What I’ve Learnt from Reading Books & Watching Ted Talks

I recently read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and decided to write my own…

These are generally things I have read, I implement some but not others (e.g. the career ones, I do aspire to achieve/do most of them though) .

I see a lot of nice, ‘well brought up’ people with depression and one of the main reasons is that they’ve been brought up to do good, to share, to think of others, and this is not how 80% of the world works, especially the working-world.

Stoic philosophy helps best with this issue, I don’t think that there is one quick fix…just learn to laugh at injustice and don’t take life of yourself too seriously…

Happiness

  1. You reap what you sow – if you are constantly complaining about people, treating people with contempt and being bad tempered, you will angry, unhappy and low spirited. I don’t believe 100% in karma, but I do think your words, actions & thoughts are all related
  2. Take 100% of responsibility for your actions; it’s rare that you are the victim of circumstance & there’s never a time where you can blame other people for your actions. Attributing all of your problems and flaws to external forces such as bad luck, your wife, parents etc. leads to depression and learned helplessness.Rather than complaining, take ownership, analyse and make sure you make better decisions going forwards. Avoid saying “I haven’t got time” and “I have to…”. Blaming others leads to a victim mentality. So does blaming lack of time and money.
    e.g. If someone asks you to go on a lads holiday, you might say “I’d love to, but I’d prefer to spend the money on my university books”, rather than “I can’t afford it”.
    Saying “I can’t afford it” is logical in many instances, but it really helps to reframe the phrase.If you fall out with someone, or something goes wrong in work – focus on what you could have done differently, rather than what others did wrong. E.g. If you’re a project manager a someone doesn’t tell you about a mistake, you can analyse your own communication skills and approachability.
    See Jocko Willink’s ‘Extreme Ownership’ Ted Talk.
  3. Thoughts of the self create much suffering:
    e.g. concerns regarding appearance, self worth, importance, how you are perceived etc
    True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself, less. Don’t flatter yourself by thinking people give you a second thought.
  4. Thank people for criticism and use it objectively to improve. Defensiveness is usually a sign of insecurity and is the cause of most arguments
  5. If you are made angry by something or someone, then it has beaten you. Laugh smile and be flexible in mindset. Prisoners of war survived the Nazi concentration camps by having a sense of humour, so don’t allow small problems & trivial insults overcome you smile
  6. Beware of the narrative in your mind – “You are not your thoughts”. Don’t be ‘in’ your thoughts, observe them. It is okay to have jealous, aggressive thoughts, as long as you don’t speak or act upon them. “Automatic thoughts” are often negative & aggressive, acknowledge them, disassociate from them, and replace with rational, nice thoughts!
  7. Perfectionism is an illness. Strive to improve, not to be perfect or the best.
  8. Don’t Be a Harsh Judge or Critic – you force yourself to take life a little more seriously each time you do. For example if you criticise someone for having a cheap car, you’ll make yourself and those around you more anxious about the state of your/their car.
  9. Be organised, to allow mindfulness – have a ‘To Do list’ in work and at home. This helps you to be mindful, rather than scanning our mind for things you may have forgotten.
  10. You are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Avoid negative and superficial people. Don’t judge them, they are just on a different path in life and unaware how they effect others.
  11. Attachment is the cause of all suffering – especially to possessions. Take care of things, but don’t invest emotions in them.

    TedSnow
    Ted Enjoys the Simple Things
  12. Acceptance is important. Resisting ‘what is’ makes it infinitely worse.
  13. Life is all about good experiences, interesting & fun experiences can happen anywhere like work, in a traffic jam, anywhere if you can learn to laugh and have fun. You don’t need to be on an expensive holiday to have a good experience.
  14. Avoid hate, jealousy and bitterness. Life is just a random cluster of events, full of inconveniences & injustices that must be laughed at. Acceptance is key for happiness when you literally can’t change something.
  15. Everyone needs a hobby & a passion. Ideally one which gets you in ‘flow state’ and builds social connections with ‘nice’ people. Remember to put your family before your passion however…
  16. Type A Personality – If you have one – highly competitive and short tempered – don’t make the mistake of expecting everyone else to be a highly motivated Type A like you – the world would be a very stressful and unhappy place if this was the case. Your judging will lead to narcissism, which will lead to entitlement, which leads to anger and further frustration.
  17. Happiness has a ripple effect
    “Capitalizing on the Happiness Advantage does more than solely benefit us. Research into social networks has shown that behavior is literally contagious, good or bad. Our attitudes and behaviors infect the people we work with directly, but also spread to the people they interact with. This is called the ripple effect” (p.201)
    The Happiness Advantage
  18. Peace begins with a smile
  19. Flexible people are the happiest – be flexible in terms of plans, set backs etc. Adapt, change & chuckle
  20. Write down 3 good things which have happened each day
  21. Write down a negative thought, then write down 4 positives. e.g. work is boring – positives – I don’t have to work shifts, I don’t have to travel to a city centre, I don’t have to deal with angry customers, I work with nice people
  22. Find the positive in the negative whenever possible. e.g. I lost my job but have learnt massive amounts about careers & life that I can pass onto my children.
    see the Zen Farmer – bad luck can be good luck:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81XIhTePvKE
  23. Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk – Once a milk bottle is smashed and milk goes down the drain, no complaining or whining will bring it back. Deal with it and clean up the mess.
  24. According to Jonathan Haidt, suffering can lead to happiness if you respond positively and adapt
  25. Happiness is not an Entitlement – Many people have to work at it, by giving gratitude everyday, meditating, exercising and eating good clean foods.
Stay_uncomfortable_comfort_breeds_complacency_fireman_up
Stress can help you, as can unpleasant people. Just learn to laugh and roll with them – never hate a hateful person

Citizenship & Social Skills

  1. Be kind, you can make or break someone’s day and people hold grudges for decades – so be nice to everyone
  2. Only hold aggressive opinions about things you have researched completely and deem as highly important. Whilst discussing politics, pretend you are interviewing someone rather than arguing with them
  3. Don’t Expect People to Make an Effort with You – people will never really know what to say to a ‘new’ person. Smile and make an effort but don’t worry too much if they don’t fall head over heals to welcome you to a new team or job etc
  4. Popularity is not important
  5. Love & care for your family, friends and local community. See Dunbar’s number. Your brain isn’t designed to care about 7 billion people. If you care for the entire world’s population you may begin to suffer from stress and depression. You can do the right thing to help them, donate money etc but try not to invest too much emotion.
  6. Speaking of Community – Everyone needs to be in one. We’re social and tribal animals and we need a sense of belonging, this is often cited as a reason for Crossfit being so successful! Crossfit, Church, Football, the pub – whatever it is, you need to be part of one (obvs stay away from dodgy cults and political groups though).
  7. Never say “I hate people”. Focus on those you love, not those you don’t enjoy the company of. Focus on what is good about people not there 1 or 2 flaws. Don’t judge, everyone starts off as a happy baby and is shaped by their environment (and genes).
  8. People Will Always Pick on Those They Perceive as Weak or Naive. Try your best to say things with confidence and stand tall etc. Easier said than done!
  9. Never ‘tut’!
  10. Say “you’re right” instead of “I know” and you’ll appear much nicer.
  11. Never Expect Gratitude. It’s a bonus rather than an entitlement for someone to say thanks
  12. Say nice things about those you don’t like – It will sometimes get back to them that you’ve said something nice, and will seem like a sincere compliment coming via someone else

Money & Career

  1. Adverts (& the news) use negativity, fear & comparisons to sell you things. Don’t buy something because of an advert. It’s like a game to get you to part with your money.
    Beware of social proofing, loss aversion, the law of reciprocity and the power of authority – all used in marketing. Know the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’.
  2. Business is always mixed with politics, don’t let it bother you. Read The Prince, The 48 Laws of Power and How to Win Friends & Influence People, this makes you revel in the politics rather than hate it. I used to get angry about work-politics but it comes with the territory, especially at bigger companies.
  3. It’s better to have a small house and disposable income, than a large house and concerns about money. Be aware of the hedonic treadmill.
  4. Buy investments not liabilities. In the book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ the author describes how poorer people tend to buy ‘liabilities’ that decrease in value like cars, whilst the rich look first to buy assets (things that increase in value) like properties, currencies, gold etc. For both assets and liabilities, make sure you can afford them!
  5. Move to get Promoted – When you’re single if you can buy a house, rent it out, then move anywhere in the world (literally) for a job that’s senior to your current position. Obviously the ‘buy a house’ bit only works if you work hard/get lucky to begin with and get a good job! The principle remains the same if you don’t have a house though, you just don’t have an investment to fall back on. I didn’t do this, I was too much of a pansy and came home after 3 months in America.
  6. Set up an Online Business – Get Paid in Sterling or US Dollars and live like a king on bahts in Thailand.
  7. Learn to entertain yourself for free or on a low budget. e.g. hiking, camping. Those who need expensive holidays to be entertained usually find it hard to be happy day to day and are often skint.
  8. “Don’t outshine the master” pretend your life and your knowledge is slightly inferior to your boss’s
  9. Meditate – meditation is all about not judging thoughts. Therefore it helps hugely if day to day you don’t judge people.
  10. It’s good to have rubbish employment at some stage in your life. You’ll appreciate a better job later in life eg. I don’t let boredom effect me, after working in a call centre getting verbally abused all day. Boredom is good.
  11. Social intelligence & confidence is just as important as knowledge when it comes to your career. (Perhaps different if you’re a highly skilled doctor or engineer)
  12. Have a Stop – Loss Formula – Set a limit so you never risk more than you can afford
  13. Experience is much more Important than Qualifications – Do unpaid work or start your own business if you have to, in order to get some experience.
  14. If you work in an office, have a cold shower twice a week and engage in intense exercise at least once a week. Otherwise your body and immune system are likely to become weak.
  15. If you are unable to rid yourself of anger – use it to motivate yourself. For example, gain new and better skills to move to a different job.

Learning New Skills

  1. It takes 10,000 hours to become a master, 20 hours to become ‘good’ at something. When learning new skills, learn the basics and then practice, gain feedback, adjust, then practice again, gain feedback, adjust, etc. Don’t read and read about how to do something, you need to practice itcropped-dadblog1.jpg
  2. Set Monthly personal development goals such as reading books, going out of your comfort zone, or building character e.g. Take a cold shower each morning, speak to 2 new people each day
  3. Growth mindset – never be afraid to learn new things – never say “I can’t do it”, you can’t do it yet.
  4. You don’t need much money to be happy, but you do need sleep. Aim for ‘fuck you money’ – have enough money to say no to jobs etc you don’t want to do. Things don’t make you happy, other than food & shelter
  5. Cheerfulness is always the best approach to problems and day to day issues.
  6. ‘Start with “why?”’ when trying to motivate and persuade people
  7. Do everything with enthusiasm
  8. Treat repetitive tasks like meditation. 1 thing/item at a time, don’t think about the past or present, just what you are doing, 1 at a time.
  9. Never be afraid to fail. You win or you learn.
  10. Low energy can be mental or physical but normally both
    Address both potential issues with diet & exercise for physical, reading, CBT and meditation for the mental.
    Diet – probiotics, fermented foods, high omega 3, low omega 6, low/no sugar

    CBTNegativeThinkingCycleExample
    Having Low Energy Can be a Mental Health Issue (or a physical issue)
    Image Source

  11. Feedback is crucial when learning new skills – perfect practice makes perfect. Video yourself is required.
  12. The Goal Posts Move – Once you’ve learnt a new skill, keep up to date, or you’re skills will become out of date.

General

Marcus Aurelius' meditations
Marcus Aurelius’ first life lesson – be mild tempered
  1. All great men and leaders in history preach ‘a mild temper’ (see above photo)
  2. Don’t procrastinate for 1 moment – as this is the beginning of the biggest delays. Make a decision and do it straight away.
  3. Beware the power of Intermittent Positive Reinforcement. See Skinner’s experiments. Gambling is addictive because of intermittent reinforcement, as is social media
  4. What you criticise represents your own insecurities. e.g people’s appearance
  5. Beware of all the cognitive biases – self-serving, confirmation bias, etc. Learn more here. These are crucial and should be taught in school!
    For example – Self Serving Bias:

    The selfserving bias is people’s tendency to attribute positive events to their own character but attribute negative events to external factors. It’s a common type of cognitive bias that has been extensively studied in social psychology

    source

  6. Be aware of ‘Faulty Thinking’ in CBT – for example, Mental filtering whereby people disregard the positives and focus on the negatives. e.g. when you focus on the one thing that went wrong in a presentation. More info here.success
  7. Don’t build huge expectations in children. Telling them they’ll be a dentist or a great football player when they grow up, may upset them if they end up working nights in a factory – not that there’s anything wrong with this.
  8. For every person that says ‘never give up on your dreams’ there’s another 100 people that didn’t and never made it. Beware ‘survivor bias’
  9. Reward effort, not outcome. Say ‘well done, you must have worked really hard!’ ‘instead of well done, you must be really talented/clever’.
  10. Don’t personalise anything other than direct personal criticism. If someone is blunt, miserable etc, it’s generally nothing to do with you
  11. Love imperfections for their quirks – they give things and people character
  12. Don’t eat in front of the TV – you will eat ‘mindlessly’ and not appreciate the food or even register it going in
  13. Have a preference for how people behave, but not a demand. e,g. it’s nice if people say thank you, but don’t expect it
  14. Awkwardness – ‘move into it’, don’t be afraid of it – it can be used to manipulate you
  15. You can Meditate doing any task – Be mindful when driving by constantly focusing on the road immediately ahead & bringing your thoughts back to the road, be mindful when walking by focusing on the sensations of touch and movement -such as the feeling of the wind on your face & the feeling of your feet pressing onto & driving off the floor, then be mindful of all the sounds you can hear
  16. Everyone started off a smiling baby, people are a product of their environment & genetics. Had Gandhi been born in Nazi Germang, he would have likely been a Nazi, not a spiritual leader. Remember this when trying not to judge others.
  17. Expect shit to happen & don’t be dramatic – The world and the universe is in perpetual chaos and gives zero fcuks about you. Just because you live in a comfy house and work a set rota, doesn’t mean random stuff and hassle won’t happen. Expect hassles like stuff breaking and just get on with fixing it.

    meditation-1384758_960_720
    Meditation – Usually not so dramatic
  18. Life is hard for everyone. Get on with it with a chuckle & less drama
  19. Never be unhappy or angry about your lot in life. Others will always have more.
  20. Change a negative inner narrative by listening to and repeating positive affirmations.
  21. Sometimes you’ll do nothing wrong and get told off anyway. No dramas.
  22. You Learn by Mistakes – but they don’t have to be yours – learn by reading.

    Ted
    Learn to enjoy stuff that’s free
  23. Magnesium is a powerful muscle relaxant, great for headaches & sleep
  24. “All disease starts in the gut” Hippocrates. If you have an inflamed gut, you will struggle to feel good regardless of how much you read and meditate. The gut directly impacts the brain and mood. Have a read up on leaky gut and the FODMAP diet
  25. Power corrupts virtually everyone, don’t be surprised or upset by greed etc, all large organisations appear to have at least an element of corruption too.
  26. Risk to Reward ratio – Only take high risks if the rewards are really high. Is it worth doing an exercise in the gym that might make you more powerful but could dislocate your shoulder if you get the technique slightly wrong?
  27. I wish someone had of explained ‘banter’ to me earlier in life – possibly a British thing, whereby you exchange witty insults and the person who gets upset first is the loser
  28. Resilience is related to flexibility. If you’re plans and ideals are flexible and ‘changeable’ then you will be more resilient than someone who is very fixed ideals and plans.
  29. Guy Ritchie said (to paraphrase) on the Joe Rogan Podcast – there’s 2 worlds, an inner one and an outer one. You don’t need the outer world to validate who you are or your worth.
marcus aurelius horse
Marcus gives a nonchalant wave from his horse

To summarise

  • Don’t take life or yourself too seriously and remember that having a sense of humour & being cheerful is always the best way to cope
  • Always pick out the positives. Bad luck often makes you appreciate specific things or people or often turns into good luck if handled correctly
  • Don’t be duped by the system, which wants you to compare yourself to others, feel negative and buy things
  • Learn something from everyone – people don’t have to be role models, they can also be hideous warnings
  • Don’t judge your thoughts or other people if you want to be mindful
  • Be nice & don’t insult people unnecessarily – they’ll hold a grudge for decades
  • Read
 self development

Tips to Avoid Early-Midlife Bitterness

  1. Don’t compare yourself to your friends or others
  2. Take complete ownership of your career – don’t blame others for decision that you made and ‘wrong turns’ that you took
  3. Don’t be judgemental. All the most miserable people I know, are constantly judging others (not that I’m judging them for judging).
  4.  Never be angry with your lot in life because someone had it easier or handed to them on a plate. Get on with what you have.
  5. Don’t sweat the small stuff don’t be offended by anything other than a serious threat, don’t have a nervy B if a household appliance breaks or your car gets scratched.
  6. Eat well and consider natural adaptogen

“Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but it would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.” 

 Epictetus, The Art of Living 

 

Experience is the best form of knowledge, reading is different but still highly valuable. I try and read books when I can, but I listen to audio books more nowadays and watch animated book summaries (or just listen to them in work if I’m doing something dull).

If you’re interested  – you can listen/watch Ted Talks here or on youtube

 

IF

First Baby? My Advice after 1 year

I asked for advice before we had our first baby, and you just get the usual doom and gloom answers such as

“Don’t expect any sleep”
“When you’re sick, that’s the start of your night”

Cheers, nothing useful at all.

When you get a girlfriend, everyone mythers you to get married,

Then when you’re married, everyone mythers you about having kids,

And then when you do have one on the way, everyone harps on about how terrible child birth is and how you’ll never have a lie in again or a full night’s sleep and how awful and hard life will be from now on.

Elinor

It’s not all bad; in fact, it’s life changing and amazing – you just have to be pretty selfless to enjoy it. And sleep, you do need to make sure you get some sleep whenever possible.

A Few Parenting Tips

  • Get tops with buttons around the neck. Babies go mental when you try and pull their tops over their heads
  • If you’ve no idea what to do – Peek a Boo (or Pi Po in Wales) is always a winner with children 5-12 months old
  • You’ll fall out with at least 1 family member over parenting style or childcare
  • Phenibut is immense for sleep deprivation, once a week only though
  • Picking up your child side on makes it harder for them to back-heel you in the balls
  • White noise tends to help babies and parents to sleep (especially if you live in a nosey semi-detached)
  • Every woman, and man and his dog will give you advice. Just smile and nod
  • The happiest people tend to be the most flexible with plans etc. This seems especially true with parents – your plans to go to the gym may been constantly scuppered for example.
  • Not that I’d know, but breastfeeding appears to get significantly easier after the first month, then it seems relatively painless after 2 months, until the baby starts to get teeth…then it hurts again
  • Grandparents don’t agree with Attachment Parenting
  • Keep your hands free when walking around the house. You’ll defo fall over a toy at some point and it helps to have hands to break your fall
  • Baby gates are pretty lethal, as are the stands on those vibrating chairs

 

2 other things of note, the NHS staff in the maternity ward were amazing, I was pleasantly surprised at their enthusiasm;

And the 2 healthcare visitors I know personally were extremely helpful – it was one of my friends that suggested our baby might have a tongue tie (this was missed by our designated healthcare visitor – easily done).

 

nora

 

Fitness For Busy Parents

I’ll go into this at a later date, but you don’t need a gym or loads of time to have an effective workout.

Tabata intervals and bodyweight exercises are all you need and you can do them at home.

For example

1 Tabata Interval of squats
Followed by 1 set of maximum press ups

is enough to maintain fitness and muscle mass, and even improve markers of fitness and health depending on baseline levels.

fitness

Tabata Intervals involve 8 intervals of exercise, for 20 seconds.
Each 20 second interval is separated by 10 seconds rest.

Doing just 8 minutes a week of this type of exercise is proven to be beneficial in terms of blood lipid and glucose levels.

 

Fitness may not be a priority in the next year or two, but make sure you try and maintain a level of physical activity, or your health and wellbeing can deteriorate fast

Your Children are Not an Extension of your Own Ego

Having being brought up under the giant shadow created by, and constantly compared to Graeme ‘The Rock’ Sutcliffe, competitive parents and parenting has long been something that annoys me greatly.

Want to make your child feel not good enough?
Then quote your Mum-friends comments to your own children, and paraphrase their totally genuine anecdotes about how great their children are…and how your child must do better

Want to make your friends feel shyte?
Then tell them how great your child is, how they came 1st in every exam ever and are destined to be the next saviour of the free-world.
This in turn will no doubt lead said-friend to evaluate their child’s relative short-comings and pile tonnes of pressure on to their yet-to-fully-develop shoulders, so that they may then bask in the vicarious success of their own offspring when this fantastic parenting technique starts to pay off.

I’m working on some default responses for when a parent attempts to passive-aggressively put-down my child…these include:
“oh wow! your child is amazing! please tell me more…”
“Go away before I punch you in the throat”

Obviously, it’s best not to react to any type of boasting. It’s generally a sign of insecurity on the part of the person doing the bragging.
Just see it for what it is – a knobhead move

 

On a slight tangent – there’s a pretty cool article here  – If you want your child to perform well at Sport:

Based on psychological research, the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as [kids] perform are:

Before the Competition:  

Have fun.

Play hard.

I love you.

After the competition:

Did you have fun?

I’m proud of you.

I love you.

 

 

How Watching Made in Chelsea is Consuming your Soul

Now I realise that TV producers find the biggest morons possible to make these shows more ‘entertaining’, and that the likes of Joey Essex pretend to be thick as pig-poo just to market themselves – for example by pretending he can’t tell the time – you didn’t believe that one did you?

Even with this awareness, watching horror/comedy programmes like TOWIE and Made In Chelsea is rotting your soul.
But Why?

Jealously!
Even though every philosophical book and self-help book tells us not to compare ourselves to others, we can’t help it.  Jealously is regarded as a secondary emotion. Triggered by anger or fear.  In this case, we all tend to get angry by watching a group of idiots, live amazing lifestyles that are way beyond most of us.

This ‘unfair treatment’ makes us angry – we work hard all week, and we can only dream of a lifestyle like that – unless we take out a ruck of loans that is.  Don’t do that.

Anger at what we perceive as unfair treatment, such as unequal-pay for doing the exact same job as someone else, is such an instinctive reaction, that even monkeys display it:

The only remedy to this anger is – not to watch the tripe in the first place, and find some intelligent friends who can see through the ‘consumerism culture’ and can enjoy doing things that don’t cost any money. Like blogging.Made-In-Chelsea--007

A Few Things I’ve Learnt So Far…

…about babies, or at least my baby.

Don’t get tops that are anywhere near tight fitting around the neck – button up tops are much better. Baby goes proper mental if you try and pull a top over her head, she thinks you’re trying to kill her.  Loose fitting ones or button-up ones are much better

Music often, not always, but often stops her crying.  I’m guessing this is okay to do(?)  just wack on some music and it seems to distract her:

 

3. You don’t really need a pram if you have a sling. Never used it.

4. I also thought child-birth took about an hour, not 3 days! (if you include all the stop-start contractions)

 

Everyone’s an Expert at Parenting…

I think, one of the most annoying things, then I never realised before having a child, was that everyone is a complete, fountain of overwhelmingly assertive/aggressive knowledge when it comes to parenting.

Whether you should leave a baby to ‘cry it out’ or not, whether breastfeeding is best (surely it is?), how long to breastfeed for, what kind of routine you should be in, to get jabs or not, etc etc.

I think this is a classic example of Type 1 thinking.  Which I like to call “Lazy thinking”.

Basically it costs less energy to retrieve information that’s already established in your ‘memory-banks’.  Comprehending, and obtaining new, especially contradictory information, takes a lot more effort and energy, and therefore people are often very reluctant to do it – even though learning new things is a proven way to keep the brain healthy.

So if you every catch yourself saying “oh, don’t be so stupid” in the face of a logical argument, you’re probably carrying out Type 1 thinking.

Wish is the kind of response you get when you try to explain the research behind attachment parenting, and the studies that prove you cannot apply Behavioural Psychology to babies.

In regards to the parenting opinions, I’m not sure whether to respond with an abrupt – “oh just fcuk off will you”, or to pretend to cry…

Crying

Breastfeeding – Part 1

Just to kick things off, here’s a list of the contents of human breast milk. Which I’ve taken from BreastFeeding Thoughts on Facebook (please like their page if you want to learn more):

Key Molecules Breast Milk Glossary:

Generic terms:

Carbohydrates, in their simplest form they are a molecule containing a carbon, hydrogen and an oxygen. In human biology the carbohydrates that we are interested in are saccharides, which is an umbrella term for any sugar or starch.

Monosaccharides are simple single sugars units and include glucose and fructose. Disaccharides are two monosaccharides bound together and include lactose and sucrose
Oligosaccharides are small multi sugar units (typically 3-9 monosaccharides), they have an important role in cell to cell recognition and other functions. They help to block
antigens from sticking to the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. This blocking mechanism is particularly effective against pneumococcus which is extremely sticky.
Polysaccharides are larger multi sugar units and include starch and glycogen.

Fats are an essential nutrients required by the body for a range of functions. Functions of fats include storage of energy, transport, structural roles (fat soluble molecules such as certain vitamins are stored in fats). The break down of fats releases heat energy, which helps to keep us warm. Fats are also an important producer of hormones.

Amino acids are small organic chemical compounds, which are the individual building blocks for proteins. There are 22 amino acids, which used by humans for proteins synthesis. Essential amino acids are ones which the body cannot produce itself, other than in human milk. There are 9 essential amino acids, all present in human milk.

Proteins are three-dimensional structures comprised of amino acids. Proteins are essential biological molecules with a vast range of functions from cell to cell signalling, transport of other factors around the body (e.g. oxygen) and structural roles. Every protein consists of a specific sequence of amino acids. Every protein has a corresponding gene, which is essentially a set of instructions a cell uses to determine the order of amino acids. The order of amino acids will dictate the 3D shape of the protein and the structure of the protein dictates its function.

Enzymes are a specialised protein, which mediate chemical reactions in the body. A number of processes in the body require chemical reactions to occur, examples include the metabolism of glucose, the detoxification of drugs and harmful substances and the formation of waste products for excretion. Enzymes lower the energy requirements for these reactions to occur.

DNA/Genes: Every cell in the human body has a nucleus. The nucleus contains the all of the genetic material relating to that particular individual. Every cell contains the same genetic material, regardless of the cell type. The genetic material is database of instructions for creating proteins. The genetic material is expressed as chains of molecules called DNA, lots of DNA is random irrelevant ‘junk’ DNA with no real purpose, however, some is useful and these sections are called genes. DNA is converted in cells to RNA, which then instructs proteins within the cell to make new proteins.

COMPONENTS OF HUMAN MILK:

AMINO ACIDS:

Amino acids are the individual building blocks for proteins. Proteins make up approximately 20% of the human body. Breast milk contains the 9 essential amino acids, which the body cannot produce itself other than in breast milk (listed in bold), as well as others, which are critical for development in all areas.

Alanine
Arginine
Aspartate
Clycine
Cystine
Glutamate
Histidine
Isoleucine
Leucine
Lyscine
Methionine
Phenylalanine
Proline
Serine
Taurine. The second most abundant amino acid in human milk. It plays an important role in early brain maturation.
Theronine
Tryptophan
Tyrosine
Valine
Carnitine

NUCLEOTIDES:

Nucleotides are the subunits of nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA. The can also form cyclic structures which can be involved in cell signalling (activating or inhibiting activity in cells).

5’-Adenosine monophosphate (5”-AMP)
3’:5’-Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (3’:5’-cyclic AMP)
5’-Cytidine monophosphate (5’-CMP)

Cytidine diphosphate choline (CDP choline)
Important for the maintenance of cell membrane proteins particularly in the nervous system, some evidence to suggests it has a protective role against hypoxic brain damage, and helping to improve memory and learning.

Guanosine diphosphate (UDP)
Guanosine diphosphate – mannose
Uridine monophosphate (3’-UMP)
Uridine diphosphate (UDP)
Uridine diphosphate hexose (UDPH)
Uridine diphosphate-N-acetylhexosamine (UDPAH)

Uridine diphosphoglucuronic acid (UDPGA)
Important for the production of essential sugars, required for normal growth and development.

FATS/FAT BASED MOLECULES:

Triglycerides and Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are fat based molecules. Fats in general have a number of functions including: energy storage, cell messaging, hormone production and structural roles.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) A fatty acid shown to have an important role in infant brain development, particularly with association and short term memory.

Arachidonic acid (AHA) A fatty acid required for the synthesis of molecules involved in pain and inflammation. Also thought to play a role in infant brain development

Linoleic acid (Omega 6)/ Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (Omega 3) An essential fatty acid which is thought to have numerous roles in the body, from possible anti-cancer properties to the reduction of cholesterol levels.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (Rumenic acid- active omega 6)
Free Fatty Acids
Oleic acid (possible adverse effects)
Palmitoleic acid
Heptadecenoic acid
Stearic acid
Palmitic acid
Lauric acid

Phosphatidylcholine
Important phospholipid (fat with a phosphate group bound), found in every cell in the body, thought to have a role reducing the risk of inflammatory bowel disease and tissue repair.

Phosphatidylethanolamine

Phosphatidylinositol
A phospholipid essential for cell structure, which is partially prevalent in brain tissue

Lysophosphatidylcholine
A compound derived from phospholipids, thought to have potential anti-cancer properties.

Lysophosphatidylethanolamine
Plasmalogens
Sphingolipids
Sphingomyelin
GM1
GM2
GM3
Glucosylceramide
Galactosylceramide
Lactosylceramide
Globotriaosylceramide (GB3)
Globoside (GB4)
Sterols
Squalene
Lanosterol
Dimethylsterol
Methosterol
Lathosterol
Desmosterol
Triacylglycerol (triglyceride)
Cholesterol
7-dehydrocholesterol
Stigma-and campesterol
7-ketocholesterol
Sitosterol
β-lathosterol

VITAMINS AND MINERALS:

In general vitamins and minerals are used in a variety of roles. Most are essential for growth and development and deficiency can lead to problems. With adequate nutrition it’s unusual to be deficient in these.

Vitamin A
An essential vitamin required for vision and healthy skin.
Beta carotene
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B8 (Inositol)
Vitamin B12
Needed for early development of the central nervous system.
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin EImportant for the protection of delicate tissues against oxidant induced injury such as the lungs and retina.
a-Tocopherol
Vitamin K
Thiamine
Riboflavin
Niacin
Folic acid
Pantothenic acid
Biotin
Calcium. Essential mineral and is the most abundant mineral in the body, functions range from heart contractions to development of teeth and bones.
Sodium
Potassium
Iron
ZincShown to be protective against some rare but serious congenital conditions.
Chloride
Phosphorus
Magnesium
Copper
Manganese
Iodine
Selenium
Choline
Sulphur
Chromium
Cobalt
Fluorine
Nickel
Molybdenum (essential element in many enzymes)

GROWTH FACTORS/INFLAMMATORY MEDIATORS:

CytokinesCytokines are involved in the regulation of the immune system. In babies they have an important role in protection from disease.

Stem cells. These are a unique kind of cell which can divide and self-renew to create and repair different organs and systems. Early testing has shown these stem cells may be able to regenerate brain cells and they could have a part to play in early brain development or longer-term protection against conditions like Alzheimers. Stem cells are being used in research for a wide variety of diseases.

Interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10
Interleukins are a group of chemical signalling molecules. Different Interleukins have different specific effects but in general they are involved in regulating the immune system and promoting a response to infection and inflammation.

Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF)This is a growth factor which stimulates the development of white blood cells involved in the protection of the body against infection.

Macrophage-colony stimulating factor (M-CSF)
This is a growth factor, which stimulates the development of white blood cells involved in the protection of the body against infection.

Interferon-γInvolved in coordinating T and B cells to combat infection, particularly against viral infection but has roles against other pathogens.

Epithelial growth factor (EGF)Stimulates the production of intestinal mucosa and gut wall lining – important barriers that prevent pathogens and allergens entering a babyʼs blood stream.

Transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α), TGF β1, TGF-β2. Members of the epidermal growth factor family, thought to be involved in the maturation of the intestinal system.

Insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) (also known as somatomedin C), Insulin-like growth factor- II, thought to have a role in growth promotion.

Erythropoietin, Stimulates the development of red blood cells.

HMGF I (Human milk growth factor), HMGF II, HMGF III
Thought to be involved in stimulating growth via DNA synthesis and cellular proliferation

Nerve growth factor (NGF)
β-endorphinsThought to help to overcome stress on the neonatal system following a vaginal delivery.
Parathyroid hormone (PTH)
Parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP)
β-defensin-1
Calcitonin
Gastrin
Motilin
Bombesin (gastric releasing peptide, also known as neuromedin B)
Neurotensin
Somatostatin
Platelet derived growth factors (PDGF)
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)
Hepatocyte growth factor -α (HGF-α)
HGF-β
Tumour necrosis factor-α
Peptides (combinations of amino acids)

HORMONES:

Chemical messengers that carry signals from one cell, or group of cells, to another via the blood.

Cortisol, Insulin, Thyroxine and Cholecystokinin. Help develop the baby’s intestinal system and the intestinal defence system.

Thyroxine is essential for growth, and Cholecystokinin helps with digestion, sedation, and a feeling of well-being.

Triiodothyronine (T3), Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) (also known as thyrotropin), Thyroid releasing hormone (TRH)
Thyroxine is essential for normal metabolism, growth and brain development. Low levels can have serious impacts on the development of the baby

ProlactinEnhances the development of lymphocytes (T and B cells) and hence has a protective role against infection.

Oxytocin. Promotes emotional connection between mother and baby. Helps them both to relax and go back to sleep after a feed at night. Also reduces the risk of bleeding following vaginal delivery by promoting contraction of the uterus.

Corticosterone
Thrombopoietin
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)
GRH
Leptin. Regulates appetite, food intake and energy metabolism. The higher the milk leptin concentration, the lower the infants BMI indicating that leptin could have a part to plan in preventing obesity.

Ghrelin (aids in regulation of food intake)
Adiponectin
Feedback inhibitor of lactation (FIL)
Eicosanoids
PG-E1, PG-E2. Prostaglandins, important for mounting an inflammatory response to injury and infection. They are also protective towards cells.
PG-F2

Leukotrienes, Thromboxanes, Prostacyclins
Mediators of inflammatory response required to fight infection and promote healing.

ENZYMES (catalysts that support chemical reactions in the body):

Enzymes are proteins, which lower the energy required to carry out a biochemical reaction, they are essential for every life sustaining process.

Amylase. Helps the baby to digest the starches found in milk, thought to promote better digestion of solid foods one the baby is weaned of milk.

Arysulfatase
Catalase
Histaminase
Lipase. Helps babies to digest fat when their own pancreatic function is still immature.

Lysozyme. This is found in significant concentrations in breast milk. It has both bactericidal and anti-inflammatory actions, destroying bacteria by disrupting their cell walls. Though to protect the infant against diarrhoeal diseases. It increases in concentration in breast milk as babies get older and more mobile and increases further after 12 months. It is particularly effective against E. Coli and salmonella.

PAF-acetylhydrolase
Phosphatase
Xanthine oxidase

Antiproteases. Thought to bind themselves to macromolecules such as enzymes and as a result prevent allergic and anaphylactic reactions.

a-1-antitrypsin
a-1-antichymotrypsin

ANTIMICROBIAL FACTORS: (Cellular and humoral). Used by the immune system to identify and neutralise foreign objects, such as bacteria and viruses.

In general these factors have an important role in resistance to harmful infections and training the immune system against attacking itself and causing problems such as inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies.

Leukocytes (white blood cells). These are the cells found in blood which fight infections and other harmful objects

Phagocytes. These cells absorb harmful molecules and organisms and consequently destroy them, they also then have a role in protection from future infection.

Basophils, Neutrophils, Eoisinophils, Macrophages
Important in protection against infection

Lymphocytes- T cells and B cells
These cells are responsible for targeted destruction of harmful organisms. B cells produce antibodies, which give us immunity, while T cells organise the immune system into a specific infection fighting force.

Antibodies produced in human milk are highly targeted against infectious agents in the motherʼs environment. When a mother comes into contact with pathogens by either inhaling or ingesting (notably from contact with her baby’s saliva on her breast), ʻPeyerʼs patchesʼ in the lungs or small intestine manufacture specially sensitised lymphocytes (white blood cells) that then migrate to breast and create tailor-made sigA antibodies against that pathogen.
Mucosal pathogens are a major killer of children below the age of 5 years, being responsible for more than 14 million deaths annually. Diarrheal disease alone claim a toll of 5 million children per year in the developing countries.

Epidemiological data suggest that the risk of dying from diarrhea could be reduced 14-24 times in breast-fed children. A beneficial clinical effect is also apparent in the industrialised world, even in relation to relatively common diseases such as otitis media and acute lower respiratory tract infections.

sIgA (Secretory immunoglobulin A) (the most important anti-infective factor)
IgA2, IgG, IgD, IgM, IgE

Maternal immunoglobulins, these are essentially for coordinating a targeted immune response against infection and also give some immunity to infections.

Complement C1, Complement C2, Complement C3, Complement C4, Complement C5, Complement C6, Complement C7, Complement C8, Complement C9:
The complement proteins are part of the body’s defence mechanism against potentially harmful agents such as bacteria. They are involved in the detection of a harmful agent and the mobilisation of the immune system against that agent

Mucins. Attach to bacteria and viruses to prevent them from clinging to mucosal tissues

Alpha-lactoglobulin. A protein that induces death in cancerous cells (Human α-Lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells (HAMLET)).
Some evidence to suggest that this could lower the risk of childhood cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia.
Human milk is currently being used to develop anti-cancer drugs.

Lactadherin
Alpha-2 macroglobulin
Lewis antigens
Ribonuclease
Haemagglutinin inhibitors

Bifidus Factor
Increases growth of Lactobacillus bifidus, which is a good bacteria and protective in the gut. It encourages the growth of friendly bacterias which creates a low Ph environment in the babies gut. This discourages replication of dangerous bacteria.

Lactoferrin. Binds to iron, which prevents harmful bacteria from using the iron to grow. It is an iron-binding protein that helps the baby absorb its own iron stores but also crucially ties up the iron so it is not available to harmful micororganisms that need iron to survive. Bacteria like E.coli and Staphylococci need iron to survive and are significantly stunted in to presence of lactoferrin. As is candida which causes thrush infection.

Lactoperoxidase. B12 binding protein Deprives microorganisms of vitamin B12 (antibacterial function)

Fibronectin. Makes phagocytes more aggressive, regulates inflammation, and repairs damage caused by inflammation.

 

 

Should you leave your baby to cry?

Should you let your baby cry her or himself to sleep?

baby-crying-280

Controversial one this…well anything to do with parenting tends to be, as people have such defensive & at times aggressive opinions about it.

From what I’ve read, which admittedly is limited to a few relevant pages in one book, and 2 articles; I’ve concluded that “no” you shouldn’t leave a baby crying…

One of my favourite books of all time is called The Happiness Hypothesis, there is a section within the book (sorry, can’t remember the chapter) that talks about ‘Harlow’s Monkeys’, and how the (cruel) experiments he did on monkeys – where they received milk but no kind of motherly affection; dispelled all the theories about Behavioural Psychology and babies.

You can learn more about ‘Harlow’s Monkeys’ in this excellent TED x talk:

 

The 2 points to take from the experiments are that:
1) Babies are born prematurely compared to other mammals, with underdeveloped brains – they can’t walk etc like other mammals.
This is because the human brain gets so big, and human hips are relatively small. For this reason, at 40 weeks, it’s physically the best time for the baby to ‘come out’.   Any longer, and well…you can imagine the problems caused by the disproportionately large heads that human babies have.

ReptilianBrain
Babies are therefore primarily ‘instinctive’ in behaviour – if you’ve heard of the triune brain model, a new born babies brain is basically ‘all reptile’ in terms of its development.  This sounds odd, but you can learn more about the triune brain here.  It’s a bit outdated and over-simplistic but still quite an effective way of grasping an understanding of the human brain. The reptile brain, is the most basic part of the brain, responsible for impulses and instinctive behaviour, such as crying.

This simplistic brain cannot adapt, or learn from reinforcement, rewards, experience etc. So by leaving your baby crying; it might eventually stop, but it, in theory, won’t make him or her less likely to cry, or to cry less in the future.

In contrast, dogs and other mammals are born with a fully functioning ‘limbic system‘. According to this website, the limbic system –

“It appears to be primarily responsible for our emotional life, and has a lot to do with the formation of memories.”.

The presence of emotions and memories in the brain of a puppy or other young mammal, mean that they can be trained etc. and that Freudian and Behavioural style psychological techniques work in manipulation of their behaviour.

2) This is more of a general point, and I don’t fully understand the science behind this, but from what I’ve read, children need a secure ‘attachment figure’.  They’ll be extremely anxious in later life, if they don’t feel secure and safe when they’re an infant.  In Harlow’s experiments with monkeys, those that were separated from their mothers shortly after birth displayed all kinds of psychological problems, and would cling to anything for comfort.  This behaviour contradicted the Freudian theory that babies were only attached to their mothers, because of the ‘reward’ of milk.  The monkeys received milk from a metal model of an adult monkey, but would ignore the model unless they were hungry.

It’s a bit upsetting, so I won’t link to it, but if you read any of the academic papers about Romanian orphans, the same issues occurred. Despite being fed when hungry, and changed and washed when required, the orphans displayed psychological issues as infants.  They would also show the ‘attachment instinct’ to any adult that showed them any attention – literally following them around.

Obviously, there’s more to attachment-theory than what you do when your baby cries, but it is theorised to be a contributing factor.  Babies are extremely vulnerable and not supposed to be independent in anyway, so trying to toughen them up, or teach them something, is in theory, not going to work. In fact, I read somewhere that putting your child in the ‘naughty corner’ is more traumatic than smacking them, as a child’s instinctive fear is being abandoned. You can’t spoil a baby, you certainly can’t spoil them with too much love.

There’s an interesting research paper on the topic here. There’s an interesting quote from a psychologist named Bowlby:

…a person (or child) who has formed a secure attachment
“is likely to possess a representational model of attachment figure(s) as being available, responsive, and helpful and a complementary model of himself as at least a potentially lovable and valuable person

I’m sure there are strong arguments against attachment theory (please, comment with a link if you find anything), and it’s not always physically possible to attend to your baby when you’ve had 2 hours’ sleep and you’re hallucinating at 4am in the morning when baby is going mental but this is what I’m sticking with for now.
In fact, just to balance this post a bit, here’s a counter argument on Huffington Post.

I would really, recommend watching the video above if you get chance!

oh, and just to finish…apparently the ‘cry it out’ method doesn’t work anyway:

 

“A 2002 BMJ study of 156 mothers of babies between six and 12 months showed that babies who underwent controlled crying for two months slept better, according to their mothers. However, when the study finished after four months, the sleep-trained babies slept no better than those who hadn’t been trained, suggesting that time sorts it out for most babies.”

Source

I’d love to hear/read people’s thoughts on this, so please leave a comment

Further reading here

Top Tips After 1 Year of Reading Self-Development Books

I’m guessing some of this stuff will help as a parent at some point, hopefully.

Here’s a list of the best bits I’ve read about:

  • Self Serving Bias is a massive influence on all of us.  Build the emotional intelligence to prevent you acting on it.  It’s got a long history too, apparently Buddha said something about it, and so did Matthew in the Bible:
    “Never mind the black spec in my eye, first remove the log from your own”
    Meaning, don’t be a hypocrite.
  • Some people suffer from feelings of inferiority and low self esteem, depression etc, whilst many others suffer from feelings of superiority, resulting in anger, having no-patience and a low-frustration-tolerance
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others
  • Avoid ‘What if’ statements, verbally and as thoughts. They make you anxious
  • Avoid ‘should’ statements, they will make you angry and unhappy.  E.g. “This should have happened” (or shouldn’t)
  • Acceptance. Accept what you can’t change – e.g. having a crap night’s sleep
  • Flexibility. Those who are flexible with their mindset, and with their plans, are generally the happiest people.
  • Aggressive opinions of right and wrong cause all sorts of unnecessary conflicts. I’m sure many of the members of terrorist organisations feel what they are doing is morally right.  The best way to avoid such strict views, is by spending time with a range of people with different thoughts, political affiliations etc.
  • Have a flexible mindset not a fixed mindset in terms of learning, using statements such as “I can’t do it yet”, rather than “I can’t do it”

Josh

  • The best way to stop caring about what others think, is to stop complaining about and judging them yourself
  • Have a preference for the way others behave, but don’t demand it.  For example, don’t demand that people drive how you deem appropriate, or you’ll just spend every commute being angry.
  • Practice gratitude, or you’re likely to want more and more, when you don’t actually need anything