Scientists Officially Link Processed Foods To Autoimmune Disease.

The modern diet of processed foods, takeaways and microwave meals could be to blame for a sharp increase in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, including alopecia, asthma and eczema.

A team of scientists from Yale University in the U.S and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, say junk food diets could be partly to blame.

‘This study is the first to indicate that excess refined and processed salt may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases,’ they said.

Junk foods at fast food restaurants as well as processed foods at grocery retailers represent the largest sources of sodium intake from refined salts.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal sent out an international team of researchers to compare the salt content of 2,124 items from fast food establishments such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway. They found that the average salt content varied between companies and between the same products sold in different countries.

U.S. fast foods are often more than twice as salt-laden as those of other countries. While government-led public health campaigns and legislation efforts have reduced refined salt levels in many countries, the U.S. government has been reluctant to press the issue. That’s left fast-food companies free to go salt crazy, says Norm Campbell, M.D., one of the study authors and a blood-pressure specialist at the University of Calgary.

Many low-fat foods rely on salt–and lots of it–for their flavor. One packet of KFC’s Marzetti Light Italian Dressing might only have 15 calories and 0.5 grams fat, but it also has 510 mg sodium–about 1.5 times as much as one Original Recipe chicken drumstick. (Feel like you’re having too much of a good thing? You probably are.

Bread is the No. 1 source of refined salt consumption in the American diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just one 6-inch Roasted Garlic loaf from Subway–just the bread, no meat, no cheeses, no nothing–has 1,260 mg sodium, about as much as 14 strips of bacon.

How Refined Salt Causes Autoimmune Disease

The team from Yale University studied the role of T helper cells in the body. These activate and ‘help’ other cells to fight dangerous pathogens such as bacteria or viruses and battle infections.

Previous research suggests that a subset of these cells – known as Th17 cells – also play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases.

In the latest study, scientists discovered that exposing these cells in a lab to a table salt solution made them act more ‘aggressively.’

They found that mice fed a diet high in refined salts saw a dramatic increase in the number of Th17 cells in their nervous systems that promoted inflammation.

They were also more likely to develop a severe form of a disease associated with multiple sclerosis in humans.

The scientists then conducted a closer examination of these effects at a molecular level.

Laboratory tests revealed that salt exposure increased the levels of cytokines released by Th17 cells 10 times more than usual. Cytokines are proteins used to pass messages between cells.

Study co-author Ralf Linker, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said: ‘These findings are an important contribution to the understanding of multiple sclerosis and may offer new targets for a better treatment of the disease, for which at present there is no cure.’

It develops when the immune system mistakes the myelin that surrounds the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord for a foreign body.

It strips the myelin off the nerves fibres, which disrupts messages passed between the brain and body causing problems with speech, vision and balance.

Another of the study’s authors, Professor David Hafler, from Yale University, said that nature had clearly not intended for the immune system to attack its host body, so he expected that an external factor was playing a part.

He said: ‘These are not diseases of bad genes alone or diseases caused by the environment, but diseases of a bad interaction between genes and the environment.

‘Humans were genetically selected for conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where there was no salt. It’s one of the reasons that having a particular gene may make African Americans much more sensitive to salt.
‘Today, Western diets all have high salt content and that has led to increase in hypertension and perhaps autoimmune disease as well.’

The team next plan to study the role that Th17 cells play in autoimmune conditions that affect the skin.
‘It would be interesting to find out if patients with psoriasis can alleviate their symptoms by reducing their salt intake,’ they said.

‘However, the development of autoimmune diseases is a very complex process which depends on many genetic and environmental factors.’

Stick to Good Salts

Refined, processed and bleached salts are the problem. Salt is critical to our health and is the most readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. Our bodies are not designed to processed refined sodium chloride since it has no nutritional value. However, when a salt is filled with dozens of minerals such as in rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt or the grey texture of Celtic salt, our bodies benefit tremendously for their incorporation into our diet.

“These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated,” argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. “We have salty tears and salty perspiration. The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid.”

“In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions,” explains Dr Hendel. “These conduct electrical nerve impulses that drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions that come from mineral ions. They’re also needed to balance PH levels in the body.”
Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions, remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long been recognised in central Europe. At Wieliczka in Poland, a hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms in 90 per cent of cases.

Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much salt, may be to blame for health problems. It’s a view that is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon Health Sciences University in the US.

He says salt has always been part of the human diet, but what has changed is the mineral content of our food. Instead of eating food high in minerals, such as nuts, fruit and vegetables, people are filling themselves up with “mineral empty” processed food and fizzy drinks.



Bee brains challenge view that larger brains are superior at understanding conceptual relationships.

The humble honeybee may not seem very intelligent at first sight, but recent research has shown that it possesses a surprising degree of sophistication that is not expected in an insect brain. Specifically, the honeybee can understand conceptual relationships such as “same/different” and “above/below” that rely on relationships between objects rather than simply the physical features of objects.

In primates, this ability to understand conceptual relationships is attributed to neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). However, honeybees don’t have PFCs. Their brains are so small and lacking in complex brain structures that scientists have traditionally thought that the ability to understand conceptual relationships was beyond them.

Scientists Aurore Avarguès-Weber and Martin Giurfa, both from the University of Toulouse and CNRS in Toulouse, France, have analyzed the implications of the honeybee’s ability to understand conceptual relationships, and have published a paper on the subject in a recent issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“One thing that should be clear from this analysis is that, although it is always a matter of debate what is unique to humans and what to animals, these results show at least something that is not,” Giurfa told “While the capacity of conceptual elaboration has been considered (and is still considered) a higher-order capacity proper from primates and other ‘highly-evolved’ animals (the quotes are ironic in this case), the fact that a 950 000-neuron [honeybee] brain can achieve this kind of task shows that the frontier does not reside there.

“The obvious question would be then, what brings as advantage a 100-billion-neuron [human] brain? Obviously several advantages can be cited: language, for instance. Consciousness, whose existence is a matter of debate and of investigation in animals. And the idea that human brains have perhaps replicated redundant and modifiable modules to solve problems that small brains solve with single microcircuits at a smaller scale.”

Drug companies bought their way onto FDA advisory panels.

It is now an undeniable fact that the pharmaceutical industry weaseled its way onto key U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panels, which were instrumental in shaping the way drugs are safety tested and approved. According to The Washington Post (WP), a recent public records request has revealed that drug companies purchased special access onto these panels, where they were given the keys to the kingdom in swaying decision-makers about official drug policy.

Based on critical information gathered from hundreds of leaked emails, pharmaceutical companies have doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to attend private meetings with the FDA, many of which were geared towards the regulation and approval of painkiller drugs. Drug companies would reportedly shell out upwards of $25,000 or more per meeting to have their voices heard, a small price to pay for direct access to the $9 billion American painkiller market.

According to the WP, officials from both the FDA and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) would regularly meet with pharmaceutical representatives in private to discuss regulatory protocols, co-write scientific papers and collaborate on various ways to help streamline the drug approval process. And the only parties who actually paid to attend such meetings were the drug companies, a fact that one official from the NIH expressed serious concerns about in an email, referring to the whole scheme as a “pay to play process.”

Others who have since reviewed the emails agree, noting that, while the FDA did not necessarily benefit financially from these private meetings, many FDA officials went on to work as pharmaceutical consultants. In other words, FDA staff who agreed to grease the palms of the drug industry during these private meetings were later rewarded with high-paying positions in the drug industry. This is just one glaring example of how the line between the regulator (FDA) and the regulated (pharmaceutical companies) has been blurred beyond recognition.

“These e-mails help explain the disastrous decisions the FDA’s analgesic division has made over the last 10 years,” said Craig Mayton, the Columbus, Ohio, attorney who made the public records request to the University of Washington, to the WP. “Instead of protecting the public health, the FDA has been allowing the drug companies to pay for a seat at a small table where all the rules were written.”

Big Pharma, FDA corruption runs deep

It is no longer a conspiracy theory, then, that the drug industry owns the FDA. In this particular case, it was two academics by the names of Robert Dworkin, from the University of Rochester, and Dennis Turk, from the University of Washington, who allegedly orchestrated the painkiller plot. But there have been many other plots with the same ultimate end, a fact that NaturalNews and many others in the so-called “alternative” media have been shouting from the rooftops for years, but that the mainstream media has ignored, until now.

“Shame on the FDA and NIH for sending representatives to this panel, cooked up by two unethical professors and their drug company cronies,” wrote one WP commenter about the scandal. It should be noted that FDA officials actively participated in the painkiller scheme, all the while knowing full well that the private meetings they attended were hatched by Big Pharma. “Congress should come down hard on both agencies for participating in what was clearly pay-to-play, with awful consequences for the health of many suffering Americans.”

Such consequences include a flood of dangerous analgesic drugs to the market that were approved based on questionable or flawed safety studies. According to, the drug industry was successful during these meetings in convincing the FDA to adopt an “enriched enrollment” guidance for safety trials that eliminated patients who experienced adverse reactions. These and other modifications made it much easier for drugs to be declared safe and effective, and thus gain rapid approval.



The Story of a Lost Soul Who Forgot to Dream.

“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.” ~ Marsha Norman

A while back I went shopping with one of my friends. As we were looking at all the purses, scars, necklaces and all the other things that women usually look at when they go shopping, we stopped to try a pair of shoes. Because they didn’t had our size in that store, the young man working there sent one of his colleagues to bring the shoes from somewhere else and invited us to take a sit.

As we were siting there, chatting and waiting for our shoes,  I noticed how tired and sad the young man looked.


“How are you?” I asked him with a smile on my face?

Are you tired? 

You do look a bit tired.

You want to sit down and have a chat with us?

We promise not to be too annoying” and I started laughing.

“No, I am good.” he replied with a shy look on his face.

“What time did you came to work today?” I asked him again.

“It’s late, almost 10 pm.

I’m sure you’re tired.

Have you been working the whole day or did you came in in the afternoon?”

To which he replied:

“I came to work early in the morning.

Yes, I work all day every day.”

“Do you have days off?” I asked.

“I have one day every month” he replied.

My boss only gives me one day off every month.”

“What?!” I immediately asked.

“One day?!

What do you mean one day?

You come here every day, you work all day from early in the morning till late evening and you only have one day off per month?

This is crazy!”

He looked at me a bit confused and replied:

“My boss gives me only one day, yes but I am young.

I am only 18 years old.

I don’t have a family so it’s good.”

“But do you want to do this forever?” I asked him with a very surprised look on my face.

“Will you work here for a long time or do you plan to do something else?

“I don’t know.” he replied.

“I will stay here. 

I am still young.”

“But do you have a dream? Do you know what you would like to do in the future?” I asked.

To which he replied:

“No, I don’t have.

I will work here now and if my boss gives me another job I will take it.”

“So no dreams?” I asked him again.

“You really don’t know what you would love to do in the future…”

I was a bit confused and sat quiet in my sir for a few seconds and then I started talking again.

“What if there were no limits to what you could achieve?

What if you knew that you could do anything, what then?

What would you like to do if you knew that you could do it and nothing and no one would stop you?

Would your life be any different?”

“No, I don’t do that” he replied.

“I don’t dream.

I don’t know.

I don’t have money.

If I get a new job and make more money then I will see.”

“No, but what if you already had all the money you wanted or needed, what then?” I asked him, feeling all happy and excited.

“How would your life be any different?

What would you do and what would you work on?”

He looked at me very confused and replied:

“But I have no money.

I can’t do that. 

I don’t know.

If and when I will make more money I will do more but not now.

I need to make money first.”

“So you don’t have a dream?” I asked.

“There is nothing you’re passionate about?

Nothing you would love to do?

No dreams, no hidden ambitions?

To which he replied:

“No, I don’t have.

I don’t know.

I can’t do it.

I need money and if I make more money I will know more…”

Both me and my friend looked at each other and we couldn’t believe what we were hearing. We left the store feeling confused and sad at the same time.

Because I felt like I had to insist some more, right before I left the store, I told him again:

“Please, think about it some more. 

Think about your dreams, ok?

Go back to when you were a little boy and see if you can find your dreams there.

I am sure you will find them there.

Think about how your life would look like if there were no limits to who you could be and what you could achieve.

Look at it as a game. 

You’re a guy… Guys love games. 

Make it a game.

Think of how your life would look like if there were no limits and start from there.

Find your dreams!

Follow your dreams…”

I really wanted him to think about I told him and to work on discovering and following his dreams but who knows if that will ever happen..

You see, for the past one year or so, I became very intuitive and I got really good at reading people and at what I call “seeing into their souls”. Whenever I see a sad, lost and lonely soul, I immediately jump in and start a conversation in the hope that a seed of greatness will be planted into their beautiful minds and their lives will eventually be transformed. I can’t help it, it’s who I am at the moment

“How can a 18 year old work such long hours and have only one day off per month?” I kept asking myself.

“How come he had no dreams?

He wan’t even able to use his imagination, escape his current reality and envision a better life for himself… 

Dreams are free, how can he have none?”

His story made me feel sad and confused at the same time. Because he was so caught up in his current reality (which was all about making a living), he was too afraid to even dare to think how his life would look like if there were no limits to what he could be, do and have…

I understood him perfectly.

I know how it feels like to be lost in the dark. I know how it feels like not to have a sense of direction, to wake up every morning dragging your body from your bed, not wanting to do many of the things you “have” to do and live a life that has no meaning… Been there, done that.

When I was younger, I had no dreams either. I didn’t even know what dreams were made of.  I was too caught up in my sad and unhappy reality to even dare to dream.

There are some basics needs that need to be met before moving on to daring to dream and even though a lot of times it may be hard to forget about your sorrows and build in your mind’s eye a better picture on how you would like your life to look like, it’s essential for your own health, happiness and wellbeing.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” ~ Karen Ravn

Dreams keep you alive. Dreams keep you young, giving you faith, vitality and energy to do many of the things your soul longs for. Dreams give meaning to your life.

You need dreams to stay alive. Without dreams your soul dies little by little and all you have left is a soulless walking body and a soulless life.

I started dreaming just a few years ago and my life continued to get better and better from that point onwards.

The question that inspired me to start dreaming was the same one I have asked that young man:

“If there were no limit to what you could achieve, how would your life look like?”

I am now living my life thinking that there are no limits to what I can be, do and have and the funny thing about it is that many of the limits I used to impose on myself years ago have disappeared. It’s  true what they say, “there are no limits to what you can be, do and have, only those you choose to impose on yourself.”

No matter how hard this may be to digest, I can tell you for sure that there is a lot of truth in these words. It’s us who limit ourselves, not the world around us.

The more I follow my heart and intuition and the more I live my life thinking that there are no limits to what I can achieve, the more I realize how true the following words from Patanjali really are: “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

Dare to dream. You don’t have to dream big if you feel like you’re not ready. Start with one small dream at a time. Have faith. Trust yourself and when in doubt, let the words of Harriet Tubman to give you strength and courage:”Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”




3 Ways to Follow Your Passion While Still Working a Full Time Job.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. ~Confucius

We have all been there – sitting in our cubicle staring into the distance, dreaming of the day when you could leave it all behind and really follow your passion.  Safe inside those four walls it sounds so nice, and just outside your grasp.  But how do you really develop the skills and income needed to leave your job, while still working at your full time job?  It’s hard to stay motivated and pursue your passion when you don’t have that much extra energy after work.


Here are 3 ways you can keep nurturing your dreams and following your passion, so that when you’re ready to leave the full time job, the path is laid out before you.

1. Keep the Inspiration Alive

Whatever your dream is, make sure it stays alive and real.  Don’t let your ideas fester in your head, only to wilt away.  Feed it, give it a life of its own. Connect with your passion in real life – take classes, go to lectures, attend meetups with folks interested in similar activities.  If you’re passionate about becoming a life coach, attend a coaching seminar or workshop in your area.  If you long to become a yoga teacher, make sure you’re taking classes at a yoga school that also helps train new teachers.

Join online communities of likeminded folks, so you start building your network of people with similar ideas, dreams and passions as yourself.  Tell your old friends and new community about your dream.  It helps make it real and gives you invested stakeholders to support you on your way.

2. Connect with Other People Farther Along Your Path

You can learn from them what to expect, and what the potential pitfalls and benefits are.  It’s a fine line between connecting with people who are doing what you want to do and idolizing people who are years ahead of you.  It can be damaging to look at highly successful people and try to map your journey to theirs, because the distance is daunting.  Especially if you’re just starting out, this can cause paralysis and overwhelm.  We want to avoid that and keep you moving towards your dreams in an informed way.

Mentors are an amazing thing.  Build relationships with people that inspire you, and ask them to mentor you.  It’s a fast track for learning more about your chosen path, quickly.  Mentors can inspire you, support you, and help you understand the next steps in your journey.

3. Gain Experience

As much as possible, get your feet wet before leaving your job.  This way you will know if you really like it, or just loved the idea of it.   It’s totally fine to like an idea more than the reality of something – and it’s good to know if that’s the case before you cut ties (and loose a paycheck).  If you do love it as much as you think you do, it’ll only motivate you more to keep following your passion – and the time gaining experience will give you a solid boost when it’s time to spread you wings and fly on your own.

All of these things can be done after work or on the weekends.  Generally, the more we love something, the more reward we feel doing it, the more motivated we are to invest more time in it.  So don’t be surprised if these start out as one or two hour a week activities that end up taking most of your time! That’s a good thing, it means you’re on the right path, following your passion, making your dreams happen.

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. ~Joseph Campbell


What Does Your Handwriting Say About You?

Did you know that how you write can indicate more than 5,000 personality traits? The size of your letters, spacing between words, shapes of letters and more can all signify different characteristics. Handwriting analysis (also known as graphology) can even be used for detecting lies and revealing possible health ailments. Check out the infographic below to learn what your handwriting says about you. It’s also fun analyzing the handwriting of your friends and family members, so be sure to hand it off or pass it along!



The sport hormone?

A review argues that the hormone oxytocin affects athletic performance, because of its role in modulation of emotional and social processes important to team sports. Jill Jouret reports.

In elite sports, winning can come down to subtle aspects of performance. For example, an individual’s gestures and expressions of emotion can affect team performance and a contest’s outcome. A study of touch behaviour (eg, high-fives, chest bumps) among players in America‘s National Basketball Association showed that teams who touched more had better season records. An investigation of football players’ body language after successful penalty kicks in World Cup and European Championship matches noted that specific celebratory behaviours were associated with the team eventually winning a shootout. Perhaps the emotional display by the elated kicker led to a positive emotion in a teammate, who struck the ball better on his attempt. Whether through touch or emotional expression, trust and goodwill communicated among players motivates the team toward higher achievement.

review by Gert-Jan Pepping and Erik J Timmermans, published in September, 2012, in The Scientific World Journal, argues for oxytocin as the biochemical basis of such emotion transfer that can lead to enhanced performance in team sports. Via its action as a peripheral hormone and a central neurotransmitter, oxytocin modulates a diverse range of mammalian processes. Peripheral effects include regulation of uterine contraction during labour, stimulation of lactation, and modulation of inflammation. Oxytocin receptors are expressed by neurons in the brain and spinal cord, and it has been shown to affect pair bonding, maternal behaviour, and sexual receptivity. Oxytocin is destroyed in the gastrointestinal tract, and does not seem to cross the blood—brain barrier when given intravenously, so its effects are studied in animals by injection of a synthetic form directly into the brain, and in humans via administration of a nasal spray.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the feel-good hormone, because it is released in response to touch and is associated with feelings of calmness and stress reduction. A positive feedback loop means that higher oxytocin concentrations further increase the desire for tactile interaction. This association seems to be the basis for its role in promotion of mother—child bonds and fidelity in monogamous pairs. A study in the Journal of Neuroscience provided behavioural evidence of oxytocin’s involvement in maintenance of bonds among committed couples. After administration of intranasal oxytocin, men in monogamous relationships kept a greater distance between themselves and an attractive researcher than did those given placebo, and approached an attractive image more slowly, whereas no such effect was seen with single men. No wonder oxytocin is also known as the love hormone.

In their review, Pepping and Timmermans outline the argument for giving oxytocin yet a third moniker—the sports hormone. Positive emotions and prosocial behaviour are associated with improved performance in achievement settings in general, hence increasing investment in work environments that enhance team spirit and boost individual motivation. In sports, emotional expressions underpin the continuing exchange of information and mood between teammates and opponents. An emotional display by one player can inspire a similar mood in teammates, and the team’s overall disposition can motivate individual performance. This convergence of mood, or emotional contagion, is a key element in team unity. Measuring a player’s hormone levels during competition is a logistical challenge, but the studies reviewed by Pepping and Timmermans show that, in controlled settings, oxytocin affects processes central to emotional contagion and social perception.

Empathy denotes cognitive ability to adopt another person’s point of view, or emotional capacity to have a shared feeling on the basis of another person’s experience. Cognitive empathy is an important quality for an athlete, since it allows them to understand and predict other players’ behaviour, and emotional empathy contributes to convergence of mood (and motivation) among teammates. The Multifaceted Empathy Test is used to measure empathy, by asking study participants to rate emotional reactions to pictorial stimuli; those given one dose of intranasal oxytocin before the test reported higher empathy than those given placebo. Intranasal oxytocin also improved performance on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test, which measures participants’ ability to infer a mental state from subtle facial cues.

Reading emotions such as fear or determination in other players can help athletes make quick decisions about their own actions, and oxytocin seems to be a key biological component for processing these social cues. Pepping and Timmermans describe a study in which MRI showed higher brain activity in specific regions associated with emotion recognition when participants given oxytoxin (vs placebo) were shown images of facial expressions. One dose of oxytocin also improved recognition (ie, at lower intensities) of an emotion emerging on a dynamic, computer-generated face that started with a neutral expression.


Studies showing an effect of oxytocin on gaze behaviour suggest a mechanism for how it modulates emotion recognition, and provide further evidence of its involvement in social exchanges. Tracking the eye movements of men given intranasal oxytocin (vs placebo) showed longer gaze duration and fixation on the eye region of neutral faces. Eyes are the main source of information in interpersonal communication, and gaze behaviour is central to impression-forming among athletes. Sports psychologists have studied gaze behaviour in the context of football penalty kicks, to define the best kicking strategy (eg, to look or not to look at the target), but from a goalkeeper’s point of view, kickers who gaze directly at them for longer create a more imposing impression. To the extent that oxytocin is involved in detection of confidence or fear, a boost in either party could make the difference.

At the elite level, in which superior talent is universal (and modesty in interviews is advised), team unity is often credited for a win. Trust, generosity, and cooperation are indispensable processes for building and maintaining team cohesion, and according to Pepping and Timmermans, oxytocin is once again involved. In games with monetary stakes, individuals given oxytocin make trusting decisions more often than those given placebo. People are also more generous under the influence of oxytocin; when asked to make a masked, one-sided decision on how to split a sum of money with a stranger, a group given oxytocin was 80% more generous than those given placebo. Oxytocin enhanced cooperative decision making when participants played games with economic incentives to cooperate. Stronger incentives lead to greater cooperation, but only if social information was present. When social information was absent, players who received oxytocin were actually less cooperative, which suggests that the oxytocin system intricately modulates risk-taking and risk-aversion in social exchanges.

With so much evidence for oxytocin’s role in athletic performance, particularly in the context of team sports, will players be stashing oxytocin inhalers into their equipment bags for a quick hit mid-game? Pepping and Timmermans point out that oxytocin’s effects are not universally prosocial. Compared with placebo, oxytocin administration increased ratings of envy (ie, a negative emotional reaction to another player’s good fortune) and gloating (ie, malicious pleasure at another’s misfortune) in economic games designed to elicit these negative social emotions. Athletic pursuits are awash with relative gain and loss situations, and keeping composure is important for success, so an artificial boost of oxytocin could be ill advised.

As professional cycling joins the rogue’s gallery of sporting doping scandals, talk of another performance-enhancing drug might seem distasteful. But research suggests that there are subtle ways to improve ability through the natural stimulation of oxytocin, which will always be legal. The high-five, the fist-pump, and the group hug remain staple elements of sporting life, and dosing up on a little more might just make the difference between winners and losers.

Source: Lancet






5 Vital Prerequisites to Rocket Your Dream off the Ground.

What is more joyous in life than having a dream and knowing it’s possible?

The answer – going for it and making that dream your reality.

We’re going to share with you 5 vital prerequisites to support you to get your dream off the ground.


Do you have a dream? Do you know it’s possible to create/achieve it?

Most people get stopped right here – they don’t seriously entertain living their dream and/or they don’t believe it’s possible. So they pretty much kill their dream before it’s even had a chance to breathe.

1 – Allow yourself

Allow yourself to have a dream. Sounds simple right? And it is, but somehow in our modern society many of us have become constrained and suppressed, and focused primarily on working hard, toeing the line, doing what others expect of us, putting ourselves last after everything and everyone else, and making decisions based on fear – so much so that we’ve lost the ability to allow ourselves to follow what our hearts really want.

And here’s a HUGE truth that we’ve learnt first-hand… what your heart wants is  good for you in all respects. Your passions, what inspires you, what lights you up, what rocks your boat, what spins your wheels… those are the things that you need to pay most attention to. When you live from that passion and are driven by your dreams, you thrive, flourish, relax, laugh, smile and contribute. You become the best, most joyful and therefore healthy and happy version of yourself. That is the you that the world needs. That is the you that you need! You have to allow yourself to have what you most need.Self-denial has no place in our emerging world. If you’re going to have a happy and healthy life, and help others along the way, you need to help yourself first because when you thrive, everyone around you thrives.

Everyone has at least one dream, if not many dreams, for what their life can be like. The first step is to ALLOW yourself to release your dream, dig it out of wherever deep inside you it’s been buried. Commit now to being the Director of your own life. Take ownership for all areas of your life. No one else can stop you, only you can let others and circumstances block you from being who you are and doing what you love.

We had the dream to live on Waiheke Island and we did it. We dreamt of a journey through Thailand and we did it. We dreamt of a nomadic adventure to Hawaii and it happened. We dreamt of getting married in a tropical location and we did it. We dreamt of doing our first triathlon/duathlon and we did it. We dreamt of sharing our life changing adventures in books and publishing them onto the Amazon best seller list, and we did it. Those things all started with one defining moment, a moment of allowing. In a single moment of declaring a dream and acknowledging it’s possible, everything changes. If you give your dream air time and energy, it can grow.

You don’t need to know how it’s possible, you just have to believe it is. Every time we’ve created a big dream, we’ve literally never known exactly HOW that dream would be possible.  Like how the heck we’d go to Thailand to live for 3 months when we had jobs and commitments (dog, mortgage) in NZ, like how on earth we’d afford to go to Hawaii for 3 months with new businesses and a mortgage or like how we’d write and publish books when we had absolutely zero experience or knowledge to do so.

But you don’t need to know how, in order for the dream to take flight. You simply have to trust… which leads on to Prerequisite 2.

2 – Trust yourself

When you have a dream, there are always plenty of reasons to say no to yourself. You could come up with a million reasons why you shouldn’t, won’t or can’t follow your dream. But, if you trust yourself, you can make it happen. What do we mean by trust yourself?

Well, dreams aren’t random thoughts plucked from nowhere. They are unique to you. They are emotionally charged, heartfelt, passionate endeavours that come from somewhere within you. Which is the exact point of #2, you have to trust that feeling you get when your dream moves you and motivates you. Trust your gut instinct, intuition, your heart – no matter how radical your dream might seem.

All of us humans have become way too obsessed with our minds and we let our minds drive all our decisions. Our intuition is a very real 6th sense, equally if not more powerful than the mind. Our intuition tells us what direction is healthy and happiest for us to move in, and then we can use our minds as a brilliant tool to navigate in that direction. Over analysis causes paralysis and the mind has a great way of reasoning, rationalising, blocking and destroying dreams. Definitely use your mind, just don’t let your mind use you.

So, what do you instinctively feel is right for you? Trust and respect your inner knowing. Love yourself enough to take that feeling and hold onto it, protect it, let it guide you forward. Don’t disregard what drives you inside, don’t disregard who you know you really are and what you really want to do. That inner motivator for your dream is a very real part of the true you, it needs you to honour it and bring it into life. Don’t tell yourself you’re not good enough or you don’t deserve it or it’s not a priority. And most definitely do not tell yourself it’s not possible

Follow your inner compass!

If doubt is a killer for you, check out our Kick Doubt to the Curb workshop.

3 – Get clear on WHAT

What exactly is your dream? If you have undefined desires, how can those desires come to fruition? Getting clear on what your dream specifically is, is critical to creating it. That’s a no brainer!

Spend 10 minutes sitting quietly with yourself with pen and paper to write down anything that comes into your mind when you say:

  • “What do I dream of?”
  • “If I was being who I really am and doing what I really love, what would my life look like?”

Let me ask you:

  • What lifestyle inspires you?
  • What contribution do you want to make?
  • What hobbies, passions, job, business inspires you to express yourself?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • How do you want to live?
  • What environments do you thrive most in?
  • What do you want to create?

4 – Get clear on WHY

You have to have a big why. Your why is your motivator. In short, why do you want what you want? Why do you want that particular dream? Your “why” is what drives you, it will be what keeps you committed to taking action to create your dream, and it’s the energy that makes it happen. If your “why” is big enough you can create almost anything! Some people never quit, that’s because their “why” is really big and really juicy.


Write down why you want what you want. Never stop at the first answer that arises from your mind. Dig deeper to get the answer from your soul, from deep inside. It’s rarely about things, money, external circumstance. It’s usually always about the experience and the feeling you will get from having/living that experience. It’s the intangible inner state of happiness that really drives so many of us.

No external thing or place can ever make you happy. Happiness is an inner state that goes where you go, or not. You can thrive wherever you go in life, whatever you are doing – but not because of WHERE/WHAT but because of WHO you are being. Make choices about what you do and where you go that support you being who you really are, and naturally accentuate the true you.

For all our dreams, our “why” is always backed by our belief that if you’re not living a life you know you love, a dream you know you want, that you know is possible – then you’re robbing yourself of opportunity and you’re robbing the world of having you flying at your full potential and in your full happiness. The world needs all of us to be fully expressed – to be who we are and to do what we love.

If none of that sparks a why that is big enough for you, then check out what a nurse reported as the 5 most common regrets of people on their deathbeds, as reported by the Guardian in the UK. Take a moment to think seriously how this makes you feel…

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not what others expected of me
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends more
  5. I wish I’d let myself be happier

Enough said, so on that note let’s move on to #5.

5 – Be aware of what stops you

If you’ve now stepped up and acknowledged your dream and you know it’s possible, you’ve allowed and trusted yourself, and defined your what and why, you may still fall victim to the biggest trap that keeps most people stuck.

You get stopped by your mind.

The human mind is incredibly capable of coming up with all the reasons why something can’t work, might not work, could go wrong, all the possible obstacles, all the cons, and this all happens with very little effort on your part. The human mind is also more than capable of coming up with all the exact opposite scenarios, pros, how and why something can and will work, but we’re just not conditioned togo into the possibility and positivity space without a little retraining and effort.

#5 is all about being aware of how your own mind might be stopping you. If you need to, you can actually write down all the negative stuff that your mind comes up with to stop you. Get it all out. Better out than in! None of what comes up will stop you, unless you choose to let it.

But at first you have to witness that it’s your own blocks that keep you stuck – your own reasoning, rationale, fears, worries, concerns, rehearsal for disaster, pessimism, and so on.

If you have a solid why that motivates you, your mind-made blocks won’t stand a chance. Your motivators and heartfelt passion will override those fears.

Simply be aware of your mind blocks, without having answers, without knowing how to resolve any of it.

Know it’s possible

We’ve applied this 5 step “allow, trust, what, why and awareness” process for getting goals and dreams off the ground in all areas of our life – from health and fitness to lifestyle, relationships, career and business. We’ve applied the same questions and tests each time. It works!

It’s easy to become lost in the notion that a dream is something that we aspire to but isn’t real. The very word ‘dream’ conjures up a sense of something out of reach. The truth is that dreams exist to be made manifest. Your dream needs you. It needs you in order to spark into life and become real. Don’t rob your dream of that opportunity. Don’t rob the world of your expression. All your dream needs is for you to know it’s possible and step outside of your questions, fears and concerns to give the dream a chance to sprout.



Sarah Garfinkel, consciousness researcher, on your sixth sense.

There’s a new area of scientific study that has uncovered a skill that could be considered our sixth sense. It’s called interoception and it’s the ability to monitor your own internal organs. For instance, how interoceptive you are can be measured by your ability to accurately count your heart beat, by just tuning into it.


So it’s a skill, or talent, that involves being quite in tune with one’s body. And this ability is associated with some interesting and useful traits. Those who are highly interoceptive are also highly intuitive and aware of their “gut” feelings. They also apparently have a better memory for emotional information and are more emotional overall. Awareness of one’s emotional and physiological state may also reward people with an ability to control it. For instance, one study has found that those who have good interoceptive ability are also less anxious when speaking in public.

SmartPlanet caught up with Sarah Garfinkel, a post-doc researcher at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Essex, and asked her to explain interoception, how it is measured and how one might be able to improve their own interoceptive ability.

SmartPlanet: How do we measure interoception? Or in the case of heart rate, how do we count our heart beats?

Sarah Garfinkel: Heartbeat is the measurement of interoception that I’ve been interested in. There are two ways to test people’s ability to count their own heartbeat. You give set periods of time and you have people count how many heartbeats they’ve perceived in that space of time.

The other way people have done it is to present tones or some sort of external signal, like a flashing light, and the tones exactly match the beating heart, or they’re time-shifted slightly and people have to say whether the tones are in sync or out of sync with their heartbeats.

That sounds hard.

It’s really hard. The majority of people, maybe 80 percent of people can’t tell if their heart beat is in sync with the tones. It’s so difficult because it involves integrating an outside signal with an inside process. People tend to be better at counting their heart beats [within a specific time frame.] Because most can do it, the counting one gives a really lovely spread of sort of bad, intermediate and good.

So some people are good at it, some people are bad at it. How do people typically try to count their heart beat? Most of us only “feel” our heart beat when it races during exercise or a highly emotional event.

So just to clarify, [the test] always happens at rest. Because you are right, if you’re doing physical exercise or if we scare anyone beforehand then everyone will have an enhanced ability to detect a heart beat.

To measure their accuracy we create a ratio of actual heart rate relative to perceived rate. So a ratio of one would be perfect. A ratio of 0.7 is considered good.

Are some types of people better than others, on average?

Yes, fitter young men tend to be very good. Fitness is an indicator, one of the many indicators of whether you’re good or bad.

What is another indicator?

Age. People get worse as they get older. Although heartbeat perception is considered a stable trait, age has a declining effect on it.

You’ve mentioned before that there is an association between interoception and the ability to remember emotions. How do we even know this?

I love these sorts of experiments. They just blow my mind. First of all, people who are more interoceptive tend to have a richer emotional experience.

If you record people’s physiological responses or get them to rate emotional pictures, people with higher interoception will rate them as more emotionally intense.

Why is this?

Well theories of emotion, such as the James-Lange theory of emotion, state that fear or emotion perception arises from the detection of changes of internal bodily sensations.

So the emotion itself is “the noticing of a physical change” in one’s body?

Yes, some argue emotions arise from the detection of changes in the body. It reminds us of the famous question from William JamesDo you run from the bear because you’re afraid, or are you afraid because you run?

And he would argue that you’re afraid because you run because you feel all the physiological changes of the body. So if you then extrapolate from that: Those people who are better able to detect physiological changes [e.g., heart rate changes] they are going to report the experience as being more emotional.

This makes sense.

We tend to remember something if it’s more emotional. But now people with interoception find things more emotional. So this can suddenly start impacting our cognitive processes. And why they tend to remember emotions.

Apparently those who are highly interoceptive also have better intuition?

At the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, we are interested in what it means to have conscious knowledge.

Our gut instinct, or intuition, is where you know something is right but we just don’t know why. But everything in one’s gut tells us that it’s right. This is because your body can also hold information.


Right. What gives rise to that feeling of knowing? It can be represented in the autonomic nervous system, so your body can have an enhanced arousal response. Like a sweat response. Or your pupils can also change size, they can dilate. And this can happen with regard to true information or previously encountered experiences.

And then the degree to which you can articulate or know you know it is an extra level of consciousness. So if you believe this premise that our body reacts to things and reacts to things correctly, and that can happen detached from your conscious awareness, then that means that those people who are better able to tap into those autonomic bodily channels are better able to use that as a cue to guide them.

On one hand we’ve heard these things anecdotally over and over again. That is “gut instinct.” But now science is putting this structure around it.

I know, I love it. I really love it. We’ve all had this experience where you bump into someone and you know you know them. Everything in your body says that you’ve had an encounter before, but you can’t recall when or where. But you feel it. And now we’re able to understand that those who are interoceptive are better at detecting [the gut feeling.] It’s been shown experimentally.

Also I have heard that interoceptive people have less anxiety speaking in public than the rest of us?

Yes that is from a published experiment. But that experiment was slightly contrary to all the other body of experiments that have shown that those with high anxiety tend to be interoceptive.

So why do you think this study showed less anxiety speaking in public?

Well if you are aware of how your body is changing and you can feel it and predict it, then that does potentially make it more manageable.

So it’s the idea that if you are aware of something you can control it more?

Yes. I published a study this year with Hugo Critchley called, “What the Heart Forgets.” We show that if you process words when your heart is beating — meaning exactly when your heart beats, as opposed to the off-beat, you’re less able to remember words that were presented when your heart beats. It has an interference effect if you see a word exactly during a heart beat. You forget them much more easily.

However, if you are interoceptive you are good at detecting your internal bodily signals, and better able to eliminate the interferences effect of heart beats on memory.

This fits with the idea that if you are able to detect a bodily process and you’re more able to protect against its interfering or detrimental influences.

That is amazing. You’ve mentioned that people can be trained to get better at interoception. How?

Based on our own observations, there is a potential in some people to learn. Because people sometimes don’t know what to focus on. For example, I was terrible when I started. I kept trying to focus on my chest. And actually people don’t necessarily feel their heart beat in their chest. They can feel it in other parts of their body.

So once you’re aware of that, then you can start focusing on other parts and maybe then you’ll be more sensitive to a signal. That is where the training component can come in. But that might only true for people who have the ability to tap into the signal but just don’t know where to focus. Whereas there are others who can never feel the signal, it doesn’t matter where they’re focusing on.

I have heard that biofeedback can sometimes help people tap into interoceptive ability.

Yes this is based on a process by Yoko Nagai. Basically people can watch a caterpillar move on a screen, and their body is wired up to a device that measures their skin conductance [which measures sweat as a signal of arousal]. When you’re relaxed the caterpillar will go in one direction and when you’re not relaxed the caterpillar will go in another direction.

This is based on the premise that people may think they’re in a relaxed state, but actually their body is not relaxed. So having this external manifestation of bodily states can help potentially train people to understand what it really means to have your body in a relaxed state or not.

So they get a sense of it, of what “relaxed” is supposed to feel like.

Yes, exactly. So that even if they may be bad at understanding their internal bodily process, they can learn it based on external cues and then emulate it in the future.

Source: Smart Planet