Healing & Emotional Health: Best Reads This Week

The gut biome is the most exciting – and insightful– thing in health since sequencing human DNA. This week’s round up has three articles relating to how it affects the ageing of your brain, weight loss or gain, and why maple syrup isn’t the same as fructose powder – it’s actually good for you.

This weeks articles

  1. Hack your brain for greater creativity & problem solving
  2. Meditations apps recommendations based on why you’re not meditating
  3. Alzheimer’s, dietary fats, gut bacteria..and Keto
  4. Biden administration will declare long covid a disability
  5. The way we view free time is making us less happy
  6. The pressure to avoid negative thoughts explains why some approaches to happiness backfire
  7. How your gut health affects weight loss more than what you eat.
  8. iOS 15 comes with background sounds for neurodivergant users.
  9. Sorry, influencers are right about maple syrup being better than sugar.
  10. Apps and sites making my life calmer 

1 Hack your brain for greater creativity & problem solving

Everything is a “hack” in article titles. And then we wonder why people don’t stick around to do the thing that gives them long term benefits when it was sold as “instant”.

Anyway, they know a part of your brain called the ACC is important for making breakthroughs or having inspired moments.

“One function of the ACC is to decide, when different parts of the brain are sending different signals, which of those signals to pay attention to. If a creative or odd or “long-shot” solution to a problem is bubbling up somewhere in the back of your mind, the ACC can choose to focus your attention on that solution.

The other main function of the ACC is emotional regulation.

It also controls affect (mood and how your body feels), chronic pain, mood disorders resulting from pain, focus, and drive

So working out your ACC is a good move even if you don’t feel that creativity is important.

If you have ADHD, there’s a chance you’ll have a 21% volume decrease in this part of the brain compared to a neurotypical person. So buffing up that ACC might help you, too.

It turns out, the best thing you can do for anterior cingulate cortex is:

1. meditate and

2. do things that make you feel good.

The exact opposite of grind culture and the setup of most “always on the go” creative studios and startups. Shocker/not shocker.

When we’re in a good mood, the ACC is more sensitive to odd thoughts and strange hunches,” 

This is why when I was working as a product designer, I found taking pomodoro breaks to do something like practice ukulele (both fun and relaxing) or get chores done (dopamine releasing, as well as satisfaction of having a clean home, or nice dinner going in the slow cooker) helped me deliver better. 

image of a man sitting in a feild, meditating. sepia overlay and white text reads:the best thing you can do for creativity and problem solving is to meditate
He’s about to find the most elegant solution to a coding problem by meditating. 

Since you’re going to keep hearing about meditation, just like I did, until you finally give it a fair chance or eyeroll yourself to death, here are:

Meditations apps recommendations based on why you’re not meditating

a) “I can’t focus for ten minutes! it’s too hard” Try aura. It has 3 minute meditations as standard. Also, you’re allowed to think thoughts and have your mind wander, btw. You just try and call it back without judgment.

b) “I hate the new age, touchy feely, tone of meditation recordings”. Waking up is a completely agnostic, science-based approach to mindfulness for people who hate hearing about loving-kindness. It’s also by the neuroscientist and philosopher, sam harris.

c) “I need something with relatable sounding people” try my.life (previously, “stop, breath and think). They have a selection of meditation instructors and all of them sound pretty normal.

d) “how is it any better than playing relaxing games? Or doing adult colouring?” . Try ten precent happier. It’s for “fidgety skeptics” who aren’t sure meditation will help them live better.

E) “I keep running into paywalls on these apps so i don’t get a chance to see a benefit”. Try insight timer. There’s a huge library of free meditations to suit every taste.

2. Alzheimer’s, dietary fats, gut bacteria..and Keto

This is a rollup of several articles. Earlier last week, Azi shared a study on her insta that had found mechanism of how dementia is caused by dietary fat entering the brain via gaps in the gut lining and then carried into the brain. The so-called “leaky gut syndrome” known to anyone on AIP.

Keto is incredibly popular, but a high fat diet. Does the keto diet correlate to higher dementia? I can’t find anything but some studies have shown it helps improve Alzheimer’s symptoms and another hypothesised it might help prevent Alzheimer’s.

So it’s more about the gut being leaky first (caused by bacteria run amok), and the gaps letting the dietary fat out. Except I’ve read that your gut bacteria don’t like meat very much, and keto is high in that.

So, does how does keto affect the gut microbiome?

It improves it. Not because of the foods eaten, but because of the ketone bodies produced as a result improve gut health.

ketone bodies directly impact the gut microbiome in ways that may ultimately suppress inflammation, suggesting evidence for potential benefits of ketone bodies as a therapy for autoimmune disorders affecting the gut.

I am famously food restricted enough, so the idea of further limiting what I eat isn’t good, from the point of not wanting to develop any more allergies.

So here are a few other ways to get into ketosis that don’t involve being on a keto diet. TL:Dr;

  1. Eat coconut oil
  2. Work out more vigorously
  3. Lower carbs
  4. Increase healthy fats and protein (this may sound like keto to you, but actual keto has you measuring your food and peeing on sticks, so this is the chillaxed version!)
  5. Intermittent fasting.

3. Biden administration will declare long covid a disability 

About time. Around 33% of people who recover from Covid 19 display at least one long covid symptom three months after infection. The factsheet from the white house gives people with long covid information about what resources and accommodations they can get, and states that for some people, it can be considered a disability, giving them federal rights and protections. Another article from the mighty gives advice on how to claim disability benefits due to covid, and some things to avoid.

Companies hire spies, you guys.

As a person who has a condition that’s also known as post viral syndrome, I hope we can de-stigmatise disability, make work more accessible, and hold companies accountable for refusing reasonable accommodations.

4. The way we view free time is making us less happy

Work hard play hard 🤝 “optimising”culture makes having downtime stressful or dissatisfying for people. 

So basically people get stressed about what is “best” to do with their free time, and if the chosen thing was “good enough” or could have been better. Part of me wonders how much of this anxiety is caused by staged insta photos making real life look lackluster.

5. The pressure to avoid negative thoughts explains why some approaches to happiness backfire

The main thing in this article is that the people who believed being happy was somehow a value of who they were felt pressure to feel it all the time.

Researchers suggest that instead of trying to “control” or “squash” your feelings, people prioritise behaviours that maximize the likelihood of future happiness.

If you needed a science based sign that trying to push thoughts away doesn’t work, and that LOA people who tell you that your thoughts or “vibe” will bring terrible things unto you are toxic, this is it.

You just know that behind the belief they need to be happy 24/7 is the fear that if they’re not, they’re going to manifest something bad.

picture of a potted plant and guitar on a comfy sofa. a text overly reads "Instead of trying to "change" your mood, try doing something that will make you happier in the future"
Instead of trying to “change” your mood, try doing something that will make you happier in the future.

6. How your gut health affects weight loss more than what you eat.

Scientists found that your likelihood of losing weight when you’re actively trying to, whether it be through diet or exercise, is influenced by the genes and enzymes within the bacteria living in your gut. Interestingly, people who failed to lose weight had bacteria with genes that broke down starches faster. Another nice thing in this article is that it acknowledges that extra weight doesn’t equal unhealthy.

“Obesity can put some at risk for health conditions like diabetes and stroke, others can be overweight but still, be healthy people. These individuals are categorised by scientists as “metabolically healthy obese.””

While you can change your gut bacteria through diet and lifestyle changes, gut biome researchers at zoe say that how our gut responds to foods is incredibly individual, even in identical twins. Ditto for how our guts might react negatively to foods. Don’t buy into one size fits all/ this way or the highway.

7. iOS 15 comes with background sounds for neurodivergant users.

ADHD and ASD peeps, rejoice! You can now do the groceries without having to make space for that 1 hour rain playlist.

The background noise feature is found under settings > accessibility and runs until switched off, with phone notifications causing the noise to dip slightly. Background sound helps many of os neurodivergant folk focus, and reduces stress when in noisy places, since we are often unusually sensitive to noise. 

How to Turn On iOS 15 Rain Sound

8. Sorry, influencers are right about maple syrup being better than sugar.

The article isn’t new, I frankly googled it after seeing yet another recipe say use maple syrup as a sugar replacement and wondered: but their both sugar (agave and maple syrup are fructose). Is one better for me/my gut biome?

It turns out that it’s what’s INCLUDED with maple syrup that makes it healthy for your gut: the dietary prebiotics like inulins, and polyphenols -especially lignans. Unfortunatly, the same can’t be said for agave, since the heating process denatures the prebiotics and inulins.

Apps and sites making my life calmer 

1. tools for bypassing article paywalls. Because clickbait titles don’t deserve your cash.

a. Chrome and mozilla extension for desktop

and these two little sites that can be added to your mobile browsers favourites https://12ft.io/ and https://outline.com/. Just paste the url you want into them.

2. Babble live – online, real time group classes I recently installed babble on my phone and got a subscription since they were running a discount. Because I’m that double whammy of a high risk mom to a toddler, I just don’t see finding time for Spanish classes anytime soon or see in person classes being a good value for my time and sanity. An online class could work for me, though, when I finally do get a reliable hour free AND feel awake enough.

For now, I’m happy if I can find 15 mins a day to practice, and just happy I feel mentally able to start practicing again. The brain fog is tough.

3. Dark academia play list

The perfect dark academia vibe for watching Endeavour reruns to, and drink spiced apple tea.

One thought on “Healing & Emotional Health: Best Reads This Week

  1. So much useful and interesting information here! I especially like the quick breakdown of several different meditation apps. I’ll have to try a few. Thanks…🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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