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MINDFULNESS: Where science meets meaning

Your purpose and beliefs are a powerful source of motivation. By developing awareness and discovering what’s important in your life, it becomes easier to implement change and create wellness in our lives.

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“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

At The Institute for Human Optimization, a key part of our personalized approach to wellness is participation. This means that we empower and encourage you not only in your journey towards health but in connecting the dots of your life story. This gives you the opportunity to discover the areas in your life that you would like to focus on, improve or change.

The meaning behind our purpose

Research has shown that what we focus on, we get more of. Wherever we place attention, our brains will strengthen the signals of those neuronal connections, and special cells will prune away those we use less. We elaborate on this in part 3 of our Aging Brain Series. This is significant because being present to what’s important to us is how we begin to make changes in our lives.

Simon Sinek is an author, inspirational speaker, and self-described ‘unshakable optimist’ whose TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action, has over 50 million views. He is known for his concept of The Golden Circle, which illustrates the importance and significance of communicating from the inside-out – from our ’Why.’ Our Why is our purpose…our reason for being…what we believe…what inspires us.

This notion has roots in science. Our limbic system, or emotional brain, is considered the source of our language…the emotion behind our words…our ‘gut’ feelings. It’s where motivation and behavior come from. This is the part of the brain that Sinek says our Why comes from and that only roughly 16% of us operate from that ‘inside-out’ space on a regular basis.

Our neocortex, the most evolved part of our brain, gives us conscious thought, higher reasoning, and the language necessary to communicate and socialize. It is the way we bring our Why – our purpose, beliefs and inspiration – into the world. It allows us to figure out how to do it and what we need to make it happen.

Slowing down

So how do we get present when the world is swirling around us? The first step is making a conscious effort to slow down and pay a little more attention to what is happening and what we are thinking. Cultivating awareness is easier for some more than others.

In my book, The Longevity Equation, I offer a couple of methods to explore:

·   Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness is your ability to be entirely present and aware of where you are and what you’re doing—without being overly reactive to the things happening around you or becoming overwhelmed. Over time, practicing mindfulness meditation not only increases your awareness when you’re sitting alone quietly but also while doing every-day tasks. It can bring clarity to your life and increase the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, like serotonin. (Bajnath, p. 155)

·   Breathing: Alternate nostril breathing is an extremely simple yoga breath control practice. This technique is beneficial for reducing stress, relaxing the body, and promoting overall vitality. The best part is it only takes minutes to do. Research shows that this simple technique can help lower your blood pressure levels, improve respiratory function, support your nervous system, reduce anxiety, and relax the body and mind. Alternate nostril breathing is a fantastic way to kickstart your day with a boost of vitality. Here’s how it works:

o   Step 1: Sit comfortably on the ground with your legs crossed or in a chair

o   Step 2: Take your pointer and middle fingers and place them on your forehead right between your eyebrows

o   Step 3: Place your thumb gently on your right nostril to form a seal and breath in through your left nostril

o   Step 4: With your thumb still covering your right nostril, breath out through your left nostril

o   Step 5: Now switch your thumb to your left nostril and inhale through your right nostril

o   Step 6: Finally, exhale through your right nostril

o   Repeat steps 3-6 for 5-10 minutes. (Bajnath, pp. 118-119)

More gifts in being present

In addition to the emotional benefits, mindfulness has a physical effects on the body as well!

It was reported in The Annals of Family Medicine in 2012 that meditation can have preventive effects on your immune system. Researchers showed that mindfulness meditation is about as effective as exercise in reducing acute respiratory illness.

In 2011, researchers revealed that after only four days of mindfulness meditation training, participants reduced the unpleasantness of pain by 57% and reduced the pain-intensity by 40%. They also suggested that meditation has the capacity to “modulate brain regions associated with constructing the pain experience.” In other words, it could actually alter the way we perceive pain!

Massachusetts General Hospital found that in only 8 weeks, mindfulness meditation training can change the structure of the brain! They state that, “The results suggest that participation in [Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction] is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective-taking.”

This is where we connect

It’s clear that mindful awareness has the potential to powerfully impact our lives. In fact, it is in this space that important life decisions are made. If you’ve realized that you would like to ensure that you live a long healthy life, The Institute for Human Optimization is here for you.

Why us?

The Institute for Human Optimization, Precision Medical Research Group was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We acknowledge that cellular aging is a natural event that occurs in all living organisms and is defined by several different principal mechanisms and hallmarks. As we get older we lose the ability to repair ourselves and molecular damage accumulates overtime. This biological process is characterized by a progressive loss of physiological integrity, leading to impaired function and loss of life.

How are we different?

By targeting age-related diseases, we believe that The Institute for Human Optimization can treat these diseases while promoting enhanced health outcomes, which thereby lessens the emotional and societal burden that comes with an aging population.

The current health care system does not address this fundamental issue and only uses polypharmacy for chronic disease management while ignoring the warning signals of underlying imbalance in an organized human system. Getting to the root cause is at the core of what we do.

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

We believe that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to discover your Why!

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