Learning Healthy Healing Habits

“Do not focus on what you cannot have. Focus on what is abundantly available to you.” Dr. Thomas Sult

Your lifestyle choices are THE major influence on your state of health and wellbeing. They are also the only thing you are in direct control of.

Balancing your limbic system to obtain optimal wellness begins with modifying 5 specific lifestyle factors including: sleep and relaxation, exercise and movement, nutrition and building your immune system, stress management, and creating healthy relationships. These five factors comprise the second stage in our Limbic System Retraining Program. With intention and practice, these lifestyle factors provide a foundation for you to continue building on your progress throughout the program. 

Embrace them. Learn to love them. Make them a part of your healing ritual.

I. Sleep and Relaxation.

Your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases and repair tissue. Remember, your immune system is about healing and rebuilding as much as defending you against infection. Studies show lack of sleep weakens your immune system leaving you more susceptible to getting sick after being exposed to a virus. It also affects how fast you recover, if you do get sick. When you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote deep restful sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you are under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines as well as infection-fighting antibodies and cells.

Adults need a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep, or an average 8 hours of sleep per night. This means half of people actually need MORE than 8 hours. Teenagers need 9 to 10 hours of sleep and school-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.

However, more sleep is not always better. For adults, sleeping more than 9 to 10 hours a night may result in a poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Some people believe they can function well with less than 6 hours of sleep a night, however, true low-sleepers (people who can chronically sleep < 6 hours per night, without impairment of function) are incredibly rare, at less than 1% of the population. Everyone else is disguising their sleep deprivation with caffeine and sleeping pills. Sleep deprivation makes it difficult to objectively assess your level of function and performance and can trick you into thinking you are performing better than you are.

Fasting and starvation do lower the amount of sleep, which is why hunter-gatherer tribes show 6.5 hours of sleep. This fact is often inappropriately promoted by popular media as evidence that this amount of sleep is natural. However, when resources are plenty, your body naturally wants to sleep more. In the 1940s, the average American got 9 hours of sleep. That average has been falling ever since, and it is no coincidence that at the same time, chronic disease has risen.

There are two general types of Sleep: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non REM (NREM).

REM is responsible for forming new neural connections, problem-solving, dreaming, blunting emotional responses to painful memories, reading other people’s facial emotions, and neonatal synaptogenesis (making new brain connections). People with chronic illness often have poor REM and so do not blunt painful memories. This leads to Limbic Dysregulation. 

NREM is responsible for pruning memories, transferring short-term memory to long-term memory, gaining “muscle memory,” growth hormone secretion, and parasympathetic nervous system activation.

NREM occurs earlier in the sleep phase, while REM is concentrated later. NREM is a slow brain wave (~2Hz) (like billions of neurons singing in synchrony) while REM is a fast brain wave (50Hz) that looks similar to being awake.

Both are generally necessary – depriving a person of either one leads to different problems.

Sleep Deprivation Risks

Sleep deprivation shows consistently bad outcomes. There are no reported benefits of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is associated with more severe disease: higher mortality, risk of cancer, heart disease, weight gain, rate of infection, Alzheimer’s, irritability, inflammation.

Sleep deprivation lowers performance: lower productivity, social fluidity, rational decision-making, memory recall, emotional control, testosterone, immune system function, response to the flu vaccine.

In the extreme, chronic sleep deprivation causes death.

Even if you think you’re gaining time by sleeping less, it is counteracted with lower productivity and creativity.

How to improve your sleep:

  1. Good sleep begins in the morning. Begin to prepare for good sleep first thing in the morning.
               
  2. Get full direct sunlight on your face before 8 a.m. each morning. This helps to set your Melatonin circadian cycle.
               
  3. Add some movement. Mild aerobic activity during morning sun exposure can be very beneficial such as: standing in the sunlight, chair exercises, balance exercises, gentle movement, yoga, walking or running.
               
  4. Check-in with yourself throughout the day. Set an hourly reminder to take a few deep breaths, roll your shoulders, stand up, and/or walk a bit.
               
  5. Manage your stress. Stress is not an event; it is your relationship to that event. In times of high stress, recite a calming reminder or affirmation such as the Serenity Prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the WISDOM to know the difference.” 

If you find yourself stressed and there is something you can do about it, DO IT. If you are stressed and there is nothing you can do, stressing about it will not help.

  1. Set the tone for our evening. At the end of the “work” day, create an evening ritual. Here is an example for a couple: 

Once home, embrace your spouse, kiss for 6 seconds (yes 6 seconds). Change clothes. Cook Dinner together and include the kids. (There is no 10-year old on earth that does not want to chop veggies!)

  1. Screens Off. If you are not sleeping well, you need to TURN OFF the screens two hours before bed. Going full tilt until bedtime is no way to settle in for the night.
  2. Bedtime. Go to bed at least 8 1/2 hours before you need to be up in the morning.
  3. Use the bedroom only for sleep and relaxing pleasurable activities.
  4. You Snooze, You Lose. Do not use “Snooze.” Set your alarm for the time you need to get up. Even better, use a sleep cycle app that will wake you up during lighter sleep before your alarm time or as a last resort at the alarm time.
  5. Rise and Shine. When your alarm goes off, open your eyes and keep them open (blinking is ok), move in bed for a few seconds, sit up for a few seconds, and then get up.

For more information on the importance of sleep and its effects on your health, see “10 Things That Happen To Your Body If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep.”

One of the best resources to learn more about sleep is the book “Why We Sleep” by neuroscientist and sleep researcher, Matthew Walker, PhD. 

Below you will find a table with additional supplements that may help with restful sleep. Start at the top and add one every three nights until you are sleeping well.

Name of SupplementDoseLink to supplement
JBW SF – HTP Calm1 per dayHTP Calm
JBW SF- Liposomal Sleep2 droppers at bedtimeLiposomal Sleep
JBW SF- Brain Mag3 per dayBrain Mag

II. Exercise and Movement.

The data on Exercise and Movement is very strong evidence. Many studies show how exercise supports the immune system by improving defense activity and metabolic health with a clear relationship between moderate exercise training and reduced illness. Exercise training has an anti-inflammatory influence mediated through multiple metabolic systems. Regular exercise improves immune regulation, delaying the onset of age-related dysfunction. Interestingly enough, illness risk is increased in athletes during periods of high intensified training and competition, which shows that moderate exercise is key. Up to about 1 hour of intense activity per day, or many hours of moderate activity is recommended to enhance the immune response.

Exercise does not have to be a “dirty” word. Instead, think of it as joyous movement. Try to incorporate more movement into activities that you already do. For example, park in the back of the parking lot instead of looking for an up-front space, take the stairs, garden, dance, walk. The important thing is to start where you are and build from there. Be kind and gentle to yourself, just because you were an athlete in high school does not mean you can do superhuman things now. 

For more information on how exercise helps support the immune system, see “Exercise and Movement For Optimal Immune Function.”

III. Nutrition and the Immune System.

Nutrition plays a vital role in our immune system. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is high in foods that can suppress immune function. Things like sugar and similar simple carbohydrates put our white blood cells into a temporary coma effectively last several hours. This means that after you eat sugar, your body’s defense system is temporarily compromised. If you are drinking beverages high in sugar or eating candy several times per day, you may well be effectively immunodeficient. Additionally, sugar can raise insulin levels in the blood. Over time this can cause insulin resistance which creates a host of endocrine (hormone) imbalances, including elevated cortisol, which is also an immunosuppressant.

Food is both information and the building blocks of a healthy body. Are you feeding yourself good information or bad information? Are you providing high quality building blocks or inferior building blocks? If you are not feeding yourself with a diversified diet, you are not helping your immune and repair responses. 

If you are unsure about the food you are eating, or confused on how to start changing your diet, the ReNew Diet plan can assist you in developing a healthy diet that supports your body’s most vital functions. The ReNew Diet plan is designed to rid the body of most common foods that cause inflammation. It helps identify food allergens, sensitivities, intolerances, and triggers and eliminates foods with the potential to be addictive and harmful (sugars, etc.). It provides nutritional support for the detoxification systems. In general, healthy people should eat 3-5 servings of veggies and 2-3 servings of fruits every day. If you are unwell, consider increasing the serving amounts. Try to eat 35 or more, different fruits and veggies each week. This diversity is good for your microbiome. The microbiome is the teaming ecology of healthy bacteria that live in and on us, and is responsible for improved health on many fronts, including immunity, detoxification and hormone regulation.

Below are ReNew Diet resources to help you get started:

For more information on diet and the immune system, see “Food and Nutrition For Optimal Immune Function”.

If your diet needs to improve, consider adding one of these sets of supplements:

Foundation – Men’s Wellness
NameDosageLink
JBW SF – Men’s Foundation1 packet per dayMen’s Foundation
JBW SF – Fruits & Vegetables1 scoop per dayFruits & Vegetables
Foundation – Women’s Wellness
NameDosageLink
JBW SF – Women’s Foundation1 packet per dayWomen’s Foundation
JBW SF – Fruits & Vegetables1 scoop per dayFruits & Vegetables

IV. Stress.

While long-term stress is generally harmful, short-term stress can be protective as it prepares you to deal with challenges. Short-term stress is one of nature’s fundamental but underappreciated survival mechanisms that could be clinically harnessed to enhance immunoprotection. Short-term stress refers to stress that lasts for minutes or hours. When experienced during immune activation, stress enhances innate and adaptive immune responses. An acute stress response can fuel immune cells and help the body make signaling molecules. We can classify immune responses as being protective, pathological, or regulatory, and discuss “good” versus “bad” effects of stress on health. Thus, short-term stress can enhance the acquisition and/or expression of immunoprotective activity (wound healing, anti-infectious agent, anti-tumor) or reduce immuno-pathological, i.e. bad responses (pro-inflammatory, autoimmune). In contrast, long-term stress lasting days, weeks, and even years, suppresses the innate and adaptive immune responses inducing low-grade chronic inflammation and suppressing immune regulation mechanisms. Chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and/or worsen pathological immune responses.

With understanding the risk factors of stress, it is important to have a stress management routine. One such routine can include a daily mindful walk. The goal of a mindful walk is to observe and enjoy the sensory experiences such as the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, along the way. When you notice thoughts other than the sensory experiences come into your mind, gently bring your attention back to the sensory experiences. One of the goals of this walk is to become aware of your thoughts. So, when you have noticed your mind wandering, you have not failed, you have actually achieved the goal of awareness. Then as noted above, gently bring your attention back to the sensory sensations of the walk, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, and repeat as necessary. 

You may also find our morning routine or ritual helpful, see “Stress Management Tips.”

V. Relationships.

When we talk about “Relationships,” we are speaking about an extension of our immune system. Our family and friends help our bodies release messengers that soothe and strengthen our immune responses and protect us from disease. Our social networks, then, are tied into our inner immune network, all through the power of our emotions. A common occurrence that can hinder our immune response in relation to our relationships is the amount of anxiety we feel about them. Relationship anxiety is known to have negative effects on one’s mental well-being, but a new study suggests that fear of rejection can also serve as chronic stressors that inhibit the immune response.

A study of 85 married couples looked at the level of attachment anxiety. They found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were on average about 11% higher in people with higher levels of attachment anxiety than those who were less anxious. Additionally, the more anxious people had between 11% and 20% fewer T-cells, which help the body to fight off disease. In an article published in the Huffington Post, the authors stated, “The thing that was surprising was the magnitude of the difference, especially in the immune cells that we saw,” Jaremka told The Huffington Post. “Some of the differences in the immune cell numbers, between the higher and the less high anxious attached people, were on the magnitude of what you’d see between obese and non-obese people.”

This is an important finding that supports how our levels of attachment and anxiety in relationships affect our health. “Somewhere in our brains we carry a map of our relationships,” wrote Dr. Esther Sternberg, an expert on neural-immune science, in her book The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health with Emotions. “It is our mother’s lap, our best friend’s holding hand, our lover’s embrace — all these we carry within ourselves when we are alone. Just knowing that these are there to hold us if we fall gives us a sense of peace.” It is these experiences that help us develop our levels of attachment and how we manage the togetherness and separation in our relationships. It is also the emotions that we attribute to these instances that affects our immune response. “The emotions that our social bonds evoke are among the greatest forces that affect our hormonal, our nerve chemical, and our immune responses — and through these, our health and our resistance to disease,” wrote Sternberg. 

Embeddedness is the fancy term for social connection and can have positive effects on our health. It’s opposite—which many of us may be more familiar with—is loneliness, which shows opposite outcomes on health and wellbeing. For optimal health, we must be able to maintain the healing benefits of strong social bonds, even when we are sitting alone far from our family and friends. Being alone isn’t the only thing that can cause feelings of loneliness, people who are surrounded by many others can often suffer from social isolation.

According to a study by Cigna, loneliness levels have reached an all-time high, with nearly half of adults reporting they sometimes or always feel alone. Forty percent of survey participants also reported they sometimes or always feel their relationships are not meaningful and they feel isolated. Such numbers are alarming because of the health and mental health risks associated with loneliness. According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, a lack of social connection heightens health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. She’s also found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. “There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Holt-­Lunstad says.

So how do you foster better relationships? One very powerful way is for all of us to express gratitude to our partners in relationships. The expression of gratitude bonds us. In any relationship, friend, familial, or romantic, the mutual expression of gratitude strengthens the bond and soothes the “Soul.” This is a topic that has a vast amount of research and information. A great resource to help cultivate stronger relationships with others and ourselves is Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown.

For more information on relationships and health, see “How Relationships Affect Health and Boost Your Immune System.”

Below is a series of informative articles to help you learn more about our Limbic System Retraining Program:

Stage 1: Use of supplements to soothe and calm the Limbic system.

Stage 2: emWave device and Heart Math to teach you how to find Parasympathetic balance.

Stage 3: Sensory Soothing Kit is a rescue kit to help you when getting overstimulated.

Stage 4: Modifiable lifestyle factors help you build healthy healing habits.

Stage 5: AM and PM Ritual to deepen the practice of stage 2 and prepares you for stage 6.

Stage 6: Insight Training