Archive for November, 2012


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When we begin to harness the feeling of gratitude, we become capable of changing the world around us.

When we experience an emotion, our brain releases tiny molecules called neuropeptides. For every emotion we have there’s a specific neuropeptide. So love, gratitude, anger, joy, resentment, are all represented by specific chemicals in the brain. When these chemicals are released from the brain, they travel through the blood stream and attach themselves to receptor sites located on cell walls throughout our body.

When a neuropeptide locks into a receptor, it changes the behaviour of the cell to fit with the emotion represented by that specific neuropeptide. This is why, when we experience an emotion, it’s not just a mental process, but rather, it’s experienced as a physical feeling in the body. So, for example, when you feel nervous you get a feeling of butterflies in your stomach. Or you get so scared that you go weak at the knees.

Relating this biological process to how we see the world, think of it like this. You perceive something in your outer environment. Let’s say it’s a shadow in the corner of your room. Based on how you perceive that shadow your brain will release chemicals that will create a reaction in your body. So in this case, let’s say seeing the shadow makes you feel scared because you think it might be a burglar that has broken into your house. Your brain releases fear neuropeptides, which lock into receptor sites in your cells. Your body then reacts by generating physical symptoms associated with fear.

Emotional Feedback Loop

Once your body reacts in a specific way, it sends messages back to your brain saying, I’m afraid, which enhances the initial response of fear. So we now have a feedback loop between the brain and body, which is very difficult to break. This applies to all emotional reactions.

How does this relate to positively changing the world around us? Well, reality responds to the way we perceive it. That’s to say, if I see the world as a happy place, my experience of life will be a happy one, just as if I perceive the world as a sad place, my experience will be a sad one. So by changing our perception, we change our experience, and this is where gratitude comes into the equation.

Most of us experience gratitude as the effect of something positive happening to us, and this is perfectly fine, however, if we only experience gratitude in this way, we’re missing out on a powerful tool that could transform our lives. What if, instead of experiencing gratitude as an effect, we experienced it as a cause? What would happen then?

So let’s say we want to have a really amazing, happy, fun-filled day tomorrow. To make this a reality, we imagine the gratitude we would experience in response to having such a day. You can try this for yourself right now. Imagine that you’ve just had the happiest, most fun-filled day of your life. Now try to generate a feeling of immense gratitude for that experience. What do you think is happening in your body right now? Your brain has released gratitude neuropeptides. In response, your body is beginning to experience gratitude. Now a positive feedback loop is being generated between your brain and body, enhancing your feelings of gratitude, which in turn, changes your perception of the world around you.

In effect, you’ve turned your body into a kind a magnet, designed to draw positive experiences into your life. We can use this powerful tool in every aspect of our lives.

Gratitude is the key to creating positive change.

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Our brains are in a constant state of change, with their neural circuitry being rewired with every experience we have. In fact, neuroscience tells us that the simple act of turning on your laptop/Pc, typing on your keyboard, reading these words, and even scratching your nose,  has physically changed your brain’s structure and function, in a process called neuroplasticity.

While this process is entirely natural, using the right techniques, we’re able to guide it in a way that can positively influence our state of being and the way we live our lives.

The Basic Concept

  • Neurons that fire together, wire together.
  • Neurons that fire apart, wire apart.

What does this mean? In simple terms, every time we process an experience, an area of the brain associated with that experience becomes active. So neurons in that area light up with activity. When we have more than one experience at a time, separate parts of the brain become active at the same time. If, for example, I hear a bell ring just as I have an experience that excites me, the areas of my brain that process the ringing of a bell and the emotional reaction of excitement will both light up at the same time.

Normally this wouldn’t have any unusual effect on us. However, if we have those two experiences at the same time, over and over again, the two areas of the brain that activate together will begin to form a relationship. This relationship links these two experiences, writing them into our neural circuitry. This means if, after this relationship has been formed, I hear the ringing of a bell, not only will the area of my brain associated with that particular sound become active, but so will the area associated with excitement. So, simply hearing the bell ring will excite me.

The second part of this rule says we can break this neural relationship. This basically works in the opposite way. So, using the same example, if I ring a bell over and over again without stimulating an experience of excitement, the relationship between the two areas of my brain begins to deteriorate, until, finally, hearing the sound of the bell has no effect upon me.

These relationships are constantly forming and deteriorating, usually without our conscious awareness, as we move through life. But the key to using this biological process to our advantage is to, firstly, become aware of it, and, secondly, consciously begin forming new relationships, in our brain, that benefit us. Traditionally, this has been achieved through the use of mantra and mudra, in both Yoga and the esoteric schools of the martial arts, techniques I’ll explore in a later post.

Reality

In my interview with Joe Dispenza, he said the following about reality: “Your personality creates your personal reality. So if you want to create a new personal reality, then on a fundamental level, you would have to change some way you think, act or behave, otherwise you’re trying to create a new personal reality as the same personality.” This is why so many of us get stuck before getting off the starting blocks on our journey of personal transformation.

The process of conscious change recommended by Joe Dispenza is achieved in two stages.

  • Firstly, we need to become aware of what we want to change. This is where we take an honest look at the relationships we’ve spent a lifetime forming in our brain.
  • Secondly, we need to think about who we wish to become. In this essence, we need to think about the new relationships we would like to form in our brain.

The Key to Change

Joe explains the key to lasting change. “If you fully allow yourself to participate in this two-step process, to the exclusion of everything else, your frontal lobe begins to quieten down all the circuits in the rest of the brain, and your present thought becomes your experience. The moment this happens, the experience produces an emotion and you begin to feel like that new ideal of yourself. As you begin to feel differently, your body becomes conditioned to a new mind.” This is where the magic happens: where our thoughts become reality.

The Bottom Line

Your brain is physically changing and rewiring itself every time you have an experience. We can, if we choose to, guide this biological process in a positive direction by making small changes to our lifestyle and how we use our mind. “Decide who you want to be. If your personality creates your personal reality, and you are clear about who you want to be, you will move into a new state of being; a new state of being means a new personality, and a new personality creates a new reality,” says Joe Dispenza.

Have fun creating a new reality with every new experience you choose to have.

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It’s amazing how changing the way we think about something can have such powerful and transformative effects on our body and mind. Take this morning for example. I was feeling physically tired, mentally dull, and emotionally drained. But I was able to change all of that in just a few minutes.

All I did was stop, close my eyes and bring my awareness to the world around me. Then, paying attention to the morning breeze, I imagined the air I was breathing to be filled with microscopic bubbles of bright, light. Every breath I took, I imagined filling my body with those tiny bubbles.

When I opened my eyes, a few moments later, it was as if I had entered an entirely new reality. Even though the weather was dull and overcast, everything around me seemed brighter. There was even a subtle luminescence emanating from the dark clouds above me. My body felt energised, my mind clear, and my emotions uplifted. I felt as if the universe had given me a big, loving embrace.

This is the power of belief, a power every warrior should harness and learn to use on his/her inner path.

The above image is from the Hubblesite.

A FROZEN STATE OF MIND

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“Most people, because the body doesn’t know the difference between stimulation from the external environment and fabricated emotions, live in the past, basing their reactions on past experiences.” – Joe Dispenza

About a year ago, I interviewed Dr. Joe Dispenza and Professor Ian Robertson on the subject of neuroplasticity, for Positive Life Magazine. The insights they offered during those interviews changed my entire reality.

Over the next week I’ll be posting the most important elements of each interview, while offering a few of my own comments, explaining how each insight can help us in our lives, whether we follow the path of the warrior, the healer, the teacher or the parent, etc.

Change

To understand the process of change, Joe Dispenza describes the mind-body relationship as follows: “Every time you have a thought, you make a chemical. Specific emotions turn on certain circuits in your brain that fire in various combinations to produce a level of mind. That level of mind stimulates another part of your brain to release a chemical so you can begin to feel exactly the way you think. The moment you begin to feel the way you think, because the brain is in constant communication with the body, you begin to think the way you feel, and the cycle continues. This cycle, for some people, can go on for 20 years. The repetition of the cycle conditions the body to memorise an emotional reaction better than the conscious mind, and whenever the body knows better than the mind, it’s called a habit.

“The repetition of this cycle creates a state of being. A state of being is when our mind and body are working together and our thoughts and emotions are aligned to a concept. So a person says I am insecure or sad… etc.

“Most people, because the body doesn’t know the difference between stimulation from the external environment and fabricated emotions, live in the past, basing their reactions on past experiences.”

My comments: What this means is that a single thought, repeated regularly, creates a state of being. So, if I repeatedly think, “I’m a negative person,” I’ll become negative, or if I think, “I’m happy”, happiness will become my state of being. If the warrior, about to engage in combat, regularly thinks he/she is not good enough and is going to lose the fight, he/she will lose every time. This is something that should be remembered when we’re facing any task in life. A positive state of mind is essential if we want to create a state of being that’s conducive to success.

Breaking your emotional conditioning

One of the most interesting facts I learned while speaking with Joe was that the hormones we produce from an emotional reaction only last in the body for one to three minutes, unless we keep them going by our own volition. In which case, they can last for many years, as in the previous example.

We can benefit ourselves and escape this trap by learning how to shorten our emotional reactions to things. Joe tells us, “If you don’t know how to control your emotional reactions and there’s a refractory period, and you let that emotional reaction linger for hours or days, it turns into a mood.

“So you say to someone, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ The person says, ‘I’m in a mood.’ Then you say, ‘why are you in a mood?’ They say, ‘well, this thing happened to me five days ago and I memorised my initial reaction.’ If you keep that refractory period going for weeks and months, you’ve developed a temperament. If you keep that same refractory period going on for years, it’s called a personality trait,” says Joe.

“When we begin to develop personality traits based on our emotions, we’re living in the past and that’s where we get stuck. Teaching ourselves and our children to shorten the refractory period frees us to move through life without obstruction.”

My Comments: It always amazes me at how my two-year-old daughter deals with her emotions. If she falls and hurts her knee, she reacts to the pain by screaming and crying for a minute or two, then forgets about it and goes back to what she was doing before her accident. Young children don’t linger on their emotional reactions and for that reason, they don’t get emotionally stuck in a specific state of being.

As toddlers grow and pick up bad emotional habits from their surroundings, they learn to hold onto their emotional state of being. This conditioning process carries on for most of us in to adult-hood, haunting us until our dying breath.

How can we break this cycle of conditioning? There are a few techniques we can use. Following on from my previous post on breathing, I’ll offer a simple breathing technique that can quickly change your state of being which gives you time and space to create a new thought and state of body and mind.

Technique:

  1. Sit comfortably and loosen any tight clothing.
  2. Take three deep breaths.
  3. Now, contract your abdominal muscles to rapidly force the air out of your lungs.
  4. Relax your abdomen to allow your lungs to draw in air.
  5. Steps 3 and 4 should follow each other in quick succession.
  6. Continue breathing in this way for 20 breaths.
  7. Take three deep breaths.
  8. Begin a new cycle of rapid breathing.
  9. Do a maximum of 5 cycles.

This type of breathing originates in the yogic traditions of India, and is used to clear the mind before meditation. In terms of our state of being, using this breathing technique allows us to quickly let go of negative states of being. Incidentally, it also promotes the generation of a positive, uplifted state of being because of the rush of endorphins (feel-good hormones) released from the lungs and the respiratory muscles.

Have a try of this technique and let me know how it works for you.

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The Short Version: Use Rhythmic breathing (inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four) to override the stress response and positively influence how you see the world.

The Full Version, with explanations:

When we get angry, fearful, or begin to experience any other extreme emotion, our breathing cycle changes, and as it does, our body and mind undergo rapid physiological transformations. Yet, conversely, if we manage to steady ourselves for just a moment, during those turbulent emotional states, and we pause to take a slow, deep breath, everything begins to settle down as our mind drifts back to a calm state and our body releases tension.

These observations on breathing cycles and how changing the rhythm of our breath can instantly generate changes in our mental, emotional and physical states of being aren’t anything new. They’ve been understood and practiced for millennia, by the yogis of India and Tibet, the Toaist masters of China, and the Shamans of the Americas, as well as many other ancient cultures. It was from the Indian and Chinese cultures that specific breath control practices made their way into the Japanese warrior traditions. In fact, these practices are so powerful that they’re used not only by martial artists, but by the modern military to help soldiers control their physiological responses during high stress situations, situations that would otherwise be so overwhelming, the soldiers wouldn’t be able to function.

THE BASIC PRINCIPLE

The basic principle of breath control says that rapid, shallow breathing excites the nervous system and activates its sympathetic branch. This is the branch of the nervous system responsible for pushing the body into overdrive when the fight or flight response is triggered by our body’s response to stress. Whereas slow, deep breathing has the opposite effect, switching on the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. This part of the nervous system has a relaxing effect on the body and mind, effectively overriding the sympathetic branch and brings the body into a state of rest and recuperation, promoting long-term health. In an ideal world, the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system would regulate the body for 99.9% of our lives, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most of us. In fact, for most of us, and especially those of us living hectic and stressful lives, the sympathetic branch is active 50% of the time. This means we’re spending half of our lives in a stressful state of being, a state of being that causes all sorts of physical, mental and emotional problems, and one that warps our view of the world.

The good news is that using the basic principle described above, we can take control of our nervous system, which means we now have two very simple yet powerful methods of changing the way we perceive and react to the world around us, the other method involves changing our postural habits as I discussed in my last post.

Before describing the specific breathing techniques used to change the activity of the nervous system, let’s take a moment to look at the stress response, as this is the root cause of sympathetic nervous system activation, and the silent enemy that every modern warrior must learn to overcome.

THE STRESS RESPONSE

The stress response is the body and mind’s physiological reaction to a perceived threat. That threat can be real or imagined; the body doesn’t know the difference. This means, for example, if you see a snake in a dimly lit room, you’ll experience the stress response, and if you’re particularly scared of snakes, that response will increase in severity. Now, if you manage to overcome your fear and make it across the room to turn on the light, you’ll realise that there was no snake; it was just a harmless piece of rope all along. The point of this is that your body and mind still respond to a threat whether it’s real or imagined. What’s important to remember with this is that we, more often than not, imagine a threat that doesn’t really exist. So the majority of time we spend in a state of stress is the result of our imagination, our misinterpretation of the world around us. So, how often should we experience the stress response? The answer is a startling 0.1% of our lives, and to be honest, that’s a very generous estimation. Realistically, it should probably be 0.001%. But let’s not worry about that, instead let’s look at how we come to this conclusion.

Think about this for a moment. How many times per day do you face a life-threatening situation? Unless you work in the emergency services or are actively fighting in a war zone, the answer is probably 0. So let’s change the question to, how many times in the last month can you remember facing a life-threatening situation? Let’s be generous with our estimations and say once. Maybe you were nearly knocked off your bike on the way to work. So the next question is how long did that life-threatening situation last. Taking the bike example, we’ll say 10 seconds. So about 10 seconds of your life, per month, is spent facing life-threatening situations. That’s 2 minutes per year, and if the average person lives for 74 years, that adds up to 2 hours 28 minutes per lifetime.

At this point you’ve probably begun to see the disparity between the time we spend experiencing the stress response and the actual amount of time we should be experiencing it. The difference is mind-boggling. So the question must be asked: Why do we spend so much time unnecessarily experiencing the stress response? Well, in short, it all boils down to mortality and how we’re conditioned to relate everything we do back to our own survival.

CATALYST OF THE STRESS RESPONSE

Every living being on the planet is hard wired to survive. Even the amoeba, a single celled organism, when prodded by a sharp point, will move away from the source of discomfort. As humans, we come into this world preprogrammed with this overwhelming urge to survive. This is an instinct that has been etched into our neural circuitry since we first set foot on the Earth.

The stress response is initiated every time we perceive a threat to our survival. So anything that could cause us to die is regarded as a threat. What’s interesting about this is how we label things as threatening. Our brains are amazingly irrational when it comes to threats to our survival. For instance, we’ll go into survival mode if we get knocked off our bike by a car. That’s a pretty good, rational reason. But why do we go into survival mode when our boss shouts at us? Think of it like this. You make a mistake in work, your boss shouts at you, so immediately the thought of being fired comes to mind. This links to another thought that says if I get fired, I won’t be able to support my self or my family. That leads to a new thought where we think if I can’t support my self or my family, we won’t have a place to live, we won’t have any food to eat and we’ll die. Although this is irrational, it’s the way our brain makes connections, which is what allows us to label things as important or not in our lives. So most of us see having a job as important.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at what happens to the body and mind when the stress response is initiated.

AFTERMATH OF THE STRESS RESPONSE

When the stress response is triggered, whether it’s by an imaginary snake, a close encounter with death while riding our bike, or from our boss shouting at us, the same physiological responses are set in motion every time. Those responses are as follows:

  • The brain releases cortisol which stimulates the adrenal glands
  • The adrenal glands release adrenalin
  • Adrenalin widens the airways to help oxygenate the blood stream
  • The heart rate and blood pressure rise
  • Muscles become engorged with oxygenated blood redirected from the internal organs (increasing our strength)
  • Blood flow increases in the emotional centres of the brain and decreases in the frontal lobes (prompting us to respond without thinking)

Although all of these changes in our body and mind make us faster, stronger and more sensitive to our surroundings, which are all excellent aids to our survival when we’re in real danger of dying, they’re not so good for us when there isn’t any real threat to our life.

Over time, the stress response becomes a chronic disease-generating problem. Eventually it wears down our internal organs, suppresses our immune system, and basically makes us stupid by shutting down the rational centres of our brain.

Apart from making us generally unwell and unable to function properly, stress also hampers our ability to cope with even the smallest challenges in life. For the modern warrior, this is a serious problem. If a warrior is unable to remain calm and think clearly, his/her ability to respond to demanding situations is severely disrupted. It’s moments like this that can cost a warrior his/her life. So how do we deal with such moments? We breathe.

LEARN TO BREATHE

Ok, so we don’t have to learn how to breathe, obviously. We’re already doing that. But we do need to learn to consciously breathe in a specific way. By slowing our breathing rate and making it more uniform and steady, we can quickly reverse the negative effects of the stress response. Breathing in this way acts as a type of switch, turning on the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system and bringing the body and mind back to a calm and balanced state of being.

The rhythm we should aim to use is a ratio of 4:4 inhalation to exhalation. You can do this by slowly counting to four as you inhale, and again as you exhale. If you’re out for a walk and you realise you’re stressing out about something, you can count your foot-steps. Once you try this for a few days, switching on your parasympathetic nervous system becomes second nature and the world becomes a brighter easier place to live in.

There are many other breathing techniques, some of which I’ll explore in the future, but until then, give this one a go.

For another interesting blog post on breathing as a performance enhancer, have a look here.

The two simple acts of breathing and altering our posture have such powerful affects upon brain chemistry that by merely changing the rhythm of our breath or by shifting our posture, our body’s chemical balance is changed, right down to the cellular level. This chemical change affects the way we perceive and react to the world around us. In short, changing how we breathe, walk, sit, and stand has the potential to completely change our reality and the way our lives unfold.

When I first learned this, I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. But that skepticism was soon transformed into pure amazement and excitement as I experienced the effects of these simple changes, through my training in the warrior traditions. But, you might ask, how can these simple changes have such a profound effect upon our lives?

THE EARLY YEARS
Have you ever noticed how babies and very young children breathe, move, and hold their posture? If you have, then you’d have noticed how a healthy baby or child breathes deeply into their abdomen, moves with minimal effort, and stands/sits in a position that generates the least physical strain on their muscles and skeletal structure. In essence, it is this relaxed, effortless state of being that we are trying to achieve as we relearn how to breathe and move through our training in the warrior traditions. Restoring our natural, child-like ability to move, stand, sit, and breathe deeply, revitalises the body and mind, and generates a healthy state of being.

GROWING UP
The problem for most of us is that we have grown up in a society that places very little emphasis on proper body awareness, and as a result we’ve picked up some very bad habits, habits that create excessive levels of tension and stress which not only leads to poor mental and physical health, but negatively affect how we see and react to our environment. As we begin to grow up, our habits and behaviors are deeply influenced by our environment and the people in it. Because of the environments most of us grow up in, we slowly begin to unlearn our natural way of moving, sitting, standing, and breathing, as we pick up bad habits from our parents, siblings, teachers and friends. These habits include high chest breathing, disjointed, awkward movements, and misaligned posture, to name but a few. The good news, however, is that simply making yourself aware of such habits can set the wheels of change in motion. Take, for example, your shoulders; like most people’s shoulders, they’re probably holding quite a lot of tension. Take a moment to check them now. Simply paying attention to the tension in your shoulders is enough to prompt you to adjust them and let them drop a little, releasing tension as they do. That’s the power of awareness, it initiates change. But the trick to making it a lasting change, and not just a quick fix, is to keep bringing your awareness back to the habit you wish to alter until you completely recondition your body and mind.

So now that we’ve equipped ourselves with awareness (our tool for creating change), let’s look at our posture, and see how changing it can alter the course of our lives.

POSTURE
Apart from changing the way people see us, altering our posture can positively or negatively affect the way we see ourselves. Although this is a pretty obvious statement, its implications are nothing less than startling. According to the research of sociologist Amy Cuddy, using our posture to change our self-image not only influences us psychologically, but actually alters the chemical and hormonal balance in our body. This creates either a positive or negative feedback loop, which enhances or diminishes our positive experiences in everyday life, respectively. Amy divides our posture into two basic categories, they are power postures and non-power postures. A power posture is one that positively affects our chemical/hormonal balance. It increases the level of testosterone in the blood, making us more extroverted and better able to engage with people and life in general. Power postures also lower our levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone in the body, responsible for setting in motion the fight or flight response. This hormone wreaks havoc on the body and mind, creating serious health problems when it stays in the blood stream, while diminishing mental function. Amy’s research showed that puting your body into a power posture for as little as two minutes was enough to create positive change.

While power postures have such powerful positive effects on us, non-power postures were seen to create equally negative effects. Non-power postures increase stress hormones and lower testosterone, generating a nervous, unhealthy disposition. So what characterises a power and non-power posture. A power posture is basically one that opens the body up while a non-power posture is one that shrinks and closes the body. You can have a look at a great talk by Amy Cuddy on TED, where she gives examples of both postures. What’s particularly interesting to me is how every posture in the Japanese warrior traditions are basically power postures. Simply training in these traditions, while paying attention to correct posture, is enough to positively change your body and mind.

So, to conclude, changing our posture, by making it more open, changes us on a physiological level. This changes the inner workings of our body, making it healthier, and alters our brain chemistry, which changes our perception of the world. Ultimately, this makes us more engaging and positive. Becoming more engaging and positive has a knock on effect that changes how the world reacts to us.

In my next post, we’ll look at the effects of changing our breathing cycle and how changing the way we breathe can be used to overcome the silent killer, stress. the enemy of every modern warrior.

Athletes, warriors, surgeons, fighter pilots: all these people rely on the ability of their body and mind to act and react calmly and with pinpoint precision during moments of tremendous stress. Yet although honing and fine-tuning themselves to such a high level takes years of intense training and conditioning, many of these people fail to reach their full potential. The reason is simple: their diets, like 75% of people in the western world, are deficient in the most essential mineral needed to sustain life. That mineral is magnesium.

Magnesium is essential for life. Primarily, it acts as a catalyst, activating ATP (adenosine triphosphate, our cells’ main source of energy), along with 300 other enzymes within our body. Effectively, it acts as the primary source of power for all of your body’s life functions. When we get the proper amount of magnesium from our diet, all the functions of the body and mind are supported and enhanced, allowing us to function at our peak performance all of the time. In this state, the electrical activity in the brain is increased, enhancing its memory capacity, while helping it to release feel good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin, which reduce stress levels and aid the higher functions of the brain’s frontal lobes. In other words, as far as brain chemistry goes, an abundant supply of magnesium in the body makes us more intelligent and gives us a greater ability to focus and react under pressure.

Apart from our brain functions being enhanced, magnesium also extends its effects to the rest of the nervous system, calming the sympathetic branch of the central nervous system (the part of the nervous system that becomes active when we’re placed in high stress situations) and lowering our heart beat and blood pressure, while removing cortisol (the stress hormone) from the body. Put simply, magnesium makes us super efficient at dealing with mental and physical stress, a quality essential for the modern warrior, and in fact, essential for most people living in the world today.

As well as the positive effects magnesium has on the brain and nervous system, it also plays a vital roll in muscle contraction, rebuilding tissue, lowering inflammation, and strengthening bones. An important point for anyone involved in intense physical activity to take note of is the more intense your training becomes, the more magnesium your body uses. This basically means, the more intensely you physically exert your self the higher the chances are that you will become magnesium deficient. This is something I realised only recently; increasing the intensity of my training caused a sudden drop in my energy levels rather than building them. This was accompanied by a clouded, dull mind and general feelings of being run down. The bottom line for athletes or anyone undertaking more physical activity: increased physical exertion uses up more magnesium.

And here’s the good news for all you athletes and modern warriors: supplementing your diet with magnesium, or simply eating more magnesium rich foods, in conjunction with increased physical training has the effect of enhancing performance. In fact, supplementing your diet with magnesium while training raises testosterone levels, aids in building muscle mass, and increases physical strength, while reducing recovery times from injury.

Although Magnesium has countless benefits, the ones that make it into my top five are as follows:

  • Increases physical and mental energy
    Generates a clear and focused mind
    Promotes a positive outlook on life
    Strengthens and enhances the body’s resistance to stress and environmental pathogens
    Better sleep cycles (I work night shifts, which are a nightmare for my body clock. Magnesium certainly makes night work more manageable)

The recommended daily allowance of magnesium differs depending on whether you’re male or female, and whether you’re under or over the age of 30. But a good number to go with is 300mg per day. Foods rich in magnesium are brazil nuts, dark green, leafy vegetables, cocao nibs, and whole-grain cereals. There are also a number of other supplements that work along side magnesium to supercharge your body and mind. These include vitamin C, vitamin B complex, and the mineral zinc. However, it’s important to realise that all of these supplements can be obtained from a good, balanced diet. To reap the benefits, you must become more aware of what you’re eating. It’s that simple.

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