How to Build a Surprisingly Cheap Home

strange_house fishermanscottageBuilding a home can be one of the most rewarding experiences ever, it can make you feel safe, accomplished and it can give you a sense of stability, all key aspects of a happy life. On the other hand a house can be also your biggest nightmare. Building a new house has become insanely expensive, the maintenance and running cost, over the building’s lifetime, can exceed the cost of constructing it, causing more and more people to get into massive debt for 20-30 years just so they can have a roof over their heads and money to pay the bills. And mortgages are one of the most effective ways to keep you from being free. As long as you have a mortgage you are less likely to take chances, go for your dream or stand up for justice and instead you become more inclined to accept compromises in your life, your career and even compromise on your values, using the same old excuse:”We all have to pay the bills”.

Before reading further stop for a second and imagine a different life: a life where you still have a home and access to the comforts of modern life, but without a big mortgage on your back. Would that make you feel happy, safe, free, optimistic about the future and relieve you of stress? If you like this picture than you might want to read this article until the end. If you prefer to trade 30 years of your life for a big and expensive house you can close this page now, as from here onwards I will not mention any must have, state of the art, super expensive devices or home decoration tips.

In this article we will list the principles for building a cheap home, regardless of the method used to build them, and after that we will give you some examples of DIY homes that use eco-friendly materials and that can be built for under 10$ /sqm.

The 5 Commandments For Building A Dirt Cheap Home

  1. Location Location Location. We all know that in real estate location is key. But location has also a big impact on the cost of building your home. Not only because of the plot price, but also because the location will have an impact on the available resources in the area, the cost of connecting to utilities, the cost of heating and cooling, the cost of labor and the cost of transport. So make sure you keep in mind all of these costs when choosing where you build your home. For more informations on how to pick the best spot for your new home you can check out this article: Click Here For The Article.
  2. Start small and build as you go along. I can’t stress this enough, building small is the easiest way to reduce the cost of your home: less sqm = less cost for building maintenance and taxes, regardless of how you build your home. I know you are going to say that small is not practical, that you need a big kitchen, a dining room, a living room, 2 guest rooms, a separate room for everyone in the family, a storage room and all this things that add up. But the fact is you do not need all of this things:if you need a storage room you probably accumulated too much junk that should be recycled or donated to someone less fortunate, a guest room will be used maybe 2-3 times a year, so instead of building one, why not use some smart furniture and transform any room into a guest room when needed. Need inspiration on how to do it: watch the example of this one room New York apartment that transform into a multi purpose flat Video HERE . And if you really need a big home, consider modular buildings, so that you can start small and build a house according to your budget. Once you have more resources or need more room you can simply add an appendix to the existing construction.
  3. Use local or recycled materials. In Japan most of the homes are demolished after 20 years, so if you live there recycled materials for building homes are unlimited. But even if you live in another country chances are that many people are throwing away materials that can be used for building a new home. The list includes plastic bottles, pallets, old tires, sandbags, old roof tiles, steel and even old bricks. If you live in a country like Sweden that recycles all its waste, than the next option is to look around the area for natural materials that can be used as building blocks: straw bales, earth, stones or small diameter wood. Further down you will find details about all these materials
  4. Use passive design strategies. Solar energy is free, so proper siting of the house is crucial to benefit from the micro climate of your location. Make sure the longest axis of your home is facing south, to maximize heat gains and access to natural light during winter. Place more windows on this side and fewer on North, East and West. In the summer you should protect these south facing windows with a roof overhang sized for you location, or by using shutters and blinds. For cooling make sure that you design your home to maximize air flow on the predominant wind direction. Meaning that the fresh air entering the house should have a clear pathway to circulate in all the building from one side to the other, depending on your predominant wind direction. More information in This Article.
  5. Keep it simple and natural. A marble floor could look nice, but could be also very slippery, cold and expensive. Instead an Earthen Floors can last indefinitely and do not require any covering. Link to Video on How to Build and Earth Floor. New technologies like radiant floor heating can definitely improve the comfort and the efficiency of our homes, on the other hand having too much technology will skyrocket the price and the maintenance costs, so before investing in some fancy gadget ask if it is really needed, is there a natural alternative to it, and how much will it cost to maintain it.

Now let’s have a look on how people all over the world apply these principles when they are building their new homes, to give you some much needed inspiration for your future project.

Please consult a professional before undertaking any building project and make sure you follow local and national laws and regulations.

Earth Homes

Houses have been built from earth for ages, and the most famous building material: the brick is also derived from clay. Since pretty much anywhere in the world you can find earth this could be the first option for building your next affordable home. There are many techniques for building earth homes and in this article you can find 4 examples of people who used earth as the main building. Earth homes are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, because the earth acts like a thermal mass, storing heat when the sun is at its peak and slowly releasing it during the night.

Sandbags and Earthbags

Pictures here

This is a technique derived from the military, where they would use sandbags to constructed temporary shelters. Besides the bags you will need also some wood frames for the windows, doors, and the roof. Another option is to use wood for the main structure of the house and use the bags to fill in the space between the poles with earth bags. You can find more informations in the links: How to build an earthbag home Video. How to build a sandbag home Article.

 

Plastic Bottles

Another option that is gaining in popularity, especially in Africa and South America, is using plastic bottles filled with earth. Since we throw away so much plastic, this is a resource that is free and widely available, so it makes sense to turn this waste into something useful. This method requires a lot of man hours but if you are short on resources and have many friends it can be a great option for your first home. More detailed informations can be found in the Article or in the Video.

Using Old Tires

Pictures here.

Since we all have to change our tires at least every second year, using old ones to build a new home could make sense. And there are people all over the world applying the same technique for building a cheap, durable and sustainable home. The technique used is similar to the two upper mentioned, and it consists of filling old tires with earth or sand. You can find more details in the Article or the video below.

Hobbit Homes

If you watched Lord of The Rings or the Hobbit, you remember the lovely houses from the Shire. Well hobbit homes are no longer just SF and people have started building hobbit homes not just because of the low cost of construction, maintenance and energy bills but also because they look cool. The house below was built for less than 5000 dollars, without any previous experience in construction works. Another example is this House built by an english farmer for less than 250 Dollars. To lower the cost they have used also an innovative technique for building the roof: How to build a Reciprocal Frame Roof

Wood Homes

This is one of my favorite building techniques because it reminds me of my childhood days when I was helping my grandfather with this kind of constructions. Wood has also been a building material for northern and mountain areas for thousands of years, so if you would like to built a home in a remote area, this could be the best option for you. However if you choose this techniques make a commitment to plant at least 10 trees for each one you cut, and leave the world a better place than how you find it. You can find more details about how to build a wood home in this Video.

Wood Straw Bale House

Using wood for the main frame of the house and making the walls out of Straw Bale is also a sustainable and cheap way to build a home. However you have to be careful with fire in these kind of constructions, as hey is extremely flammable. Special additives and plaster can be used to reduce this risk,  nevertheless please consult a specialist before using this technique.

Using Pallets

If you don’t want to cut trees, another option is to use old pallets for building a home, and many architects have implemented this building material into their designs. Depending of the cost of the pallets and the size of the house, these homes could be built for less than 10 000 Dollars. More details about how to do it yourself in the Video

Container homes

Using old shipping containers for building homes has skyrocketed in popularity in the last years, and architects are coming up every year with great designs for these kind of homes. Since they are modular constructions, you can always start small, with 2-3 containers, and add pieces as you go along. The cost of an old container can range between 3000 and 5000 Dollars, however these homes will need a lot of insulation since they can get pretty uncomfortable during extremely hot or cold days. More details about how to do it yourself in the Video.

Tiny Mobile Homes

Many people in the United States have chosen to downsize and live in a tiny mobile home, as in most states these homes do not require a building permit, plus if you feel like moving you can easily take your home with you. There are many different ways to build a tiny home, so let your imagination run wild on these projects. For inspiration you can check the Pictures or the video below. The home was built for 23 000 Dollars and it took only 4 months to construct.

Which project inspires you the most? Have you built a house using recycled or natural materials? Share your project and your thoughts in the comments section below.

The choice is always yours.

43 questions you should ask before buying a new property

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Similar to plane pilots before take off, most of us go through checklists before taking big decisions, however when it comes to one of the most important decision of our life, buying a property, we often go unprepared. We list pro’s and con’s before changing a job, we make business plans before starting a company, some even have checklists for finding a life partner. When it comes to buying a property we might have a few ideas of the ideal neighborhood, the size of the plot, or the price we want to offer, but we often fail to get answers about the things that can have a big impact on our health, our budget and our happiness in the long run.

This doesn’t need to happen anymore because now you can print this list of questions and take it with you next time you visit a property. The purpose is to give you some guidance and help you take an informed decision. Some of the points might not be of importance to you, while others, which I have left out, could be. So I encourage you to add your own questions, and delete the ones that are of no relevance to you. At the end of the day the decision is only yours.

In terms of property, in my opinion there is a big difference between buying a property inside a city or outside of it so below you can find checklists for both scenarios.

Buying a property in a town/city

If you are planning to purchase a property in a crowded city you should keep an eye on the following:

Location location location

We all know that location is important. Every good real estate agent knows that this is one of the most important selling point. But what exactly do you have to look for when choosing a location?

1. Does it take 30 min or less to reach your work and you’re hanging out areas?

Note:In my opinion, paying a premium for a location inside the town, is only worth it if you gain time, so choosing a location that is not only close to work, but also to your favorite hang outs is paramount. If there isn’t an app to show you the estimated time needed to reach your main focus points you can take public transport towards the property when you are visiting for the first time.

2. Is the neighborhood clean and the houses well maintained?

Note: This can have an impact on the criminality rate, and the price of the property.

3. Is the area well connected to the public transport?

Note: 3 or more options would be best  : buses, trams, ideally metro.

4. Is there a bicycle lane on your street, or near it?

5. How far from the property is the nearest busiest street (4 lanes or more).

Note: Ideally should be more than 300-500m, so you don’t have to suffer from noise pollution.
6. How far is the nearest train station/airport?

Note: the closer to a busy street, train station, airport, the more soundproofing you will need.

7. How many parking places are there in the area?

Note: Try to check this during the week, after work hours.

8. Are there any obstacles around the property that can block, the sun or the wind from reaching your property? EX. large trees, tall building, etc..

Resources

To live the good life we need access to resources. The closer to the property, the more time we save and the happier we are, so always check the resources available in the neighborhood before buying a property.
1. How many grocery shops and pharmacies exist in a walking distance from the property.
2. How many kindergartens and schools, with good rating, are in your neighborhood.

4. How many children playgrounds are there in walking distance from the property?

3. How many infrastructure investments have been made in the past 3 years or are planned to be made in 1-2 years?

Note: This can have an impact on the price of the property.

5. Are there any big polluters: oil refinery, power plants, large chemical producers, in a 3-5 km radius, from the property?

Note: this will impact pollution levels, and you will need to include some air filters in your planning if you buy the property.
6. How many factories, offices, etc are there in the neighborhood?

Note: This will increase pollution and rush during the day, but it can also most likely increase the price of the property.

Health and safety

We know that our surroundings have a big impact on our health and safety, but how often do we take this in consideration when buying a property?

1.How many hospitals/emergency rooms exist in the neighborhood, and how far are they from the property?

2. How far is the nearest police station?

3. What is the criminal record in that neighborhood in the past 3 years?

4. How far is the nearest fire station?

5. How many gyms, sport halls, pools are there in the area?

6. Is there a large public gathering place around the area, like a stadium or concert hall?

Note: This can increase the rate of vandalism near your home.
7. How many parks are in the area, preferably walking distance?
8. How many trees, plants, etc are in the area?

Note: This will have a direct impact on the air quality, and the background noise in your area.

9.  How is the tap water quality in the area?

10. How many of your future neighbors have dogs in their yard?

Note: Owning a dog can be a fun and rewarding experience. However a dog kept outside can also be very noisy during the night. If the number is high your home will require some extra soundproofing.

This are some of the things I look at when searching for properties inside a city. Feel free to edit them and add your own questions to the list. Bellow you can find some suggestions if you are looking to get away from the congestion found in big cities, and live a life closer to nature.
If you want to buy a property outside the city some things you should keep an eye on are:

Location, location, location
1 .How many options for public transport do you have?

Note: If the answer is close to zero, you should pay close attention to point 2.
2. Do you have a car with good fuel economy?
Note: The difference between a car that burn 8l/100km and a car that only uses 6l/100km can cost you over 3500 euro’s in the next 10 years, for a commute of only 50 km back and forward every day. 2l more used for every 100km , considering a commute of 50 km a day, leads to 5-7 euro’s extra cost a week just for fuel.  That might not seem much, but it rounds up to more than 350 euro’s a year in extra cost just for fuel, and if you plan to stay at least 10 years in that place, it is over 3500 euro’s. So if you live outside the town, you should buy the greenest car you can afford.

Resources
1.Is there at least one grocery store, one pharmacy near by, less than 15 min by car?

2. How is the condition of the roads?

3. Are there any investments being planned in the area?

4. Are there any farms 500m or less from the property?

5. Are there any factories 500m or less from the property?

Note: the smell and pollution from nearby farms and factories it’s not always sensed, so you might not be aware of it when you visit the property, but you will fill it after you buy it, so make sure to ask.

6. Are there any big refineries, power plants, other big pollutants on a radius of 5-10 km?

7. Do you have access to utilities like water, electricity, heating etc.?

If not can the surrounding area give you access to these resources?

8. Is there water in the underground, so you can build a well?

9. Are you allowed to harvest rainwater?

10. Is the area around the property free of obstacles so you can use solar and wind energy?

11. Do you have a river in the back of the property, so you can use hydro power?

12 Can a large truck reach the property, for draining the sewer pit?

13. Is there at least one kindergarten and a school nearby, and how many teachers and children do they have?

Health and safety

1.How far is the nearest hospital?

Note: If the nearest hospital is far it might be a good idea to take a first aid course.

2. How far is the nearest fire station?

Note: If far make sure your home is equipped with the best fire protection system you can afford.

3. How far are the nearest police station?

4. How many of your future neighbors have dogs in their yard?

Hope the list will help you take the best decision when you choose the make the big step of buying a property.

If you have some additional suggestions for the list please share them in the comments sections below.

Like always: the decision is always yours!

F.M.B.

Is our food is killing the planet?

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One of the habits that has the biggest impact on our health, our finances, and our environment is the way we eat. This is a subject on which a lot of research has been made in the last years, and the one thing that the researcher agree on is that nutrition should be tailored to the individual. So please consult your doctor or nutritionist for a solution that works especially for you before applying anything in this article. Here we will not go in detail about the macronutrients, carbs, protein and calories of the food we eat. Instead we will look at how it affects our energy levels and especially how food, as it is grown today, affects our environment.

We all heard that eating processed food, sugar or a lot of carbs might be not so good for us, but how often do we think about the impact that our overconsumption and our food system has on the planet?

Introducing Michael Pollan, author and activist for sustainable food, who was curious about where is his burger coming from. So he went to a cow farm where he thought he might find the answer. But of course cows are raised with plants so he had to go a step backwards and find out where the plants are coming from. And since plants use a lot of fertilizer and pesticides to grow bigger, he ended up searching for the answer in Middle East. And what he found out was pretty surprising: to produce one burger we use approximately 750 ml or 28 ounces of oil, for fertilizers, pesticides, transport and processing. If we scale this up to the total food produced we can see that the food system accounts for 20% of the fossil fuel use, 500 billion dollars in medical bills for food related diseases, and 1/3 of the total greenhouse gas emissions. It seems that from the saying: you can choose to pay your doctor or your farmer, we have chosen to pay the doctor.

The impact on the water consumption is even higher. It is estimated that around 50% of the water consumption is used for irrigation making the food industry the larger consumer of water on the planet. For instance, wheat requires 500 liters or 132 gallons of water per 0,45 kg or 1 pound. The same amount of cheese requires 2271 liters or 600 gallons of water. A glass of milk? 378 liters or 100 gallons of water, similar for a glass of wine or beer. It is just mind-boggling the amount of water and oil we use to produce our food. If you want to find out more you can go to http://www.gracelinks.org/ and find all the data regarding the impact of food on water, and other interesting information.

Unfortunately the bad news don’t stop there. Every person in the E.U. and U.S. wastes on average enough food to feed one more person. So not only are we over consuming and polluting the environment, but half of this is wasted in vain, it doesn’t bring us any satisfaction whatsoever. Looking at the numbers, an average person throws away 76 kg/167 pounds of food per year in Romania, 149 kg/328 pounds in Germany and 226 kg/ 498 pounds in UK and in the US even more.

This is all very alarming but there is also hope and we as individuals can change this system for the better. Let’s look at the problem true the 80/20 Pareto principle: What changes in our eating habits would bring the most value to us and the Planet? Looking at the data, the first change that we should make would have to be reducing the food waste. If we could reduce or even eliminate it, we could not only stop wasting money but also ofset the impact we have on the environment.

But how should we do it?

1. Being aware of the unconscious behaviors that might make us by more food

For instance if you are hungry when you go shopping you are far more likely to overbuy food. If you go shopping after a meal the chances to overstock on produce are reduced, so before heading to the grocery store have a small bite. After you come back from the shop, and got only what you needed, reward yourself with something you just bought. This will help you create a habit out of buying only what is necessary for you and your family, avoiding waste while saving money and the planet.

2. Eating a small variety of products during the week

Based on a diet plan I avoid stocking up the fridge with easily degradable products, instead I buy fresh food every day on my way from work. This will take around 5 min of your time, but if you have the possibilities, and have a shop nearby, you should give it a try.

One advantage of doing this is that we increase the quality of our food, since most of us do not store food properly and risk to spoil it. The second reason is you only buy what you need for one or 2 meals so you are far less likely to overestimate, and 3rd, if you have a sudden craving, you can decide on a day to day basis what to eat.

However if you do not have a food store nearby you can record your food consumption over one week, taking into account also how much food you waste, and use that as a bench mark for your weekly shopping. And if you are worried that you will run out of food, you could buy some canned products. Usually canned food has a long expiration date so it is far less likely to go to waste. But keep it only as a back-up solution because some research shows that large quantities of aluminum absorbed by food are related to a number of brain diseases like Alzheimer for example.

If you absolutely hate canned food and have to store foods for long periods of time, here are some

 3. Basics for storing food:

Bacteria are everywhere, some of them are good for us like the ones in our gut, and some of them can cause infections. Although we can’t get rid of all the bacteria in our homes, we can control the number, by not creating an environment where they can easily develop – food, humidity, heat and time.

  a. Cover your food.

Bacteria love raw fish, raw meet, dairy, and cooked food like soups, sauces rice, pasta or legumes. If you cover the food, the bacteria from the air can’t reach the food, that is why everything you buy from the butcher has to be rapt, and the cooked food has to be covered as soon as it is cold.

  b. Keep the meat in the fridge.

Bacteria need a certain range to grow, so do not leave for long fish or meet at room temperature and try to store them as soon as possible in the fridge. Bacteria usually prefer a temperature range from 8° Celsius (46° F) to 75° Celsius (167° F), so you can keep your cooked food over 75° for a long period of time outside, but soon as it is cold it’s good to store it in the fridge.

  c. Keep your fridge well organized.

In order to avoid possible contamination is good to store meat and fish on the bottom shelf, and the other products like salads or legumes on the top shelf. This way you avoid contamination from the raw food.

4. Support your local bio farmers.

Instead of encouraging big producers to continue the mass production.

We always complain that corporations are evil and they only want our money, but instead of complaining we can use this to our advantage, by not giving them our hard earned cash for products that are not bringing benefits to us or the environment we can directly influence their behavior. A great sales guy told me when I was starting in my career: ‘Florin don’t forget that in business your money (salary) is in the customer pocket, he decides what he gets, without him you have no money and no power.’ This made me realize that our spending habits have much more impact on companies then we realize.

5. Read the labels

Not only for the expiration date, but also look for clues about how to store it, where the food is coming from or how much sugar and fat it contains. You will be surprised how much sugar there is in products that are presented as low fat or healthy, for instance I was shocked to find out that my low fat yogurt contains half the quantity of sugar as a Coca-Cola. So be vigilant, you only need to do this once per product until you find the ones that are best for you, but this little check can make the difference between eating something healthy or buying something that is only advertised as being so. Also, like this you can choose to buy the products that are produced near your region, instead of being shipped across the globe.

To find out more about the importance of reading the labels, you can follow the story of two identical twins, Alexander and Chris, both doctors, who tested out two of the most popular and debated diets while observing the results.

In a one month unique experiment for BBC’s Horizon one of them went on a low-carb diet, and the other had a low-fat diet. What they found out was pretty amazing. Both diets had their ups and downs, the low-fat one performed better at brain tests, while the low-carb diet won the weight loss competition, but also broke down muscle tissue in the process. So after a month of testing in similar conditions, it was really hard to say which of the two diets is best, and that lead Alexander and Chris to ask a different question. Which foods make us eat more and gain weight, and why?

They realized that it’s not sugar or fat making us eat more and consequently gaining weight, but is the combination between the two. By themselves, neither sugar nor fat are very addictive. However when they are put together, like in ice-cream, the effect on the brain is similar to having cocaine, according to some scientists. The food industry knows this and that is why you’re rarely sold the two separately. That is why it is crucial you read the labels, and keep an eye on what you are putting in your body. It might be one of the most important things you can do for yourself and the planet.

Let us know which of this tips worked best for you in the comment box bellow.

F.M.B.

 

The positive side of being cold

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Since I moved to Hamburg, the main struggle I had was to find something positive about the cold and rainy weather. I still remember the horrible first month there, when the Sun forgot to shine. I was depressed and tired all the time and I wanted badly to go back home, not because I didn’t like the place or the people but because I just couldn’t find anything positive about the weather.

After almost two years, with only 2 months of sunny weather, I finally found something positive about being cold, and I would like to share it with you.

On one of the cold and dark Sundays, in Hamburg, I stumbled upon the new research field in marketing centers on “embodied cognition”—the idea that without our conscious awareness, our bodily sensations help determine the decisions we make. In this research I discovered for the first time something positive about being cold. 

It seems that people who had briefly held a warm beverage were more likely than people who had held a cold one to think that a stranger was friendly, meaning you are more likely to be fooled when the sun is shining; this was demonstrated in an experiment by Lawrence E. Williams, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and John A. Bargh, of Yale. Warm ambient temperatures also prompted people to conform (Yes man) so if you are going for a negotiation you might want to schedule the meeting based on the weather.

Other studies suggest that warm temperatures and sunny weather also have an effect on our spending habits. During sunny days we feel more optimistic, and so we end up spending much more than what we can afford. Maybe that is why in Germany, people save more and spend less.

So it seems that being cold and dark actually helps you make better economic decisions. But it also affects your mood and your health because it leads to a vitamin D deficiency.  

The main take away from this could be that it’s much safer for your wallet and the environment if you shop, especially for expensive things, during rainy, cold days, and use the sunny days for going out and increasing your vitamin D level, which reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), is a powerful antioxidant and plays a crucial part in our health.

How much do you spend on a rainy day?

Make this change to your bedroom for better sleep

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designed by Freepik.com

In the past weeks I have been working late on my laptop and was waking up feeling very tired the next day, although my diet, my exercise or my stress was not higher. It did not make any sense to me until I found the research on blue light. Convinced by this I installed a new software on my computer and started to sleep better at night.

If you are working late at the night on your computer, you should consider getting Justgetflux software. It will reduce glare based on the time of day, and protect your eyes from the blue light of the computer screen. It might also improve your sleep since exposure to blue light 30 min before bed is linked to poor rest quality. Plus it’s totally free.

Red light seems to be far less damaging for our eyes and our sleep so consider installing them in your bedroom. It will also make the atmosphere more romantic so you will not be only healthy but also happy, maybe that is why most of the clubs in Germany have red lights.

If you do not have a red lamp in your room, you can always get some glasses designed especially to reduce glare. (20$ on amazon).

After implementing this changes a significant number of people said they reported sleeping better, having less headaches and having more energy.

But why is everyone talking about how damaging blue light exposure is for our sleep and our bodies? For instance a sleep doctor says that even very young kids are suffering from chronic insomnia, and another scientist found out that women who work night shifts are twice as likely to develop breast cancer than those who sleep at night.

What is the common link? Nighttime exposure to the blue light from our screens.

Being in the presence of light at night disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms by suppressing the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone. But melatonin does far more than help us get sleepy – it’s also an antioxidant that appears to play a pivotal role in slowing the progression of cancer and other diseases. The impact of blue light on melatonin production was only recently confirmed, in 2001, when scientists found that light in the blue spectrum — the 415 to 445 nanometer range — disrupts melatonin. Because it is so bright, blue light is used widely in pretty much all LED devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs.

Definition: Melatonin is a hormone found in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria in anticipation of the daily onset of darkness. It is synthesized in animal cells directly from the amino acid tryptophan, but in other organisms through the Shikimic acid pathway. In animals, melatonin is involved in the entrainment of the circadian rhythms of  physiological functions including sleep timing, blood pressure regulation, seasonal reproduction and many others. Wikipedia –

Let us know if it works for you too.

Have a healthy week.

F.M.B.

How to be happy? Advice from Epicurus, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and more.

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Picture by Leonardo Valente  from: http://pixabay.com/

What is happiness? What is it linked to? Why are we not happy, even now when we have more than a king could have hoped for 100 years ago? Is there a secret formula to happiness? Does any of the 621,000,000 advises from the web actually work? To be happy do we have to be more, give more, struggle more, fight more, work more, or just feel more? Let’s look at the answers that some of the brightest minds in history have come up with for this question.

Epicurus, the famous ancient philosopher, believed that we need 3 main things in our life to be happy.

  1. Deep friendships, surround yourself with friends and live with them all the time, do not only get together once in a while for a drink. In his view, in order to be happy it is more important who you eat with rather than what you eat. So never eat a meal alone and spend as much time as you can with friends. Since most of our time is spent at work, you can see how important it is to be friends with the people in your company. In a recent study based on this idea, it was found that people who had a large group of friends where not only happier but also more likely to recover from illness.
  2. Freedom, especially financial freedom or the freedom of not having a boss that can give you orders and a status to prove to others. This does not mean being extremely wealthy but rather being self-sufficient and working on things that bring you joy instead of things that are forced upon you. He anticipated that if your basic needs are met you will not get happier by accumulating more wealth and this assumption was found out to be true in an experiment consisting of  600.000 Americans.
  3. An analyzed life = Meditation, take time off to reflect on your worries and analyze what is troubling you. Epicurus believed our anxieties quickly disappear when we start to challenge them.

But if it is so easy to be happy, why are not more people happy and why are we buying so much to keep us happy? Epicurus believed the reason for this is that the commercial world associates things they want to sell us with the things they know we actually need, for instance drinks with friendship, the sense of freedom with a holiday or a car and many more examples that I am sure you are very familiar with.

To overcome this propaganda, Epicurus suggested, it is very important to have constant reminders around us of the truly important virtues and things we wish to have in our lives.

One of this reminders could be the words of another famous philosopher, Seneca, who said that “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not“.

If you are a fan of documentaries : The Century of the Self is a must watch that validates Epicur’s ideas about the commercial world. The movie offers a great view on how and why the consumer society was founded, starting with the ideas of Sigmund Freud about the subconscious mind from the early 1900 and moving on to the individualism revolution of the 70′ and 80′. (You can find the intro at the end of the article)

Tony Robbins, a well known american motivational speakerin a modern approach of the subject, says that there are 7 basic human needs, and if they are met we experience happiness.

  1. Comfort, meaning the comfort of being certain that things will happen our way and that tomorrow we will be safe.
  2. Variety, we want to know what is going to happen tomorrow but we also want to be surprised and go on adventures.
  3. Significance, we want to feel that we are important, that we are not here in vain.
  4. Love, we want to be cared about and also we want to care for others.
  5. Growth, we want to grow our minds, our body, our happiness. Because if we are not growing we are dying.
  6. Contribution, we want to make the world a better place and help others around us.
  7. Belonging, we want to feel connected with other like-minded people.

If you are a fan of A. Schopenhauer you might not agree that love belongs on the list. He claimed that the biggest mistake people make is to associate love with happiness. He said that nothing is more important than love because the survival of our species depends on it, but he saw love as a proof that biology is stronger than reason. So, in his opinion, we fall in love not because it makes us happy but because we are programmed to do so and because we have to for our specie to survive.

If Schopenhauer’s point of view does not appeal to you, there is a new and radical idea based on the theory of the holographic universe. It suggests that, only when we stop judging things as being good or bad and start accepting events for what they are, without being attached to the need (and illusion) of controling them, we can be free and happy. They suggest that, only by letting go of judgement, we can truly feel gratefull for every events in our lives. Because without judging we will finally feel like in paradise, and we will have the same expirience as Adam and Eve before they ate from the apple of knowledge.

But maybe the most impressive example of a man who found happiness, even in the face of the biggest atrocities humanity has ever faced, is Victor Frankl. Friedrich Nietzsche said that hardship is essential on the road to happiness, and that this is the only way to build a strong character. He compered our journey in search for happiness with climbing a mountain: in order to reach the top and enjoy the view you must first be willing to make the effort of getting up there. And Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and a Jew, seems to be the perfect example of this theory. During the Second World War, Frankl was closed in a concentration camp with inhumane conditions that can’t be described in this post. He lost his parents, his brother and his wife in the concentration camps. He was tortured and suffered terrible humiliations. Every day he would wake up not knowing if he will be sent to the gas chambers or if he will be left to live.

One day, when he was naked inside his cell, he felt in his conscious the last freedom of men, something that the Nazi could not take away from him. Although they could torture him and keep him locked, they could not take away his freedom of thought. His fundamental identity was intact. He could decide, inspired probably by the stoic philosophy, if he would let this affect him or not. Between what was happening to him and his response stood his freedom of choosing how to respond. So from that day Frankl started projecting himself in different situations, for instance into a classroom teaching to his students, after his release. With the eyes of the mind he was in that classroom, although his body was incarcerated. By using mental discipline and by using his memory to alter his emotion, he started to become more and more free in himself. And soon this reflected outwards, he became an inspiration for those around him and even for his guards. He also managed to help others find their purpose in the hardship they faced.

Faced with a terrifying prospect, Victor Frankl remembered that no one can be in control of our emotions, unless we allow them to be. Stress does not exist in nature, it is a product of the mind, and if the mind creates it the mind can also destroy it. Our thoughts are our final freedom and the only place where no one has access without our consent.

Of course everyone is different, people fulfill their needs in diverse ways and this is what determines most of our dissimilarities. That is why we would like to find out what makes you happy. Let us know your thoughts in the comment box bellow.

F.M.B. in collaboration with Irina Popa

Hot vs Cold Showers – The Showdown

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water droplets © Michael Jastremski / Attribution-ShareAlike / 2014-02-15 09:32:02

You are probably wondering why should we have a debate about cold vs hot showers on a blog focused on sustainability, and why is this important for you?

I realize this sounds a bit strange but, once you know that 10% of the water we consume in our homes is used in the shower and that 25% of the energy we consume is used for heating the water, it is easy to see how taking shorter and colder showers can be good for the environment, and maybe, after reading the article, you will decided that it is also good for you.

You might say that the idea of a cold shower is too terrifying and not worth considering, but let’s take an objective look at the pro’s and con’s for hot and cold showers before you decide what suits you best.

Please keep in mind that our body temperature varies from 36,5 to 37,5 dg. C so you should lower, or raise the water temperature gradually, starting in the 30 dg C range, to avoid a hypothermic shock. For instance if, after spending time outside on a hot summer day, you get directly into a very cold shower you can get a hypothermic shock and, in extreme cases, can even get a hearth attack. Or if you have spent time in extreme cold temperatures, taking a very hot shower immediately after can lead to skin burns. Also if you have cholesterol atheromas on your arteries this can be mobilized and result in a heart attack. So it is very important to be cautious about extrem temperature changes.

Also please take notice that I am not a doctor, and this information is for informational purpose only, so please consult one before doing anything mentioned here in this post. That being said let us start the debate by looking at the most popular choice and it’s pro’s and con’s.

  The Hot Shower:

  1. Can relieve tension and soothe stiff muscles.
  2. It can amp up your oxytocin levels (love hormone) and ease anxiety.
  3. Acts as a natural decongestant to relieve cold symptoms, since the hot steam moisturizes nasal passages.
  4. If you have a fever a hot shower might be what you need to help break it, and bring your temperature back to normal.
  5. On the more vain side it can dry out your skin and hair, making you look older. 

Another fact that you might wish to considere before taking a warm shower is the new research in marketing centers on “embodied cognition”—the idea that without our conscious awareness, our bodily sensations help determine the decisions we make. For example, people who had briefly held a warm beverage were more likely than people who had held a cold one to think that a stranger was friendly; this was demonstrated in an experiment by Lawrence E. Williams, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and John A. Bargh, of Yale. Warm ambient temperatures also prompted people to conform so if you are going for a negotiation you might want to rethink turning down the temperature, as terrifying as it sounds.

  Some like it cold, including myself:

I have been taking cold showers for almost two years now and, although the thought of going into a cold shower in the morning still makes me shiver, it has had a lot of positive effects on me, for which I am willing to sacrifice 3 min of discomfort. I travel a lot, for example in the last 3 months I have traveled in more than 10 different countries, with temperature ranging from -20 to +15 degrees C,  so you can imagine the stress this causes to my body and my health. But in the past 2 years I got sick only once. And even then, with the help of some lemon water, garlic and a hot shower, I was cured in 2 days. Plus, since I started taking cold showers (together with changing my diet to a low carbs one), I have reduced my body fat from around 18% to around 10% , increased my muscle mass and improved my energy levels. So let’s see what could be the benefits of a cold shower?

  1. Turning your shower cold for the last five minutes can help “shock” your body awake. This rapid change in temperature relieves your body of fatigue and increases your mental alertness.
  2. It can be a treatment for depression. Some researchers recommend a “cooler” shower for two to three minutes once or twice daily.
  3. Cold water can improve immunity.
  4. Cold showers are better for our hair and skin. Where a hot shower can dry things out, cold showers can hydrate and help with split ends and dry skin.
  5. Short-term cold exposure (under 30 min ice bath) is used for muscle recovery by major sports teams.
  6. Short-term cold exposure can lead to fatty acid release (fat burn), because the body is using it to raise your temperature.
  7. Also cold exposure can increase testosterone levels, which can lead to improved performance, where it counts, faster muscle gains and to faster recovery after injuries, like cuts or scratches from the improved performance.

If you can’t take a cold shower, keeping an ice pack on the back of your head for 20-30 min produces similar effects.

Whether you choose to have a cold or a hot one, having a shower before going to sleep might help you add some months or years to your life. People from Japan, which tend to have one of the world highest life expectancy, are having an almost religious ritual: every night before going to bed they take a hot bath.

Of course there are also others who suggest that taking less showers is the way to go. Here the main focus is on reducing the chemicals and shampoos we use in order to avoid damaging our skin natural oil. Can it be that you shower to much? The video bellow could give you the answer.

The decision is always yours, so which one will you choose? Let us now in the comment box bellow.

Article written in collaboration with md. Marius Radu Nicula

More on….

http://www.naturalnews.com/022192_Japan_food_foods.html##ixzz3SUpAIeMX

https://hbr.org/2015/03/the-science-of-sensory-marketing

http://www.city-data.com/forum/other-topics/2232348-its-okay-stink-anti-shower-no.html

‘The Four Hour Body’ –Tim Ferriss

Carul rasturnat

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Cand eram mic, de fiecare data cand ma plangeam de o sarcina aparent imposibila, mi se spunea:
‘Nu sti? Te invatam! Nu poti? Te ajutam! Nu vrei? Te motivam!’
Citind povestea de mai jos mi-am reamintit de aceasta zicala si am realizat ca poate fi transformata usor intr-o reteta foarte buna pentru a-ti indeplini obiectivele.
‘Nu stiu? Voi invata! Nu pot? Voi cere ajutor! Nu vreau? Voi regasi motivatia! Si imi voi aminti mereu ca totul se intimpla cu un motiv.’

Martin Buber a istorisit, in Gog si Magog, povestea unui om care s-a pomenit, pe cand mergea undeva, in fata unui car rasturnat de-a curmezisul drumului. Taranul care mana calul l-a rugat sa-l ajute sa-l ridice.
Cum oare ar putea doi oameni sa ridice o greutate atat de mare? s-a intrebat calatorul. A raspuns, asadar:
-N-are nici un rost. Nu pot.
Taranul s-a maniat si i-a zis:
-Poti dar nu vrei! asta-i adevarul: nu vrei!
Miscat calatorul s-a pus pe treaba. A gasit niste scanduri si l-a ajutat pe carutas sa le vare sub roti. Apoi cei doi barbati au incropit o parghie si au impins cu toate puterile. Carul s-a clatinat, s-a miscat si, pina la urma, cei doi au izbutit sa il ridice.
Carul cu boi a pornit indata la drum.
Calatorul i-a spus taranului:
-Ingaduie-mi sa merg o bucata de drum alaturi de tine.
-Cu draga inima. Pofteste si ma insoteste.
Au pornit, unul linga altul. Dupa o clipa de tacere calatorul intreaba:
-Cum de te-ai putut gandi ca nu vreau sa te ajut?
-M-am gandit fiindca mi-ai spus ca nu poti. Nimeni nu stie ca nu poate sa faca ceva daca nu incearca.
-Dar cum te-ai gandit ca te pot ajuta?
-Uite-asa!
-Ce inseamna uite-asa?
-Ce pisalog esti! Vrei sa sti cu tot dinadinsul? Ei bine, mi-a trecut prin cap cand am vazut ca mi-ai fost trimis in intimpinare.
-Prin urmare, crezi ca ti s-a rasturnat carul tocmai pentru ca eu sa te pot ajuta?
-Dar pentru ce altceva, frate? a raspuns taranul.

Poveste e extrasa din cartea: ‘Cercul Mincinosilor’- de Jean-Claude Carriere
Daca povestea nu va motiveaza suficient sa renuntati la scuze, puteti incerca metoda promovata de Tim Ferris pe blog-ul personal: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2007/09/18/real-mind-control-the-21-day-no-complaint-experiment/

Imaginea: lindquist.cul.columbia.edu

Cultivate your mind

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I would add that we are what we repeatedly Think and Do…

“As you believe so shall it be done to you. If you have fait you can move mountains.”

It is said from ancient times that our mind contains riches beyond our wildest dreams and will return anything that we will plant in it. We can choose if we plant anxiety or courage, wealth or poverty, happiness or sadness, health or sickness. But it can’t be so easy. It has to be more complex. And even if that is true why don’t people just use their minds more?

Our mind is a standard equipment on birth and things that are given to us for nothing we place very little value on them, on the other hand things that we pay money for or have to work hard for we value more.
The paradox is that the opposite is true. Everything that is really worthwhile in life came to us free: our minds, our souls, our body, our hopes, our dreams, our intelligence, our love of friends, family and children all this priceless possessions are free. But the things that cost us money are cheap and can be replaced or lost at any time. A good man can become completely broke and regain his fortune several times. Even our home can be rebuilt if it burns down. But the things we got for nothing we can never replace. The human mind is not used because we take it for granted. We use our mind on little jobs instead of big ones because we take it for granted and we do not have goals that mean something for us. Not for someone else but for us.
A mind without goals is like a ship without a steer. It will drift endlessly without reaching anywhere.

Everyone is the sum total of his thoughts. He is where he is because this is where he really wants to be, even if he admits it or not. So before moving on ask yourself:

What do you value more?

What are you often thinking about?

What do you really want?

And what do you do to achieve it?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments bellow.

FMB
reconstructromania@gmail.com

And for some mind boggling thoughts check out the video bellow.