I love learning about new health practices. It would be true to say it’s my passion. When I stumble across things you can do for free I get even more excited. I always knew that I felt better when walking in park land and other bushy areas, but I never really thought about why until recently. I came across an article about Forest Bathing, a health practice that originated in Japan and I immediately felt compelled to read about it.
It’s been scientifically proven that spending time amongst trees is very beneficial to health. Did you know that the oils trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects called phytoncides actually help our immune system? What a revelation and very valuable information given it’s getting a lot colder where I live. This information will give me an incentive to head outdoors when I otherwise would choose to stay inside and hibernate in winter. I might even combine it with some earthing i.e. removing my shoes and socks and walk around barefoot. Apparently the pores in your feet can absorb antioxidants through the soil. Another added benefit is that I could soak up some some of the suns rays through my skin to produce some immune boosting vitamin D. That’s multiple health benefits for a small investment of time and energy. I’ve even seen people tree hugging when I’ve been out walking and wondered what the benefits were. Ok so you don’t have to go as far as tree hugging if you don’t want to, but just have to immerse yourself in the presence of trees to get the benefits.
Some of the other benefits include a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure, increased energy, improved mood and a reduction in stress hormones.
So why not do yourself a favour and get out amongst the trees? What could be better than breathing in some fresh air while generating some great health benefits for yourself?
Before I examine the research on any health topic I often ask myself what makes sense to me physiologically. In some cases my background as am exercise scientist, and all the knowledge I have accumulated around this helps me arrive at a point of view or opinion on a given topic. In this case I would say it makes good sense to drink warm water rather than cold water, except in hot weather or after exercise when body temperature may increase. From personal experience it feels like my body goes into temporary minor shock when I drink cold water. It just doesn’t feel right. Anyway enough on my thoughts what does the research say? Well apparently it seems to support what I stated above that in general warm water is preferable unless it’s hot or you’ve just completed an exercise session.
Why is this so?
Well given that I’m living in a part of the world that is getting a little bit chilly this information is very relevant. Drinking water is good for the immune system. Bugs don’t like heat, so what better way to ward them off than to create an environment that they don’t like.
And there’s more…..
Drinking warm water:
- Detoxifies the body, which is enhanced if you add lemon juice to warm water
- Reduces the risk of acne and other skin problems
- Relieves nasal and throat congestion
- Increases blood flow to the tissues to help relieve pain e.g. joint pain
- Helps keep your hair healthy by energising the nerve ends of haor roots
- Promotes a healthy metabolism
- Contributes to the health of the nervous system
- Is good for your digestion
At the end of the day, like with all good health information it’s up to you to work out what works best for your body. It’s trial error and let’s face it there’s no single recipe for good health
Just as it’s important to take time out for the body it’s just as crucial to take time out for the mind. No more thinking of time out is a luxury it’s a necessity for good health and wellbeing. Here’s why:
- It boosts productivity
- Increases creativity
- Increases feelings of contentment
- Improves sense of wellbeing …..just to name a few benefits.
- Helps consolidate information
- Helps make sense of life through reflecting
One of the misconceptions associated with taking time out for your mind is that you have to be still to do it. For some the concept of stopping completely is not only foreign but fraught with feelings of guilt and boredom. The good news is that non demanding tasks such as watering the garden, folding the washing, walking the dog are all good time out activities. The key is to do activities that give your brain an opportunity to wander or even daydream. My favourite time out activity is sitting outdoors with my bare feet touching the ground, preferably on a sunny day. What’s yours?
So what should you be aiming for in terms of time out per day? The latest research suggests you should be taking some time out every ninety minutes or when you start to feel drained or your concentration is dropping. Now for some people this may not be realistic, especially in some workplaces, so an alternative may be to aim for two blocks of fifteen minutes through the day.
Now for an interesting fact – apparently the brain may be busier forming memories in your downtime than when you’re asleep.
So if you haven’t already make time out part of your daily routine, something you automatically do…..a non negotiable. By doing so you’ll be doing your health a huge favour!
Wouldn’t it be great if you could exercise knowing you’re adding years onto your life not just life into your years. Well apparently you can! For years scientists have speculated about whether exercise can actually slow down the ageing process and finally the evidence is here. One form of exercise that seems to be outrating the others in this regard is interval training which involves alternating phases of low and high intensity activity. Some of you may already doing this form of training without even realising it. For instance if you go out walking and incorporate some hills then you are already doing interval training. You have the high intensity phase on the hill and then the lower intensity recovery phase once you reach the top. It’s been shown that interval training stimulates repair at a cellular level. As you get older the energy generating capacity of your cells mitochondria gradually decreases. The mitochondria are the powerhouses of a cell where energy is produced. However new research has shown that in some cases high intensity interval training may actually decrease the age related decline in the function of the mitochondria in your muscle cells. This is great news and is most likely to occur when interval training is applied in activities such as walking and cycling. Another benefit is an improved insulin sensitivity resulting in a reduced risk of diabetes. On a less positive note, the research does suggest interval training is not as effective at improving muscle strength so there’s no escaping including some weights/resistance exercise into your exercise program. Based on all this encouraging news where do you start? If you’re thinking of starting an exercise program, have a medical condition or restarting a program it’s a good idea to get checked out before taking the first step. From my experience I believe it’s good to establish a base of fitness first before incorporating some interval training especially if you plan to go down the path of some high intensity training.
My current plan consists of doing 3 cycles of 20 seconds of high intensity cycling with 2 minute recoveries in between. My workout time ends up being around 10 minutes once I’ve added in my warm up and cool down. I do this 3-4 times per week and walk for 20 minutes at a continuous pace at least 4 times per week. I also squeeze in some resistance exercise for 10 minutes at least 3 out of 4 days. This makes for quite a time efficient program. Time will tell what results I will generate but I’m excited about the possibilities. I wish you all the best with your program. Just remember that it’s the quality of exercise that counts most when it comes to getting good results!
I know what some of you might be thinking. Are you crazy????? Maybe I am. Maybe it’s my medication affecting my brain but what if there is something to this idea? I’ve spent the last seven years fighting the lung disease Cystic Fibrosis. I’ve had it all my life but just didn’t know it. As the years have gone by my health has progressively deteriorated despite all my efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle and an optimistic attitude. Fighting illness has been exhausting so I decided I needed to find another way. Last year during my 10 week unplanned sabbatical on the couch with a virus I felt needed to change. A well meaning friend once said to me maybe the reason I wasn’t getting any better was because I didn’t have the right mindset. At the time I was deeply offended, and didn’t want to have a bar of it but in hindsight I can see that maybe there was something to what he was saying. Now to take on a mindset of being positive 100% of the time when living with a chronic illness in my opinion is totally unrealistic. Sometimes it’s tough to feel positive, especially when in the middle of a health flare up facing some major challenges. In these circumstances I always allow myself to feel the negative emotions, but put a bit of a time frame on them so they don’t consume me. One of the best ways I’ve found to get myself back into a positive frame of mind is to give myself a perspective check. I simply think of someone else worse off than me and that snaps me out of a flat spot every time.
I arrived at this idea of thinking of illness as a friend after a session with an awesome life coach. During the session the life coach asked me to think about the illness as something that entered my life to teach me something. What an interesting way of looking at it. I’ve often reflected on all the amazing lessons I’ve had over the years but hadn’t really viewed it in a positive light in relation to illness, probably because I was too busy battling the illness to really stop and think about it. If the truth be known my greatest lessons have come with my experience of illness and this is a huge positive. I think I am a better hopefully wiser person for having these life lessons. Like most people I’m still a work in progress and have a lot to learn. So I’m going to go with this idea of illness not as my enemy but a friend here to teach me things and see what happens. I’d much prefer a healthy friend to teach me lessons so this is something I plan to work on in my future life coaching sessions.
On another note, but still related, If you haven’t looked into the field of neuroplasticity i.e. the brains ability to use new environments and experiences to create structural changes I’d thoroughly recommend it. It’s mind boggling.
I wrote a post about one of my first experiences of the power of the mind in illness. Here’s the link if you’re interested in having a read. https://janeslightbulbmoments.com/2016/12/24/belief-really-is-a-powerful-thing/
For a snapshot of my journey so far go to: https://www.facebook.com/janeslightbulbmoments/
While the goal is to have a balanced diet it may not be achievable for everyone. Add to that the ever changing guidelines about what you need to eat for health and it can feel quite overwhelming. Have you heard the latest? Apparently you need to increase your fruit and vegetable intake to ten serves per day. Wow! That means every meal and snack needs to feature a fruit and or vegetable. Now while I’m a huge advocate for the foundation of our diet being fruit and vegetables, I don’t know how realistic and achievable this guideline is for the masses. Call me a bit sceptical, but I can’t help but wonder if we are getting the same nutrient value from foods that we once did due to changes in food production. Having said that if you are growing your own produce in your back yard then you’re doing yourself a big favour. Unfortunately, there seems to be a long lag time from the farm to your plate that could ultimately be impacting the nutrient value of the foods you eat.
Recently I had a blood test done and was surprised to find out I had some deficiencies. I thought I had a balanced diet but realised I was falling short. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming you have a balanced diet or that you need to take a vitamin supplement. For this reason I am a big fan of a regular / semi regular health check depending on what you and your health care professional decide. Just as you put your car in for a service I think it’s a good idea to also get your body serviced. A full blood examination is a good way to find out if you have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. If you are deficient then you can look at what you need to do to address it.
If you decide to go down the path of taking a vitamin supplement don’t just go for the product that is being actively marketed in the media. You need to do your research. Unfortunately, as things stand the vitamin supplement industry isn’t as well regulated as the one for prescription medications. While the products on the market have passed the safety tests they may not deliver on all the promoted benefits. Ultimately you want a vitamin that is derived from real food and you need to check out the research behind the product. Also you need to check if the product been independently tested. When you contact a company, they should be transparent about everything relating to the product otherwise this should be considered a red flag. If you don’t have the time to research yourself then seek advice from a trusted health professional. I spent years researching so many products on the market and I now have a couple of preferred suppliers for my products. As you know it’s a maze of products out there, but with a little effort and perhaps trial and error you’ll find the right products for you.
Whether you tend to eat more or less when stressed apparently all depends on how the brain perceives the stress you are dealing with. In general, when you are faced with an acute stress e.g. if you’re being chased by a dog the fight or flight response kicks in. It’s perceived you are in danger so your brain responds by releasing hormones that reduce appetite. However if the stress is more persistent the brain releases hormones that increase appetite and may lead to what is commonly referred to as comfort eating.
Regardless of what stress response kicks in, the key is to find ways to manage stress before it really impacts your health in a negative way. Now I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to switch my mind off when I’m trying to relax. I’ve tried so many relaxation techniques including meditation, deep breathing etc. and one technique that I’ve found works really well for me is Trauma Release Exercise. TRE is essentially exercise that helps the body release deep muscular stress tension and trauma. If you want to know more about it then I’d suggest taking a look at this website. http://treaustralia.com.au/ The beauty of it is that once you know what to do you can easily incorporate it into your daily life. Having said that, while I’m not great at meditation I am working on improving my skills as I think there are great benefits to be gained from regular practice. Some other very simple stress management techniques I use include deep breathing, listening to music and focussing in the moment when stressed on my senses .e.g. If I’m out walking, I might focus on how the air feels on my face or if I’m eating I might focus and the texture and taste of each bite. I guess when it comes down to it, it’s about finding what techniques and activities work best for you. Like most things when it comes to health it’s trial and error.