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Step 3: Six Ways to Hack Your Nervous System To Consciously Manage Stress

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Stress is an epidemic.  It is one of the most widespread and debilitating conditions in the world, yet many people act as if it is completely natural.  If there was one thing that could be called the antithesis of The Bulletproof Executive – it is stress.  Stress sucks up the reserves you should be using to create more resilience.

Here are just a few things stress does to your body:

It weakens your immune system.

It makes you fat and shortens your lifespan.

It can contribute to sexual dysfunction for men and women.

I spent a great deal of time and energy learning to consciously manipulate my stress including 10 days meditating in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, then talking with Buddhist monks around Tibet.  It was an eye opening and fascinating experience, but I was far from done.

Later, I spent about $20,000 dollars to have myself attached to a proprietary, eight channel EEG amplifier with some custom brain training protocols.  In seven days, I learned to put my brain into a mental state that, under normal conditions, takes people between 21 and 40 years of daily Japanese Zen mediation to achieve. Along with that state comes stress management that results in much higher IQ and creativity levels.

In 2010, I became a certified trainer and coach in another powerful stress reduction method called Heart Math.  I also bought second EEG machine (my first was in 1998).

This is on top of years of meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, sound, and other neurofeedback techniques.

As a busy executive with awesome kids and a hot, Swedish, doctor wife, why on earth would I spend my time shaving my head, playing with electrodes, and hiking up mountains?

Because I let stress hold me back for too long.  I was an angry person for the first half of my life.  I carried around so much unconscious – and sometimes conscious – frustration and even hatred that it literally made me sick.  When I began upgrading my body, conquering stress was one of my top priorities.

On some levels, the brain is like software.  Negative emotions, hostile feelings, and recurring irrational thoughts corrupt our consciousness.  After years of being stressed, if you’re like most people, you’ve probably programmed your body to become hardwired for tension.

Stress holds you back in all aspects of life.  It weakens your immune system, costs you precious time that should be spent enjoying life.  Stress hurts your interpersonal relationships and alienates others.  It decreases your ability to make rational decisions and perform at work.  Stress sucks.

Most people have no clue how important it is to manage stress – or that it’s even possible.  They go through life thinking they’ll just bear it until retirement or vacation.  Or even worse, they convince themselves that they don’t really feel any stress because they don’t have a reason to feel it. In the mean time, they go through mini nervous breakdowns on a daily basis mistreating themselves and the people around them.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: stress is not a rational thing – it is an irrational feeling, and it will only get worse unless you learn to manage it.  The good news is that stress, like everything else, is hackable, so you can convert stress into a tool that makes you stronger instead of saps your energy.

 

The Science of Stress

Stress is the disruption of homeostasis and is not always bad.  In regards to exercise, stress is needed to produce training adaptions.  In order to learn, you need to stress your brain in new ways – learning a new language, solving a math problem, creating a new business/product, etc..  Humans are designed to handle small, intermittent bouts of stress.  When stress becomes chronic, it becomes a disease.

The effects of stress on your body are very real.  The symptoms of stress come in four varieties: cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral.  Here is a short list of the various symptoms:

 

Cognitive symptoms

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

 

Emotional symptoms

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

 

Physical symptoms

  • Fat gain
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds

 

Behavioral symptoms

  • Eating more, or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

 

However stress is effecting you, you need to learn to identify it and manage it.  Once your body becomes conditioned to respond a certain way, it’s hard to change that response.  Rewiring your brain and heart and nervous system hacks your stress response allowing you to become far more resilient with more energy to use adapting to positive stress.

Here are my top ways to simultaneously reduce your exposure to stress, and improve your stress handling abilities.

The Top Six Ways To Reduce & Manage Stress

 

1. Have Fun

This is the most basic and easiest way to reduce your stress level.  It sounds simple, but many people don’t practice it enough.  To me, this means spending time with my kids, cooking, climbing mountains, talking with my wife, or even biohacking.  I’ll cover this more later in the series, but for new realize that it’s common for adults to forget to spend time having fun. Family and career considerations – and the ever-present email waiting for replies – can suck the fun out of life. It’s your job to schedule fun time the same way you schedule meetings.

 

2. Synchronize Your Heart & Brain with Heart Math

This is my “Honda daily driver” of brain upgrades. There are more expensive, sexier ways to hack your stress, but nothing comes close the the  Heart Math technology when it comes to reliably training your heart and brain to work together.  A healthy, relaxed person has high heart rate variability (HRV)  which means that amount of time between each heart beat is different with each beat.  Low heart rate variability is a sign of intense stress.  When your sympathetic nervous system is under stress, your body will release stress hormones, and your heart develops an inflexible unchanging beat. This state is correlated with a host of diseases and even overall mortality from all causes.

The emWave2 is a device smaller than an iPhone which uses infrared sensors to calculate your HRV.  When you have low HRV, a red light appears.  Your job is to do everything possible to make the light turn green while following the device’s guidance, which steers you to breathe in and out every five seconds.  You can also listen to music to help, meditate (See #3), or do anything else you can think of that doesn’t make you move around a lot.  Spending at least ten minutes every day working with your heart rate variability is transformative. Doing it before bed can fix sleep problems, and it can help with emotional eating, daily stress, and even physical performance. This technology changed my life and career. It is simple to do and everyone I’ve ever known who did it for a month had huge positive changes in the way they felt and the way they treated others simply because they learned to consciously control their fight or flight responses. This stuff belongs in every school.

3. Meditation

The goal of meditation is to become more mindful, be more directive and choiceful with your attention and responsive (not reactive) to your thoughts.  Meditation allows you to identify, observe, and master your emotions.  Instead of blindly reacting to outside stimuli, you can optimize your thought process and react as you see fit.

Several ways to practice mediation are counting, reciting mantras, breathing, practicing mindfulness and positive self talk.

You can reduce the amount of stress you experience through mindfulness of your thoughts and feelings.  At the same time, you become better able to cope with the stress you still face. When you learn to meditate right (hint: Heart Math is a head start), the stressful voices in your head start to silence themselves.

In fact, mine are gone. There is silence when I want it, available on demand, at any time. No songs stuck in my head, no critical voices from my past, no worrying. Just me.

 

4. Pranayama Yoga

“When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still.”

- Hatha Yoga Pradipika

You need to learn how to breathe.  Most people suck in air using the intercostal muscles of their chest.  The right way to breathe is with your diaphragm, also known as belly breathing.  This kind of breathing helps you relax and control your heart rate.

The best way to describe this type of breathing is to describe Pranayama Yoga.

Pranayama is the art of Yoga breathing.  One of the five aspects of yoga is breath control.  According to pranayama yoga, there are three kinds of breathing:

High Breathing.

This is also known as clavicular, or collarbone breathing.  This means you are breathing primarily with the upper chest and lungs.  High breathing is shallow and inefficient, since a large amount of oxygen fails to reach the lower lung. This is the worst form of breathing, and it is the one you revert to when stressed or angry.

Low Breathing

This is the best possible form of breathing.  It utilizes your lower abdomen and diaphragm to pull air in and out of your lungs.  To practice low breathing, breathe into your stomach as you suck air through your nose, and your stomach will compress first on your exhale, following the breath up.  Your chest and shoulder blades will not move much – only your stomach.

Middle Breathing

As you might expect, this is somewhere in between high and low breathing.  It’s “better” than the former, but not as good as the latter.

 There are four phases of proper breathing.

1. Inhale (Puraka in yoga-speak)

This should be a continuous, long breath.

2. Pause & hold (Abhyantara Kumbhaka)

This is a pause before exhaling.  You should not move any muscle during this process.

3. Exhale (Rechaka)

This should be a controlled, relaxed, continuous exhale.

4. Pause After Exhaling (Bahya Kumbhaka)

This is just like the first pause and starts the cycle over again.

Controlled breathing is a great first step to mastering stress. Even a few minutes a day, done for 2 weeks, can have amazing effects. Add it to your morning routine and see what happens.

You can use this technique any time you experience discomfort or tension.  Instead of kicking a trash can or thinking dark thoughts about that screaming baby in the airport when your flight gets delayed, take a few slow deep breaths and put your focus only on what it is like to breathe.  You’ll feel better – I guarantee it.

You can learn more about Pranayama Yoga by clicking here.

My favorite two breathing techniques are:

The One Minute Breath

  • Breathe in to the diaphragm for 20 seconds.
  • Hold for 20 seconds
  • Exhale for 20 seconds

4-4-6-2 Breath

  • Breathe in to the diaphragm through the back of the throat for 4 seconds
  • Hold for 4 seconds
  • Breathe out slowly through the back of the throat for 6 seconds
  • Hold empty breath for 2 or more seconds

At first, it is common to feel like you’re going to die when you hold your lungs without air in them for even a second or two. Your brain rewires itself to be calmer when you practice slow breathing.

5. Art of Living

The Art of Living Foundation is a global resource for people trying to reduce stress.  Their key principle is that “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.”  It was founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual leader who in 2010, was named the fifth most influential person in India by Forbes Magazine.

Their introductory course is focused on simple breathing exercises to give you “more energy to handle the stress of daily life.”  There are workshops all around in the world where Art of Living practitioners work with you to perfect your breathing.  If you are interested in trying the course, click here.

I did this daily for 5 years and still practice it on occasion. I met a group of overwhelmingly successful entrepreneurs once a week on Saturday morning at 7 am to practice it together, and I learned the technique from a successful American venture capitalist named John Roberts. I met Sri Sri in person along with Nobel Laureate Myron Scholes, who also practices Art of Living.

There are white robes involved (you don’t have to wear them, but Sri Sri and some trainers from India do). It’s a simple, repeatable method used by 25 million people worldwide to reduce stress, including severe stress like that found in war survivors. It works, and it is not a cult or a religion in any way, or I wouldn’t recommend it.

6. EEG Neurofeedback

This is the Porsche of brain upgrades.  It’s more expensive but faster, and worth every penny. You can pay to be treated by a professional (akin to renting a Porsche on a track with a pro driver) or, you can buy your own unit and learn to hack your own brain (buy a sports car and learn to drive it).

EEG neurofeedback, neurobiofeedback, or neurofeedback, is the process of understanding how your brain responds to certain emotions.  Electrical sensors are placed on your scalp in various positions, and you are taken through a series of tests to try and alter your brain state.  During the training, you receive real time information about what your brain is doing.  This allows you to use various mental techniques to change the way your brain functions.  You actually learn to change the electricity coming from your brain.

Click here if you want to find a Neurofeedback center near you.

Stress is one of the most overlooked and under appreciated problems in modern life.  Diet, sleep, and exercise are all important, but mental and physiological stress will undermine your best attempts at anything unless you mange them.  You don’t have to go to the same lengths that I did, but you will get better results just by taking some simple steps like meditation, breathing, or best of all the Heart Math Emwave2.  By rewiring your brain and nervous system to handle stress more efficiently, you will become a more effective person in all walks of life, and the stress you do experience will be the kind that makes you stronger.

It doesn’t get any more Bulletproof than that.

 

How do you manage stress?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/philgeorge Phil George

    Dave, as someone who sleeps well (if a little too much to be Bulletproof ~6 hours), falls asleep instantly, generally positive mood and relatively productive, is the EmWave still a worthwhile hack to increase concentration and reach that point of Zen? Most of the people I work with complain of poor concentration and distraction more so than stress. Is the EmWave still a worthwhile investment?

    • Dave Asprey

      In a word, yes! ;)

      • Lynnette

        I am a 33 year old woman working towards becoming an elementary ed teacher. How can a person such as myself afford to be able to try something like emwave or biofeedback. I totally believe in rewiring our brains, like I have trained myself mentally to reroute negative thought, become more aware, but I am really fascinated by this technology merging with psychology. How can this not be the wave of the future, but…it doesn’t seem accessible to low income. How can I possibly get access to this technology?

        • Sean

          …vote for Obama… or Romney? ;)
          …or teach at a private school?
          …emWave can be had new, for around $180…homeless people get more in one decent day of begging…

        • Chris

          Wasn’t it Dave Asprey who said something similar to “You should work on not being a jerk before you turn your brain on”? Whether you meant it or not, that comment was a bit hurtful. It really isn’t that easy to get together $180 on the ordinary person’s budget.

        • TrueVision

          I suggest you try Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) It is an amazing practice of re-wiring your brain by tapping on specific points of the body. It is easy to l and there are various programs out there.Goggle Gary Craig, they have a website with free info. People who have had major phobias and traumas, have over come them in several tapping sessions.

        • http://www.facebook.com/alex.fujiyama Alex Fujiyama

          There are some sites where people try to build the machines for a lot cheaper, but you’d prob do best doing that if you have some experience building electrical equipment. Dave mentioned it on another post about EEG

          Perhaps you could find several friends to invest in it together?

        • http://www.facebook.com/alex.fujiyama Alex Fujiyama

          http://neurosky.com/Products/MindWave.aspx
          has affordable options for $80-$200 and more items in production. this actually looks very interesting to me, although I wonder about its accuracy.

  • manom

    Dave,

    The neurofeedback looks great, all the things you can achieve by this “quick” procedure. I must say it is very tempting, but since this is a brain procedure does that pose any danger to one’s health? What can go wrong in this? It looks like re-programming procedure and as in life, this can go terribly wrong … Do you have any advise or word of warning about this? Even if it is done by professional, what can go wrong? whatch irreversible changes can occur?

    • Dave Asprey

      The risk is low, but if you get poorly trained so your brain does suboptimal things you’d have to retrain it. I know a ceo of a neuro company who spent 6 months trying to break his brain with neuro. He failed.

      • manom

        thanks Dave,
        where to find a guide of how to use it effectively and safely? Whats the best source to buy such kit? Thanks

        • Dave Asprey

          Brain-trainer.com is a great source

        • manom

          Thanks Dave, by the way, coffee with ghee is soo good, the energy levels are incredible comparing to normal grass fed butter! Thanks for that

        • Dave Asprey

          Yes, I’m really digging ghee in coffee for energy, even though butter tastes better!

        • Dave Asprey

          You are most welcome. I just wish he was creamier. ;-0

        • MikeHockbyrns

          Hey manom, can u plz describe how u prepare your coffee with the ghee ? (ie: how much ghee, what other ingredients, etc) Thanx

        • manom

          Mike
          i add 1-2 tablespoon of ghee with 1tbl of mct oil. when it is well mixed i add 1-2 egg yolk (make sure you dont cook it in the coffee). and i whizz it for 2-3 seconds. egg yolk makes the coffee smooth and fat well emulsified.

        • MikeHockbyrns

          thanx Manom. what if u didn’t add egg yolk(only use ghee & mct)…is the coffee still ok ?

        • manom

          fat will likely get separated. egg yolk prevents it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.jensen.5201 Bryan Jensen

          I bought a system from Brain-trainer.com and they develop a training program through an assessment. It is by FAR the most effective way to train. I did neurofeedback with a provider that didn’t do an assessment and just did general placements and it isn’t as effective. Learning the system will take awhile but it is worth it in the end! Especially for me cause I’ve had a history of chronic anxiety and depression. Brain-trainer helped me identify what brain frequencies on what places on my head were hottest (most anxiety). I am training them down right now as I write this! ha

        • http://www.facebook.com/alex.fujiyama Alex Fujiyama

          Thanks for your post Bryan. For my chronic depression/anxiety and insomnia, I’ve been seeing a neurofeedback practitioner for 9 months and scheduled to see another who is also a therapist because I feel like I haven’t been getting as much benefit as seems possible. But all practitioners seem to use protocols based on self report and I think it’d be more helpful to have an assessment scan to see where my brain needs training. I also think I’d be able to use it more often if I had a setup at home (but like an in-home treadmill, it depends on if I am motivated to regularly use it).

          Do these machines update very often that rental is a good idea (or even an option)? If you wouldn’t mind, can you tell me what equipment you did buy from brain-trainer and any additional advice you might have?

      • John

        Thanks Dave. Sometimes I feel like I’m allergic to neurofeedback. After around 80 sessions over the past two years, I’m still very anxious. I don’t want to give up and dive into the word of meds. Any thoughts?

  • Ulrik

    Good stuff! I love my EmWave2!

    Here’s a trick about low breathing: many people just breathe into the front of the abdomen, but it’s way more effective to expand the abdomen to all sides. One way to make sure you’re doing it correctly is to put your hands on your sides below your ribs and then press into your hands when you’re inhaling. That gives a more balanced body for breathing, which is really helpful.

    BTW, that’s also the correct way to “brace yourself” for lifting something heavy.

  • Dannielllethatcher

    Thank you for sharing the great info here Dave… And for those of us who are having a hard time dealing with stress, it’s so nice that you wrapped it all up in a nice little box and bow and make it so easy to understand. I know what I will be buying today…

    • Dave Asprey

      You’re welcome! Everyone benefits a little when one person reduces the bad kind of stress…

  • Sean

    “Once your body becomes conditioned to respond a certain way, it’s hard to change that response.” Wise words.

    How about this… Chronic hypoglycemia causes periodic surges of adrenaline to boost blood-glucose during each hypoglycemic trough. All of this inhibits glucose-effectiveness in the brain, further decreasing one’s mental exhaustion threshold and impatience and stress.

    Seems hypoglycemia is very common. This is a powerful point to raise on the topic of chronic stress.

    To my knowledge, this is one of the most important of the countless intersections between physiology and psychology.

    • Dave Asprey

      Yes – cortisol addiction from sugar or food allergies is a major cause of low performance and general crankiness.

  • Debbie Belcore

    awesome article Dave. So happy I followed your advice and got the emWave2. I have really been enjoying and benefitting from it…..EEG neurofeedback next?

  • David Huynh

    I would also recommend Vipassana meditation. Dhamma.org has centers all over the world that offer free donation based 10 day retreats. I’ve done a ten day at the center in Kelseyville, CA and it was an amazing experience. I was never more relaxed, unreactive and focused in my life. Highly recommended.

    • Dave Asprey

      Vipassana is a powerful practice worth doing if you can take 10 days away from work and family. Time consuming but strong…

  • http://www.frontierlivin.com/ Taylor Pearson

    Great article Dave, this whole series has been really useful to me. I’m curious if you know anything about the benefits of Tai Chi as compared to Yoga and Meditation? I’ve started taking classes and really enjoy them, but I’m not sure if they’re worth continuing.

    • Dave Asprey

      They work different parts of the mind and body. Worth doing at least one form!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-D-Miller/5904551 James D Miller

    I’m doing neurofeedback in part because of what you have said. I started a few months ago and it seems to be working. From what I understand it could be very dangerous to do it on your own if you don’t have a lot of expertise. This also seems like the kind of thing (like surgery) that you can’t learn just from research but should become an apprentice to a skilled practitioner.

    I would love to hear more about what you did. There are apparently a lot of interesting protocols such as one that will help you lucid dream and another that improves how you see things. Have you done any of these? Also, have you looked into neurofield?

    It’s a serious failing of our education and criminal justice system that neurofeedback isn’t offered to every student and required for parole for every violent offender.

    • Dave Asprey

      Then my blog has served its purpose! Thanks for your trust. So glad you got the results you wanted.
      I am dying to try the Neurofield but don’t know anyone who has one. Anyone out there want to wire me up? ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/alex.fujiyama Alex Fujiyama

        Dave, could you do a blog about what you have learned about using a neurofeedback system? Can you comment on protocols you have found to work for issues like insomnia, depression, focus, etc?

  • http://twitter.com/skjonas Steven Jonas

    Dave, what is your opinion on the Emotiv or Neurosky products for during neurofeedback exercises on your own? Do you know of any resources on how to effectively use them to manage stress?

    • Dave Asprey

      They’re ok but I have concerns about ability to move electrodes around. Emotiv locks their device so you can’t see the signal without paying about $1000. That is not ok.

  • RadiantLux

    I have been meditating with a popular brainwave entrainment audio product since 2004. At first I noticed a lot of benefits from using this product. I own the first version of Emwave. It doesn’t have some of the features, but it still turns green when I use it.

    What do you think of biofeedback, like Journey to the Wild Divine game? My friend at work learned biofeedback when we was in his 20′s and he is still able to stay calm in challenging situations.

    • Dave Asprey

      Biofeedback is an important biohacker tool. Do it!

  • Zack_Leman

    Which sound is most effective for aiding mediation/HRV? White noise, alpha binaural beats or Theta BB, something else or a combination of these? Thanks.

    • Dave Asprey

      It’s somewhat personal, but isochronic mixed with others is strongest.

    • Dave Asprey

      It really depends on the goal of the meditation

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  • Dan Williams

    I think some could benefit from the work of Rick Hansen, author of Buddha’s Brain and Just One Thing. He combines classic Buddhist principles with modern neuroscience to teach people ways they can live more peaceful lives.

    I’m just finishing his audiobook The Enlightened Mind, which focuses on “taking in the good”; which is, purposely entraining the good experiences and feeling you have in life, so they work their way into your default wiring (the neurons that fire together, wire together idea). In short, our default setting is to remember all the bad things and dismiss the good. His teaching is to get us to lock away the good by holding it in our consciousness long enough that it gets stored. I’m finding it a great way to really connect with positive experiences – a cup of tea, sunsets, a run in the woods, a purring cat in my lap, etc.

    I get the same heart-centered feeling out of that as what comes with emwave work; but in a way that allows me to have an even more personal connection. Which is to say, they are great analogues and complementary practices/approaches.

    Anyway, it’s worth seeing if your library has some of his books/audio products; or buying them online from SoundsTrue if you have the means.

    • Dave Asprey

      Dan, I’ve been wanting to get Rick Hansen on the show. Thanks for the reminder! ?

  • Albert

    Nice article. Why is the Art of Living so secretive about the method they use? is it really different from any breathing practice?

    • Dave Asprey

      It is different than other breathing systems but not that much different. There is a long tradition in the east of only teaching things to people when they are ready so that people do not harm themselves. That sort of flies in the face of bio hacking, but then again we have the internet now and they didn’t when those sorts of rules were made. It’s true that if you over do some of the breathing techniques they teach you, you will be very loopy and not very productive and probably not even realize it. Like to the point your family wonders if they need to take you to the doctor in a padded wagon.
      Art of living has done amazing charitable work including in war zones and in prisons and it’s one of the fastest ways to reduce stress other than an emwave. It’s worth paying for the training. They actually put the money back into the community.

  • http://zze.st Maxim

    Hey, Dave! A quick question for your podcast. What would you suggest for somebody who needs 9hrs of sleep to perform at best (and performs terribly on anything below 7) if this person has to sleep 2-3 hours for a night or two but remain productive and free of stress?

    • Dave Asprey

      The free of stress part is teachable. Use the emwave2. Your body will send you stress signals when you don’t get enough sleep. You can learn to calm your autonomic nervous system consciously

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  • cogrick2

    I think often about your revelation that you are no longer troubled by the distracting voice in your head. Now I see that you were a much angrier person once. Thank you for being honest about where you were and what you have achieved. I also aspire to be a more positive person. I believe that proper supplementation, nutrition, use of the EmWave, and probably the I3 Mindware have all made me a better, happier person. I still have work to do though!

    • Dave Asprey

      You’re welcome. Seriously, I was a sick, fat, angry guy not very conscious guy once. Like I say elsewhere about weight loss, if someone with my health background can do this, imagine what you can achieve! You have a head start compared to where I was! ;)

    • Dave Asprey

      Don’t we all? ;)

  • http://zze.st Maxim

    Dave, can you suggest some good brand, type or country of coffee to buy for those who cannot order your “Upgraded” one internationally?
    From what I know now, it should be 100% Arabica, not a mixture of beans and Central America is a good region, generally speaking.
    But can you recommend anything more specific? If you had to pick a beck value-for-money from some online shop, such as tea-and-coffee.com for example, what top 3 options would you consider?
    Thank you!

    • Dave Asprey

      Maxim, if I could answer that, I’d not have created Upgraded Coffee. I was frustrated by not being able to order consistently low toxin coffee anywhere. Read my post “how to find high performance coffee in your city” for the details you seek. You can get an 80% chance of safe coffee with those! ;)

  • DTH

    hey dave,
    love the blog; i’ve been an avid follower since having learned about it little less than a year ago, and am a ‘student’ of armi’s so to speak.
    just want to thank you for sharing your knowledge with us all; it’s guided me to make significant changes to my life and lifestyle and looking back is no longer an option. so thanks!
    i’ve been dying to read what i hope will be your next post on advanced biohacking supplements. any update on when you’ll be able to tackle that one?
    best,
    daniel

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  • Bryan

    I have a long history of panic attacks, generalized anxiety, chronic fatigue, and depression. It was so bad that I was considering filing for disability because of at work panic attacks and anxiety. As of right now I’m about 50% bullet proof (as laid out by Dave) and have almost successfully put a lot of the major issues in remission. I am still on anti depressants and anti convulsant medications but have been able to reduce the dose by about half. I’m ramping up to go 100% bulletproof and am considering taking the plunge on a 3k neurofeedback system. I see a clinician for neurofeedback right now. I have the emwave2 and that works wonders for general overall stress management. I work in IT as a Security Administrator so my life production is sustained by my brain power. A neurofeedback device would be expensive but probably worth it when considering how much of a benefit would be derived all around. Taking on more stress and being more productive at work. Being a nicer person to be around to friends and family. Who can put a price on that? I don’t make a VP salary like Dave. After searching for 5 months on optimal nutrition and health there is nothing better than what Dave writes about. Thanks for helping save my life (literally) from panic and despair to a life worth living (and probably thriving)!

    • Dave Asprey

      Brian, you just made my day. Thank you. This is why I write this blog!!!
      Look at brain-trainer.com; you can get lower priced neurofeedback units. At least 2 channels!

      • Bryan Jensen

        Dave – Brain-trainer.com highly recommends HEG (hemoencephalography), or brain blood oxygenation training which he claims is excellent for improving motivation, organization, self-control, working memory and other executive function issues. That seems right up the alley of people who read this blog. Have you tried it? If it is that effective might as well add it to your brain upgrade series. I know you written/talked alot about Cranial electrotherapy stimulation, CES. I am going to buy both and check them out.

        • http://www.facebook.com/alex.fujiyama Alex Fujiyama

          Bryan, what do you think of the HEG? Would you recommend it? For what purposes would you recommend it?

        • Bryan

          HEG is great for focus, motivation, and positive mood. It delivers on all these measures.

    • Rick Pack

      Great post. How often and for how long do you use the emwave2?

      • Bryan

        I stopped using it and am focusing on neurofeedback. Emwave2 is based on great science and was getting good results when I used it.

        • Rick Pack

          Interesting. Thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/TheAzz Aaron Lorch

      Keep up the good work, Bryan! How are you doing now??? We’d love to hear the results!

      • Bryan

        Hi Aaron – I have cut my medications 80% and rarely get in panic attacks. I am happy at a stressful job with no matter what comes my way. I am about 100 hours of neurofeedback and 100 hours of CES use. I do each about half an hour each day. This is a remarkable improvement since last time. My brain scan still has opportunities for improvement. I am training up 10-21 beta waves and down 21-38 beta waves to increase positive mood and focus. The results are coming. I am also training gama waves which are very integrating for the brain for and great feeling. Negativity barely registers for me anymore. I am also training synchronous brain waves from front to back of head which help integrate the inside/outside experiences of the world. Warning though – this shit will change you rapidly so be prepared for your body to resist the changes and cling to old patterns. It helps to be aware that you body will fight it. The brain is a creature of habit.

        • John

          Hi Bryan,

          Can you please say more about your body “fighting the neurofeedback?” I’ve done about 80 hours of training for anxiety, and sometimes I feel more anxious after a session. Things seem to be slowly moving in a positive direction, but it’s tough. I don’t know if I’m wasting my time or money or making things worse…

          Did you have any adverse reactions to training?

        • Bryan

          Yes, I sometimes do. The body is slow to change. Please make sure you are training the correct things if you want to lower anxiety. Does your practitioner use an assessment? Do you know which brain waves he/she is inhibiting or rewarding at which areas? A lot of burned out psychologists get these machines and don’t fully grasp the science before they start using them.

        • John

          Thanks Bryan, I have had bad NF experiences with a quack psych before, but my current practitioner seems good. He uses EEG brain maps to target specific sites and frequencies. He has around 15 years of experience with NF. So, one would hope that he’s doing the right stuff. He has said that the negative effects are temporary and can even be part of the beneficial process. I hope he’s right. How do you experience this “temporary worsening?”

        • Bryan

          My general sense is if it doesn’t feel right, stop training. Neurofeedback is complex. You mind and body is a static system. I basically bought all the books and learned all the theories behind it. I wanted to know how to train myself best. It is important to be in dialogue with your therapist at all times. I would tolerate a little uncomfortability, but not a lot. Training should feel good. Your brain should mostly enjoy it. It is a process and the mind and body is slow to change. EEG brain map practitioners are some of the best. I learned that method and do it on myself. There is a new type of neurofeedback called infra-low neurofeedback. It trains brain waves at .001 hz. They are finding that it helps regulate emotions MUCH faster than traditional neurofeedback. I found this out myself. I am seeing emotional calming at a rate this is 5 to 10 times faster. My goal is to purchase that system and be able to train much less or use it to maximize performance. Neurofeedback is a field with a lot of potential but also has a fair amount of snags. It is complex and has some guess work. However, you can target training areas to boost mental and psychical performance beyond what you ever thought possible.

  • http://twitter.com/kris_keyser kris k

    Dave, any thoughts on the Stress Doctor iOS app? It appears to work on some of the same principles as an emWave except that it’s not a standalone device.

    • Dave Asprey

      If it’s really getting a good enough signal, it could work. Suspect it’s not as effective; the algorithms Heart Math uses are patented.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tristen.davison Tristen Davison

      Thanks for pointing this out Kris, I’ve been meaning to invest in HeartMath for a while. The stress check and stress doctor apps on iphone are good quickly downloadable apps to get a first taste.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502660344 Raymond William Barron

    What would be the possibility of using the Zeo raw data stream to have a go at EEG brain hacking? Would there be complicated algorithms that would need to be in place to give the correct feedback?

  • Jim Chan23

    Dave – have you heard of Brain State Technologies, is their Brainwave Optimization any different from other EEG/neurofeedback professionals or is it mostly marketing? Similar question for Transcendental Meditation – is it really more effective than other meditation techniques?

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  • http://www.confidentfuture.com.au/ Lloyd

    Hi Dave. Have you looked into Hypnosis, such as Time Line Therapy(R)? Personally I have found it invaluable in managing my stress and I went on to learn it for myself and can also use it with others (Much like you did with Heart Math). I don’t have access to devices to measure the effect of this technique BUT if I were able to get access to people who did have that access I would be really keen to share this technique and see if there is a measurable difference. The best bit is that this technique can be shared freely and would be a great solution for those concerned about the price of some of these approaches. Let me know :)

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  • jared

    Hi Dave, I am interested in the Art of Living intro course that you mentioned, but after clicking on the links, I can’t figure out which course you are referring to. Is it the one in the inquiry form called “Part 1″? On another page, when looking for a center, there is a course called Art of Living, but does not mention a Part 1, and it is only 1 day (I thought it was more). I read about a longer course someplace else.

    Can you please tell me the name of the specific course you recommend, and also how many days it is? I don’t want to take the wrong course.

    Keep up the good work!

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  • mirach

    Dave, thanks for your fantastic talk in HK last week. I’m reading this post — are the goals of the EEG neurofeedback the same as the brainwave optimisation? Thank you!!

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  • Aaron

    Dave I have started neurofeedback training based on your recommendations and I will let you know if I experience any profound changes. Thanks for the information! Do you have any thoughts on a program like Holosync?

  • Big Mike

    Good golly this is awesome.

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  • http://twitter.com/linayerkes linayerkes

    The love spells casted by [email protected] made wonders! all of a sudden my man who broke up with me 4 months ago kept calling me to see how I am doing and just talking constantly and I knew it was because of the love spell which dr.marnish did for me, my man wanted to hear my voice. Only 3 days after the love spell was cast my man told me that he wanted to come by to the house claiming he needed a outfit and he looked so lost and sad like he lost his best friend and I knew he missed me and I felt it, because i can see the sadness on his face….He said he would come the next week to visit and 2 days later after he said that at my house he wanted to move back in with me. to my surprise, he came back the next morning he was all on me kissing and rubbing on me telling me how much he missed me and loves me so much that he wants me back. i was happy and i gladly took him back, thanks to dr.marnish for helping me to bring my lover back
    Jewels Allegro from USA

  • dbr

    Does the Heart Math app work on Kindle or Android?

  • Ruth

    This is all so interesting and seems promising for so many applications! My son has NLD. This is a condition where the left brain functions much higher than the right brain. For instance frequently the left brain is functioning with a verbal I.Q. of 140 *Einstien’s was 144, I think* but, the right brain function is as much as thirty percentage points lower than that. It’s not supposed to work that way at all. There should be a balance between the two.

    This is extremely stressful for someone who has it as they are able to take in information and hold it long term like a computer but, they cannot out put that information very well at all. They also can’t organize information well and have coordination problems. They are very prone to anxiety disorders, depression, ocd and even have a higher suicide rate due to the global issues this left/right discrepancy causes them. Imagine having a gifted left brain ability but, dismal ability to output the information you know to others or to organize that information properly. It makes for a very stressful day, all day, every day.

    I’ve heard of neurofeedback before but was hesitant to try it for the multiple issues this disability causes. However, I think with proper assessment before use this could hold a LOT of promise. Both for the disability and for the panic disorder and other issues this causes the person! I think one would need to be careful with this in that situation that you aren’t upping the left brain function which is already extremely dominant and are focusing more in bringing a balance with regard to right brained function. This could indeed lessen stress over all.

    With few therapies that work for these very bright people I wonder why more professionals who work with these people don’t offer neurofeedback as an option?

    • Sue

      That is really interesting. I am aware that my incoming Ariel is really strong. I take in lot of info, not just factual, to the point it is over stimulating and overwhelming. I use Kundalini yoga parts of which work hard at balancing brain hemispheres getting them to communicate with each other. I don’t think a would be classed in bracket above mentioned but v interested to read of phsiologiical imbalance.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Windsor-McGilvray/728850109 Windsor McGilvray

    Great post Dave, and thank you for sharing your wonderful work!

    Something I have found has impacted my stress levels significantly, in a way that means I often feel Zen-like tranquility in my mind, is my understanding of the nature of thought. Since realising that all feelings including stress are created because we are always feeling our thinking – about things in life and the world, all of which is created and experienced within us – I find that when I feel stressed, all is happening is that my thinking is stressful in the moment. Given that thought is constantly-changing, I know that as my thinking naturally changes I will feel different and that there’s nothing I need to do to manage stress. As I let go of stressful thinking by recognizing it, my system defaults back to the calmness that is deep inside every one of us.

    Thanks again for your contributions Dave! :)

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  • Adnan

    Hi dave,i have just red your article and it is helpfull but i have problem and dont know what to do.I am 24 and i think i will have nervous breakdown.Last three years for stressfull for me and now i feel it in my body.These are the symptoms: –Every day i have a pressure in my forhead and in my teets,its not painful but strange anr anoying.
    -My legs are heavy and im tired all the time.I am now on vacation but still i am tired.My condition is unstable and i am losing concetration.
    -I am NOT depressed but i am not i control any more,today i felt some anxiety,i felt fear in my chest,it made me run to find peace and it was something like a panic attack,i think.
    That is it.I dont trust these doctors cause i am from Bosnia,so please if u can help me,give me an advice what to do.I dont want to go mad,tell me how can i heeal my nervous system if it is possible.
    P.S.If i find solution to my problem a lromised my self to help people whk have proble to stress.Than you

  • Nick M.

    Dave, This is definitely a cornerstone in my life. After two tours to Afghanistan in highly kinetic areas I have been at the mercy of my inability to manage my own stress. I can confidently say this definitely is a life changing and plausibly a life saving blog. Thank You.

  • Nick M.

    Oh yeah, Dude, I’m well aware of all that… NOW. At the time like most Americans I fell victim to the pull of “Patriotism”, fairly so, I was 18. I’m out now and I’m opposed to war all together, I know a great deal about what your talking about, but that’s an entire topic on it’s own. THIS topic, is about stress, and regardless of the opinions of far, the facts are is that it is extremely stressful.

    • Truth-is-Stressful

      Hear hear, brother… The best tip for stress relief I’ve found here is a teaspoon of himalayan salt. I’ve tried all sorts of minerals, herbs, exercises, nothing works like salt — if you’ve been deficient. MRE’s are very salty… so that might not be a benefit for you.

  • EmilyD

    Hi Dave, A post below asked about what you thought about “Holosync” (or a program like it); I did not see your repsonse. Can you give some feedback about these type of programs?
    Thank you.

  • EmilyD

    Also, is the breath: 4442 or 4462? The title says the latter, but the instructions say the former.”

    “4-4-6-2 Breath

    Breathe in to the diaphragm through the back of the throat for 4 seconds
    Hold for 4 seconds
    Breathe out slowly through the back of the throat for 4 seconds
    Hold empty breath for 2 or more seconds”
    Thanks again.

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  • Gerald McLand

    did my comment get deleted?

  • Anonymous

    when i was younger I had an explosive temper but when i was about 9 i took an anger management course, ever since I’ve only blown my top about 4 times and on all four occasions I had complete control over it.

    i use a combination of constant abdominal breathing, meditation and my odd perspective on life (one thing at a time, keep it cool and never take things too hard.) :)

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  • Isabel

    I am a biomechanist and find your comment “Most people suck in air using the intercostal muscles of their chest. The right way to breathe is with your diaphragm, also known as belly breathing.” To be disappointing. Torsional breathing, or breathing using your intercostals is the correct way to breath when upright. People generally do the opposite, breathing with the reflexive muscle of the diaphragm. Bypassing the intercostals decreases the amount of oxygen entering the body, stagnates lymph and doesn’t load the bones leading to an increase in susceptibility to osteoporosis, the ribs being one of the main areas at risk of demineralization. When lying down, you are forced to belly breathe because your ribs can no longer expand in all directions. The rest of the article is fantastic, but amend your breathing mechanics for accuracy.

  • Vivek

    Hi Dave, I come from the land where the yogic sciences originated – India. I haven’t come across a single true yogic guru or any single legitimate book on pranayama where it says you need to breathe into your stomach. in fact most books caution you not to.. also pranayama is a way to master over your breath…BKS Iyengar a Hatha Yoga Guru who has taught yoga for over 50 years and has millions of student worldwide including United States, in his book Light on Pranayama says to do Nadi Shodhana first and then slowly after a few months of practicing pooraka(inhaling) and rechaka (exhaling), rechaka (retaining) should be practiced. Any improper yoga will only do you harm.

  • Vivek

    I meant kumbaka(retention)

  • Karen

    I have a 20 year history of panic attacks, general anxiety and depression. It all began when I was working full time, working on master’s degree, tending to my 2 year old daughter while my husband was out of town for work half the week, building a house, and taking care of my grandmother. The therepist said I was doing the jobs of 5 women, but I didn’t know any different. Since then I have had 2 more children, one with disabilities, had vascular and open heart surgery, and my stress levels are over the roof. I really need some input on what would be a reasonable solution for me.

  • SaraHTodd

    I really love reading your stuff :)

    • Erika

      Are you in North Carolina?

  • Visitor

    Fckng crap nonsense.

  • Ben

    Hey Dave, I really enjoy all of your content! What Breathing exercise exactly did you practise with that group of entrepreneurs and would you reccomend attending a Art of living course to learn it?

  • Sagar

    Recently went through a heart ablation for a birth issue and it scared the hell out of me and I am still young. I have completely changed from being adventurous, carefree, happy go lucky to cocooned and working hard but slowly to get out of it. I want to stay away from drugs Drs are recommending and trying to research and understand the body and ways to make it better without drugs. All of the above were recommended to me by different sources but I wasn’t sure how much each would help – besides they all cost $$$. But I am very glad to see all of them compiled together!
    I am taking things 1 step at a time. I have started meditating and pranayam and really focussing on what exactly I want out of life and so far it has helped me eliminate what I don’t need in life. Previously I was completely disoriented and all over the place.

    Thanks for building this site.

  • Karen

    Wonderful information. As a person who has major anxiety because of my breathing, it makes me more anxious to know that i need to work on breathing techniques. My anxiety about breathing is from an experience I had in the past. I am very conscious that I cannot or will not be able to breath. Any suggestions>

  • Trevor Miller

    Dear Dave/ Bulletproof peers,

    I am having some trouble shooting issues with a personal bio hacking adventure, and i feel desperate to obtain any helpful insight that i can get. I am 22 years old and currently a college student. I have suffered with anxiety for a number of years. I had a panic attack when i was 13 and every since i have associated my anxiety with “ not being able to breath”, or “ shortness of breath”. For a long time i self medicated with medication, and alcohol. This combination was never a fix, however allowed for some moments of relief. After a while i dropped all medications, and just continued self medicating. Alcohol was my main drug of choice. I kept this up for a number of years. When i turned 19 my body could no longer physically handle my self medicating, and forced me to pursue different options. Over the past few years i have tried numerous lifestyle changes, and an array of different self help options. I dropped all substances, and l have done the following.

    .Vegetarian

    . vegan

    . gluten free vegan ( i am very sensitive to gluten i found, this helped alot)

    For the past 3 months i have been on a very strict Bullet Proof Diet with adequate amounts of water.

    I had some positive results from a clean vegan diet with no gluten. After a year and a half of strict Gluten free vegan diet It started to wreak havoc on my body. The lack of fat for my brain, and nerves, as well as not having the proper balance of amino acids had become a problem. I quickly began to decline athletically and mentally. This lead me seek out a more paleolithic approach/ diet, and ultimately I found the Bulletproof Diet.

    I practice yoga on a daily basis, and have done many other things like DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) , therapy, Reiki, Strenuous exercise, and a few other things. I most recently read a book called The Edge Effect by Dr. Eric Braverman. I found through my own extensive research that I may have a gaba deficiency. I am currently taking the following supplements in hope that it helps.

    .Inositol

    .5 htp mixed with cologan

    .L Glutamine

    .magnesium ( for adrenals, ect)

    . B complex

    i recently ordered aniracetam to try, for brain enhancement, as well as aiding with anxiety. I have been hoping for a long time that this problem that i label as “ anxiety” is some sort of chemical imbalance and that i can fix it with an outside source. I am beginning to think that perhaps it is just a horrible mental connection i have adapted. , that every time i feel stressed i feel that i can not breath. The strange thing is i dont even have to be stressed. Sometimes i just wake up like this with no stressors or any apparent reasons to feel like this. Maybe I just have unrealistic amounts fear and stress. I am looking into different types of meditation and possibly biofeedback and HRV. I really do not ever want to take pharmaceutical medication again! The only MAJOR issue is that focusing on my breathing causes major anxiety for me! I feel like i am at a loss. If anyone has help or insight PLEASE PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

    Thank you so much!

  • Trevor Miller

    Dear Dave/ Bulletproof peers,

    I am having some trouble shooting issues with a personal bio hacking adventure, and i feel desperate to obtain any helpful insight that i can get. I am 22 years old and currently a college student. I have suffered with anxiety for a number of years. I had a panic attack when i was 13 and every since i have associated my anxiety with “ not being able to breath”, or “ shortness of breath”. For a long time i self medicated with medication, and alcohol. This combination was never a fix, however allowed for some moments of relief. After a while i dropped all medications, and just continued self medicating. Alcohol was my main drug of choice. I kept this up for a number of years. When i turned 19 my body could no longer physically handle my self medicating, and forced me to pursue different options. Over the past few years i have tried numerous lifestyle changes, and an array of different self help options. I dropped all substances, and l have done the following.

    .Vegetarian

    . vegan

    . gluten free vegan ( i am very sensitive to gluten i found, this helped alot)

    For the past 3 months i have been on a very strict Bullet Proof Diet with adequate amounts of water.

    I had some positive results from a clean vegan diet with no gluten. After a year and a half of strict Gluten free vegan diet It started to wreak havoc on my body. The lack of fat for my brain, and nerves, as well as not having the proper balance of amino acids had become a problem. I quickly began to decline athletically and mentally. This lead me seek out a more paleolithic approach/ diet, and ultimately I found the Bulletproof Diet.

    I practice yoga on a daily basis, and have done many other things like DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) , therapy, Reiki, Strenuous exercise, and a few other things. I most recently read a book called The Edge Effect by Dr. Eric Braverman. I found through my own extensive research that I may have a gaba deficiency. I am currently taking the following supplements in hope that it helps.

    .Inositol

    .5 htp mixed with cologan

    .L Glutamine

    .magnesium ( for adrenals, ect)

    . B complex

    i recently ordered aniracetam to try, for brain enhancement, as well as aiding with anxiety. I have been hoping for a long time that this problem that i label as “ anxiety” is some sort of chemical imbalance and that i can fix it with an outside source. I am beginning to think that perhaps it is just a horrible mental connection i have adapted. , that every time i feel stressed i feel that i can not breath. The strange thing is i dont even have to be stressed. Sometimes i just wake up like this with no stressors or any apparent reasons to feel like this. Maybe I just have unrealistic amounts fear and stress. I am looking into different types of meditation and possibly biofeedback and HRV. I really do not ever want to take pharmaceutical medication again! The only MAJOR issue is that focusing on my breathing causes major anxiety for me! I feel like i am at a loss. If anyone has help or insight PLEASE PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

    Thank you so much!

  • Kris Pote

    Hey Dave, thanks for the great info! What do you think about Holosync?

  • Mike

    I was taking deep breaths and my arms and hands cramped up for 10 mins.

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