Thursday, December 03, 2015

Extremely good news about optimism….

Today's Post:  Thursday, 12-3-2015

As you know if you have read about Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, PhD or my posts about his discoveries, there are two surprisingly different skills in real optimism.

Simply put, people high on both measures do dramatically better in life and enjoy life more.

1.  The first skill is that they are confident they can make good things happen and think on their feet well enough they will try things over and over if they need to make good things happen. 

They trust their abilities to do this to the point they believe they can do things impossible to others  -- and are extremely proactive and resourceful when they choose to be! 

They expect to be effective and for good things to be relatively permanent.  They notice when good things happen and enjoy them.  This gives them the well known sunny disposition people around them notice.

People who are high in this are successful sales people, entrepreneurs, and news broadcasters and entertainers.

2.  The other very different skill is to be extremely analytical when things go wrong.  Because people with this skill notice that bad events have specific causes that may be different another time and for reasons outside their control, they avoid shooting themselves in the foot by expecting such things to continue when the causes do not.  They avoid thinking other things that might be affected will be unless there is a separate force or event to cause that to happen.

This skill is the opposite of having mental problems!

People like attorneys, finance experts and accountants and actuaries, and mathematicians and scientists tend to be high in this area.

Successful technology entrepreneurs, successful venture capitalists, and more effective high level executives tend to be high in both.

It’s also been discovered that the most successful sales people are high in both because they can relate to people who are only high in the proactive skill AND to people who are only high in the analytical skills.

Here’s the incredibly important good news!:

It’s been known for some time that people with high analytical skill have better developed brains in the cortex where such functions are based.

Somehow some researchers thought to test the brains of people very high in the first skill who believe they can think on their feet well enough to deal with the results when they try new things that have some risks.  (In his recent autobiography, Tom Brokaw credited his success to exactly this skill and using it to succeed at and go for things other people did not.)

The researchers tested the brain development of such people and expected to find little difference between people high and low on this skill but realized it had never been tested before to know for sure.

They were totally shocked to find that people who think well on their feet and use this to be extremely proactive had massively better developed brains physically!

What’s most interesting and useful to know is which part of their brains was so well developed.

We now know that the white matter in the brain is the wiring that connects the parts. 

So if someone’s white matter is unusually well developed, they have considerably more complete brain power to deal with the results of things they try even the unexpected ones.

Specifically, the white matter connects your reasoning brain to the hippocampus where your memories are stored.

That means if you have a lot of well connected white matter, just about anything in your memory that might help you deal with unexpected events is more available to you than it is to people without this physical advantage

But the most important thing to know is that separate from the skills and strategies that make the first skill work well, we DO know how to boost white matter in people and prevent it from shrinking:

It’s been proven repeatedly and in several ways.  Physical exercise, particularly brisk walking, slow rep strength training, and high intensity cardio with easier parts or rests between the bursts of activity release BDNF, the growth hormone that grows new nerve and brain cells and repair existing ones.

People who do such exercise most days of every week for years, develop more white matter AND, unlike sedentary people in whom white matter gradually disappears, exercisers and walkers also keep their white matter as they get older!

Similarly, it’s long been known that people who are depressed or have PTSD improve if they do such exercise regularly.  And, it was already known that when the exercise causes physical improvement in the brain, the depression and the symptoms of PTSD get better too.

But the news is even better because we know what can be added to exercise to increase the resulting BDNF release!  Notably, people who do such exercise AND take the omega 3 acid DHA or eat enough wild caught fish high in omega 3 oils to get that much DHA release more BDNF when they do such exercise regularly.

And you can do even more.  The DHA works better boosting BDNF release in exercisers if you follow a health oriented anti-inflammatory diet with no high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners or oils high in omega 6 such as corn and soy and safflower and canola oil or ANY wheat and few grains and almost no protein foods from animals fed grains and any hydrogenated oils made from oils high in omega 6. 

(Inflammatory food ingredients and excess omega 6 oils directly, in grains, and in any animals fed grains CAUSE inflammation. So if you stop ingesting them, you literally turn down the flame on excess inflammation.  And, since DHA lowers inflammation, turning down the things that drive excess inflammation make it notably more effective!)

You can also lower inflammation by taking or eating ginger and by taking curcumin from turmeric and eating curried foods with lots of turmeric.

And you can still add more! If you eat or take choline which lecithin and egg yolks are high in, you release more BDNF with exercise.

The supplement Bacopa also helps this process and the supplement Lemon Balm likely does as well.

Lastly, a food component called uridine seems to boost this process of brain cell increasing and repair when it’s added to exercise and DHA and choline. 

But just the first set of things works quite well!  Eggs from pasture fed chickens and lecithin and bacopa and lemon balm supplements are easier to get and less expensive than uridine.   

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