7-day Water Fast (no food) Experience And It’s Benefits

A water fast is the cessation of food consumption for a certain amount of time. During that time you can consume water, black coffee, tea, and bone broth. Fasts can vary from short ones (12 hours) to extended fasts (5+ days). Fasting has been practiced across many different cultures for thousands of years as a period of healing, spiritual uplifting, and abstinence. Our evolutionary upbringing is closely linked to fasting since food back then was mostly scarce and competitive to procure. Our ancient ancestors would forage for food then use their body fat as fuel when food actually became scarce; or, better known as feast and famine. Now that science has substantiated many of its health benefits, fasting can be used as a tool to repair your anatomy, breakdown fat, and increase mental acuity.

You can fast as long as you have adequate body fat and your nervous system or adrenals are in their proper state. Remember: fasting is a stressor on the body, so all your hormones must be normalized before getting into an extended one or else you only exacerbate whatever symptoms you’re currently experiencing. In most cases, you can only oxidize fat at a half a pound of body fat per day, so when people are losing weight really fast, it’s not actually body fat, rather muscle, inflammation, or water. Fat takes time through strict nutrition, exercise, or infrequent eating patterns that keep your insulin signaling low. Fasting tends to not be broached in mainstream media and nutrition because it doesn’t sell; no one makes money when people aren’t eating!

Dr. Jason Fung, who deals with a multitude of patients with kidney disease and diabetes in an interview talks about fasting as an alternative, healthier way to burn fuel.

“During fasting, you start by burning off all the glycogen in the liver, which is all the sugar. There’s a point there where some of the excess amino acids in your body need to get burnt as well.

That’s where people say, ‘That’s where you’re burning muscle.’ That’s not actually what happens. The body never upregulates its protein catabolism. Never is it burning muscle; there’s a normal turnover that goes on.

There is a certain amount of protein that you need for a regular turnover. When you start fasting, that starts to go down and then fat oxidation goes way up. In essence, what you’ve done is you switched over from burning sugar to burning fat. Once you start burning fat, there’s almost an unlimited amount of calories there. You could go for days and days.”

Periodic or intermittent fasting have been shown to increase testosterone and human growth hormone –two important factors in building and maintaining muscle mass PLUS the anti-aging effects of HGH not only turn back the clock internally, but externally as well. This muscle conservation stage has an expiration date though, usually after 10-15 days of extended fasting muscle deterioration may occur, BUT depending on how much body fat you carry (some people can fast longer than 30 days without muscle-wasting due to having excess body fat). A popular misconception in the health industry is that once we are in a starved-state, our bodies seek our muscle as fuel, but that’s simply not true–if it were, we would have been extinct a long time ago.

Here’s a few staggering insulin-related stats presented by the CDC that Americans are facing:

  • 1/3rd of Americans have prediabetes (insulin resistance) or type-2 diabetes
  • Prediabetes can blossom into type-2 diabetes in as soon as 5 years
  • 40% of Americans are considered obese
  • 1 in out of every 2 Americans have a chronic disease!

Any fast over 20 hours increases and maximizes cellular autophagy: a physiological process whereby the body starts cleaning out the junk in the cells that accrues from free radicals which ultimately age you and engender cancer tumors that can proliferate to major organs. In recent research, cancer and Alzheimers are now showing signs of being a metabolic disease (high blood sugar/insulin) rather than just a genetic disease. Although more research is to be done on the correlation between insulin/blood sugar and cancer, it’s safe to say that keeping a close watch on your numbers would be salubrious for longevity purposes. That said, giving yourself a long fast once a year to lower insulin could potentially rid any cancerous cells from accumulating. The graph below illustrates how when insulin drops, HGH increases.

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The record for fasting is a shocking 382 days. The man weighed 456 lbs and dropped to an astonishing 180 lbs. Although he was heavily monitored by doctors and supplemented vitamins, he recalled the experience as being liberating with “hunger not really occurring.” So, that proves that the body doesn’t automatically eat at muscle when it’s starved, but rather adipose tissue (body fat).

Ketosis is the metabolic state where your body begins using only your actual body fat as fuel when your insulin is low. Ketones are produced from the breakdown of fat in the liver. For the ketogenic diet, most people need to consume no more net carbs (total carb-fiber) than 50 grams a day to induce ketones. The diet consists primarily of vegetables along with eating moderate protein and higher amounts of healthy fats. Eating fat burns fat and the fat on your body is the result of mostly eating sugar and carbs. Ketone bodies have myriad benefits from decreasing inflammation to eradicating type 2 diabetes to treating people with epilepsy. Below shows the breakdown of the Keto macronutrients.

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Fasting is a surefire protocol to fast-track your way into ketosis. Cravings literally disappear. You’ll no longer be in a glucose-dependent cycle, but rather a fat burning one; replete with energy and clear-headedness. Depending on if your body primarily runs on fat or sugar will dictate how long it takes for you to enter nutritional ketosis. Eating too much protein or carbs will usually knock you out of ketosis. Below is a graph that shows when your blood sugars drop, ketosis is induced.

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Here are the benefits of doing extended fasts (4-10 days):

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Normalizes blood pressure
  • Has the ability to reverse type-2 diabetes
  • Neurogenesis (Creation of new brain cells)
  • Fat loss
  • Destroys any unwanted food cravings
  • Increases energy
  • Improves sense of well being
  • Stabilizes mood from blood sugar regulation
  • Reduces insulin which in turn lowers triglycerides and improves HDL cholesterol
  • Increases immune function
  • Eliminates the chance of cancer cell expansion
  • The ultimate detoxification process, better than most cleanses that are marketing scams which are ineffective
  • Helps with any autoimmune problems
  • Better, more restorative sleep
  • Increases the effects of chemotherapy
  • Anti-aging benefits and cognitive enhancement. Helps with a cloudy brain
  • Fights all chronic diseases
  • Fasting shows instant improvements for patients with rheumatoid arthritis

People who shouldn’t do extended fasts:

  • Children
  • Women trying to get pregnant or those who are breastfeeding
  • Anyone with a very low body fat percentage, who are malnourished, or are under an 18.5 BMI

 

A Timeline of my 7-day fast experience

Pre-fast weight: 223

Day 1

Felt good throughout the whole day. This day is usually the hardest along with the 2nd day, but is a lot more pleasant than when i did it last year. Not too hungry and mental clarity seemingly beginning to shine through the cracks. Sleep was historically good, maybe the best I’ve had in a year– cycling through all the cycles of dream-sleep and deep sleep

Consumption: 3/4th gallon of water with Himalayan sea salt. Vitamins B and C.

Day 2

Weight: 218

After an amazing nights sleep, feeling much more grounded and focused today. Feelings of elation and hyper-activeness are surging through me. Hunger pangs haven’t shown themselves. A midday walk was filled with creativity and wandering thoughts. Got a bit tired toward the evening time.

Consumption: a gallon of water with a pinch of sea salt. 1 cup of black coffee. Vitamins B and C

Day 3

Weight: 216

Another pretty good night of sleep. Completely in ketosis. Went for a casual morning walk around sunrise. Mentally sharp and extremely focused. A brief moment of weakness occurred in the evening, but was fleeting. Hunger is neutralized.

Consumption: Gallon of water with a pinch of Himalayan sea salt. A half a cup of black coffee. Vitamins B and C

Day 4

Weight: 215

Feeling the best I’ve felt all week. In complete ketosis now, as my readings are showing 4.0 mmol/L or better (Using ketone strips via urine you can identify how deep of ketosis you’re in which means your body is now using fat as fuel and insulin is low; great for longevity.) Everything I’m reading is being retained faster than normal and my well being is excellent. The psychological factor of food is beginning to settle in. Lots of stimuli is easy to repress for a short while, but not it’s seeping through the cracks. That said, I’m not physically hungry.

Consumption: A little over a gallon of water. Half a cup of black coffee. Vitamins B and C.

Day 5

Weight: 211

Last night got the worst sleep I’ve gotten since I started. Restless, insufficient sleep. Presumably, did not get into the slow wave delta sleep since I’m a bit on edge in the morning and not as sharp. I decided to take a longer-than-usual walk and that really knocked me on my ass. Felt completely enfeebled and was contemplating throwing in the towel for the fast, but i knew this was common and your body goes through phases of adjusting energy systems. For 3 hours I felt unsettled then it passed and I felt a lot better after i brought down my heart rate and had some water with sea salt. I’m guessing the lack of sleep made my blood sugars get a little wonky thereby inducing a state of panic on the nervous system. That night everything stabilized and started feeling good again

Consumption: Gallon of water with Himalayan sea salt. Vitamins B and C

Day 6

Weight: 209

Slept pretty well last night. A lot better than the previous night. Brain is functioning high again, body is getting a little run down. No exercise today. The external stimuli of food is definitely enticing me to eat now. Constantly thinking one more day, but still not feeling all that bad.

Consumption: Gallon of water with himalayan sea salt. Cup of organic Chai tea. Vitamins B and C

Day 7

Weight: 207

Woo! We made it! Although I slept a paltry 4 hours due to becoming a bit dehydrated in the evening, all is freaking well. Energy is very good. Finally get back  to the gym and lift weights with having not eaten in 7 days. My strength hasn’t waned much at all. About 2% of max strength has declined. My stamina has been compromised a bit though as I feel myself panting much faster than normal. After I worked out there was still about 2 hours before I finish the fast. As odd as it sounds, I definitely felt as if I could go another day, but let’s not get crazy here. Broke the fast around 4pm with watermelon, steamed broccoli, and some various other blended fruit. Boy, was it a joyous experience. Everything tasted so authentic and flavorful.

Breaking The Fast

Breaking a fast isn’t something to play around with. People have suffered many complications from coming out of a fast full tilt; eating whatever they want. Since the long fast has repaired the body, it also has basically shut down digestion and in order to reboot it, you must have a reintroductory phase of eating. The following two days after an extended fast must consist of blended fruit shakes and steamed veggies then you ease your way into harder-to-digest foods in the subsequent days. The enzymes that breakdown food need a little time to reactivate, so this 36-48 hour period must be dealt with patience.

Final Thoughts

Total weight loss: 16 lbs (223 to 207)

Total hours fasted: 168 (7 days)

Peak ketone reading: 5.5 mmol/L

In conclusion, the fast was an enlightening, emboldening experience. Overall, it was a revelatory adventure. I felt amazing for about 96% of the 7 days, which in my estimation is from being used to intermittent fasting (my current dietary protocol) The mental clarity and enhancement of senses was truly remarkable. The introspection aspect of noticing how hunger comes in waves and how we aren’t really ever starving, but rather conditioned to eat from routine and psychological, external stimulus. Majority of the time I felt a newfound appreciation for being in the moment with a heightened sense of stillness and focus. Anxiety didn’t exist at all throughout the fast. The profound energy and motivation is indescribable unless you try it. I did not do this fast to lose weight, but instead to get the cerebral and anti-inflammatory benefits after a gluttonous holiday which help for the future. Some of the nights of sleep were the deepest I’ve experienced since being a kid.

My mood and well-being were in great spirits. Thoughts, creativity, and reading comprehension ostensibly worked better and more fluidly than when I am in a fed-state. You also notice how everything you consume in life has an effect on your entire bodily system from sleep to mood swings to energy. A 24-hour fast once a week should be a staple in everyone’s lifestyle to let your body heal and repair.

Personal experimentation is one of the rites of passages of  being a human being. Not just one dietary protocol works for everyone, but fasting is built into our DNA. Give it a try. You won’t wither away, the body wasn’t designed to let us perish when a little bit of stress is on us. We are built to survive and minor stressors on the body can, in the end, strengthen it.

Chronic diseases are costing us billions of dollars as a nation and it’s only getting worse. Inflammation is the precursor to chronic diseases and what causes inflammation? sugar, obesity, stress, drugs, overtraining, overeating, injuries, infections, sleep deprivation, and diseases. What helps all of those?

 

Fasting.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Deeper Than Calories

Many people have often touted “It’s all about calories in and calories out,” but that doesn’t show the whole picture. If it really was that simple, all anyone would have to do is starve themselves and workout voraciously, but unfortunately — the human body is smarter than that. Hormones play a major role in our everyday lives. All calories aren’t created equal. Everything we consume has a metabolic response, and since everyone’s anatomically different, the effects vary from each individual to the other. Counting calories has been focal point for most of the fitness industry for the past umpteenth years, but somehow we’re the most obese we’ve ever been. Of course cutting back on calories will lead to initial weight loss, but there’s a law of diminishing returns involved if you will. Quality over quantity.

If you walk into any supermarket, you can easily read any nutritional label and check for it’s calorie number. Most people live and die by this. Empty calories often found in snacks and sugary drinks set off a ton of fire alarms in your gut that signal hunger. For example, eating 300 calories of Doritos versus 300 calories of Broccoli has a completely different result, internally. The broccoli will provide satiety, essential vitamins, and dietary fiber; whereas the Doritos will barely fill you up and will increase your hunger hormone Gherlin, leaving you starving again shortly after with no nutritionally value left in your system. Whole, natural foods not only provide you with proper nutrients, they also normalize your hormones.

Weight loss and fat loss are not the same. You can lose weight via dehydration (usually why the scale will often fluctuate day to day) and muscle loss. Doing a ton of cardio will elevate your cortisol hormone which in turn breaks down muscle. You’ll see the weight drop at the expense of your muscles. The more muscle you have on your body the higher your resting metobolic rate (a fancy term for metabolism) will be. If you’re constantly wasting muscle from abusing cardio and elevating your hormones then you’ll slow down your metabolism. On the other hand, fat loss takes time and proper eating. You can’t outrun a bad diet forever. Fat loss also has much to do with hormone stabilization. High levels of your stress hormone cortisol tends to deposit fat in those stubborn areas where you can’t seem to lose fat.

Fat loss is primarily dependent on your insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a storage hormone that gets released when there’s glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. In order to remove the excess sugar in the blood, insulin either uses it to store fat or use it as fuel. The foods that increase blood-sugar and insulin are high-sugar, carb foods. Refined sugar, white flour, and grains all put you at a metabolic pitfall especially if your insulin hormone isn’t sensitive. We desensitize ourselves and become insulin resistent from incessant consumption and overeating simple carbs. Sugar is everywhere and it’s profitable from it’s addictive properties and lengthy shelf life. The food industry is privy to this which is exactly why it’s advertised ad nauseam. Skinny people have great insulin sensitivity and obese people usually suffer from a metabolic syndrome such as insulin resistance or leptin resistance. You can repair yourself and lose fat by eating healthy fats, lean proteins, complex carbs, and by restricting the time you eat i.e, eating from 12-8pm then fast the remaining hours a couple times a week.

On paper, calorie restriction should seem like a surefire way to lose weight right? Just eat less calories a day and workout more, that way you’ll be in a negative energy balance thus the weight will just come off. It’s deeper than that though. Just remember, there’s always a trade off and there’s no free lunches in life. Everything has a reaction and a consequence. To illuminate this fallacy, let me give you a notable example. Contestants on the show “Biggest Loser” were tracked 6 years after participating and losing a wide range of weight. One contestant lost 239 pounds in 7 months. Weight loss that’s done that swiftly is never good because your body is yearning to get back to its body set point, so you have to diligently observe and outsmart your body which your willpower isn’t equipped for. But back to the biggest loser contestants. These people all lost over hundred pounds by severely restricting their calories and working out nonstop. 6 years later, almost all of them had regained the weight and some with interest. What had happened overtime is that their thyroid gland which is the regulator of your metabolism, slowed down. Your body does this when it senses something going awry, so it starts making it harder for you to burn fat in prevention of withering away and food then has double the metabolic response. Their hormones became wonky and food eventually just stuck because it wasn’t being burned as efficiently.

The human body is a complexed machine. Sleep is the best hormone stabilizer. We evolved over millions of years to adapt to our surroundings and to stay true to our genetic and molecular structure. Understanding your body and what your sensitive to will put you in fine health. Calories are just a piece of the puzzle to losing weight. The myriad variables that contribute to your health are all necessary because Rome was not built in a day. Balance and moderation is key. Stepping outside your comfort zone and treating your body as if it’s the only one you’ll ever have will prompt you to act accordingly and healthfully. body-is-a-machine

Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

We all, as humans, look for ways to better ourselves to enrich our lives. When we’re embattled by hardship and discontentment, we all look for ways to either adjust our state of mind or change the way we perceive things. Biologically, we had no choice in creating how we look; but, for the most part, we can alter the way we appear and feel if we genuinely aspire to. Now, there’s no panacea for perfect health – however, there is myriad ways to fine-tune your physique and psyche. The fastest route to change is ambition and consistency. No change is ever easy. But having an insatiable desire to strive can lead you to a self-fulfilled, prosperous lifestyle. 

From a bodily perspective, we all face the burden of shortcomings that visually – seem so easy to modify – yet the going gets tough when you’re put to task. Losing weight is such an arduous endeavor because it requires full-on commitment. It’s so easy to envy those with a great metabolism. These “blessed” individuals don’t have to face the up-hill plight of fretting about how many calories they’ve consumed throughout a day. Generally speaking, any long-term weight loss is difficult; just from the sheer fact that you have maintain the lost weight. But how far are you willing to go to change your body? 

As a person who’s lost a good amount of weight I can shed some insight. First thing I tell my clients when I train them is to know your body: pay close attention to what affects you both negatively and positively, reflect on your past and move forward with a mentality that is beneficial to your well-being, and never lose sight of your initial goals. Many people fail by not taking heed to how their body reacts to certain diets and exercises. Becoming cognizant of your actions will make things much easier when you want to enhance your lifestyle. 

When it comes to exercise and weight loss, you must be willing to push yourself. We’re a species that adapts to its environment in order to sustain survival, and survival (or staying young for the longest possible time) should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. When you exert an excess amount of energy and place stress on your body, you’ll have no choice but to lose visceral fat. Concomitantly, food is half the battle, though. We’ve all be inundated with food-hysteria and we continually eat what we want in the form of instant-gratification, which no doubt is accelerating our paths to death – however unknowingly. Remember this (although I have yet to fully employ this): fruits & vegetables have to become appetible to you in order to ensure yourself a better chance at longevity and quality survival. 

Lifting weights and doing aerobic exercise will facilitate all weight loss processes. Staying away from sugar and trans fats will not only help you physically, but mentally as well. Ingest foods high in fiber and low in sodium. Getting the 7-8 hours of sleep a night and staving off stress compliment any salubrious task you want to conquer. Find meaning in work and let your mind wander in the simplicity of nature. All these things will benefit you in a plethora of ways. 

Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is taxing and hard. Effortless change does not exist, at least not on this planet; to see results you must put in work. There’s no cheat codes in this life. You want to get something done? Go ahead and get it done the way it’s supposed to be done. People who cut-corners tend to find themselves in more deep water than when they first started. Avoid all the rigmarole by completing your goals through dedication and willpower. The brain and body are extremely plastic: we can alter them much more than we think. So, with all that said, go ahead and do something that stimulates you in the form of kinetic energy. You’ll find yourself living a life that’s worth living. 

  
  

Cell Phones Are Depriving Us of Life

In the past decade, the exponential increase in cell phone usage has spread across our planet like the bubonic plague. At any time, and in every instance, you can socialize with your family and friends without ever having seen them in the flesh. Holistically, the advancement in technology is indistinguishable from magic in the eyes of a person who existed just a mere 60 years ago. We continually share our moments in the hope that someone will experience something as we do, vicariously. Now that mega-companies like Apple and Samsung have commandeered the mobile device market, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself wavering over which version to buy or how the cutting-edge features will change your life for the better. This undying need to upgrade our cell phone apparatus has softened the fabric of living. By concentrating on things that are seemingly important, we deprive ourselves of what’s most important: experience.

Although cellular devices are a conduit for information, it only strengthens our need for them. Social media is the mainspring behind our society’s obsession with cellphones. Every 10 seconds, people are checking applications for all the wrong reasons; i.e., reasons that aren’t conducive to enjoying the short time on this planet. And, as time goes on, it won’t be until something catastrophic or life altering happens that you’ll suddenly realize all the time you wasted on trivial things. In terms of convenience, it’s tremendously easier to converse with people behind a screen, mainly because it’s less awkward and you have extra time to think of quality responses. But it certainly doesn’t make the dialogue any more genuine. If anything, it depreciates the value of the communication because it’s artificial. From time to time, I’ll receive a jolt of insincerity in my bloodstream and actually catch myself responding with something I would never say in person. This almost feels like I’m cheating sociological etiquette. Many lies are manufactured in this fashion because the repercussions aren’t noticeable and you can always blame the device’s ineptitude.

The newly coined term “Nomophobia” – Fear of being without one’s cell phone – has been slowly creeping into the ranks of psychology. The psychological attachment that has been acutely affecting teenagers is slowly spreading to all age brackets because of our dependence on these devices. Our working memory has been deteriorating because of the accessibility of anything we want to know via Google or wikiHow. Before cell phones, people made it a priority to remember things. Basically, there was no other choice: remember something or screw yourself over. Now, we rely so heavily on searching for and sifting out answers that we make ourselves self-insufficient. I can guarantee you that our parents are more independent and self-sufficient than we are essentially because we don’t push anything into long-term memory – it’s all transitory.

In the near future (the next generation), I can see our youngsters truly being overwhelmed by cell phone usage that will lead them to a sort of ‘mobile device rehab,’ if you will. Kids are being tossed mobile devices in infancy now; even if it’s a tablet or laptop, this cannot bode well for the future of cognitive expansion. Our brains work best by being thrown a wide variety of different things and learning many facets of life. Life should be spent by appreciating the moment and being grateful for things you have, rather than catering to the interest of other people’s experience. Life is teeming with uncharted experiences that are there for free, and enjoying them may involve sacrificing the thing that’s tied to your hand. I’m definitely guilty of unremitting cell phone handling, and I’m probably falling victim to cell phone addiction, but I’m glad I’m not oblivious to it. Here’s a recent incident during which I found myself perturbed about being without my phone…

I had boarded a plane with about 38 percent battery life (because Apple likes us to lose our minds over this battery problem) with airplane mode turned on. My music was playing while I read a book because the plane was exceptionally noisy. The amount of attention and comprehension I was devoting the book I was poring over had been typical. When my battery crossed the 10 percent threshold, since I’m so hyper-vigilant, I began to feel uneasy. Anxiety was brewing in me and I couldn’t focus on the book; instead, my only thought was how the hell am I going to continue reading without music from my phone? Granted, I was still – unconsciously and unbeknownst to myself – checking my phone as if it weren’t on airplane mode, as if I’d magically get a text message or update while I was 35,000 feet above the surface. Once my phone fully died, I dropped the book. I then had a profound epiphany and harkened back to the times when I was without a cell phone in life, such as when I was a kid. I noticed how my senses were a lot deeper and more powerful. I would appreciate the small things in life and take heed of what’s going on around me. The realization that I came to was that being with a cell phone nonstop is synonymous with walking through life blindfolded–unable to discern the meaningless from the significant aspects of life.

This is no cell phone embargo. I’m going to continue to explore the perks of my phone; it’s our prerogative as humans. But I will drop it when it’s not needed or when I want to challenge myself to learn things the more authentic way. It will be interesting to see how things unfold. Hopefully, we can come to a better understanding of what’s important and what isn’t.

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Why We Adore Babies

No matter how bad of a day you’re having, or how difficult you may view your life’s current-state, it’s hard not to melt when you place your eyes on an infant. But why is that? We have the finely tuned ability to naturally empathize with babies and look to administer care for them as if they’re our own, even if, unfortunately– they aren’t. Maternally and paternally, a lot of this unconditional love is embedded in us from the outset of conception. From a strangers point of view–totally unrelated to a certain baby–we find ourselves spellbinded by what’s in front of us. The cuteness that radiates from a baby’s countenance seems to tinker with our brain in a way that’s certainly necessary. From the soft skin, to the glowing bright-eyes and miniature nose; we feel connected to them. in addition, the innocence that any baby evinces is hard to deflect. Without the visceral acceptance of babies, we probably would have struggled to survive considering they’re the key to our species’ long-term prosperity.

Chemically, neurotransmitters play a major role in the make-up of our feelings for babies. Dopamine and oxytocin get released in a manifold of ways when parenting and nurturing a baby. These hormones help channel the parents attention to the child itself, rather than unknowingly neglecting it. Many mothers are seemingly, yet understandably, overly fond of their offspring because of these chemicals being fired off in their brain. You, essentially, are them; thus, you naturally favor them. Also, nature has it’s way of controlling a males mentality by accumulating prolactin (a hormone that basically suppresses testosterone) so that a father may redirect his priorities and increase the bond with his newborn. When parents are privy to the connection of their young one, they will undeniably be there for them through thick and thin. Conversely, those who play “deadbeat” set themselves up for failure by devaluing the attachment they’ve been endowed with toward that baby.

Having recently become an uncle, I find it highly admirable, but mostly interesting. When I’m around the newborn, I can’t help but feel a strong attraction–an attraction that wasn’t present a year ago. Now that my nephew (Colton; see picture) is alive and in good health, I can wholeheartedly say, my love is deep for him. I will invariably treat him with utmost avuncular affection. The idea that he’s so pristine, new, and fresh gives me great excitement of what’s to come for him. He has a clean slate. But what if I were to randomly meet a nephew of mine that’s in his teens–I’m sure I wouldn’t find him as alluring and adorable: the newness is everything. Moreover, babies woo us with their charm and preciousness. The baby schema–an innate instinct that causes us to swoon over a toddler’s facial and physical structure–washes over our minds like waves against rocks. But interestingly, the thought of the unknown, is what prompts us to enjoy and relish the good moments when we’re in the vicinity of a newborn. There’s no wonder why when bereaved parents, who lost their children at young ages, find the grieving process to be nearly insufferable. It’s because they never got to witness what the child was capable of accomplishing, and the defenseless innocence that babies emanate resonates deeply within us.

Truth is: there’s nothing NOT to like when you’re around a baby. They’re being molded left and right with a sort of ‘trial-and-error’ type mindset. They look. They stare. Every gaze you exchange with them seems to be extremely genuine. There’s no phoniness or disingenuousness; it’s just them being observant and trying to learn what’s around them, which is clearly something you can’t feign. Their little bodies are a reminder of how cuddly our anatomy once was. As unpredictable as they are, you can’t help but smile at how funny they tend to be in the most dearest moments. The lovey-dovey playfulness we exude when we’re around them has a soft spot in all our hearts. Watching them grow and change each and every day is a privilege, and it’s important to steer these mini-humans in the right direction.

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We’re Nothing But a Victim Of Our Brain

There’s nothing more dehumanizing than realizing that you are beholden to a part of your brain of which you have no control–the unconscious. For years, philosophers have squabbled over whether or not there’s free will, or, rather, are we just an amalgamation of neurons being shot off and transmitted throughout our prefrontal cortex thereby mitigating our sense of self. It’s quite evident that we aren’t always the drivers of our bodies and the authors of our thoughts, but astonishingly, the observers. This concept of a lack of free will is somewhat arcane, but is being uncovered slowly by neuroscience. Most of the decisions we make on a daily basis are derived from our unconscious (once dubbed as the “subconscious;” both terms are interchangeable.) Our predispositions and predilections are primarily out of our control; it’s only at the moment they arise that we feel we’ve created these feelings–which of course is illusory. Moreover, we’re plagued by cognitive biases that we generally fall victim to in the midst of quick-thinking. But, we aren’t robots (as far as i know) and we do waffle over choices ad infinitum until we stumble upon an answer that is most conducive to our wellbeing. However, if something is unbreachable, such as the aforementioned unconscious which makes up the majority of our actions, aren’t we not truly responsible for most of our wrongdoings, missteps, and negative behavior, given that we had no other choice? Aren’t we just playing to the beat of our own brain? If we were able to choose differently, wouldn’t we need a different brain that doesn’t constitute a potential predictable outcome of which you had zero choice in developing?

Brain processes that happen automatically with little to no conscious effort surprisingly occur more than we think. Experiments conducted at the University of Columbia asked participants to perform a set of tasks under functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI). One of the tasks was pressing a specific button with their right or left hand, which seemingly would be unpredictable to onlookers and one’s self. However, what the participants didn’t know was that whatever choices they eventually chose, it was already decided by their unconscious 7 seconds before with 98% accuracy! The FMRI was beaming with blood flow to that specific area in the brain which would press the right or left button. This stood as a clear indicator that our unconscious is in the driver seat and we are just the presenters of what it chooses, in the end. As soon as consciousness kicks in, it’s by that point we are duped into thinking we’ve actually, consciously, made the decisions ourselves.

We are constricted and influenced by our genes, environment, and evolutionary upbringing, all of which we had no conscious modifications toward. When you really inspect your thoughts, you’ll come to a stark realization that thoughts arise out of nowhere. We tend to witness our inner lives so frequently that we aren’t jarred by the outcomes of things that happen solely because we think we’re always in control and it was our fault for choosing this or that. Causes and effects that happen systematically in the universe make things irreversible or unchangeable; if you were given a chance to redo your final decision on something, as long as the universe is configured the same way (mostly your brain & body) then you’ll choose that same exact choice the second time around.

Think of all the chemicals that propel you into a merry temperament or a testy mood. These emotions are sustained through a myriad of brain functioning variables that are mostly out of our grasp. If we really have absolute free will, wouldn’t we all be in great shape, happy as a clam, smart as whip, and in deep love? Our brain dictates our behavior and we can’t tap into our most profound facet of our brain that’s responsible for most of how we act. Thus, as disconcerting as it may be, we are, which Sam Harris so elegantly states: “You are not controlling the storm, and you are not lost in it. You are the storm”

Cognitive biases also have their way of manipulating us into using shortcuts as survival tactics developed through years of trial and error. The confirmation bias–a bias which tends to favor the preconceived beliefs a person thinks are true no matter how much opposing evidence is provided– is what keeps inveterate traditions around. I find myself conforming to the confirmation bias sometimes by looking up something that favors my outlook on a particular subject, but usually things that are opinionated and trivial. This bias can be detrimental when people start believing in unrealistic things and devise their life around something that’s extraordinarily farcical such as thinking UFO’s are hovering over your house every-night, for the odd and narcissistic sake that they want to abduct you and no one else. Blocking out contrary evidence can hamper someone’s mental development and ultimately affect those around you. Conspiracy theorists and the like tend to gravitate toward conformation of their irrational notions rather than the dis-conformation of what lies beneath the veracity of that belief. We are preprogrammed to act this way in order for the brain to make sense of things in an easier fashion and to fill the gaps in our logic. Overcoming this bias takes practice and an open-minded attitude to see things from both sides and recognize that empirical evidence supersedes belief no matter how near and dear that belief may be to you.

I think the for most part our brains have been molded over years and years of evolution to act a certain way. And since we don’t exist in an era where survival is urgent every single day, we’re burdened with these subtle glitches in our thinking that leave us swayed toward one side rather than the other. Our will is finite; it can only go so far. Some people can wake up tomorrow and decide to go on a strict diet, while others will vacillate the idea until they’ve essentially run out of time. Our brains are plastic and we can mend them to some degree, but we cannot replace them (not yet at least.) So, whichever way your brain is constructed you have to realize your strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly because your brain has an uncanny way of misleading you towards conclusions that may be good for you in the moment, but harmful for you in the long run.

 

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Facing Your Fears

Fears and phobias, by and large, instill tremendous anxiety from the outset of any unsettling personal thought. Phobias, being less focused on in this essay, are illuminated inside the purview of fears and create a sense of psychological impairment. For example, I’m 96% sure I have arachnophobia, well, according to me. Anytime I’m confronted by the eight-legged freaks, I suddenly become perturbed by involuntary reflexes and emotions. It’s really as if I have no control of my body. Fears, on the other hand, don’t seem to go that far in the domain of “scarediness.” Many people fear heights, but will be unhesitant to ride Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure; a phobia of heights (acrophobia) will leave you grounded in the kiddy park. Day in and day out, people tend to tackle fears in a way that is highly admirable; but, unfortunately, many of us remain stagnant: staring through the lens of uncertainty and worry, only to find ourselves back at the spot where we once were before. Fears, disconcertingly, act as a safeguarding response mechanism to things that may threaten or hurt us. This is something that doesn’t seem maladaptive. But, once fears get overanalyzed when there’s no injury in the way such as public speaking, we can overcome these “glitches” in our system by recognizing and preparing for what’s at stake.

Nearly everyone has faced an internal battle with their own nerves. From the knots in the stomach to light-headed wooziness: these profound feelings evince stress. What’s worse, when the aforementioned feelings arise, you can’t help but prolong the process of queasiness because of the vicious cycle of negative thinking.

The fear of public speaking is widespread, and seems to coincide with acute anxiety. Understandably, it’s nearly impossible to mollify the feelings of distress that creep up on you in the wake of a presentation or speech. A slew of people would pay a large sum of money to abscond standing in front of a big crowd of people. What exactly is making us so afraid? In my estimation, it’s disapproval. When you’re in the visual radius of 50 to 100 people who all seem to be judging you, you can’t help but think the utmost worst of how they’re perceiving you. All our lives we thrive to be social butterflies and once our reputation gets an overwhelming amount of scrutiny, our fight-or-flight response activates, thus leaving us in a stupor of uncomfortability. By besmirching your purported “image” or “character” you may be overwrought by an outcome that seems undesirable. We, for most part, strive to make the best impression on our peers and those of higher status to gain some credibility in society.

The biological reactions that fire off and take over our bodies is something that’s been embedded in us. Survival tactics once were extremely vital to the savior of one’s body. If there was some rustling in the bushes nearby, you had to be fast on your feet to realize if it was a portent of death or something like a kindred spirit. By choosing the former, you gave yourself the undeniable ‘live-another-day’ card. Animals who became a bit too curious would ordinarily bite the dust. Our unconscious instincts drive us and have landed us to be on the winning side of the survival of the fittest gauntlet. Without these death-preventing measures, we may have had a short shelf life as human beings.

What suddenly emerges out of a person’s will to overcome fears that have scarred them for nearly their whole life? Maybe we’ve suppressed our bravery. Maybe we’ve had a past experience that tainted our outlook on a certain perspective of a “thing” or endeavor. Human beings are remarkably fascinating. The thresholds for pain that get transcended by indefatigable feats and acts of valor are truly laudable. Friends of mine have plodded through fears like soldiers in Vietnam. They’ve accomplished things they would have been afraid to play a part in just a mere 5 years ago. There was no cognitive behavior therapy that they used; just sheer guts and determination to triumph over the normal standard of human limits that we arbitrarily place on ourselves.

An erstwhile experience of mine was a shining example of fear itself. I had the unenviable displeasure of dealing with a drowning child in my pool. Given the massive amount of brain-rattling terror when I was gazing at the face of an 11-year old with a distended stomach along with eyes rolled back in his head, I instantly felt the amalgamation of every worst possible emotion. Whether it was from witnessing a quasi-dead person in my backyard to the forethought of having not saved this innocent young child, I couldn’t let this ride on my conscious any longer before my unconscious swiftly stepped in to handle things on autopilot. My fear was characterized by apprehension. At first view, I became unshakably paralyzed. As all these chemicals were going off in my anatomy, I eventually came to with the proper know-how to muster up some courage to administer CPR. Without the help of my father and my cousin, that poor kid would have perished that sunny Monday back in June of 2011.

People have the mental wherewithal to face obstacles and rise above the hardscrabble by foreseeing themselves succeed. Positive reinforcement and an optimistic attitude on life creates an urge to embark upon things that once seemed inconceivable. A lot of fear manifests itself out of distasteful outcomes that we ostensibly have no control over. Moreover, fear can be debilitative; stripping us our total potentiality and dehumanizing us down to quail sheep. Just remember: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. It’s our prerogative as sentient creatures to conquer everything that lies in our way and obstructs our betterment. The best way to beat fear is to unravel yourself out of the cobwebs of doubt by looking past your irrationality of what’s exactly at hand. But here’s the twist: maybe we’re all just comprised of billions of cells of which we had no hand in making within a universe replete with infinite particles and a product of behaviors that exist in faculties of our brain which we cannot breach (unconscious), ultimately leading us down the steep hill of a lack of free will. Plausible? Yes, but it remains to be seen…

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