from one another. We have no control over the cosmos and it is wonderful indeed. You don’t need to be a science professional to learn to appreciate the night sky. It is a sense of grandeur.

The stars matter in our lives because they offer a consoling encounter with grandeur, because they invite a helpful perspective on the brevity and littleness of human existence. – The School of Life

The regular appreciation of these and related small pleasures makes a major contribution to the elusive but crucially important notion of the quality of existence. – The School of Life

Grandmothers. You have spent some time just with your grandma. She showed you some of the things that mattered most to her. She can be a transitional object. It provides some form of psychological lifeline back to maternal love and security. The child can feel safe and discuss problems with her. As she is old, she understands fragility well. In addition, she knows her time on Earth is limited and will learn to appreciate its existence. She is still concerned for you, no matter what. She is cozy and wise. It is lovely when she reads to you. Her love is unconditional and she will love you whether you will do well in school or not. She just wants your presence. There is an absence of desire, which is very unique in today’s world. We all like tenderness.

Because her love is unconditional, it has the potentially maddening tendency to look right past some of your actual merits, which are the present focus your own sense of who you are. – The School of Life

The Friend who Listens. We need to learn to focus on friendship. No one has listened to us in the past. Society focuses too much on speaking. People are curious and love to keep asking questions. People who listen reconnect your chat and talk about philosophical ambitions. Good listeners don’t moralize and do not interrupt. They reassure us. They are happy for us to be vulnerable. They separate disagreement from criticism. Good listeners help to make society better for everyone.

Take-off. It is an amazing feeling when the plane first ascends. We can see the immense horizon. We can cover so much ground in the air. It is a display of power. Our eyes try to decipher what we see from the air. From the plane, our world appears so small. The clouds seem like perfect seats for an angel. It seems cool to eat among the clouds and we feel homely. The clouds make it tranquil and life seem peaceful.

And to think that all along, hidden from our sight, our lives were this small: the world we live in but almost never see; the way we must appear to the hawk and to the gods. – The School of Life

A Night Alone in a Hotel. You stay in a hotel overnight near the airport and can hear the planes roaring away. You ordered room service and your food is served. It is difficult for you to fall asleep as you switch on the TV. In a foreign land, not being able to sleep might be a blessing. You get to relax here and return to yourself. That day, you do not think of the difficult questions like where is your career going etc. No one will disturb you and you think about life. For tonight, insomnia is a gift for you to understand yourself better.

Sunbathing. You are in Rhodes to get more sunshine. The sky is blue and you have been craving sunshine for the longest time. You hardly miss winter at all. You feel you long for the sun. Sunshine is indeed a welcome respite. You need the virtues of the South too. You have come in search for wisdom and balance.

Sunshine is an agent of moral qualities: of generosity, courage, the appreciation of the present moment, confidence…When the world seems bountiful, material accumulation looks less impressive. – The School of Life

The Desert. You are in the middle of nowhere and there is nothing to compare to. You will feel intimate with yourself in the desert. Meditate on your utter insignificance. The desert is indifferent to your life. It gives you a renewal of perspective. The Universe is mightier than you and you have to accept its power.

Everything we do and are is in truth meaningless – when considered from a sufficient distance, from the perspective of the timeless stones, the boundless vistas, the infinite heavens. – The School of Life

We are frail and temporary and have no alternative but to accept the limitations on our will; that we must bow to necessities greater than ourselves. – The School of Life

Finding Your Feet Abroad. You might experience language difficulties. Everything seems foreign to you. Shyness is not an option. When you travel, you learn to be more confident. Smiling is indeed really useful. There is nothing to fear.

There is vast quantity of goodwill circulating in the world just below the surface and which we usually delve into too rarely. But now perhaps we can more often. – The School of Life

Being Up Late at Night. Late at night is when your mind has time to wander. There are infinite possibilities. We can tolerate all our possibilities. It is just us and the Universe and there are no expectations of us late at night.

The Charm of Cows. Cows are great and are not selfish. They are also easy-going and easily satisfied. They also protect their dignity. They harbor no bitterness. It doesn’t judge you. They do not care what you think of them. Looking at them can make your day.

Up at Dawn. It’s 5:45am. The sky is starting to turn purple. It looks impressive but you realize you hardly see it because you are asleep. Dawn is when you forgot everything that happened yesterday. This place looks magical. The human world will drown them out. You are missing the delicate things in life. The air feels fresh. You start to pay attention to nature and the things around you more in the morning. There is beauty in the tower block and you realized there is life out and about. You say hi. You feel at ease in the world and you feel serene. Every day is a fresh start and that is the good thing about life.

You can’t make there be 25 hours in the day. Yet now it does feel like you are in possession of an extra slice of existence; it’s always been there, but you’ve only just found it. – The School of Life

Staring out of the Window. It can seem like a waste of time as it serves no purpose. This is associated with boredom. It is essentially about figuring out what is in your mind. There is a lot of unexplored potential in our mind. Looking outside the window will give us a different perspective of life. Our ideas are like birds fluttering. We need purpose-free calm. We should learn the prospect of daydreaming. We miss the simple pleasures of looking out a window.

Window daydreaming is a little strategic rebellion against the excessive demands of immediate pressures – in favour of the diffuse, but very serious, search for the wisdom of the unexplored deep self. – The School of Life

A Hot Bath. It is easy to get carried away imagining a happy life. Focus on the reliable pleasures and satisfaction. A hot bath is one such example. You start by adjusting the temperature. You understand the hard work that is required to bring hot water to you. The bath allows us to be cozy. It is especially good in cold weather. The pleasure of the bath is primarily intellectual. They produce productive thinking. In many religions, bathing is a ritual that is strictly followed. Taking hot baths is your own virtue. They still have a wonderful way of influencing the psyche.

Indulgent Pessimism. Pessimism can indeed be a source of pleasure. It might a good strategy to safeguard happiness. We get disappointed when things go according to expectations. Anticipating the worst is a good idea.

Therefore, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to recognize that our griefs are not incidental or passing, but a fundamental aspect of existence which will only get worse – until the worst of all happens. – The School of Life

The pleasure of pessimism isn’t linked to being mean or bitter. It’s grounded, in fact, on sympathy. This is an antidote to the oppressive modern demand to look only on the bright side. – The School of Life

Self-Pity. Self-pity can be painful. We lament our small problems which in the grand scheme of things don’t matter much. We feel it quite often. Life can be harsh sometimes. Therefore, we deserve pity and since no one there to give us any, we shall supply a fair dose of it to ourselves. We should not lose the act of self-pity. Feeling sorry for yourself is a coping mechanism. This will tell us we are misunderstood and undemanding and in need for love.

Crushes. You cannot stop looking at her. You sense a crush but she disappears afterwards. It can happen to another. This might seem like a small moment but it could be developed into something bigger. This is the perfect form of philosophy. We imagine an image of beauty. In reality, such a person might be different from what we imagined. You can’t put a crush into practice so simply. The pleasure of imagining an ideal person is great and can bring some joy.

Keeping Your Clothes On. It is assumed that sex scenarios are associated with nudity.In fact, it stems between the contrast between prohibition and acceptance. Deliberately keeping clothes on can prove to be a turn-on as a way to heighten excitement. You might retain a sense of anticipation. It might seem thrilling. You are toying or the other party is toying with the privileges of permission when you are trying to keep your clothes on.

Kissing. Kissing is nice. It helps us to deepen our appreciation for someone. Why is kissing so significant and potentially so exciting? Sexual excitement is psychological. Something happens in our brains. Kissing has been built up as a social norm to mean that I accept you – accept you so much that I will take a big risk with you. It is psychologically pleasing. Kissing provides a brief break from loneliness. There is no need to analyze why kissing is pleasurable.

Children’s Drawings. Drawings can be very pleasing. Their artwork possesses a form of inner balance and well-being. Their art is an evidence of trust. Adults are more wary people. We are often hit by waves of anxiety. There is beauty in inaccuracy in children’s art too. They are not concerned with whether what they do is right or not. We live in a complex and modern society. Innocent trust and imagination tend to be lacking in adults. Children’s art provide an opportunity for us to know our own needs.

Crimes in the Newspaper. You had a rough day but you read some articles on crimes in the newspapers. Why should one find pleasure in this sort of things? These criminals actually look normal. The criminals are too strange and make our strangeness seem not that remarkable after all. In contrast to the atrocities that Hitler committed, you are nothing in comparison.

But the truth is we’re not actively egging on criminals, we’re not glad these things happened. On the contrary, it’s the very fact that they are clearly so wrong that generates our moments of satisfaction. – The School of Life

You’ve felt furious, suffered from envy and had periods of money worries – but you never did what they did. You absorbed your pain rather than committed crimes. Their villainy reveals your quiet moral heroism. – The School of Life

Driving on the Motorway at Night. You are driving at 10:15pm. The car feels powerful and you feel purposive. Our mind, at times, doesn’t like to think. While driving, it also helps with our thinking. Driving is not too stressful. Sometimes, our mind might drift but nothing actually happens to us.

You are experiencing an underappreciated but important satisfaction that deserves a special name: driving therapy. – The School of Life

It’s strangely attractive, at night in the middle of a long solo drive, to stop at a service station. Ordinarily that’s got close to zero appeal. But now it’s pleasing to change tempo, to sit silently amongst other human beings and have a coffee. – The School of Life

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