Anxiety's Secondary Effect

Research shows when someone is in a bad mood, he's more likely to believe negative statements about himself. He also remembers more times when he was punished for failure and remembers fewer times he was rewarded for succeeding. And when two pictures flash at the same time (one to each eye with a divider between the eyes), he'll see the negative picture but not the positive picture more often when he's feeling bad than when he's feeling good.

In other words, feelings effect your perception in a way that reinforces the already-existing feelings.

Events in your life cause your body to produce stress hormones. Okay, it's not just the events — it's also how you interpret those events. But to simplify for the moment, let's say events directly cause the release of stress hormones into your bloodstream.

Stress hormones have many effects in your body. Adrenaline, for example, makes your heart beat faster. If it's just a little adrenaline — if you're just a little upset — your heart beats only a little faster. If you get very upset, you get a large dose of adrenaline and your heart beats a lot faster.

Adrenaline also makes you breathe faster. It diverts blood away from your digestive system and into your muscles (giving you the sensation that you've got butterflies in your stomach). It causes sweating. If it is just a little adrenaline, you may not even notice the increase in sweating, but a galvanic skin response machine could easily detect it, because the electrical conductivity of your skin improves as it gets wetter (water is an excellent conductor of electricity).

So adrenaline has a finite number of effects. Certain systems and organs in your body have receptors for adrenaline and respond to it.

One of the organs effected is your brain and that's how we get the secondary effect. A stressful circumstance — or even a worrisome thought — begins a chain of reactions. Adrenaline pumps into your blood. Your brain is altered so it is more tuned into danger and threat. Your thoughts become more upset-oriented. When you're experiencing anxiety or worry, you tend to see the world in terms of threat and danger. You're more likely to notice potential dangers; you're more likely to see what might go wrong; and you're more likely to interpret what you see as dangerous or worrisome, even if it isn't. You begin to interpret your world in a more upsetting way, taking even neutral comments as threatening; seeing danger in a nonsmiling but unthreatening facial expression.

Because of these interpretations, your body produces even more adrenaline, increasing or prolonging the feeling of anxiety.

These are secondary effects. Adrenaline causes your brain to be on red alert and this changes the way you perceive the world. If you aren't aware of this or if you don't know what to do about it, stressful events will be more stressful than they need to be. Or you'll feel upset longer than you need to. In other words, you'll suffer needlessly.

Don't get me wrong: If you are alive, you will suffer. You will feel upset now and then. You can't avoid it and stay alive. But you can lessen it by limiting the secondary effect.

All you need to do is remember the secondary effect happens. When you remember that adrenaline alters the way your perceive and interpret your experience of the world, you will naturally become more skeptical about the conclusions you draw when you feel upset. That all by itself will lessen the secondary effect. Many of the other methods on this web site will help you as well. The method here is simple: When you feel upset or anxious, remind yourself that stress hormones effect your judgment and perception.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy, Direct Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

How to Calm Your Mind

"Can you give me some advice?" she asked with a tinge of pleading in her voice. Without waiting for an answer, she said, "I have an interview today, and with the divorce and Mom's illness, I have so many thoughts racing through my mind I don't think I'm going to be a good interview."

I didn't waste any time. "You have meditated with a mantra before, right?"

"Yes. Not today, but I have. And I know I really should but I haven't had the time."

"No, no. That's not my advice. You know how when you meditate you've got a single word or phrase you repeat and come back to again and again? The reason that's so calming is that the mind tends to race from one thing to another. When you're meditating and you notice your mind racing, what do you do?"

"Start saying the mantra to myself again."

"Exactly. You come back to the mantra. And your mind runs off in another direction thirty seconds later. And you come back to the mantra again. Your mind starts to settle down because you have a simple focus," I said, "and that's what you need today. You need a simple phrase that will focus your mind on something helpful. While you're interviewing, it isn't helpful to think about your divorce or your mother's illness."

"No. Definitely not."

"What would be helpful? How about something that would relax you?"

"I've been trying to relax tense muscles lately."

"That's perfect," I blurted. "That could be your phrase. Every time you notice your mind is racing, say to yourself, 'Relax tense muscles,' and then relax any tense muscles you have. If your mind starts to scatter off again, notice it and relax your tense muscles again. That's a good one."

"I'll try it. That sounds like it could work."

I heard from her later, and it did work. It prevented her mind from drifting into counterproductive thoughts, and went further than that and put her mind on something that could actually help her situation.

This is a simple way to settle your mind. It keeps you from having such an overabundance of thoughts. The best thing to bring your mind to is a simple purpose. The woman had the simple purpose of relaxing tense muscles. Every time she felt nervous or upset, she had something to settle her mind on. Like a constant pressure on the back of a wild horse, the mind will eventually stop jumping around and it will settle down.

Don't use force. Be gentle. Bring your attention back just like you do in meditation. Notice your attention has wandered, and bring it back. Have one single, simple purpose — some short phrase — to bring your attention to, and keep bringing it back over and over. You've heard of unsettling thoughts? This is the way to have settling thoughts.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought, Direct Your Mind, and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

The Need to Explain

Jerilyn Ross, author of Triumph Over Fear, describes one of her patients, Lorraine, who had been experiencing panic attacks but didn't know what they were. Lorraine thought something was terribly wrong with her, but had no idea what it might be. She only knew she was overwhelmed by negative feelings of terror, seemingly at random. Her doctor didn't know what was wrong with her either, so he recommended a neurologist. Ross wrote:

With total disbelief that she could even think this way, Lorraine described how while she was waiting for the test results, she found herself almost hoping that she had a brain tumor: "Then at least there would be an explanation as to what was wrong with me!"

Lorraine wanted an explanation. She craved an explanation. Daniel Wegner, one of my favorite researchers and the author of White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obesession, and the Psychology of Mental Control, says that our minds have a strong drive to explain feelings of anxiety. I remember once taking an aspirin, and later feeling very anxious. I made an assumption about what caused my feelings. I didn't try; my mind naturally and automatically came up with a reason why I felt anxious. The anxiety is like a puppy with new teeth that needs something to chew on. The mind searches around to find the most likely thing, the most blatant worry, and latches onto that and starts ruminating about it.

I had been talking to someone about a tense situation, and I assumed our conversation was causing my anxiety.

I found out later the aspirin contained caffeine and the anxiety was artificially-induced. But the same thing happens with naturally-produced adrenaline. Something gives you a shot of adrenaline. Let's say you almost hit the curb when you swerve to avoid hitting a log in the road. It scares you a bit, but now it's over. The adrenaline, however, is still in your bloodstream. It doesn't go away after the mini-crisis. And if you later feel some anxiety you'll explain it, quite automatically and with no conscious intention on your part. You might have forgotten about the log in the road. So your mind will come up with something to justify your feelings of anxiety, which of course puts your mind on troublesome, worrisome things. Which, of course, can cause your body to produce more adrenaline, keeping the cycle going.

Many times I've solved one problem after another, only to have my mind search around for another worry. In other words, the adrenaline can come first. We already know that a scary or worrisome circumstance or thought can come first and it can produce adrenaline. But it is also true that you can have extra adrenaline for some other reason — coffee, an suspenseful movie, intense rock music — and then the adrenaline causes your mind to search for a bone to gnaw on (trying to find a reason for the feeling), finds something and starts worrying about it, producing still more adrenaline rather than letting it naturally drop back down.

One of the things I've wondered is why I like loud rock music, intense action movies, and coffee. Obviously those aren't what my system needs. I already have too much adrenaline in my system. Why would I seek out things that give me even more? With this understanding of how the mind works, it seems I must get some relief from worry because while I'm feeling high strung, I know what's causing it and my mind is relieved of its obsession for finding a cause to attribute the anxiety to. If I have a feeling of anxiety, I immediately think, "It's the coffee," and that's the bone for the puppy. The mind's need to explain is satisfied, and the explanation is nothing to worry about; the caffeine will wear off. And my mind is silenced, at least for a little while.

It is only a temporary relief, though, because these things are causing my body to produce more stress hormones, whether I have a temporary explanation or not. My mind may be satisfied, but my body is still wearing itself out with hyperarousal. Doing things that make it worse is not the answer.

The method here is simply to remind yourself of this fact: Your mind has an automatic response to adrenaline — it needs to find a cause. When you feel anxious, remind yourself of this fact. It helps.

And watch what you entertain yourself with. Does the music you're listening to make you feel tense? Does the movie pump adrenaline into your bloodstream? Be careful about doing even fun things that produce adrenaline or cortisol. Movies with tension or violence or suspense. Drinking coffee. Playing intense video games. Certain kinds of music. There are maybe a hundred CDs you would enjoy listening to. Some will cause tension in your body and others won't, but you enjoy them all, so choose the ones that will cause the effect you want on your body. Try to get your enjoyment without the tension. Alternatives might be uplifting or inspiring movies. Calming, soothing music. Drinking chamomile tea. Playing tennis, golf, softball.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Direct Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Legitimate Worry

Dan has been a carpenter for 17 years, but he's starting to worry. His knee has been bothering him off and on for two years and it bothers him more and more and he's worried about it.

What should Dan do with his worry? Meditate more? Breathe deeply? No. The problem isn't the worry. The problem is the bad knee.

Dan could do several things. He could go to a knee doctor and/or a physical therapist, or even just a knowledgeable shoe salesman, or maybe all of them, and see if he can do something about the knee.

He could take a yoga class. Or he could solve his knee problem by getting into a different line of work. He could start taking night classes.

Dan could spend a few weeks making lists in his spare time of possible options. He could talk to all his friends about it and get ideas he might not have thought of. He could read up on knee problems.

He should convert his worry into a purpose: Solve the knee problem. He has a legitimate worry and the knee should be addressed, not the worry.

Sometimes your anxiety is irrational and unnecessary and the only healthy thing to do is directly lower your anxiety without ever dealing with what you are worried about. But I didn't want us to lose sight of the fact that sometimes worry is legitimate. And when that's the case, it's time to stop concerning yourself with your own anxiety and work to solve the real problem.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Direct Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Feeling a Negative Emotion? Snap Out of It

One thing almost always goes with a negative emotion: A narrow focus of attention. Sometimes the narrow focus causes the dysphoria (negative emotion, opposite of euphoria), for example, if you focus on something that makes you angry or worried or sad. And sometimes the dysphoria causes the narrow focus. That is not to say a narrow focus always causes dysphoria. It does not. When you focus your attention on a worthy purpose, the focus can create good feelings. But if you feel bad, your attention is probably narrow. Almost every time. Dysphoria is a form of self-hypnosis. Or at least it is useful to think of it that way.

A hypnotic trance is a tight focus of attention. And when you focus your attention, you are in a kind of trance. You've probably seen something like this: You speak to someone when he is watching TV and he doesn't hear you at all. You were standing close to him and you spoke loudly. But he didn't hear you. Have you ever seen that? If you have, you have seen hypnosis. He couldn't hear you because he was focused on the television — focused completely. His attention was so captivated by the images and sounds on the TV, all his attention had narrowed to only that. He was literally hypnotized by the TV. That's a form of hypnosis. We've all experienced it.

A good hypnotist focuses your mind carefully. She directs your mind. And she makes suggestions to help you narrow your focus: "Listen to the sound of my voice and my voice only, etc." The hypnotist encourages you to get comfortable first so you are not distracted by physical discomfort — that would interfere with the narrowing of your attention and might bring you out of your trance.

But this article isn't about hypnosis. It is about how the focus of your attention becomes narrow when you experience negative emotions (dysphoria). And even more specifically, it is about what you can do about it when it happens. But the subject of hypnosis is important to talk about because when you get upset or depressed or angry, it is very much like being in a trance, and if something happens that interrupts you, it feels like you "snap out of it."

For example, my wife was visiting one of our nieces at her house. She is 7 years old (my niece, not my wife). Her mom was punishing her and sent her to her room. Klassy (my wife) went in there with her and our niece was fuming. "I was only petting the cat," she said, indignantly.

Klassy said, "No, you knew you were misbehaving." Our niece refused to acknowledge it: "It isn't fair; I was only playing with the cat." This could be called a righteous indignation trance. She was creating her state of mind. She was focusing her mind on one aspect (she was playing with the cat) and ignoring the other aspects (she knew her mom didn't want her under the table, etc.)

Klassy kept insisting, "I know, honey, but you knew you shouldn't have been under the table." All at once, she snapped out of it. Klassy said it was like she "came to." Suddenly, her anger disappeared and she said, "I guess I should apologize." Boom! Just like that.

You can snap other people out of their dysphoria sometimes by expanding the focus of their minds, by putting their attention on other aspects. A depressed friend might say, "I'm ruined. I lost my job today. I can't believe it. I just can't keep a job."

Your friend has narrowed her focus down to one single event and to her, that's all there is: loss and failure and misery. The loss of the job has focused her attention. Like a hypnotist who says, "Look into my eyes," the job-loss has arrested her attention and mesmerized her.

You are not mesmerized, so you can see there is more to pay attention to. So you say, "Wait a minute. They were just laying people off and you don't have much seniority. They had to lay you off no matter how good a job you did. You'll find another job. You're going to make it. This is just one setback. Ten years from now if you even remember this, you'll look back and think it was no big deal." This kind of talk can sometimes snap someone out of the narrow focus. You are putting your friend's attention on a bigger field than the little dot she's been looking at.

But what can you do to yourself? What can you do when you feel dysphoric?

I'll tell you, this is going to sound like nothing, but you try it and then pass judgment, okay? When you feel dysphoric, if you only have the thought, "My focus must be very narrow right now," you are on your way out of it. It is like someone in a trance saying, "I think I am in a trance right now." A person who says that is less hypnotized just by being aware they are hypnotized.

When you can simply realize your focus is narrow, it is automatically less narrow at that point, isn't it? Do you see what I mean? As soon as you know you are focusing your attention too narrowly, that realization itself is an expansion. It will loosen your focus and lead you to wonder what you are focusing on and what you are ignoring. At this point, you are on your way out of it. Try it. It's a simple thing. But so are paper clips. Something simple can be very useful.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Direct Your Mind, and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

A Pleasurable Way to Relax

Sometimes I relax by imagining a place I invented. It is a vast open plain with tall dry grass, flat for many miles in every direction with mountains in the far distance. There are no cars or roads or houses in any direction. In my mind, I walk through the tall grass toward two tall trees by the side of a creek. The creek is small, about two feet deep and about two feet wide, meandering slowly through this enormous meadow. The two trees spread out over the creek making a nice shade. It is a warm sunny day. There's a light breeze. Very comfortable.

In my imagination, I walk up and climb into the hammock strung between the two trees. My dog has been walking with me and lies down on the ground within reach and I pet her lazily. We feel content, the two of us. There is no sound except the breeze lightly blowing through the trees.

This scene is very peaceful to me. I deliberately designed it one day, and I heartily recommend this simple relaxation method to you. Design a place for yourself with whatever elements you find relaxing. Kick back sometime and think of an ideal place of relaxation. What kind of surroundings, what kind of place, would make you feel most at ease? Think about as many details as possible. What kind of weather would you like? What is the temperature of the air? Who is with you? What are you wearing? What is in your view all the way around? Creating the place itself is a pleasant exercise.

And once you've got one created, you can use it when you're feeling stressed or having trouble sleeping. Lie back, close your eyes and transport yourself to your special place. Rest there for awhile. It is amazingly refreshing.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Direct Your Mind, and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Reduce Stress At Work

The following is an email Adam received and his reply.

Hi Adam,

Got quite a few things to say today some of which may be a bit silly. I will begin with my new job as that causes me a lot of unnecessary stress and misery that is predominantly self-induced. Not sure how to start but here goes. Basically in recent weeks I have had extremely low self-esteem. I'll give you a couple of examples of my thoughts about work as that is probably the best way to explain.

(1) I work in a team of 5 people and am more academically qualified than most and feel a constant pressure that I should know more than them and have the answers. I often feel that they are more competent than I am.

(2) I am quite soft in nature at times and think that has lead to people not taking me seriously — I blame myself for this.

(3) I think my boss does not have much respect for me as he does not speak with me as much as some of the others (I could approach him I know).

These things along with others mean that I am not functioning as well as I know that I am able to do. I feel low in confidence and so am not able to use time constructively. If I could get these things out of my head then I would work a lot better. All right I am not the smartest person in the world (I know this) but at least I could work with a clear head. I could list more examples but I think that you get the general idea. I am making my working life very hard for myself. Like at this moment I am feeling a little worried about work tomorrow. I feel threatened by others.

During the weekends I often do not see so many people that much as I don't have that many friends here yet. You can imagine that that gives me time to think and further doubt myself. I do actually keep active but need more conversation. I don't want to appear desperate to people so sometimes I don't call people. I told you that I am a silly!!!

This weekend just gone I had a friend of mine visit me from Germany — a lovely girl who I met in Sweden. We get along really well and it was the nicest week that I have had in quite a while. We are so comfortable together and I can really be myself with her. We laugh a lot together and even had a bit of romance. I remember thinking at certain times that I was living in that moment rather than thinking ahead or back (something Dale Carnegie says one should do in his book, "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living"). Then when she left I felt quite empty and alone. If I was the same with other people then I would be so much happier.

You know how I told you how I feel at work, well that often translates to other areas of my life. I will endeavor to explain what I mean. For example, when I was with my German friend I sometimes felt that she would not like me if she saw how I was at work. I even feel that my parents may be disappointed if they could see me at work. Feel as though I am not being strong enough or a real man. Does that make sense?

These thoughts are wearing me down and I want them out. Any suggestions?

- Alex

Hi Alex,

Your troubles are more common than you think they are. People who have overactive adrenal glands are afraid of what people might think, so they don't share that stuff very often, giving all the rest of us the impression we're the only ones who feel so anxious about things.

Your body is producing extra stress hormones. Bodies vary. Some are tall. Some are short. Some produce lots of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, etc.) and some don't produce as much. There is also a byproduct of adrenaline called lactate that specifically produces anxiety symptoms and thoughts of worry.

You said twice in your letter you wanted to get rid of your thoughts. You probably already know that isn't possible. You can think whatever you like, but you cannot just get rid of thoughts, and any attempt to make it happen will only cause you to think those thoughts more persistently.

But your problem is not your thoughts. Your problem is your body producing so many stress hormones. When you physically lower your stress hormone level, your thoughts will be less anxious.

How can you lower your stress hormone level? That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? First off, stop drinking coffee and alcohol, and quit smoking cigarettes (if you do). Those all stimulate your adrenals to produce extra stress hormones, which you don't need.

Also, eat fewer carbohydrates, especially sugars. And make sure you get plenty of calcium. Lactate is incompletely burned sugar, a by-product of stress. But lactate bonds with calcium, so make sure you get a steady supply.

Also, take 3 grams of vitamin C per day (3000 milligrams). Work up to it. Increase it gradually until two weeks from now you are taking three grams. And take it throughout the day — one one-gram tablet with every meal. Vitamin C is water-soluble and isn't stored by the body. You want to keep a constant vitamin C presence in your blood. Vitamin C has been shown to directly lower the level of stress hormones in the blood.

Train yourself in a relaxation technique and practice it every day for twenty minutes or so. Ideally twice a day. My recommendations for relaxation techniques that work are:
Progressive Relaxation
Autogenic Training
Mantra Meditation
Silva Mind Control
Hatha Yoga

Just find one of these you like, and do it. The best way, I think, is to get a tape or CD that talks you through the exercise. Your anxious thoughts are being driven by the physical presence of stress hormones. Just starting a new job probably raised your base level of stress hormones. Lower them, and your thoughts will calm down. You're a reasonable man. But if I gave you a shot of lactate, your thoughts would turn anxious, no matter how reasonable you are. Stress hormones not only effect the body, they effect the brain, stepping it up to a higher activity, and stimulating certain brain centers. Your brain stimulates you to be on the lookout for danger, and it starts interpreting situations as dangerous that are not, in fact, dangerous or threatening at all.

Let me know how this goes, okay?


Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Direct Your Mind, and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Reduce Anxiety With This Mental Technique

We few, we anxious few, have a tendency to ask questions that drive us nuts: "What if?" "Why?" "What do they think?" "What will happen in the future?" These are questions that in some way or another can produce anxiety. And they are perpetual. In other words, some questions can be answered and finished. For example, "What time is it?" But some can never be finished and so can perpetuate a state of anxiety.

Since we already have the capability of asking perpetual questions, and since we can use any question, I recommend one that produces positive emotions rather than negative. The question is:


Let your mind have a field day with that question, and all you'll get as emotional fallout are feelings of happiness and gratitude and pleasant surprise.

When you look for something, you tend to find it. This question makes you look. You'll realize someone has done something nice for you and you didn't really notice. You'll remember a great time you had a couple weeks ago — and realize you hadn't thought of it since then. Your mind will be attuned to good news. The question sets your mind to be on the lookout for it, so you'll notice and respond to news about how this lake got cleaned up or that disease now has a cure.

The question not only directs your attention to a healthy category, the question has the same perpetual quality as questions you have used to drive yourself crazy. It is perpetual because even after you've answered it, you can ask it again. That's not true with other kinds of questions. Once you've answered the question, "What did I eat today?" the question is complete and asking it again would just be silly.

But you can ask yourself what good you've been ignoring, and you will always be able to find more. Having your attention on the good is relaxing.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Direct Your Mind, and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

Two New Podcast Episodes

Both are under ten minutes. One episode is on how we can solve overpopulation. The other is what to do if you and your spouse argue or fight a lot.

Click on the link below to listen on your favorite podcast platform:

End Political Contributions

A lot of political problems in the U.S. can be traced to a single source: That politicians are legally allowed to accept money for their campaigns, and then they owe those contributors a favor. But this problem can be solved, and there are already effective organizations working on solving it. This episode explains the ideas behind the movement.

Click on the link below to listen on your favorite podcast platform:


Have you ever heard of a man named Paracelsus? He did a very good thing for you and me. In the year 1500 AD, the doctors in Europe studied the work of a man named Galen. His works had been respected for 1300 years. That's an incredibly long time. You talk about well established! What he wrote became like sacred doctrine. If Galen wrote it, it was so, and that's all there was to say about it.

Now a lot of the things he wrote were accurate. But a lot of it was garbage. For example, supposedly inside each person were what were called the Four Cardinal Humors. Humor comes from the Latin umor meaning fluid or moisture.

The four Humors were Phlegm, Choler, Blood, and Melancholy. In order to be in good health, so the theory went, a person had to have a proper balance between these humors. The whole thing sounds pretty humorous, don't you think? But if you didn't have enough of one of these humors, or if you had too much of one, then you were sick. That's what disease was. So to make you well, the doctor's job was to restore the balance.

Galen also believed that each person had a certain balance that was just right for that particular individual. Therefore, each illness in each person was unique.

So the doctor, with his special knowledge, might find you had, say, too much of one of your humors, like blood for example. And he would treat you by making you bleed for awhile. One of their techniques was to attach leaches to your body to suck out some of your blood. And then you would be well. Now this sounds like a good Monty Python gag, but here were well-respected authorities, diligently studying for years to get their "Doctor of Physic" degree so they could go out and make people sweat and purge and bleed and vomit, and thereby supposedly make them healthy. A lot of the time, as you can probably imagine, the treatment killed the patient. But after 1300 years, this was a very well-established status quo.

Then along comes a rebel by the name of Paracelsus, who came up with the scandalous idea that something from outside your body, like smoke or germs, could make you sick. What a radical! He was viciously attacked by the medical profession so he never stayed in one place very long, and he lived his life in poverty.

But he never gave up. He felt pretty sure he was right, and he knew if he was right, it would have an enormous impact on the health of everyone.

Since he had no Doctor of Physic degree, he was never allowed to publish his ideas — including his studies of people who worked in mines who all seemed to die of the same thing (now called Miner's Disease) which seriously put in question one of Galen's "sacred" ideas that all diseases were unique.

It wasn't until a couple of decades after Paracelsus died that his work became known and published. He turned out to have been right, and although he never knew what he did, he opened up the way for a whole new approach toward disease, and doctors dramatically increased their effectiveness because of that persistent rebel.

Now some people might consider themselves a failure if they lived a life like Paracelsus — in poverty and scorned and all. But there are more important things in life than just winning or getting everyone's admiration, or collecting and spending a lot of money. Nothing wrong with these things. Not at all. But there's at least one thing that's more important: Being true to your own aspiration.

If it stirs you, if that vision captivates you, if the ideas for that invention haunt you and won't leave you alone, if you have a goal that may even seem petty to others, but it's something you feel is good and right, and you want to try...then do it, no matter how long it takes or who thinks you're a fool. Never give up on something that matters to you.

Adam Khan is the author of Slotralogy, Direct Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of What Difference Does It Make?: How the Sexes Differ and What You Can Do About It. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

The Fate We Make

If you decide your fate is in your own hands, it is. If you decide you are pushed around by circumstances beyond your control, you are.

The truth is, our fate is in our own hands to some degree, and also there are a lot of things that influence us and are out of our control or have been preordained (like where we were born).

But if you decide your fate is in your hands, your fate becomes more in your hands, and as time goes on, it becomes more and more true, like a small wave catching more of the wind and becoming an ever larger wave.

It is only a matter of where you put your attention. For example, if you pay attention to the forces that influence you beyond your control, you'll feel helpless, at least a little. Depression, or some degree of it, follows like thunder after the flash. When people feel helpless, they don't take actions they could take that would make their situation better. A belief in one's helplessness actually makes one more helpless.

Put your attention on what you can effect, however, and your life will go more the way you want it to. You're concentrating your attention where it counts. This makes you more likely to take action, and makes your actions more effective. Optimism follows. And as numerous studies have shown, including the thorough work of Martin Seligman, PhD, Kogod Professor and Director of Clinical Training in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the side-effects of optimism are better health, more success, higher self-esteem, and a greater feeling of control. You'll have a greater feeling of control because you actually have more control. Your decision that your fate is in your own hands has given you more control of your life.

Your fate is, to a considerable degree, what you make it.

Why Motivation Doesn't Last

For those who dislike or harbor suspicion about the motivational speakers of the world, a common expression is: "motivation doesn't last." In other words, you go to a motivational seminar and you feel enthused about your goals, but then after awhile, it somehow peters out.

Motivation doesn't last. I've always thought of this as a legitimate indictment of the motivational-seminar industry, but I heard something Zig Ziglar said about it that changed my mind.

Zig Ziglar is one of the most successful motivational speakers of all time. He's not my favorite, but he says something once in awhile that betrays his intelligence. He said the reason motivation doesn't last is that the world is full of demotivators.

Tell your dreams to your friends and family, for example, and you'll hear at least some of them tell you why it won't work. That is demotivating, or at least it can be.

On your way to any goal, you are bound to encounter obstacles. This can be demotivating too, especially if your usual way of explaining setbacks is somewhat pessimistic. Reality seems to be stacked against you for various reasons.

The movie, Pleasantville, had a great illustration of a world full of demotivators. It showed teachers from different classes, one after the other, saying things like this:

"For those of you going on to college next year, the chance of finding a good job will actually decrease by the time you graduate...the median income for those jobs will go down as well."

"By the year 2000, the chance of contacting HIV from a non-monogamous lifestyle will climb to 1 in 150."

"By the time you are 30 years old, average global temperature will have risen two and a half degrees, causing such catastrophic consequences as typhoons, floods, widespread drought, and famine."

The world is full of demotivators. Not because everybody is trying to bring you down, although some may be. But for many different reasons, your motivation and enthusiasm can be continually drained away.

If you're already well aware of the demotivational nature of the world and want some practical steps to do something about it, go here.

The world may be full of demotivators, but you can protect yourself from them if you know how. You can keep your motivation and enthusiasm. Let the good times roll.

Why You're Less Hungry Fasting Than Dieting

This episode is a short excerpt from a much longer podcast (What's So Great About Fasting?). This one touches on the counterintuitive biological reasons many people find fasting to be significantly easier than dieting.

Click on the link below to listen on your favorite podcast platform:

How Long Can Someone Fast Before They Die?

This is a new podcast episode. It's a short excerpt of a much longer podcast (called What's So Great About Fasting?). This excerpt looks at some of the recorded extremes of fasting duration.

Click on the link below to listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Literally Saving the Earth by Regenerating Grassland

Grassland is the largest ecosystem on land, so what happens to grassland is important. And today, 70% of grasslands on earth have either turned into deserts or are in the process of turning into deserts. Why? What is happening?

Some areas of the earth don't get enough rainfall to grow trees but get enough to grow grass, like the Great Plains of North America, the Serengeti in Africa, or the vast Mongolian Steppe. Before the domestication of grazing animals, these grasslands were swarming with enormous herds of wild grazing animals. The grass plants and the grazing animals evolved together over millions of years. Believe it or not, they need each other like bees and flowers.

When the wild grazing herds were replaced with domesticated grazing animals, some big areas began turning into deserts. So people made the logical conclusion that domesticated animals make grasslands turn into deserts. Environmentalists decided the obvious solution is to stop domesticated animals from grazing some of these regions of land so the land could recover, but when they do it, the land doesn't recover. It continues to turn into desert.

It turns out, a desertified grassland actually needs grazing animals to thrive again.

The problem isn't the kind of animals grazing on the grass, it's the way the animals are grazing. Wild herds and domesticated herds behave differently. Do you know why?

You can answer the question yourself. What do wild grazing animals always have nearby? Predators! And the predators scare the grazers and make them crowd together in a bunch. So a herd intensively grazes one concentrated area. But of course it starts filling up with poop and piss, so the bunch moves on, and doesn't come back until the stink is gone and the grass has recovered. When a patch of land goes through this repeatedly, the grass grows in abundance. It is getting regularly fertilized and mowed. You know what the fertilizer does, but the mowing is important too.

Without mowing, grass grows tall, goes to seed, and then dies out. That is a grass plant's life cycle. And in the spring, new grass has to grow in the shade of all the dead grass from last season. The old dead grass smothers the new grass, blocking out its sunlight, so not as much grass grows the next year. The bare patches of land harden into a crust, and when rain falls on it, the water doesn't soak in as well. It runs off, taking topsoil with it, and evaporates quickly. So there's less water and nutrients in the soil, causing even less grass to grow the next season. The grassland has begun to turn to desert.

The biologist, Allan Savory, and other pioneers have found a way to mimic the effect of natural grazing animals (with their predators) – but without the predators, using domesticated animals. All a rancher has to do is bunch the animals together, either by herding them carefully or with the use of paddocks, and then move them frequently, and make sure they don't come back to the same plot of ground until the grass has recovered.

You can see some good before and after pictures in Allan Savory's TED talk called How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change. His talk is about how to manage grazing animals effectively. His method is called Holistic Planned Grazing.

When ranchers begin to use Holistic Planned Grazing, they have to increase the number of animals every year for a while to keep up with the increase in the amount of grass that grows. It makes the land so much more productive that it produces more food for humans, but it produces more food for the wild animals too. It turns more of the falling sunlight into grass.

In other words, Holistic Planned Grazing means more of the sunlight is converted into plant material, more of the rain goes into the soil, into the plants, and into the aquifers. Less runs off and evaporates. Floods become less of a problem when they happen, and they happen less often. And the land suffers less from drought, because the more soil life, the more water it can hold. And because more of the water gets absorbed into the ground, the plants are more resilient and more able to survive drought conditions for longer. Thriving grass also cools the atmosphere and prevents soil erosion.

One of the more interesting and important effects of desertification of the largest ecosystem on earth is that when land turns to desert, it releases an enormous amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. And when this process reverses, it pulls that CO2 out of the atmosphere and puts it into the ground. That's because the life in the soil is made of carbon.

Soil life is made up of organisms ranging in size from one-celled bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa, to more complex arthropods and nematodes, to earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and of course, plants. One teaspoon of healthy soil contains millions of beneficial soil microorganisms that include thousands of species of bacteria and fungi. All of this is made of carbon. The carbon comes from the CO2 in the air, brought into the soil by plants.

Experts have estimated that using Holistic Planned Grazing on only half of our barren or semi-barren grasslands would remove so much carbon from the air that our atmosphere would be like it was before the industrial age began.

Not only does Holistic Planned Grazing reverse desertification, it produces food without the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticides or fungicides, so it prevents the contamination of groundwater and surface-water.

Over 40 million acres of land are now being managed using Holistic Planned Grazing, and the results are really quite impressive. Look at the before and after pictures in the links at the end of this article. I think you will be surprised at the results. This method is ending poverty for people who rely on these desertifying lands for their sustenance because it makes the land so much more productive.

This can help solve other problems too. There is no reason to burn the Amazon rain forest to create grasslands for cattle. There are already-existing grasslands all over the world in desperate need of grazing animals right now.

By now it should be clear that the title of this article is not an exaggeration. Holistic Planned Grazing could literally save the earth in more ways than one. But what can you do about it? You can help get it adopted on a larger scale. The more ranchers who use it, the better. Here's where to start: Sign up for updates at the Savory Institute and Holistic Management International. Like them on Facebook (Savory Institute here, HMI here) and share their posts. You'll find plenty of opportunities to get involved. At the very least you can help make this information more widely known, and that will make a difference. You can do the same for our web site updates (near the top of the sidebar) and our Regenerating Grassland Facebook page (here).

And of course one simple and physical thing you can begin immediately is to buy beef and lamb that has been managed using Holistic Planned Grazing. Support that industry. There are a few ways to find out if your meat has been grazed regeneratively: A New Choice For Consumers: Regenerative Organic. Also check out Applegate Farms. They sell sausages made from meat raised regeneratively. You can also ask your butcher. Sometimes they know. My local butcher, for example, sells a whole line of meat from a ranch in Montana that employs Holistic Planned Grazing.

The Savory Institute also has a certification program (certifying that the land that produced the meat was managed Holistically), and more and more companies are getting certified all the time. You can track it here: Land to Market.

Simply buying the food and convincing others to buy it will make a difference. The same has already been done with organically grown grains, fruits and vegetables. There are a lot more farmers growing organic food because people voluntarily choose to buy it, even though it's often more expensive. This greater market creates more incentive for farmers to grow organically. The market for organically grown foods has been steadily growing for decades. And the greater the supply, the lower the cost, generally speaking, and as the cost to the consumer drops, more people will be willing to buy it. We can do the same thing with Holistically produced meat.

The bottom line is: The desertification of grasslands can be reversed and you can help get it done. It can happen fairly quickly. Land starts to noticeably recover within two years.

Listen to a podcast about this: Literally Saving the Earth by Regenerating Grassland

Now look at some good before and after images of what Holistic Planned Grazing can do:

Getting Results on the Land with Holistic Management

Comparison Photos of Holistically Managed Land Versus Conventionally Managed Land

The Power Of Holistic Management, In Pictures

Why Write About Fasting?

The world could be said to be having several important conversations. We’ve got a conversation underway about the “obesity epidemic” and about the “diabetes epidemic” and about the number one killer in the developed world: heart disease. But fasting — going without food for awhile — is rarely a part of these conversations.

In newspapers, magazines, scientific papers, personal trainers, doctors, and in ordinary conversations between people, the pros and cons of diet and exercise are hotly debated, but fasting is almost never even a consideration, and if it is, it is portrayed in a negative light. Most people never mention it or even think of it. But given the research on the benefits of fasting, this is a monumental oversight.

These discussions often go into minute detail about fats and cholesterol and antioxidants, about cardio workouts and strength training and yoga, about medications and surgical interventions — but almost nothing about fasting.

We hope to change that. Fasting should be an important part of any consideration of long-term health. The intelligent use of occasional hunger can and should be given at least as much airtime as diet and exercise. It should be the subject of an avalanche of studies, it should be the topic of articles in health magazines and mainstream newspapers. It should be talked about everywhere.

The studies already done on fasting are intriguing enough to arrest any rational person’s attention. We should all be talking about fasting and investigating its many fascinating effects on the human body. Let’s get the conversation started.

Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

My Assumptions Were Wrong

All my assumptions and all the things I've heard about fasting have turned out to be wrong.

It's easier than I thought it would be.

I don't gorge afterward and "gain it all back."

My metabolism is not slowed afterward. I don't become obsessed with food.

I haven't become a binge eater.

I don't know where these rumors or hearsay come from, but none of it has turned out to be true in my experience or for anyone I know who fasts.

Effects of Fasting on the Body

The image below is a slide from Mark Mattson's talk, which you can see here: Why Fasting is so Good for Your Brain. Click on the image to see it larger.

What Does Fasting Tell Your Body?

When you stress your muscles lifting weights by lifting more weight than you have before or doing more reps than you have before, the stress tells your body that it isn’t strong enough. Your body responds by getting stronger.

In the same way, the chemical changes your body undergoes when you’re fasting are telling your brain it isn’t smart enough. If you were smart enough, you would have enough food. The chemical changes in your body that result from the fact that you don’t have enough food stimulates your brain to grow new brain cells in a desperate attempt to help you survive. Think about it. If your condition continues for too much longer, you would be dead. So the brain is taking the data very seriously and will do anything it can to keep you alive.

Or at least that is a valid way to explain the finding that fasting causes new brain cells to form.

Here is Mark Mattson talking about how fasting stimulates the brain to generate new brain cells: Why Fasting Is So Good For Your Brain.

Why Fasting is so Good for Your Brain

Mark Mattson describes his research in the following TEDx talk. Mattson is the current Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University. Mattson is one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Arjun Walia, in an article in Collective Evolution, describes and comments on some of the points Mattson makes in the video above. Excerpts from Walia's article are below.

Mattson and his team have published several papers that discuss how fasting twice a week could significantly lower the risk of developing both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Dietary changes have long been known to have an effect on the brain. Children who suffer from epileptic seizures have fewer of them when placed on caloric restriction or fasts. It is believed that fasting helps kick-start protective measures that help counteract the overexcited signals that epileptic brains often exhibit. (Some children with epilepsy have also benefited from a specific high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.) Normal brains, when overfed, can experience another kind of uncontrolled excitation, impairing the brain’s function, Mattson and another researcher reported in January in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.”(source)

Basically, when you take a look at caloric restriction studies, many of them show a prolonged lifespan as well as an increased ability to fight chronic disease.

“Calorie restriction (CR) extends life span and retards age-related chronic diseases in a variety of species, including rats, mice, fish, flies, worms, and yeast. The mechanism or mechanisms through which this occurs are unclear.”

The quote above is from a review of the literature that is more than 10 years old. The work presented here is now showing some of these mechanisms that were previously unclear.

Fasting does good things for the brain, and this is evident by all of the beneficial neurochemical changes that happen in the brain when we fast. It also improves cognitive function, increases neurotrophic factors, increases stress resistance, and reduces inflammation.

Fasting is a challenge to your brain, and your brain responds to that challenge by adapting stress response pathways which help your brain cope with stress and risk for disease. The same changes that occur in the brain during fasting mimic the changes that occur with regular exercise. They both increase the production of protein in the brain (neurotrophic factors), which in turn promotes the growth of neurons, the connection between neurons, and the strength of synapses.

“Challenges to your brain, whether it’s intermittent fasting [or] vigorous exercise . . . is cognitive challenges. When this happens neuro-circuits are activated, levels of neurotrophic factors increase, that promotes the growth of neurons [and] the formation and strengthening of synapses. . . .”

Fasting can also stimulate the production of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus. He also mentions ketones (an energy source for neurons), and how fasting stimulates the production of ketones and that it may also increase the number of mitochondria in neurons. Fasting also increases the number of mitochondria in nerve cells; this comes as a result of the neurons adapting to the stress of fasting (by producing more mitochondria).

By increasing the number of mitochondria in the neurons, the ability for nerons to form and maintain the connections between each other also increases, thereby improving learning and memory ability.

“Intermittent fasting enhances the ability of nerve cells to repair DNA.”

He also goes into the evolutionary aspect of this theory – how our ancestors adapted and were built for going long periods of time without food.

A study published in the June 5 issue of Cell Stem Cell by researchers from the University of Southern California showed that cycles of prolonged fasting protect against immune system damage and, moreover, induce immune system regeneration. They concluded that fasting shifts stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. It triggers stem cell based regeneration of an organ or system. (source)

Human clinical trials were conducted using patients who were receiving chemotherapy. For long periods of time, patients did not eat, which significantly lowered their white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles “flipped a regenerative switch, changing the signalling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems.”

This means that fasting kills off old and damaged immune cells, and when the body rebounds it uses stem cells to create brand new, completely healthy cells.

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the heatopoietic system. . . . When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged. What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. ” – Valter Longo, corresponding author (source)

A scientific review of multiple scientific studies regarding fasting was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007. It examined a multitude of both human and animal studies and determined that fasting is an effective way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also showed significant potential in treating diabetes. (source)

Fasting Reboots Your Immune System

A recent study shows fasting causes many of your white blood cells to die, especially damaged cells. Then after the fast is over, the body uses stem cells to generate new white blood cells.

Quoting from an article about the study:
The researchers say fasting "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.

"It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system," said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California.

"And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.

In trials humans were asked to regularly fast for between two and four days over a six-month period.

Scientists found that prolonged fasting also reduced the enzyme PKA, which is linked to ageing and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumour growth.

"We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system," added Prof Longo.

"When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged," Dr Longo said.

"What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?"

Read the whole article here: Fasting for three days can regenerate entire immune system, study finds.

Benefits Compared to Difficulty

Yes, when you fast, you get hungry at times. And sometimes you might feel weak or at least unenergetic. But that's a minor amount of "suffering" compared to what you get for it.

It takes way less effort than, say, running a marathon, and it benefits you far more.

Fasting vs. Eating Less: What's the Difference? (Science of Fasting)

I just watched a video, 12 minutes, 49 seconds long, that explored what scientists have discovered about the difference between fasting and calorie restriction. Here's the video:

Fasting vs. Eating Less: What's the Difference?

The upshot is that it is much more difficult to just eat less, especially if what you're doing is eating primarily carbohydrates. The reason is interesting: Insulin tells your body not to burn fat. So if you're eating enough carbohydrates to stimulate a significant amount of insulin (as the volunteers did in the starvation experiment — around 1000 calories of carbs a day) it isn't enough fuel for your body, but it prevents your body from accessing your stores of fat, so you starve. If they had eaten no food, they would have been able to burn more calories and would have suffered less.

Interesting, no?

Video: Can You Build Muscle or Do You Lose it If You Fast?

This video is 7 minutes and 10 seconds:

Will You Lose Muscle While Fasting?

In 2010, researchers looked at a group of subjects who underwent 70 days of alternate daily fasting. That is, they ate one day and fasted the next. What happened to their muscle mass?

Their fat free mass started off at 52.0 kg and ended at 51.9 kg. In other words, there was no loss of lean weight (bone, muscle etc.). There was, however, a significant amount of fat lost. So, no, you are not ‘burning muscle’, you are ‘burning fat’. This, of course, is only logical. After all, why would your body store excess energy as fat, if it meant to burn protein as soon as the chips were down? Protein is functional tissue and has many purposes other than energy storage, whereas fat is specialized for energy storage. Would it not make sense that you would use fat for energy instead of protein? Why would we think Mother Nature is some kind of crazy?

That is kind of like storing firewood for heat. But as soon as you need heat, you chop up your sofa and throw it into the fire. That is completely idiotic and that is not the way our bodies are designed to work.

How, exactly does the body retain lean tissue? This is likely related to the presence of growth hormone. In an interesting paper, researchers fasted subjects and then suppressed growth hormone with a drug to see what happened to muscle breakdown. In this paper, they already acknowledge that “Whole body protein decreases”. In other words, we have known for 50 years at least, that muscle breakdown decreases substantially during fasting.

By suppressing growth hormone during fasting, there is a 50% increase in muscle break down. This is highly suggestive that growth hormone plays a large role in maintenance of lean weight during fasting. The body already has mechanisms in place during fasting to preserve lean mass and to burn fat for fuel instead of protein.

The above is excerpted from a longer article. Read the whole thing here: Fasting and Muscle Mass.

The Adam Bomb

I'm doing podcasts now. They're available on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, and more. Lately I've been talking about conspiracy theories and how to help someone you love be less conspiratorial in their thinking. Check out my podcasts here:

The Adam Bomb

When you click on that link, look in the sidebar if you want to subscribe to updates so you can be alerted whenever I post a new episode.

Leaded Gasoline Caused Violent Crime?

In an article entitled, America's Real Criminal Element: Lead, the author makes a convincing argument that the rise of violent crime in America was caused by the increase of the use of lead in gasoline, and that the subsequent drop in violent crime matches the discontinued use of lead as an anti-knock agent.

Way back in the early 1900's, ethanol was suggested as an anti-knock agent because it is naturally high in octane. The oil industry chose to use lead instead, from 1917 until 1987, when it was discontinued because, of course, lead is poisonous. And ethanol is not.

It is sobering to think it is likely that thousands of people were murdered in America because of the oil industry's fateful decision back in 1917.

Adding ethanol instead of lead to gasoline is an improvement, but it is even better to add a little gasoline to ethanol and burn that instead (E85). Or even better, as many do in Brazil, how about skipping the gasoline altogether and burning straight ethanol? It's an impressive fuel all by itself.