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spring-Asthenia-woman-flowers-happiness

Beating Spring Asthenia

Spring is finally here, but this doesn’t mean everyone will be full of energy and ‘the joys of spring’. In fact, some alternative health practitioners believe in a concept known as ‘spring asthenia’ whereby the change in seasons can bring on mental and physical fatigue and weakness in some people. The lasting effects of ‘hibernating’ over winter, can certainly leave us feeling heavier, sluggish and in need of a pick me up at this time of year. Here is some advice on how to boost your energy levels and get that spring back in your step.

Feed Yourself the Right Nutrients

If your diet has been less healthy over winter, you could be lacking in one or more of these important energy nutrients.

Iron

Iron is needed for transporting oxygen around the body and a lack can lead to low energy, lethargy and a feeling of apathy. Women are especially prone, due to the iron lost each month during menstruation. Eating a little good quality read meat or plenty of the vegetarian sources (spinach, kale, other leafy greens, seeds, nuts, beans, wholegrains, dark chocolate and tofu) will keep you topped up. Having vitamin C rich foods at the same time will help the body to absorb more iron.

meat-iron

spinach

B Vitamins

B vitamins are needed to release energy from food for use by cells of the body. Nuts, seeds, fish, whole-grains, peas, eggs, avocadoes & spinach are good sources and Beauty & Go Vitality contains vitamins B6 & B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can leave you feeling mentally foggy or exhausted and as it is only found in animal foods, can be a problem for vegans. Low B6 is associated with PMS and low mood and is needed to manufacture brain chemicals responsible for sleep, happiness and motivation.

Magnesium

Magnesium is needed for energy production and is also great for the nervous system and stress levels. Unfortunately many people in the UK don’t get enough of this important nutrient in their diets and factors such as stress, alcohol, caffeine and refined sugars can cause magnesium to be lost from the body. Spinach, kale, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, lentils, whole-grains, avocadoes, bananas, dark chocolate are all good sources.

 

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance used by the body to convert food into energy. Under perfect conditions the body produces enough of its own, however stress can block production and levels naturally decline as we age. Sardines, mackerel, chicken, nuts, seeds, broccoli and spinach are good sources and one Beauty & Go Vitality contains as much as 120 sardines!

vitality

drink-water

Water

Dehydration is one of the quickest ways to see your mental and physical energy drop. Just 1-2% dehydration can lead to a 40% reduction in productivity, so drink up! We need 1.5-2 litres of fluids per day.

blood-cells

Balance Your Blood Sugar

Your energy is determined by the amount of glucose present in your bloodstream for your cells to use for energy. This includes cells of the brain as well as the body, so we are talking both physical and mental energy here, and our mood is also influenced by blood sugar levels. Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day keeps energy, mood and appetite stable. Here’s how:

  • Regular Eating – don’t go longer than 4 hours without eating
  • Complex Carbs such as oats, rye, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, sugar-free muesli, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and root vegetables such as beetroot, pumpkin and sweet potato release their energy slowly and gradually
  • Protein combined with complex carbs is the KEY combination for balancing blood sugar. (Also include some healthy fats).
  • Avoid sugar and refined carbs (white bread, white flour, white pasta, pastry, cakes, biscuits) which send blood sugar rocketing, followed by a low.

Energise Your Mind

Laugh with Friends or Watch a Funny Film

Anything that makes you laugh and focuses your mind on something positive for a period of time can have an energising effect. Build in time each week for activities like this to experience the energising effects – this kind of thing is just as important for our health and energy as diet and exercise, so make it a priority.

Copy the Happiest Country

Denmark is the happiest nation according to the UN’s happiness report, so looking to them for inspiration is a good idea. They have a word ‘hygge’ which can’t be translated, as we don’t have the same concept, but is similar in meaning to ‘cosiness’. Hygge encompasses revelling in life’s simple but important pleasures all year round, so things like candlelit suppers with friends, beautiful music or simply enjoying a luxuriant evening curled up with a great book and cashmere socks.

stay-connected2

healthy-woman

Exercise Outdoors

It will improve your circulation, give you more energy and help relieve stress or low mood. Being outside will also boost levels of the happy chemical serotonin and vitamin D. If your energy is low, start by going for a gentle walk outside and build up to fast walking or jogging if and when you can.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is an essential ingredient for good energy. 7-8 hours is optimal for most people and remember it’s not just about the hours you get, sleep quality counts too. For advice and tips on getting a good sleep, click here.

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Take Regular Breaks

The human brain can only concentrate and work optimally in periods of 90 to 120 minutes. Take regular breaks in between for 10-15 minutes and your productivity and energy levels will increase! Get up and move during the break for even more of an energising effect.

vitality-office

Include a daily Beauty & Go SKIN VITALITY drink

This will help give you an energy boost due to its host of energising ingredients. The herb Ginkgo biloba increases circulation, including to the brain, helping support brain function and memory. Guarana has natural stimulating properties, along with Coenzyme Q10, B vitamins and energising superfood Baobab.

detox-cleaning-woman-wind

Spring is officially here, it is a time of renewal and rebirth and is the perfect time to give your health and well-being an overhaul. Here are some ideas for simple actions you can take now to give your body, mind and home a ‘spring clean’ and a new lease of life ready for the brighter days ahead.

Spring Clean Your Body

This is a great time of year for a gentle detox to help improve your energy levels, digestion and skin and to help and shake-off any winter ‘sluggishness’. Detoxing over a weekend, will give you the time and space you need to rest and relax and prepare the meals. During the week leading up to your detox gradually cut down on caffeine, alcohol, sugar and processed foods – you’ll be avoiding these for the detox, and cutting down gradually will minimise the chances of withdrawal symptoms such as headaches.

healthy-food-woman

I suggest beginning on a Friday evening with a light supper of either salmon and steamed vegetables or a homemade chunky vegetable soup. Over the rest of the weekend avoid the above plus meat, dairy products and wheat. Base your meals around fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses and easy to digest grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa and buckwheat; either fish or eggs once a day are fine if you feel you need the extra protein. You can use plenty of herbs, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper to flavour meals.

You will also need to consume plenty of fluids throughout your detox, at least 2 litres per day; water and herbal teas are great and including 2 or 3 Beauty & Go Detox drinks will help cleanse and purify your body and skin more deeply due to its range of detoxifying ingredients. For more inspiration and some detox meals and recipes, please click here.

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Spring Clean Your Mind

Try a Digital Detox

Our brains are not designed to be ‘switched on’ all the time and over-use of technology can lead to sleep disruptions, eye strain and even self-esteem issues related to social media. Try a technology detox to counteract some of these effects by having one hour every day and one evening per week technology free. Have at least 30 minutes before you go to be without technology as the light from the screen can suppress the sleep-hormone melatonin, making it harder to drift off.

tablet-breakfast

Get Outside

Regular exercise is proven to reduce anxiety, depression and improve sleep.

Exercising outdoors has even more benefits and is possible now with the (slightly) better weather and longer days. From April, the sun’s rays are the correct wavelength to stimulate vitamin D production in the skin, and as low levels are associated with depression, this is important for mental as well as physical health. You could try taking your workout outside, go for a run or a long walk in the park or countryside to reap the combined benefits of activity, vitamin D production and being in nature, which has proven positive effects on well-being.

man-sun

vitality-notesSet Some Goals

Goal setting is proven to increase positivity and motivation and high achievers like professional athletes and successful businessmen and women do it. Spring is the right time for taking a step back, reassessing your life and setting some new goals for the future. Breaking your life down into areas is useful; work, family, home, relationship, health, hobbies/leisure and finances for example and then setting goals in the areas that need a boost. It’s good to have a mixture of long-term and short-term goals, smaller and bigger ones and to also include enjoyable goals that will give you pleasure, like booking an amazing trip, as well as things related to work and self-improvement. Once you have set your goals, you can think about smaller, step-by-step actions to make them happen.

Spring Clean your Home

A calm, clutter-free, colourful home can do wonders for our well-being. Again, spring is a great time to breathe a new lease of life into your home and this can have a positive affects on our mood and energy. Getting rid of anything you don’t need is a great place to start and can even earn you some extra cash. It is estimated that the average home has hundreds of pounds worth of sellable but unused stuff taking up space, which can be sold on-line. The general rule when deciding what to keep and what to get rid of is; if you haven’t used it for a year, you probably won’t use it again.

old-furniture-garage-sale

The use of colour in the home can have positive effects on our health and mood. According to colour therapy yellow, gold and orange tones stimulate appetite and digestion, as well as encouraging warmth, relaxation and conversation, making them perfect for the kitchen. Blue inspires tranquillity so is great for the bedroom, while green is a deeply relaxing shade great for bedrooms and living spaces. Violet is said to calm the mind and body and be great for meditation, whilst red is supposed to fire passion! If redecorating is not an option, you can add bursts of colour with accessories, which also means you can change your mind!

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better-sleep

One in three people suffers with sleep problems according to the National Sleep Foundation, and the number of hours per night is on the decline for the rest of us, with a third of adults getting by on only 5 or 6 hours. The situation is so serious that insufficient sleep has been described by health professionals as a public health epidemic! Our busy lifestyles mean that getting enough, good quality sleep has fallen down the list of priorities while trying to squeeze in everything life demands of us.

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Sleep has thus become a much-neglected area of our health, despite its huge importance when you think that we spend about a third of our entire lives in bed! Lack of sleep can contribute to depression, anxiety, stress, weakened immune system (1), weight gain (2), skin ageing, relationship problems and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. In fact, sleep is as important as healthy eating and exercise for both physical and mental health, so it’s absolutely essential we address this deficit.

The good news is that everyone is born with the natural ability to sleep, so if you’re not sleeping well, it means something is getting in the way of your body’s natural ability. Identifying and removing the cause is therefore what’s needed to restore good quality sleep, along with genuinely making sleep a priority. The benefits of doing so will include improved mood, reduced disease risk, improved brain function, memory and concentration, more energy, helping appetite and weight control and slowing down the ageing process.

Sleep Facts

  • 6-8 hours is the average number of hours needed by adults
  • The average bedtime in the UK is 11.15pm
  • 50% people report that stress or worry keeps them awake at night
  • Women are 3 times more likely to suffer with sleep problems than men
  • Sleeping for more than 9 hours is also bad for health (except for children who need more sleep)

 

Sleep Hormones

The chemistry of sleep depends on two key hormones: melatonin and adrenalin. Melatonin is released by the brain, as it gets dark to induce sleep, which is made from the tryptophan, amino-acid found in protein foods. Providing the protein building blocks to make these brain chemicals is therefore key, along with the co-factors needed for the conversion process, these are folic acid, B6, vitamin C and zinc.

The second hormone is adrenalin, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, which needs to be switched off so we feel relaxed enough to sleep. Many people find it hard to switch out of a state of general anxiety sufficiently to fall asleep, factors such as high pressure lives and over-use of technology don’t help. Learning how to switch off adrenalin in the evening is key for people who find it hard to get to sleep.

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Nutrition for Good Sleep

Including foods in your diet that are high in tryptophan will ensure your body has the building blocks to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. The best sources are eggs, spirulina, fish, soya, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, turkey, chicken, oats, chickpeas, almonds, peanuts, dates, bananas, cottage cheese and yoghurt. You will also need the vitamin and mineral co-factors needed to convert tryptophan into melatonin, shown below.

Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, root vegetables and pulses help raise the body’s levels of tryptophan and make it more available to the brain. Eating an evening meal containing both protein and a small amount of complex carbohydrates is therefore useful – for example chicken with roasted root vegetables or lentil curry with brown rice.

The mineral magnesium found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, fish, beans, lentils, avocadoes, bananas and dark chocolate calms the nervous system and relaxes muscles, helping to reduce restless legs and insomnia.

Co-factors for Sleep Hormone Production

  • Vitamin B6: nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, dried fruit, bananas, wholegrains, avocadoes and spinach. Beauty & Go Vitality also contains vitamin B6
  • Zinc: seafood, lean meat, nuts, seeds, spinach, cocoa & dark chocolate, beans, and mushrooms.
  • Folic Acid: beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, asparagus, lettuce, avocado, broccoli, oranges, wholemeal bread
  • Vitamin C: peppers, citrus fruit, kale, spinach, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, peas, blackcurrants, kiwis, guava, papaya.

Caffeine can take 10-12 hours to be fully metabolised and can suppress melatonin production for 10 hours. If you are having severe sleep problems, I would advise cutting it out completely, otherwise limit yourself to 1 coffee, 2 black teas, or 3 green teas per day, no later than midday. Alternative hot drinks that actually promote sleep and relaxation are chamomile, valerian and sleep formula teas. You could also try a glass of cherry juice, which contains small amounts of melatonin and has been shown in studies to increase melatonin levels, sleep duration and sleep quality (3-5).

coffee

Avoid eating too late or large, heavy evening meals, and difficult to digest foods like red meat, fried foods and spicy foods. A large meal can cause indigestion and discomfort that can interfere with sleep and eating too late means that you won’t have fully digested the food before you go to sleep, which can do the same. Aim to eat your evening meal at least 3 hours before bed to allow time to fully digest it. If work or other commitments mean you have to eat late, eat more during the day and have a light evening meal like a vegetable and lentil soup. Also avoid drinking too much fluid in the evenings if waking up in the night to go to the bathroom is an issue for you.

Conversely, going to bed very hungry can lead to low blood sugar levels at night, which results in the release of stimulating hormones. A small snack such as an oatcake or a glass of warm almond milk about 30 minutes before bed will be enough to prevent this if it’s a problem for you.

chocolate

Sugar can be stimulating, so try to avoid refined sugar in the evenings (or all together!). If you crave something sweet try natural yoghurt with berries or some dried fruit and nuts. Unfortunately, chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine, another stimulating chemical called theobromine and sugar, so should be limited in the evenings if you are sensitive. You can indulge in a few squares of the dark stuff though, just have it as an afternoon snack with some nuts.

Many people resort to a glass of wine to relax and alcohol does temporarily promote the brain-chemical GABA, which switches off adrenalin and makes us feel relaxed. Unfortunately, the effect doesn’t last and too much alcohol actually leads to GABA depletion. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep it actually reduces the quality of your sleep, so in the long run doesn’t help.

 

Other factors

Exercise and Meditation

Regular exercise helps to improve sleep quality, morning exercise is best if you can fit it in, but if you do need to exercise in the evenings watch out for over-stimulating yourself by doing anything too high intensity. Practising yoga, T’ai Chi, Pilates or meditation are all great for calming the mind and body and enhancing sleep. Yoga and meditation are both scientifically proven to improve sleep and reduce stress levels; for more information on the benefits of meditation click here.

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Body Clock

Establishing a routine is the key to work with your body’s inbuilt body clock, so aim to go to bed and wake up at fairly consistent times as often as possible. Try to be in bed before 11pm, as late-hour sleep is not as beneficial as earlier sleep, and start winding down an hour before this.

Your Bedroom

Make the bedroom as restful and comfortable as possible; it should be dark, quiet, free from clutter, cool but not cold and somewhere you feel relaxed and cosy. If you live in a noisy city, earplugs and eye masks really help and getting the best bed, duvet and pillows you can are important.

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Technology

The screens of laptops, tablets and smart phones give off a type of light that ‘tricks’ our brains into thinking its daytime. This results in reduced production of the hormone melatonin. Avoiding exposure to bright light for an hour before bed can really help you drift off more easily. Instead establish a calming bedtime ritual, avoiding all technology and either reading something absorbing, which has been shown to reduce stress levels or have a bath as the change in body temperature helps induce sleep.

Calming Your Mind

Avoid stimulating or stressful activities close to bedtime such as watching the news, studying, high-intensity exercise, checking financial records, video games, difficult conversations and any other stressful situations. If you are anxious about anything or have a to-do list running through your mind, write it down so you can switch off from it for now, and deal with it the next day.

vitality-office

What If I Still Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

For those mornings when you feel tired and low in energy, try a Beauty & Go Vitality drink, which contains energising ingredients for your body, mind and skin. It contains natural stimulants green tea and guarana, Coenzyme Q10 needed for energy production in the body and energising superfood baobab.

Referencies
1. Kahan V1, Andersen ML, Tomimori J, Tufik S. Can poor sleep affect skin integrity? Med Hypotheses. 2010 Dec;75(6):535-7.
2. Shechter A, O’Keeffe M, Roberts AL, Zammit GK, Roychoudhury A, St-Onge MP Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Nov;303(9):R883-9. doi:
Alterations in sleep architecture in response to experimental sleep curtailment are associated with signs of positive energy balance.
3. Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Manchester LC, et al. Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus). J Agric Food Chem 2001;49:4898-902.
4. Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, et al. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.Eur J Nutr 2011 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print].
5. Pigeon WR, Carr M, Gorman C, Perlis ML (2010) Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study. J Med Food 13:579-583.

fitness trend

Most of us have been fitness and health focused for January, but going into February those good intentions can start to waver. In fact, over a third of gym memberships are abandoned by the end of January! This week, I am therefore going to provide some inspiration to keep you going with a post dedicated to fitness trends for 2016.

Just to be clear, a fitness trend is not the same as a fitness ‘fad’ – a fad is a phenomenon that becomes very popular and is taken up with great enthusiasm at the beginning, but then fades away after a short time. A trend on the other hand, lasts and creates a long-term impact on the way people think, behave or in this case exercise!

Of course in order to achieve a healthy body and mind, we’ll always need to put the work in, there are no quick fixes! The winning formula for all round health and fitness is to combine cardiovascular and resistance exercise with something like yoga for the mind-body benefits. There are however, some savvy tips, gadgets and methods to help make life a little easier!

10 ways that regular exercise will improve your life!

Here’s a quick reminder of ten ways that regular exercise will improve your life if you need any extra inspo:

  • Improves mood

    Improves mood and reduces stress – nothing beats that endorphin boost after a good workout! In fact, exercise has been shown in studies to be as effective as medication for mild-moderate depression!

  • Better sleep

    Regular exercise improves sleep quality

  • More energy

    Movement creates energy!

  • Boosts your immune system

    Moderate exercise does, over-train and it has the opposite effect, so be careful!

  • Weight management

    Especially good for maintaining a healthy weight

  • Strength and muscles

    Builds strength and muscles – resistance exercise in particular

  • Diabetes & Cancer

    Reduces type 2 diabetes risk and risk of certain cancers.

  • Cardiovascular health

    Keeps your heart and blood vessels healthy, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke

  • Joints and bones

    Keeps, joints and bones healthy and strong and improves flexibility

  • Digestion

    Great for digestion – keeps things moving!

Wearable Technology

tecnologia wearable

Wearable technology such as fitness bands and smart watches are a fantastic way to motivate yourself to keep moving – anyone who’s been reading my previous posts will know that I’m a fan. The total market for wearable tech is estimated to be worth £4 billion in 2016, making this the number one trend according to the latest American College of Sports Medicine Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends (1). They are such a great way to track your progress and also make fitting activity into a busy schedule much easier. Exercise doesn’t have to be a defined workout or exercise class, it can be something you do in shorter bursts over the day, which works well for anyone short on time. Not only do these devices track your activity levels, but they also monitor your sleep patterns, which is another much neglected area of health these days.

Any pointers?

The only drawback is that it can become a bit obsessive, checking your steps every five minutes to see how many more you’ve clocked up! I would also discourage using the calorie counting function, as for one it’s extremely laborious inputting everything you eat and secondly calorie counting is never a good idea – it’s much better to focus on the quality of your diet.

HIIT

HIIT

High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT has been around for a few years now but remains a strong trend for 2016 due to its effectiveness and the fact that it can be done in a relatively short time compared with other cardiovascular workouts. It involves short bursts of exercise at maximum capacity interspersed with recovery periods of low intensity exercise. It typically takes around 20-30 minutes to achieve the same benefits that you would achieve in an hour of normal continuous exercise, so is a great time saver and perfect to squeeze in before work or in your lunch break.

Any pointers?

The high intensity means that you have to be fit and healthy, so this is not suitable for people with injuries or medical conditions. There may also be a higher risk of getting an injury when exercising at this level, so starting off in a supervised class or with a trainer is sensible until you are well practiced.

Body Weight Training

Body Weight Training

This is nothing new but has gained in popularity recently for several reasons. Body weight training simply means resistance exercise using your own body weight instead of machines or weights, so think push-ups, squats, lunges etc.

The rise in popularity is due to the fact that it gets good results but is also essentially free and can be done anywhere, anytime, such as at home or in the park.

Any pointers?

You have to be self-disciplined to exercise at home on your own, but some people can so it’s just a case of knowing yourself and your limits. Technique is important, so again I would advise at least starting off with a trainer or instructor to make sure you get this right.

Yoga

yoga

It may have been around for centuries, but yoga is still up there as a popular fitness trend for 2016. With a wealth of new styles and techniques coming out all the time, this prevents boredom and keeps it popular. As well as boosting strength and flexibility, the benefits of yoga go so much further and include stress reduction, increased happiness and wellbeing, inner peace and deep relaxation, helping you be more present and mindful, improving balance, posture, protecting the spine and chronic pain relief.

Any pointers?

None, so get that mat out!

Doing something you enjoy

your-sport

Finally, not so much a trend but common sense to keep you exercising is simply choosing something you genuinely enjoy. Whether its going for a walk or bike ride with friends or family, dancing, horse riding or playing a team sport, if you actually enjoy exercise statistics repeatedly show you are much more likely to keep it in your life long-term.

References
1) Thompson, Walter R. Ph.D., FACSM WORLDWIDE SURVEY OF FITNESS TRENDS FOR 2016: 10th Anniversary Edition. ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal 2015 19:9-18

meditation-sunset

Meditation and mindfulness, once associated with ‘hippy culture’ are fast becoming mainstream and fashionable. Classes are popping up all over the place, some workplaces are using the techniques to improve employee wellbeing and productivity, and the NHS is now using mindfulness therapies for conditions including depression or anxiety.

Most of us have a vague idea about what mindfulness and meditation are, with images of monks, the Dalai Lama and the idea of inner peace probably springing to mind! What they are exactly on the other hand, and how to incorporate them into our daily lives remains elusive for most people. This week, I am going to tell you how to do this and also why you should be doing it – the benefits are pretty mind-blowing!

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Amazing Health Benefits

  1. Reduces stress levels and anxiety
  2. Improves happiness and wellbeing
  3. Enhances relaxation
  4. Improves sleep
  5. Improves energy levels
  6. Lows blood pressure
  7. Boosts the immune system
  8. Can help with weight loss
  9. Regular practice can slow down the ageing process

These techniques can also enhance your life even if you are feeling great already! In fact, successful businessmen and women have used meditation to further their success and it has been shown to enhance problem solving ability and creativity. Other interesting research in the field, has found lower reoffending rates in criminals who are taught meditation and improved behaviour, learning and attendance amongst school children.

What is Mindfulness?

Modern life has a tendency to make us rush around, often multi-tasking, feeling stressed or on ‘autopilot’ whilst worrying about all the other things we should or shouldn’t be doing. In other words our minds are constantly busy and we are often distracted. Mindfulness is basically the opposite of this; it is about being fully present in the moment.

One definition of mindfulness is

“a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”.

Another good way to understand the concept is to think about how you feel when you are totally absorbed in an activity you enjoy – perhaps playing a sport or game, cooking or reading a bedtime story to your child – you are completely present and undistracted, all of your focus is on what you are doing, and there are no thoughts racing through your mind distracting you.

woman-taking-shower

A good way to start introducing mindfulness into your life, is to choose an activity you do every day – it could be having a shower, brushing your teeth or your commute to work – and practice mindfulness for the duration of that activity. (This is one of the great advantages of mindfulness – you can literally practice it anywhere, anytime).

Focus on your five senses; simply ask yourself, what can I see, what do I hear, can I smell or taste anything and what am I touching – you might feel the seat or ground beneath you supporting you, for example. When worries or thoughts pop up, simply bring your attention gently back to your five senses and the present.

Meditation

Meditation takes this to the next level, allowing you to reach deep levels of relaxation for the body and mind. In this deeply relaxed state, healing, regeneration and re-energising take place on a cellular level. You feel rested, refreshed and soothed in a way that no amount of sleep or chilling out in front of the TV will ever give you.

Regular meditation will help you to be more mindful during your day, and practicing mindfulness will enhance your meditation practice. Eventually over time, with regular practice of both, the benefits spill over into your everyday life. You become less at the mercy of external factors, in other words more resilient to and better able to cope with stressful situations (an inevitable part of life!).

 man-breathing-relax

Breathing Meditation

A breathing meditation involves focusing attention on your breath, to the exclusion of everything else. With practice this quietens the mind, as you will not be thinking about anything else, apart from the breathing. This allows your brain to have a much-needed rest from the constant chatter going on the rest of the time. This allows rest and relaxation to take place on an incredibly deep level.

At first, you will probably find that your mind is very busy and wanders a lot, this is perfectly normal and the last thing you want to do is get stressed about it or try to force it to be quiet (impossible!) Instead, when a thought arises, observe that thought, then imagine it floating away like a cloud in the sky and bring the focus gently back to your breath as many times as you need to.

TIP: The brain is like a muscle and needs training, so the more you practice the quieter the mind becomes and the easier meditation becomes. As with exercise though, if you don’t use it you lose it, so meditation is something to build in to your routine, just like healthy eating or exercise.

You will feel the most benefits if you practice most days or at least a few times per week. Many people find that if they choose the same time of day to meditate they are more likely to stick to it.

A Simple Breathing Meditation

  1. Find a quiet place, where you won’t be disturbed and turn off your phone!
  2. Sit in a comfortable upright position – either cross-legged in the traditional lotus position or in a chair if you prefer your back to be supported (don’t lie down as you are more likely to fall asleep!)
  3. Close your eyes and bring your focus to your breathing.
  4. Breathe naturally in and out through the nose, observing the breath entering and leaving the nostrils and allowing any tension to leave your body with each exhalation.
  5. For the next 5-10 minutes, keep your focus and attention on your breath. Each time your mind wanders away from the breath and starts worrying, daydreaming or thinking, bring it gently back to focusing on the breath again.
  6. Start with 5-10 minutes and over time aim to build up to 15-30 minutes.

 

group-doing-yoga-relax-meditation

Other Types of Meditation

There are many different types of meditation and different ways to practice.

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is the most researched method with over 600 studies having been carried out; Transcendence (Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal) is a great book outlining all this incredible research. It does require a 4-day course to learn the technique, for more information and free introductory talks, you can visit the official TM website: http://.tm.org/home

Mindfulness meditation is another great method and some fantastic courses are run by the Mindfulness Project: http://www.londonmindful.com. They also have courses on mindful eating, mindfulness for pain, happiness, parenting and on-line courses are available for anyone outside of London.

stay-healthy-when-eating-out-01

As the summer is upon us many of us will be eating out more. Holidays usually involve eating out most days and lazy summer brunches and dinners with friends are one of the great pleasures of this time of year.

So how do you stay healthy when you eat out and what are the best choices to make when eating at a restaurant?

Read more