A guide to CBD oil for mental and physical health

 
CBD mental physical health benefits guide biofit biofilico biophilia

When you think of cannabis, motivation and mental acuity probably aren’t the first things that come to mind but in recent years, the scientific community has successfully challenged this stereotype specifically in regards to cannabidiol (CBD), a natural compound in the plant with a multitude of health-giving properties.

Medical cannabis

The tide really began to turn with Charlotte’s Web, a strain of medical cannabis that had near-miraculous effects in children with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy.[1] Since then, a deluge of potential health benefits have come to light.  

As legalisation spreads across the western world, professionals increasingly look to products like CBD oil as a natural way to upgrade mental and physical performance.

What is CBD oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of around 400 natural compounds in the plant Cannabis Sativa.  It is legal and safe to consume. It is not however to be confused with THC, another chemical compound in cannabis that has psychoactive properties, i.e. it gets you high, CBD does not.

CBD in natural, biophilic lifestyle

Talk about living in harmony with nature: the human body has an entire system designed to interact with cannabinoids.  This system has branches in the brain, thyroid, immune system, digestive tract, and almost every organ in the body.  Nerve cells produce signalling molecules called endocannabinoids, which are like those in Cannabis sativa.

CBD vs THC

Unlike cannabis strains used for recreational use, CBD oil does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  CBD has no mind-altering properties, and actually counteracts the intoxicating effects of THC.

CBD as part of a natural lifestyle

Modern life can be stressful, with anxiety and sleep disruption a painful reality for many, especially those living highly tech-driven, urban lives. Reduced sleep over the course of a few days however has a severe impact on our cognitive and physical performance.

Biohacking for rest and stress

Biohackers are those who attempt to improve their physical and mental performance by manipulating their environment, nutrition, lifestyle and so on; in this case, many of them are going green in the search for new ways to rest and recharge.

Plants as medicine - ain’t nothin’ new!

Plants were, lest it needs stating, the very first medicines in human evolutionary history- nature held the remedy and relief to countless diseases thousands of years before the pharmaceutical industry began to commercialise the space.

So, while CBD may, like so many other plant-based treatments, be an old remedy, modern medicine hasn’t quite caught up, partly due to taboo and confusion over its place within the marijuana industry /drug trade.

This is an exciting time for new scientific studies being published as legislation frees up the industry; data is still in its relative infancy but the signs are positive.  

CBD for pain and inflammation

Experts believe that CBD could help with pain relief. The body’s cannabinoid system has a role in pain signalling and CBD could block these signals.[2] [3]  Some research also indicates that CBD could be useful in inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease [4]

CBD for anxiety and improved mood

Scientists are interested in the role of endocannabinoids in the fight-or-flight response.  CBD could be a potential treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, as well as PTSD.5] One study also showed that CBD had an antidepressant effect in mice.[6]

Improved sleep

If CBD can calm the mind, it follows that it could improve sleep quality. This is supported by rodent studies, which put forward CBD as a future treatment for insomnia.[7] [8]

Addiction treatments

One proven way to improve future wellness is to quit smoking, and CBD may be of benefit in this area too. Endocannabinoids act in parts of the brain that control psychological reward. If CBD can block signals that trigger addiction, it could be useful for drug, alcohol and nicotine dependence.[9]

Neuroprotection

It hasn’t been tested in humans yet, but pre-clinical trials suggest that CBD could protect brain cells. This is relevant to conditions like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke and multiple sclerosis.[10]

Nootropics

For our thoughts on other biohacking supplements in the ‘nootropics’ category, see here and here.

References

[1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/epi.12610

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21426373

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28934780

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22815234

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6066583

[6] https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf

[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390811003467

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28349316

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444130/

[10] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314080489

 

Indoor Air Quality in Gyms & Wellness Facilities

 
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Biophilic design as a unique selling point

When you walk into a green wellness space, gym, yoga studio or BJJ academy, there is an immediate visual impact from the nature-inspired interiors that stands in marked contrast to most such interiors,. While this can be a unique point of differentiation, the real benefits of such eco-friendly interior design choices go far beyond what the eye can see…

Air Quality & Biophilia

When it comes to indoor air quality, nature-inspired interiors are quite literally a breath of fresh air. Why so? Like so many of today’s man-made environments, traditional gyms are designed with scant concern for the provenance or potential toxicity of the materials used in the fit-out. These chemicals are known as indoor air pollutants (IAPs) and they can have a negative effect on gym-goers’ health.

Indoor air pollutants (IAPs) exceed government limits

In a 2014 study, researchers at the University of Lisbon found that a number of local fitness centres had levels of CO2 and VOC that exceeded limits set by Portuguese legislation.[4] Health risks from IAPs may also be magnified during exercise due to deeper breathing patterns.[5] The cruel irony of course is that health centres and gyms are intended to be bastions of wellbeing.

biofit gym protocols

A biophilic gym heads off many of these issues at the pass thanks to its design protocols and then implements a series of ongoing operational procedures to ensure similar standards of healthy air quality are maintained over the long term. Here is our take on it:

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are linked to cancer and organ damage. They come from building materials, gym equipment, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and cleaning agents.[1] Biofit gyms avoid VOCs through the use of non-toxic paint; organic materials such as cork panels and eco flooring made of sustainable cork and eco-rubber’; eco cleaning materials and the use of sustainably minded gym equipment suppliers.

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Human breath is the main source of CO2 indoors.  CO2 levels correspond with the rate of outside air supply; the more CO2, the more “stale” the air feels.[2]  In spaces that have a high concentration of sweating human bodies therefore, ventilation and air flow are fundamental. Think of a spinning or hot yoga studio for example. Biofit gyms use NASA approved air-purifying plants as a way to regulate CO2 levels combined with air-purifiers, tackling the problem from two sides and then monitoring the results on a daily basis.

Microscopic & biological air particles

Some tiny particles in the air are linked to cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease.[3] Sources of these particles include traffic fumes, cigarette smoke and dust. Bacteria, mould and pollen meanwhile can trigger asthmatic and allergy attacks.[1] Biofit gyms have strict daily cleaning protocols as well as air-purifying strategies to reduce airborne pollens and dust, outdoor shoes are an under-the-radar source of such particles so our gyms recommend barefoot training whenever possible.

the problem with Fitness facilities

In gyms, martial arts academies and yoga studios, gathering large groups of people in relatively small spaces is par for the course. Unfortunately, this is bad news for indoor air quality. While classes are in session, accumulated dust can be thrown up into the air while heavy breathing inevitably adds extra carbon dioxide to the air. In many instances, ventilation simply cannot keep up.  

Green design: A natural solution

High quality air is an inherent quality of biophilic spaces, which, by definition, are intended to replicate an environment that is as close to the great outdoors as possible, including air purity. On this basis, a well-designed organic gym could house the freshest pocket of air in a city block.

To minimise indoor air pollutants, Biofit’s sustainable gym designs include:

  • Mindful selection of materials

  • Temperature and humidity control to minimise bacterial growth

  • Air purifying plants

  • High ceilings

  • Small to medium-size class sizes

  • Appropriate HVAC system

  • Low-tech or manually powered gym machinery

  • Smoking ban

  • Eco-friendly cleaning agents

  • Easy-to-clean surfaces

  • Non-VOC paint on the walls

To learn more about our eco-friendly, nature-inspired gym design services, please contact us at info @ biofit . io

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707925/

[2] https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ad30/328938f3843eace78ffc672851f956389817.pdf

[3] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ambient-(outdoor)-air-quality-and-health

[4] http://tarjomefa.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/7873-English-TarjomeFa.pdf

[5] https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/35/4/214

 

office recharge rooms & biophilia

 
office recharge rooms & biophilia

workplace recharge rooms - why are they useful?

In an era filled with high stress jobs and always on tech fatigue, recharge rooms are a growing trend in workplace wellness programs. Whether presented as somewhere for stretching and yoga, a quiet room for focused bursts of concentration and productivity, as a chill-out meditation space or even a games area, recharge rooms are somewhere for workers to — you guessed it—recharge their batteries during the workday.  

what are the benefits of a wellness room?

It may seem like an overly generous move by an employer to provide this kind of a facility for employee use during work hours but there is a lot more to it than just helping staff top up on their nightly sleep quota... Companies themselves can benefit from them just as much as the employees do. 

When used for brainstorming sessions for example, these rooms can boost creativity, mental clarity and overall productivity (more on the ‘how’ below). This makes them effective tools not just for forward-thinking HR departments looking to attract / retain top talent in a competitive marketplace (think tech start-ups for example) but also for Executives looking to optimize their team’s output and help individuals find their flow state in what is increasingly likely to be an open-plan office with limited privacy.

meditation room biophilic green eco design biofilico

biophilic design & office green rooms

Replicating the body’s circadian rhythm with smart lighting solutions means these rooms can be pre-programmed each season to replicate the effects of sunlight in the mornings, energizing blue-white light in the middle of the day and softer amber tones later on.

Air-purifying plants combined with dedicated air purifiers ensure improved indoor air quality (IAQ) to reduce air-borne particle counts and remove other pollutants, helping to reduce allergies and promote cognitive function at the same time.

Botanical wallpapers, artworks and nature murals can be used to bring the outside world in, replicating the effect of being outside in a natural landscape even if the office is located in a dense urban setting with limited gardens or parks nearby.

Organic aromatherapy oils such as pine and rosemary can add an extra sensory dimension to the experience whilst also affecting mood and concentration levels. Advanced functional nootropics can also be added to a diffuser now, representing another level in organic biohacking.

the urgent need for recharge rooms

While stress and mental health disorders seem to be more abundant than ever, these recharge rooms are a modern tool to help combat what is a decidedly 21st century problem. With a plethora of benefits for both employee and business, there is a recharge room to fit just about every budget, room size and corporate culture.

To discuss how we can help design one of these spaces for your office or home, simply email us at design @ biofilico . com

 

Biophilic Design in Gyms & Spas

 
biofit biofilico gym design green eco biophilic

nature gyms & ‘green’ exercise

Have you ever noticed that sense of calm that washes over you when sitting on a beach watching the waves roll in, or relaxing under a tree deep in a forest while breathing in those positive phytoncides in the air? 

Nature has a powerful impact on our mood and mental wellbeing, a fundamental concept behind the approach of biophilic design which integrates nature into the built environment for similar functional health benefits. 

How? By combining healthy, nature-inspired and sustainable design principles into one.

what is biophilic design doing in a gym or spa?

The objective of using biophilia in an indoor gym or spa is to offer a powerful connection to nature through an abundance of plants, natural toxin-free materials in lieu of nasty synthetics; organic shapes with a wabi-sari (imperfectly beautiful) finish and a soothing palette of beiges, greens and browns. We have covered the benefits of training outdoor here and we remain devoted believers in spending time outdoors whenever possible!

Taken together though, all of these design techniques can create an indoor environment with remnants of the great outdoors even in a dense urban context where access to nature may be inherently limited. Layer in a spa treatment or natural fitness workout on top though and the health benefits start to become truly compelling.   

biofit gym green exercise research biophilic design

health benefits of biophilia

In 2017, Biofit commissioned the first scientific study into what is termed as “indoor green exercise”. Conducted by the UKActive Research Institute and University of Essex Green Exercise Group, it ran over four weeks at the Biofit pop-up gym in London with a total of 118 participants taking a natural fitness session. 

Each responded to a ‘before and after’ questionnaire, with the following results:

- 75% felt less stressed after their session

- 80% reported feeling more connected to nature

- 87% found an improvement in positive mood state

- An average enjoyment level of 91/100 

By changing how a gym or indeed spa looks and feels, we can thus increase client satisfaction and boost overall enjoyment whilst ensuring happier, healthier members who feel connected to nature. 

why use a biophilic gym design?

Biophilic design and green exercise is a suitable eco-friendly solution for gyms of 25sq. metres up to 1000sq. metres. While smaller spaces are ideal for focused, small group and personal training, larger facilities can offer an array of training equipment, outdoor obstacles and a variety of zones to cover strength, cardio, movement and mobility.

To discuss how Biofit could help you design and equip your gym, be it a commercial business, home gym, hotel gym or office gym, simply email us on info @ biofit . io 

 

Biophilic Design: Botanical Wallpapers & Nature Murals

 
Photowall biophilic mural.jpg

More research than ever suggests that a regular connection to nature is of tangible psychological and physical health benefit yet 21st century urban lifestyles mean securing a regular dose of ‘vitamin nature’ has become a genuine challenge for many.

Nature-inspired biophilic design aims to remedy this disconnection by introducing nature back into interiors and the built environment through elements such as colour, patterns, textures and materials.

An example of this functional health approach to design is the use of wallpapers with botanical motifs and nature wall murals, read on for our take on why they work. 

Photowall botanic wallpaper.jpg

Where and Why to use a Biophilic Wall

Whether you are looking to create calm in a waiting room, need a low-cost way to inject a huge splash of nature into your home, or want an office that promotes both health and productivity, nature-inspired wallpaper and murals are a cost-efficient solution. They’re also fairly easy to install, long-lasting, and require zero maintenance, making them especially useful for underground spaces with limited or no natural light to support plant life.

Health Benefits of Biophilic Wallpapers and Murals

Wallpapers and murals can be a great way to infuse a room with color, create a focal point, or change a room’s ambience, but did you know that this simple wall covering can also have a positive impact on your mood? 

A 1993 study by Dr. Roger Ulrich focused on biophilic design applied to various settings, one of which was a windowless, hospital emergency room. They traded blank walls and artificial furnishings for a design that aimed to connect people with nature through potted plants, furnishings made from natural materials, and a colorful wall mural of plants and animals in a Savannah-like setting.

The result? A significant decrease in stress and aggressive behaviour among patients. Not only did the results of this study give us a glimpse of the power of a connection with nature, it showed that the positive impact can also be present when nature is indirect and merely representational, which brings us neatly back to the wallpapers and murals again!

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Biophilic Walls in Workplaces and Residential Designs

Both wallpapers and murals are suitable for home and the workplace but which one is right for you?

Wallpapers tend to be cheaper, more widely available, and have more designs to choose from, they are also more representative or suggestive of nature than explicitly a scene of nature.

Wall murals on the other hand depict nature in a deliberately photorealistic way—which can arguably lead to greater health benefits.

Whichever option you choose, these outside of the box solutions are guaranteed to introduce a regular dose of nature back into any urban lifestyle. 

If you want to know how we can help you create a biophilic interior contact us via email on design @ biofilico . com

 

nootropics and biophilic living - part 2

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you?   Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).   Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.   So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance.

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you? 

Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).


Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.


So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance. 

all-in-one nootropics

Before we dive into our list of the leading nootropics contenders, a short note on how to get started. Various options exist today for easily accessible, online purchases that give you a generalist, quick win nootropic. These all-in-one supplements cover, to a greater or lesser extent, most bases and are in our opinion a great starting position. Examples includes products by the likes of Form for example, or GoPrimal to name but two.

build your own nootropics ‘stack’

For newbies to the subject, a simple all-in-one may be enough to get you started. It requires minimal time and even less thinking. As you start to dig deeper into the subject however, you may wish to go big on certain doses, doubling down on some ingredients and that will require buying individual, high-dose and premium quality nootropics. Place several of these together and you have your first ‘stack’, a term borrowed it seems from the tech community, as in a ‘full stack developer’.

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bacopa flower

Bacopa monnieri is a perennial herb native to India with a long history in Ayurvedic medicine linked to cognitive abilities. Ayurveda never set out to be a scientific tradition but we would be amiss to discount this philosophy entirely. Studies have shown that this herb has both antioxidant and cell-protective qualities as well as stimulating long-term increased hippocampus activity, which could equate to overall learning abilities.

l-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found most commonly in green tea leaves (Camellia Sinensis) and in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms. Reassuringly, it is readily available in both pill and tablet form in your average health food stores.

Research indicates that L-theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness, reducing stress and taking the edge off the famous caffeine jitters.

In a 2018 double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of 46 participants diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), results showed significant improvements in self-reported sleep satisfaction as a result of daily 450-900mg doses of L-theanine over a 10-week period.

Improvements to brain serotonin, dopamine and GABA levels (neutrotransmitters associated with pleasure and concentration) have only been shown in animal neurochemistry trials to date, as far as we can see, which is primarily where L-theanine’s reputation for cognitive enhancement comes from. 

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ashwaganda

Another big gun in the Ayurvedic tradition, also known as Indian Ginseng, Ashwaganda is said to have similar properties to Bacopa monnieri. In one double-blind, placebo controlled study, 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment were treated with 300mg twice daily or a placebo for eight weeks with significant improvements in both immediate recall and general memory in those treated with the root.

Choline

Essential for the proper functioning of the brain, Choline is thought to improve cognition and is associated with higher memory performance. Studies have shown that ingesting Choline during gestation and early postnatal development in mice helps to protect the brain fro neuropathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko leafs are an ancient and isolated species, making them something of an anomaly in modern day biology. One double-blind, placebo controlled study showed 24 participants with improved executive functioning in females especially. Another study on patients with dementia or cognitive impairment showed that a dose of over 200mg per day over a period of at least 22 weeks had potential benefits on cognitive performance.

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Lion’s Mane Mushroom 

Hericum Erinaceus is an edible mushroom with medicinal qualities that belongs to the tooth fungus group. Studies have shown that it can have significant improvements on novelty-seeking behaviors, general locomotor functions and enhanced recognition memory. The exact mechanism through which it achieves this however, is not yet fully understood.

5 tips for improving indoor air quality at home

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indoor air quality and biophilic design

Indoor air quality is a key component of the healthy building / healthy design movement and forms a central part in all the big certification programs such as WELL, Fitwel and the International Living Future Institute.

It is also a component of biophilic design as it is returns the indoor built environment to a more natural state, similar to the type of air we were breathing for millions of years while evolving on the planet, i.e. fresh, clean and pollution-free.

This in turn opens the door to several bio-hacks designed to improve overall health, sleep and mental acuity.

top 5 tips for maintaining healthy indoor air at home:

1.take your shoes off!

Remove outdoor shoes at the entrance religiously, switching to dedicated indoor only shoes such as slippers, sandals or simply go barefoot, depending on the climate. This is non negotiable and half the world’s population think nothing of doing it so adopt the habit or you’ll face an uphill struggle from the start. Your shoes drag in toxins and all manner of dirt from the streets outside, just look at the soles of a well-worn pair of white trains to remind yourself of what is out there. Leave them at the door. Invest in a shoe rack and place it by your entrance. Set your feet free and breathe deep.

2. air purifying fans

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Invest in an air purifying fan such as the Dyson Pure. Not only does it have the trademark Dyson aesthetic, meaning it will happily sit in the corner of your bedroom or living area without being a visual eyesore, it also comes with an impressive smartphone app that allows you to set on/off timers, view air quality data in real time and generally get the most out of the hardware. All you’d need do is set the fan to turn on automatically around 5pm each evening and then switch it to night mode when you go to sleep. This would ensure you have clean indoor air in your bedroom for +/-8 hours while sleeping. If you then set up something similar in your office, where you likely spend another +/-8 hours every day, you’re winning.

3. air purifying plants

air purifying plants

Go big on air purifying indoor plants, yes they have been over-hyped since Instagram gave us plant-stylists but there is plenty of substance to work with here so stick with it. NASA famously did a seminal study on the top air-purifying plants (see below) but the key is not just the species, but the quantity too. Research has shown that between 6-8 such plants are needed per person per room to have any meaningful impact. In any case, plants look and perform best when carefully clustered in groups, like mini forests or jungles, so this is a win-win. Pick up a selection of different height Palms, Ficus, Chinese Evergreens, Garden Ivy, Boston Ferns and a Pothos or two and you’ll be ready to breath clean once you’ve spread them around your home.

4. eco-friendly cleaning

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Adopt an eco-friendly cleaning protocol in the house; rather than lining up endless plastic bottles of chemical-heavy products, step back a minute to consider the alternatives. Recent years have seen a proliferation of environmentally-friendly cleaning products with names like Ecover, GreenWorks and so on. They are not hard to find even in mainstream supermarkets as consumer consciousness slowly edges in this direction. Buy in bulk and decant into a smaller, re-usable bottle to reduce plastic waste. Consider the most basic of options such as using diluted white wine vinegar as a kitchen or window cleaner. Source eco sponges made from sustainable materials as you’ll likely burn through one a fortnight, once it discolours, it is time for a new one.

5. use natural ventilation

Use natural ventilation wisely. If you live on a quiet street, in a small town near a park, forest or sea, you will likely have enviably good air quality, one would hope. Open the windows and let the fresh air in whenever you can, especially in the early mornings. This is a natural instinct in many of us anyway, especially in certain cultures where open windows are a way of life.

The issue clearly is when the outside air is of conspicuously poor quality in a dense urban environment; in such instances the best solution may be to open windows at the rear of the home away from the street, or to open them at times of day when there is less traffic outside.

By consciously taking stock of the air quality outside in other words, one can take steps to protect and improve the quality of the air inside your home as well.

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - part 1

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - gingko biloba

what are natural nootropics, a.k.a. ‘smart drugs’?

In short, cognition enhancers originally intended to help improve cognitive function in aging individuals and/or those with age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Also, crucially, used by bio-hackers, entrepreneurs and other early-adopters looking for natural ways to boost physical and mental performance in everyday life. And this is the part we are focused on in this article…

you’re still healthy though, so are nootropics for you? 

To place this trend in perspective, it is the ability of nootropics to improve the prognosis (expected development of a disease) in patients that led to the hypothesis that they could also improve levels of attention/cognition in those who do not have a cognitive disease., or have not yet been diagnosed with one.

how do nootropics affect productivity?

Anyone who is out to change the culture in some way by making a contribution, be it small or large, to the world around them has got to be interested in productivity, especially those working in highly strategic, mentally engaging professions, be it start-ups, tech, legal, medicine or finance.

Making an impact on the world is not going to happen all by itself, especially as a solo entrepreneur. Instead it will almost invariably require blood, sweat, tears, moments of existential self-doubt and a break-up or two. There will likely be caffeine too, lots of caffeine…

the smart drug solution

Enter smart drugs, stage left. Nootropics claim to offer a cognitive edge; even a 5% boost in productivity and concentration can make a big difference over the course of a work day, especially when the number of work hours are limited by another job, relationships, fitness commitments and so on.

a list of common nootropics

Here is a list of nootropics that we will investigate in a series of forthcoming articles to address their affects as part of a functional health and mental performance program based on natural ingredients only:

  1. L-theanine 

  2. Bacopa Monnieri

  3. Ashwagandha

  4. Choline

  5. Gingko Biloba

  6. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

  7. Rhodiola Rosea

In the meantime, if you are looking for a one-stop shop to get into them, rather than trying to build your own bespoke ‘stack’ of smart supplements, check out Earthly Biotics for an innovative, all-in-one solution we have had our eye on for a few months now.

sitting vs standing: an active design perspective

active design & ‘the sitting problem’

active design sitting standing workplace wellness healthy office

A ‘nature knows best’ health philosophy gives a clear set of guidelines when addressing lifestyle issues such as whether sitting is truly the new smoking, as the media have dubbed it.

Here we combine evolution-based thinking with active design principles to explore the topic of 21st century sedentary living.

how did we get here?

In the last half-century, the nature of work has fundamentally shifted. No longer are the majority of people toiling in fields, or doing manual labour in factories, the new normal is to be in an office all day, at a desk, in front of a screen, with or without a natural light source nearby.

From a meta history perspective, this is a long way from an evolutionary correct norm that our bodies were built for. ‘Active design’ is a way to incorporate activity prompts and hacks into the built environment as a way to combat the risk of endless hours of sitting.

less physical activity at work

Physical activity, once so intimately connected with our daily lives going all the way back to hunter gatherer times, is no longer a fundamental part of work for many of us, let alone home life.

One recent study shows that this equates to a reduction in calorie consumption of around 100 calories / day in the US and can therefore be linked to a ‘significant portion’ of the increase in mean body mass across the US population in the past 50 years. In other words, the US population is getting more obese because it spends less time moving.

Physical inactivity in the home

The dominance of televisions and computers during free time in the home is another contributing factor to the total amount of time the average person spends sitting down, not expending any energy each day.

Overall this equates to a massive problem of physical inactivity in both junior and adult populations in the western world and that, put simply, is bad news for obesity levels, diabetes and heart disease.

lower back pain in office workers

Prolonger periods of sitting have a direct impact on hip mobility while also being a major cause of lower back pain. Even sitting for shorter stretches of time is an improvement, which is where ‘active design’ tactics that encourage small movement snacks during the day can provide a solution.

lifestyle exercise at work

Lifestyle exercise encourages office workers to integrate short periods of low to moderate activity into their day, the idea being to cumulatively piece together a meaningful amount of movement through a combination of trips to the water cooler, up and down stairs, for a walk around the block, and so on over the course of the day. Think of the often quoted “10,000 steps” concept.

humanscale quickstand standing desk healthy office design


sit-stand desks in healthy offices

Products such as the Human Scale desk converter shown above help encourage a combination of sitting and standing at work, giving the desk owner the option to adjust desk height at will throughout the day.

Most people will find the afternoons tiring after a full morning on their feet, so a mobility ball under the desk can help, as can the option to move elsewhere in the office to change position for a while. It is all about mixing things up according to the type of work taking place.

A Cochrane review of existing research showed that the main benefit of investing in one of these desks, or an extension for an existing desk, is to reduce the total amount of time an office worker spends sitting down during their work day as well as to reduce the number of sitting bouts over 30 minutes in duration.

Our own anecdotal evidence of using them for the past six years or so is that they make a massive difference for lower back pain sufferers, quite literally removing the issue from the equation for as long as one can stay off the chair. Mix that with a program of core strength and mobility exercises and it is a winning formula. We’ve tried it, changed our habits and will never go back!

signage prompts in office design

Simple signage prompts are a seemingly obvious yet remarkably effective way of encouraging office workers to stay active, use the stairs and say no to the elevator, assuming a reasonable number of floors are required..!

If you would like to know more about how we can help you design a healthier, more active office, contact us via email on design @biofilico.com

healthy interior design at the innovation centre co-working

healthy interior design at the innovation centre co-working

For the past decade, there has been much progress made in the field of planet-focused buildings, one ‘P’ from the so-called Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet and Profit.

green architecture and interiors

Buildings and interiors that respect the planet, doing no harm to the environment and in some cases even giving back, are also described with terminology such as green buildings or sustainable interiors, for example.

Certification systems such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED have given architects and interior designers a clear structure and format to follow, as well as increasingly prestigious ratings that add tangible value for building owners and their occupants.

healthy offices

Only more recently however has the emphasis turned from Plant to People in terms of our built environment. Current thinking posits that buildings and interiors should not only be green but also healthy, actively contributing to the mental and physical wellness of its users, be they residents, office workers, patients or students, for example.

tivat co-working

When we designed the Innovation Centre co-working office in Porto Montenegro, Tivat, Montenegro on the Adriatic Coast, we applied a number of these healthy and biophilic design principles to the interiors as a way to ensure the space promotes productivity, concentration and positive mood. Any entrepreneur knows how important such things are, especially when working alone, to a deadline when every second counts.

healthy, biophilic interiors 

Specific examples include a plethora of air-purifying plants, a large-format photo mural of the nearby Bay to create a calm breakout space, maximized natural light by strategic positioning of work desks, the addition of bicycle storage racks to encourage active travel to and from the office, an outdoor workspace for those all-important fresh-air breaks, ergonomic desk chairs to ensure maximum comfort while seating and finally a number of standing desks to relive the lower back and boost circulation during the work day.

www.ic.portomontenegro.com 
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organic design: connecting nature & interior design in biophilia

organic design biophilia architecture interiors

eco-friendly design

Sustainable and eco-friendly buildings are a concept that has been introduced into mainstream design over the past 20 years but the historical movement of its predecessor, organic design, started long before.

With organic architecture and organic design stretching back as far as the 30’s there is a rich history of architects and designers deploying this philosophy in a poignant way, long before talk of biophilia and biophilic design. Indeed the creations birthed from this branch of design went on to heavily influence the trajectory of the design sector as a whole.

frank lloyd wright: the biophilia pioneer

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator that not only coined the term organic architecture but also believed in and abided by the concept. After a full career that involved designing over 1,000 structures—532 of which were completed—he published "The New Architecture: Principles”, an essay that laid out nine principles of architecture reflecting his philosophy of organic architecture and design. 

what is organic architecture & organic design?

Organic architecture is best described as harmonizing the man-made world with nature. Or more abstractly put, "form follows function”, a statement coined by Wright’s mentor and fellow architect, Louis Sullivan. 

A structure built using the principles of organic architecture can be said to display the following characteristics:

  • Closely resembles nature, blending in and utilizing its natural surroundings

  • Creates things from the inside out, mirroring how much of nature functions

  • Uses materials and shapes found in the natural world 

The derivative term, organic design, extends the philosophy of organic architecture to smaller projects like furniture, accessories, and art. 

biophilic building case study: wright’s fallingwater (1935)

A home that truly embodies the theory and spirit of organic design is Fallingwater. Built by Frank Lloyd Wright above the running water in Pennsylvania, this family home makes great use of naturally sourced material, such as cut stone and beige concrete.

biophilic design case study: alvar aalto viipuri library (1933)

organic design biophilia architecture alvar aalto library

Use of natural materials, skylights, and irregular forms can all be seen in the construction of the Viipuri Library, all stylistically typical of the architect Alvar Aalto. It is this organic design approach used in Aalto’s architecture, furniture, textiles, glassware, sculptures and paintings that are attributed to his success as a highly recognized, modern architect and designer in the 1930’s. Notice too how this wave-like form repeats itself in the glorious Aalto-designed vase that proudly sits on our showroom table.

organic design biophilia vase alvar aalto biofilico

Specifically designed for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, the organic chair was revolutionary. Up until this point, comfortable chairs were constructed with expensive springs and heavy bolsters of upholstery padding. The lightweight, molded plywood seat was a game changer.

organic design eames chair biofilico

After the competition the developers, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, discovered that the technology to mass-produce molded plywood chairs didn’t exist, so not many were produced. However, this did pave the way for a chair that Charles would go on to create with his wife, Ray Eames. An iconic chair known as the Eames Lounge Chair. 

Email for more information on how Biofilico can help you create a biophilic, organic interior space with natural health benefits.

aromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

Aromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

Aromatherapy is a common medicinal technique that deploys aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, either inhaled or applied to the skin through massage, to positively influence our mood, mindset, pain sensitivity and sleep. 

Sadly, it has become all too easy to label something, be it a diffuser, soap or shower gel, as ‘relaxing’, ‘energizing’ or ‘refreshing’; such adjectives are so loosely thrown around nowadays that they have become near vacuous terms. 

biophilic bio-hacking

The inquisitive bio-hacker intent on living a more Biophilic lifestyle that brings them closer to nature  can and should demand more from the products he or she purchases, and aromatherapy still has a role to play in that process.

Ancient Chinese, Indian, Roman and Greek populations all appear to have made ready use of essential oils, both in religious or ritual practices and more practical applications such as cosmetics and perfumes. 

More recently, scientific studies have provided considerable evidence to back up aromatherapy’s claims to aid with reducing anxiety, improving sleep and enhancing cognitive performance; here we will address each in turn.

essential oils and anxiety reduction

642x361_What_is_Sandalwood.jpgAromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

One study focused on women undergoing an image-guided breast biopsy, exploring the use of aromatherapy scents compared to a placebo in a randomized, controlled study.

Anxiety was self-reported before and after the biopsy by 87 women using the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory Scale. A statistically significant reduction in anxiety was shown through the use of lavender-sandalwood aromatherapy compared with the placebo group. 

aromatherapy for improved sleep

A meta-analysis of 12 studies using a random-effects model revealed that the use of aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality in 95% of cases with inhalation proving more effective as an application than massage therapy.

The study concluded that readily available aromatherapy treatments do indeed appear to be effective and promote sleep. More research may need to be done to develop specific guidelines for how to use aromatherapy to achieve the desired effect.

a natural solution to enhanced mental performance 

a natural solution to enhanced mental performance 

A sample of 42 administrative university workers performed a computer task in a university classroom while assigned into an aromatherapy group and a control group. Oil diffusers were is use during the session, one with petitgrain essential oil (orange tree leaf extract) and one with almost oil as the control.

Before and after the intervention, participants completed anxiety and mood state questionnaires (the Stait-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Profile of Mood States). Heart-rate variability (HRV) was also measured before, during (20-25 min), and after the intervention to analyze autonomic nervous system regulation. 

The aromatherapy group performed the task 2.28 min faster than the control group suggesting that inhaling petitgrain essential oil specifically and aromatherapy more generally can help to improve cognitive performance in the workplace by reducing stress levels and increasing attentiveness and alertness. 

if you would like to know how I could advise on creating a wellness space, recharge room or simply a more biophilic way of living, simply reach out via my contact page.