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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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6 TIPS FOR A FOOLPROOF SUMMER

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6 TIPS FOR A FOOLPROOF SUMMER

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     6 Tips for a Foolproof Summer

Author: Samantha Kirton

With summer well and truly underway and pool parties and catch ups left, right and centre, here are some of my favourite summer wellness tips to keep you cool, hydrated and most of all, healthy.    


 

1. Make Your Own Insect Repellent

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Source images: https://unsplash.com/search/photos/essential-oils


Nothing spells summer more than a pesky mosquito that won’t leave you alone. With so many natural alternatives available, there really is no reason to reach for the can of chemical-ridden bug spray.

One of my favourite recipes that I’ve only just started using, but mimics a personal concoction that I have used for years is by Dr Axe.

Here’s Dr Axe’s recipe, adapted to how I make it:

Natural Insect Repellent (That Works!)   

Ingredients:

½ cup witch hazel (available from most health food stores, supermarkets or online)

½ cup apple cider vinegar

30 drops eucalyptus essential oil

30 drops geranium essential oil

20 drops citronella essential oil

20 drops lavender essential oil

(or a combination of any of the above essential oils, along with lemongrass, tea tree, lemon or rosemary essential oils, adjusted to preference or availability)

1 x 250ml spray bottle

Directions:

  1. Mix together witch hazel, apple cider vinegar and essential oils in a small jug.

  2. Pour into spray bottle and label. Keep out of reach of children and use as needed, avoiding contact with eyes and palms of hands (so as not to inadvertently rub your eyes).
     

If you’re not the DIY-type, you can always head to your nearest health food store to pick up a skin-friendly option.
 

2. Natural Sun Protection

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Though I’m going to keep this brief, sun protection obviously has an important part to play in the harsh Aussie climate. Aside from considering Vitamin D levels, nothing beats sun protection more than staying out of the sun. If you are going to venture outdoors, especially in the middle of summer, it’s imperative for the safety of your skin to preferably head out before the UV index reaches its peak between 10am and 4pm, though from personal experience, in summer, I can feel a burn between 8am and 5pm a lot of the time.

 

A nifty tool to check out is http://www.myuv.com.au/ . You simply input your location and it spits out the UV reading for the day. Basically, anything over a “3” warrants sun protection. This page gives you the time of day to use sun protection and can show you when the UV is at its peak.  

 

If you do choose to venture outdoors, there’s a plethora of natural sunscreens on the market and not all of them are greasy, so switch it up and start exploring some of the chemical-free options.

Otherwise the usual recommendations apply - covering up when you are in the sun, popping your sunnies on and wearing a hat.

Concerned about your vitamin D levels? Chances are, if you are reading this from Australia, you should be. Or at least in winter, you should be. In summer, the average person only needs a few minutes of sunlight per day, in every state, including our Tasmanian friends. Winter is a different story, though the majority of Australians aren’t actually vitamin D deficient (77%), despite common belief that deficiency is rife. For cities in line with Sydney and Perth and below, you’ll need to aim for 2-3 hours of sunlight per day, preferably in the middle of the day during winter, in order to reach your recommended vitamin D intake, though for more northern cities, you still only need a few minutes a day. Check out Australia’s most recent guidelines on vitamin D and sun protection here.       

 

3. Hydration & Natural Pick-me-ups To Beat The Sluggish Heat

With summer comes heat, humidity, parties, functions and all sorts different foods we wouldn’t normally eat. Not to mention alcohol. The result? A greater chance of dehydration. Though there are a host of benefits to staying hydrated, there are some real consequences to dehydration.

Some of the effects of not drinking enough water include:      

  • Fatigue, tiredness and a feeling of exhaustion

  • Constipation

  • Dull or dry skin

  • Puffiness or swelling

  • Joint pain or stiffness

  • Impaired elimination of toxins via the skin (with time, this can lead to premature wrinkling, dermatitis and psoriasis)

  • Premature aging

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Digestive disorders (including ulcers, gastritis and reflux)

You can probably remember at least one summer where you’ve experienced any number of these signs or symptoms. An easy way to combat dehydration is to keep a glass or bottle of water handy. Do whatever suits your style - sip on it throughout the day or aim for a glass an hour - whichever you’re more inclined to remember if you’re not already in the habit of drinking water.

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Spike up your water and give one of these taste-tempters a whirl

 

  • Sparkling water blended with 1 sachet Sambazon acai  
  • Raspberry, strawberry and basil with sparkling water (ideal for parties and get-togethers)
  • Peppermint iced tea with fresh mint leaves
  • Lemon, ginger and raw honey tea made with hot water and left to cool
  • Hibiscus iced tea (or in fact, any of your favourite teas, iced) 
  • Sparkling water with blueberries (or any of your favourite berries)
  • Flavoured water (try any combo of kombucha, sparkling or still water, fresh or frozen berries - including Sambazon acai, citrus slices (tangelo / orange / lime / lemon / grapefruit), fresh herbs or any other fruit that takes your fancy.

 

4. Boost Your Cooling Foods & Pack A Nutritional Punch!

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Lower your body’s core temperature in summertime by eating “cooling” foods, which have the bonus function of supplying you with an additional source of fluid  

 

Opt for the below goodies to cool you off this summer:

  • Cucumbers: Great in salads, as dippers with hommos or in your water or fresh juice

  • Watermelon: Straight out of the fridge or in salads, fruit salads or juices

  • Citrus fruits (lemons, grapefruits and oranges): Freeze for a healthy iceblock alternative, slice and eat fresh, add to salads or juice

  • Lettuce and leafy greens: Best eaten as a refreshing salad, smoothie or juice on a hot day!  

  • Strawberries, avocado, dates, figs, grapes, melons, pears and raspberries: Eat as a snack, or in smoothies, salads or main meals  

 

An alternative to sugar-laden ice-creams and ice blocks are Sambazon frozen acai packs  eaten straight from the pack! Our acai packs can always be made into delicious acai bowls or smoothies. What better way to embrace summer than with a massive nutrient hit?  
 

5.  Refresh & Renew

Christmas time is synonymous with parties, get togethers and functions, but that needn’t play a toll on your body. With some well thought out moves, you can head back into work and the new year with a spring in your step, rather than a drunken stumble.

Here are my suggestions for thriving (not surviving) the never-ending onslaught of activities at Christmas:

  1. Be picky.
    You can’t do everything so practice mindfulness and be selective. Need some help with turning “opportunities” down? Do yourself a favour and read Essentialism by Greg McKeon  

  2. Adding on to point 1 (above), only choose to attend activities you’d really love to be a part of.
    Life’s too short to be dragged across town to every invite you get. Choose only the best or those you really feel you have to attend. As a polite, G-rated version of my most favourite quote ever says Derek Sivers, TEDx speaker, “It’s either hell yeah, or no.” Read this one again and cement it into your memory, expletives added or not.   

  3. Decide ahead of time where you want to spend your time off - in bed recovering or out in the fresh air, making the most of the hot summery days. Once you’ve decided what’s worth nursing a hangover for, the rest of your choices should be easy.

  4. Do your own mini detox or day spa day. Or why not make it a week? Unplug, disconnect and get into the vibe of healthy living.

  5. Practice visualisation. Though it’s perfectly wonderful to have a break from it all and recharge the batteries, research shows that the effects of a holiday rarely last, yet the brain actually shows long-term change when you have programmed it with visualisations (in this case, of health and relaxation perhaps). This has its origins in neuroplasticity and is something that needs to be practiced, often. Give it a go, even if it’s just 5 minutes each day on waking. What better way to get into a habit than to start this this summer? Just make sure you set yourself up for success once work goes back by opting for an accountability buddy or perhaps a post-it note reminder if you’ve thrown your phone away for good! (Ha!)

 

If you were to just choose one of the above, I’m sure your experience of the new year would be one filled with ease and grace. Go on and give it a go!
 

6. Set An Intention For The Year

Every year, I set a new theme, intention, or phrase for the year ahead. I believe I first came across this concept from speaker and blogger Michael Hyatt  though I could be wrong…. Apologies to the original creator of the concept if I am.

Basically, I choose something that I want to align myself with for the coming year - single words work well for me, though phrases might work better for you, in which case, go for it!

Choose anything from one to say five words from the list below (or create your own words if they don’t appear on the list and they resonate more with you). (List courtesy of https://mindcore.cz/short-list-of-values/).    

 

Abundance              Fairness                     Order

Acceptance             Faith                            Passion

Achievement           Family                         Peace

Authenticity            Fitness                       Perseverance

Balance                    Freedom                   Quality

Bravery                    Friendship                 Respect for others

Care for others        Fun                            Responsibility

Commitment           Generosity                Security

Competence          Gratitude                 Self Respect

Contention              Harmony                  Self-Control

Cooperation           Honesty                    Serenity

Courage                 Humor                       Service to others

Creativity                Independence          Simplicity

Dependability        Innovation                 Spirituality

Discipline                Joy                            Stability

Diversity                 Kindness                   Success

Effectiveness          Knowledge               Teamwork

Empathy                 Love                             Well-being

Equality                  Loyalty                       Winning

Excellence              Openness                Wisdom

 

The idea then is to use these words on a daily basis - pop them wherever you are inclined to see them and then live by them to create the year that you have set out to achieve.

 

So there you have it - some of my favourite summer wellness tips. Hopefully they help you set the scene for a fantastic summer ahead!  

 

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Author: Samantha Kirton


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