The concept of lagom is Swedish, and means “just enough”. But how does the brain know when enough is enough?
By Dr Samantha J. Brooks Ph.D.
In cognitive science, the Goldilocks Dilemma is about how we learn when we’ve had ‘just the right Our brains are geared towards homeostasis – the technical term for keeping biological balance. We eat food when our body needs nutrition and protein to re-organise replenish and fuel our cells; we drink when our body becomes dehydrated as the water composition drops below 60% (e.g. via sweating, urination), and we rest when our bodies are exhausted – just like Goldilocks did! However, our brains also learn - through trial and error - how to gauge when our body feels satisfied with our actions and when it doesn’t. Many of us have had the experience of eating or drinking too much at a party and living to regret the feeling of being too full afterward! On the opposite side, many people live below the poverty line and never get enough to eat. In modern Westernised societies we have grown used to industries that provide for our every whim through the increasing availability of food and illicit substances, or the lure of sexual images in the media. As such, many of us have lost the ability to regulate our actions to maintain homeostasis. This has led to huge rises in obesity, cardiovascular disorders, addiction, aggression, poverty and damages to the planet. Our out-of-control behaviours are not showing any sign of abating any time soon. But not all countries are losing the knack of being able to tell when enough is enough – in some areas of the world people can teach us a thing or two about self-regulation.amount’ of something to keep ourselves balanced.
In Sweden – one of the Scandinavian countries in the Northern Hemisphere – the people are often rated top of happiness and prosperity surveys, and they have a word that sums up the feeling of ‘enough’ – lagom (pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]). The word originated from the Vikings, who would pass around Mead (a type of fruity, sweet, alcoholic drink) while sitting by the campfire after a day of battle or roaming out in the cold. To ensure that everyone in the camp was happy, the merry Mead-makers – to the chorus of “laget om (around the team)” – would take a swig or two from the horn, just big enough to satisfy their taste buds and quench their thirst, before passing it on to a neighbour. Such jolly behaviour meant that everybody got a fair share, and aggression – even between those fearsome Vikings – was kept to a minimum! The Swedes really embrace the notion of lagom today – to the point where there is a high level of trust in one’s neighbour – so that there are always enough resources to go around. As such, Sweden is often synonymous with high life quality, education for all, excellent health, low obesity and low crime.
Where then, might we find this mysterious lagom quality in the brain? Firstly, in the more primitive The ventral medial (“bottom-middle”) hypothalamus works when we are hungry and need to eat – excessive activation of this area has been linked to obesity. Conversely, the lateral (“side”) hypothalamus activates when we no longer want to eat, and has been associated with starvation and anorexia nervosa. Another interesting point about the hypothalamus, in relation to the stressful nature of modern society, is that it is part of a larger stress-related network, called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is overactive during acute and chronic stress, and leads to the release of adrenalin (increasing aggression), and cortisol (shutting down the body’s non-essential systems, like digesting food in the gut) to give the body higher energy levels. These systems happen in the mid-brain, and in the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys), but the prefrontal cortex also plays a huge part in learning to control our actions to achieve balance.mid-area of the brain is a region called the hypothalamus, which is essential for various homeostatic functions.
The prefrontal cortex, in the front of the brain (under the forehead), consists of various sub-regions, including: dorsolateral (DLPFC), ventromedial (VMPFC), orbitofrontal (OFC). The DLPFC is responsible for attending to and inhibiting actions, the VMPFC remembers what the outcome was of our previous actions, and the OFC evaluates the value (positive or negative) of those actions. Activation of these regions reflects an ability to learn from trial and error, and to predict whether something will satisfy us, become overwhelming, or leave us wanting more. As we gather more information about our day-to-day experiences of the world, we build a memory that is constantly updated, as we – and the world – change. People with damage – or under-development – to the prefrontal cortex may not be able to learn from their mistakes in order to lead a balanced life. An unbalanced life is an unhappy life – take it from the Swedes – and may result in long-term physical or mental illness.
So, the key is to try to exercise lagom in our everyday lives – by only eating a few, and not the wholepacket of biscuits, not spending too long on the treadmill or running the streets, watching our temper and the tempo of our voice with individuals who may try to provoke us into an argument.
The take-home message is this: balance is the key to a happy, healthy life! Lagom!
Dr Samantha Brooks is a neuroscientist at the UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, and at Uppsala University, Sweden, specialising in the neural correlates of impulse control from eating disorders to addiction. For more information on neuroscience at UCT and to contact Samantha, see www.drsamanthabrooks.com. Note: Images royalty free, courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki.
Is there any point in waiting to save up a large deposit on a home when interest rates are declining and the banks are in a hurry to grant more home loans?
“Many buyers are taking the view,” says Rudi Botha, CEO of BetterBond, SA’s biggest bond originator, “that they should take advantage of the current lending conditions and secure a home loan with whatever deposit they have, rather than wait to save more and risk stricter lending conditions, higher home prices or interest rates starting to rise again.
“This is reflected in our latest statistics*, which show a sharp drop in the average deposit being paid by SA home buyers from 22,5% of the purchase price to 19,75% over the past 12 months, and a concomitant increase in the percentage of home loan applications approved, from 75% to 80%.”
There is some sense of urgency to get into the market, he says, because prices are only rising at about 3% a year at this stage, but are expected to pick up momentum towards the end of the year, especially if interest rates continue to move downward and economic activity picks up.
“However, we believe the best choice if you are in haste to become a homeowner is to use whatever cash you have saved up to pay a bigger percentage deposit on a less expensive property – not a smaller percentage deposit on a higher-priced property.”
The advantages of doing this, Botha says, will be that:
*You will need a smaller home loan;
*Your minimum monthly bond repayment will be lower and you will need less disposable income to cover it;
*The monthly household income you need to qualify for the loan will thus be lower;
*You will have a better chance of qualifying for an interest rate concession on your bond that could save you many thousands of rands on the total cost of your home over 20 years.
“In addition, you may even be able to pay an additional amount off your bond each month and pay your home off early.”
On a R1m home loan, he notes, an interest rate concession of just 0,5% will reduce the total cost of your home over 20 years by almost R80 000. And if you are then able to pay an additional R500 a month off your bond, you will pay off your home in just over 17 years instead of 20, and save a further R195 000 in the process.
“However, to really maximise the potential savings, you should apply for your home loan through a reputable originator like BetterBond, which will not only give you the best chance of getting your loan approved, but also negotiate the best possible interest rate for your particular financial situation.”
*The BetterBond statistics represent 25% of all residential bonds being registered in the Deeds Office and are thus a reliable indicator of the state of South Africa’s residential property market.
Norgarb Properties dedicated Home Loans Consultant. She has over 15 years’ experience in assisting clients with their Home Loan needs and has placed many happy families in their dream homes.
Contact her today for no cost stress-free home-buying.
Home Loans consultant
Tel: +27 (0)21 851 3568 | Fax: +27 (0)21 441 1494 | Cell: +27 (0)82 071 1665
The trend in going green is bigger than ever and, in particular, we look at green living in our own homes. Every little bit helps and implementing green living into your home and everyday life can have a much bigger impact than one might think. Here we’ll have a look at some options for natural temperature control in your home and why it is important.
Natural temperature control has many benefits, namely:
• no need to purchase, install or pay for repair of an HVAC
• electricity consumption can be cut by half
• it’s an indefinite source of heating and cooling
• no dependency on the grid
• eliminates noise pollution, and
• is ecologically friendly.
It is important to control home temperature, not just for comfortable living, but as a vital step to reduce damage to your home. Without it, one could have issues such as mould growth, formation of condensation, and damage to the building envelope (walls, floors, roofs, fenestrations and doors). Luckily, the earth and sun provide all the energy we need and there are many ways to harness this to our own advantage.
• Insulation - The use of high quality insulation helps to prevent heat loss by decreasing the amount of heat that escapes the house. Good insulation can also keep the heat out in the warmer months. You can insulate your walls, floors, ceiling, basement, attic, windows and doors.
|Image from Greener Ideal|
• Solar Heating – The sun is our greatest source of heat and energy so why not harness all that thermal power? You get different types of solar heating and cooling systems, from radiant floor to hot water baseboards or radiators and central forced-air systems. Solar collectors for air heating are much the same as those used for water heating systems, with the most common being the flat-plate collectors. You can also look into evacuated tube, thermosiphon, Integral Collector Storage (ICS) and concentrating collectors. You also get a choice of liquid or air based. Liquid-based solar heating systems use a non-toxic liquid to transfer the heat from the collector, whilst air-based systems heat air in a solar air collector and then use fans to distribute and circulate the heated air around your home.
|Image from EcoVeta|
• Solar Cooling – Also referred to as solar-assisted cooling, these systems may also be used for heating your home during the winter months. You get two types – absorption chiller systems and desiccant systems. The more popular of the two is the absorption chiller system which uses a process very similar to your refrigerator. The desiccant system on the other hand passes air over a drying agent such as silica gel, which draws the humidity out of the air making it cooler and more comfortable.
|Image from letsgosolar.com|
• Natural Ventilation – Think stylish skylights and hidden vents. These allow for the collection of heat or the flow of air through your home. Carefully placed skylights can easily warm a room, whilst vents allow easier flow of air throughout the house. The only problem with these is that they serve a singular purpose and whilst vents might be a joy in summer, they may not be your best friend during winter. Likewise for the skylights which would perhaps overheat a room during the summer months.
|Image from SlideShare|
• The Simple Life – There are also simple practices you can look at that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Investing in black out curtains and/or simply closing your blinds can instantly affect the temperature of a room. Closing doors to unused rooms in the winter months prevents cool air from circulating and locks in more heat, likewise in summer, you’d want to keep your doors open and allow for maximum air flow. A little window hack can also make a huge difference – open the top section of your windows on the downwind side of your house and the bottom section of your windows on the upwind side. And last but not least, switch your light bulbs to CFL’s. Incandescent bulbs waste about 90% of their energy in the heat that they emit, so not only would your house be cooler, but so would your electricity bill.
There are so many natural systems one can use to control the temperature in one’s home and new technology appearing all the time. All in all, it’s best to do some research and pick the option that suits your home as well as your budget.
Norgarb Properties Agent Andre Ter Moshuizen who specialises in the Claremont area, shares some household tips and handy home hints with you every month. Read more of his articles here. [https://harfield-village.blogspot.co.za/search?q=andre]
Andre Ter Moshuizen: 082 602 1367 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.norgarbproperties.co.za
Best Health Advice We Could Give
By The Chiropractic Health Centre
If we could only give three pieces of health advice, what would they be?
This question is a basic variation of the ‘elevator pitch’: if you only had 30 seconds to convince someone to invest in your business, what would you say? Because I tend to have dozens of random bits floating around in my head at any one time, it’s a bit of a personal challenge to accumulate my thoughts into cotton candy blobs of truth.
But how to decide what would have the biggest impact?
Well, first we looked at the most common diseases (heart disease, back pain, common cold, headaches, depression, cancer) and looked at the common risk factors. From there, we looked at these risk factors and chose the ones we can actually change i.e. diet - yes :), age - not so much :(. And lastly, I decided on the health changes that would have the greatest possible impact on these modifiable risks - where we can find the most ‘bang for your buck’. The most ‘bam for your lamb’. The most ‘kablooie for your..’ ok we’ll stop now.
And the results are in! (drumroll, please…)
1. DON’T SMOKE. Smoking is the single largest modifiable risk factor for early death. People who start smoking in early adulthood will be 2-3 times more likely to die in middle age and live 10-20 years less than non-smokers. This is not to mention QUALITY of life - smokers suffer more headaches, back pain, colds, depression, etc. And stopping smoking helps: “Those who have smoked cigarettes since early adulthood but stop at 30, 40, or 50 years of age gain about 10, 9, and 6 years of life expectancy, respectively, as compared with those who continue smoking.” So, don’t smoke & you’ll live longer and better.
2. EAT MORE VEGETABLES. The biggest issues with our (Western) diets are the high calories/pro-inflammatory molecules (e.g. trans-fats) coupled with low micronutrients/fibre - all due to industrially processing every morsel before it hits our lips. This contributes to heart disease, cancer, obesity, kidney disease, dementia and diabetes but also plays a role in chronic pain, mood disorders, frequent colds & flu, etc. But how can we affect such a complex array of problems in our diets? We say: more vegetables! Upping the veggies in your diet will increase vitamin/mineral/fibre intake, reduce overall calories (fill up on low-cal veggies to reduce overeating), and provide ample antioxidants to reduce excessive inflammation (which may extend your life).
3. DAILY YOGA. Human beings are dynamic creatures. The sedentary nature of our desk-job culture is linked to a whole host of chronic diseases as well as back pain, headaches, etc, etc. This is why we exercise - every single system in your body benefits from regular exercise. So why yoga? Yoga helps protect against heart disease, depression, lower back pain and even helps mitigate the symptoms of asthma. Yoga provides similar health benefits as aerobic exercise but also improves mood & sleep. It trains your muscles, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular sytem all while maintaining a low injury rate. So… YOGA!
So, there you have it: safeguard your health with these 3 keys. Or it’s at least a good start.
BONUS TIP: Calorie restriction - but that is a complicated subject that deserves its own post. Coming soon!
Thanks for reading this far! If you like what we have to say or want to get in touch with us, call 0216832996, email email@example.com, or follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (@TheChiroHealth).
Plant List for July:
Broad Beans, Beetroot, Chard/Spinach, Cape Gooseberry, Celery, Chives, Chili Peppers, Lettuce, Onion, Parsley, Peas, Potato, Radish, Tomato
These Macaroons are delicious and easy to make. I have made them gluten free by adding cornflour instead of flour. They last for weeks in an airtight container. In fact I found a few I had forgotten about months later and they were super.
3 egg whites
200gms castor sugar
1 ½ tbls plain flour
25g ( ¼) cup cocoa
150gms ground almonds
Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add sugar, whisking well after each addition to dissolve sugar, until mixture smooth and glossy.
Sift flour and cocoa together, then stir in ground almonds. Gently stir flour mixture into egg white mixture until just combined. Spoon tablespoonsfuls of mixture onto a baking paper-lined oven tray and bake at 180C for 10 – 15 mins or until crisp on the outside but still soft in the centre. Stand macaroons for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 24
What is better than sitting in front of a blazing fire drinking a glass of red wine or whiskey? These seem to be common habits that start as the nights get colder. But are you aware of what you are doing to your body? Are you paying attention to how much you are drinking and how you are feeling in the morning? Let’s take a look at how we can enjoy some alcohol but not undo our health and wellness goals.
Alcohol and health
Alcohol can be detrimental to your health if it is regularly consumed in large amounts. It can have a negative effect on your nutritional status as it reduces the absorption and use of certain vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that an excessive alcohol intake contributes to an increased risk of the development of cancer and alcoholic liver disease. Excessive alcohol can also contribute to the development of osteoporosis and worsen the symptoms of gout because of an increase of uric acid production. Three or more alcohol containing drinks a day can also increase blood pressure.
Alcohol and weight
Alcohol consumption can also lead to weight problems because of its high calorie value (7kcal per 1g alcohol). Often high calorie mixers are also added to the alcohol (such as soft drinks, fruit juices). During alcohol consumption our control is often decreased leading to overeating and drinking more. And the foods that are eaten together with the consumption of alcohol (e.g. crisps) are often high in fat. Alcohol also slows down fat metabolism. All of these factors can lead to an increase of weight.
What can you do to enjoy a drink and keep it healthy?
You can enjoy a drink AND be healthy and lose weight, but it means making some trade-offs. An alcohol unit is defined in terms of a ‘standard drink’, which has the equivalent of about 10g alcohol. Alcohol isn’t the only component of a drink that determines its calorie content. Some drinks are also rich in sugar (carbohydrates) and therefore contain more calories. Beer contains more carbohydrate than spirits, but spirits are often consumed with mixers increasing the calorie content. When alcohol is consumed as part of a healthy eating plan, the guideline is no more than two drinks every day for women and no more than three drinks every day for men.
An alcohol unit:
125ml of dry white or red wine or champagne
25ml of spirits
1 can of beer or cider
If you need to control your calorie intake, you can exchange one carbohydrate serving/unit for one alcoholic unit. Beer, cider and caloric rich mixers need an extra carbohydrate serving/unit for their carbohydrates.
Tips for cutting down on your alcohol intake
• Make a decision about what you will be drinking before you go out – when you have a plan, it is easier not to get carried away!
• When you arrive at a function or restaurant ask for water first (make it sparkling for variation) and only start with the alcohol at a later stage
• Make a wise decision about WHAT you will be drinking – sometimes it is better to have a spirit with a ‘free’ cooldrink (e.g. vodka and coke light or whiskey and water) instead of wine – if bottles of wine are being ordered, your glass will be constantly topped up and you easily lose track of how much you are drinking!
• If you do want to drink wine, ‘dilute’ it with (sparkling or soda) water, ice cubes or sprite zero, and rather order your wine by the glass than ordering a bottle – make the excuse that you feel like a different wine
• Similarly with beer or cider rather have a shandy
• Get into the mind-set that you are going out to socialize with your friends, not to drink! You do not need alcohol to have a good time
• Have an event planned for the following day – book a session with your trainer at the gym or organize a run with friends – you will WANT to drink less as doing these activities without a hangover is so much more pleasant
• Be the designated driver!
Kim Hofmann RD(SA)
Phone: 021 674 4666
Cell: 084 206 2715