Age is just a number: study shows you’re only as old as you feel

a young women acting younger than her age

You are as old as you feel

The way you view your age has a direct impact on your physical health. In a study conducted by the University of Exeter, 29 people between the ages of 66 and 98, were asked about their self-perceptions of getting older.

The study asked the participants to place themselves in one of two categories “old and frail” or “strong and healthy”.  Individuals aligning with the typically negative labels of, “old and frail” were far less likely to  participate in social activities and exercise in comparison to their more positive counterparts who – living up to their “strong and healthy” self-perceptions, were far more physically and socially active.

Researchers found that self-perceptions of ageing became a self fulfilling prophecy – negative beliefs regarding the ageing process lead subjects to live a reduced quality of life.

Age perceptions – The long term consequences

A positive mindset as we age can help us to live longer. Older individuals, identifying with positive self-perceptions of ageing, during middle age, lived a whopping 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of ageing.

In addition, researchers have also found a strong connection between negative views on ageing and one’s likelihood of developing chronic diseases. In particular researchers found that, people with negative age perceptions, earlier on in life were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and at the very least depression and anxiety. To bolster this finding, another study revealed that older individuals with positive perceptions about age, were 44% more likely to recover from severe disability than those with negative age perceptions. According to the study positive perceptions regarding ageing promote recovery by:

  • Increasing healthy behaviours
  • Limiting cardiovascular response to stress
  • Enhancing self-ability
  • Improving physical balance
  • The mind-body connection has proved to be invaluable in research as it maintains a sense of purpose in our lives as we age

Believing that your life has meaning is linked to lower risk of several serious health problems including stroke, cognitive decline, dementia, physical disability and premature death.

If you take one piece of advice away from this blog – ensure you live your life to the full, regardless of the age on your birth certificate – Don’t let your mind give up before your body.

To read more on this topic, click here and read the useful blog written by Paul Ebeling.

Proven methods to control your stress levels

mindfullness-calm-peace

Many of us don’t realise just how stressed we are until we relax.

I came to this realisation when I was lying on a beach during a long overdue holiday – everything was perfect, until I suddenly felt overwhelmed by alien feelings. Was I sick? Was I forgetting something? After ferociously searching my phone for a missing calendar invite, it dawned on me. This was what it felt like to be relaxed. And this was the opposite to how I felt 99% of the time. Something had to change.

Our bodies are not designed to handle this non-stop, adrenaline fuelled pace, and rightly so. Stress is detrimental to our health. According to the Mayo Clinic, common side effects of long term stress include depression, insomnia, anxiety, digestive issues, heart disease, weight gain and memory and concentration impairments.

We need to slow down. Our bodies are not designed to keep up with 21st century robotic expectations of 24/7 working. Even if your job doesn’t allow for any down time, it’s on you to allocate time to de-stress. Or, before you know it, life has whizzed passed you and not only have you struggeled to enjoy it but you also have a variety of stress-related diseases. Not a good place to be. Here are 6 ways to control your stress levels – before they control you.

1) Journal your stress

The first step to getting your stress under control is to figure out what is stressing you out. Spend a week periodically recording your stress levels and highlighting the source. You’ll learn a lot about your stress triggers.

2)Exercise

The only sanity I had during my 12 hour days of full time law firm employment and part-time Bar school studying was the ability to hit the gym on the way home. This time to exercise became my daily release. I would desperately look forward to it after a hectic day. I would walk into the gym feeling stressed and leave feeling euphoric from the hormones whizzing around my brain after a strenuous workout. I can’t recommend exercise enough. It’s vital to your enjoyment of life as it preserves you mentally and physically.

3)Put the technology away

Heavy technology use is linked to fatigue, stress and depression. A recent study, by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that individuals exposed to high amounts of technology were more likely to experience the following negative side effects:

  • Those constantly accessible via cell phones were most likely to report mental health issues.
  • Regular, late night, computer use was associated with sleep disorders, stress and depression.
  • Frequently using a computer without breaks further increases the risk of stress, sleeping problems and depressive symptoms in women.
  • Men who use computers intensively were more likely to develop sleeping problems.

It’s advised that you designate certain times of the day to check messages and stick to that schedule – it’s important that you have regular breaks from technology to avoid the above negative consequences.

4)Go drug free

If you take coffee for energy, take sleeping pills or drink wine in the evening to “wind down”, your stress is out of control. Make small, achievable goals to daily reduce your drug intake to nothing.

5)Make a relaxation appointment

Work obsessed individuals usually reach a breaking point. To keep these breakdowns at bay, schedule a weekly relaxation appointment. This can be a massage, sauna time, yoga – whatever floats your boat. Just make sure you stick to this commitment. Mark it in your calendar and treat it like a work meeting.

6)Practice mindfulness

If you can meditate, I envy you. If not then there are plenty of apps such as headspace – that offer free guided meditations. Another life saver for me was practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice consisting of core brain tricks to help bring you to surface during periods of stress. The overarching principle of mindfulness is to be present. This simply means, not letting your mind wander and focusing your attention on the present moment. Worry tends to creep into our minds when we reflect on the past or attempt to predict our future.

To read more on this topic check out Clio’s blog on stress management.

 

Free Online Places to Expand Your Mind

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Silhouette of a young lady staring up into the void of space

The ability to expand your mind and commit to lifelong learning is critical to your success, even happiness. Professionally, acquiring new knowledge is the key to breaking any success barriers that might be in front of you. Personally, as Dan Gilbert showed in his book, stumbling on happiness – we are terrible predictors of what will make us happy. By learning and understanding the topics that motivate us, we can make informed decisions (as opposed to wildly predicting) what we want to pursue in our lives. After all, we only have a limited time to find them out and really enjoy them.

How a commitment to learning will change your life

  • You can relate to more people – relationships form the bedrock of success. Being versatile in your interests, allows you to connect with a variety of different people.
  • You become a pro networker – you become a “connector” for your contacts. This golden networking rule means offering value to your contacts before you attempt to derive any benefit from the relationship. By having a foot in two different communities you can create valuable and exclusive introductions for your contacts – a vital networking currency.
  • You become intriguing – successful people have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. The secret to networking with successful people is not being successful yourself. You just have to be interesting. The ability to guide conversations through a variety of subjects, instantly makes you a more fascinating and well-rounded individual.
  • You become an expert at learning – learning quickly and competently is a skill. The more you learn the better you become at learning.
  • You can see the matrix – the greatest innovations of the last century have happened at the cross section of several fields – where ideas from one field were used to make a breakthrough in another. Seeing the bigger picture makes you aware of the changes and puts you at the forefront of cutting edge ideas. To find out more about how lifelong learning can benefit you click here.

Continual learning is probably the most valuable commitment you can make in your life – the most successful people read on average 2-3 hours outside of their knowledge remit, per day. In light of this I have compiled a list of the best free places to learn the critical skills that will change your life.

Free online places to expand your mind

  1. Google World Wonders – have magnificently brought together the wonders of the ancient and modern worlds by bringing world heritage sights online so that they can be explored by people around the world.
  2. Reddit Lectures – provides a crowdsourced collection of top lectures from professionals, academia, governments, and inspiring leaders. The lectures are upvoted or downvoted by users.
  3. University of Reddit – offers free courses taught by fellow Reddit users and includes things such as computer programming and lessons in StarCraft.
  4. TED Talks – TED is my personal favourite and is quite literally a forum of the worlds most powerful ideas. The ideas are presented in the form of short – medium length, gripping talks by the worlds most inspirational speakers. Get ready to happily loose hours to TED. Your mind will thank you.
  5. Lifehacker – Daily weblog on niche facts and tips to help you live life more efficiently.
  6. Boundless – Boundless is shaking up the textbook industry by offering textbooks online for free.
  7. Internet Archive – Is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.
  8. Trivium Education – Many crucial skills such as critical thinking are not taught in the public school curriculum. This free resource allows you to brush up on your rhetoric, grammar, and logic with Trivium’s free resources.
  9. PBS Videos – Provides free and on-demand videos of national and locally produced shows from the Public Broadcasting Service.
  10. Project Gutenberg – A huge digital library of free ebooks.
  11. FutureLearn – Enjoy free online courses from top universities and specialist organisations.
  12. MIT Open Courseware – The iconic university offers free programming courses, including computer programming which is very relevant for young businesses today.
  13. PCA Blog – Short focused blog providing tips on how to your boost productivity and further your mind.

To read more on this topic check out the useful blog post by INC. on 21 Awesome Places to Learn Critical Skills That Will Change Your Life.

Image courtesy of Mackenzie Greer published on Flickr.com.

 

6 scientific methods to stop procrastinating

One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we’re idling in front of our computer screens.

Finally, the scientists investigated techniques to combat our 21st century idle inclinations. Thanks owed to technology and its incessant distractions for giving us shorter attention spans than goldfish. No, really.

Below are 6 proven methods to help you reinforce the power of life without procrastination. You’re welcome.

1) Choose Your Poison

Clever drinkers never mix their spirits. Just like clever workers never mix their tasks. Overwhelming yourself with multiple responsibilities is inefficient and grey hair inducing. If you don’t believe me read this article on Why multi-tasking is worse for your IQ than Marijuana. Start by choosing one task and make a solid commitment to finish that task within the next week.

2) Start Now

Once you have selected your poison, start now. Right now. Or at the very least after this blog. Be strict with yourself. Not sticking to this rule can propel you right back into the procrastination hole you’re trying to claw out of.

3) The Power Hour

A power hour consists of removing all distractions and putting 100% effort into one dedicated task or project. This one focused hour per day can generate more results than a distracted eight hour day. Science has found that our brain goes through “peak cycles”. Therefore, it is advised that you balance this concentrated focus hour with no more than 20 minute intervals.

4) Five-Minute Miracle

This is the most efficient technique for the professional procrastinator. Simply ask yourself the question “What action can I take in five minutes today that moves me ever so slightly forward?”. Once you have identified your action, set a timer for five minutes and complete the task. Research shows that once you start a task you are much more likely to complete it. Phycologists call this the Zeigarnik effect, which stipulates that unfinished tasks are more likely to be ingrained in our memories. Therefore, what may seem like a five-minute action, is actually a deceiving memory trick that increases your chances of finishing your to-do list. Win/Win.

5) Procrastination Power Song

My personal favourite; the P.P.S. Choose a song that gets you energised, something like,“Eye of The Tiger” and pump this out at the office, whilst shadow boxing in the mirror, when you feel there is mass procrastination. Or you can follow the science backed method and once you select your song – you must listen to it (perhaps in your headphones) whenever you want to tackle a task you’ve been procrastinating. This will cause a trigger effect in your brain. Creating a habit of productivity whenever you hear your P.P.S.

6) Open a Dark Door

This is on here as a warning. It is advised that you properly test the above tips because if procrastination is still an issue for you – the final stage is to delve into why you’ve been procrastinating a task. Are you afraid of something? Are you unhappy in your job? So unless you are ready to open the doors of self analysis, I suggest you repeat tips 1-5 one more time.

I can confirm that procrastination was successfully combatted to write this blog with the help of Forbes and their useful post on procrastination tips.

Food for Thought – what to eat for optimal intellectual output

Brain Food

You are what you eat. Your brain uses 20% of all the calories you consume through food and drink, everyday. You will be shocked to learn just how quickly what you eat directly impacts your brains ability to function. A chocolate bar can cause your blood sugar to spike just 15 minutes after eating it – with cognitive impairments starting soon after. Before a presentation – would you ever consider digesting something to make you feel exhausted and decline in intellectual ability? I’m sure the answer would be no. However, people unconsciously do this to themselves every working day because they are unaware of how different foods react with their brain. Admit it: its not uncommon to find yourself exhausted and unproductive well before the working day is over – this lethargy has a lot to do with what your eating.

Why should I fuel my brain?

Brain cells require 2 x more energy than any other cells in our body. This means keeping your brain properly fuelled can be the difference between mental clarity and total mental fog. Being mindful of what you eat, not only helps you stay mentally awake during the work day, but it also protects you from future neurological dysfunction – which can be largely attributed to a super-fatty diet.

The 4 cardinal rules of the brain food diet 

Instead of overwhelming you with a huge list of brain “super food” ingredients, because in reality who is going to eat wild Atlantic salmon and walnuts everyday? I have prepared the 4 cardinal rules of brain food  – which if you apply to your daily diet – should set you on the path to ultimate brain health….You’re welcome.

1) Must. Eat. Breakfast – no if’s no but’s

If you skip breakfast, you end up with a huge spike in blood sugar and than an equally huge crash in the afternoon. However, when you eat breakfast, you are kick-starting your metabolism – i.e converting your food to energy at exactly the right time of day – this process than remains stable throughout the day – crucially preventing the, all too familiar, afternoon slump at work.

2)Avoid sugary foods 

High blood sugar temporarily impairs your memory, making it very hard to focus. The optimal amount of glucose for our brain, at any one time, is 25 grams (one banana’s worth). Anymore than this and you are risking temporary cognitive impairments. Frequent smaller meals are a great way to help you keep your glucose levels constant.

3)Avoid high saturated fats 

Foods high in saturated fats increase your chances of memory impairments – this will not only impact your immediate workday, but also increases your chance of developing a serious neurological disease in the future. Stick to foods such as lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains and fruits and vegetables which all form part of a low-fat diet.

4)Constant hydration

Your brain needs constant fluid to function. Period. Dehydration can cause numerous symptoms including problems with focus, memory, brain fatigue and brain fog, as well as headaches, sleep issues, anger, depression and much more. So, just keep hydrated – OK?!

Nothing beats drinking pure water – your body is 60% water overall, but your brain is a huge 80% waterIt is generally recommended that adults drink 2.5 litres per day. However before you get ready to chug down your water bottle, you already receive a lot of this hydration through food. Fruits, vegetables, juice, tea and coffee all hydrate you. Yes thats right – contrary to popular belief coffee doesn’t actually dehydrate you!

Coffee addiction warning..!

Following a recent study – if you drink coffee at moderate to high volumes (around 4 – 8 ounce coffee cups with of caffeine) you must keep drinking those high levels or risk impairing brain function. In short – your brain becomes so used to working on high doses of caffine that it starts to under-perform without it! Look here for the caffeine content of your favourite drinks. It is advised that moderate – high coffee users slowly reduce their dose of coffee – otherwise they risk facing cognitive impairment consequences if they try to go “cold turkey”.

Read more about this topic on Trello’s blog, here 

 

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