Circadian Sleep – Maximize Your Body’s Rest, Repair, and Recovery

by admin

The way that your body cycles levels of activity throughout the day is called your circadian rhythm.  Various brain centers have internal rhythms that affect your body, and in turn are affected by personal habits such as your sleep patterns, activity level, and light exposure.  Since these lifestyle choices play such a large role in how your body functions, it is important to maximize your personal lifestyle habits to reflect how circadian rhythms are innately programmed.

Many activities inside your body vary based upon the time of day.  Body temperature, wakefulness, digestion, even cell division are all affected by circadian rhythms.  Nearly all of your bone growth as a child occurs at night!

Lack of a Healthy Rhythm
It is well known that those who don’t sleep on a healthy cycle suffer from health problems due to their schedule.  For example, those who work the night shift have a greater percentage of most of the major chronic diseases relative to those with a daytime work schedule.  Also, not sleeping enough is a powerful negative influence on your body.  For example, sleep deprivation is a strong promoter of obesity and weight gain.

Circadian Rhythms Also Effect Your Hormonal State
The hormone cortisol is emitted in a cycle throughout the day.  Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases primarily in times of energy usage.  In terms of your body’s circadian rhythm, cortisol reaches a peak output first thing in the morning.  On the other hand, the output of cortisol is lowest in the late evening.  The greatest output is around 5 a.m., while it is at its lowest point in a 24-hour period around midnight.  This is one reason why getting to bed before 11 p.m. helps your body sync up with your natural circadian rhythm.  And this helps to maximize repair during sleep. More

Chronic Disease Crisis

by admin

Growing up, current generations heard that the greatest health threats worldwide were things like starvation, epidemics, and drought.  While these things continue to plague mankind, there is now a newer problem that has surpassed these old disasters.  The number one threat to human life on the planet today is the crisis of chronic disease.

Just how bad has the crisis of chronic disease become?

The World Health Organization has declared chronic diseases the number one killer on the planet.  Chronic disease is now the cause of over fifty percent of deaths worldwide.  Furthermore, the death toll currently caused by chronic disease continues to increase steadily.

Facts about chronic disease from the World Health Organization:

  • Chronic diseases are now the major cause of death and disability worldwide. Noncommunicable conditions, including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, obesity, cancer and respiratory diseases, now account for 59% of the 57 million deaths annually and 46% of the global burden of disease.
  • A relatively few risk factors – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and alcohol – cause the majority of the chronic disease burden.
  • A change in dietary habits, physical activity and tobacco control, have a major impact in reducing the rates of these chronic diseases, often in a relatively short time.
  • Heart attacks and strokes kill about 12 million people every year; another 3.9 million die from hypertensive and other heart conditions.
  • More than one billion adults worldwide are overweight; at least 300 million of them are clinically obese.
  • About 75% of CVD can be attributed to the majority risks: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low fruit and vegetable intake, inactive lifestyle and tobacco.
  • Sustained behavioural interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing population risk factors.

Chronic diseases include things like heart disease and strokes, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and dementia, and many others.  These diseases are widely understood to be the result of our modern lifestyle choices.  Over the past several decades, research has shown that these chronic illnesses are preventable in large part if we learn to make different choices.  In other words, if we live differently.

Predictions for the future are that this chronic illness crisis, as bad as it is today, will get much worse.  Cancer rates have been predicted to go up by 50% by the year 2020.  One in three children born in the USA today will develop diabetes.  And research continues to show our toxic modern lifestyle is the cause.

Sadly, many diseases we are suffering from today were largely preventable if we knew what to do differently ahead of time.  The same applies to our health in the future.  If we act now, many of these chronic diseases are avoidable if we change how we live our lives. More

Negative Influences – Comparisons, Social Cues and the Herd

by admin

We hear it often from the Bonfire experts, “If the herd was happier and healthier, we would follow them,” but as Dr. Jesse Davis put it, “Unfortunately, doing things that fit in has become increasingly dangerous.

The herd moves in fear. Movement with the herd often results in irrational decisions by way of the absence of comprehensive understanding and reasoning, also known as: groupthink. The herd’s movements, though keeping individuals from being singled out, seldom provide optimum benefit for any within, as is certainly the case in modern culture. Running with the crowd today may help us survive society, but will not help us thrive as individuals.

Many of society’s accepted norms dress the harmful up as helpful, present disease as desirable, proclaim the hurtful as healthful, and promote sickness as status. We are exposed repeatedly to messages that detract from our attention to our wellness. The vast majority of the inputs we are surrounded by emphasize momentary enjoyment, instant gratification, or both without regard to long-term effects of those indulgences on our own or others’ lives.

Along our Bonfire journey, we must continually ask ourselves what around us is influencing us “negatively.” We can define “negative” (since it is quite subject to individual interpretation) as:

Anything that detracts from the long-term quality of, or equilibrium among, the Seven Lifetime Value Accounts depletes their current balance, or hinders our ability to sustain our investment in them.

When we discover influences (people, information, environments, etc.) that subtract from or divide more than they add to or multiply, we should:

• Remove them from our lives altogether – this will work better on magazines, television shows, radio programs, and the like than on family members.

• Reduce their share of or input into our lives – let those who do not acknowledge the power of their choices in determining their own wellness watch us from a distance as we proactively shape ours…hopefully they’ll learn something.

• Remove ourselves from the reach of their energy – Let’s stay away from that corner store with the “Delicious Healthy Snacks” sign that peddles artificially flavored, food-like substances with corn syrup-sweetened carbonated beverages with which to wash them down. If we walk in, it is by our own choice that we come “under the influence.”

The next time we feel like just rolling with the herd because it’s “easier” than standing out and living healthy, well and awesome lives, let’s remember a tiny concept expressed in a well-known historical letter and ask ourselves if we really want what we’ll get if we do follow the crowd:

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Oh, and as far as keeping up with the Joneses, when we think about comparing what we have to what they have (food “freedoms,” bottled “youth” or “beauty,” “enhanced” athletic performance, etc.), let’s not forget to also compare what we have to what they have (chronic diseases, adverse reactions, that extra-spacey look, etc.). Then we can ask ourselves “Do we really want to clamor with everyone else around us to ‘win’ a lifetime achievement award for the number of chronic diseases and corresponding ‘treatments’ we can go through before we close our eyes for the last time?” We’d probably be a whole lot better off just staying near the basics of the Bonfire…

Sustained exposure to negative influence over time reduces the balance in our Seven Lifetime Value Accounts. It’s up to us to determine not to be part of the downward spiraling health trend that surrounds us. As Dr. Paul writes:

Let’s rally together to go against the accepted norms, against society’s common traits of living a sedentary existence, eating non-nutritious processed foods, and engaging in busy but unproductive, chronically stressful lives. All of these common contemporary lifestyle behaviors are literally destroying our bodies, our health, and our lives.

Stress Management – Quick Strategies for Coping with Stress

by admin

The Quick Take Away:

  • Eat less sugar: sugar is an extraordinary stress-inducing food that undermines our health in countless ways.
  • Sleep more: go to bed earlier because you still have to get up at your usual time, so to get more rest – one the most effective stress relief behavior you can engage in, and it’s free and feels great.
  • Exercise more: the body’s response to exertion is categorically a must for health in general but a key strategy for melting stress
  • Say no … more often: reduce the demands on your schedule by simply not committing to so many … things (for you, for your kids, at work).

We all do what we need to do to survive, “get by,” and in hopefully most cases, succeed.  In all of these, good, bad, or ugly, stress accumulates and adds to the load we’re already carrying through life.  Thankfully, we are surrounded with abundant information on how to productively quarantine, reduce, or ideally, dissipate the stress – the question is, have we looked into it yet?

There are none more powerful in managing stress levels than ourselves, and so we are charged with the responsibility of keeping tabs on how we are allowing stressors to affect us psychologically and ultimately, physically.  After reading Week 1′s SPARK Insight, we understand a few of the physiological effects of chronic stress, and are tasked with finding practical methods to incorporate daily to prevent stress-induced deficiency.

Here are some great “weapons” in our arsenal that everyone can use to combat chronic stress:

  • Bonfire’s FUEL section provides a wonderful way to eliminate some of the stress of having to “cook up” healthy meals to fuel a hungry household, and provides grocery shopping lists and recipes with instructions each week.  Not only does this help with the planning and shopping aspects, but the real, live, and whole ingredients in the meal plan help our bodies be properly set up to physically deal with our daily stresses.

We need to practice removing ourselves from our everyday stressors, even if for a few seconds at a time while right in the middle of them, and we need to be on-purpose about it.

One particularly inconspicuous strategy that is fun and costs nothing is a “three second vacation.”  For three seconds, close your eyes and let your mind transport you to the most relaxing place on earth – sights, sounds, scents, everything.  Breathe it all in deeply for three seconds, and then resume your activity (extend duration and/or repeat as many times throughout the day as necessary).

Also, to the extent that schedule and location make it practical, giving your body a chance to “reboot” comes highly recommended.

On a larger scale, we challenge you to use some of the most gratifying activities you’ve come to enjoy to assist in the battle against stress.  They don’t necessarily need to cost anything (it doesn’t cost much to take a sketch pad out to draw a landscape or to get out and climb a tree…preferably your own tree), but a reasonable expense is also acceptable (a ride along the coast on a sunny day, top-down in a rented convertible, a round of golf, or a session out on the community airfield with a radio controlled airplane…however, if the expense or challenge of the mechanism adds stress, please find another coping mechanism to use).  If we ask our Bonfire experts, we’re sure to find intense exercise and surfing among their top choices for coping mechanisms – not specifically for the coping aspect, but because they’re a main course of fun with a generous helping of stress-relief on the side.

We’re all different and there’s no sense in stressing about choosing coping mechanisms, so find your fun and you’ll discover a mechanism that works for you!

The Big 4 of Mental Toughness – Part II

by admin

The Big 4 of Mental Toughness – Part II

By Mark Divine

In part one of this series on Mental Toughness we introduced the “3 fights” you fight every day.  The first fight is inside you.  That battle is overcoming your fears, steeling your resolve, maintaining an offensive mind set, developing skills, knowledge and personal power, and not succumbing to mediocrity.

The second fight is the actual engagement; the one most would consider “the fight”.  The Coach says 3, 2, 1 go and you launch yourself into the WOD. In business, you launch the product and steel yourself for the customer response. As a SEAL, you close with the enemy and engage in combat.   This is often the easiest of the 3 fights, and often the shortest in time invested.

The third fight is between you and “the system.” The system can be downright cold and cruel sometimes.

However, if you focus on the fight first and seek to win that before you ever embark on the second fight, or have to deal with the consequences of the third, you will win all three, every time.  The first fight is in your mind.  You must win in the mind, before stepping foot onto the battleground.  This is true for any situation in life.  The question, then, becomes how.

You must master 4 mental toughness tactics to win in your mind before you step into the battles of life.  Whether you are a SEAL candidate or business professional, the big 4 are your toolkit to mental toughness and success.  Let’s look at the first of these tactics.

Performance Zone Breathing
Control of the breath is not just useful for arousal control, leading to a lessening of the effect of the negative impact of stress, but also in the positive sense it is useful to change your state even if the stress facing you is “simply” performance anxiety.  Elite athletes and Navy SEALs utilize breath control to prepare for missions and events.  The act of psyching yourself up physically and mentally includes deep diaphragmatic breathing, forced exhalation breaths combined with powerful visualization and positive affirmations.

Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing
Breathing is both a conscious and unconscious process.  When unconscious we tend be do what is called “chest breathing.”  This type of breathing is inefficient and labor intensive in that it requires more effort for the same amount of oxygen intake, lowering energy stores and increasing anxiety.

  • Facing a stressful event, we should switch to a deep diaphragmatic breathing pattern. 

We can practice a deep diaphragmatic breathing pattern through a discipline we call Box Breathing at SEALFIT Academy.  Box breathing is meant to be done in a quiet and controlled setting, not while you are in the fight.  The pattern is simply a box, whereby you inhale to a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, exhale to the same 5 count and hold again for 5.  You can start at 3 if this is difficult, or take it up a notch if easy.  You should be uncomfortable on the exhale hold, and be forced to fill the entirely of your lung capacity on the inhale hold.

The benefits of deep diaphragmatic box breathing include:

  • Reduction of performance anxiety
  • Control of the arousal response
  • Increasing brain elasticity – flexibility through enhanced blood flow and reduced mental stimulation
  • Enhancing learning and skill development
  • Increasing capacity for focused attention and long term concentration

Relax, just breathe!
When you are in “the fight” you will not want to hold your breath.  So we turn to what we call a Relaxation breath instead.  In this practice you will drop the hold and just inhale to a count of 5 starting from the diaphragm then filling up the middle of your chest then finally the top as if you are gulping in a final sip of air.  Immediately you will begin to exhale in the opposite manner – starting at the top and ending with a puff to get the air out of the deep recesses of your lungs.  Then you do it again and again.

The relaxation breath is valuable to control the arousal response, calming the body and mind so you can remain in control, focused and present.  If you practice it enough it will eventually become your natural breathing state, providing enormous physical and mental benefits over the long run, such as:

  • Long term anxiety reduction
  • Chronic pain reduction
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Improved immune functioning
  • Enhanced lung capacity
  • Enhanced body awareness
  • Enhanced control over bodily functions
  • Enhanced sense of presence
  • Increased energy

You can practice the relaxation breathing exercise anytime throughout the day.  It is great to do before a meeting, while driving, or now, while you are reading this!  Continued in part 3…

Until then, train hard, stay safe and have fun!


Commander Mark Divine is founder and CEO of US Tactical, inc. which operates SEALFIT, and US CrossFit. He started his athletic career as a collegiate swimmer and rower, then competitive tri-athlete and martial artist before joining the Navy in 1990 as an officer. He graduated honor-man of his SEAL training class and served on active duty for nine years. Mark retired as a Commander from the Navy Reserves in 2011.

At U.S. Tactical and SEALFIT, CDR Divine has trained and mentored thousands of Navy SEAL and other Special Ops candidates to succeed in the most demanding military training programs in the world. His success rate with SEALFIT in getting candidates through their SOF programs is near 90%.  More

Chiropractic: The Essential Element of Nerve Supply (and being healthy)

by admin

How have chiropractic patients had miraculous recoveries from such diverse conditions as infertility, high blood pressure, hearing loss, and enuresis (bed wetting)?  By freeing the master system of the body – the nervous system – from interference, that’s how.

Chiropractors correct mechanical stress to the spine (called vertebral subluxation) that creates irritation and interference to the flow of information across the complex and sensitive nerve system.  This is the same reason why the healthiest families in the world, not to mention elite atheletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Jerry Rice, make regular chiropractic care part of their health regimen.


10,000 lbs – You’re joking, right?

by drstephen



“That’s ridiculous,”  I heard myself say out loud.  I was standing in front of the dry-erase board at my local CrossFit , where each day the WOD (Workout of the Day) is posted. And that’s what it said: DEAD-LIFT 10,000 LBS AND RUN A MILE FOR TIME

My brain just reacted to the suggestion that I would even consider subjecting myself to anything close to the demands presented by the workout on that board.  I became defensive, thinking “would that even be good for me?”  I started to get irritated.   I must have felt threatened by the idea that someone else was going to come in here today and actually do this.  Eventually, I dismissed it as a prank – a joke.  Someone from the previous class must have gotten their hands on the dry-erase marker and was standing by to see our faces.  I knowingly looked over my shoulder.  No one.

I am continually amazed by the phenomenon of self-doubt.  At what point do we resist the dominant voice of fear in our heads and simply trust?  How often do we miss experiences, relationships or growth because of hesitation or uncertainty?  How can we master the primal voice of self-preservation and recognize that it is there to serve us – not enslave us.  We are created to be extraordinary beings.  We have enormous capacity.  We just need to learn how to access it.

“People overestimate what they can achieve in a day; and underestimate what they can achieve in a lifetime.” (author unknown)

Life can be overwhelming.  At times, we face challenges that may seem insurmountable.  Breathe.  Evaluate the situation, clarify the objective, and chunk it down.  Identify the highest priority action steps and knock them down – one at a time.  Most of us are already working hard enough, what we really need are better strategies.

50 repetitions of 200 lbs. is 10,000 lbs.  I can do that.  Run a quarter mile, do 25 dead-lifts, run another quarter mile, do 15 reps, run another quarter mile, do 10 reps, and finish with another quarter mile. I can do that.

“11 minutes, 31 seconds.”   I heard Danny Vee bark out over the pounding of my heart.  I had just completed what I knew was impossible 12 minutes ago.

Your 10,000 lbs. may look different than mine.  It may be a sick parent, a difficult child, financial hardship, a failing marriage, or crippling anxiety.  You may look at it with fear and doubt, or get defensive or angry, but ultimately, that does not serve you.

Know that you are magnificent and that you have capacities that you have yet to explore.  Sometimes inertia is our greatest enemy.  Doubt leads to fear, and fear creates paralysis.  Choose to change your perspective and push.  There are two ways to measure the strength of a person:  how much they can move, and how much it takes to move them.

God Bless.


$1440 a Day

by drstephen

dollar bill

Can I have 20 bucks? I am not going to give it back, in fact, it’s absolutely unrecoverable.  It’s not really going to go towards anything worthwhile, honestly. I am just going to blow it – on nothing, absolutely nothing. In fact, how about $60?

Time is the great equilibrator. Everyone gets exactly the same amount, everyday. This is a highly unique quality of time. With the exception of the day that you are born and the day that you die, you get exactly 1440 minutes to spend. Everyone, everyday.

How will you spend it?
I’ll suggest that we would all do better with our time management if we had a “Time Register” that functioned like our Check Register. Every morning at 12:00 am 1440 minutes gets deposited into our Life Time Account, which of course was emptied the day before.  What’s your plan – your budget?

How will you leverage this resource? Do you invest it? (Think study, rest, explore, experience, relate…) or will you squander it? (Think waste, worry, fear, regret, retreat…)

We would all do well to examine our “spending habits”. The Heath Brothers introduce the concept of Grasp and Twist in their book Switch. Teach a new concept by using another widely understood concept (Grasp) and then make a slight adjustment to convey the new idea (Twist).

Each moment is spent like a dollar. Every minute is invested in something. And in its own unique way, time is given to everyone equally; it cannot be stored or hoarded. It cannot be recovered or regained. It can only be used to purchase experiences. Minute by minute.

Now breathe and go do something worthwhile.

Dr. Stephen Franson

Want To Be Happier? Could It Be This Simple?

by drstephen

We all want to be happier.  Even the happiest among us want to be happier still.

Know this:  Harvard University is deeply engaged in the study of happy people.  They have teased-out the common traits and behaviors of the happiest people they could find.  Here are some of the high points:

1.  Use your strengths. It turns out that when we get to do things that come easier to us, we are happier. Humans like to be good at things. Remember that the next time that you apply for a job, encourage your child or ask your spouse to help you do something.

2. Savor the moment.  Apparently we needed research to tell us to stop and smell the roses. (Or at least I did.) As the world speeds-by, it seems that those who stop to appreciate how freakin’ fortunate we all are experience greater happiness. I’ll have to schedule that.

3. Engagement. Once again, the evidence frowns on multi-tasking. It seems that trying to focus on more than one thing at a time not only interferes with accuracy, quality, creativity, production and safety; it turns out that it robs us of our happiness as well.

Do this: Embrace the fact that it is not only what we do that matters, but how we do it.  Accept that your mind is a magnificent single-processor that blooms in the light of purposeful work; do something that allows you to express your natural virtues and engage in the splendor of the here and now.


Dr. Stephen Franson

Sunshine and Insulation

by drstephen

sunshine and insulation

When you build a house in New England, temperature management is a critical consideration.

The highs and lows of our seasonal temperature variations are some of the most impressive in the world.  You don’t build a house for severe winter and you don’t build a house for extreme summer – you build one that will perform well in both.

Two key considerations here: Insulation and Windows. Insulation will keep your hard-earned dollars from radiating out the roof in the winter, and well-placed windows will allow the heat of the sun to pour into your home from the Southern Skies.

This dynamic speaks to the art of raising a person as well– and not necessarily just a child, either.

People need insulation and sunshine. 

Insulation comes in many forms: intestinal fortitude, self-image, personal security, financial stability, emotional harmony, familial and social community, etc.

The same can be said of sunshine: praise, love, support, grace, honor, respect and acceptance, etc.

But often, sunshine comes in disguise. Sometimes you sense more heat than light. 

Responsibility is this type of sunshine.

I fear that all too often today leaders, teachers, and parents can be too focused on insulation, and miss the benefit of a little sunshine. We would do well to shift our focus from insulating our people in an effort to protect them. Rather than trying to keep them from struggling, we should trust our people to try and fail successfully - cope, rebound, and try again.

Plants grow toward sunshine. Innately, a plant will twist, turn, reach, and sprout toward sunlight. People, especially kids, are a lot like plants. Give them responsibility and let them have at it – they will grow to it.

Now go grow,

Dr. Stephen Franson