Together we can abolish Daylight Savings Time

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

Dark Side of the Moon album art.

“And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking, racing around to come up behind you again”

-From the lyrics for Time, performed by Pink Floyd

 

It’s that time of year again. Here in the US we will be adjusting our clocks back one hour on Sunday, and Tuesday we will be voting in local and national elections. As the two events coincide I thought it would be a good opportunity to briefly examine the subject from a preventive health perspective, as it will clearly take action by our state or federal governments to end this confusing and arguably unhealthy practice.

Utah ponders, Russia acts

It is difficult for me to imagine having much in common with the people of Utah, a deeply conservative and religious state, yet recently there have been efforts underway by lawmakers there to permanently end DST based on a study that showed support from the citizens. Arizona and Hawaii are currently the only US states not participating in DST. Russia, like Utah, is another part of the world I ordinarily would not expect to lead the way, but the recent time change there will be the last for that country since it has decided to permanently end DST. It is difficult to imagine such a bold decision happening here in the US anytime soon given the current paralysis within the congress resulting partly from a flood of money into politics following recent Supreme Court decisions. Ridding the country of this practice will likely happen state by state just as we currently see with the legalizations of gay marriage, recreational cannabis, and possibly genetically engineered food labeling. Proponents from all three movements adopted a state by state strategy after realizing that a stagnant congress was unlikely to make any progress in the near future.

Why abolish DST?

Reasons for ending or maintaining the practice vary far and wide, from people wanting more light at the beginning or ending of their days, to businesses afraid of losing money, to researchers debating over whether the practice saves energy. Despite the diversity of opinion and scientific study results, there is one reason we should all be able to agree on; changing the clocks twice per year is quite simply annoying. Why do we do it? Does anybody really know? Who’s steering this ship anyway? For a nation full of sick, stressed and under rested people to go through this process twice per year makes little sense. We need all the help we can get and having to suddenly adjust our sleep schedules this way is just one more hassle, like the morning commute to work, in a long list of stresses that we deal with.

The natural perspective

The theme to this website is “Traditional lifestyles for a modern world”, and in the case of DST this theme is very applicable. You may argue that adjusting your sleep schedule is not that difficult, but as our lifestyles move further and further from traditional ways, the health problems begin to accumulate. They may be subtle at first, or perhaps you can’t even link the symptoms to the cause, but the effects are cumulative, and the more we can do to offset these causes the better we will be. Electricity, lighting, and clocks are all wonderful tools that allow us to live however we want, whenever we want, but in doing so we lose touch with the rise and fall of the sun and other natural rhythms of earth. A perfect example of this is the night shift worker who labors at the time when they should be sleeping. Even worse is the worker whose shift frequently alternates between night and day. Ask yourself when do you eat, or when do you sleep, and whether the timing of these activities is helping or hurting your health. One small habit I have begun recently is to try and dim the lights towards the beginning and end of my day. You can imagine how dramatic a transition it must be for our body to be exposed to hundreds of watts of light one moment and then lying in complete darkness the next, or the opposite when you awake. In addition, I find it helpful to abstain from the stimulation of internet or movies as close to bedtime as possible.

 

Photo by roy2k.com

Photo by roy2k.com

“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon”

-From the lyrics for Eclipse, performed by Pink Floyd

A healthy democracy

Remember as you change your clocks tomorrow and drop you ballot in the box Tuesday that a vote for Sattvic Planet is a vote for better health. If you choose me as your preventive medicine representative I promise to always place the health of people and planet ahead of profit and politics. Say NO to DST, say YES to good sleep!

 

Related Articles:

Time to Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

 

 

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Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 3, Pharmaceuticals

A one month supply.

A one month supply.

This is personal

Please forgive me; I take pharmaceuticals. To be more specific I take Acetaminophen, Lorazepam, and Allegra infrequently and at low doses. There are two questions I imagine you are thinking right now:

  1. Why would an Ayurvedic Counselor be taking pharmaceuticals?
  2. Why would anybody share this kind of personal information for the whole world wide web to read?

This is the third part in my “Confessions Series”, and I have already made some shocking (sarcasm) revelations in my posts:

With my “Confessions Series” I am trying to show you that despite my best intentions I am not perfect, and I am also trying to show you that some concepts that may at first appear unhealthy are actually quite beneficial when used properly and in moderation.

I live in the same world as you

I too have minor health concerns. I live in the same environment that you do, I am exposed to the same stresses and toxins as you are, so I am not 100% immune to health problems. This is not a Sattvic Planet yet, and until it is there will always be challenges to achieve optimal health. Sure, I could move to Central America and spend my time surfing and eating fresh fruit at the beach all day long. In the evenings I could write to you about how easy it is to practice Sattvic Living, but I suspect that those of you living in the big cities would have a difficult time relating to my experience. I believe that my message is much stronger when you realize that I am not much different from you, and I am vulnerable to the same health problems as you are.

Acetaminophen

I take 325 mg of acetaminophen about twice a month to treat minor headaches caused by lifestyle imbalances such as dehydration, lack of sleep, alcohol, excessive exercise, and too much time in front of the computer. The good news is that I seem to take these pills less often than in the past, and I attribute this to mindfully avoiding situations that trigger these headaches. I have also become quite good at recognizing the onset of these headaches, and finding natural methods of pacifying them.

Lorazepam

I take 125 mg of lorazepam about twice per week to avoid insomnia. This is a ridiculously small dose, but since it is the pharmaceutical I take most often it is one of my biggest challenges. There are many natural herbs and techniques available to deal with insomnia, in fact I once read a book by Deepak Chopra called Restful Sleep that explains good sleeping practices from an Ayurvedic perspective. However, the reality is that good sleep is elusive for many Americans even when we read books on the subject and put forth our best efforts. I am very dysfunctional without a good night of sleep, and ultimately I decided that the minimal side effects from taking these tiny pills is less than the harm caused by insomnia.

Allegra (Fexofenadine HCl)

I take 180 mg of Allegra approximately once every 6 weeks to reduce a very unusual and unexplainable localized swelling that I experience. Western doctors are unable to help me in this case, and eastern doctors haven’t done much better. Normally I ignore the swelling as much as possible, but when my upper lip swells to the size of a sausage I’m sure you can understand why I might want to take a pill on occasion. This problem represents my greatest personal health challenge, but it is a mystery that I believe in time will be solved. I think the problem originates in my mind, and I have now moved beyond looking at physical causes such as food allergies, and have begun focusing on stress reduction remedies for my state of mind.

Minimize it

In sharing my dose and frequency of pharmaceutical consumption I hope to emphasize two major ideas:

  1. I take small doses, and I take them only when absolutely necessary.
  2. I am continuously trying alternatives that will allow me to be completely free of pharmaceuticals in the near future.

For example, the doctor prescribed 1-2 lorazepam during times of insomnia. Instead I take a knife and delicately cut the pill once into halves and again into quarters. The purists out there may say that I should be using plant based preventive medicine 100% of the time. I’m striving for that, really I am. It’s funny how an Ayurvedic Counselor seems to be held to a higher standard than a western doctor. Would it be odd if your doctor smoked cigarettes? I’m sure there are many who do.

Strive to thrive

Since my target audience is people who have not yet mastered their diet and lifestyle I don’t want to scare people away by acting like I’m perfect, and by giving the impression that you need to be perfect to improve your health. The reality is that it is very difficult to practice Sattvic Living in this world we’ve created, and often times all that we can do is to strive for the best that we can do. Ayurveda provides us with the guidelines necessary to look good, feel good, avoid illness, and lose weight. If you want to achieve optimal health and you follow these guidelines exactly then there is no doubt in my mind that you will succeed. However these guidelines are merely goals to strive for, and some of them may not be possible given your current situation. Don’t worry about it, take the long term approach and slowly include more healthy practices into your daily routine when you are ready and when your schedule allows it.

Time to Abolish Daylight Savings Time?

TheFertileDesert-playa-starsIt’s that time of year again, and if you have anything in common with me, it is a time that you are not very excited about. Tomorrow, we as a nation will change our clocks one hour forward, unless you are one of the people having the good fortune of living in Arizona or Hawaii. For me that means waking at my normal time of around 6 and then realizing that it is actually 7, one less hour in my day until my normal 10 pm bedtime. On Monday I will wake at 6 which only two days ago would have been 5, and instead of watching the sky brighten during that first hour I will be in darkness almost until I arrive at the office. It’s likely that I will feel groggy Monday due to possible sleep problems, or due to the unfamiliar dark mornings. I’m not writing this to share my complaints with the world, I’m writing this as I always do, to make the connection between the way we live and the quality of health that we experience.

Why do we do it? There is no sense in me explaining the history behind daylight savings time since there are already many well-written articles available. For example, National Geographic recently published an article that explains the controversy behind this semi-annual ritual, and the Los Angeles Times has done the same. In summary, we do it because it is thought to reduce electricity consumption and give us more outdoor time in the evenings. I am an absolute advocate of saving energy and enjoying free time, but I don’t think it is a good idea to be adding more stress to an already overworked and under rested nation, and as the articles show there are many health professionals who would agree.

Daylight savings time is really quite symbolic of our need as a culture to control nature. How bold we are to think that we can manipulate the rise and fall of the sun. This reminds me of a book I am currently reading called The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka practiced what he called natural farming in Japan during the later half of the 1900s. He grew rice and oranges with no inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers, or diesel fuel. He strongly advocated an observational approach to agriculture with as little interference as possible, and practiced this to the extent that plowing the soil was strictly forbidden on his farm. The results of implementing his philosophy were that the yields of his harvests rivaled and even exceeded any farmer in perhaps all of Japan at the time. At one section of the book Fukuoka states that if a single bud is snipped off an orange tree that may bring about disorder that cannot be undone. He states that pruning fruit trees is often done to make it easier to harvest fruit, and to combat the onset of insect and plant disease. However, according to Fukuoka, based on years of observation and trial and error, the reason we have insect and plant disease is because we pruned in the first place. We are caught in a cycle where we prune to make the fruit more accessible, but that pruning causes pests and disease, so we prune and spray chemicals to reduce the pests and disease. In other words, it all begins with the need to try and control how the fruit tree naturally grows; yet the tree already knows how to grow without our assistance. The tree will send branches towards the light, not toward our fruit baskets. We would be better off getting taller ladders, or maybe leaving the upper fruit for the birds to eat.

In Ayurveda it is important to observe the constantly changing cycles and adjust our lifestyles accordingly. We would never wear shorts in Minnesota during winter, or wear a down jacket in New Mexico during summer, yet we don’t think twice about eating cold raw salads with ingredients imported from the southern hemisphere during winter, or eating processed food from cans, boxes and bags during the abundance of summer harvest. Though you may not have ever thought about it before, the time of day, the season of the year, and the stage of your life all influence your health in some way. For further details on this concept, and to understand why I chose the header image for this website, see my first post Meaning of the Sattvic Planet image. Masanobu Fukuoka observed that snipping a single bud from his orange tree could cause disorder that cannot be undone, and I see parallels of this to the changing of our clocks. It’s time to observe, and loosen our controlling grip on nature, or as the Beatles said, “Let it be”.

Is your mattress toxic?

TheFertileDesert-playa-stars

It’s bedtime!

Nearly every article posted on Sattvic Planet until now has been focused on the role of food and diet in practicing a healthy lifestyle, but since I am currently in the process of purchasing a natural latex mattress I thought this would be a good opportunity to change the subject. While food and diet certainly play an important role in practicing a healthy lifestyle, we also need to consider other areas of our lives where using natural products can be of benefit to us. Most of us know that nearly every mattress sold in the US is made of petroleum foam and plastic materials. How many of us know that it is a federal law that your mattress must be treated with a chemical flame retardant? For those of you unfamiliar with the history and risks of adding flame retardants to furniture I highly recommend this summary from Grist, but for those of you who don’t have time then allow me to summarize that summary. During the 1970s California lawmakers mandated the use of flame retardants in furniture, and in recent times the federal government has followed their lead by applying a similar law across the nation. Though the law was originally created in the name of fire safety, researchers over the years have linked some of these chemicals to health problems. Even more disturbing is they have found that the chemicals spread throughout the environment, and have been detected as far away as the arctic. Taking this information into consideration, last year in a big win for human and environmental health California lawmakers removed the mandate that furniture be treated with these chemicals. By now I think you can see that my decision to buy a natural latex mattress is motivated by my desire to remove toxins from my living space. However, let me be specific regarding my view on toxins. In this modern world it is nearly impossible to avoid exposure to toxins, and I am not delusional in thinking that buying a new mattress will simply eliminate toxins from my life. Keep in mind that even the seals living in the supposedly pristine arctic have flame retardant in their bodies. What I am advocating is the attempt to take practical steps to reduce your exposure to toxins whenever it is possible. If you have a choice, and most of us do unless we are experiencing poverty, then why not choose the products that are least damaging to you and the environment? Speaking of choice, as an adult living in Washington I literally do not have the freedom to purchase a flame retardant free mattress. Don’t worry though because the sheep are there to help us. Since wool is a natural flame retardant some manufacturers use a wool cover to protect their products from bursting into flames, which is not exactly a concern of mine since I don’t smoke cigarettes. Since wool can be expensive the shop I am buying my mattress from found an exemption in federal law that will allow me to buy a chemical and wool free mattress if it is approved by my doctor or naturopath.

Moving beyond the flame retardants, manufacturers claim that natural latex mattresses do not off-gas as synthetic petroleum based mattresses do. In case you don’t know, an example of off-gassing is the strong chemical smell that you notice when you drive a new car. The important point to understand here is that I am talking about natural latex and not synthetic latex. Natural latex is tapped from trees in a process similar to harvesting maple syrup. The trees used to produce the latex in my mattress are located in Sri Lanka. Synthetic latex of course is made from petroleum. It is important to make this distinction because many manufacturers use what I consider to be deceptive advertising practices. Often times you will find a mattress labeled as “eco foam”, or some other reassuring name, but if you don’t read carefully then you may miss that the mattress is really a synthetic and natural blend. From my perspective it is not worth it to buy an “eco” mattress that is 25% soybean based foam or natural latex, and 75% petroleum. If you are going to spend the extra money then why not get the product that is nearly 100% natural? Now let me be honest these mattresses can be expensive, so you need to ask yourself if they are worth the high price. Consider before you decide that there are many fully synthetic mattresses on the market that cost even more at $3000 plus. Also consider that many natural latex mattresses have 20 year warranties and may last twice as long as a synthetic mattress. Natural latex is touted as having superior breathability, minimal moisture retention, and great comfort. While I can’t speak to these claims now, I should be able to soon and will update you on my experience later. Finally, consider that you will be spending approximately one third of your life in your bed, so it is probably worth it to invest in the place you spend a majority of your time.

A post on Sattvic Planet would not be complete without an Ayurvedic perspective. In Ayurveda, sleep is considered one of the three pillars of life necessary for good health, and as somebody who has had sleep problems in my past I can say that I completely agree with that statement. Without a good night of rest I am completely worthless the next day, and if poor sleep occurs frequently then health problems are certain to follow. If sleep is one of the three pillars of life then purchasing a chemical free natural latex mattress might be the best investment you ever made. If you’re not ready for such a big investment then perhaps you want to purchase some organic cotton sheets, or a natural latex pillow. The point I’m trying to make is that every time you pull out your credit card you are making a choice on how you spend your money, and that choice has the potential to lead you towards personal and environmental health, or away from it, so shop wisely.