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Health and Fitness Personal Growth Relationships Science Social

26 Lessons Life Taught Me After I Turn 26

I often wonder, why do people celebrate their birthday?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against it. The celebration is great and we must do that to make someone feel special.

But what is the purpose?

Maybe to remind someone how special he/she is or to let someone know that his/her birth has made some difference to this world or maybe something else. Perhaps there is no single answer.

What do you think about this? Why a birthday celebration is meaningful to you?

You can also say ‘I don’t celebrate my birthday, my friends celebrate to get a party from me’. That’s also a fair enough answer.

I do also have my own perspective on this. A birthday celebration works like a reminder to me. It reminds how little time is left in my life and fills me with a sense of urgency.

As I become 26 years old today, I look back at my life to extract some lessons life has taught me in my good times and in my bad times. I remember one of Seneca’s quote where he said-

“It is not that we have a short time to live,

but that we waste a lot of it”

You might think, who am I to write about life lessons?

Honestly, I thought about the same a lot. Why should I write about what I learned after living for 25 years?

Everybody goes through different phases in life, everybody has a different story. We all learn numerous lessons as we go through life. In fact, this article is not just written for the reader but also for myself. It’s a template for me to know what I have felt after turning 26.

Ok enough of my rubbish, here are 26 lessons listed below that I felt are worth your time-

1. Personalities are not permanent

What type of person are you? Do you believe you are a born introvert or extrovert?

If you think you are a certain type of person from childhood and will remain like that, then you are wrong. There is nothing like a fixed personality. People change and so is their personality.

I was one of those shy, socially awkward, and geek type of guy in my childhood. Even at my teenage, I was the same. I had to listen a lot from my own family about how pathetic my social skills were.

But today I believe, I am not the same guy anymore. I have improved, my interests have grown. In fact, today I enjoy whether it is to give presentations in front of a packed audience or to talk with strangers.

So if you are thinking you can’t change then you are wrong. Of course, it will take time but eventually, you will.

2. Your beliefs shape you

Ever wondered why do you think in a certain way? Why do you behave in a certain way?

It’s because of your beliefs. What we believe is what we think and what we think is what we do. You follow a certain religion because you believe in that. People have superstitions because they believe in that.

Most often you are not even aware of what do you believe. It’s given to you by your parents, surroundings, and society. But surely you can change your beliefs. So if you know beliefs are so powerful, then believe in abundance, growth, and affluence. It will bring good to you.

3. Don’t compromise too much with yourself

There come some times in life when we feel like compromising with ourselves. Like when we try to please others, when someone criticizes us, when we go through some hurdles we try to over compromise with our original self.

Don’t be that guy. Yes, sometimes a little bit compromise is beneficial, like when you want a fulfilling relationship or when you move to a new place, but don’t do that by sacrificing your self-esteem.

I have been to different places for my education. What I experienced is, sometimes you feel lonely because there could be no one to share your story, finding a trustworthy friend could be challenging.

In such situations, you could sacrifice some of your principles, your values in order to make friends. They might not accept you the way you are. In such situations don’t lose yourself. Be the person who you are. You will find someone loyal, trustworthy sooner or later.

Don’t lose your integrity ever.

4. Passion is overrated

Follow your passion. How many people have advised you this line?

I am sure many. Have you thought what actually passion is?

It’s easy right. Things that makes us joyful and we have a natural inclination towards it are our passion. But is it pre-defined or people develop it?

Until you try something, how will you know you are good at it or not. And if you don’t know whether you are good at something or not, how will you find your passion.

There are many instances in people’s lives where they found it difficult to learn some skill, but with desire, focus, and deliberate practice they mastered it and it became their passion.

Do you think running was Usain Bolt’s passion from childhood? or writing was a passion for J.K Rowling from the beginning?

In the beginning, they just liked it. But even they had to work for years/decades to hone their crafts. Passion is not something people relate to natural calling. I don’t believe in that. Rather it’s more of a self-discovery process.

I never thought until 2018 that I could write blog articles someday. But today I feel like it is one of my passions. I want to write till I am alive. So my suggestion is to try more number of things, learn as many skills as you can.

In the process, you will learn about your likes and dislikes. Then work on things you liked to get better at them. Trust me, someday you won’t even realize and people will tell you ‘you are so lucky, you found your passion’.

5. Value skills, not degrees

When I was in school, I thought getting a college degree would be a great achievement. The highest degree in my family was a Bachelor’s degree. I thought getting a Master’s degree would be a proud moment for me.

Then I got a Master’s degree, but there was no excitement. Later, I have enrolled in a doctoral program but trust me even today I don’t have any extra excitement about the so called highest academic degree Ph.D. But the feeling that I am learning many skills and that wouldn’t be possible had I not enrolled in the Ph.D program makes me feel good.

I often think, why I thought degrees would make me happy?

Perhaps, this is what everybody taught me. Everybody asked questions like

‘Which degree you are pursuing?’ but nobody asked ‘What skills are you learning?’

Perhaps, I thought degrees would give a job. I was wrong. It’s not degrees won’t give you a good job but the problem is it doesn’t guarantee you the skills. Most importantly you will feel bad if someone tells you ‘you have the degree, but don’t have proper skills.

So I urge you to not give much importance to degrees. Hone your skills otherwise, some robots will take your job in the future. In today’s era, having a degree doesn’t guarantee a job but having a skill is.

A few days back I saw somewhere Elon Musk said- ‘In my company, I don’t care if you are a high school graduate or not, if you have skills welcome to my company’. You might think your place is still degree oriented but it won’t be for long.

6. Have an earning hobby

Do you remember during the examination time, most of us used to carry more than one pen in the examination hall.

Why did we carry multiple pens?

Because having a backup option is good. We wanted to be on the safer side. I wonder why we don’t follow the same strategy in life also?

Why do we forget to keep a small back up option in our career?

In today’s time, I think it’s a good idea to have a hobby which has the potential to earn in the future. Do your job sincerely, but keep a hobby which you like and can generate some income in the future.

This way, you will feel safe and perform better in your current job. Remember those friends whose fathers had a big shop or businesses. They were relaxed because they know they had a backup option.

You can do the same for yourself. Even if you are satisfied with your current job, still having an extra monetizable skill is beneficial. At least, you can earn some more money. Just imagine how many people will lose their jobs because of this pandemic. They can save themselves by having some extra skills. No one knows what will happen tomorrow.

7. Read books on diverse subjects

What would be the single line answer of the question

How to become the smartest person in the room?

The answer is- just read more books than everybody else.

Everybody knows the benefits of reading books. So I am not talking anything about that. But I would like to give you a suggestion from my personal experience

Don’t just read books on the same subjects, read about diverse subjects. This will make you more creative and astute. Read books on science, economics, health, history, personal growth, fiction novels, finance, relationships, spiriuality, etc. Just read multiple genre books.

8. Writing is powerful

You must have heard the line ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’.

There is a reason for that line. Writing brings out the soul inside you, which you never knew existed. There are numerous scientific studies which showed how writing leaves a profound positive effect on your life. Now you might say ‘but I don’t like writing’.

C’mon, you have already written so much in your examinations. and you don’t have to become a writer. All you need is to write down your feelings, thoughts on paper, or on the computer. You can just even write bullet points or make mind maps. Whatever you like but I promise, you won’t regret the decision to start writing. But this time for yourself not to pass any examination.

9. Choose your role models wisely

Who is /are your role model? Who inspires you?

The answers to these questions have a deep effect on your life. When you choose someone your role model, your life will be affected by your role model consciously or subconsciously in a positive or negative way.

When you choose someone as your role model, he/she become your benchmark, which means that you have instructed your subconscious mind that you can’t become more than your benchmark.

You must have heard the story of Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile under four minute. Before him, everyone, including sport researchers thought it is impossible to run a mile under 4 minutes. Had Roger Bannister made some runner his role model, he wouldn’t be able to achieve what everyone thought unachievable.

You try to imitate your role model’s actions even when you are not aware of that. Take inspiration from someone’s life and their legacy but try not to set a benchmark. And even if you want to have role models, choose them wisely.

10. Label your negative emotions

Managing our negative emotions well is key to a successful life. Researchers call it ‘Emotional Intelligence(EQ)’. Your success doesn’t just depend on IQ but also on EQ.

Everyone has to go through the ups and downs of life. I am myself a worrier, an overthinker. Sometimes I worry too much and I feel it’s normal. But thinking about controlling it doesn’t produce anything good.

So what should you do when you are angry, worried, anxious, or sad?

Research have shown that putting a label on your emotions helps you a lot to manage your negative emotions. What does it mean?

It means giving your negative emotions a verbal or written expression. You can write down about your emotion in a paper. Ask yourself-

Why are you feeling worried or sad? What can happen? What can you do to prevent this?

Writing down answers of these or even just talking to someone or to yourself loudly about your emotions helps a lot tone down your emotion.

What basically it does is, it transfers the negative thought from your emotional brain (amygdala) to the rational brain (frontal lobe), so you get a chance to think more logically and hence will be able to better handle with the situation.

Now you know people who often talk to themselves loudly are not crazy. By the way, I am one of them.

11. Relationships are key to a happy life

If any day you have to choose one thing among money, power, fame, and stable relationships. Choose the last one, it’s not me but the longest research done on happiness by Harvard Psychologists are saying. See the video below-

I hope there would not come any day when you have to choose. I wish you will get everything including money, fame, power, and good relationships. Humans are social animals. So if your relationships are not in place, nothing can make you truly happy.

12. Rise but don’t fall in love

When we talk about relationships, the most challenging relationship is perhaps the relation with your spouse or your girlfriend/boyfriend. I think the reason is obvious, you cannot choose your parents, your relatives but you can choose your better half.

When you choose something on your own, you expect much more from that relationship. And that’s where we make blunders many times and make our life miserable. The romantic movies, novels taught us that there is some soulmate waiting for me. Love is effortless.

Whereas, in reality it is not the case. Yeah, of course, love is a feeling at the beginning but after some time it becomes a choice. Like everything love also comes in a package, there are goods and bads.

You have to choose whether you want to handle the mood swings of your partner (which are not always pleasant, I am telling), whether you are ready to cheer the other person even when you are not feeling well, whether you want to face some uncomfortable conversations with your partner. At times, you might feel like giving up. In those moments it’s up to you to choose whether you want to still love that person or he/she doesn’t deserve so much of your time and energy.

Your romantic relationship is just a part of your life, not your whole life. Don’t lose your self-esteem in order to impress your partner. Rise but don’t fall in love as I wrote in one of my previous articles.

But yeah, when two people have love and respect for each other, perhaps, ultimately everything falls into place. As there is a saying in Hindi- ‘Aag ka dariya hai, aur doobke jana hai (It’s a river of fire and we have to sink to go through it).’

13. Your health is your actual asset

Our health is probably the most underrated thing in this world. We only realize it’s value when we lose it. And many of you are perhaps thinking ‘I understand man, health is important’.

Instead of knowing its importance, we don’t do much to keep it fit. A few years back health was not on my priority list, I didn’t know what an active body means. But after I started to inspect my food intake, running, and exercise I realized what it feels like to live with more energy.

People dream about driving a Mercedes, BMW, Ferrari, Rolls Royce but forget about the most beautiful machine they possess. Your body is the most beautiful and powerful machine. The choice is yours whether you want to run it like a 2nd hand car or like a premium car.

14. Learn about finance

This is the most neglected area by most of the people. Everybody thinks he/she knows about finance, whereas in reality don’t. Most people think ‘what is there, just earn more money, spend less, and save as much as possible, that’s all finance is’.

It’s only in recent times, I have realized that I need to learn a lot about finance and it’s a fascinating world. The problem is no one talks about this. Schools don’t provide financial education, parents don’t make children financially aware. In fact, parent’s are themselves unaware of this and it’s not their fault.

Finance is not a specialized subject. Everybody has to deal with money in their life. So it ‘s a must learning subject. Learn at least basics like-

How does the economy work? How do banks work? What is compound interest? How to invest money? What is wealth creation?

I promise you, these learnings will pay off you in the future.

15. Your salary alone won’t make you rich

Do you want to become rich?

Yes, the meaning of rich is different for different people. But here I am talking about monetary wealth.

For me, you are rich when you don’t have to work for money. When you can pay your bills even if you don’t work. It’s called financial freedom.

Are you thinking it is impossible?

Yeah, it is rare to happen in your 20s or 30s, but it is certainly possible in your 40s or 50s. You just need to plan your financial life well.

I am from a background where people think only a high paying job or a million dollar business can make you rich. But I can assure you it is not just that. Paying EMI for your home, car, gadgets, and what not with your high salary year after year doesn’t prove you are rich.

A person with a six figure salary can become bankrupt or live under debt whole life and a person with much less salary can achieve financial freedom.

Study the rich people everywhere in this world, you will find things common in them. All of them have multiple sources of income. They know how to grow wealth. If they can, you can learn too.

Ultimately being rich is not about showing off your luxury lifestyle but to reach a point where you don’t have to worry about money anymore. So keep in mind, your salary alone won’t make you rich but how you utilize your salary will.

16. Travel whenever you get chance

Who doesn’t love to travel. It’s amazing to see new places, new cultures right.

Till I was 20 years old, I haven’t gone outside my district, let alone state. Later I got the chance to travel to different places. When I experienced how it feels to travel, I realized why everyone talks so much about traveling.

But I felt the more you travel like a tourist, the less you will get out of your travel. Rather, try to talk with people there, know their culture, don’t have any prejudices about any place. Travel with an open mind. Your perspective about the world will change.

And yeah, travel solo sometimes.

17. Be a doer

I am a procrastinator. So this is the most important lesson for me.

Imagine a situation where you have brought all the fresh vegetables and fruits from the market. You know it’s good for your body. But what’s the point if you don’t eat them.

The same thing happens with your mind. We read books, blogs, watch videos, take seminars but what’s the point if we don’t act on them. You must become action-oriented rather than just collecting knowledge.

This is something I still tell myself time and again-

‘You can become something by acting on something not just by thinking about it’

18. Learn to live alone

Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you to isolate yourself. Just learn to enjoy solitude.

Don’t rely on anybody. Become the captain of your ship. Many times nobody would want to travel on your ship. So learn to live with yourself.

The person who enjoys his/her own company can be in peace with himself/herself. Accept the fact that you have come alone in this world and will die alone. The better you understand this, the more peaceful you will become.

19. Television is really an idiot box

You must have heard the old saying ‘TV is an idiot box’. Well, I never really thought about this. I used to love watching TV. There were days when I used to watch TV for 5-6 hours daily.

But then I have come to know about the ill-effects of watching TV and how it actually makes us an idiot. I am not saying to remove your TV from your home but at least be aware of how much of your time you spend watching TV.

Numerous studies have shown that TV viewing is detrimental for the development of intellectual abilities, especially during infancy.

20. Don’t become a slave of social media

Today’s generation is not interested in TV right, social media is the new culture. It’s a great platform. I mean who thought 20 years back that we could be in touch with someone from other corners of the world. Social media have made it possible.

But unfortunately today the world talks about how social media is making us miserable. How it is decreasing our attention span. Don’t let that happen to you.

The problem is social media can become an addiction just like alcohol or drug. You might be even unaware of the fact that you are addicted. So keep track of your time while using social media.

You can utilize social media for creation rather than just for consumption. Limit your time and create more if you love social media. Remember data is the new currency, it is more valuable than money. Be aware of whom you are giving your data.

Use social media with a purpose, but don’t become a slave of it.

21. Spirituality is not about religion

We often think being spiritual is not my cup of tea. You don’t have to become a yogi or do meditation on Himalaya to include spirituality in your life. Spirituality is just like a lifestyle.

Am I spiritual?

I don’t know, maybe not yet. I don’t even have much idea about the word ‘spiritual’. But I believe there is something special about being spiritual, which elevates you.

Maybe it’s about believing in a superior force than you, or letting things go sometimes can make you more content. I perhaps don’t know much about it right now. But I do know that you don’t have to be from any particular background to lead a spiritual lifestyle.

As we go through life and become mature, we get to know more about it. But first of all, you need to believe in it.

22. Learn to enjoy small things in life

I always thought, my achievements would make me happy. But that never happened. Today when I try to remember my school days or college years, all I remember is the moments I had with my friends, the celebrations, the laughs, trips, etc.

I don’t remember my achievements. Even if I remember some of them, those achievements are ok but that does not bring any extra smile on my face. But moments with friends, people do. I am sure same is the case with you.

Therefore, don’t forget to enjoy your present in order to make your future. Don’t wait for big achievements, enjoy the small things in life.

Whatever you are trying to achieve, nothing much you will remember ten years down the line, but you will surely remember some moments you had with your friends.

23. The world gives more to givers

You may have heard a lot from people that the more you help others, the more god will return to you.

But today it’s being proven by even scientific studies. Adam Grant, a psychologist in the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has shown in his studies that you will increase your chances of becoming more successful by helping other people. You can read his book ‘Give and Take’.

Help others not with a selfish motive, but to be at peace with yourself. We all know it right, whenever we help someone needy, we feel great. It is basic human nature to help needy people.

24. Science is just an instrument

This is what I personally feel. It has nothing to do with your belief.

When someone says, my religion is best. We call him/her immature or intolerant. Similarly, when someone says, science is everything, I see no difference between both the person.

Science is great. I am also involved with this. The invention of Science and scientific thinking is the biggest invention in human history. But I think it is just like an instrument.

It is quantitative. You can’t measure your feelings, you cannot make moral judgments using science. Science is like a beautiful instrument that you can use to create something worthwhile. Some people use the word ‘science’ just like religion as if it can give answers to everything.

Critical thinking is much more important rather than citing a research paper for everything.

25. Be a lifelong learner

How attractive this word ‘lifelong learner’ is right. But these are not just attractive words but a must have skill for survival, for growth in today’s era.

In our father’s or grandfather’s era, they just needed to learn any one skill in their early age and that was enough to live the rest of their lives with comfort.

But today, circumstances are different. Every 5 years some jobs are becoming obsolete and new kinds of jobs are arising. It means what you learned in your college may become irrelevant today.

In such a situation, the only way to ensure a comfortable life is to keep on learning new skills. Once you adopt this mindset, learning skills will become fun for you.

26. Explore yourself and the world

What is the most important thing I learned?

You can listen to many great people, you can read as many books or articles as you can, you can watch as many inspiring videos as you can but your answers you have to find yourself.

No one else can give you your answers. There is no single answer for everyone. You are unique among 7.7 billion other people on this earth. Your answers will also be unique.

How would you find them?

Explore yourself. Check what you like what you don’t. Try diverse things, talk with people from various backgrounds, travel to different places (not just the usual places), put effort to learn various skills.

Keep exploring yourself and the world around you, one day you will find your answers.

I know it’s been a long post. If you have read it, thank you for bearing with me. I hope you gain some good insights from it. I Would love to hear from you.

Have a great life. Until next time.

Joy

Source of images: Google images

Categories
Health and Fitness Personal Growth Science

How The Coronavirus Pandemic Shaping Humanities Future

It’s been 48 days since I wrote the last blog post on this website (wrote on 23rd February). From that time to now, a lot of things have drastically changed in the world. The world has witnessed a new pandemic in the form of the novel coronavirus. Almost a million people infected and more than 10000 died till now. No one knows how many more lives will die off the virus.

I have been reading from various sources about the virus and its implications. Though, reading or watching a lot of content about the pandemic does not serve any purpose except creating fear in your mind. On top of that, there are fake news circulating everywhere. The real knowledge is lost in this age of information.

This reminds me of one of the quotes from T. S Eliott

“Where is the life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

Wherever I go people talk about the virus, news channels are showing the same news 24/7, internet is full of same content and conspiracy theories of experts. Sometimes it feels like someone wants to hijack peoples brain by repeatedly exposing to the same content.

No doubt it’s a tough time for us but consuming the same content throughout the day will not produce anything worthwhile except fear and depression. Of course, you should know what’s going on in the world but give priority to quality instead of quantity. Check the source of the information, whether it is reliable or not.

Remember knowledge removes darkness and ignorance but a little knowledge or fake knowledge is even more fatal than ignorance. A few days back I saw a tweet from Yuval Noah Harari. He is a historian, author of bestselling books, philosopher ( and one of my favorite human beings). Here is his tweet

In an ideal world one would expect people to learn a little bit about the science of viruses, what is it? How it causes disease? How it causes pandemics?

Nonetheless, we are not living in such an ideal world and we are imperfect people. However, we are very fortunate to live in this era.

See, such pandemics are nothing new to the world. In the 14th century there was ‘Black Death’ which killed almost 200 million people worldwide, in the 16th century there was smallpox then great plague, cholera, Spanish flu came one by one. For your convenience look at the list below-

Imagine all those times when millions of people were dying due to a virus but they didn’t have any clue why they were dying. All they used think was about some evil demons as the reason for the pandemics.

But today we know about the existence of viruses and bacteria. It took just two weeks to identify the novel coronavirus, sequence its genome, and to develop a reliable test to recognize infected people. We are already developing vaccines for the coronavirus.

It’s not the incident or event but your response to that event defines you. Soon this pandemic will be over but the world we used to see will not be the same. I am really curious about the concomitant upshot of this novel virus on our forthcoming world.

And we are going to witness a world we have never seen before. The choices we make now will affect the world we will inhabit once the storm passes.

Prof. Harari discussed beautifully about the post coronavirus world in one of his articles. Where he specifically said-

“In this time of crisis, we face two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.”

His contemplation is indeed very interesting and I will reflect upon his thoughts-

1. Totalitarian surveillance Vs Citizen empowerment

By this time you must have realized that in order to prevent the spread of this pandemic entire global population needs to obey certain guidelines (such as social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands time and again).

There are two ways to achieve this. And we are somehow seeing both ways to be operating in the world.

One way for governments is to monitor people and punish people who break the rules. This is what we have seen in some countries such as China. What was believed to be science fiction a year ago, that is true today.

Today the government can keep an eye on all the citizens with the help of technology. By closely monitoring people’s smartphones, with the help of hundreds of millions of face-recognizing cameras, and forcing people to screen their body temperature and medical condition, governments can quickly identify suspected coronavirus carriers.

A range of mobile apps track our movements and warn citizens about their proximity to infected patients. In this way, citizens are totally under government surveillance.

Now you might think, what’s the big deal, even companies like Google or Facebook tracks us. Even they know where we are going? what we are buying?

What we are experiencing in many countries is not something very usual. The surveillance has gone one step ahead. What Prof. Harari mentioned as the transition from ‘over the skin‘ to ‘under the skin‘ surveillance.

Although we were under the surveillance before the pandemic by Google or Facebook, but they only knew our external reactions like what we buy more frequently, they didn’t know whether buying that makes us happy or sad.

They only knew where we are roaming but they didn’t know how that makes us feel. In short, their surveillance is ‘over the skin’.

But now with tracking of your body temperature to blood pressure, the government wants to go inside your body. Previously they were interested to know what kind of news you are reading more, and now when your finger touches your smartphone screen to press a link, government can track the temperature of your finger and blood pressure of your body when you press that link.

Imagine a day, when authorities/companies tracking every response of your body. They will exactly know what makes you sick or what makes you happy , sad, or angry. You don’t know what coming years might bring. In fact, they would know you better then you yourself.

Of course, at this crisis moment government is tracking people for our good, to identify infected people, prevent the pandemic, and it is for some time. But this may not be the case. Yuval Harari put forward some great insights on this. Read below his words-

You could, of course, make the case for biometric surveillance as a temporary measure taken during a state of emergency. It would go away once the emergency is over. But temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon.

Even when the infections from corona virus will be down to zero, some data hungry governments could argue they needed to keep the biometric surveillance systems in place because they fear a second wave of coronavirus, or there is a new Ebola strain evolving in central Africa, or because blah blah…, you get the idea. A big battle has been raging in recent years over our privacy (The data war). The coronavirus crisis could be the battle’s tipping point. For when people are given a choice between health and privacy, they will usually choose health.

Instead of building a surveillance regime, it is not too late to rebuild people’s trust in science, in public authorities, and in the media. We should definitely make use of new technologies too, but these technologies should empower citizens. I am all in favor of monitoring my body temperature and blood pressure, but that data should not be used to create an all powerful government. Instead, data should enable me to make more informed personal choices, and also to hold government accountable for its choices.’

Asking to choose between privacy and health is a trap. You might not realize now but privacy is equally important as health in today’s generation and you should enjoy both.

An alternative to this totalitarian surveillance Harari suggests is ‘Citizen empowerment’. If people know scientific reasons of why they should wash their hands or why social distancing is important, perhaps governments don’t need to surveill them 24/7.

Why is more important than what or how (of a fact) to empower citizens. For a person who knows how beneficial it is to just wash your hands with soap, washing hands becomes natural. But for an ignorant person have no clue why should he/she should wash hands.

A self-motivated population is way more powerful than an ignorant population who need to be surveilled 24/7. Countries like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea have already shown this.

Somehow a lot of government authorities realizing now how crucial is people’s scientific temper.

2. Nationalist isolation Vs Global solidarity

A lot of people over the globe believe that globalization will take a halt after this pandemic. People will less prefer to travel to other countries and countries would separate themselves from other countries. Just the way a lot of nations are sealing their borders right now.

Think about the society where you are living. Imagine a gang of robbers entered your neighbor’s home, beat people there and loot everything. And then again the same thing happened in another home.

What should your society do under such circumstances?

Just seal all the houses, stop speaking with each other, and be in your home all the time or cooperate with each other, share the information of robbers with each other and make strategies to combat them.

You would always choose the 2nd option as It is more reliable and effective.

The same is true at this pandemic time. Countries which fought better with the virus such as Singapore, South Korea could share the information and strategies with other countries.

But the recent incidents have shown the lack of cooperation among countries. Even at this crisis time, many countries are busy in blaming each other and making conspiracy theories rather than thinking about the future of humanity.

The real character of a person revealed at the time of crisis. This is the time for all the world leaders as well as for us to show some character.

From the economic point of view also global cooperation is vital. A sharp decrease in the supply chain from one corner of the world will affect the other corner.

Therefore, thinking about nationalist isolation at this moment will result in a disaster. We must work together as a whole rather thank working as a chunk.

These are the decisions that are going to shape our future. This is the time to make choice between totalitarian surveillance vs citizen empowerment and nationalist isolation vs global solidarity.

Don’t feel like your own personal decisions have nothing to do with the world tomorrow. It’s the choices of every individual human which defines the world. The world is going to change for sure.

What kind of world we would like to see tomorrow is our collective choice. We can empower ourselves for a better future or we can remain ignorant and present our future generations a dystopian future.

Have a safe week. Until next time

Joy

Source:

  1. Yuval Noah Harari: The world after corona virus-Financial Times
  2. The coronavirus crisis- Inkstone News
  3. Home Deus-Yuval Noah Harari
Categories
Health and Fitness Science

Bacteriophage: How A Forgotten Virus Can be An Asset to Combat Superbugs

What is the first word come to your mind after hearing the word ‘Virus’?

Disease, infection, infectious, harmful, etc. right.

What if tell you there are viruses that can cure our diseases.

Haven’t heard before! But there does exist such viruses, which are friendly to humans.

Just like there are god bacterias, there are good viruses.

These bacterias are known as ‘Bacteriophages’ or ‘Phages’meaning bacteria eaters.

These are good because ‘Bacteriophages’ are extreme enemies of deadly bacterias which has the potential to kill us. Believe it or not but phages are the most deadly beings on the planet.

Phages were discovered independently by two researchers Frederick William Twort at the University of London in 1915, and Félix d’Herelle who confirmed the finding and coined the term bacteriophage in 1917.

Below are some mind boggling facts about phages-

  • They are the most abundant microorganism on the planet. Much more in number than the total number of bacterias present. To give you an idea. They are everywhere, in soil, in water, in your body. Just your bare hand contains more than 10 billion phages. That’s a huge number right. The pie chart below depicts the number of phages compared to rest of the microorganism
Abundance of phages
  • Phages are 100 times smaller than bacterias. Under a normal microscope, they are not visible. You need an electrone microscope to see them.
  • The human gut contains almost one million billion phages. Whereas just one ml seawater contains one billion phages.

The most fascinating thing is that phages do not affect humans but only bacterias. Unlike other viruses phages can be a great weapon for us to fight with deadly bacterias.

How does a phage look like?

Bacteriophage Structure
Bacteriophage Structure

This is how a typical phage looks like. A head, a neck and a tail depicted in the above structure. Their genetic material is contained in a prism shaped head, surrounded by a protein capsid.

Like any other virus phages need a host cell in order to reproduce and become alive. When alone they are equivalent as dead.

Image of a phage under electron microscope
Image of a phage under electron microscope

How do phages kill deadly bacterias?

Phages are very specific in killing bacterias. What I mean is a particular type of phages can only kill a specific set of bacterias not all types of bacteria.

In order to kill a bacteria, phages first bind to the bind to specific receptors on the bacterial cell surface with their tail fibers and create a hole, a process which, along with attachment, is coordinated by the base plate.

Next,  a rigid tube is propelled out of the sheath, puncturing a hole in the bacterial cell membrane through which they inject their genetic material (DNA or RNA, double or single stranded).

From here, there are two ways via which phages can kill the host cell. One is known as lytic cycle, where after injecting (DNA or RNA) into the host cell, the phage genome synthesizes early proteins that break down the host DNA, allowing the phage to take control of the cellular machinery.

The phage then uses the host cell to synthesize the remaining proteins required to build new phages. During this process, the host cells gradually become weakened by phage enzymes (known as endolysin) and eventually burst. The whole process looks like the image below-

Different stages of lytic cycle
Different stages of lytic cycle

In another way, known as lysogenic cycle allows a phage to reproduce without killing its host. Following the injection of the phage DNA into the host cell, it integrates itself into the host genome, with the help of phage-encoded integrases, where it is then termed a prophage. The prophage genome is then replicated passively along with the host genome as the host cell divides. Something like shown in the below picture-

Different stages of lysogenic cycle

This process does not kill the bacteria directly but then under the right conditions (UV light, low nutrient conditions), the prophage can become active and come back out of the bacterial chromosome, triggering the remaining steps of the lytic cycle and kill the bacteria.

How does a phage decide whether to enter the lytic or lysogenic cycle when it infects a bacterium host cell?

One of the major factors is the number of phages infecting the host cell at once. Larger numbers of co-infecting phages make it more likely that the phages will use the lysogenic cycle.

This strategy may help prevent the phages from wiping out their bacterial hosts by toning down the attack if the phage-to-host ratio gets too high.

Because phages need a host cell to reproduce, they don’t want to run out of hosts. Thus, the tendency to flip to lysogeny at high abundance might have been favored by natural selection (explaining why phages are in such huge numbers).

But why are we suddenly interested in bacteriophages?

Although discovered first in 1917, we never paid enough attention to phages and there is a reason behind that.

In the earlier days, just a single cut in your body could have killed you. Bacterias were the culprits. We didn’t have any answer for them. People then moved their attention towards phages and successfully cured bacterial diseases by applying phages as weapons.

However, in 1928 Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and everything changed. We invented antibiotics and they were so effective against bacterias that we forgot about phages.

We became so habituated with antibiotics that we used them more and more for less and less serious causes. We lost respect for the little monsters (bacterias) and the weapon (antibiotics).

As a result, with time bacterias started to become immune against our invented weapon (antibiotics). Today there are hundreds of bacterias which are resistant towards most of our antibiotic. They are known as ‘multi drug resistant bacteria’.

Once we feared that soon there might be some bacterias that will be resistant to all our invented antibiotics and we will again go back in time, where a simple cut can kill us. Sir Alexander Fleming warned us-

there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.

We have already created such monsters known as ‘Superbugs‘. And believe it or not but they can wipe out human existence.

In fact, according to a survey, by 2050 superbugs could kill more humans a year than cancer. The days when a cut or cough or simple infection could kill you or your loved ones are coming back.

In such circumstances, scientists again turned their attention to forgotten tiny phages. In fact, phages are perhaps better than antibiotics to combat with bacterias.

Because antibiotics are like unguided missiles. It kills everything (good and bad bacteria) that comes within its range. But phages are very specific, they are like guided missiles.

By now, you already know how phages kill bacterias (discussed above).

In fact, there are many instances recently, where doctors have used phages to treat patients successfully.

You might be thinking, won’t bacterias develop ways of defending themselves?

They will evolve against phages too. But wait a minute, phages are also microorganisms, so they evolve too. There is a constant war going on between phages and bacterias from billions of years. Fortunately, phages won the battle almost all the time.

And even if bacterias become immune against phages someday, we will still be able to win against bacterias. It has been found that in order to become resistant to even just a few species of phages, bacteria have to give up their resistance to antibiotics. It’s like attacking the enemy with two different classes of weapons.

This has already been successfully tested patients who had no other hope left. Bacteria have no answer to the combination of phages and antibiotics.

But why don’t we hear more about phages in medical science?

Unfortunately, although there is a growing interest among scientists about phages but treatment via phages is still in an experimental state. Pharma companies are reluctant to invest in phages to a great extent. As a result, it has not become part of medical treatment. There is no official approval yet.

But things are changing, in recent years phages are getting more and more attention. Research is going on to see how safe phages are if we inject them from outside.

We better do more sound research on phages and make them a part of our medical treatment before superbug kills millions of lives all over the globe.

It might sound weird but injecting the deadliest being on the planet into the human body might save millions of lives. And who knows one day your doctor might write you a prescription for phages along with or instead of antibiotics.

An informative video on this topic-

Please, never use antibiotics mindlessly. Do remember what Sir Alexander Fleming said-

Sir Alexander Fleming On Antibiotic Resistence

Source:

  1. Technology networks
  2. Khan Academy-bacteriophage
  3. Phage treatment of human infections
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica
  5. Advantages and Limitations of Bacteriophage

Categories
Health and Fitness Science

Medical Industry Vs Medical Science

Have you ever been in a situation where your family has asked your opinion before taking an important decision?

Although you were right at what you have suggested, your family neglected your suggestion and took exactly the opposite decision just because the majority of your family members support the opposite idea. Your knew from inside that what you said was absolutely correct and the wrong decision made is going to hamper your family in the future but you can’t do anything.

This exactly depicts the meaning of this article, where you represent medical science and your family members medical industry.

If anything fascinates me most in this world, that’s humans. I mean you think about our creature sometimes deeply and I am sure you will find the same thing too.

In fact, there is a ecologist named Ellis Silver, who argues that we, humans, are not originally from earth but from somewhere else. We are a foreign creature here. He has written a book also on this named ‘Humans are not from Earth: a scientific evaluation of the evidence’. You can read it if you wish.

Whether you believe him or not but humans are pretty strange. There is no denying about this

Look at other animals, birds, or any living creature. Among all of them, we have advanced most from the time we exist. We rule the world (you can say perhaps) but instead of all the advancements we are our lives are not advancing to that extent.

In pursuit of becoming happier, we are becoming miserable. We try to become healthier, but we are becoming prone to new diseases. Something is fundamentally wrong don’t you think?

Ask your grandfather (or even your father) about their lifestyle when they were young. You probably can’t imagine your life like that but when you listen to them carefully, you will be amazed that they were somehow more healthy and content in their lives instead of not having the luxuries of today’s world. Perhaps your grandchildren will experience the same thing.

All of us want to live longer and in quest of that, we have built a super special healthcare industry. And no doubt we have been successful in eradicating a lot of deadly diseases.

Antibiotics are one of the greatest discoveries in medical science. Vaccination has been a great weapon for us. Once deadly small pox, Diptheria, yellow fever, polio are almost gone from our planet.

The number of different organs that can be replaced in the human body is extraordinary.

Latest development is the stem cell therapy. Scientists believe that stem cell therapy can change the face of human diseases and alleviate suffering.

Take a pause and think again, instead of all this, are we healthier today? Are we living longer?

You know the answer is a big no.

So what is wrong with us? Is there any loophole in our healthcare industry?

But our medical science research upon things and then they prove facts.

How can there be any loophole?

Remember medical science is just like that younger family member who knows he/she is right (the example given at the beginning of the article) but there is an entire industry, who are the majority in number dictates everything in healthcare industry.

Why does this medical industry most often take decisions which are not aligned with a healthy life?

Because they want to make money. It’s a huge business for them. And it’s called fear business (or a business out of ignorant/innocent people).

Think about it, what does a business person want?

More customers, more revenue right. If people are not falling sick, if people are feeling great about their bodies then who will go to them.

Mind it, when I am mentioning medical industry, I am not talking about medical science. Science gives us facts upon extensive research, investigation for a prolonged time. So chances are high that science won’t misinform us or even if they do sometimes, they correct themselves in the future.

But how many of us really aware of the latest findings of medical research?

Very few, unless you are very enthusiastic, fitness freak or studying in such a specialization. Whenever we face any problem regarding our health, we consult a doctor with the hope that he is the expert in his domain and knows the solution.

But alas! in todays time even some doctors are ignorant about latest medical science and many of them utilize their patients as an instrument to earn money. Many of the doctors represent the ruthless dacoits of earlier times.

There are thousands of stories about how doctors cheat with their patients. They have collaboration with pharmaceutical industries and pathology labs. So they ask their patients to go through hundreds of tests and recommend them to take a variety of medicine even if they don’t need. Most of the hospitals are just merciless butchers.

There is a term called ‘Disease Mongering’ which means the practice of extensive tests and treatments done by your doctor to make you feel sick. It’s a practice to make money out of healthy people. Whoever has visited today’s super speciality hospitals must have experienced this.

Cartoon describing ‘Disease Mongering’

In 2011, there was an article published in ‘News Week’ named ‘One word that will save your life‘. If you are serioos about your health then please read this article once.

This article talks about new research which shows how extensive medical tests and treatments in hospitals do more harm to our body than good.

So, what is the way out for us who are not so aware of what new medical science is suggesting?

How can we protect us from these ruthless dacoits or merciless butchers?

Suppose there is an aquarium in your home with healthy fishes dancing and moving from one side to another. But with the passage of time, the water in the aquarium gets contaminated and the fishes start falling sick.

Now, what will you do?

You have two options-

  1. Either you take out the fishes, treat them and put them back in the contaminated aquarium.

2. Or you replace the contaminated water with fresh water.

In todays hospitals you can expect the first option to be applied. But if you are smart you will choose the 2nd option. To get rid of a disease you have to remove its root, not its symptoms.

When you say ‘I want to cure this disease’, you should heal your body through the fuels you are putting in your body. Medicines are meant to use only in emergency situations when you need some relief. You should not think of medicines as permanent solutions.

How many times you have seen any animal falling sick?

Very rare right. Does their biochemistry inside the body is better than us?

I don’t think so. They don’t disturb their bodies chemistry by putting any foreign element.

“Nature has created us, so the power to heal us is within nature itself”

Enough of discussion. What’s the solution/conclusion?

How healthy is our body depends on two things.

  1. What we eat
  2. What we think

Your life will change when you start eating foods that are aligned with nature’s choice.

Before that, what to avoid completely? Below is a summarised list. I am not going into details as these are established facts and you can research about all of them separately.

1. Refined Sugar:

It’s equivalent to poison. It does almost nothing good for our body and responsible for most of the diseases.

2. Caffeine:

You are thinking, it gives us instant energy, refreshness. It’s too acidic in nature and not good for our body. Even if you want to, maybe once per day is probably ok.

3. Table Salt:

A small amount of salt is required for maintenance of good health but that need is fulfilled from vegetables. You don’t need extra table salt to fulfill that.

Moreover, when taken in little excess it is responsible for a plethora of diseases.

4. Fried Food:

The frying and prolonged heating of foods lead to the formation of free radicals. We know how damaging these free radicals can be. Especially avoid those deep fried foods.

Avoid eating micro-waved foods. Microwave exposure causes a significant decrease in nutritive value.

5. Fast Foods:

Oh, man! these are equivalent to garbages. If you care about your health even a little bit, stay away from these garbages. All shit things like mono sodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame (artificial sweetner) are found in so called fast foods.

Now there are few things which we are used to eat maybe from our childhood but in reality, they are not as good as we used to think. Some of them are like-

6. Refined Cereal:

White flour and polished rice are the two most widely used refined cereals in our day to day food. The outer husk is removed from wheat and rice while during refining. The outer husk is the major source of vitamins, minerals, and fibers. Your body has to work much harder while absorbing such refined cereals. Gluten present in them also causes problems in many people. Avoiding them completely would be impractical for most people, but surely we can reduce their intake.

7. Milk:

I know this one surprised you. This one surprised me too. To be honest there is no direct evidence that milk harms our body.

Well, this a debateable thing at the moment but many experts believe that milk is required during infancy (talking about cow or buffalo’s milk) when the infant is not able to take any other solid or liquid food, but milk is not meant for lifelong use.

No animals except human beings continue to drink milk lifetime.

With age the enzymes which help in the digestion of milk become inactive in some people, as a result some component of milk get glued to various parts of the digestive system, resulting in overall blockage of the system and prevents the absorption of nutrients in the body. And don’t worry, even if you don’t drink milk, you will not become calcium deficient.

Still, I am arguing about whether you should drink milk or not. You observe your own body, research by yourself and find out what’s best for you.

You might be thinking about what to eat then?

First of all, don’t believe in any particular type of diet. Our biochemistry is so complex that it is impossible to micro manage it. Therefore, we should return to the pattern of eating to which our bodies have been adapted over millions of years.

I found an excellent chart describing how much and what should we consume daily. Hope you will find it useful.

Lifestyle Diet Chart

Our body is the best manager of its biochemistry. Don’t interfere by putting unnecessary toxic things into the body.

Our thoughts are another important factor for good health which we often ignore. Every thought you have have a powerful impact on the cells of your body.

Positive high vibrational thoughts can purge your body diseases and negative stressful thoughts can confer your body a series of diseases. Your frequency determines your life.

Just remember

“Hospitals are not about health, but they are all about diseases.”

Your health is your true wealth. Take care of it.

Have a healthy week. Until next time.

Joy

Source:

  1. Heal without pill by Biswaroop Roy Choudhury
  2. Is Milk Really Healthy for You?
  3. Disease Mongering

Categories
Health and Fitness Personal Growth Relationships Social

How to Live A Worthwhile Year

Another year is going to end. In fact, this time a decade has come to its end.

And like every time, most people at this point of time are busy retrospecting their life. How was their 2019, what went wrong, what went good, what new experiences this year brought to them? Whether this year is a good one or not so good one.

This is the time when most people are busy making their new year resolutions.

But how one decides whether the year passed is a good or not so good one?

Well, different people have different ways to measure their passed year as well as their progress. For some people growth of their professional career matters most while reviewing their year. For some, growth of their relationship or health matters most. It depends on the individual.

From my experience, what I have observed over the years is that people look at their passing years (or their overall life) in chunks, not as a whole.

For people in their 20s, maybe career matters most, for people in the 30s maybe relationships, in 40s health becomes very important suddenly (as it starts deteriorating), and in their 50s and after that people talk about spiritual growth.

This is how society teaches us to see our lives, in chunks. This is exactly like a person has been blindfolded and asked to identify an elephant. Obviously. that person will identify the elephant as its tail, trunk, tooths, legs, or by its skin.

Until you open your eyes and get the opportunity to see the elephant, you would not know that the trunk, legs, tail, skin all belong to the same elephant. They are not separate but part of the same elephant. Your situation would be exactly like the image below

Similar is the situation with our lives. Imagine our life as the elephant and your career, relationship, health as different parts, just like different parts of the elephant.

You can have a better perspective of life when you see it as a whole, not as chunks.

In the beginning, I said most people try to make resolutions for the new year. Sounds cool right but believe it or not, only 8% or less than that fulfill their resolutions.

And everyone has their own reasons why they couldn’t make it. And it’s human nature. We want to feel good about ourselves, we want to motivate ourselves. So as the year ends, we try to motivate ourselves by making new resolutions.

Psychology professor Peter Hermann call this ‘false hope syndrome’, which he said

“Their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves”

And this is a vicious cycle for a lot of people. Before every year beginning they thought they will do this and that, and the year passes by without fulfilling most of those. And then again repeat the whole process. As if, whole life is just pass unconsciously.

‘Ok enough, what about you? How do you review your year or your life?’ you must be thinking.

What I am going to share with you is my personal opinion and way of looking (And love this concept so much that one day I would like to write an entire book in this). You may not find it reasonable or suitable. In that case, you keep looking for your way what suits you.

As I said earlier, My way of looking the past years is not in chunks but as a whole.

I correlate it with the string theory of physics. String theory says there are 10 different dimensions of our universe. But because we live in a three-dimensional world, we have very limited ideas about our universe. (in fact, it talks about the possibility of the multiverse).

If somehow we can access other dimensions of the universe, we can uncover a lot of mysteries of the universe. You can read more about this here.

Likewise, our life also consists of different dimensions. When we can see and measure all those, we are in a better position to live a blissful life.

Mainly, I see life divided into five different dimensions.

1. Physical dimension

This implies the significance of your health, about your physical fitness. We all are aware of it and heard a hundred times from various sources. But believe me, you probably haven’t experienced that feeling, when you are so lightweight and high in energy the whole day. If you have experienced then you know what I am talking about.

And it requires immense commitment from you. You have to watch out what are feeding to your body, your workout regimes, and many other things.

Carol Alt said-

Carol Alt quote on food

2. Emotional dimension

This is where you take of your emotional health. How aware are you about it? Are you getting better at relationships?

In today’s world understanding human psychology is the biggest asset. Brian Tracy said

“Your network is your net worth”

It’s the people who lift us and make us successful in the long run. Are you taking care of your relationships?

In today’s era, people look for the love of their life and once they find them, they complain ‘But the magic is just lost, there is no spark left between us’. Often we try to feel others cup without even filling our own empty cup.

Are you falling in that trap? Remember ‘being in love’ and ‘falling in love’ is not the same.

Quote on Love

3. Financial dimension

No need to introduce this. Perhaps, all our life we stress most about this one. And of course, it matters a lot. With a steady financial condition, we have more freedom about the way we want to spend our time. We can travel more, experience more and buy some of those fancy stuff (although they never make us content).

Most importantly, proper financial knowledge is of utmost importance. Everybody taught us about the importance of money but rarely anyone talks about how to earn money and then spend it wisely.

Voltaire, a French philosopher once said

4. Intellectual dimension

How do we define intellect?

You must have some perception. Cambridge English dictionary described it as ‘the ability to think and understand in an intelligent way.’

Intellect is the ability to learn and understand things. It is your craving for knowledge.

And you know what is most interesting, intellect is not something fixed people born with. You can increase your intellect and become more intellectual.

Intelligence and growth are almost synonyms. If you are not growing that means your intelligence is fixed.

How do you increase your intellect?

Have a yearning for growth, read great books, talk with intelligent people of different backgrounds, watch videos of people you adore or respect. Most importantly, don’t stop growing. keep evolving.

Quote on intelligence

5. Spiritual dimension

A lot of people often say youth is the time to enjoy, to set your life, not to become spiritual. I know when you heard the word spiritual, you imagine a monk meditating in the Himalayas.

But that’s not all. Spirituality is not just leaving everything aside and becoming a monk (although you can do that). Just becoming more mindful at every moment is one step towards spirituality. A mindful person is also a spiritual person.

Humans are the only creature who has this option to become self-aware about themselves. Between a stimulus and its response, only humans have the capability to pause and become self-aware. The more self-aware you become about yourself, about your existence, the more spiritual you will be.

Quote on self awareness

Dimension 1 talks about your body, 2 and 4 about nourishing your mind, 5 about your soul, and 3 talks about enjoying your life by having a solid financial knowledge.

How do I review my year?

I look into each of the aforementioned dimensions. How did I treat my body this year, is it getting better, am I feeling more energetic?

Likewise, I reflect on my relationships, the kind of people I met this year, new connections I made, the kind of book I read and what new things I learned from those.

If I feel I have improved in all these dimensions this year, then my year has passed well, if not then it’s not a good year for me.

I am in a better frame of mind when I treat my life like this. It’s just like the above examples, when you open your blindfold you can see the whole elephant or when you have access to different dimensions, you get to know more about the universe.

And frankly, if you are very serious about making 2020 a productive year, then stress less upon making new resolutions and more on developing better habits.

Habits will take you where you want to go. Resolutions are like the trophy we want to win, and habits are like the skillsets required to win the match and get the trophy.

Focus on your habits, you will surely win the trophy.

If you want to read something more on habits, how to break the bad ones and make good ones then I recommend you to read the following two books which I found very useful

A very happy and prosperous new year.

May all your new year resolutions come true.

See you in the next year.

Joy

Categories
Health and Fitness Personal Growth Relationships Science Social

The Science of Loneliness and How to Win over it.

A few days back I was talking with one of my college friends over the phone. We were asking about each other’s life and how everything is going. He said ‘Everything is good but I am feeling lonely here most of the times’.

At first, I didn’t take it seriously. In fact, I told him ‘you are surrounded by so many people, your family, your new friends, and many others, how can you feel lonely. On the contrary, I should feel lonely because I don’t have my family, people whom I used to adore once are not with me.

His voice became numb. He said ‘I don’t know. After we left college, everything changed. As if I have entered into a new planet to live. I no longer had deeper conversations with anyone, I rarely laugh wholeheartedly like before. These days I feel empty from inside’.

My mood changed from a light conversation to a serious one. Anyway, I told him things will be better with time.

Honestly, I was shocked a little bit. I knew him in college. He was not one of those socially awkward or a bashful guy. He used to shout, laugh a lot, and enjoy conversations with others. How come such a guy can say ‘I feel empty from inside’. What changes in just 4-5 years.

People have asked me multiple times ‘don’t you feel lonely living far away from home?’

Their question is really valid. I know that feeling when you leave your village or hometown and come to a new city for whatever reason. I had been in multiple places (away from home) for study, so I had that feeling multiple times.

When you move to a new city, there are strangers everywhere you look around. There is no one to sit next to you and hear your story. Loneliness comes naturally in those times.

But it’s very normal on such occasions to feel a little lonely. With time everything becomes normal, we make new friends, we explore new places, food, people. Life becomes interesting again. This is a type of loneliness occurs due to external reasons and it’s very temporary (unless you don’t want to make friends or explore anything).

Loneliness is part of our biology, just like hunger. Hunger makes you feel attention to your physical needs, you need to eat to quench hunger. Similarly, loneliness makes you pay attention to your social needs.

And this is due to our evolution, in the earlier times when our ancestors were in jungles, our social needs were a great indicator of how likely we were to survive. Natural selection rewarded us for collaboration, for forming connections with each other.

Had we not formed connections with each other, we wouldn’t be alive today. Being together meant survival. This is precisely one of the reasons why humans are unique. We can form groups of large numbers. We can make meaningful connections with each other.

And today we are in the most connected time of history. People from different corners of the world can be friends today.

But alas, the data shows something else. More than 300 million people are suffering from depression all over the world, and most of the time depression arises from a feeling of loneliness. India is the leader of the list. Yes, India is the most depressed country in the world with every 1 among 6 people is depressed. Surprisingly people in the age group of 18-34 are most depressed.

The irony is-

“We are living in the most connected time of history

Yet, an unprecedented number of us feel lonely”

Wait, a few minutes back I said loneliness is the part of our biology and now I am saying loneliness has led to depression for a huge number of people.

Isn’t this sounds contradicting?

No, the type of loneliness I talked above appears due to external reasons like no one is there to sit near you during lunch or no one is there to play with you. This happens when you move to a new place as I said.

With time such loneliness disappears as we start making new friends, making connections with others.

But what about those occasions when you are surrounded by a huge number of people, your friends and yet you feel the ache of emptiness. This loneliness is the invention of the modern human race. And it is due to our internal dissatisfaction or our inability to be at ease with ourselves.

Psychologists define such loneliness as-

‘the psychological consequences of having a gap between the support and social interaction you’d like and what you are getting actually.’

Moreover, loneliness is a state of mind (just like happiness). If you are feeling lonely, you are lonely.

The most stereotype about loneliness is that ‘people who feel lonely don’t know how to talk to people or how to behave with others’. But you know this is not true. Scientific studies have also proved this. (Link to the study).

In fact, social skills make no difference when it comes to social connections. Studies have found that lonely people have superior social skills (Read here about it).

So it’s not like if your friend is more famous, beautiful, or have better social skills, she/he will not feel lonely.

The scary thing is, loneliness which arises due to our internal mismanagement is very lethal. It’s like smoking a packet of cigarettes every day, Surely, way more harmful than what you thought. I don’t want to talk in detail about that. You can just see the video below to get some idea-

If you read about the evolution of humankind from living in jungles to the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution then finally to the digital revolution, it becomes clear why more and more people suffer from loneliness now-a-days.

Our biology is designed in such a way that it wants connection. That’s how our brain grew and became more and more fine-tuned to recognize what others thought and felt, and to form more sustainable social bonds.

Earlier human used to live together in groups, they used to take care of each other. There used to be joint families. Communities that existed before began to dissolve especially after the industrial revolution.

Today people leave their home in search of job, education, business, etc. So the number of connections with people we make today is far less today. Remember, not making strong social bonds is against our biology and in that way, we are more prone to fall in the trap of loneliness.

You might be thinking-

How can I save myself from loneliness?

Being in different places at different points of my life, I can tell you from my personal experience what has helped me to stay away from the vicious cycle of loneliness.

1. Accept your feeling

If you don’t know the problem, you can’t cure it. Yes, I felt lonely everytime I visited a new place. Everybody feels lonely at some point in their life. It’s a universal human experience. Accepting the feeling of loneliness will open the doors to cure it.

2. Write it down

I know it sounds silly but I told this before also (in my previous articles). You don’t have to be a fancy writer to write something. Whatever you feel lonely, just take a pen and paper and write about your feelings. Why you are feeling lonely? What are your views on it? What can you do to remove this?

You will be amazed by the kind of clarity you will achieve after doing this. Yes, not always it will cure your loneliness completely but for sure it will make you feel better.

3. Become self-aware

Maybe you are focusing too much on negative things or getting affected by your negative colleague. You can examine what your focus your attention on, and check if you are selectively focusing on negative things.

Do you make negative judgments about people even without meeting them ever?

Do you assume others don’t want you around?

If your outlook towards the world, towards your life, is negative, you are more prone to loneliness. Introspection is a great way to prevent loneliness.

4. Become interested in people

This was my problem in my teenage years. I used to think ‘I will only talk when somebody will show interest in me‘ until I read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to win friends and influence people‘ book. Become interested in people is one of the greatest pieces of advice I ever got.

If you like someone, just go and ask him interesting questions about himself. I promise you will be amazed by the number of meaningful connections you will make.

5. Prioritize quality over quantity

I am sure you must have seen people who instead of having many friends, feel lonely most of the time. Yes, we should make connections with people but not necessarily with everyone. You won’t like many people and many people won’t like you. That’s normal.

I always believed, having 2 good friends is better rather than having 10 average friends.

You must make meaningful connections with people who will be beside you at the time of adversity. Otherwise, what’s the point of having friends. Make less but make better connections.

6. Have an explorer mindset

If you are curious about life, I bet you will rarely feel lonely. Actually you won’t have time to feel lonely. Just imagine, do you think Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin felt depressed anytime? There is hardly any chance.

They were so curious, so busy doing different things that their minds always wonder about new ideas, new possibilities.

When you have an explorer mindset, you will find something interesting in nothing. Now, every time you go to a new place, you become curious about people, food, weather, the culture there.

7. Transform loneliness into solitude

This is the most important part of this entire article. You cannot always avoid loneliness (even if follow everything written above). Sometimes it is inevitable.

What happens when your loved one dies?

You will be in grief. Naturally, you want to isolate yourself from everyone.

What will you do in such a situation?

Remember, being alone and being lonely are two completely different things.

” Just like you can be sad even in the presence of crowd around you,

you can be blissfull even in the absence of crowd around you “

why do we like someone?

Because of various reasons. Maybe that person makes me laugh, he/she is cute, knowledgeable, has good social skills, etc.

In other way, I like someone due to blah, blah reasons. I feel good because of his something. We are dependent on someone else for feeling good. We try to extract something out of that person for feeling happy. We behave like beggars who always want something out of that person.

Naturally, when that person one day leaves or behave another way, our good feeling also vanishes. Because our good feeling was linked with some behavior of that person. Then we feel lonely, as if, someone has destroyed our world.

The day you realize that we are responsible for every emotion we are going through, be it joy, misery, ecstasy, or loneliness, you stop depending on others.

It’s not like we then no longer need connections with people. We will make connections with people but now we become a giver instead of a beggar. People want to make connection with you because now you are the source of joy.

Remember nobody wants to be with a miserable person, everyone wants joyful people in their life. Only when your own cup is full, you can share that with others. When you are ecstatic, you can share that with others.

“Become joy, don’t seek joy”

Jim Carrey once said-

Jim Carrey quote on loneliness

If you want to make your life meaningful, you must enjoy your own company. The great scientist, Nikola Tesla also said the same thing-

Nikola Tesla joyexcel

See loneliness is not that bad if you only know how to transform it into solitude. Loneliness is like giving full freedom to yourself. You can do whatever you want to do. Either you will become more creative or you will be scared, watching no one is around you. The only thing to think about is-

Do you know how to use that freedom for your good cause?

I am finishing this article with this quote-

joyexcel solitude quote

Have a meaningful week. Until next time.

Joy

Source:

  1. The Atlantic.com
  2. The Lonely Blog
  3. Vandrevala Foundation
  4. Cigna U.S. Loneliness index
  5. The Science of Loneliness
Categories
Health and Fitness Science

The Enigma of Human Brain

Do you know how alike you are with a Chimpanzee?

Almost 98.9%, genetically speaking. Not only that, you are genetically 94% similar to your pet and 90% with your cat.

You might be thinking ‘But I don’t behave like my pet or cat. No way

Then what separates us from pet, cat, or chimpanzees?

It’s our brain of course. The genes we have relevant to brain development is absent in other animals. We approximately have 3 million more neurons in our brain than that of chimpanzee’s. More neurons mean, more connections, more complexity, and more intelligence.

Do you know what’s in our head is the order of magnitude more complex than anything one sees in the entire universe. Although our brain is within us and we use in daily life but probably we still have no idea how this enigmatic brain works.

According to the physicist, Roger Penrose (University of Oxford)-

“If you look at the entire physical cosmos, our brains are a tiny, tiny part of it. But they’re the most perfectly organized part. Compared to the complexity of a brain, a galaxy is just an inert lump”

So let’s take a tour of our marvelous brain.

I am not going to discuss the anatomy of the human brain with you. That you must have read in your school and college. Just by a Google search, you can know everything about the anatomy of the human brain.

Instead, I am going to share an idea which fascinated me when I first got to know it.

Do you know you behave similarly as lizards or snakes behave?

There are a lot of similarities between you and your pet’s behavior.

How is that? And if so, then what makes us human?

In 1960’s neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean formulated a model of the human brain (The triune brain in evolution), describing the brain in terms of three distinct structures that emerged along an evolutionary path. That means his model describes how the human brain has developed over the years through evolution.

Dr. Paul D. MacLean inventor of Triune Brain Concept

According to his model, there are not only one brain but three independent brains exist in our head. Sounds strange! Try to remember the time when you wanted to do something but you knew you shouldn’t do that. from where these conflicting thoughts arise.

Also, you will feel hungry only when you will pay attention to it. As long as you are not thinking about food or hunger you are ok but the moment you pay attention, you will realize you are hungry. What’s happening! This is because of different parts of your brain.

According to MacLeon, these three brains are-

  1. The Reptilian Brain (R-Complex)
  2. The Limbic Brain (Paleomammalian Complex)
  3. The Neocortex (Neomammalian Complex)
The Human Brain

As suggesting the name, reptilian brain resembles main structures found in a reptile’s brain. Basal Ganglia part of the human brain represents the reptilian brain. The triune brain model suggests the basal ganglia was acquired first through evolution.

Basal Ganglia in Human Brain

This system of the brain is responsible for the most basic survival functions, such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and balance. This brain is mainly take care of our survival. When you try to hold your breath for a long time, as carbon dioxide builds up in your bloodstream, the reptilian brain is going to want to take over and make you breathe again. At extreme conditions, this part of brain makes your alert for danger.

Now think about reptiles like snakes, lizards. Their behavior is exactly the same as the functions of our reptilian brain. Survival is the main challenge for them. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive.

Limbic brain resembles little more complex animal kingdoms brain. This part of brain consist of various part of brain such as- amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus. This part is responsible for our abilities such as learning, memory, expressing emotions.

Limbic Brain in Humans

Limbic brain wrapped around the reptilian brain in a shell, or girdle. Now if you are curious to know the difference between reptilian and limbic brain then think about the difference between a snake and a cat. Unlike reptiles, mammals have some feelings and ability to learn. Training a mammal is much easier than a reptile. You got the difference.

Finally, the neocortex is our most newest brain. Remember I asked a question before ‘what makes us human’?

Well, this neocortex is the answer. In humans, this neocortex has grown immensely compared to any other animal and this makes us unique. Other primates like chimpanzee’s DNA differs from ours by only 1.6% as I said before, but a chimpanzee’s neocortex in the brain is not as developed as in humans.

What superpowers this part of the brain gives us?

All the higher-order conscious activities such as language, abstract thought, imagination, planning, and creativity to name a few are due to our neocortex.

Of special interest in this part is the prefrontal cortex, reside just behind our forehead. The prefrontal cortex may be slower in responding to incoming information than the limbic system but is much more sophisticated in its processing. Such “slow” thinking is the hallmark of our human intelligence. Complex and new thinking on technical, emotional, social, and logical planes take place here. This is where ideas grow. In short, your neocortex makes you more of a human.

Prefrontal cortex in neocortex

So what’s the conclusion?

MacLean’s model claims that activity in the three brain regions (reptilian brain, limbic system, and neocortex) is largely distinct when we are engaged in each of the mental activities outlined above.

For example, when we are in danger and must respond quickly, as an act of self-preservation, the reptilian structure is aroused, preparing us for action by initiating the release of chemicals throughout the body. When we are watching a shocking news story or receive an upsetting message, the limbic system is stimulated and, again, chemicals are released, which create our experience of emotions. Finally, when we are making decisions, solving problems or reasoning, the neocortex is engaged, without the involvement of the other brain structures.

But modern brain images have revealed that distinct parts of the human brain are not independently active during any emotional or rational experience, Various parts of the brain are simultaneously active in those time.

Nonetheless, MacLean’s model is an oversimplified concept and it is not entirely true. However, it’s neither entirely wrong also. Undoubtedly triune brain concept provides us a useful way to asses the relationship between the structure and functions of the human brain. It helps us to understand the analogy between the human brain and other creature’s brain on the planet earth.

You know what fascinates most about this triune model of the brain, it’s the fact which often people used to say to other human beings ‘become a more human’.

I used to think how anyone can become ‘a more human’. A human is a human, what is more and less about that. But after knowing about triune brain concept I think it’s not a wrong statement.

See, if your reptilian brain is more active, you will be more aggressive, anxious and scared and less aware, creative or inventive. In such cases, your behavior is more like a reptile (lizard/snake) than like a human. Every time you get angry or too much aggressive your neocortex becomes less active, in other words, you become a reptile from a human.

You know what’s the good news, our neocortex is not rigid but of plastic nature which means we can develop our neocortex at any time of your life to become more of a human. You just need to use your neocortex more often in daily life.

Be creative whenever possible, practice to keep your mind calm, reflect more often, learn new things like a new language or instrument or any skill you like. All of these will utilize and develop your neocortex and will make you a better human.

The human life is a gift to you, don’t waste it by becoming a reptile or animal.

Have a humanly week. Until next time -Joy

Source:

  1. THE EVOLUTIONARY LAYERS OF THE HUMAN BRAIN
  2. The Concept of the “Triune Brain”
  3. 3 Brains in One
  4. The Triune Brain

Categories
Health and Fitness Personal Growth

What Science tells us about a Focused Mind and how to get that?

Do you remember the story of hare and tortoise?

The story where the tortoise competes with the hare in a run. The tortoise moved very slowly and the hare was very fast. The hare thought to take a nap after seeing the tortoise way behind him. Finally, the tortoise won and the hare was sleeping even then.

I thought the hare lost due to his arrogance and the tortoise won because of its persistence. However, what I never realized was, the tortoise needed a tremendous amount of focus to persist in the race.

We all know the importance of having a focused mind in life. A distracted mind is like a football match where there is no goalpost, players have no idea where to goal. They are just running here and there.

But the bad news is, most of us have a distracted mind rather than having a focused mind. Our attention span (amount of concentrated time a person can spend without becoming distracted) is decreasing every year.

According to research, Our attention span has markedly decreased in just 15 years. In the year 2000 average attention span was 12 seconds and in the year 2015, it has reduced to just 8.25 seconds. In terms of attention span, we humans are now behind goldfish which has 9 seconds of attentiveness.

So why are we losing our attention span?

If you just search in Google about ‘Focus’ you will get thousands of articles about why focus is important and how to achieve that? However, most of them I found very surface level articles. Most of them suggest don’t overuse your smartphone, do meditation, sleep properly, etc. All these are true but when I wanted to dig deeper into the topic things became much more clear and unambiguous.

I want to share with you my findings on what is responsible for our decreasing attention span and how to regain the focused mind?

Neurologists classified attention as two types-involuntary attention and voluntary or directed attention.

What do these terms mean?

Involuntary attention refers to attention which requires no effort, such as when something exciting or interesting happens. For example, when you suddenly see a snake at the street, your attention automatically goes to towards the snake. You require no extra effort to give attention to the snake.

On the contrary, when you require effort to pay attention to something which may not be interesting to you is known as voluntary or directed attention. You need to direct your attention here, it doesn’t happen automatically. For example, when you study, exercise or write an article, you need a great deal of effort to keep your attention. Reading, writing, exercise may not be always interesting to you. So here you need to direct your attention.

Involuntary attention is an excellent adaptive force for humans, as it automatically directs your attention towards the most important or exciting thing at that moment and even alerts you from danger. Imagine how useful involuntary attention was for earlier humans in jungles. They were able to protect themselves from the dangers of the jungle due to involuntary attention capability.

But sadly, in the modern world, we use involuntary attention against our own interest. Today, what is interesting is not important and what is important is not interesting.

Images were important in earlier days to recognize things but today they are hijacked by media manager and advertisers. Images no longer capture our involuntary attention. Again what we think is important in life (such as exercise, reading or acquiring any skill) is most often not interesting to us. Thus involuntary attention is longer that useful to us compared to what it used to be for our ancestors.

Thus voluntary or directed attention becomes the only tool to fulfill our purposes.

However, our ability of directed attention is limited. It’s a limited resource (cognitive resource). That’s why your concentration levels are not same throughout the day. If you do something in the morning which requires a tremondous amount of concentration then you will find it difficult to concentrate in the afternoon/evening. How you utilize this limited cognitive resource throughout the day determines how productive your day will be.

The good news is, although voluntary or directed attention is limited, you can replenish it via doing some simple activity.

Probably, the most important thing to know would be- how and where we waste our directed attention? If we can conserve and replenish our directed focus, we will be able to accomplish more and less time.

So where do we waste our directed attention ability?

1. Mindless Entertainment:

What usually you do in your free time, like when you return from work?

If you are like most people, I assume you start browsing your social media accounts, watch Youtube/Netflix or television to chill. We think we are relaxing by doing these activities. Even I used to think so but nothing could be further from the truth.

I knew a lot of people call television a cartoon box but I was really astonished by the studies, which shows the hampering effects watching television has on our ability to concentrate. Not only that, watching TV or Youtube for a longer time prevent to replenish our voluntary attention which is necessary to focus on a job as I discussed above.

One might say, watching television require only involuntary attention, which means you don’t need any effort to watch TV, it just happens naturally.

Then how watching TV/Youtube reduces our cognitive resource (voluntary attention)?

Just because something requires our involuntary attention, that doesn’t mean it can’t drain our cognitive resources. You require some voluntary attention while watching T. V also. Consider the case when there is a movie channel and a sports channel, you have to make a deliberate choice about which one to watch. There could be conflicting situations. Thus it’s not completely effortless.

One particular exert from a research paper by Kaplan and Berman (2010) point it out beautifully-

“Television is, as Mander (1978) so effectively points out, exquisitely designed to discourage one from leaving the channel one is watching. In other words, television creates attentional capture. One indication that this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs is that a large percent of television watchers
wish that they could spend less time watching (Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002). Thus, the very act of watching would be likely to create a conflict situation. One indication that this is the case is that the longer people watch television, the more irritable they become. Thus the very activity that
many people think of as recreational is in fact increasing mental fatigue rather than reducing it.”

Guilt about watching TV is very common. Most people watch TV more than they intend to. Further studies suggest-

‘‘ . . . people reported feeling relatively less relaxed, happy, and satisfied after viewing than after the other activities studied’’

Therefore watching TV is a counterproductive means of restoring directed attention. And the same thing happens when you play video games hour after hour or browse social media for hours. All these suck our mental energy.

Now the question is if not to watch TV or browse social media then what to do instead in free times? which brings the second point

2. Replenish your voluntary attention via Nature:

According to research, one activity which has the magical ability to replenish our focus is natural environments (Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008; Kaplan, 1995).

This means simply taking a walk around natural environments like garden, lake, forest, beach or any natural scenario can bring back our ability to concentrate.

The reason viewing nature restores our voluntary attention is because this activity has high levels of soft fascination.

Soft fascination is a psychology term used to describe activities that capture our involuntary attention without utilizing our voluntary attention abilities.

Natural Environment

When we see nature, it captures our attention so minimally that it allows our mind to wander onto other thoughts. Natural environments are capable of attracting involuntary attention without interfering with other thoughts.

However, urban places are not ideal places to do this activity. Imagine you are walking through a busy street in a city. Starting from hoardings to banners of different advertisements to traffic, everything will steal will attention. We don’t call it natural environment right!

So whenever you have free time just take a walk in the nearest park or garden, observe nature closely. You will be surprised how in a quick span of time you can regain your ability to focus.

Another important thing we must do in order to conserve as well as utilize our potential to focus at it’s fullest. It’s more of an emotional rather than a physical thing. And that is-

3. Resolve your internal noise first then try to focus:

Suppose two people are running in a race. One is running with 20 kg weight with him and another one is running without any weight. Who will run faster?

It’s obvious the person without any weight will run faster. Same is the case for our ability to focus. You cannot focus on a job if you have unresolved issues in relationships, work or in anything. Carrying extra baggage of unsettled issues in mind is never a good idea when you try to concentrate.

Therefore, these unresolved problems could create a kind of internal noise that would lead to excessive demands on directed attention.

So what to do in such cases?

Resolve confusing issues in your mind. Research suggests that-

“writing about one’s feelings and experiences can have therapeutic value by
promoting reflection and limiting brooding. In addition, such writing may also reduce the inclination to suppress the thoughts and feelings that lead to stress.”

Write down your unresolved issues on a piece of paper. It will declutter your mind. If you have done something wrong and it can be corrected, then correct it first. Talk to your loved ones about your problems, seek their help. Make time to reflect on your problems which bothers you, in constructive ways.

Trying to work forcefully with problems in your mind is emotionally unhealthy and it’s not good even from the viewpoint of voluntary attention. Once you take care of your internal noises, you will feel much lighter just like that weightless runner. Your mind will be at peace and will be able to focus in a much better way.

What’s the conclusion of this article?

Proper quality sleep is indispensable to have a focused mind. Meditation also helps to achieve such a mind. But most importantly we must be aware of the activities which drain our mental energy most. We must know how we can replenish our lost mental energy. We are in a time when everyone including that author, anchor, newspaper, social media site or that multinational company wants to capture our attention. Our mental energy is, therefore, the most valuable asset we have. We must utilize it in a fruitful way to make our lives better, happier, fulfilled one.

Steve Jobs

Have a productive week. Until next time.- Joy

Source:

  1. Directed Attention as a Common Resource for Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation.
  2. The Strength Model of Self-Control
  3. Image Credit
  4. Karim Elsheikh- How to improve focus
Categories
Health and Fitness Personal Growth Science

Trehalose: A Wonder Sugar or a Double-edged Sword

From where do we get the energy to run, walk and doing other stuff?

The answer is obvious! From the food we eat, right.

Ok, but what if I tell you to dig little deeper. Let’s recall some mechanism of our body to generate energy.

You eat some food. Our body then digests that food with the help of acid and enzymes. When the body digests the food, carbohydrates in the food (starch and sugar) breaks down into another type of sugar called glucose. When small intestine in the body absorbs glucose, it leads to the formation of a special molecule called Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This ATP is used as a currency of energy in the body. Individual cells in the body transform this ATP to ADP (Adenosine triphosphate) and release energy required for bodily functions.

Have you observed whenever you eat some table sugar you get a burst of energy? Why is that?

Table sugar contains Sucrose a disaccharide or a molecule consisting of one glucose and one fructose molecule. In the body Sucrose (table sugar) breaks down into glucose (and fructose) and because of this molecule, you feel that burst of energy.

Have you seen some insects when they fly, how quickly their wings move (that needs a huge amount of energy)? So, is glucose the reason for their energy too?

Yes, but that glucose they don’t get from sucrose but from another disaccharide called trehalose. Unlike sucrose, trehalose is made up of two glucose molecule. This trehalose in insects is responsible for giving them rapid energy. This is due to the fact that one trehalose molecule produces two glucose molecule upon breakage of the glycosidic bond ( the C-O-C bond in between as in the picture below). Whereas sucrose or even starch produces only one glucose upon breakage of one glycosidic bond.

Is trehalose any special compared to sucrose?

Yes in many ways. Creatures which contains trehalose can survive in extreme cold conditions and even without water they can survive. Trehalose prevents protein aggregation which normally happens in extremely dry conditions.

Ever imagined how plants grow in deserts, where no water is there?

It’s because those plants contain trehalose and they may crack and dry out but revive again during rain due to the function of trehalose (which I will discuss later).

There has been a great amount of research done and going on about the wonder functions of trehalose and how human beings can benefit from them.

Trehalose is present in a wide variety of organisms including bacteria, fungi, insects, invertebrates and in some plants. However, humans do not contain this sugar in their body. We don’t have enzymes to produce this. The interesting thing is, we have enzymes to break trehalose (called trehalase) but not to build it.

How do we get trehalose for commercial use?

Extracting trehalose was once a difficult and very costly process. That’s why it wasn’t commercialized until the year 2000 when a Japanese (Okayama) company discovered an efficient cost-effective process to extract trehalose from starch. After that the cost of trehalose fall dramatically. Today it is available in the market at a very cheap price.

How does trehalose help to survive in extremely dry conditions?

The success of trehalose compared to structurally similar sugar can be attributed to it’s high chemical stability and high hydrophilicity.

High chemical stability because of 1,1′-glycosidic bond in trehalose makes it a non-reducing sugar, which gives it resistant towards hydrolysis in acidic conditions. It’s melting point is around 203 degrees. Its stability over a wide range of temperature and pH gives it an advantage over other sugars.

High hydrophilicity because water molecules are trapped in it due to its unique structure. In another way, the structure of trehalose disrupts the tetrahedral structure of hydrogen bonds. It gets in between the hydrogen bonds of water. Due to this disruption, water molecules cannot show it’s normal properties like crystallizing at a lower temperature. That is why trehalose is so important in organisms to survive in extreme cold weathers.

Moreover, it can stabilize DNA, stops aggregation of proteins and stabilizes membrane functions. Water is indispensable to life and trehalose helps organisms to survive in difficult conditions by manipulating normal properties of water.

How can we utilize trehalose to get maximum benefits?

Because of it’s higher thermostability and poor reactivity towards amino compounds it can mask unpleasant taste and odor of foods. Therefore, it is widely used as a preservative to maintain the quality of foods. US Food and Drug Administration recognized it as safe for humans in 2000.

Trehalose also has a suppressive effect on the oxidation of fatty acids. Oxidation of fatty acids in the body generates unsaturated aldehydes which are responsible for an unpleasant body odor, especially in older people. No wonder trehalose is a hit product in the cosmetic market.

Due to it’s ability to keep water under control, it is used as an eyedropper to treat dry eyes. Although the human body cannot generate trehalose, we have enzyme trehalase present which can break trehalose into two glucose molecule (which indicates that our body had been exposed to trehalose long back).

One of the most engrossing research studies is whether trehalose can protect human tissues from extreme weather and other oxidative stress as they do in case of lower organisms?

Some in vivo studies shows positive results in that way. However, a lot to be done in that direction.

Before we get too excited, a very recent research paper warned us about the exposure of trehalose to the human body.

C. diff (Clostridium difficile) is a deadly bacterium for humans. In recent years, UK, Europe, USA have seen an outbreak of C. diff bacterium at hospitals. The study shows that this deadly bacterium has a unique mechanism to breakdown the low concentration of trehalose and thus flourish in the body. Now trehalose is very commonly used in cake, pastry, fruit juices, chocolates due to its low calorific value. It’s no wonder if trehalose is giving the bacteria a growing environment, it will soon become a superbug (Know here about Superbug).

So what’s the conclusion about trehalose?

First of all, more research is required to know some more insights. Trehalose can be a weapon to humankind in the future. It can make us more robust and we may able to survive at the extreme conditions of nature we can’t imagine now. We may be able to eliminate a lot of deadly diseases utilizing it. To achieve that along with research we need awareness among people. It has a lot of potentials to become a boon to humankind but at the same time, we have to know the limitations.

Why awareness you are thinking?

Because who knows the sweetener in your favorite ice cream might lead to the growth of a superbug in your body.

Remember the quote by Paulo Coelho.

Have a cognizant week. Until next time. -Joy

Source:

  1. Extraction of Trehalose
  2. Pure Appl. Chem. trehalose
  3. Caution about trehalose, recent Nature Paper
  4. Trehalose: a multifunctional molecule
Categories
Biography Health and Fitness Personal Growth Uncategorized

The Power Couple from India who Revolutionizes the Healthcare Sector.

I still remember the words of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray (Celebrated Indian Chemist) about research. He said ‘ Reseach is not meant to do for yourself, research is for the upliftment of people, of society.’

The story of Dr. Abhay and Rani Bang resonates exactly with the words of
Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray. However, the story is not same for most of the researchers, especially medical professionals working in the public domain. Dr. Abhay Bang truly said-

“unfortunately, researchers often do research not for the community, but for their own peers. If you are an educated person working in places like this, even as you work with the people, your target audience knowingly or unknowingly is still your peers. Subconsciously, you are thinking, “What will I publish? What will I present at the conference? What would other non-profits or doctors like to hear?”

Unfortunately, in the limelight of news like celebrity gossip and politics, most people are not even heard about real heroes like Dr. Abhay and Rani Bang, who are working silently and making the world a better place to live for people.

So who is Dr. Abhay and Rani Bang and why you should know about them?

Well, Dr. Abhay and Rani Bang are like many of us who dreamt of making difference in the world, helping people to live better lives. The only difference is unlike most of us they put their thoughts into actions and have really left an impact on the lives of people.

Born in 1950, Wardha, Maharashtra Abhay Bang is a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Like his father, Gandhi’s thoughts left a deep impression on his mind. Probably that’s why only at the age of 13 he decided to serve people who are deprived of medical facilities in rural places of India.

He entered medical college when he was 17 and there he met his future wife Rani. Soon they become good friends as their thoughts and aspirations match. After finishing college, they began working in Kanhapur, a village near Wardha. But they realized merely running a clinic is not enough to solve people’s health problems. They moved to John Hopkins University, USA, to better understand how to carry out public health research.

After returning from the USA, they had many options, they could have chosen any city to work. However, their dream of serving needy people took them to a tribal village in the west of Maharashtra, Gadchiroli and started SEARCH (Society for Education Action and Research in Community Health) in 1986. On asking why they have chosen Gadchiroli as their vase they said-

“We chose to go where the problems are and not operate out of cities where infrastructure such as electricity and office facilities existed but were far removed from the challenges plaguing rural India,” says Dr Abhay Bang. Gadchiroli had other advantages too. “It had a unique rural and tribal population mix and offered us an ideal test-bed to research diseases affecting both tribal and rural people,” explains Dr Rani Bang” 

Everything was going fine, until one incident which became the turning point of their research. When Dr. Bang recalls that incident he said-

“It was one of the turning points, before the hospital we constructed had been built. One rainy season, it was pouring outside and it was dark. I was relaxing in the evening after a day’s work. Suddenly somebody knocked on my door. It was a young woman carrying a tiny child. The child was skin and bones. I held the baby up as there was no examination table and started examining him. He was malnourished and had severe dehydration and pneumonia. Within minutes of arriving at that diagnosis, the baby stopped breathing. I couldn’t do anything.


“The woman had come from a village 4 km away. I asked her: ‘Why didn’t you come earlier? “

She replied by telling Dr. Bang her story: her husband was an alcoholic and spent all his earnings on drink. During pregnancy, she had not eaten because of an ingrained tribal belief that if she did, it would make the baby too heavy to deliver. She developed malaria while pregnant, but there was no money to buy drugs to treat her. When the baby was born, she fed him diluted milk. Then when the baby fell sick, she took him to a witch doctor who sacrificed a chicken for 200 rupees. When that didn’t work, she started walking to Dr. Bang but a river that lay across her path had swollen and burst its banks. She could not cross because there was no bridge: the government had promised to build one, but it had been lying incomplete for years.

“I felt very miserable when she told me this story,” says Dr Bang. “That baby died because of many factors: poverty, a wrong belief system, an alcoholic husband and corruption.”

The child’s death affected them deeply and they turn their focus to infant mortality. To their surprise, they found that almost 121 children died within one year of birth and the major cause was pneumonia. Highest in the country at that time. In search of a solution, they discovered a breath counter instrument to diagnose pneumonia. The breath counter instrument found to be very effective and once diagnosed, infants were given antibiotics to cure.

Within just two years, infant mortality rate reduces up to 80 percent in the district. Their method found to be very crucial in India and later adopted by many countries all over the world.

According to WHO norms- ill-born infants should be rushed to a hospital but in Gadchiroli district, hospitals were far and few. This forced the couple to think about building a modern hospital near the village. However, for people of Gadchiroli, there were problems with modern hospitals. What was that? According to Dr. Bang-

” The villagers said they were scared to go to hospital,” he says. “When we asked why, they told us something fascinating. They said: ‘Your doctors and nurses drape themselves in white clothes. We wrap dead bodies in white shawls. How can you save lives if you are dressed like a dead person?’ They said: ‘When they admit a patient, we can only visit between 3pm and 6pm and we don’t have wristwatches. We don’t have anywhere to stay in town, so we go back to the village. The patient doesn’t want to stay on their own.”

They soon understood the western style of the hospital is not going to work here. Dr. Bang’s solution was to build a hospital consisting of a series of huts that looked like a tribal village so that patients could stay with their relatives. They even named the hospital after the suggestion of villagers as ‘Maa Danteswari Dawakhana‘. This couple is the perfect example who showed being a doctor and a researcher doesn’t only mean to cure disease or collecting data but being sensitive to the patient’s emotions, their needs.

Later, SEARCH founded by the duo identified one woman from each village and trained her as a village health worker. Their training included checking the newborn’s weight, temperature, and breathing, maintaining hygiene, giving injections/antibiotics (if needed) and maintaining a complete record. The success of these health workers inspired the Indian government to initiate ASHA (Accredit Social Health Activist), a community health worker for every village. Not only the Indian government but policymakers from different countries visited Gadchoreli to implement health sector strategies of Dr. Abhay and Rani Bang in their countries.

The duo has also set up community-based de-addiction camps to free people from the addiction of alcohol which was a major problem in the district. In 1992 due to their movement government had to shut down all the licensed liquor shops in the district. These changed the lives of people in Gadchiroli.

Finally, the world has recognized their work. SEARCH has received the MacArthur Foundation International Award for creative and social work.
In 2005, TIME magazine honored the couple and included them in its list of 18 Global Health Heroes. Recently, they were awarded Padma Shri ( fourth highest civilian award in India) by the government of India.

Their life and work is a big lesson for people who think themselves as intellectuals. Research is not only about doing experiments in a laboratory and concluding about people’s lives based on that. According to Dr. Abhay Bang, there are three ways to conduct research-

  1. Research on the people: where one uses people as guinea pigs.
  2. Research for the people: where one try to find solutions for people’s problem.
  3. Research with the people: where one serve people by empowering them, develop solutions that involve people.

What did they get doing all these except few awards and interviews from media?

Of course, they didn’t start all these to achieve just recognition. They wanted to serve people, make a healthier lifestyle for them. One can see the satisfaction in their eyes when Dr. Rani Bang in one of her interviews said-

” When I look back over these 30 years, I feel very happy to see that child mortality has gone down, the women are now seeking care for their gynaecological problems. We may not have earned money but the love and affection whicy they give, that is the most important thing.”

After getting the Padma Shri and awards from all over the world, they got many attractive offers from governments and other organizations. But they chose to stay back and restrict their work to Gadchiroli.

“Without Gadchiroli, Rani and I are zero. This is our lab, where we see a problem, measure it, develop solutions, field-test them … and when we succeed, we try to bring about a policy change that benefits people across the country,” explains Dr. Abhay Bang.

Hats off to such people who are driving the country, the world towards growth and making the world a better place for everyone. The least we can do is to recognize such people and take some inspiration from them to use our knowledge for the betterment of us and people around us. And I must tell you about one of my favorite quote from Dr. Abhay Bang-

” Think locally, Act globally”

One favorite quote of the duo by Albert Einstien-

Have a compassionate week. Until next time. – Joy

Source:

  1. Dr. Bang interview by the Guardian
  2. Giving Infants the gift of people.
  3. Research for whom
  4. The Better India