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    #381 Why Your Brain Wants You To Be Anxious, Lazy & Fat (And What You Can Do About It) with Dr Anders Hansen

    enSeptember 05, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Understanding our brain's survival instincts for better mental well-beingOur brain's defense mechanisms evolved to keep us safe in a dangerous world, but in our modern society, they can lead to unwanted feelings. By understanding our brain's wiring, we can navigate the challenges of today's world and improve our overall well-being.

      Our brains are wired for survival, not happiness. Throughout history, our ancestors developed defense mechanisms that helped them stay alive in a dangerous world. However, in our modern society, these defense mechanisms can manifest as unwanted feelings such as chronic anxiety and panic attacks. It's important to understand that these behaviors are not mental health failings, but rather a result of our brain's innate desire to keep us alive. We now live in a world of abundance and super stimulation, which can be overwhelming for our brains. To thrive in this environment, we need to work against our natural instincts and learn how our brains are wired. This knowledge can help us better understand ourselves and our daily behaviors.

    • Understanding Anxiety: A Natural Response and How to Manage ItAnxiety is a normal response that can be managed through therapy, exercise, and medication if needed. By reframing our perspective and understanding the purpose of feelings, we can overcome anxiety and realize it is a normal function of the brain.

      Anxiety is a natural response that can be both overwhelming and debilitating. However, it is important to remember that you are not broken or damaged. Anxiety can be managed through therapy, exercise, and medication if necessary. It is crucial to change your perspective and view anxiety as an evolutionary defense mechanism designed to help you survive. By understanding the biology of the brain and the purpose of feelings, you can reframe your experience and realize that feelings are short-term and meant to guide you towards behaviors that have helped humans survive in the past. Remember, anxiety is not a sign of weakness but a normal function of the brain.

    • Rethinking Anxiety: A Positive Sign of a Working BrainAnxiety is not a flaw, but a natural mechanism that alerts us to potential dangers. Embracing anxiety and seeking help when necessary can lead to a healthier and balanced life.

      Anxiety is like a smoke detector in our brain. Just like a smoke detector occasionally goes off when we toast bread, our anxiety might sometimes trigger false alarms. This doesn't mean we're broken, but rather that our brain is trying to help us survive. Instead of seeing anxiety as a negative, we can reframe it as a positive sign that our brain is working properly. Just like we appreciate a smoke alarm that can potentially save our lives, we can appreciate anxiety as a mechanism to protect us from danger. However, it's important to seek help if anxiety starts to negatively impact our lives. Breathing techniques, such as inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds, can help balance our autonomic nervous system and alleviate anxiety.

    • The Power of Breathing and Exercise in Managing Anxiety and MoodBy practicing slow intentional breathing and engaging in regular physical activity, individuals can reduce anxiety levels and regulate mood, leading to a positive impact on overall well-being.

      Breathing and exercise play crucial roles in managing anxiety and regulating mood. By practicing slow intentional breathing, where the outbreath is longer than the in-breath, individuals can change their biology and send calming signals to the brain. This simple technique can have a powerful impact on reducing anxiety. Similarly, engaging in regular physical activity, such as running, can significantly decrease anxiety levels and help with mood regulation. Exercise improves the body's overall state, providing the brain with better signals and increasing the likelihood of creating positive feelings. Understanding the evolutionary reasons behind our cravings for certain foods can also help alleviate feelings of guilt and shame, as those cravings were once essential for survival.

    • The Evolutionary Mismatch and Its Impact on Health in Modern SocietyRecognizing and addressing the evolutionary mismatch between our biology and the modern environment is essential for improving overall well-being in today's society. There are valuable lessons we can learn from communities living closely to nature, such as the Maasai in Kenya.

      There is a significant mismatch between our evolutionary biology and the modern environment in which we live. Our instincts, which served us well in the past, are no longer suited for the challenges of today's society. This mismatch can lead to a range of health problems, including mental health issues, autoimmune conditions, and allergies. On the other hand, when we observe communities that still live closely to nature, like the Maasai in Kenya, we see that they enjoy optimal health without the need for modern healthcare interventions. While we do not need to romanticize their way of life, there are valuable lessons we can learn from their lifestyle and community support systems. Therapy may seem foreign to them as they naturally receive support from their close-knit community. Overall, recognizing and addressing this evolutionary mismatch is crucial for improving our well-being in the modern world.

    • Lessons from Hunter-Gatherer Tribes: Combining Traditional Wisdom with Modern ComfortsWe can adopt the active lifestyle and movement-based approach of hunter-gatherer tribes while still enjoying modern conveniences, improving our health and understanding the complexities of weight loss.

      There are important lessons to be learned from tribes that live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. While it is easy to romanticize their way of life, it is essential to acknowledge the negatives as well. However, it doesn't have to be a choice between living like a hunter-gatherer or a modern urbanite. We can look at these tribes and learn from them without giving up modern comforts. We must recognize that the health issues we face, such as heart disease and diabetes, are primarily environmental rather than genetic. The tribes' active lifestyle, without the need for formal exercise, highlights the importance of movement for our mental wellbeing and overall health. Furthermore, the difficulties in losing weight are not simply due to lack of willpower but are deeply ingrained defense mechanisms against starvation.

    • Overcoming Laziness: Tapping Into Our Evolutionary HistoryBy understanding our natural inclination towards laziness and creating healthy habits, we can navigate modern society's push towards unhealthy behaviors and make better choices in a world of abundance.

      Our natural inclination towards laziness is not a character flaw, but a result of our evolutionary history. We are wired to conserve energy and seek convenience. However, we can overcome this tendency by creating healthy habits and making small changes in our daily routines. Instead of negotiating with our lazy selves, we should focus on making exercise a habit by incorporating activities like walking or cycling into our commute. It's important not to blame ourselves if we can't always stick to these habits, as modern society exerts powerful forces that push us towards unhealthy behaviors. By understanding the weaknesses of our biology, we can find strategies that work for us and navigate this alien environment. Different approaches may work for different people, but the common goal is to find rules and strategies that help us make better choices and limit our consumption in a world of abundance.

    • Influencing Behavior and Prioritizing Mental Well-beingRecognize the impact of our behavior on ourselves and our children, identify personal weaknesses and take proactive steps to eliminate them, prioritize mental well-being by limiting screen time and engaging in meaningful activities.

      Our behavior and habits greatly influence our children and ourselves. Rangan Chatterjee sets the example for his kids by choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator, promoting a healthier lifestyle. Similarly, Anders Hansen understands his Achilles heels, such as his addiction to candy and digital devices, and takes proactive steps to eliminate them from his surroundings. We all need to find our own personal rules and be aware of our weaknesses in order to create positive behavior patterns. In today's digitalized world, it is crucial to recognize the addictive nature of social media and technology. We must strive to regain our focus and prioritize our mental well-being by limiting screen time and embracing more meaningful activities.

    • The Impact of Excessive Phone Use on Mental HealthCreating distance from smartphones and using them purposefully, rather than constantly, can help improve mental well-being and regain focus.

      Our modern lifestyles, filled with excessive phone use and constant exposure to super stimuli, are eroding our protective factors against depression and anxiety. Exercise, good sleep, and face-to-face interactions are crucial for our mental well-being, but they are being overshadowed by the allure of smartphones and technology. It's not just about what we do online, but what we don't do when we are online that matters the most. Many of us intuitively know that excessive phone use is a problem, but it is incredibly difficult to break away from the candy-like allure of constant digital stimulation. Creating distance from our smartphones and using them as tools rather than constant distractions is essential for regaining our focus and mental health.

    • The Impact of Smartphone Addiction on Focus, Connection, and FulfillmentMaintaining focus and presence in our lives is crucial for meaningful experiences and deep connections with others. However, smartphone addiction can diminish our ability to concentrate and engage, leading to loneliness and a loss of genuine communication. Taking proactive measures, such as keeping phones in separate rooms, can help preserve deep thinking and meaningful interactions.

      Our ability to be present and maintain focus is essential for a fulfilling life. Rangan Chatterjee emphasizes that anything good in life, whether it's deep focus at work, quality time with loved ones, or meaningful conversations, requires attention and presence. However, the modern epidemic of distraction, fueled by smartphone addiction, is diminishing our ability to focus and connect with others. The loss of the art of conversation, as mentioned by Sherry Turkel, is a concern as many individuals now prefer electronic communication because it feels more predictable and controllable. Furthermore, Anders Hansen points out that our strong social needs, developed over millions of years of physical interaction, cannot be fully replaced by screen-based interactions, leading to loneliness and isolation. To combat smartphone addiction and lack of focus, taking preemptive action, such as keeping phones in different rooms, can protect and preserve deep thinking and meaningful experiences.

    • Creating Rules for a Healthy Tech UseBeing intentional about our technology use, limiting distractions, and recognizing the harmful effects of excessive screen time can improve our focus, relationships, and overall well-being.

      We need to intentionally create rules for ourselves when it comes to our use of technology. Keeping our phones nearby, even if we don't pick them up, can still be distracting and affect our focus and performance. This applies not just to work or school but also to our personal relationships and conversations. Having a phone on the table during a discussion can make the interaction less interesting and the person less reliable. Even the creators of these technologies, like Steve Jobs, restricted their children's use of them. It's important to acknowledge the addictive nature of screens and be cautious, especially when it comes to children's use of technology. The increasing rates of mental health issues among teenagers suggest the harmful effects of excessive screen time. Ultimately, we must recognize that our instincts for survival do not equate to happiness in a world of abundance.

    • The Negative Impact of Social Media on Teenagers' WellbeingExcessive social media usage can lead to feelings of inadequacy and loneliness among teenagers, emphasizing the need to prioritize offline experiences and disconnect from social media to protect our mental wellbeing.

      The impact of digital lives on our wellbeing is not only about what we do online, but also about what we neglect to do offline. Anders Hansen explains that excessive usage of social media can be dangerous for teenagers, particularly girls aged 12-13 and boys aged 14-15. This is a critical time in their lives when they desire belonging and compare themselves to others. The constant exposure to the perfect lives portrayed on social media leads to feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, triggering a sense of being pushed out of the group. Despite knowing that social media creates an unrealistic comparison, it still affects our mental state. To protect our wellbeing, we need to be mindful of our attention, make conscious efforts to disconnect from social media, and prioritize our offline experiences.

    • Balancing screen time for children: the role of parents and schoolsParents and schools should take responsibility in regulating children's screen time, considering the impact on their development and promoting a balanced use of technology.

      There is a need for parents to take responsibility in regulating their children's exposure to screens and technology. Rangan Chatterjee shares his own approach of keeping his house low-tech and limiting access to wifi, in an effort to protect his children from excessive screen time. However, Anders Hansen highlights the challenge of expecting children to self-regulate when even highly intelligent individuals struggle with limiting their screen use. Both agree that there should be some form of regulation and recognize the effects of screens on reading comprehension, with physical books being shown to enhance learning compared to screens. The conversation emphasizes the importance of parents and schools being mindful of the impact screens have on children's development, and the need for balanced technology use.

    • The Negative Impact of Excessive Screen Time on Learning, Sleep, and Well-beingLimiting screen use, especially before bed, and prioritizing other activities like exercise can improve sleep quality and cognitive function, balancing the negative effects of excessive screen time.

      Excessive screen time, especially for children and teenagers, can have detrimental effects on their learning, sleep, and overall well-being. The convenience and benefits of using screens for homework and relaxation need to be weighed against the negatives. Dr. Rangan Chatterjee and Dr. Anders Hansen highlight that learning from physical books is more effective than learning from screens. Additionally, excessive screen time can lead to addiction, sleep problems, and reduced cognitive function. The advice is to limit screen use, especially before bed, and prioritize other activities such as exercise, which have been shown to improve sleep quality and cognitive function. In an age where technology is prevalent, it is essential to find a balance and consider the long-term impact on our health and well-being.

    • The Power of Exercise: Enhancing Cognitive Function and Mental Well-beingRegular exercise has numerous benefits for the brain, including improved cognitive function, memory, focus, creativity, and intelligence. It also acts as a safeguard against depression and anxiety, making it crucial for optimal brain function.

      Exercise has numerous benefits for the brain and can significantly improve cognitive function, memory, focus, creativity, and even intelligence. Exercise also acts as a safeguard against depression and anxiety. Research has shown that the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory, tends to decrease in size with age. However, a study demonstrated that regular exercise can actually increase the size of the hippocampus, making it "younger" and improving spatial memory. Exercise also has a temporary positive impact on creativity, particularly the ability to brainstorm. This suggests that exercise is an evolutionary mechanism that enhances our cognitive abilities, as our ancestors needed heightened focus and memory during physical activities like hunting and gathering. Therefore, integrating exercise into our daily lives is crucial, not only for physical health but also for optimal brain function.

    • The Importance of Exercise for Brain Function and Mental Well-beingRegular exercise is crucial for protecting against depression and enhancing cognitive abilities, concentration, impulse control, and overall performance. It is essential for better brain function and improved emotional well-being.

      Exercise is not just beneficial for physical health, but it also plays a critical role in our brain function and mental well-being. Depression, no matter its severity, can be protected against by incorporating regular exercise into our lifestyles. It is even more important than relying solely on medication. Increasing the amount of movement in our daily lives is a must, as not moving is something we cannot get away with. While it may be challenging to adopt a consistent exercise routine, it is a treasure chest that can significantly enhance our cognitive abilities and emotions. This applies especially to those who do not engage in any physical activity at all. Exercise allows our brains to function properly, improving concentration, impulse control, and overall performance in various activities, including games like League of Legends. So, for better brain function and to feel better, exercise is absolutely essential.

    • Unlocking the Power of the BrainUnderstanding the brain's influence on our well-being empowers us to prioritize actions like sleep, attention, and exercise, leading to positive changes and a happier, healthier life.

      Understanding the brain is crucial for making positive changes in our lives. Anders Hansen emphasizes that the brain is not just a passive organ, but a powerful and complex machine that shapes our perception of the world and ourselves. By learning more about the brain, we become aware of the impact of factors like sleep, attention, and exercise on our well-being. It is through this knowledge that we can protect our sleep, focus our attention, and prioritize physical activity. Despite the uphill battle of breaking old habits, understanding the brain allows us to make informed decisions that lead to a happier and healthier life.

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    #461 BITESIZE | 3 Simple Habits to Manage Stress and Build Resilience | Dr Tara Swart

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    #460 Finding Your Purpose at Any Age: Life Lessons from 103-Year-Old Dr Gladys McGarey

    #460 Finding Your Purpose at Any Age: Life Lessons from 103-Year-Old Dr Gladys McGarey

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    Dr Gladys McGarey is the co-founder of the American Holistic Medical Association and the author of the fantastic book The Well-Lived Life: A 103-Year-Old Doctor's Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age. She began her medical practice at a time when women couldn’t even own their own bank accounts, and over the past sixty years, she’s pioneered a new way of thinking about disease and health that’s transformed the way we imagine health care and self-care around the world.

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    We explore how to avoid living with regrets, the importance of parents truly listening to and supporting their children and finding your unique purpose that ‘feeds your soul’. We also look at how we can bring a more positive attitude to negative experiences and how Gladys lives by what she calls her "5 Ls" - life, love, laughter, labour and listening.

    Still thriving at 103, she embodies staying curious, adaptable and active. During our conversation, she shares her views on ageing, believing in ‘ageing into health’ rather than ‘anti-ageing.’ She also stresses the importance of doctors listening to - and loving - their patients but that it’s ultimately us who are responsible for our own healing.

    Gladys’s century of life experiences has something to offer everyone. Her wisdom will inspire you to reflect on your own purpose, face life's challenges with resilience and make the most of the years ahead.

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    #458 Why You Dream: What Your Sleeping Brain Reveals About Your Waking Life with Brain Surgeon Dr Rahul Jandial

    #458 Why You Dream: What Your Sleeping Brain Reveals About Your Waking Life with Brain Surgeon Dr Rahul Jandial

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    While dreams remain a largely unexplained phenomenon, Rahul shares his insights into common dream themes, the importance of dreams in childhood brain development, and the highly personal nature of dream interpretation. He also covers practical techniques for remembering dreams, the concept of lucid dreaming, the potential links between dreaming and future brain health, and also shares some profound insights about the brain at the time of death. 

     

    Throughout our conversation, Rahul emphasises that although dreams have captivated humans for centuries, they remain a mysterious and intensely personal aspect of our lives. However, if we approach our dreams with curiosity, they have the potential to gift us valuable insights about the contents of our minds and our emotions.

     

    The topic of dreams clearly resonates with many of you - I received over 1,000 comments and questions about dreams when I announced this upcoming episode on my Instagram page.  And, I’m happy to say that Rahul answers some of these questions throughout our discussion, offering his unique perspective as both a neuroscientist and a neurosurgeon.

     

    So whether you're a vivid dreamer or someone who rarely remembers their dreams, this episode offers a captivating glimpse into our sleeping minds.

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    #457 BITESIZE | The Secrets to Reversing Your Age and Living Longer | Dr Mark Hyman

    #457  BITESIZE | The Secrets to Reversing Your Age and Living Longer | Dr Mark Hyman

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    #456 How Smartphones Are Rewiring Our Brains, Why Social Media is Eradicating Childhood & The Truth About The Mental Health Epidemic with Jonathan Haidt

    Today’s episode is about a topic that I am truly passionate about - the introduction of social media and smartphones into all aspects of our lives - and what impact this is having on us individually, collectively and, perhaps most urgently, what impact is this having on our children.

     

    Jonathan Haidt is arguably one of the worlds’ most eminent psychologists. He is a Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the author of 4 best-selling books, including his latest The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.

     

    In this episode, Jonathan and I explore how the fundamental differences between online and real-world interactions are affecting young people's social, emotional and cognitive development. We discuss why girls face unique risks on social media, from damaged relationships and reputations to harassment, and how gaming and pornography are shaping boys' expectations of relationships.

    Jonathan also shares some eye-opening data about the link between a decline in teen mental health and the widespread adoption of smartphones and social media. He emphasises the need for collective action to create healthier norms around technology use, both at home and in schools.

    We dive into practical strategies for parents, including setting clear boundaries and prioritising hobbies and family time. Our conversation also touches on the challenges of navigating technology use in a world where the pace of change has been so fast.

    Jonathan remains optimistic that we're nearing a tipping point and outlines four key norms we can all adopt with our children—even if they’re already dependent on their phones throughout the day. We also discuss in detail what we believe schools could be doing to help their students have less screen time and the importance of collaborating with other families to support healthier habits.

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    DISCLAIMER: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.



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    #455 BITESIZE | The Surprising Truth About Exercise and Keeping Your Brain Healthy | Dr Tommy Wood

    #455 BITESIZE | The Surprising Truth About Exercise and Keeping Your Brain Healthy | Dr Tommy Wood

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    Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.


    #454 How To Live Your Life Without Regret, The Importance of Speaking Your Truth & Why Silencing Yourself Impacts Your Health & Happiness with Africa Brooke

    #454 How To Live Your Life Without Regret, The Importance of Speaking Your Truth & Why Silencing Yourself Impacts Your Health & Happiness with Africa Brooke

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    I think Africa is someone who is talking about a crucially important topic in the most beautiful, profound and compassionate way. My hope is that this conversation serves as a powerful reminder of the freedom and wholeness that comes with authentic self-expression and how embracing our true voice is a courageous and transformative act.

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    Show notes https://drchatterjee.com/454

    DISCLAIMER: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.



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    #453 BITESIZE | Do This Every Day to Reduce Stress, Boost Immunity & Increase Resilience | Dr Susanna Søberg

    #453 BITESIZE | Do This Every Day to Reduce Stress, Boost Immunity & Increase Resilience | Dr Susanna Søberg

    Cold showers, icy plunge pools, outdoor swimming – are you a fan, or does the very idea make you shiver? 


    Feel Better Live More Bitesize is my weekly podcast for your mind, body, and heart. Each week I’ll be featuring inspirational stories and practical tips from some of my former guests.


    Today’s clip is from episode 322 of the podcast with Dr Susanna Søberg.


    Susanna is arguably one of the leading researchers on the topic of cold water immersion therapy. Her research on the physiology of deliberate cold and heat exposure is helping to back up what many cultures have known instinctively for thousands of years – changing our temperature is good for us.


    In this clip we discuss some of the new science around one of the biggest wellness trends of the past few years and Susanna gives some great tips so you can get started.


    CAUTION: If you have uncontrolled hypertension or heart disease it is not advised that you start practising cold water immersion. If you have any doubt at all as to whether you are fit enough to give this practice a go, please consult a qualified healthcare professional.


    Thanks to our sponsor https://www.drinkag1.com/livemore


    Show notes and the full podcast are available at drchatterjee.com/322


    Support the podcast and enjoy Ad-Free episodes. Try FREE for 7 days on Apple Podcasts https://apple.co/feelbetterlivemore. For other podcast platforms go to https://fblm.supercast.com.


    DISCLAIMER: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.




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    #452 The Science of Rituals & How They Can Transform Our Health, Happiness and Relationships with Professor Michael Norton

    #452 The Science of Rituals & How They Can Transform Our Health, Happiness and Relationships with Professor Michael Norton

    Have you ever thought about the role that rituals play in our health and wellbeing? Whether it's a morning routine, a pre-game warmup, or a cultural tradition, rituals can provide us with structure, meaning, and connection.

     

    Today’s guest is Professor Michael Norton, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and author of the brand new book, The Ritual Effect: The Transformative Power of Our Everyday Actions, which delves into the science and psychology behind, why turning everyday habits into rituals can improve our work, our relationships and our lives.

     

    In this conversation, Michael and I explore the fascinating world of rituals and how they impact on our mental and physical health. We discuss the distinction between rituals and routines, why they can be really helpful in making our habits stick over the long term and how, by providing order and structure, they can help us manage overwhelm and stress.

     

    We also explore how rituals foster community and connection, how elite athletes like Serena Williams use rituals to enhance performance and mental preparation, and how team rituals, like the New Zealand rugby team’s iconic Hakka, are a great example of how ritual behaviours boost togetherness and collective identity. 

     

    Michael and I also share some of our own personal rituals  - including the preparation rituals I go through each week to prepare for this podcast. And, we also acknowledge that rituals can become problematic if taken to an extreme and the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with them, using them as tools for self-improvement rather than allowing them to be in control of us.

     

    Ultimately, this is a conversation that offers a compelling case for the power of rituals in enhancing our health and happiness. Whether you're an athlete striving for peak performance, or simply someone looking to live a more fulfilled life, I think you’ll find that understanding the "ritual effect" can be truly transformative.


    Find out more about my NEW Journal here https://drchatterjee.com/journal


    Thanks to our sponsors:

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    Show notes https://drchatterjee.com/452


    DISCLAIMER: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.



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    Today we’re going to talk about something a little different with a good friend of mine, Dr John Sykes aka “health and fitness doctor”.


    Director of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr John is a qualified GP with a strong interest in Sports Medicine. He regularly lectures at Bristol medical school and he’s the reason why I’ve been dragged down there so many times to talk to medical students!


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    Follow Dr John on Instagram and Twitter.


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