Incredible vitality and getting back to nature with film director Pedram Shojai #1
Zestology Guest: Pedram Shojai
At the start of 2014 I travelled to the Philippines for a long-awaited holiday. We travelled to a fancy retreat in the jungle, and that was where my problems started. I got ill in the middle of nowhere. Booking an emergency flight home from Manila was only the start of my problems. I developed serious numb patches on my face, and extreme fatigue. I ended up having three months off work. The doctors said it might be glandular fever, but they didn't really know. It was a scary time, and since then I have really focused on my health and energy as I slowly fought back to full health.
Now I'm feeling much better, but the more I spoke to people, the more I realised that so many of us are feeling stressed, lacking in energy or motivation, and for whatever reason would love a little more spring in our step.
It's a subject that's close to my heart, and ties in with much of the stuff I've been blogging about over the last few years, so today I launch my new podcast - Zestology.
If you want more energy, vitality and purpose in your life, then Zestology is for you. I don't claim to know all the answers, but each week I'll be speaking to an incredible list of experts who have some practical ideas to start feeling more energy straight away. Plus as you'll hear, we have a lot of fun along the way.
To launch the show I have a fantastic guest - Dr. Pedram Shojai. Pedram is a world renowned author, filmmaker, and medical doctor who's made two awesome films, Origins and Vitality (available on netflix). They're both about living life with more energy and purpose, so he really is the perfect guest to kick it off.
You can click below right now and listen on any device. Or save this email for later and listen to it when you've got a little time spare. It's hopefully perfect for a car journey, walk to work, or whenever you feel like a little inspiration.
Click below to stream this podcast now...
When you listen you'll hear:
- How to feel healthy like you're in your 20s (whatever age you actually are)
- The outstanding morning routine that you can put into place tomorrow morning
- What to do in the middle of your day to boost your vitality levels
- How turning the lights down in the evening can make you sleep better
- The incredible stats on people that sit more than 6 hours a day
- We sit more than we sleep. How to sort this out
- How sitting impacts our physiology in a very powerful way, and how you can practically sort this out during your working day.
- How the body is having a hard time with our departure from nature
- How companies can take really simple steps to increase productivity, and well-being
- How nap rooms at work have proven that productivity increases. (I love the idea of nap rooms)
- When to drink coffee and when to stop!
- The power of proper rest.
- The worrying impact that reading/watching too much news has on your energy levels
- The power of 'media fasting' and the super-simple way you can do this
- When to check your emails, and when to leave them well alone
- Make sure you listen to the end as Pedram's final tip for more energy and vitality is a beauty
Tony Wrighton: Today’s guest is Pedram Shojai, the founder of well.org, an author, documentary filmmaker, having made two fantastic films - Vitality and Origins, and am really chuffed he’s here, Pedram hello.
Pedram Shojai: Hey! great to be here.
Tony Wrighton: Let me start by asking you, kind of what your journey was to making two films like these about energy, vitality and well-being. How did you arrive at that place?
Pedram Shojai: Haha. I guess, as a doctor I got tired of repeating myself, uhh… it would be a short answer, hehe… you know I... I worked with thousands of patients over the years and got to a point where I realized you know, that a lot of the advice that I was giving was pretty much the same; and had a lot to do with lifestyle, had a lot to do about how were living, and how modern people tend to get into trouble and uhh… you know just… you know when I started consulting with a number of companies, especially in the United States, it’s the healthcare is a mess. And as I started consulting with a number of companies I realized there was losing millions and millions of dollars annually on lifestyle diseases that were so preventable; and I started recording and making more video assets available and realized that man, this is a… this is the way in America; you… you can sit there and watch tv and get inundated with drug ads and one day I was sitting there - my wife was watching a show; I was working on my laptop and I encountered 8 drug ads in half an hour and realized that this was a propaganda war and people were being convinced that they needed drugs instead of being told that they should probably just eat right; and so I said “that’s it am getting into film”, and made some calls in Hollywood and took about 4 years to really kind of round it out and start doing it right but uhh… here we are.
Tony Wrighton: Well, the whole emphasis of vitality on what kind of change we can make, to live life with more energy and health, and passion and adventure, and you know you focused quite a bit on what you just mentioned. Not necessarily popping pills and trying to mask the problem, is that, you mentioned your medical background is that quite different? I’m imaginin’ the answer’s gonna be yes, from most medical doctors… from most MDs as we call them in the states.
Pedram Shojai: Ahh… you know there’s a lot of well-intentioned docs all around, and you know the problem is the system has become way too convoluted and doctors, what’s being required of doctors, is to be the frontline in a war that’s a lifestyle and a kind of life management problem. And so you know doctors have a tremendously, you know, good training in isonomy[?] and you get hit by a bus, you wanna go to a doctor; and you get diabetes, it’s probably good to talk to the doctor, but at that point… what you gonna do about your diet? How are you exercising? You know, are you getting enough sleep? How are you managing your stress?, and our physicians in the system just aren’t geared up for that, right? that wasn’t their job from the get go and it grew in to that and that became a huge part of the problem because most of medical doctors in the United States are trained in interventionist pharmacological type of medicine, which is, you know - if this… then this drug, and that does not necessarily work well for lifestyle diseases and 80 percent of the stuff we are spending money on is lifestyle diseases. It’s how we eat, sleep, exercise; all these things that are far more our hands and the balls in our court, not necessarily the doctors so it’s just really kind of a reallocation of where the responsibility lies and I know that’s, you know, a taboo thing to talk about in the west but you know, we gotta step up and take responsibility for our own health and when we do so, the pay-out is actually vitality. And we feel better, we have mental clarity, we do better, we excel, we thrive, and all these types of things that you know, have been missing from your average humdrum life in the west and those things are inextricably linked but somehow people don’t put two and two together; and again that’s why I started making movies.
Tony Wrighton: Well… I mean listen, I’ve seen both movies and I actually absolutely loved them and I loved the message and am sure there’s other people listening who are thinking; first they’re thinking “Yes! This sounds great”; then thinking, “hmm how?” So if we kind of, I mean you know the emphasis as you say is, really on lifestyle so can we kind of dig in to a couple of things that you go into on both the movies.
Pedram Shojai: Sure yeah.
Tony Wrighton: Yeah.
Pedram Shojai: I mean yeah, vitality kinda became a super system of looking at health in a simplistic way where you have diet, exercise, sleep, and mind set and each of those is a wheel like a spoke on a wheel of vitality and if those are turning and each of em is working as they should, then you have vitality. I call it energy economics. Then you have a net surplus of energy which will then you know, feed your brain and you know, enhance your mood and get you to help the old lady across the street, and all the wonderful things that make us human but when you are down and we can all relate to this, right? I mean, when you’re down in energy, when you’re just not feeling well, when you’re robbing people to pay Paul [?], and you’re just trying to get through your day, you know, that’s when we’re not our best selves and that’s usually a product of our inability to extract energy from our food well and it’s our inability to recover and use our recovery systems the way they’re supposed to, and we just push through and spend a lot of energy and try to you know, just do more every day and that’s not necessarily the winning formula for people who are you know, in it for the long haul. And let’s face it we are all living longer but the quality of life is diminishing cause we just don’t feel well, we don’t have the energy, and don’t feel like doing anything anymore.
Tony Wrighton: Yeah, I mean, what are the things that springs to mind… There is you mentioned the fight or flight mode, and the stress hormones, and I think it was crisis mode that you mentioned, and how it makes us less intelligent. Tell us a bit more about that because I must admit; firstly, I was fascinated by it and secondly, I was watching and thinking “Yeah when I go into crisis mode, I am less intelligent”. It really spoke to me that. Yeah.
Pedram Shojai: Well it’s just basic bio[?] so my second movie ‘Origins’, we went to Africa and we looked at the original settings under which our ancestors kind of stumbled out of the last ice age from; and you know, what did food look like, what did stress look like and you know getting chased by a lion, or you know feeling like your family is starving to death, and meaning to go you know, make things happen drove our survival genes and helped us thrive. But the circuitry that lights up in the brain when you’re in fight or flight, and the endocrinology the stuff that happens under the hood is really telling. And if you look at how the chronic stress has plagued our civilization, at this point, especially western civilization, you can see why people are making poor decisions because when we are in trouble, what happens is the body will reallocate blood and resources, and energy to the big muscles to get us in and out of the situation. And what that does, is it also pulls the blood out of the pre frontal cortex into the hind brain so we can just be quick and instinctive and you know, quickly you know, triage this disaster you know, try to avert it and then go back to rest and digest and what happens with us is the stress never ends; and we constantly cue our brains to pull the blood back into the hind brain but that pre frontal cortex is where we have our higher moral reasoning. Its where are negation of impulses happen. Its where we see that cookie and say to ourselves “no we don’t need that right now” versus devouring it; because you’re starving, and you’re stressed, and you’re hungry, and then you wake up you know, out of your fog an hour later and realized you just you know, put down 6 cookies because you just - you weren’t feeling yourself and so these are the types of things that happen with stress. These are the type of things that happen when we trigger our survival circuitry which was there to get us in and out of crisis situations, and now every time you open up your property tax bill or you know, some car cuts you off on the motorway the same circuitry lights up and our bodies are just not geared up to live there; so how do you manage stress? What do you do to avoid that type of toxic build-up of cortisol and adrenaline? And things has become… has really become a question of our generation, because we are really really compressed. We’re under a lot of stress and its making us make bad decisions, and its causing us to not be as cool with each other, and it’s also telling our physiology to store fat around the waist line and basically conserve it for a rainy day, and all these things are why people keep going to the doctor and why people keep going on crash diets all the time and I was just tired of seeing all the nonsense out there and I mean everyone’s on a diet all the time and no one’s looking at the core cause, which is you know the stress response and a lot of it is, you know the terrible food choices that are made by just eating manufactured foods that the body doesn’t recognize as food and that’s… we really got into that in the second movie - talking about just the departure from nature and how the body is having a hard time with that.
Tony Wrighton: Now another thing, I wanted to ask you about was - you talked about hunching over desks and people sitting down. We sit more than we sleep, was the line that I remembered. Tell us a little bit more about that and how, well I suppose doing less of that can give us more energy.
Pedram Shojai: Yeah, that’s the crisis of our modern day is, you know this called sitting is the new smoking and I know a couple of researchers down at Harvard and Ohio who pioneered some of these work and…
Tony Wrighton: That… that is such a big statement isn’t it? People … you know most people would be sitting down listening to this now.
Pedram Shojai: Yeah and there is a 62 or 66 percent higher mortality rate for people who sit more than 6 hours a day. And so if we just look at what we’re doing differently than our ancestors; it’s a pretty good place to start. And so these chairs that we have, that’s not a natural way for us to sit. I mean, if you look at our ancestors they used to cruise around, hunting and forging, climbing trees, swimming across rivers, doing all sorts of 3 dimensional activity and doing a lot of things on the ground, you know having the flexibility and the core strength to hold yourself up and now we use furniture to prop us up and we sit there for ungodly amounts of time not getting up to take breaks and stretch and do all the things that we are, you know, more inclined to do because we have all these deadlines and spreadsheets that we’re stuck on, and what we’re seeing is, it’s impacting the physiology in a very powerful way. I mean, we have been working with companies for a number of years now just getting them to implement standing desks, get up and walk, get up and stretch, all sorts of different things to keep the blood moving and it’s a very very big deal for health and the studies are out there and they’re alarming; and you know, think about it this way, I mean if you, your average westerner is sleeping less than 8 hours a day, but they’re working more than 8 hours a day and at least in America, it’s an hour commute on average, right? And then busy urban environments, double that. And so, those are all times that you’re sitting and you’re not using your muscles. Your blood isn’t pumping, you’re stiffening up, you’re crunching your back and you’re basically creating an environment for your physiology to say that, this animal isn’t moving, this animal isn’t thriving, and therefore this animal won’t survive. And it starts to really change our epigenetic expression to one of a dying a beast versus, you know, when we can run around and scramble, and climb trees, and hike a mountain and all these types of things which cue, epigenetically cue our bodies, to say oh wow this is you know, this is a good thing. Let’s keep going and then it starts building lean muscle mass, it starts doing all kinds of wonderful things to help us move up in a virtuous cycle of health versus shutting down and saying well you know back in the 20s when my glory days and it’s all downhill from here and that’s all just genetic programming that gets kicked in by us being incredibly stagnant and you know look I don’t make the rules but, science is out there so what we need to do if we wanna be smart is to work within the parameters of understanding how our bodies and our mind thrive. And using our lifestyles and hacking our environment so that we do better. And so if you’re gonna sit there and get crunchy for 8 hours a day at the office, its slow suicide. And so I’ve been working with companies all over the world really, in helping bring some more life and vitality to their employees by just getting them to, you know, stand and stretch and do things that are pretty basic and all of a sudden you see absenteeism go down, and presentism[?] go down, their health care costs go down, the morale goes… all sorts of…
Tony Wrighton: Really? you can measure that by the stats?
Pedram Shojai: Well, yeah yeah. I mean that’s the, we’ve sophisticated software that starts looking at all these stuff and you know it takes a few months to you know for the numbers to start really trickling in, but within a couple of weeks you could really see the difference with the morale, and the mood and all of the subjective measures, and it makes a difference. It moves the needle and it’s just common sense approach that companies that make billions of dollars a year won’t look at because they’re too busy you know, focused on paying you know exorbitant healthcare dollars and you know, accepting that as just part of their loss. And UK is all different because you have national healthcare. But in America, 50 percent of corporate profits right now are going towards healthcare and its bankrupting this country and now companies are paying attention but you know, 10-15 years ago when I first started teaching this; I was amazed that how unsophisticated these multi-billion dollar companies where when it came to just taking care of their own populations.
Tony Wrighton: And yeah and over here, even more money goes on healthcare than anything else. It’s a bigger issue for people in the upcoming election than anything else. Anything that can bring costs down should be embraced but despite that because I mean, you know when you say doing more exercise will make us happier and give us more energy; actually, you know it’s quite logical. It makes quite a lot of sense but despite all that, it’s quite a forward thinking idea for companies to take on board isn’t it?
Pedram Shojai: Yeah. But I mean, we start looking at the companies that have really kinda come in and ushered in a new era, you look at these Silicon Valley companies they have nap rooms, everyone’s playing ping pong…
Tony Wrighton: Oh that’s great! I love a nap room at work that’s great!
Pedram Shojai: Awe it’s the best! And you know, what I’ve worked with a consultant who’s the CEO of Avida and a couple of these major companies who started doing these 20 years ago and the numbers are there, the productivity actually went up with a break-nap/meditation room because guess what? What you’re gonna do when you feel tired and brain fog is setting in and you can’t focus on your work is you gonna go reach for some coffee, and you gonna force yourself to look productive and you’re gonna be less productive, and you’re gonna get more cranky and your output isn’t gonna be as good; and then you’re not gonna sleep as well that night which means the next morning’s gonna suck. And it just keeps going until you have to go take a stress leave and so what happens is letting people rest when they need to, giving them a break to go stretch and do what they need to do, and just keep their bodies healthy is proving to be better for the output of these companies, people are doing better, the employees are happier, and the jobs getting done and so that whole 1950s model for how society is supposed to look; and you know the father goes to work and mother takes care of the children, all that stuff, is already you know, those days are over. And so the new world I mean, women are working just as much as man and you know everyone’s trying to figure out how to deal with child car. Everyone’s running around trying to figure out who they are in the modern world, and it’s completely different yet, the corporate model revolves around people still showing up parking themselves up in these office chairs and putting in their 8 hours under the fluorescent lights and it’s just a miserable old model that is upside down right now, because the companies that are you know kinda young, ambitious and thriving are proving that you don’t need to do any of that to have a successful company what you gotta do is keep people happy and healthy.
Tony Wrighton: And in, you know, 40-50 years’ time… do you think we’ll all appreciate that we’ll be standing up at work? and you know, having naps in the afternoon and have incredible life that make us feel good; or do you think this is just something that will always be around? But perhaps more and more people will get involved and kinda appreciate these issues.
Pedram Shojai: Uhh you know, am hoping that it’s everywhere. I will tell you that in 3 markets; one of things that has gotten me working with a lot of companies is the cost of employee retention and the recruitment cost for good talent and all that… and all these companies basically rushing to set up wellness programs and incentive programs to bring over quality talent. Now if you, you know run some sweat shop in China and are running some sort of dark middle aged business, God willing that that has been resolved 40 years from now and if it hasn’t I think we have a problem cause we’re still spewing coal into the air and killing the planet but I think the writings on the wall and now companies are moving over fast as they can cause people are demanding it. The millennials won’t have it and everyone understands that there is a degree of work life balance is necessary and there has been a couple of generations that have been cannon fodder for the corporations and now the millennials are just over it. They wanna live their lives, they wanna go to their concerts, they go to the gym, right? Am alone in my office right now because my entire staff is at the gym and...
Tony Wrighton: Wow!
Pedram Shojai: ...and that’s what they do mid-day because that’s what we encourage.
Tony Wrighton: That’s great! I sometimes wonder you know, in a couple of generations from now what will they say about us, when they look back they’ll say, “Oh poor them living back in 2015”.
Pedram Shojai: Yeah. I mean same way, we look back at commercials of medical doctors endorsing camel cigarettes maybe 40 years ago, right? We look back and say “Oh my goodness what kind of moronic society we live in where our doctors were endorsing cigarette brands on national television.” And fast forward 40 years here we are. And so I think that’s gonna continue to happen because we just you know our progress has been amazing. Our technological development has been incredible and just really, incredible time in human history and our ability to create things, and understand things differently and you know manipulate some of the forces of nature if you will, has really taken us on to some very uncharted territory and some of it has been a challenge. I mean, we talked about that in our ‘Origins’ movie is like not all progress is necessarily good and we have a lot of environmental and health concerns that are coming from us messing with food and putting chemicals in everything and that’s part of the rethinking of how we consider civilization, and how we consider progress for the years to come and so you know are we gonna power our grids with solar energy and put you know carbon back into the ground or we gonna kill our planet? These are all existential dilemmas that we now have in front of us as a society and our you know, we’re in a position where we now have to face some of these difficult issues because we’ve grown to the point where what we’re what we’re doing is you know really challenging the environment we live in.
Tony Wrighton: What do you think, I mean there are several things that provoke that fight or flight mode. You mentioned driving. What about checking mobile phones? Technology constantly being switched on? Would you include that in the fight or flight mode as well?
Pedram Shojai: Sure. I mean we’re constantly looking for danger. And we’re constantly looking for information that’s you know helping us understand whether or not we’re safe, right? And so when we were in Africa filming the ‘Origins’ movie there was about 900 birds that were kind of indigenous to the area we were in and we had to learn, I don’t know, about 120 different bird calls, were the minimum we had to learn while there because if you’re walking in the tall grass and you hear an oxpecker that means there’s a buffalo nearby and your life is in danger…
Tony Wrighton: Uh-hmm…
Pedram Shojai: …and so you need to learn all the alarm calls in the environment in which you dwell so that you’re survival instinct were kinda finally tuned to that. Now, I mean most people don’t know bird call from a dog barking but we all know the sound of screeching car tires makes us jump, right? And so the information in the news that just constantly comes through your mobile device or… you know, great example is I was just flying back in an airport last week. And I was sitting there just kinda answering some emails, I got to my flight early and there was a CNN, which is the American news network here that was blasting on a tv just above me and it was nauseating because it was all about crisis and breaking news and you know what kind of trouble you’re in and what to be afraid of and I had to move because it was like my body was just not accustomed to such a barrage of information that was really designed to make me feel unsafe and so between the media and just our lives in you know things that happen, there’s a lot there and so I absolutely agree, I mean, I do media fasting and I only check my email and my phone at dedicated times during the day because if not, I would never be able to get anything done.
Tony Wrighton: Well what would that actually look like in your day, because I try to have at least 2 hours when am not connected at all, sometimes 4 hours a day but I mean you know, working in media it can be hard.
Pedram Shojai: Oh yeah... I mean we don’t have easy jobs, but you know I’ll get up, spend time with my family, run the dogs, spend quality time with my wife and my child in the mornings, I’ll take a quick 15 minutes run to the morning emails and just star the ones that need immediate attention and you know deal with anything that’s none, you know, that’s like a quick answer here and then I’ll leave it and I’ll you know eat my breakfast, go to the office and just get really focused on what my main activity for the day’s gonna be and get the, you know.. use the best brain power I have first thing in the morning and just chunk out a couple hours of quality time to get that stuff done then I’ll get to my emails, then I’ll start letting other people’s demands of my day step in because if not you’re constantly dealing with what people are asking of you instead of doing what you set out to do that day. And so I think time management is an epidemic you know in the west and we all have very very very poor boundaries and poor time management is poor event management. And you know it goes back to that pre frontal cortex, is my ability to be effective in life really is predicated on my ability to say ‘no’ to things that get in the way of my goals. But we’re so lousy at saying no to things that we take on way more than we can handle and then we wonder why we didn’t get things done by the end of the day. We are more stressed out, and more burdened by Wednesday than we were on Monday instead of feeling like we’re chunking our time and getting things done and making progress in life.
Tony Wrighton: Okay so, checking, kind of emails less and a bit of a digital detox at times throughout the day, but you mentioned news, I mean, I agree am very aware of when am watching a news channel, and particularly in these times and the specific time that we live in, the news is really depressing all over the world…
Pedram Shojai: Hmm-hmm.
Tony Wrighton: …am very aware of the effect it has on my state and yet, these are very important times and I feel if you want to be able to make a difference you have to be well informed and the way to do that is to watch the news. It’s very important to know what’s going on as well.
Pedram Shojai: Yeah, but am gonna respectfully disagree on how you take on the media. What I do is I’ll spend 5 minutes looking at the headlines in the morning and then drill in to see if there’s any stories that I need to read about and I will ingest the news at my own pace, on my terms, the news take issue with, am not saying being an ostrich and put your head in the hole, what I’m saying is, is when you sit there and CNN is blaring, it is the same garbage over and over and over again and because… we’re both in the media and it’s all about ratings and keeping people watching and all these kind of stuffs that all the advertisers stay on, it’s just a bunch of sensationalized stuff constantly looping your attention back into staying focused on that tv so that CNN can make more money off their advertisers and that’s where the trap really is. You really do need to know what’s going on the world but the way you ingest it really makes a difference between the winners and the losers. I mean, the people I know that take that know what’s going on the world are people who read. Watching tv news is a big challenge unless you’re weighing on… there’s a few networks out there that are kinda doing it right, get in, get out, tell you what you need to know. But for the most part, it’s push media versus pull media and am much more of a fan of going to have RSS feeders out there of stuff that I am interested in and need to stay current on and the rest of the time. I just kinda browse the headline and make sure am not you know, am not you know, lost in the world, but sitting there watching 45 minutes of the same show gives you basically 3 headlines, a couple interviews that aren’t very meaningful and very little depth and you just wasted more of your time that you could have spent making the world a better place and being part of the solution instead being frozen into a stupor taking in you know how powerless you are and so that’s really I think the difference in stance is how you consume media.
Tony Wrighton: Absolutely! And actually, it’s a good reminder this, to me, because every once in a while, I need a bit of reminder especially with social media. I mean, twitter’s the main one you know because not only are you getting that kinda depressing news, is dividing your attention to half and half again because you never actually focus on anything, it’s just a constant scroll down for the next article that you might, maybe be interested in or not.
Pedram Shojai: Yeah, and that’s where I think there’s a lot of tech that helps you curate that. I mean, I use Google reader for a lot of things and I am selective about what shows up on my desktop, because my desktop is a reflection of my mind and if am going to muddy my mind with more stuff than is necessary then am never gonna be focused, happy, and calm and so you know; I think when we kinda talk about mastering life and doing things as you know, my next book is called the ‘Urban Monk’, right? And it’s all about understanding how to kinda be in command and stay on your perch while living in these kinda hectic modern times and…
Tony Wrighton: Great title!
Pedram Shojai: …Thank you! Thank you very much! It’s... I had so much fun writing this book because part of my whole thing is the experience of it, we’re doing a tv show and just kind of making peace with it and you know; I just am doing what I would encourage all urban monks to do, which is you know, living that way and it’s working and it has been working for me for 20 years so it’s just a fun process but you know again, it’s you have to control the inner phase of your mind if not that barrage of nonsense, garbage, junk of data coming in is so overwhelming that even the most intelligent people I know would be you know basically mental basket cases within a couple of weeks of sitting there taking all these on and not staying focused on their goals, their dreams, their aspirations and you know what the.. Main pieces that are valuable to them and their life are. I mean, you have family, you have your relationship, you have your health and all these things seem to fall off when the other information crowds in and then people say why I never have time to go to the gym but that’s not accurate, you haven’t made time to go to the gym, because you have allowed too many other things in.
Tony Wrighton: Let’s dig in on a couple of these specific things that you mentioned which could help increase our levels of energy and vitality. One of the things I love was you talked about turning down the lights in the evening, being more natural in our approach to life. Now, actually, as we record this interview, it’s quite late here in the UK and I’ve got a bright computer monitor in front of me so probably not doing the right thing but tell me a little bit more about turning down the lights in the evening and I think you even mentioned using candles and natural light, that kind of thing.
Pedram Shojai: Sure and a little helper for you is, there’s a great app I’ve been using – flux. F.L.U.X. and basically based on where you’re at on the time scale, it will shift out the blue light and keep that from hitting your forehead and you know the moral of the story is, for hundreds of thousands of years, we evolved in nature and as the light of the sun would start to diminish, it cued our brains to start shutting down, slowing down and preparing to restore our tissue and detox the brain and all sorts of wonderful things we know in medicine happen in sleep and the flip side being how crazy we get when we don’t sleep. But the pineal gland, is a light sensitive organ sitting there right in the middle of your forehead. The ancients call it the third eye, but it is light sensitive and through the optic nerve hitting specific parts of the brain triggering the brain to know that there’s still light out tells our metabolism in our subtle physiology to keep cranking because obviously it’s light out, go get food animal, right? And so all of these primitive systems that have evolved around the cycles of light that are harmonious with the nature around us have now kind of fallen by the way side and you’re sitting there watching some tv with a tablet on your lap, you know 2.4ghz phone sitting on your ear and you know lights on on every room and music blaring and it’s just.. It’s a sensory overload for a system that has really evolved to go down. I mean if you look at delta waves sleep, its 1-3 Hz and if you look at normal incandescent light bulb, it’s 60 Hz. So we’re bathing ourselves in fast frequency light that is stimulating our brains to say get up and march, go get food, you can’t relax right now, and because we have not been allowing ourselves to take in that darkness, there’s been a tremendous loss and that loss… I mean, I used to own sleep labs and you know kinda been very big in sleep medicine, that loss has been our physiology, sleep is where all of the good stuff happens. We heal, we replace tissue, we clear out our brains, and what we call… now learning is like the glympathic nervous system and all of the wonderful things that help us reset and process the day before us happen at night when we’re allowed to shut down but when you got light pounding your forehead. You’re telling your brain that it’s not okay to shut down because it’s still time to hunt. And that is something that’s an enormous challenge that we’re gonna have in modern culture and I’ve recommended to you know hundreds of patients of this planet, when you have insomnia, go by candle light, I mean by all means, don’t go to your tech after about 7pm I start shutting down, I don’t do tech and you know try to spend as much quality time with my child and my wife and just conversation and time around meals and easing into a good night sleep and you know it’s difficult for a lot of people. But you know, a lot of the same people complain about being stressed out, wound up, always you know worked up over something and not sleeping so the solution usually isn’t a drug. A drug is a band aid. The solution is changing the rhythms of life so that there just not as hectic and fast at night.
Tony Wrighton: I’ve just switched the screen down really low on brightness.
Pedram Shojai: Nice.
Tony Wrighton: Yeah. I was actually, with a friend recently, and I was talking to her about your recommendations and it was quite a meedy[?] evening and we were quite it hyper and you know, we were having a nice night, a couple of glasses of wine and we ended up turning off all the lights and lighting a couple of candles and instantly, we were just a little bit more chilled out. And it really had quite a profound, I mean a fact to say a little, it really did relax us and the whole level of conversation became a bit more relaxed and it did have quite a profound effect, and you know am in the city so there’s still lights coming in from, artificial lights coming in from the outside from the windows but it did have a big difference.
Pedram Shojai: Yeah. It’s not even subtle. And so you know, it doesn’t take much, like you just said, I mean you did one evening and you can tell immediately what the difference was and it’s just that we’re wound up, right? It’s like jaywalking, it’s like running across the street and then you get to the other side, you’re outta danger but for some reason you’re still running and it’s like we forget to slow down because that perpetual motion keeps us going. And so it just takes some reminders you know, it just takes working with friends to understand that this is probably in you know, in our mutual benefit, does that mean stay home and you know throw out your tech and all that? No, I mean look I you know, it’s life and technology are kind of intertwined at this point but just learning how to find some better balance with the tech and the light and you know just the fast paced living makes a profound difference and like I said, I mean thousands of patients I’ve worked with over the years and making some these simple lifestyle recommendations has really helped them not be basically bound by drugs in their lives.
Tony Wrighton: Pedram, you’ve given us some practical tips at kind of change things today and also some food for thought, before you go… what is one, one book that you’d recommend, I asked everyone this. One book that you’d recommend and one tip for living our lives with more energy. So one book and one tip for living lives with more energy and vitality.
Pedram Shojai: Sure. There’s a book am reading right now that first came to mind and I think it’s a very important read –“This changes everything” by Naomi Kline. She’s done a lot of work in climate change, and really kind of understanding the nature of you know how we’re kinda running our world and it’s a very good read and one tip for vitality which is absolutely critical and is you know, a big part of everything that one needs to do is, get up in the morning, get some fresh air and move your body first thing. I jump start it, right? And you know that kind of just segues into saying no more caffeine afternoon but getting your start and setting your circadian rhythm to have kind of your maximal output in the morning keeps you fresh, gets you going and then allow your day to descend after 2 or 3’oclock so that you go home and you’re less wired in the evening and you know you sleep by 9 or whatever time it is that’s important and you’ll see that your life will start to change without as much as chemical intervention.
Tony Wrighton: That’s great. Now, I know ‘Vitality’ is on Netflix and ‘Origins’ available free on YouTube. Isn’t it? Why did you… why did you take that decision because ‘Origins’ is a very high spec movie and you’ve obviously spent a lot of time on it. Why did you not release it on Netflix or put it in the cinema. Why did you give it away for people?
Pedram Shojai: Yeah, well, just to be clear, we did pre-screening on YouTube and in June it goes on into a number of those platforms, and then we’ll be able to do some limited free screenings throughout the year but what I really wanted to do was make sure that I shared the gift of ‘Origins’ with the world and didn’t gate guard it for people who wanted to see it because I made that movie for my children’s children’s children, and I really do do the things that I do to help make the world a better place and you know the money and all these other things are really secondary to the mission of well.org and the stuff that we do so we made the decision to share the movie and make it free at first for the first couple… we did a 3 week free screening and we’re gonna open it up again around Earth day and help people, we have… I don’t know, 36 different language requests right now and people from all over the world, it’s shared you know, almost 300,000 times just in those 2 weeks and that to me is a success metric because it’s about getting the message out and making sure that as many people feel empowered to change their lives and change their immediate environment as possible, and the rest of the business considerations and all that kind of stuff is secondary. Just do what’s right and help the world is my motto and then you know, that was a decision we made, I mean my… a lot of our business partners were not happy about it. But it was the right thing to do.
Tony Wrighton: Good stuff. Awesome. Well listen, you mentioned well.org. Where can we find more about you?
Pedram Shojai: Yep, well.org. is our website. We have tons of information there. We have a really great program that we’re just kind of bringing back to mainstream now. It’s on live.well.org so live.well.org and you know it’s part of my urban monk academy and just trying to share as much of my wisdom in all these years with people in as user friendly of a way and so it’s been a lot of fun, I love what I do. I’m happy to be able to call it work. It’s a lot of work but like you know when you’re doing stuff that is meaningful. It’s just you get up every day and you’re happy to you know go do it
Tony Wrighton: Thank you so much Pedram! I’m gonna turn all my lights off, have a good stretch, set my alarm for 6am, go for a long walk. I feel quite inspired.
Pedram Shojai: Excellent! Excellent! Well then, my job here is done.
Tony Wrighton: Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. Good luck with all the projects and I really do urge everyone to watch ‘Origins’ and ‘Vitality’ cause they’re really good films. Pedram, thank you!
Pedram Shojai: Cheers! Thank you very much Tony!
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