Starting Fresh: Rebooting Your Immune System

>> Tuesday

Researchers at the University of Southern California found one of the reasons fasting is so good for your health: It kills off weak or damaged white blood cells, causing your body to generate healthy new white blood cells to replace the old ones.

"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," writes Science Correspondent Sarah Knapton.

"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.

In an article in the Telegraph, Knapton writes:

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells.

During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells.

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 aging and a hormone which increases cancer risk and tumor 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?"

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.

"While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy," said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.

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One Goal To Rule Them All

>> Monday

Those of us trying to improve ourselves might all be after the same thing without realizing it. I think we want to be able to take in experiences the way we want to take in those experiences. If we did that, we'd feel better more often and we would act more like the people we really want to be.

How many times have you been frustrated or upset or angered by something and wish you could have the perspective you have at your better moments?

Two different people experiencing the same objective event may not respond in the same way. One might get upset, the other might instantly forgive and forget.

The difference in responses is the difference in how the different people took in the experience. Now, ideally, you would take in experiences the way you do in your better moments, right?

That's what you're really after. You want better moods, you want personal growth, you want ______ (fill in the blank). Whatever you're after, it all boils down to a single goal: You want to take in experiences better. And there are lots of ways to accomplish this.

A cognitive therapist would help you discover your own irrational beliefs and help you see those beliefs as irrational. A positive thinker might tell you to look on the bright side. A Zen master might try to help you experience the precious fleetingness of this moment. And all those different methods ultimately accomplish the same thing: They cause you to take in the events of your life in a new way. Hopefully, a better way.

We want to be better people. Nobody wants to be grumpy. Nobody wants to be rude or hurt others' feelings. And yet we have done these things.

You want to be wise and kind. You want to have a bigger perspective at times. You want to take in experiences the way you would at your very best, and you want to do that more often. The key factor is the way you interpret events.

How do you interpret — what do you do internally with — the outward event? If you interpret events well (as you do at your very best), your internal reaction is more likely to be what you want it to be, and your behavior is too.

But you don't want your better interpretation to be forced. You don't want to make yourself, through gritted teeth, look at the event in a "positive" way. You don't want to make yourself act in a way that you don't feel, either. You want to be open and relaxed and compassionate and to genuinely see things that way.

How can you get better at this? There are hundreds of ways. Thousands. One reliable long-term answer is daily meditation. Another is improving your ability to connect with people. But many tools work for different situations. One way to go about improving the way you take in events is to start with something you want to be better at dealing with and apply a method that works for that specific situation.

But the method isn't our topic here. The reason I brought this up is to point out that while we are after better moods here on Moodraiser, we're actually aiming at something more important. A better mood makes you feel better, but it also makes you respond better. It makes you more like the person you want to be.

Anyway, it's a good idea to be clear about the real goal. A better mood is the immediate, short-term goal. The more meaningful, long-term goal is becoming the person you really want to be more often. The ultimate key is the way you take in your experiences.

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Imagine a Single Celebration that Includes Everybody

>> Saturday

In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and on that day until the winter solstice, the days get progressively shorter. The winter solstice is the moment when the days begin to get longer again. Just the reverse is true in the southern hemisphere, but the two solstices themselves occur at exactly the same moment for everyone on earth.

The origin of the word "solstice" is the Latin solstitium from "sol" meaning sun and "-stitium" meaning a stoppage. Observing the sun over time, you can see the sun rising further and further to the south until the winter solstice when it slows and stops and then reverses.

The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is close to the same time as Christmas, and many of our Christmas traditions originated from the days before Christianity, when the solstice was celebrated. Traditions for celebrating the end of shorter days and the beginning of longer days (winter solstice) have been practiced around the world for many thousands of years.

At Stonehenge on the British Isles, for example, the huge stones are arranged in such a way that they frame the setting sun on the day of winter solstice. The ancient Brits had a tradition of tying apples to the branches of oak trees in the dead of winter to affirm that summer would come again. The Celts put mistletoe on their altars.

The ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice by giving gifts. And they feasted for a week. Servants traded places with their masters — the masters serving their servants during the feast. They also had a tradition during winter solstice of bringing evergreens indoors.

In Scandinavian countries, the sun disappears in the dead of winter. In the far north, it disappears for as long as 35 days. The ancient people of the far north had a tradition of feasting when the dark days were over and the sun once again shone on the horizon. They celebrated with what they called a Yuletide festival. They feasted in a long hall while a Yule log burned in the fireplace. They thought of mistletoe as sacred. Kissing under mistletoe was a fertility ritual. Holly berries were considered to be the food of the gods.

The solstice celebrations were officially replaced with Christian ceremonies during Roman times as a way of overtaking the ancient traditions, even though Jesus wasn't really born in December. It was a political act. December 25th used to be the solstice with the old calendar. It usually happens on December 21st with the modern calendar.

But the Christian usurping of the celebration was a long time ago. It's water under the bridge and really at this point, who cares? We could start fresh and celebrate the solstice instead of (or in addition to) our other celebrations. We could celebrate the turning of the season. We could celebrate longer and warmer days ahead.

We could keep our celebrations, but change the date, and that way more people could celebrate together. In other words, if you normally drink eggnog and trim a tree and open presents for Christmas, you could do exactly the same things, except do them on the Solstice. Or people with different customs could celebrate their customs and traditions (for Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) on their designated days, but also celebrate the solstice with everyone.

The solstice has nothing to do with religion, race, or nationality. Every one of us relies on the sun for our warmth, our sunlight, and our food. We rely on the sun for life. The time and date of the solstice can be accurately determined and it occurs at the same moment everywhere on earth.

The solstice might some day become an international holiday. This could be the beginning of something wonderful — a point of unification, a place of agreement, a universal tradition.

You can begin this year by celebrating the solstice in even a small way. Take any of the traditions normally associated with the holiday season and do some part of it on the solstice. Give a gift. Eat a feast. Be kinder to your fellow human beings. Invite people of all faiths to your home to celebrate the end of the longest night and the beginning of longer days. The celebration of the solstice in your own home could actually and concretely work for peace on earth and goodwill toward all women and men.

I wish you a Merry Solstice.

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It's a Wonderful Life

>> Thursday

This is a six and a half minute video. It's a song about the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. The video shows clips of the movie along with footage of the trio singing the song. I thought it was beautiful. I hope you do too.

It's a Wonderful Life

http://youtu.be/6eUZBQ0L_EY

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A Few Of Your Favorite Things

Considered a holiday song, My Favorite Things is a song about a method to improve your mood. And the method actually works. If you remember a few of your favorite things, then you really won't feel so bad.

Try it today. You don't have to write them down or make a project out of it. Just think of some of your favorite things — not things you want but things you already have and love. It's a good technique.

Click here to listen to the song right now.

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Technology For Personal Change

Have you ever heard a good piece of advice or come to a good realization only to forget about it a week later? Sure you have. I just found a great little online tool that helps me keep my insights in mind long enough for them to do some good. It's called Resnooze.

You type in whatever you want, and then tell it how often you want to get that in your email inbox, and click on the button "Resnooze myself" and that's it. Every day or every week or every month, your message will be delivered to you via email, for as long as you wish for free.

I use it all the time now. I think you might like it: Resnooze.

For more help with making changes permanent, check out articles here: How To Make Lasting Changes In Your Life.

Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often.

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