Ariel Garten - Taking The Guesswork Out of Meditation | 180 Nutrition

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Ariel Garten – Taking The Guesswork Out of Meditation

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu: This week we welcome Ariel Garten to the show. Ariel is the CEO and co-founder of InteraXon, which creates thought controlled computing products and applications. Ariel has also researched at the Krembil Neuroscience Institute studying hippocampal neurogenesis, displayed work at the Art Gallery of Ontario, been head designer at a fashion label, and opened Toronto Fashion Week. Referred to as the “Brain Guru”, Ariel and her team’s work has been featured in hundreds of articles in over 20 countries.

In this interview we discuss the principals behind Muse™ the brain sensing headband and explore the health benefits behind meditation, enjoy…

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions we ask in this episode:

  • Please explain the process of meditating with Muse?
  • What diet/supplements are useful in enhancing our brains capability?
  • How important do you think a positive mindset is for overall health?

Get More of Ariel Garten

If you enjoyed this, then we think you’ll enjoy this interview:

Full Transcript

 Stu

00:03 Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve a long-lasting health. Now, I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. 00:23 Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right, we’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website. That is 180nutrition.com.au, and take a look.Back to the show. 00:44 This week I’m excited to welcome Ariel Garten. Ariel is an artist, scientist, entrepreneur and CEO of InteraXon, a company specialized in thought controlled computing. In this episode we discuss Muse, the brain sensing headband. Muse is a wearable device that sits on your head and tracks your brain activity in real time, which brings the practice of meditation into a whole new light. We chat about how meditation can impact our overall health, and discuss the tools, tips, supplements and strategies that can help us get the most from our meditation sessions. 01:18 I like so many of us personally struggle with meditation, but it looks like Muse could be a real game changer in this space. Enough from me. Over to Ariel. Hey, guys. This is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and I am delighted to welcome Ariel Garten to the show. Good morning, Ariel, how are you? Although I say good morning, so it’s probably not good morning for you, is it?

Ariel

01:44 I’m in Canada. It is nighttime here, so good evening, good night to everybody in this side of the hemisphere, and good morning to you

Stu

01:52 Thank you very much. First up, for everybody that may not be familiar with you and your work, I’d love it if you could just tell our listeners a little bit about who you are, what you do and perhaps why you do it as well.

Ariel

02:03 Sure. My name is Ariel and I’m the founder of a company called Muse. We make a device that is a brain sensing headband that helps you meditate, gives you real-time feedback on your meditation so that you can know when you’re in the zone and when your mind is wandering. Yes.

Stu

02:21 I was just literally going to jump in there with the meditation aspect as well.

Ariel

02:29 Jump. 02:30 Jump straight in. I was just telling you before that I really struggle with meditation, and after running a podcast for almost five years the take home for me from a lot of the world experts are that meditation is so critically, or it is so critical for overall health in terms of switching off all of the noise.

Stu

02:52 I liken my own personal journey with meditation as to perhaps standing outside a shop and sells televisions, and in the window of the shop there are 100 different screens. Each screen is showing something quite different. That’s how my mind is. I’m thinking about this while looking at that, and there’s something else happening up here. I’ve through Headspace, a billion different meditation apps, tried transcendental, tried many different practices and I really struggle with it. 03:21 Very, very interested in Muse and you sharing what Muse is in terms of a tech perspective with our audience, because I’m thinking that it might open up a whole different way of approaching meditation.

Ariel

03:34 What you described is essentially why we built Muse. Everybody knows meditation is fantastic for you, but frankly it’s very hard to do. You can sit there even if you’re guided by an app and your mind is still wandering all over the place. For some people that can be really scary. You’re sitting there. Your mind is supposed to be blank, you imagine, even though that’s not what meditation is, and it’s bouncing all over the place. You say, “Oh, jeez. I’m not good at this. This is not for me.” You end up feeling worse about yourself and not meditating. 04:02 We wanted to build a tool that literally would hold your hand while you meditate and let you hear in real time what was going on inside your mind and guide you and show you what it is that you’re supposed to be doing, and reinforce you when you do it right. Stu: 04:16 Sounds like a very useful piece of kit. How does the process work? 04:23 You slip on this little device. This is your Muse. It slips on just like a pair of glasses like this, and it tracks your meditation in real time. There are sensors, two sensors on the forehead and two behind the ears. These are actually clinical-grade EEG sensors. They’re actually tracking your brain’s brainwave activity in real time. It then sends that data to your smart phone or tablet, which interprets the data and lets you hear the sound of your own brain. 04:52 The metaphor we use is your mind is like the weather. When you’re thinking, distracted, it’s bouncing all over the place, you hear it is stormy. As you bring yourself to quiet, focused attention it actually quiets the storm. Most people think that meditation is just the idea of letting your mind go blank. It’s not. Meditation is actually mental training, and the most basic form of meditation is focused attention meditation. In that you are focusing your attention on your breath or on a neutral object. 05:20 How you do it is you focus your attention on your breath. Your mind wanders. You notice it wanders and then you bring it back to your breath. In doing so you’re able to train and maintain your attention. Now, what happens for most of us is our mind wanders, it continues to wander, and then we catch, and, “Oh, right. We’re supposed to bring it back.” 05:39 This act of noticing it’s wandered and bringing it back is like doing your bench press rep at the gym. That’s the rep of meditation, noticing it, bringing it back. In a regular meditation you might be wandering one, three, five minutes before you notice and bring it back. With Muse, it cues you instantly. You instantly bring it back, so you can literally get in many times more reps at the gym. You really are honed in that practice of noticing and returning.

Stu

06:06 My word. Where did the idea come from?

Ariel

06:10 My own background is in neuroscience and psychotherapy. I was a psychotherapist for almost a decade, neuroscientist. Worked in labs from neurogenesis through to Parkinson’s disease. In the early 2000s I was fascinated by brainwaves as something that had this real technical information, and also sort of an emotional side to it. I started to create concerts with Professor Steve Mann, he’s the guy who invented the wearable computer, the credited father. 06:37 We were creating concerts where people could make music with their mind. We had a single EEG lead that you put on the back of your head, and by modulating your brain state, in this case it was a very simple paradigm where you would focus or you would relax, you could hear the change in your brain activity. 06:54 I got together with my co-founders, Chris Aimone, who was one of Steve’s master students, a brilliant engineer, and Trevor Coleman who was in promotions and management and really understood how you make compelling experiences, and we set out to create technology that was going to help people empower their lives by understanding what was going on in their brain.

Stu

07:17 In terms of dialing into meditation, a meditative state, how in your experience will that impact our overall health?

Ariel

07:29 In more ways than you can count. Meditation’s, and I should say there’s many forms of meditation, but meditation in various forms from transcendental, to focused attention, to open monitoring practice, to mindfulness has been demonstrated in over 1,000 journal articles at this point to improve your attention, decrease your stress, help manage your physiology, reduce the chances of getting cancer potentially, improve your GRE scores, and on, and on, and on, and on. 07:58 It’s kind of crazy to think that this one single activity when performed regularly can have such a multiplicity of benefits across your cognition and your physiology. Studies seem to be proving it out time and time again that that is the case.

Stu

08:15 A particular concern for our audience is sleep, and sleep as a pillar of health, so vitally important for all of the restorative processes and everything else that it brings. How if at all can Muse or the process of meditation in conjunction with Muse help with sleep?

Ariel

08:37 We haven’t done studies with Muse and sleep specifically. There have been 175 research studies written specifically with Muse. I don’t know of any of them on sleep. I’ll quote the research on meditation. Meditation’s been demonstrated to improve sleep significantly. One of the things that happens as you age is you decrease the amount of your slow wave sleep by actually a pretty dramatic amount. 09:02 In one study looking at meditators who were novice mid-term and long-term meditators, the long-term meditators had the slow wave sleep amount of a younger adult. You’re able to actually maintain your ability to have deep slow wave sleep into age if you maintain a meditation practice. That’s significant. 09:25 There’s another study that looked at older adults going through a meditation to teach them to sleep. They taught the adults, both a … One control group a sleep hygiene course, so all the right things to do to sleep well. They taught the other group a meditation course. Those individuals who were taught the meditation as opposed to the controls, who were taught the sleep hygiene, actually had significant better sleep. They had improved latency to sleep and better sleep quality. It really impacts your sleep.

Stu

09:57 Fascinating.

Ariel

09:57 [crosstalk 00:09:57] anecdotally you have lots of Musers that tell us that the quality of their sleep has improved, that it’s much easier to fall asleep because your brain is not racing all over the place as you try to do so. It seems to also have a decrease in stress or anxiety, so people seem to stay asleep more effectively.

Stu

10:12 Fantastic. Wow. That will be welcomed, I would imagine, to pretty much anybody that was listening to that. I guess if you’re really dialed into sleep hygiene and the principles behind that as well as meditation then you’ve got double your bang for your buck.

Ariel

10:29 Sure. Pile it all on.

Stu

10:29 Exactly. Bring it on. How do you personally use Muse and how often, what for? What do you do?

Ariel

10:37 I meditate with Muse daily. I have a daily meditation practice that takes many forms. Muse is for me now a piece of it. Muse was really the way that I learned how to meditate. As a therapist I would be teaching my patients to meditate and I didn’t really know how to do it. This was before building the Muse. They’d come in with anxiety or depression and you’d know that meditation was a front-line approach. I’d try to meditate with them, and I’d tell them what I knew about meditation and they’d go home and they’d never do it. 11:07 It was really scratching my own itch to build Muse, in many ways, because I really wanted to be able to establish a meditation practice. In building Muse that’s what I was able to do, and finally get that aha. Meditating to me, it was like beforehand I’d read all these books on meditation and I’d sit there and I’d try to do the stuff, but it didn’t click, and I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing. Then after using Muse consistently, I describe it as when you’re 15 years old, when I was 15 years old I heard a love song for the first time after being in love, and it finally made sense. 11:41 Before that I was like, “Why are all these people singing about love? I guess it’s supposed to be great, but why is every song about love?” Then I finally was in love, and listened to the radio. I can remember it distinctly, being in the car, and it was like, “Oh my God. I just want to listen to this over and over again. I get it.”

Stu

12:01 Of course.

Ariel

12:04 That’s [inaudible 00:12:04] to get it.

Stu

12:06 That’s interesting, because for all of my struggles with meditation, I find that sensation, or at least the sensation of being in the zone that I would imagine I would achieve with meditation, through other areas, things like mountain biking, ocean swimming and surfing. It’s that time when I’m doing that stuff when I’m actually so focused and enjoying whatever I’m doing, I’m not thinking about anything else. Time just escapes. I’m guessing that that’s what it’s like, but I’d love to be able to dial that on at any time through the practice of meditation. I’m sure it will come over time. I keep trying, but not quite yet. 12:47 Until that time arrives, I think I’ll keep jumping in the ocean and doing whatever I need to do to make that work.

Ariel

12:53 Which is totally valid, and that is an appropriate form of meditation, because when you’re doing an extreme sport what you’re being asked to do is pay utter attention at every moment. If not, there’s a fear of peril. The net effect is functionally the same where you are shutting down all other processing, all other dialogue except for the activity that’s immediately in front of you because it demands that attention from you. That’s why we end up getting a meditative type state from it.

Stu

13:21 Fantastic.

Ariel

13:22 Yeah, so don’t stop surfing.

Stu

13:27 I’m not going to stop. I might try combining the two. Who knows what’ll happen? Thought controlled computing, it’s the basis around the Muse headband. Relatively new, I guess, from a tech perspective. What are the possibilities right now with this type of tech?

Ariel

13:47 Early on in our investigations we thought what we’d be doing with the technology was more around thought controlled computing. We thought we would literally let people interact with devices with their brain. We made silly things like levitating chairs. When you would relax, the chair would rise to the ceiling thanks to a winch in the ceiling that went like, “Urrrrrrr.” Slightly terrifying, but it actually worked. We were literally levitating ourselves with our brain.

Stu

14:10 My word.

Ariel

14:12 We did a huge project at the Olympics where people in Vancouver at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics could control the lights on the CN tower, Canadian Parliament buildings and Niagara Falls with their brains from across the country. Literally by modulating their brain state, modulating the lights on these massive buildings. We’ve done silly things like thought controlled toasters, thought controlled slot car machines. We really have tried to thought control everything. 14:36 In the course of doing that, recognized that the best use of this technology was not to control other stuff, but to actually help us control our own minds, that our internal dialogues, our internal space was a space that we have very little access to, and that we finally had a tool that could turn the light inside, turn the camera inside and make the intangible, invisible world inside tangible and visible. That was going to be the best you could do with this technology. 15:03 How close are we to thought controlled technology? We’re really far away. The best that we could do was basically shifting brain state to allow a one-dimensional interaction. The light gets brighter as you focus, dims as you relax. If you focus on the thing over there, the light is still getting brighter. The technology is not ready for primetime. It’s probably decades away from being a really useful man- machine interface. 15:31 The process of using it for a self-control mechanism, particularly for meditation which we literally sat down and said, “What’s the best thing that we can do for humanity?” If we can get people to meditate, then we would have won. That’s a win for the planet. The technology happens to be extremely well-aligned to that end.

Stu

15:55 In terms of the diversity of people that are using this tech, is it suitable for children? The reason why I ask is that I’m looking at the technology right now that’s being used in let’s say early childhood learning. I’ve got young daughters myself. I was a child of the 70s and the 80s, so it was very, very different. I saw that as so much more freedom in that time. Now, we’ve got so much more distraction. When my girls go to school they’re dialed into iPads and all this smart media that just seems to switch them on permanently. It’s almost rewiring their brains. 16:35 Do you see any use or implications of your Muse technology in the early childhood space to try and ground people and center them in this world that is just so manic right now?

Ariel

16:51 We actually have had a number of schools use Muse inside the school board. The device, we say it fits from age 13 and up just based on the size of the head, but there’s lots of people who have used it with younger children, parents using it of their own volition with their kids, and have been able to fit smaller and smaller heads. Particularly if you just put a little bit of water on the sensors, it’ll bridge the distance between the head and the sensors provided it’s not a gaping hole. 17:20 The Denver school board has been using Muses. Kansas State University did a study with Muse in a local school there. They saw detention rates decrease by 72% after introducing Muse to the school. Whoa.

Stu

17:37 Huge. Massive. Crikey. Unbelievable. It would be fantastic, wouldn’t it, to be able to bridge this gap between all of the wonderful technology that we have got right now and all the stuff that’s coming up in the future, but with that sense of grounding that I feel we used to have that we just don’t have now. It’s an interesting world, it’s- 18:00 … that we just don’t have now. It’s an interesting world. It’s changing. Don’t know whether it’s changed for the better but I’m sure there are elements where it is. Um, I-

Ariel

18:13 Yeah, but the sense of grounding … both bringing back the sense of grounding that we might have had in our childhoods and also potentially offering the opportunity for an extension in terms of emotional, self-understanding, and understanding of our own thought process. You know, when we looked at this early on, you can try to tell a kid to focus, and it’s like, “What does that mean? What am I supposed to do?” And this is a device that can really show you in real time are you focused, are you not focused? And meditation has an extraordinary ability to teach emotional intelligence, teach the ability to change the relationship to your emotional experience so that you can really sit with your emotions and dialogue about your emotions and accept your emotions. Imagine if we, as kids in school, were taught about our emotional experiences when we were 5 and 10 in the school yard, rather than when we were 25 and 35 and somewhat failing marriages. Trying to navigate these very difficult things and difficult conversations.

Stu

19:15 Exactly. Yeah, it’s an interesting perspective. I completely agree. Stu: 19:22 I was interested, and this is going to be a ridiculous question, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway.

Ariel

19:26 Sure.

Stu

19:27 Reverse application. So, you … the MUSE, and it sounds like the tech that is part of MUSE pulls information from the brain and essentially it’s processing information that comes out from the brain. What about reverse application? What about technology that is able to assist in perhaps the rewiring of neural pathways in light of psychological disorders or any of that kind of thing? Is that on the radar right now in terms of something that is possible, or will be possible?

Ariel

20:08 Sure. There’s a number of ways to approach that question. So your question is kind of what about the writing, not just the reading.

Stu

20:14 Yes.

Ariel

20:14 So MUSE is an entirely passive device. It just reads what happens and then it presents that information back to you. So, in the sense that it presents that information back to you, it then allows you to make an assessment and then make a change in your behavior. And any time you’d make a change in your behavior, you are literally rewiring your brain. People who meditate long term have significant changes in their brain. We have a study that I’ll talk about in a couple minutes showing actual long term changes with MUSE use in your brain activity, for the better. So in that sense, although this is an entirely passive activity that you are in control of because you are learning, it is teaching you that learning is rewiring your brain.

Stu

20:56 Right.

Ariel

20:57 Now jumping kind of to a different question, there’s a different set of technologies that are even available today in a clinical application for people with severe depression. For example, Parkinson’s. It’s been effectively applied, and that’s a DBS, Deep Brain Stimulation. So it’s completely different. That’s invasive technology where you are sending electrical impulses down into the thalamus, depending on what the issue is. In doing so, actively reprogramming neurons so that somebody with Parkinson’s, for example, can potentially walk more effectively again. Or somebody with depression can have their have neurology neurochemistry shifted back to a more positive outlook.

Stu

21:37 Got it.

Ariel

21:37 So, those kinds of clinic applications are already in existence.

Stu

21:42 Interesting times, isn’t it? It’s … yeah, it’s fascinating. So, in terms of meditation as a practice, and with the use of the MUSE tech as well, how can we best support that? And when I ask that question, I’m thinking along the lines of if I’m going to partake in a sport, say, I might need a certain level of fitness to partake in a sport, or perhaps I’m predisposed to a certain sport. What are the things that I need to do to be able to make meditation even more effective? And it might be things like, well, certainly wouldn’t want to load up on coffee before you go into a deep state of meditation. Or, it might be the use of particular supplements, or a certain type of diet makes it even more useful. So how can I maximize my meditation?

Ariel

22:36 So, the first answer is to do it, and do it regularly.

Stu

22:40 Right. Yeah.

Ariel

22:41 It’s just like going to the gym. You can’t say, “Oh yeah. I went to the gym last month,” and that’s like sufficient. It’s not, unfortunately.

Stu

22:48 Yeah. Okay.

Ariel

22:49 It’s something you actually have to do regularly and, you know, all the support that you can get to do that. Make sure it’s in your calendar. Set aside time. Make it a habit. Try to do it for 30 days in a row so it actually becomes a habit. All of those mechanisms that we really use around athletics to keep yourself doing it are key with meditation. And with MUSE, we have calendar reminders and challenges to really keep you engaged and rewarded and community support. Because community is key. So we have a whole MUSE community where people go in and they post their sessions, they talk about it, they encourage one another, they ask questions about meditation in general because when you have that touch-point to so many other people doing the same thing, it’s much easier to keep yourself on the bandwagon.

Stu

23:35 Got it.

Ariel

23:36 Um, if you want to talk about supplements, we can talk about brain supplements in general because it’s one of my favorite topics.

Stu

23:41 Look, absolutely. I am very interested in the area of nootropics and anything from a food, supplement, dietary intervention perspective would be … yeah, would be very well received. What are your thoughts on that, in terms of optimizing our brain?

Ariel

24:04 Uh, so one of the first ones I always recommend is high DHA Omega 3, and I’m sure that no stranger to anyone in your audience.

Stu

24:14 Yeah.

Ariel

24:14 Uh, high DHA Omega 3 has a number of fascinating benefits, from basically just everything you’d ever want a supplement in your brain to do. It reduces inflammation, reduces excitotoxicity, reduces oxyradicals, and your neurons are surrounded by something called myelin. So your neurons communicate electrochemically, they send electrochemical messages back and forth and they have little voltage channels that allow ions to travel in and out of the neuron. In order to efficiently communicate with one another, big axons … so axons are the projections from your neuron across [inaudible 00:24:52] traveled, are covered in myelin. It’s this kind of white substance that shields the axon so ions don’t leak out during this electrical transport. This myelin is composed in part of DHA.

Stu

25:08 Right.

Ariel

25:09 That wonderful supplement that we keep telling people to take. It turns out that your body doesn’t make DHA, so you need to get it from external sources. So, if you have an aging brain, if you’ve had some brain damage, particularly any kind of TBI, high DHA Omega 3 is key.

Stu

25:27 Great. And just on that, is supplementation, in your opinion, better than whole food source for DHA?

Ariel

25:38 So, important note. I am not a doctor, this is not a medical opinion. There … whole food source is always great. There are some supplements … foods that it’s very difficult to get enough volume of it just by eating the whole food source. So unless you’re eating fish literally every single day, oily fish, and then you may or may not enjoy the proteins … the host of other benefits for some people who are avoiding animal. So, I happen to be a fan of omega 3 supplements.

Stu

26:14 Okay.

Ariel

26:14 Of course, the whole food is always recommended, but again, it’s often a volume issue.

Stu

26:20 Got it. And for you, personally, is it fish oil? Krill oil? How do you … what supplementation do you take for DHA?

Ariel

26:28 Um, so I happen to have a shellfish allergy so I can’t do krill, unfortunately. My favorite that I personally take, it’s not the best one on the market by any means, but it’s Nordic Naturals PreNatal DHA. Just for me, they’re very small and don’t make you burp fish. So I can take large volumes of them and have no gastrointestinal repercussions.

Stu

26:50 Right. Okay. It’s always a plus, isn’t it? No, that’s excellent. 26:54 It is interesting, and it’s one of the core four, I guess, certainly in our perspective. A good fish oil. Specifically as we’re coming out the backside of an era that have been very fat-phobic and very mindful of cutting all fat out of our diet in favor of healthy whole grains. So I think … yeah. I wholeheartedly agree. Fish oil, number one, get it in there.

Ariel

27:22 I have some other good ones. Curcumin.

Stu

27:25 Yes.

Ariel

27:26 So obviously, people love taking curcumin. Love turmeric. But, curcumin doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier very effectively. So if you want a curcumin that’s going to impact your brain function and try to reduce neuro-inflammation, what you want is something that’s going to cross the BBB. There are two forms that cross the BBB. One is by LongVita. It’s LongVita branded, it came out of, I think, UC Irvine, and it has a lipid tail on it that helps it cross the blood-brain barrier. The other one is Thera-Cumin. That’s a micronized curcumin. And that also purportedly crosses the BBB.

Stu

28:00 Great.

Ariel

28:00 So if you’re taking anything else, it’s not impacting your brain. Except that the level of inflammation in your body seems to have a significant impact on neuro-inflammation in your brain. So if you have more inflammation in your body, you may have more inflammation in your brain, and vice verse. So in that sense, a non-BBB crossing curcumin helps, but if you really want bang for your buck, get the thing through into there.

Stu

28:22 Yeah. Right. Okay. No, that’s fantastic. I’m already thinking … I’m dreaming about frying up some salmon in some coconut oil and some turmeric in there as well and absolutely delicious. My mouth’s actually watering thinking about it just now. So we’ve got fish oil, so I may give omega oils. Turmeric over here, and what else? What else is really … ?

Ariel

28:49 There is so much, I could go on for a very long time. Another one I like to add is lithium orotate.

Stu

28:56 Okay. I have not heard of that at all, so tell me more about that.

Ariel

29:00 Yeah. So it’s an elemental form of lithium that also crosses the blood-brain barrier. You take it in very low doses, 5 to 10 mgs. Again, this is not a recommendation. I am not a doctor. But there’s a ton of research demonstrating … and when I say ton, I don’t mean at a point where any doctor would ever recommend this to you. There’s no RCTs, but there’s enough rat trials and small studies that seem to be pointing to the idea that it reduces inflammation, is again anti- excitotoxicity, reduces oxy-radical production, and also supports potentially the growth of new neurons in the brain. 29:37 So it’s been demonstrated in a couple small studies to increase neurogenesis. So in humans … not that these were human studies, these would have been rat studies, increased the growth of neurons in your dentate gyrus and it’s also been demonstrated to increase neural processes. So the axons and dendrites that I described, lithium orotate has been demonstrated to increase their growth and improve the growth. 30:02 So if you had a TBI and you’re looking to regrow some neurons, that may be something that’s effective for you. Or if you’re an average individual, growing a couple new neurons probably will help.

Stu

30:14 Yeah. Fantastic. Look, I’m very intrigued by neurogenesis, and specifically … well, personally, I’m 46 and I’m not getting any younger. In your experience, and it sounds like you are hugely passionate about this particular area, what could we be doing as … what we could we be doing each and every day to help grow new neurons and to slow down, stop, reverse our decline, which seems to be getting more prevalent across the board.

Ariel

30:56 So in terms of growing new neurons, I have one and only one top recommendation.

Stu

31:01 Right.

Ariel

31:01 Exercise. It’s been shown over and over again to increase neurogenesis. So I worked in a neurogenesis lab at one point, doing rat studies on the birth of new neurons in their dentate gyrus, and what would we do to increase neurogenesis for these studies? We put the rat on a running wheel.

Stu

31:22 Yeah. Right.

Ariel

31:23 It’s as simple as that. You let the rat free run for a significant period of time, and afterwards we would literally do tissue culture and count the new neurons that had been born in their brain and watch their migration.

Stu

31:36 Fantastic.

Ariel

31:36 So, yeah. Exercise really is a front line approach to reducing inflammation, improving so much in our body and actually potentially building new neurons in your brain. If anything’s going to prompt neurogenesis, that’s probably the most likely one.

Stu

31:50 And in terms of exercise, I mean we could take it from a gentle walk around the block to a high intensity interval session where we’re really crushing ourselves. Is there a type of exercise that has been particularly beneficial for that?

Ariel

32:07 Um, so what they say is increase your heart rate above typically, you know, 90. Whatever the math is. I think it’s two times your age divided by something will give you the amount that you want to keep your heart rate elevated for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes per day.

Stu

32:22 Right. Okay. Great. Yeah, that’s a great little formula. So it’s probably not going to be a gentle walk around the block. It’s going to be something a little bit more stimulating.

Ariel

32:33 Yeah. So if you do even a gentle walk around the block 20 to 30 minutes per day, has reasonable research that’s demonstrated that that is effective. So if you’re somebody who can’t exercise more vigorously and increase your heart rate, you know, just a gentle walk around the block is still great. If you’re able to improve it, then if I do an high intensity session, you’re likely to see increased benefit.

Stu

32:59 Great. Fantastic. So, exercise right up there. Anything else from a neurogenesis perspective that has been shown to be particularly beneficial?

Ariel

33:08 Um, the two that I’m going to stick with because I know the research are lithium orotate and exercise.

Stu

33:14 Great. Okay. Fantastic. 33:17 What about alcohol? And again, random question. How does alcohol sit with you in terms of … a lot of people use it to wind down and really de-stress and find more enjoyment in their lives. And I think if we’re happier, we’re told that we’re being healthier as well. How does that sit with you in terms of what you know about the brain?

Ariel

33:50 So, I very much buy into this theory that doing something that A, relaxes you is good. There’s no question about that. Relaxing is key. B, makes you happy, allows you to be more socially engaged, which alcohol in low volumes allows you to. You know, all of these things are really trophic. They are good for us. Alcohol in general is damaging to neurons, potentially, and if you’re using to try to go to sleep, once you break down a sugar in that alcohol you’re going to wake up four hours and you’ve just screwed your sleep schedule. So there’s definitely a deleterious aspect to alcohol. So I would encourage anybody who regularly uses alcohol to relax, to de-stress, to connect more effectively, there are other tools out there. And that’s when you want to try actually finding a range of other tools that may be effective for you.

Stu

34:47 Got it.

Ariel

34:47 If you’re looking to relax, for example, L-theanine is really effective. L-theanine compound from green tea. It also has the brilliant effect of being anti-excitotoxicity, anti-inflammatory and reducing oxyradical production. So that’s a compound that allows you to relax and has dramatic impact, potentially, in your brain in a positive way.

Stu

35:11 Got it. Okay. So, no, that’s good. So at the moment, I’m thinking, “I’ve got fish oils in there. I’ve got exercise. I’ve got green tea and supplementation as well.” So particularly beneficial.

Ariel

35:23 Yes.

Stu

35:24 How important do you think a positive mindset is for overall health?

Ariel

35:30 Probably the most positive thing there is out there, without … the research is really clear on this. Um, so there was a study out of the University of Carolina in the sixties, and they asked people to rate their happiness. Not their happiness, sorry. They asked them to rate their perception of the world, if it was positive or negative. And then they looked at that study over the next four years, and they looked at who died and when. And it turned out … 36:00 They looked at who died and when, and it turned out that those people who had the most positive outlook … the top positive third … had a significantly greater chance of living, like dramatically, and of those in the bottom most negative outlook third, they had a 42% increase in deaths over those 40 years.

Stu

36:24 Wow.

Ariel

36:24 Whoa.

Stu

36:27 Wow.

Ariel

36:27 We’re looking at a dramatic increase in death because of a negative outlook. There was another study that looks at negative outlook versus positive outlook and it suggests that the variability in your lifespan due to positive outlook is maybe around 19% increased, that’s significant, and the variability in your lifespan due to smoking, which we all know to be terrible for us. We’ve been inculcated with the dangers of emphysema, cancer, blah blah blah blah blah … that variability is probably more around 5 to 10%.

Stu

36:59 Oh, crikey.

Ariel

37:00 Wow. Yes.

Stu

37:01 That’s huge, isn’t it? That’s massive.

Ariel

37:03 Yes, so positive outlook is key.

Stu

37:07 Your thoughts then on placebo as a mechanism to dial into greater health? The reason I say that is that we’ve spoken to a number of guests, Bruce Lipton, Joe Dispenza, who talk about the power of the placebo in and its ability to switch on and switch off a whole host of biological changes in the body in terms of epigenetics and hormones as well that can heal and hormones that can harm. Do you have an opinion on that at all in terms of the placebo?

Ariel

37:44 Totally, my first response is the placebo effect is a real effect. The placebo effect is your body believing that it should be getting better in some way, believing that there is a solution, believing that there is hope and in doing so, setting up a neurochemical and a biochemical cascade that takes it from a place of damaged pain to a place of healing, and these are real effects. 38:08 In the work of Elizabeth Blackburn, she’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist, she was the first person to look at the chemical effects of meditation, the cellular effects of meditation. What she was able to demonstrate is those with a meditation practice had an increase in the length of their telomeres. Telomeres as you probably heard are basically if your DNA’s a shoelace, the telomeres are the little plastic wrapping at the end of your shoelace that keeps it from fraying. Your telomeres as you age unfortunately get shorter and shorter and shorter and the effect of stress can increase that shortening. 38:48 But if you’re able to bring in a meditation practice, you activate an enzyme called telomerase, potentially depending on the voracity to practice, and the telomerase actually maintains or rebuilds your telomeres, actually protecting your DNA. The length of your telomeres is said to be a pretty good indicator of your cellular aging. Basically as you age the telomeres gets shorter, that’s markers [inaudible 00:39:14] aging, and then a meditation practice can increase your telomeres, actually in effect reversing cellular aging. Whoa.

Stu

39:24 Whoa boy.

Ariel

39:25 Whoa. Her sort of aha phrase from this seminal paper was the idea that your negative perceptions actually negatively impact your cellular milieu. Your negative perceptions about yourself and the world impact what goes on at a cellular level to either increase and speed cellular aging and oxyradical production and all of the damaging effects of aging or can, if you have a positive outlook, potentially reverse those or keep them at bay from continuing on, in effect reverse cellular aging. It’s phenomenal.

Stu

40:01 Yeah. That’s fascinating and I completely agree and understand, I think, the principles behind that, because we know that when we’re angry and stressed and sad our physiology and biology changes radically in terms of our digestive system and the hormones flowing through our body, cortisol for instance, and the ravaging that can bring. If we have too much cortisol for too long in our bodies at any given time impacts our sleep, perhaps we don’t feel like exercising, we make poor diet choices. It’s all very intertwined, I think, in a process that really would hold up our health. It is fascinating stuff.

Ariel

40:50 Closing the link there between meditation and the cellular effect, or between meditation and the negative perception, so when you meditate what you do is you recognize that you are not your thoughts. In the past you might have a thought of like “Oh, I’m going to be late for work. Oh no, this is going to be a problem, maybe I’ll get fired,” and you go down this thought spiral. The negative thoughts go down and down and down. 41:13 In meditation what you learn to do is have a thought without attaching to the thought. You let the thought drift by you without attaching to it in any way and therefore not taking yourself down the negative thought spiral. You get off the thought train. You learn that because you’re having a thought doesn’t mean that it has to think you. You don’t have to follow it. You now have control over your own mental space to be like that’s just a thought, that’s okay, I’m going to let it go. It’s a thought, it’s okay, I’m going to let it go, and then you recognize that you can do the same thing with your emotions. As you see an emotional rise, in the past maybe you didn’t get a deal and so you’re super disappointed and you feel the disappointment and then you let it spiral into thought of “Oh no, I’m not good enough, maybe I won’t get enough money,” on and on and on. 42:01 In meditation what you learn to do is recognize thought is sensation. You can feel the sensation or experience the sensation of a sadness arising or disappointment, you can see it for what it is and then let it pass. You get off the thought train and you also get off the emotional rollercoaster. You’re not avoiding your thoughts, but you’re changing your relationship to them so you don’t have to follow it. Once you do that, you recognize that you can have amazing power to actually choose what state you want to be in or to not make negative judgments about the states that you’re in that can hasten their downward spirals.

Stu

42:36 That’s excellent.

Ariel

42:38 Yeah. It becomes this very powerful tool to manage your emotions and your state. The other thing that you do is you stop thinking about the past and you stop thinking about the future. You’re in the present moment, and if you are in the present moment it’s just the present moment. The present moment is typically quite fun. 42:58 There was a study out of Harvard that says that 49% of the time we’re thinking about either the past or the future and this makes us unhappy. What they did is they had a little iDevice, probably an iPod at the time, and they had people … it would randomly flash and at that moment the people would stop and it would say what are you thinking of, what I’m doing or something else, how are you feeling, happy, sad, etc. What they recognized is not only were people thinking about something else most of the time, but that made them profoundly unhappy. 43:31 Actually, if you are in the moment but thinking about what you’re doing in the moment, it was a better predictor of your happiness than what it was that you were doing. If you’re doing the most amazing thing in the world like sex, whatever it is for you, and you’re thinking about something else, sex isn’t so enjoyable. You’re not really so engaged. If you’re doing something mundane and really into it, thinking about it, then it takes on an entirely new sphere of meaning.

Stu

43:59 Yeah, that is fantastic. I love all your thoughts about the thought train because it’s of real. It’s just ridiculous. All of us are on this … when I say all of us … most of us are on this thought train and once you’re able to get off it and realize what’s happening, boy, it’s just such a different world. 44:23 From a personal experience for me, as part of what I do I’ve been a graphic and website designer for 25 years. It’s my background. In my younger days we’d often manage so many projects, branding here and website here, and so constantly having to recreate these new designs and briefs and come up with something wonderful every single time. I would just remember the trauma it used to put me through thinking, “I’ve got to get this done and I’ve got to think of a great concept for this, how am I ever going to get this done?” 45:03 Then one day I came to the realization it doesn’t really matter, because I always get it done, the client is always happy, and what am I worrying about. From that point forward it was just easy and I enjoyed it so much more. It was that taught train. If you can off it like you say, things will change quite differently for yo in a much better way. So yeah, I completely agree. That’s excellent. So-

Ariel

45:34 Go ahead?

Stu

45:34 No sorry, after you.

Ariel

45:35 I was going to talk a little bit about the relationship between mindfulness and meditation because that’s something that most people don’t necessarily get.

Stu

45:43 Yes, okay.

Ariel

45:45 Mediation is by definition a practice or a training that builds healthier positive mind states. So meditation is the training that you’re actually doing. You’re focusing your attention on your breath, your mind wanders, you bring it back, for example. Mindfulness is defined as present moment, nonjudgmental, awareness of your thoughts, feelings, experience, bodily sensations. 46:10 Meditation is a practice that trains the skill of mindfulness, so once you meditate for a period of time what you’re training yourself to do is to be aware in the moment, so when you go out into the rest of the world you go through your day mindfully, mindfully being engaged and aware of the present moment, what you’re doing in the world around you. Rather than going through it mindlessly with your mind wandering everywhere and likely making you, according to this Harvard study, somewhat unhappy.

Stu

46:42 That’s great, and I love the fact that Muse connects with these things, so the smartphone, because in my opinion the smartphone is kind of doing the opposite for us right now in terms of its distracting, it’s making us anxious, it’s dumbing us down, it’s taking us so far away from that mindfulness that you’re talking about and just wrapping us up in this virtual world which is social media and everything else that comes with that. I love the fact that the Muse, we can actually use this tech now to take us away from all that and try and reclaim some of what we desperately need. Fantastic.

Ariel

47:24 Yeah, and help us make better choices, like when you’re stuck in that stupid loop going between your Instagram and your Facebook … Instagram and Facebook … you can then recognize, whoa, I’m being distracted. I have a choice. I can actually just choose to take my attention onto something else and do something else that’s going to move me forward. Prior to that it’s easy to just engaged in that loop. 47:47 One of the first that I noticed after really building my meditation practice is I no longer had the desire to check my phone regularly. Prior to that when there was a lull I’d just pull my phone up. When there was something exciting happening I pull my phone up. When there’s something sad happening I pull my phone up. It became a mechanism to take me away from my present experience because I in some ways wanted that to happen. I wanted to not feel whatever I was feeling. 48:10 After building a meditation practice I no longer had any urge to do that. What used to be the reflexive action inside of me, like “phone.” At first it was “phone … you know, I don’t need it.” Now it’s like “phone … eh, don’t need it.” Then over time even the “phone” sensation disappeared and you recognized that you are comfortable just sitting in the present. You’re no longer seeking that distraction that all of us happen to be finding ourselves in so regularly because there’s so many tools of distraction asking us to become engaged. [inaudible 00:48:41].

Stu

48:41 Fantastic. Yeah. I think that it’s a very important tool in our tool kit for longevity. It seems to be so clear. Wow. Fantastic. Well look, we’re coming up on time but I’ve just got a couple of questions, well one in particular that I’d like to ask you that I ask all of the guests that we have on. It relates to the non-negotiables that you practice every day to ensure that you crush every single day, so it could be anything from the smallest … I get up and have a glass of water to a full-blown meditation session. What do you do every single day to make sure that you just crush that day?

Ariel

49:28 All of the above. I get up and I try to drink at least a glass of water upon waking and also take my vitamins. I’m sensitive to stimulants, I put them all in the morning. Meditate daily a minimum of 20 minutes in various forms. What else do I do? I protect my evenings because those are my most creative time. I make sure that after I put the kid to bed from 9 p.m. to 11:30 or midnight that’s when I’m phenomenally creative, and so I’ll actually set something that I need to do during that in the day. I’ll be like, okay, well tonight I’d like to be able to accomplish cutting together this video. Tonight I would like to accomplish making this painting. If I call it, if I tell myself that’s what I’m going to do, then I can’t go to bed until I’ve actually got it done. It keeps me from procrastinating and it keeps me from feeling like, “Oh, I’m tired, I’m this, I’m that.” It’s just like I said I had to do it and so that’s what I do and that becomes my most productive time.

Stu

50:27 Wow. Fantastic. You have the ability, given the fact that all of your creativity and a lot of the good stuff seems to happen late at night, can you switch then into sleep mode quite easily?

Ariel

50:39 Yes. I’ve been blessed with always being a excellent sleeper, and if I can’t, if I sort of get of the pattern, childcare can sometimes take you out of that pattern, I use a little bit of melatonin just for a few days to reset my pattern and then my body recognizes, right, we’re supposed to be sleeping now and [inaudible 00:50:57].

Stu

50:57 Fantastic. I envy and a lot of people envy you when you say you’ve been blessed with the ability to sleep really well because I remember the days when I did sleep like that and getting older, running the business, having kids, all of the above, it impacts it. Yeah, good on you.

Ariel

51:23 Meditation helps.

Stu

51:24 Yeah, no doubt. Yeah, I must try and get into that. What’s next for you. What have you got on the horizon?

Ariel

51:35 Muse was just translated into German, French, Spanish, and then upcoming is Italian and Japanese, so moving worldwide. We’re available in Australia, we have a distributor there as well, so really expanding the product, and then we have a few product releases up on the horizon, so new experiences that we’re building with the same Muse.

Stu

51:52 Okay, fantastic, and-

Ariel

51:54 Oh-

Stu

51:55 Sorry, go ahead.

Ariel

51:56 We also just purchased a company called meditation studio, which has a vast library of meditation teachings and teachers and so we’re really working to broaden the sphere of meditations and experiences that [inaudible 00:52:10] sleep, anxiety, stress, et cetera, et cetera.

Stu

52:14 Fantastic, it’s a movement in and off itself. For our listeners that want to find out more about you, what you do, they want to learn more about the Muse tech as well, where would be the best place for me to send them?

Ariel

52:26 Obviously choosemuse.com, so choosemuse.com is the Muse website, and then you can always follow me on all my socials, Ariel Garten or Ariel’s Musings. Stu: 52:37 Fantastic. Ariel, thank you so much for your time, much appreciated. I know I’m cutting into your evening’s creativity, but excellent, cannot wait to share this with our audience. I’m sure they’ll get as much out of it as I have today, so thank you again, really appreciate it. 52:53 My pleasure, and believe me, this is part of my evening’s creativity. Being able to share is a creative, generative, and amazing act, so thank you.

Stu

53:01 Excellent, okay, well hopefully we will connect again at some stage in the future.

Ariel

53:05 Look forward to it.

Stu

53:06 Thank you, bye-bye.

Ariel

53:07 [inaudible 00:53:07] night-night.

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