Profits and Perils of Perfectionism // Will Siskey by Will Siskey


Profits and Perils of Perfectionism

by Will Siskey

Perfectionists, by definition, strive for the best, trying to ace exams, be meticulous at their jobs, and raise perfect children. So one might assume this drive for the ideal translates over to their health as well, with perfectionists being models for physical and mental well-being.

But new research is revealing the trait can bring both benefits and perils.

Perfectionism tends to have two components:

Positive Side: 

  • setting high standards for themselves

  • causing one to stick to exercise programs to a tee, say, or follow a strict dietary regimen for treating illnesses.

Negative Side:

  • having doubts and concerns over mistakes and feeling pressure from others to be perfect.

  • mental pressure when mistakes are incurred along with the resistance to asking for help from others in fear of revealing one's true, imperfect self.

Studies show the personality trait of perfectionism is linked to poor physical health and an increased risk of death.

“Perfectionism is a virtue to be extolled definitely," said Prem Fry, a psychology professor at Trinity Western University in Canada. "But beyond a certain threshold, it backfires and becomes an impediment," she said.

It doesn’t take much imagination to explain what might drive a perfectionist to self-harm or self-deprecation. The all-or-nothing, impossibly high standards perfectionists set for themselves often mean that they’re not happy even when they’ve achieved success. And research has suggested that anxiety over making mistakes may ultimately be holding some perfectionists back from ever achieving success in the first place.

The intention of most perfectionists is to do things well. To excel. Recent research shows that those scoring high on perfectionism scales have higher standards, and under certain circumstances have better outcomes. That’s certainly what I strive for, as do a lot of others. So *perfectionism might not be something you have to give up. You just need to make it work for you, not against you.*

“Perfectionistic people typically believe that they can never be good enough, that mistakes are signs of personal flaws, and that the only route to acceptability as a person is to be perfect,” Thomas S. Greenspon said, a psychologist and author of a recent paper on an “Antidote to Perfectionism,” published in Psychology in the Schools. “Because the one thing these people are decidedly not-perfect at, research shows, is self-compassion.”

As Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." Chasing perfection in the right way can lead to excellence. Allow yourself to become excellent. Excellence isn’t perfection, it is being excellent despite your imperfections. Give yourself compassion and grace. Enable yourself to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism.

Characteristics of healthy perfectionism:

  • Striving for high but achievable standards that result in feelings of satisfaction and increased self-esteem

  • Matching your time and energy to tasks that match your strengths and interests

  • Having a sense of what you value and what your priorities are and devoting the lion’s share of your time and attention to these areas

  • Reaping payoffs from your efforts that are greater than your costs

Characteristics of unhealthy perfectionism:

  • Repeatedly setting goals for yourself but never achieving them

  • Constantly competing to be the best at everything in order to avoid feeling like a failure

  • Giving in to the feeling that all mistakes are catastrophic

  • Getting stuck in believing that one particular strategy must pay off, instead of trying others

Don’t rob yourself of the life and successes you could experience because the fear and anxiety of failing get in the way. Let go and enjoy living an incredible life that is resilient amidst imperfections.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites Recipe by McClain McKinney

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup melted soy free Earth Balance butter substitute or 1/2 cup organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of liquid stevia (optional to taste)
  • 12 oz bag of Enjoy Life or other soy free chocolate chips (1/2 cup for bites and remainder for melting and dipping)

Line a pan with parchment paper and set aside. 

In a large bowl, stir together butter substitute or coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and stevia. 

Add almond flour and sea salt then stir well. Gently stir in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips until well blended. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on parchment paper. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

In a medium sized bowl over a pot of water, melt the chocolate for the topping. Remove from heat and let cool slightly but not long enough to set up.

Remove cookie dough bites from the fridge and pour melted chocolate over each bit. Let cool or if you are in a hurry, return to fridge to expedite the chocolate hardening. Store in fridge if you have any left! Enjoy!

How to Stop Forgetting Your To-Do List // McClain McKinney by Rebecca Rogers


How to Stop Forgetting Your To-Do List

by McClain McKinney

The entire art of memory is structured around the concept of thinking creatively.

I want you to think back to your first home. The details you experience looking at your front door. What color is it? What does the door handle look like? When you ring the door bell, what sound does it make? 
You walk through the front door and you look up at your chandelier. After admiring the glow from the golden lights, you turn and open the closet next to you so you can hang up your coat. You notice the trimming of the closet door while opening it. Inside, a variety of jackets or once loved board games are tucked away.

I need you to look over this list of things you might need to do:

1. Pick up six turkey burgers from the grocery store for your Labor Day party
2. Get two tickets to the upcoming John Mayer concert
3. Watch the Will Farrell interview Steve at the office told you about. (Thanks, Steve.)
4. Try using lavender oil to help you fall asleep
5. Go to the gym

I want you to approach this task of memorization in a new manner now. Rather than thinking you are trying to memorize the list above, we are going to visualize placing them around your home. Open up your imagination and close your eyes (after reading this post).

You walk up to the front door of your home. Now, rather than seeing just the chestnut painted door with the golden handle, now there are six turkeys picking at your wonderful welcome mat, but thankfully they are being corralled by two John Mayers, who are using their guitars to shepherd them on the front step. You excuse yourself past the rafter of turkeys, and there, opening the door for you is Will Farrell himself. 
“Hey, Will.”
“Hey, McClain. I like your red cardigan,” Will states.
You notice something odd, however. Will has been rubbing himself with lavender oil this entire conversation. You thank Will for his time.
“Sure thing McClain. Let me know if I can get you anything. I’ll just be over here.” 
Will walks to the closet door, opens it, and proceeds to sit down inside your closet and pull from behind the corner, a 15-pound dumbbell. 
“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just preparing for my next role with J Lo.”

Bam! I’d be willing to bet that you are much more able to remember that you need to pick up six turkey burgers, get two tickets to John Mayer, see the new Will Farrell interview, grab some lavender oil from Sparrow’s website, and hit the gym. 

This is because as human beings, we actually have excellent visual and spatial memories. What this technique teaches you to do is visualize items you need to remember. To do this, you have to visualize walking through somewhere familiar, a memory palace, if you will. As you walk through different locations with which you are very familiar (whether that be your office, school, or your daily commute),  you place objects along that path.
Another helpful hint is that your mind ignores the mundane and remembers the unusual, whether that be a sudden motion in a tree or Will Farrell covered in lavender oil and lifting weights. The more unusual, the more memorable.

Try this technique for the next list you have. If you have any questions or want any other helpful hints on memory, feel free to shoot me an email at

Is Social Jet Lag Killing You? // Rebecca Rogers by Rebecca Rogers


Is Social Jet Lag Killing You?

by Rebecca Rogers

It’s Monday morning and the alarm clock goes off. You hit snooze a few times and manage to crawl out of bed only to realize that you don’t feel rested from the 8 hours (or less) of sleep you got last night. It is going to take a lot of coffee to get you through this week. Or maybe getting up is not a problem but somewhere in the week, you feel as if you are not firing on all cylinders and performing at your best. Sound familiar? You probably suffer from “social jet lag.” 

Results of a new study show that social jet lag has emerged as an important circadian marker for health and related issues. Social jet lag occurs when you go to bed and wake up later on weekends than during the week. It is associated with poorer health, worsened mood, decreased performance, increased sleepiness, and chronic fatigue. The majority of people, 85 percent to be exact, tend to have this habit and it is taking a substantial negative toll on your health. These effects are coined “social jet lag” and this study reveals that these effects include long-term health issues like increased risk of heart disease. The study demonstrated that each hour of social jet lag resulted in an 11 percent increase in risk. Earlier research also includes a higher risk of obesity and diabetes. These effects are independent of sleep duration and insomnia symptoms, which are both connected to social jet lag and health.

"These results indicate that sleep regularity, beyond sleep duration alone, plays a significant role in our health," said lead author Sierra B. Forbush, an undergraduate research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "This suggests that a regular sleep schedule may be an effective, relatively simple, and inexpensive preventative treatment for heart disease as well as many other health problems."

According to a 2012 study by the professor of chronobiology at the University of Munich, Dr. Till Roenneberg, social jet lag is a syndrome caused by the mismatch between the body's biological clock and our actual sleep schedules. Dr. Roenneberg explains that each of us has a biological clock, but it is not the type we can set like watches. Internal clocks are “entrained” by daytime and nighttime and provide the optimal window for when people should sleep.

He told WebMD that he estimates two-thirds of the population experiences social jet lag. He coined the term because switching sleep schedules is similar to switching time zones. "The behavior looks like if most people on a Friday evening fly from Paris to New York or Los Angeles to Tokyo and on Monday they fly back," Roenneberg told WebMD. "Since this looks like almost a travel jet lag situation, we called it social jet lag."

Dr. Roenneberg’s analysis found people with more severe cases of social jet lag were much more likely to be obese. For every hour of social jet lag, the risk of being obese or overweight rose by 33 percent. What's more, people who chronically experience social jet lag are more likely to engage in other unhealthy habits. 

"Waking up with an alarm clock is a relatively new facet of our lives," Roenneberg said in a news release. "It simply means that we haven't slept enough and this is the reason why we are chronically tired. Good sleep and enough sleep is not a waste of time but a guarantee for better work performance and more fun with friends and family during off-work times."

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. In addition to adequate duration, healthy sleep requires good quality, appropriate timing, and regularity. Here’s proof that optimizing your sleep schedule is good for your health and those around you. 

Chia Seed Pudding Recipe by McClain McKinney


We love using chia seeds here at Sparrow. Chia seeds pack more calcium than milk, more antioxidants than blueberries, and more Omega-3 than Salmon. We try to toss them in lots of different recipes and here is one of our favorites.


1/2 Cup of Chia Seeds

1 1/2 Cups of Almond Milk

1/4 Teaspoon of Liquid Stevia (or 2-3 Tablespoons of Honey or Maple Syrup)

Toppings of Your Choice

Additional Option: 1/4 cup non-sweetened almond butter or sunflower butter. Add almond or sunflower butter and blend well before refrigerating.


Pour your almond milk, chia seeds, and sweetener into a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. Refrigerate for two hours or leave it overnight. Remove from refrigerator and place into individual serving cups.  Top with strawberries, walnuts, shredded coconut, cocoa nibs, or the toppings of your choice. Get creative and use what you have!

Bam! You have yourself a delicious and very filling breakfast, snack, or dessert.

What to Do for the Back to School Blues //Junior Blogger-Malia Edwards by Rebecca Rogers


We all have experienced the Monday Blues. Getting back to the school routine can be difficult for numerous reasons. Here are some ways for you or your child to cure some of those Back To School Blues. 

1.) Laughter

Right now all the rage at my school is Memes. We gather in the hall and share our best Meme. Laughter lowers your blood pressure, resets your mind to a more positive mindset, and lowers inflammation and stress.  Laughter truly is one of the best medicines!


2.) Eat

Don’t be hangry! Make sure you eat and eat healthily! Your friends and family will thank you for not being hangry. I know schedules and times are rushed but your mind can’t be its best if you’re hangry!  


3.) Do Good

We all wonder who we are going to sit with, eat lunch with, and have classes with. To say we just ponder it is an understatement. So do good and be that person who talks to someone new, sit next to someone who is alone, or talk to someone you have never spoken with before. Doing good makes you feel good and is beneficial to your health and overall well being.  


4.) Slime

Yes, I said it! Slime! We all love Slime! Playing with slime or play dough is a great way to reduce blues and stress. Just like you want to be the best you, make sure you make the best slime or play dough for you. Too many chemicals aren’t good. So make your own and say bye-bye to the Back To School Blues. 


5.) Ground

Just a simple walk outside is beneficial to combating the Back To School Blues. Nature is a beauty created by God for our enjoyment. Walk around on the ground barefoot. This is called grounding. It is a great way to connect with the Earth’s energies and to reset yours. Grounding reduces inflammation, increases energy, lowers stress, promotes calmness, and relieves muscle tension and headaches. In a fast paced world, it is good to slow down.  


6.) Read

Yes, I know what you are thinking. I read all day at school or work. Reading something you pick can help you escape to all kinds of imaginary worlds. It doesn’t have to be a huge novel. Try a comic or poem. Who doesn’t want to be a Queen who rules some foreign land? Where else can you be Batman and help save Gotham? Reading can melt those blues away, improve empathy, and encourage life goals.  


7.) Music  

Music has all kinds of benefits to combating those Back to School Blues. Unless you are into it, It doesn’t have to be classical music. Pick whatever you enjoy the most. Music releases frequencies which can help our frequencies. Music decreases pain, improves immune function, aids memory, and reduces stress. I vote for music in classrooms! 


8.) Take It Easy

No, I am not referring to that famous song. Take it easy on yourself. Stressing about the Back to School Blues only makes them worse. Just smile and take a deep breath. Remember once you’re settled into a routine at school things will be better. Keep it positive. Speak life into it. Go easy on yourself.  

There are too many things to list. Just remember you are in control of your mind. So when the Back To School or Monday Blues come, do something that is fun to you. Happiness is like light to darkness. You can’t be down if you’re doing something you enjoy.  



Junior Blogger - Malia Edwards

Malia Edwards attends school at Fort Payne Middle School. She is passionate about making life better for those with allergies. Malia wants everyone to have hope in their health and for people to be triumphant in their life whatever their goals may be. BioScans have enabled Malia to say goodbye to medications, improve her focus, and performance. In hopes of helping others reach peak performance, Malia is eager to share with others what BioScans can do for them.

Want to be our next Junior Blogger? Click the button below and tell us why you should be next!

Six Ways Social Life Influences Health // Will Siskey by Will Siskey


Six Ways 

Social Life 

Influences Health

by Will Siskey

I once heard it said, “If you want to see where you will be in the next six months, look at the lives of the people you are hanging out with this weekend.”  

We all have heard some advice on the importance of those with whom we dwell. The quality of our friendships matter and lacking that sense of community can be detrimental to our health. 

Here is how:

1.  Lack of Social Bonds Doubles the Risk of Death from All Causes  

In 2010, U.S. researchers conducted 148 studies containing more than 308,000 people that concluded that lacking strong social bonds doubles the risk of death from all causes.  [Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review]

2. Social Isolation is as Dangerous as Obesity, Inactivity, and Smoking.

 James House, in an analysis for the journal [Science | AAAS], concluded that social isolation is as dangerous for health as drinking, obesity, inactivity, and smoking. Additionally, in Western societies, at least, social isolation can actually be more dangerous than a lack of exercise or obesity.  [Social relationships and health.  - PubMed - NCBI]

3. Higher Stress and Inflammation 

 Lack of social ties can be toxic over time: even if individuals score low on conventional measures of stress, lonely people have high baseline levels of stress hormones and inflammation, with all of the health problems that entails. [Social isolation.  - PubMed - NCBI]
[Loneliness matters: a theoretical and empirical review of consequences and mechanisms.  - PubMed - NCBI]

Social support can be a great asset to shield us against difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, those without it are much more susceptible to other stresses when they come.
Inflammation is the root cause of most diseases [Inflammation at the Root of Most Diseases]:
        * Alzheimer’s
        * asthma
        * arthritis
        * Crohn’s disease
        * Cancer
        * cardiovascular disease
        * diabetes
        * high blood pressure
        * high cholesterol levels
        * Parkinson’s disease
        * and much more

4. Being Around People Isn’t Enough / Type of Crowd Matters 

John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, Illinois, and author of the book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, believes social isolation is a matter of life and death. 

He goes on to point out that if we don’t feel cared for, we can feel lonely even when surrounded by others. This can take place at college, on a crowded bus, or in a strained marriage. After all, being among a hostile tribe is just as dangerous as being alone. The effects of loneliness depend not on the number of physical contacts we have but how isolated we feel. You might have only one or two close friends, but if you feel satisfied and supported there is no need to worry about the effects on your health. Heal thyself: Trust people | New Scientist

5. Chronic Loneliness Reshapes the Brain, Social Skills, and DNA

Chronic loneliness, like stress, reshapes the brain due to neuroplasticity. This chronic loneliness is making people more sensitive to social threat. This creates a downward cycle changing their pattern of thoughts.

Lonely people rate social experiences more negatively, are less trusting of others, judge them more harshly. There is an evolutionary logic to this too: in a hostile social situation, it is vital to be alert to betrayal and potential harm. But it can make lonely people reluctant to reach out to others further hurting the cause. 

Feeling threatened disrupts people’s social skills leaving them focused on their own needs at the expense of anyone else’s. “ When you talk to a lonely person you feel like they are feasting on you,” Cacioppo says. “ Not in a good way.” Cacioppo found that social stress does not just affect your brain but it filters down to your DNA. 

In a small study, by molecular biologist Steve Cole at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed gene expression in people who were socially isolated versus those who were not. His results found a large proportion of the lonely people’s up-regulated genes were involved in inflammation, whereas many of their down regulated genes had roles in antiviral responses and antibody production.

In sociable people, the reverse was true—biological activity in their immune cells was skewed towards fighting viruses and tumor cells and away from producing inflammation. Crucially, the difference related most strongly not to the actual size of the volunteers’ social networks but to how isolated they felt themselves be.

6. Adults & Elders are Affected Too

James House, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, reported that after adjusting for age and other risk factors, adults with fewer social relationships makes you twice as likely to die in the next decade.[The association of social relationships and activities with mortality: prospective evidence from the Tecumseh Community Health Study.  - PubMed - NCBI]

As we get older, the brain’s prefrontal cortex starts to decline more rapidly than other parts of the brain. This area is crucial for self-regulation, rational thinking, and social relationships. The decline is accelerated in people who are lonely or chronically stressed and that ultimately leads to dementia. [Stress, PTSD, and dementia.  - PubMed - NCBI]
[Feelings of loneliness, but not social isolation, predict dementia onset: results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL) | Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry]                                                    

These findings can be tough for the elderly who tend to be isolated and sidelined, becoming less and less engaged in the community as they age.

A mentorship-like program, for senior citizens and kids, significantly improved the academic achievement of the children, but also the health of the volunteers. In 2009, a pilot trial was published suggesting measures that normally decline with age were increasing over a school year for the volunteers. The volunteers’ activity levels increased and their legs got stronger. They also performed better on cognitive tests and had increased activity in the prefrontal cortex.

The hippocampus usually shrinks with age and becomes impaired in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Yet in the volunteers, it got bigger. Age-related damage in their brains was being reversed.  

[A Social Model for Health Promotion for an Aging Population: Initial Evidence on the Experience Corps Model— Johns Hopkins University]

[Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: The experience corps program — Johns Hopkins University]

In Conclusion: Get Involved

We need to be careful and diligent about who we dwell with because our life depends on it.  Not only do we have the ability to better each other but the ability to lengthen each others' lives by reducing the risk of death from all causes… That is phenomenal. 

Charles Raton, a psychiatry professor and mind-body medicine researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, states, “People who have warm relationships, rich social lives, and who feel like they are embedded in a group, “don’t get as sick, and they live longer.”

Understanding the importance of community in a world where bullying, body image, racism, worldly expectations, and many other problems occur is heart breaking. We very well could be contributing to their life span positively or negatively. We get to choose if we are going to love and serve or turn a blind eye and let them suffer. By developing deeper relationships with those around us, we may learn something and strengthen our immune systems while doing so. Let us take into consideration the influence we can have when interacting with one another. May we embrace each other with grace, humility, and love. We need each other. 

Not only do we need to be plugged in but we need to serve and help others get plugged in as well. Let us serve you and become a part of your community. 

Check out the groups below to get involved with in the local Birmingham area or Schedule to have coffee with our CIO, Will Siskey, below on Fridays 9 a.m.-12 p.m. below: 

Check back for regular updates, new groups and community events. Contact us to have your group, club, church, or organization added to this list:


Cacioppo, J. T. et al. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2011; 1231: 17-22
    Hawkley, L.C. & Cacioppo, J.T. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2010; 40: 218-227
Carlson, M.C. et al. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences 2009; 64: 1275-1282
Fried, L.P. et al. Journal of Urban Health 2004; 81: 64-78
Greenberg, M.S. et al. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 2014; 10: S155-S16
“Heal Thyself” by Jo Marchant, New Scientist August 27, 2011, pp. 30-34
Holt-Linstad, J et al. PLoS Medicine 2010; 7: e1000316
Holwerda, T.J. et al. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, & Psychiatry 2014; 85: 135-142
House, J.S. et al. American Journal of Epidemiology 1982; 116: 123-140
House, J.S. et al. Science 1988; 241: 540-545

Cacao Energy Bites Recipe by McClain McKinney

A delicious and healthy snack that is quick and easy to make!


  1. 8 Dates-pitted
  2. 1/3 Cup of Pecans
  3. 1/3 Cup of Almonds
  4. 1/3 Cup of Cashews
  5. 1/4 Cup of Cacao Powder
  6. 1/2 Teaspoon of Sea Salt
  7. 1/4 Cup of Almond Butter
  8. 10 Drops of Peppermint
  9. 1/4 Teaspoons of Liquid Stevia
  10. Hemp Seeds for Rolling

Place dates in processor and blend. Add the pecans, almonds, cashews, then blend again. Add the cacao powder, salt, peppermint, stevia and vanilla to the mix and blend again. Toss in the almond butter and blend it one more time. Roll into small balls and coat with hemp seed.

Voilà, your cacao energy bites are finished!