World’s Worst Meditator Uncovers 5 Meditation Styles That You Need to Discover Today!

World’s Worst Meditator Uncovers 5 Meditation Styles That You Need to Discover Today!

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I’m not going to lie to you. I’m no meditation expert, guru or even dabbler of the art. In fact, I downright suck when it comes to meditation. I fidget, so in true meditation style, I try to accept my fidgeting. I fall asleep, so again, I try accepting my need for sleep. I have thoughts come into my head, and these too, I try to accept. I listen to suggestions about letting go and going within but hey, that’s what got me to this point. You feeling me?!

So when I was recently challenged to do just 5 minutes a day, I could hear my yoga teacher’s deeply meditative voice breathing down my back saying, “you got this”.

“No girl, I aint got this.” I want to retort. What is it within me that rejects this limitless, time-hath- no-boundaries practice?   

Always one up for a challenge however I cave and decide to embark on a meditation adventure. Who know there could be so many different types? Read on to find out which you’re most suited to.

  1. Transcendental Meditation (TM)
    Ok so I had heard about this one. Didn’t know what it was about but do I still score brownie points? I think so.

    Apparently I have heard about it for a reason. It’s the most popular type of meditation according to Dr Google. And the most scientifically studied. It can be adapted to suit the individual, using a mantra or series of words specific to the person delivering the practice.

    It’s for those that prefer structure and the goal is a state of enlightenment. Somehow I feel this is not the right type of meditation for my naive soul.

  2. Kundalini Meditation
    Another type of meditation that I have heard of, but my limited knowledge is well, limited. As I draw blanks on what it actually is, all I can see in my ‘mind’s eye’ is a picture in what at the time was called a ‘new-age’ newspaper, of a relationship expert, albeit one with a high sexual energy, claiming that Kundalini will fix any faltering relationship.

    Apparently however it is so much more than a sexual tool. Kundalini focuses on the rising stream of energy within the body. With roots in Buddhism and Hindu principles, the term Kundalini translates into the word ‘coil’. Part of Kundalini yoga and meditation’s sole purpose is to awaken the Kundalini energy present at the base of the spine, wherein our power lays, coiled snake-like.

    The energy must be beckoned or metaphorically drawn up the spine from the base chakra, through all seven chakras in total, up to and including the chakra that resides above the head.   

    This energy is purported to have a purifying action, helping to rid the body of disease and provoking a deeper awareness of self. This form of meditation can lead to supreme bliss.

    Sound too good to be true? I love the idea of an energy so strong that it can lead to profound consciousness, though it is a little ‘woo-woo’ for my conservative Capricornian self. On to meditation #3….  

  3. Mantra Meditation
    Also known as Vedic meditation and prominent in many teachings, this type of meditation originates from traditions and religions including Hinduism and Buddhism.

    The repetitive use of words, phrases or sounds seek to clear the mind, with one of the most popular mystic syllables reverberating around the country in yoga studios here, there and everywhere, “om” or its enlightened cousin, “om namah shivayah”, which roughly translates to “I bow to my inner self”.

    This meditation style is useful for those who find it difficult to focus on their breath, for those that dislike silence and for the (meditative) beboppers who enjoy a little bit of repetition here and there.

    Hmmm this is sounding more like my style of meditation. I start to feel a glimmer of hope in not drifting off to the land of nod where fairies sprinkle me with sleeping dust made of blue and pink glitter. In fact, I might be so bold as to say we’re heading down the right path now.

  4. Visualisation Meditation
    Perfect for manifesting your heart’s desires into reality or imagineering something into existence, this meditation style caters to all walks of life and with so many different themes and teachers, will never leave you listlessly walking away from class.

    This newer technique is not only good for personal development, it can also aid stress release and foster spiritual healing. Indeed, using the principles of relaxation and reflecting on positive experiences, guided visualisations have their place in positive psychology, helping the body to release feel-good chemicals. The key to a powerful experience is in the teacher and having a guide take you from one place to another.

    Despite my earlier qualms of too much ‘woo’ for my Capricornian mind (flash-back to Method Numero Due, Kundalini Meditation), this type of meditation is appealing, most likely as it seems somewhat of an adventure, where I am taken from one place to another and most of all, I am guided along the way. I’m not convinced it’s a ‘true’ form of meditation, whatever that even means, but I am starting to think I need to give meditation another crack.

Moving Meditation
Also known as Walking Mediation, this type of meditation caters to people like me! (Cue excitement, an ounce of trepidation and potential awakened bliss). Though it sounds like exercise, this type of mindful meditation isn’t quite that. There is no heart-pounding music, no fast dashes and no fancy HIIT stops on the pavement to up your heart rate. Instead, it involves walking through the woods, gardening, gentle stretching and other similar low-impact exercises. In essence, it’s performing meditation where you are guided as to what movement you perform. It’s placing your attention on the sights, smells and sounds around you. And most of all, it’s tuning in to your heart rate and becoming slow and deliberate.

Not quite the meditation I thought it was, but I think maybe just maybe, I really can give this one a go as I already do a variant of it as I hang out my washing, as I wash the dishes and as I stroll through my garden.

Perhaps I’m not that much of a meditation dud after all.  

  Author: Samantha Kirton

Author: Samantha Kirton

 
 

GREEN LIVING WITH BUILDING BIOLOGY

GREEN LIVING WITH BUILDING BIOLOGY

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Wellness is more than absence of disease, and a healthy home that truly nurtures one’s health is far more than a clean house with 5 star energy rating.

Our homes are a reflection of who we are. Every area of our lifestyles – what we eat, drink, touch, wear, what we use to build, clean and furnish our homes – is directly linked to our state of health and wellbeing.

Current research has shown strong environmental links to many prominent health issues including:

- Allergies -   Asthma and respiratory problems

- Recurrent colds and flu -   Depression and anxiety

- Headaches and migraines -   Insomnia and sleep disturbances

- Electrical sensitivity -   Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

- Chronic fatigue -   Autoimmune diseases

- Eczema and dermatitis -   Learning and behavioural problems

- Many forms of cancers -   Hormonal problems and infertility

According to Building Biologist Nicole Bijlsma, author of best-selling book Healthy Home, Healthy Family ‘in the past 30 years childhood allergies have increased by 400%, 1 in 4 children have asthma, breast cancer has more than doubled, sperm count has dropped by 50% and there is a 400% increase in testicular cancer’.

Could your home or workplace be making you sick? The unfortunate truth is yes. Read more about the top sources of indoor pollution here.

What is Building Biology?

Building Biology is a field of work promoting the use of healthy building principles to improve living and work spaces and the health of people who occupy them.

Post World War II, houses and buildings were erected quickly and cheaply as a means to rebuild Germany. After many people living and working in these houses and buildings soon became noticeably ill, and it was discovered that commonly used building materials and certain methods of construction were causing these health problems, now commonly known as ‘Sick Building Syndrome’. Sufferers commonly notice changes to their symptoms and health when moving from one building to another, and often symptoms improve when away from home or work.

Building Biologists address the home as a living organism, considering the home as the ‘third skin’- the second being our clothing. Building Biologists investigate potential health hazards in the built and surrounding environments, addressing factors like;

♣ electromagnetic radiation from nearby power lines, phone towers, smart meters, WIFI, household appliances and building wiring;

♣ poor indoor air quality from dust and mites, allergens, poor ventilation, heating and cooling systems, airborne germs, pollens, grasses and toxic mould

♣ household chemical exposure from cleaning and personal care products, fragrance and perfumes in air fresheners, pesticides and toxic off-gassing from synthetic furnishings, carpets and building materials.

♣ Water quality, proper building design, non-toxic and eco-friendly materials.

The problems created by “sick buildings” are complex, but there’s no need to be overwhelmed!

Check out next months blog for the top ways to curb indoor pollution in your home or workplace.


  Bree Fisher   Building Biologist & Green Living Guru  BHSc (Naturopathy) Cert IV (Building Biology)

Bree Fisher

Building Biologist & Green Living Guru

BHSc (Naturopathy) Cert IV (Building Biology)


 
 

The Top 10 BEST Vegan Ice-cream Recipes You Have to Try Today!

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The Top 10 BEST Vegan Ice-cream Recipes You Have to Try Today!

With World Vegan Day fast approaching (November 1st), and warm and sunny spring days at our heels, what better time to celebrate veganism than by chowing down on some deliciously healthy and ever-so-tasty vegan ice-cream?

There is literally no need to eat conventional ice-cream any longer, especially with the potential health consequences. Not only is ice-cream loaded with calories (be mindful however; non-dairy alternatives can also be heavyweights when it comes to energy density), but more so, the high sugar levels can cause multiple health problems.

Think low fat ice-cream is your answer? Don’t be so sure. According to high-quality studies referenced recently in Business Insider, there is a strong correlation between high carbohydrate consumption (sugars) and weight gain. Sugar is not the only ingredient you need to be mindful of – dairy can also wreak havoc for some.  

Going dairy-free has a whole range of touted benefits however, from reduced bloating and improved respiratory function right through to clearer skin and a lessened chance of oxidative stress. Whatever the reason, we can’t see why not include a dairy-free ice-cream alternative with how divine they taste. Check out our favourite recipes below.

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Piña Colada Ice Cream

No-Churn

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Mint Chocolate Nice Cream


Raw & Vegan Chunky Monkey ice Cream from “My New Roots”

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Raw & Vegan Chunky Monkey ice Cream

from “My New Roots

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No-Churn Vegan Chocolate Ice -Cream

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2-Ingredient Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

(No Churn, Dairy-Free, No Added Sugar)

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Roasted Honey & Fig Coconut Ice Cream

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Cherry Bakewell Ice-Cream

Vegan + Paleo

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Choc Chip Cookie Dough Ice -Cream

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Chai Coconut Ice-Cream

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Raw Vegan Blueberry Vanilla Ice Cream

 
 
 Author: Samantha Kirton

Author: Samantha Kirton

 

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Newly Vegan? Here's What You Really Need to Know

Newly Vegan? Here's What You Really Need to Know

So you’ve heard how important it is to eat iron-rich foods when going vegan, and you probably realise how important it is to keep a check on your B12 levels. But did you know that iodine is also important and that animal-free substitutes aren’t always what they claim to be?

Scroll down to find out more and to ensure you get the most out of your vegan lifestyle today.

Low FODMAP? … Unfortunately not.
You might find your new-found vegan diet perfect for shedding excess kilos and leaving you more energetic, but for those of you with gut issues, veganism may not be the way to go or at best, you’ll have to be super mindful of what vegan options work and which ones you need to give the flick.  

Vegan food generally speaking is high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols). In other words, foods that are high in fructose and are prone to causing digestive issues such as cramping and bloating for those individuals with sensitive tummies.    

According to Monash University, high FODMAP foods include onion, garlic, artichoke, asparagus, cauliflower, green peas, leek, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, apples, dried fruits, pears, plums, almost all legumes and pulses and some nuts and seeds.

Though there are plenty of alternatives to these foods, for a vegan, high FODMAP foods present a problem in that in lieu of meat, dairy, eggs and seafood, generally speaking, more legumes, pulses, fruits and vegetables are consumed, thus bumping up your FODMAP intake.

Solution? Invest in a high-quality low-FODMAP vegan cookbook (try saying that quickly ten times in a row!) or get an app to help you create mouth-watering creations worth sharing.

Abundant Micronutrients from Increased Vegetable Intake
You’d imagine that with an increase in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and pulses you’d be glowing from the inside out. And yes, this is possible, but often, you need to consume a larger proportion of vegetarian foods in order to reach the same level of micronutrients as that found in non-vegetarian sources.

Unless you’ve been in hiding, you would have heard how important it is to eat iron-rich food. Iron is vital for the health of your blood – it helps carry oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. It inversely supports your immune system by mode of fighting infection. It helps maintain healthy cells, hair, skin and nails and it even helps with cognition.

You likely would also have heard about the importance of Vitamin B12. So important that without adequate B12 levels, your nervous system is so severely shunted that it can cause permanent and irreversible nerve damage and degeneration of the spinal cord. Low blood levels of Vitamin B12 have even been implicated in hyperhomocysteinemia, a risk factor for atherosclerosis.

Something that is surprising however is that veganism has links with low iodine levels. You might be munching on sea vegetables (seaweed) but without the higher intakes of iodine associated with seafood consumption, you could be at risk of a deficiency. Low iodine and iron levels have been linked to cognitive impairments and long term behavioural changes.
If you have any concerns for your micronutrient intake, consult a trained healthcare professional such as a nutritionist or naturopath to ensure your dietary choices support your body in whatever stage of life you are in.

Can’t Stop Thinking About Food?
If you’re thinking about food every waking moment, chances are you’re not getting the right ratio of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to adequately sustain your body. Try tweaking your newfound diet by upping whatever it is currently low in (be it carbs, proteins or fats). You might be on a vegan diet, but your body type might be crying out for more sustenance. Experimenting with your macros is the easiest way to fix this.

Chocolate cravings can also be helped with the same theory, though micronutrients are also at play here.

If you’ve had years of healthy eating, listening to your body can do wonders in your own healing. If you’re new to healthy eating however, start to tune in to what makes your body feel good and to what leaves it lacking in energy, vitality and strength.


It’s Not Just About the Food
As a new vegan, you’ll know to avoid bee products, leather, sheepskin and wool and other products of animal origin. Be careful with your substitutes however. You might be honouring your values, which is to be commended, however pay heed to synthetic alternatives that do no good for the environment, let alone your skin, respiratory and reproductive systems. For more information on the deleterious effect of chemicals found in some clothing and other products, read this review publishing the findings that the Endocrine Society released as a caution to the scientific community on environmental endocrine disruptors and their adverse effects on health.
The easy solution here is to buy non-synthetic clothing made of organic fibres such as organic cotton, hemp and linen.

 Author: Samantha Kirton

Author: Samantha Kirton

 


Shopping Consciously: How Small Decisions Can Impact the Whole World

Shopping Consciously: How Small Decisions Can Impact the Whole World

All of us produce some footprint on the world; it’s impossible to exist without impacting the environment and economy in some way. In our modern world, many of us buy and dispose of an incredible amount of plastic and other non-degradable materials every year. As awareness of the fragility of our natural world has spread, a number of conscious brands have sprung up to try to help reduce or eliminate the negative aspects of our material needs. Whether it’s fair-trade coffee, made-in-Australia clothing or a toothbrush made from recycled plastic, there are plenty of ways to “vote” for more sustainable products with your wallet. Taking your money away from large, irresponsible companies is also a great way to send a message that you won’t participate in wholesale exploitation of resources and people.   

 

When you first start researching smarter choices for your clothing, food and household products, you’ll find that many of the issues conscious brands are addressing are interwoven. For example, transitioning to organic skin products not only lessens your exposure to artificial and potentially toxic ingredients, but it also supports responsible farming and helps make your wastewater less harmful for the aquatic creatures living downstream.

 

A word of warning, however!  As you begin to change to support environmentally- and socially-conscious organisations, it’s important to beware of “greenwashing.” Unfortunately, some large corporations have caught onto the ‘sustainable’ trend and may present a product as being healthier or more environmentally-friendly than it actually is. For example, the word “natural” is very vague and there is no existing legal definition. A “natural” dish soap without dye or perfume could still contain harmful ingredients like phosphates. Always read labels carefully and look for 3rd-party certification seals for organic, fair trade or vegan products.   

 

If you feel overwhelmed by the number of options out there or can’t always afford to buy the most eco-friendly version, start small! Pick an issue that matters most to you and start there. Even changing a few buying habits can support organisations that are working to create big changes. One easy way to prioritise your money is to shop locally-produced products and brands whenever possible; this simple rule will bring a whole set of benefits. For example, going to your local farmers market instead of the chain grocery store not only gets you the freshest (and lowest-carbon) produce, but you’re supporting the local economy with small businesses who actually care about long-term issues like stewardship of the land.

 

To accommodate the sometimes higher prices of organic or responsibly-produced brands, there are other ways to live a more environmentally-friendly life while saving money. For example, adapting a “zero waste” approach to food and packaging is another way to help the earth while saving you money in the meantime. The important thing is to do what you can, when you can and take heart in making even small changes. The more you can do to support conscious brands, the greater the healing impact for our world will be.    

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

Filling Winter Snacks to Stay Healthy While it’s Cold Out

Filling Winter Snacks to Stay Healthy While it’s Cold Out

As the weather is well and truly cold, you may find your appetite going into overdrive. Plan ahead with these healthy snacks so you’ll have something to grab when you’re hungry instead of chips, chocolate or unhealthy takeaway.

Seasonal Fruits & Vegetables Seasonal food is having a moment. As we become more aware of the importance of eating local, support local farms by eating foods that are traditionally available instead of imported. Plus, seasonal food is often easier on your wallet.

  • On-the-go: If you’ve got school, work or traveling to do, apples and mandarins are probably the most “travel friendly”. Great portable veg that are in prime season include snow peas, carrots and celery. If the idea of plain carrots is unappetising, try bringing a small tub of Asian-style dressing as a healthy and tasty dip.

  • At Home: Keep pears and grapefruit for that afternoon pick-me-up. Try cooking a batch of mini quiches or gluten-free muffins at the beginning of the week so you’ll have an easy, protein-filled way to nourish yourself and beat cravings.

Roasted Snacks The oven is a great way to make all sorts of savory, healthy snacks. Roasting brings out fantastic flavors and textures, while requiring less oil than other cooking techniques.

  • Pumpkin Seeds: If you’ve bought pumpkin for soup, don’t throw away the seeds! Instead, toss them in olive oil and your choice of spices: salt and pepper, curry powder or lemon pepper are all delicious. Spread them on a baking sheet at 180°C and roast for 30 minutes or until puffy and golden-coloured. The roasted seeds make a fantastic vitamin-packed snack you can keep in your bag while you’re out and about.

  • Spiced chickpeas: Roasted chickpeas may sound strange, but they’re a convenient snack and a great substitute if you’re craving salty crisps. Simply drain a can of chickpeas, rinse and toss with a spice mixture, as much as you would with pumpkin seeds. For the best tasting results, enliven the bland flavor of the chickpeas with curry or another bold combination like cumin-ginger. Roast at 180°C for 30 minutes or until the edges of the peas start to caramelise.     

  • Sweet Potato Bites: Sweet potatoes are another great winter staple. Roasting provides a delicious depth of flavour and texture and can make a great healthy snack if you’re at home watching the telly. Dice into cubes or cut into chip-shapes, toss in olive oil and the seasoning of your choice and roast at 180°C for an hour or until the sweet potatoes start to darken. You’ll get a vitamin-packed alternative to salty, fatty foods, as well as plenty of fibre to keep you full. 

Traditional Treats

  • Anzac biscuits: You don’t have to go to Gallipoli to enjoy this staple. This traditional veteran’s biscuit not only lasts for a long time after being baked, but is actually packed with healthy whole grains to keep you energised if you’re on the go. Ahead of your busy week, take some time to try this easy, cost-effective homemade recipe.  

  • Avo on Toast: Even if you only have five minutes before you need to dash out the door, this snack is a great choice. Mash half an avocado and mix with lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste. Slice a thick piece of sturdy sourdough bread for the toast so that you stay full for longer. Don’t forget to leave the pit in the other half to help it keep in the refrigerator for next time!

    With one of these healthy options, junk food really shouldn’t be an option. Treat your body right and you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll likely look better, sleep better and be on more of an even emotional keel than those who elect to ‘treat’ their bodies.

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

What is Adrenal Fatigue? Learn How Stress Hormones are Damaging Your Body - And What to Do About It

What is Adrenal Fatigue? Learn How Stress Hormones are Damaging Your Body - And What to Do About It

Our stressful modern lives can cause serious damage to our bodies if we’re not careful. In ancient times, when our ancestors were triggered by a predator or other serious threat, cortisol temporarily raised blood sugar levels to help boost the “fight or flight” response. These days, however, chronic stress from work, caregiving, or other elements of modern life are triggering massive amounts of cortisol to stay in our bloodstreams. If it’s elevated for significant amounts of time, cortisol can cause serious hormonal imbalances that affect everything from blood sugar to bone density. The resulting adrenal fatigue can be hard to diagnose, but its main symptoms are:

  • Lack of energy

  • “Brain fog”, depression and burnout  

  • Hair loss

  • Cravings for sweet or fatty foods

  • Weight gain, especially fat deposits in the belly or mid-section  

The good news is that there are several ways to help our bodies naturally balance out our stress hormones and rebuild proper adrenal function. The old adage that “food is medicine” is especially true when it comes to tackling symptoms of chronic stress. It’s important to focus on nutritious foods that are low in sugar and other processed ingredients. Getting enough healthy fats like omega-3s is another crucial part of soothing the chronic inflammation that comes with excess exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones.   

Ingredients to help rebuild adrenal function:

  • Healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado, olive oil (cold-pressed); fatty wild-caught fish like salmon; nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, chia, hemp and flax.

  • Probiotics: yoghurt (check the label to make sure it contains live cultures), kombucha, kim chi, sauerkraut.

  • Veg: greens, especially foods from the cruciferous family like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale. Seaweed is also recommended - look for it in dried sheets called “nori" at Asian food stores.

  • Mushrooms: the healing power of Cordyceps and Reishi mushrooms may help reduce inflammation to help your body self-regulate.

  • Protein: free-range, grass-fed chicken and meat; bone broth

Reduce Your Intake of:

  • Coffee and caffeine-containing teas

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners like Aspartame

  • Processed carbohydrates like white bread, biscuits and crackers  

  • Grain-fed red meat

It’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins, especially if you’re vegetarian or gluten-free. Fish (or vegetarian flax seed) oil, magnesium and B-complex vitamins are all thought to play a role in adrenal function.

Finally, some behavioral changes can have an amazing impact. Simply put: take care of yourself. Turn off all screens and other sources of blue light by 10 pm to make sure you get enough sleep - ideally 8+ hours a night. Meditate, practice mindfulness, and/or exercise to reduce cortisol levels. Although it can be difficult, especially if you’re feeling worn-out, it’s worthwhile to practice positive thinking and gratitude. Just like building muscle, positive and mindful thinking will get easier with practice. The mind and body have a proven connection, so remember that good thoughts can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health.

Five Environmentally-Damaging Things You Didn’t Know You Need To Stop Doing

Five Environmentally-Damaging Things You Didn’t Know You Need To Stop Doing

Sure, you already know that you should be walking or cycling instead of driving. You buy organic food whenever possible, recycle and buy sweatshop-free products. But there are other damaging behaviors that also have a big impact on our environment. If you’re ready to take your eco-friendly lifestyle to the next level, read on to learn about five other damaging behaviors you may not be aware of.

Eating Prawns

The ocean’s ecosystem is hurting. Make sure you’re not making the problem worse with your shopping habits! Did you know that one pound of trawl-caught prawns may be responsible for killing an additional 15 pounds of “unwanted” seafood? This makes prawns one of the worst seafood choices to make. If you must have your prawns, go to a local fishmonger and talk with the employees to make sure they source it sustainably. Always check the labels on other seafood too and educate yourself to avoid other harmful choices like farm-grown fish.  

Not Cleaning the Fridge

You probably already know that eating habits have a huge impact on the environment. It’s important to buy local and cut down on meat and dairy purchases at the store. But there’s another part of the process that you may be forgetting: food waste. Besides costing you money, it’s damaging for the environment. The simplest way to avoid food waste is keeping your refrigerator and freezer clean. An uncrowded fridge draws less electricity and items are less likely to get lost (and spoil) out of sight in the back. Finally, take a minute to learn the difference between expiration and “best before” dates, so that you don’t throw away perfectly-fine yoghurt.

Swimming in Streams, Lakes or the Ocean With Cosmetic Products on

Maybe you’ve already ditched products with plastic microbeads after finding out how harmful they are to our marine life, but there are other steps you should also be taking. Many non-organic lotions, makeup and sun creams contain ingredients that can be damaging to the environment. This is especially true when you enter the water without washing off first. Common preservatives like BHA and BHT can actually alter the behavior of fish. Dioxane is another scary culprit: it can damage fish eggs and contributes to the population decline of important species like plankton. Whenever possible, scrub off before you get in the water. In the long-term, look for products that do not contain these damaging ingredients.

Forgetting to Unplug “Vampire” Electronics

Until the whole country is run on a sustainable power grid, electricity will continue to be a major part of everyone’s carbon footprint. Many electronics may keep drawing power even when they appear to be off. Think: cell phone chargers, cable boxes, and “instant-on” TV or computer screens. It may go without saying, but big screens can suck a shocking amount of power while in “vampire” mode. Always unplug these items when you’re not using them. You’d be surprised how much money you might save on your energy bill, too!

Using Disposable Feminine Hygiene Items

You may already be aware of the environmental disaster that is disposable baby diapers, but what about other hygiene items? Ladies, it’s time to evaluate how much our monthly cycle may be costing the earth. Each disposable sanitary pad contains almost as much un-degradable plastic as 4 shopping bags! Tampon applicators not only end up in the landfill, but they may also be exposing you to dangerous chemicals like phthalates. Reusable pads and menstrual cups will help you get more comfortable with your body while saving the environment, too! Gentlemen, you’re not out of the woods either: consider disposable plastic razors. For the sake of convenience, you’re adding dozens a year to the landfill, where they never degrade.

Keep your eye out for other tips to help reduce your environmental impact and do your thing to educate those around you – and when purchasing foods, always look for local, organic and fair trade produce – stamps that the food you have selected has been subjected to stringent procedures and where environmental integrity is maintained.

 By Natalie Millis

By Natalie Millis

 
 

Zero Waste: Four Ways to Reduce Your “Garbage Footprint”

Zero Waste: Four Ways to Reduce Your “Garbage Footprint”

The problem with garbage is that it may be carted out of sight, but it’s certainly not disappearing. Reduce the amount you’re contributing with a few tricks to produce less waste in the first place. Between reducing the amount of rubbish you make and being sure you reuse and recycle the rest, you can make a difference. Plus, you may find that reducing your waste footprint can also be great for your bank account!

Invest in fewer higher-quality clothes and shoes

The cost of fast-fashion is huge. Besides the sweatshop labour, most of these clothes and shoes are so cheaply made that they can end up in the bin after only being worn a dozen times! This can add up to a huge amount of ‘stuff’ being disposed of in landfill every year. Try a “less-is-more” approach: avoid monthly trips to low quality fashion stores in favour of a few higher-quality, sustainably-produced staple pieces. There are now a number of clothing and shoe brands made right here in Australia that not only eliminate sweatshop labour, but boost local economies. Even if you must invest a little more up front, your clothes won’t fall apart after a few washings (bonus: you may find your closet less-stuffed). If you must get your shopping fix, check out consignment or second-hand stores - besides finding unique items, you may even save money in the process!

Reduce consumption of plastic containers and bottles

All of those takeaway containers and bottled drinks add up. Even if you recycle everything after using it, the recycling process itself requires plenty of water and energy. You can save money, trim your waistline and help the Earth by bringing more of your own food to school or work. When you’re at the grocery store, always look for products with the least amount of packaging and see if there’s a bulk-foods store near you. If reducing package waste isn’t reason enough for you, perhaps money is; buying in bulk is almost always cheaper.

Compost food scraps

Keeping food scraps out of the garbage has several benefits. Besides lowering the total volume of rubbish you’re producing, your kitchen scraps can be put to work! When done properly, composting produces rich black soil that will make your garden plants stronger and healthier. Talk to an expert to learn how to properly set up your compost station. When done correctly, it provides an odour-free way to dispose of all plant-based kitchen scraps (to keep the stink out, meat and dairy byproducts are a no-no). Compost also keeps dry leaves and cut grass from the lawn out of the garbage heap too.  Another feel-good benefit of compost is that the process actually fixes carbon out of the atmosphere, shrinking your total carbon footprint. Even if you live in an apartment without a garden, municipal composting may be available in your area.

Make sure you properly recycle electronics

Electronic waste is some of the most environmentally damaging stuff we produce. Keep old TVs, computer screens and phones out of the landfill by practising proper recycling techniques. Occasionally (but not always), you may have to pay a small fee, but you can make this up with some of the other money-saving tips in this list. A little bit of cash is a small price to pay to: 1) reduce the seepage of heavy metals into the ground and water and 2) reduce the demand for materials like copper to be freshly strip-mined.

As more and more people becoming environmentally conscious, the “zero waste” movement continues to grow. Do your own research and see how you can help do your little bit – who knows, you might even start your own movement!  

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

Skin Health for the Cooler Months

Skin Health for the Cooler Months

As the weather cools off, our skin has different needs. The combination of dry, over-heated indoor rooms and freezing temperatures outside can do a number on even the hardiest complexions! Read on for a few tips to get beautiful, balanced skin from the inside out.

  • Keep your skin (and your mood) at their best by making sure to get a colorful variety of fruit and veg in your diet. Cool-weather greens like kale and broccoli are at their prime right now. Pomegranate and citrus fruits are also at their freshest, and both pack an antioxidant punch that will help keep your skin looking clear and healthy. Chilly weather can also lead to carb cravings, which can cause breakouts and rashes if indulged. Fight the urge to stuff yourself on starch or sugar by taking care of your body with fruit, plenty of water and a healthy amount of exercise.

  • Take care with hot showers and baths. Although it feels great especially when it’s cold out, hot water can dry your skin and hair out, leading to dullness. If you can’t live without your steamy shower, at least try a final rinse with cool water. This is a great all-natural way to close up your pores and prevent winter dryness from getting worse. Don’t forget the cool water after indulging in hot tubs or saunas, either. Another simple way to protect hair from split ends and other winter damage is to avoid washing it every day - try alternating days instead. Finally, in the winter months it’s important to apply a moisturiser to skin and the ends of hair as soon as you’re dry. Coconut oil is a great all-natural choice to nourish your skin without causing breakouts or irritation.   

  • Chapped lips are a common skincare problem this time of year. Smooth and repair your lips with a quick, all-natural overnight treatment: start with a simple scrub made from mixing a half-teaspoon of sugar with a few drops of coconut oil. After scrubbing off damaged and dry skin, follow with a thick application of raw shea butter or another plant-based moisturiser before you go to bed. In the future, protect this sensitive skin from both wind and sun damage with an all-natural lip balm that provides both antioxidants and sun protection; look for ingredients like vitamin C as well as an SPF rating on the packaging.        

  • Don’t forget the sunscreen. Just because the day is cool or cloudy doesn’t mean that the sun’s harmful UVA/UVB rays aren’t reaching you. In fact, cloudy weather can actually make sun damage more likely! If your skin has a tendency to be dry, you can knock both birds with one stone: every major skincare brand offers at least one day-use moisturiser with built-in SPF protection. If you aren’t in the habit of wearing daily sun cream, it’s never too late to start - even during cold weather. Your skin will thank you later!

And whatever you do during winter, just think of the accumulative effects of what you put in and on your body. A little bit of TLC now will have you feeling like you’re walking on clouds come spring and summer.

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

Seven Environmental Documentaries to Watch Now

Seven Environmental Documentaries to Watch Now

For all the curious Earth and nature-lovers out there, here’s a list of fantastic films that showcase the wonder of our world while discussing some of the most important issues of our times, and - perhaps most importantly - what can still be done. If you don’t already have a good reason to start practising a more eco-friendly lifestyle, you may find it on this list.

Blue, Directed by Karina Holden

Named for the way our planet looks from space, this documentary is about the most important life-giving force on earth: namely, our oceans. What once was imagined to be a vast, inexhaustible resource is now starting to show the strain of half a century of widespread industrial fishing and pollution. Exactly how much trouble are our oceans in and what can be done to avert a total collapse? Watch this startling film to find out.

Chasing Coral, Directed by Jeff Orlowski

Coral is the “rainforest” of the ocean: a place where some of the highest number of species exist together. Just like the Amazon, our planet’s corals are also in serious peril. This movie doesn’t just talk about the bleaching of the Great Barrier reef, however: it also captures the jaw-dropping beauty of these spots and offers the possibility that it might not be too late to save our corals.

Plastic China, Directed by Jiuliang Wang

This shocking story follows a family living next to a plastics recycling plant in China. With vivid imagery, you’ll see just how much of this stuff we’re dealing with not only in China, but on Earth as a whole. Spoiler alert: it’s not going away any time soon.

The Age of Consequences, Directed by Jared P. Scott

If you know people who won’t change their ways with traditional arguments about climate change, this might be the documentary to show them. Featuring political leaders like Madeline Albright, the story focuses on the politically and economically destabilising consequences of extreme weather and other by-products of climate change. The spectre of mass migration and war is just one of the reasons provided by this film for all of us to take action before it’s too late.  

The True Cost, Directed by Andrew Morgan

How do fast-fashion powerhouses like H&M get their clothes to stores so cheaply? While many of us may have a vague idea about “sweatshops”, this doco takes the viewer on an unflinching journey through the lifespan of trendy clothes. Follow this season’s fashions from the runway through your closet and finally into the rubbish bin. Watch it and you may never be able to enter a cheap clothing store without thinking about the dark side to our throwaway clothing culture.

Before the Flood, Directed by Fisher Stevens

If you want eyewitness testimony to how climate change is affecting every corner of the globe, look no further than this timely documentary. Possibly most famous because it was produced by US film superstar Leonardo DiCaprio, the film deserves to be taken seriously on its own merits. The footage took over three years to film across dozens of countries. Besides discussing the problem, Before the Flood also does something crucial: it outlines concrete steps that can be taken to help build the social and political will it will take to avert climate disaster.

The Breakthrough in Renewable Energy, Directed by Martijn Kieft

Although it’s not exactly creatively titled, if you’re looking for something with a slightly more upcast tone, this doco by Netherlands group is a great way to end this list. It’s all about the growing viability of renewable energy. You see, the main barrier - that of economic cost - is finally shifting away from traditional non-renewables like coal and gas and politicians are taking notice! Among other nations, Australia’s journey towards a more earth-friendly tomorrow is featured.  

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

Medical Miracles: Learn About the Superfood that is Reishi Mushrooms

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Medical Miracles: Learn About the Superfood that is Reishi Mushrooms

Reishi mushrooms have been a mainstay of Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. Traditionally, Reishi (or Mannetake in Chinese) has been used to boost the immune system, fight cancer, cleanse the liver and even promote sleep. The name “Mannetake” even roughly translates to “mushroom of immortality”. Several decades ago, the possible healing capabilities of this powerful fungus finally caught the attention of Western doctors, who undertook studies to see what medicinal benefits could be proven. Meanwhile, Reishi mushrooms have started to be used by people interested in holistic medicine all over the world. So, how do Reishi mushrooms stack up against the hype?

 

The answer is that science has proven these amazing mushies to have some incredibly promising properties! Over 130 active compounds have been found to exist in Reishi’s spores. Some of the earliest research done explored this extract’s anti-cancer properties. It turns out the active compounds that occur naturally in the Reishi species have powerful anti-tumour and anti-cancer properties. Studies have proved especially promising for both breast cancer and prostate cancer, specifically. Later research built on this work validated what ancient healers already knew: Reishi is great for the immune system overall. In fact, the powerful immune-boosting power it has may be in part responsible for its anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and other healing benefits. Reishi also has strong anti-inflammatory effects; a recent study helped vindicate another traditional use of the mushroom as a liver-healing agent and it’s also being investigated as a supplement to protect the brain from age-related damage. If these uses weren’t enough, Reishi also interacts with the central nervous system to act as a gentle anti-anxiety agent, which can also help with sleep.

 

Reishi fits into an increasingly well-documented understanding of the powerful healing power contained in many kinds of mushrooms. Like Reishi, other medically-useful mushrooms contain a large number of bio-active compounds. As with other natural medicines, part of the healing power of mushies may come from the combination and interaction of all of these compounds at once. So whichever reason you’re interested in harnessing the healing powers of Reishi or other mushrooms, it’s important to find a quality wholefood supplement that harnesses their full potential! Look for a product made from a powder or oil from the whole spores, as this part contains the full complement of Reishi’s large number of beneficial bio-active compounds. Finally, a quick disclaimer: if you’re being treated for any medical condition, don’t forget to let your G.P. know that you’re taking Reishi-containing supplements.

 

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

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Hemp and the new Australian Legislation: What You Need to Know!

Hemp and the new Australian Legislation: What You Need to Know!

In Australia, the sale of hemp has now been fully legalised. Previously, hemp ingredients were only legal in personal care and cosmetic products. So what does this new legislation mean for you? Game-changing access to a nutritional powerhouse, that’s what!

So why was hemp illegal in the first place? The stigma around hemp comes from people using the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” interchangeably. In reality, hemp and marijuana are actually two different plants! Under the new law, marijuana is still illegal, but we finally have access to the incredibly versatile and useful hemp plant. To straighten out the confusion, it’s important to understand that hemp is related to marijuana, but has almost no THC, which is the active component in marijuana. This means that if you smoke hemp, you’ll just get a headache – and lawmakers have finally understood that there is no reason to associate hemp with psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana.

The hemp plant itself is a good fit for Australia’s interior climate. Hemp uses less water than many other crops, is drought-tolerant, and restores vital nutrients to the soil. The plant is also extremely fast-growing, meaning that multiple harvests can be made in a year. Its tough, fibrous leaves can be used for a remarkable number of purposes, including paper, clothing, and even plastics or bio-fuels! Now that the sale of hemp is fully legal, it opens the door for farmers to participate in a budding industry that is worth some $1 billion globally.

The most useful part of the plant, however, may be its seeds. The seeds are found at the base of the plant and resemble small nuts. They have an agreeable, nutty flavor and can be used whole or milled. So what’s the big deal? Hemp seeds are truly a nutritional powerhouse! Besides packing as much (or more) protein as soy and beef, on a gram-to-gram basis, they are a complete amino acid source, making it an ideal vegan protein substitute.  

Hemp is an edestin-based protein which is highly bioavailable, meaning your digestive system can digest its nutrients easily. Not only that, but the fibre content of hemp is comparable to flax and chia seeds and they are possibly the best plant-based source of healthy Omega-3 fats that researchers have found to date.

As hemp is cold pressed and therefore undergoes minimal processing (no chemical or acidic extraction processes are used in isolating the protein molecules), the balance of Omegas 3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids are maintained. These fatty acids have important roles in healthy brain, lung and eye development; and play a role in heart health and immune function. Not only this, but hemp contains GLA, a source of omega 6 that is hard to come by and is touted for its anti-inflammatory properties.     

Hemp naturally retains its magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamins B1 and E and the seeds, meal and oil are popular in baked goods, smoothies, sauces and even beer. Hemp is naturally gluten-free and suitable for those on a paleo diet.  

Ultimately, the legalistion of hemp means that we will now have a new source of plant-based protein that is healthy and more environmentally sustainable. Like other plant-based products, the nutrients found in hemp seeds will degrade if put through heavy processing. If you’re looking to get the most out of these amazing seeds, look for hemp products that are cold-pressed or otherwise minimally processed, and don’t contain other ingredients. Now that the stigma has been lifted, support local farmers and improve your own diet with one of these amazing hemp products today.   

 Author:  Natalie Millis

Author:

Natalie Millis

 

Hot Reading List - Vitality Tribe’s Top Picks for April

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Hot Reading List - Vitality Tribe’s Top Picks for April

It happens to everyone sometimes— getting stuck in a rut, experiencing a prolonged period of  feeling “off”, or even struggling to find meaning and direction in life.  If you’re looking for inspiration, or maybe just a new perspective, check out our team’s top wellness reading picks!

The Optimized Woman - Miranda Gray

In modern times, women’s menstrual cycles have often been cast as a “weakness.” This book challenges women to reframe this view and reclaim their bodies from outdated, misogynistic narratives steeped in misunderstanding. The author suggests a new perspective, one that outlines ways to understand and use women’s natural hormonal cycles as a source of power. This book is two things: a celebration of menstrual cycles, and a how-to guide for to start harnessing the hormonal journey women go through every month to maximize potential in work, relationships, and life.  

 

The Universe Has Your Back - Gabrielle Bernstein

If you’re feeling empty, lost, confused, or just need some inspiration to really start living, pick this book up. Bernstein offers a mix of spiritual guidance and down-to-earth, actionable advice that can help all of us restore meaning and purpose in a world choked with social media, bad news, and isolation. Her compassionate and relatable prose is a treat to read, and you’ll walk away feeling calmer, braver, and ready to shed the fear or excuses that are holding you back from living your true potential.    

 

The Conscious Parent - Dr. Shefali Tsabary

There are a million “how to parent” books, but this is something different. Instead of talking about breastfeeding or sleep training, Dr. Tsabary explores the potential for spiritual development that parents can experience as they raise their children. A central part of the book’s narrative is how increasing self-awareness is the best way to break cycles of emotional pain that adults can unwillingly pass on to the next generation. Ultimately, it’s a convincing case for the way that heightened spiritual consciousness leads to healthier parents, happier children, and room for growth and compassion in everyone.    

 

Wheat Belly - Dr. William Davis

Rather than being a “diet” book, Wheat Belly is the story of an American cardiologist’s  observations about the standard western diet and its potentially catastrophic effects on our bodies. Arguing that modern wheat products are an over-processed, GMO-fueled, unnatural addition to our diet, Dr. Davis outlines his own professional experience with a healthy dose of readable science to back it up.  He was inspired to spread the message of giving up wheat after working with hundreds of patients who cut it out of their diets, resulting in nothing less than miraculous results. If you’re feeling “foggy”, tired, or have stubborn weight that won’t come off, Wheat Belly makes a convincing case for why giving up this ingredient could change your life.   

 Author:          Natalie Millis

Author:          Natalie Millis

 

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Trying to Make Healthy Choices? How to Survive Easter!

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Trying to Make Healthy Choices? How to Survive Easter!

Just when you were starting to see results from your New Year’s resolutions, along comes Easter to tempt you with chocolate bunnies and hot cross buns. Fortunately with a few tricks, it’s easy to have an enjoyable Easter without wrecking your blood sugar and dietary goals.

 

First of all, focus on non-chocolate related activities and gifts. Easter-egg bath bombs and birdseed eggs are both great choices for older kids or adults. Kid’s baskets can also be packed with small toys or accessories - think a mini-watercolor kit for your niece who loves to draw. Finally, dying hard-boiled eggs is one of the oldest Easter traditions and one you should keep up! Hard-boiled eggs make a fantastic (and portable) high-protein snack. When decorating, use natural or fruit-based dyes and plain wax so that you can have fun making patterns while keeping the eggs edible for later. For maximum safety, don’t forget to refrigerate cooked eggs (in their shells) within a few hours of making them! Hard-cooked eggs will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

 

Of course, every successful diet or lifestyle change needs to leave a little room for indulgence - it’s just important to keep it limited and to not go on an all-out binge. In fact, research has shown that diets with a little wiggle-room are actually more likely to succeed in the long term. So, if you’re going to eat a few Easter treats, do it right. The key is to plan your Easter around some simple high-quality chocolate instead of other Egg or Bunny-themed chocolates. Most store-bought chocolate contains sugar and fat, but high-cacao (dark) chocolate also offers some nutritional benefits, so choose dark chocolate for an antioxidant boost without going overboard on empty calories from sugar.

 

Why is the sugar found in Easter treats a bigger concern than fat? Between fat and sugar, research is emerging that sugar is by far more damaging to our bodies. Even non-diabetic people should keep sugar and simple carbs (that get converted to sugar in the body) in check to prevent taxing the body’s blood-sugar balancing capabilities. Keeping your blood sugar stable is a great way to protect your heart health, prevent extra fat from being deposited, keep mood swings at bay and even help reduce acne! Ditch white chocolate and high-sugar milk chocolate in favor of the dark stuff (try to aim for at least 70% cacao). These days, many health stores sell Easter-themed dark chocolate. If you’re looking for a way to jazz up your healthier choc choices into Easter-worthy treats, there are plenty of home-made recipes to help you out. Finally, choose dark chocolate over sugar-free chocolate. Although the ‘sugar free’ label may make it seem healthier, these products are highly processed and contain ingredients that may wreck your blood sugar anyway.

With these simple changes, it’s perfectly possible to have a healthy, enjoyable Easter. Remember, a bit of (dark) chocolate won’t wreck weeks’ worth of clean eating! So eat your high-cacao treats, make sure Easter Dinner has plenty of roast veg and focus on the non-chocolate related parts of the holiday.

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

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The Power of Meditation

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The Power of Meditation

For thousands of years, cultures all over the world have used forms of meditation to promote inner wellness and healing. It turns out that our ancestors were on to something! Spiritual leaders, therapists, and scientists can now agree that meditation has real, quantified benefits for a variety of problems. Over the last few decades, research around meditation, the brain, and negative symptoms have shown some incredible effects.

 

MRI scans of active meditators have actually documented how meditation changes the brain. To put it simply, our brains have neurological pathways that physically change with our thought patterns. If you imagine consciousness as a wide open “field” that can be walked in any direction, repetitive thoughts actually wear neurological “paths” that act like shortcuts. If these thoughts are focused on pain/negativity/anxiety/etc, the brain may find itself treading down these shortcuts over and over again, because they are literally the path of least resistance. Meditation essentially helps the brain wear alternative trails in the “field”, making it easier to focus on positivity, calmness, or other objectives. Like exercise, the new pathways get stronger with practice.

 

This research has real-world consequences. In particular, pain doctors looking for alternatives to opiates and other narcotic medication have been exploring the power of meditation for their patients; meditation has now emerged as a legitimate treatment option. Studies have documented how mindfulness meditation in particular can actually reduce physical discomfort by changing neurological pathways. With instruction and practice, this type of meditation can be a useful way to ease pain or discomfort, especially in the case of chronic pain. Mindfulness training can physically help the brain dampen pain signals without the risks associated with heavy-duty pharmaceuticals; it can be used on its own or as a way to reduce reliance on pain medicine.

 

Besides its usefulness for pain, research has also shown that meditation is a proven way to help with:

  • PTSD and phobias

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Decreasing heart rate and blood pressure

 

If you’re looking to harness the incredible possibilities of meditation for your own brain, where should you start? There are literally dozens of types of meditation techniques for all skill levels. Some of the most popular (and accessible) techniques are mindfulness, active meditation, or guided meditation.

Mindfulness sounds deceptively easy: it involves learning to “sit with” and observe thoughts as they come in the moment. Instead of trying to control thoughts, mindfulness focuses on simply accepting things as they are in the present moment. Sometimes essential oils, cold water, or other environmental cues are used to help the practitioner stay focused.

Active meditation is like it sounds: it helps the practitioner focus on physical movement as a way to stay in the present moment. Walking meditation is most common, but other movement like yoga, running, or even gardening can serve the same purpose.

Guided meditation can be done with a teacher or at home with a podcast or app. Because there are prompts to help with focus, guided meditation is a great way for beginners to learn how to calm and quiet their minds.   

 

Whether you’re looking to address a specific concern or just want to increase your happiness, meditation is an incredibly powerful tool to add to your wellness arsenal. The best part is that it’s free and can be practiced anywhere; there’s no better time than now to try it out for yourself.

 Author: Natalie Millis

Author: Natalie Millis

 

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New Year, New You? Think Again! Learn the Right Way to Set Goals for the New Year

New Year, New You? Think Again! Learn the Right Way to Set Goals for the New Year

The new year is a great time to reassess your life and set new goals, right? Well, sort of. Studies have shown that more than half of people who made a resolution have given up only one month into the New Year! The problem is, it’s really tough to give up bad habits and overly-ambitious goals can quickly lead to a searing sense of failure. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, or don’t even know where to begin, it’s not too late to try again. To make your goals actually stick this year, try some of these tips and tricks from psychologists and successful business owners.

 

The S.M.A.R.T. method is a great way to structure your resolution(s). It was originally developed for businesses and organisations, but can easily be applied to personal goals, too. Remember that it’s also preferable to focus on one goal (or related goals like diet and exercise) instead of trying to change every area of your life at once!  

 

S: Specific. Is your goal clearly defined? Psychologists have found that without a specific target, it’s much easier to lose your way and give up. So get specific: replace “get fit” with “be able to complete a 5k run 3 months from now.”  

 

M: Measurable. Make sure there are clear milestones, or you won’t see your progress. Measuring progress is a crucial way to stay motivated. Think “drop 5kg by March” instead of “lose weight.” This will allow you to break up a bigger goal into smaller, do-able pieces. Mentally, this makes goals much easier to achieve.  

 

A: Attainable. This may seem obvious, but make sure that your goal is reachable. There is a difference between challenging yourself and setting yourself up for failure with an impossible objective. Even with the best training, you realistically can’t expect to be able to run a marathon two months from now if you’ve been sitting on a couch for the last year. If you’re set on an ambitious goal, it may be worthwhile to check in with a relevant professional (dietician, personal trainer, financial planner, etc).  

 

R: Relevant. Is the goal you’ve set something you’re doing for yourself, or for others? If you’re more worried about getting a magazine-worthy beach bod than improving your general physical health, you may find yourself discouraged. Take an inventory of why you’ve chosen this particular goal. Shallow reasons tend to be poor motivators in the long term.

 

T: Timely. Make sure your goal(s) has a specific timeframe. Without dates, it’s hard to keep track of progress, which means it’s hard to hold yourself accountable. Having deadlines is a huge benefit that will help you stick to your goals. It may help to tie your goal to natural deadlines: if you’re trying to get your finances organised, make sure it’s done a month before taxes are due. If you’re trying to change your diet, activity level, or other behavior for the long-term, schedule a time every day to briefly journal about your progress.

 

It may seem silly or excessive to follow such an extensive set of “rules” for your resolution, but this method has been backed up by behavioral scientists. The more specific structure you have, the more likely you are to stay on track. Finally, instead of quantity of goals, remember to focus on quality. Then get SMART and enjoy the results you desire!

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Author: Natalie Millis

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The Hidden Danger of Summer Suncream & Natural Alternatives

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We all know that protecting skin from the sun’s UVA and UVB radiation is crucial for preventing skin cancer and premature aging. But what if the suncream you are using for your beach holiday is also harming your health? The whole point of suncream is to protect your skin, not expose it to potentially dangerous chemicals! Besides the safety of the sun-blocking chemicals themselves, we also have to worry about other questionable ingredients that manufactures sneak in to make creams easier to apply or to preserve shelf life. Plus, if concern for your own health isn’t enough reason, some of these chemicals could also be hurting corals and marine life.  

 

One of the most dangerous (and common) chemical sun blockers is oxybenzone. In the laboratory, oxybenzone has been found to cause skin reactions and mimic hormones in the body, which may cause cancer. Scary stuff, right? Fortunately, natural alternatives do exist. Here are some of our favorite ways to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging effects without using ingredients with spotty safety records.

 

First of all, cover up! Using hats, sunglasses and long-sleeve shirts is the simplest way to avoid sun damage. Covering up doesn’t have to look matronly, either: sporting or surf stores often carry special sun shirts or wraps made of light-weight fabric that will keep you cool while protecting your neck, shoulders, and arms from the punishing summer sun. To make sure the fabric offers sun protection, look for a“UPF” rating on the label. Finally, take a cue from actresses like Nicole Kidman who protect their complexions with a chic wide-brimmed hat and large sunnies. If you’re on a beach holiday, consider bringing a large umbrella or other source of shade.

 

Zinc Oxide is a natural mineral (not a chemical) that physically blocks the damaging rays of the sun. It’s the go-to natural sunscreen for a reason: it has a great safety record and is one of the safest choices for kids and babies. Although it has a reputation for being thick or chalky, newer formulations have added other non-toxic ingredients like coconut oil that help with absorption. It’s also possible to find water-resistant/sweat-proof formulations, but don’t forget to re-apply every hour.

 

Titanium Dioxide is another mineral with similar properties and safety profile to Zinc Oxide. Its SPF value is not quite as high, so Zinc Oxide is still the better choice if you’re going swimming/running or doing another outdoor activity directly in the sun. Titanium Dioxide is, however, often found in natural face creams and foundations. To keep wrinkles away, use a daily face moisturiser or foundation with Titanium Dioxide while you’re working, running errands, or going out with friends. Your skin will thank you later.  

 

Shea butter is another safe choice if you’re going to be mostly covered up. Shea butter has amazing skin-healing properties, including reducing the look of wrinkles and spots. It’s also safe for all skin types, and has a low naturally-occurring SPF value, too. To make sure you’re getting the full benefits of shea butter, look for a label that says “unrefined”; it’s often available at your local health food store. Avoid creams that simply contain shea butter, as the characteristics of this healing compound are significantly reduced if it’s processed. Because it doesn’t have the high SPF rating of Zinc Oxide or chemical sunscreens, it’s best used alongside other sun protection measures like hats and long sleeves. Unrefined shea butter also makes a great after-sun balm for dry or irritated skin.  

Author: By Natalie Millis

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Açai Berries: What’s all the Hype About?

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Açai Berries: What’s all the Hype About?

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The popularity of Açai berry products has been growing for the last few years. If you’re considering making Açai part of your diet, learn what science has to say about this superfood—and how to get the best benefits for yourself!

Açai (pronounced “Ah-Say-Ee”) is a purple, olive-sized fruit that grows on a type of palm tree in the Amazon rainforest.  Açai has been traditionally used by indigenous people for a variety of health concerns and celebrated for its energy-giving, healing properties. Besides being packed with colorful phytonutrients that provide its record-setting antioxidant properties, Açai fruit is a source of healthy omega-3 fats and dietary fibre, too.

 

As knowledge of Açai fruit has gone mainstream, its benefits have been explored both as a health-boosting supplement and a skin-care ingredient. Research has focused especially on Açai’s possible usefulness in aiding weight loss, but other benefits of the fruit may include improvement of: immune system function, heart disease and high cholesterol, arthritis and other inflammation-related disorders. A promising study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2011[1] showed that subjects who took Açai pulp daily showed improvement in fasting levels of glucose, insulin and cholesterol - all important parts of healthy weight loss. Preliminary studies have also shown that Açai may help prevent tumors from being formed[2] and could even help kill cancer cells[3]. The same powerful antioxidant properties that make Açai such a superfood can also have brightening, wrinkle-reducing benefits when applied to the skin.

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Like many natural supplements, the benefits of Açai depend greatly on the quality of the product and packaging. When antioxidant properties of Açai were compared to other berries, fresh Açai had some of the highest scores recorded. This means Açai out-performed other nutritional powerhouses like blackberries, blueberries and strawberries! Unfortunately, the antioxidant power of Açai is seriously reduced if it is not processed and stored correctly. Improper storage and packaging can lead to a huge drop in the free radical “scavenging” capabilities, which translates into a reduction in health benefits[4]. This is why anyone who wants to experience the benefits of Açai should take the time to find a high-quality product. Flash-freezing the berry has found to be the best way to retain its nutrition; when Açai is transported fresh or in powdered form, its antioxidant properties actually drop below other berries! Therefore, to get the maximum benefit from this wonder food, a flash-frozen product is the best choice—unless you’re able to travel to the Amazon rainforest yourself.

 

Speaking of the Amazon rainforest, the recent popularity of Açai berries has been a mixed blessing for communities that have traditionally relied on the fruit as a staple food. In many areas, demand has raised prices significantly, making Açai more difficult for local people to buy. Therefore, investing in a fair-trade Açai product is an excellent way to get maximum health benefits for yourself while not harming the original discoverers of this miraculous superfood.


[1] https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-45

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25329001

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24886139

[4] http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf0609779

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Author: Natalie Millis

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Post-Christmas Liver Recovery

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Post-Christmas Liver Recovery

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Your liver, roughly the size of a football (!!!) is our largest internal organ and is responsible for detoxifying your blood; producing the bile needed to digest fat; breaking down hormones and storing essential vitamins, minerals and iron. It has a number of other functions but in essence, one’s health, wellbeing and longevity are intricately entwined with a healthy-functioning liver.

 

For most people, constant exposure to environmental pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals put our liver under undue strain. Our day-to-day lives put us in constant exposure to toxins either orally, topically or via inhalation and once inside our body, these toxins get stored in tissues and cells. The consequences of toxic overload are far-reaching and there has been study after study on the accumulative effects of toxicity from chemicals, including cancerous, reproductive, metabolic, respiratory and mental health effects to name but a few.

Some of the signs you are in need of a liver cleanse include:

  • Constipation

  • Bloating

  • Gas

  • Nausea

  • Reflux / heartburn

  • Trouble digesting fatty foods

  • Halitosis (bad breath)

  • Food cravings

  • Headaches

  • Low energy and hypoglycaemia

  • Fatigue

  • Overheating and/or excessive perspiration

  • Aches and pains

  • Abdominal fat, unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight

  • Allergies, skin rashes and acne

  • Mood swings, depression, poor concentration and a foggy brain

  • Hormonal imbalances, PMS and pronounced menopausal symptoms

In addition to these signs of liver malfunction, some of the risk factors related to impaired liver function include:

  • Heavy alcohol abuse

  • Intravenous drug use

  • Recurrent viral infections and autoimmune disease

  • Overuse of prescription medication

  • Blood transfusions prior to 1992

  • Exposure to certain industrial chemicals and environmental toxins (dyes, cleaning agents, nailpolish, petrol, smoke, etc)

  • Obesity and a heavily processed diet or one high in saturated fats

  • Tattoos and/or body piercings

  • High blood triglycerides

 So if you haven’t been giving your liver the TLC it needs or the festive season has taken its toll, consider a liver cleanse and notice changes in your body within a matter of weeks.   

 STEP 1: Tidy up your Diet and Lifestyle

Remove from your diet the following: packaged and processed foods, including foods with trans-fats; foods with colourings, additives or preservatives; gluten (incl. wheat), dairy and red meats; alcohol, soft drinks, packaged juices and caffeine; refined sugars and deli meats. Preferably you even cut out non-organic produce or if this is not an option, at least consider reducing foods from the “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables (a quick Google search will help you out here).

Substitute with fresh, preferably organic vegetables and some fruits; raw juices (to reduce overall acidity in your body) and depending on your physical activity levels, some organic proteins (the liver still needs protein in order to be able to detoxify).
Look carefully at your lifestyle and replace any known toxins with natural alternatives - think bathroom products, makeup and hair care products, laundry products, cleaning agents and so on. Consider exercising at times of the day when pollution levels are at their lowest (early morning) and reduce electrical exposure around the house.

 

STEP 2: Boost your Diet with Nutrient-rich Foods

Increase your intake of the following:

  • Raw vegetable juices: As mentioned, these reduce the overall acidity in your body.

  • Liver detox drinks (lemon, apple cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, grapefruit and aloe vera): A combination of any of the listed ingredients in purified water, sipped throughout the day, in order to promote increased digestive enzyme secretion and enhanced digestion.

  • Foods rich in potassium (sweet potatoes, organic tomato puree, spinach, beet greens, white/kidney/lima beans, molasses, avocados and bananas): This vital nutrient helps with liver cleansing, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and helps support a healthy heart.

  • Foods rich in sulphur compounds (organic eggs, garlic, onions, leeks, shallots) and cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts): Sulphur aids in phase II liver detoxification, whilst cruciferous vegetables assist both phase I and II detoxification.    
     

STEP 3: Supplementation  

The critical supplements to take during a liver cleanse include:

  • St Mary’s Thistle, or Milk Thistle: A beautiful herb for its liver regeneration properties

  • Globe artichoke or Dandelion root: Alternative herbs for liver detoxification

  • An antioxidant such as L-Glutathione, Alpha-lipoic acid, resveratrol or green tea or other polyphenol-rich compound: Assists in minimising free radical damage.

  • Activated charcoal: This substance has a drawing effect upon toxins in the body, though take it away from other foods or supplements as it will diminish the effect of other substances concurrently in the gut.


STEP 4: Other Ideas

Though there is a great deal more you could do in your cleanse, here are some final pointers:

  • Break a sweat every day to stimulate your circulation and lymphatic system, both important systems in detoxification.

  • Partake in dry skin brushing, again boosting your lymphatic and circulatory systems.

  • Take an epsom salt bath to assist detoxification.

  • Practise yoga as certain poses are known for their detoxification, digestive or circulatory effects.

  • Breathe deeply to encourage toxin elimination, boost circulation and drain the lymphatic system.

 

Even simply instigating just a few of these changes will have a marked effect on your health and biological markers, though if this Christmas was one of complete overindulgence, do your body a favour, plan well and start your cleanse without delay. And make sure you let us know about your new and improved self!

 

*Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional when conducting a liver cleanse, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are on medication/s.

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Author: Samantha Kirton

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