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healthy living

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

 

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