June 6, 2017
For the month of June we’re going to check in with your health. Our innate connection to nature extends to the cycles that it experiences every season. Winter is a time for rest, recharge and internalisation. If we try to keep at pace throughout this time without taking the due rest, the body overrides and forces us to do so by making us sick.
So this week’s mind blog is all about doing an overall health check. The World Health Organisation describes good mental health as: ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’. Here at EBM, we don’t think it’s good enough to just coast through life feeling lethargic and overwhelmed. We want you to be feeling 100% as much of the time as possible!
Below we explore some of the ways to assess the state of your health, and how to allow self-reflection during this time.
Whenever we run corporate wellness workshops, the question of “who is stressed?” never fails to raise a majority of hands. Stress is now more than ever a daily part of life, and it is causing all sorts of havoc in our bodies (read more HERE).
Testing your level of stress can be important for beginning to understand the triggers of your stress and thus ways to mitigate it. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is the most widely used psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress. It helps to determine what degree certain situations are considered to be stressful for each person.
Some example questions include:
“In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?”
“In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?”
“In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?”
Being open and honest with your answers not only allows you to identify your own pain-points, but carves the path to a solution much more clearly.
If you’re interested in learning more about your levels of stress, you can take the short survey HERE.
We talk about sleep a lot, only because it’s so important to how we feel overall. Research tells us that we all need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night (yes even if you’re superman/woman).
So the first part of the sleep test is to identify how many nights on an average week you would achieve those 7-9 hours. If it is more than 4, that is classified as a passing. If it is less, then techniques can be applied to help you achieve this.
But we also want the QUALITY of the sleep to be as good as the quantity. The second part of the test is how many times you wake up during the night. If it’s more than zero (yes that’s right!) then it’s important to look at what is triggering these wakeups and work on reducing them.
We’ve spoken on the importance of hydration before, but this test is also two pronged. The first part is to take stock of the amount of water that you’re drinking everyday, and get that number up to 2L a day (to learn techniques on HOW click here).
The second part is to identify the number of alcoholic beverages per week. Research says 1-2 per day is ok, but many people often mistaken this to mean you can cumulate them and use all of your numbers on the weekend. It’s also good to have some alcohol free days as well. Alcohol also affects your hydration levels, so even one drink means you need to up your water intake significantly.
Solution: Mindfulness and Meditation
Having a health check is a great way to gain a snapshot into your current health situation, but where to from there? Many health coaches do health checks, only to then leave clients high and dry for the solutions to the problems that have been identified.
As this month is focusing on the mind, the solution we are focusing on is practising mindfulness and meditation. With Winter signalling a time for turning inwards, this is one of the BEST times to learn or deepen your meditation practice (you can learn HOW to here).
Doing daily check-ins with yourself to see what has stressed you and turn that around by focusing on what you’re grateful for will cumulate into positive changes to your daily mindset. A great mindfulness exercise is to spend a few minutes at the end of each day writing down three things you are grateful for. Even the smallest things can make the day worthwhile when focusing on them.
In next week’s body blog we’ll be talking about a fitness assessment, so tune in to see how you stack up!
Last week we focused on prevention for this upcoming cold and flu season. This week, we’re looking at what to do if the cold does break through all those barriers that you’ve set up.
It takes double the effort – sometimes literally – and should be approached like any other physical challenge; with vigour! While it may seem like a lot of effort and potentially the last thing you feel like doing when sick, its worth it to reduce the severity and the length of a virus.
Here are the top 10 things you can do when a cold starts to break through:
1. Double the Vitamins. We spoke about the best vitamins and herbal remedies last week and now is the time to double them. Double the dose of Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea to really give your immunity the best shot at fighting off the virus. Even if you feel knocked down by the cold, pumping the body with vitamins is one of the best ways to give it a chance to get rid of it more quickly.
2. Double the Probiotic. Gut health equates for 80% of your immunity, so it makes sense that to get the gut in tip top shape will help your immunity. Double the dose of your probiotic to twice a day – once before breakfast and the other just before bed – to give your body an extra hit of good bacteria to fight off the bad. Colds turn nasty when they turn bacterial (which is when you often need antibiotics!) so fighting off the bad bacteria with the strains of good bacteria found in a probiotic is a great combat mechanism.
3. Get the Best Shut Eye. We’ve raved on about the benefits of sleep but when you’re sick, your body needs even more to recover and recuperate. Up the nightly sleeps to 9-11 hours (yes you read that right!) and allow the body to take naps throughout the day (until about 5pm otherwise you will find it difficult to fall asleep!) as the body feels necessary. Remember, we’re all about learning to listening to our bodies this month, so if it needs the rest, give it.
4. Build up Your Magnesium. This primarily relates to #3 in getting a better sleep, because when we’re sick it’s often harder to get good quality rest. Magnesium is a great natural mineral to take to help aid your sleep. Take one dose 10-20 minutes before bed. You can also buy it in oil form, and rub it into the body to help relieve those aches and pains often associated with a virus.
5. Remember to Breathe. When you’re all blocked up in the nose it often means that we’re not getting enough oxygen to the rest of the body. If it’s a chesty cold, it can also force us to take shorter and more shallow breaths. One of the best ways to open up the airways is to inhale eucalyptus oil. You can put it in a diffuser to keep it in your room at night, or just put a few drops on a tissue or handkerchief while you sleep. Being able to sleep freely throughout the night makes a huge difference to the speed of recovery.
6. Drink Up. You know the benefits of hydrating generally but you need extra water to flush out the toxins when you are unwell. Herbal (decaffeinated) teas are also great and very soothing for a sore throat. Without sufficient moisture in the body, immune system cells can’t work optimally. You should need to go to the bathroom every couple of hours and it should be clear.
7. Up the Antioxidants. There are some particular foods that are great at fighting off colds so adding them to every meal is great to not only boost immunity long-term, but to also to reduce the severity of the cold. The key staples are garlic, onions, turmeric, and salt. The anti-microbial properties of garlic and its relative the onion can fight off bacteria and viruses. Turmeric’s power comes from the fact that it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, while salt is great for reducing swelling and mucus. The best way to have them?
8. Make a Batch of Chicken Soup. It’s true what they say; a batch of chicken soup now has scientific backing in helping the common cold. The most widely cited research, published in the medical journal Chest in 2000, is by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. They found that chicken soup inhibits the migration of these infecteda cells in the body, meaning it essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms. It seems to be the combination of vegetables and the chicken that has this effect. You can throw in any vegetables that you can think of – the more the better!
9. De-stress. Having to take time off work because we’re sick can seem impossible and overwhelming for the subsequent catch-up. However, reducing that stress is essential to allow the body time to heal. Meditation is one of the best ways to de-stress (learn more about HOW to here) and will have an impact on your recovery. University of Wisconsin researchers found mindfulness meditation training reduced the incidence, duration and severity of a cold by 35 – 60%!
10. Keep Up the Prevention. Your immune system has taken a blow with this virus and is going to be much weaker now making you more susceptible than usual to other colds and flus going around. Don’t just give up at the first sign of feeling better, keep up the maintenance and re-strengthen your immunity.
A virus is NEVER fun, but it is an excuse to do nothing. It’s a clear sign from your body that it needs rest and recovery time so don’t be afraid to listen.
This week we’re interviewing Kat Jacob. Kat’s a passionate personal trainer who is doing some amazing things with her own training. She works with many corporate clients, so this week we’re talking to her about how exercise can help relieve stress and what types of exercise are best for that whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.
So let’s jump right into this interview with Kat:
So Kat, tell us a little about your background and how you became a personal trainer?
I’ve been passionate about health and fitness for as long as I can remember; I always loved being active and been interested in nutrition. Over the last few years I found that my ‘actual’ job – Event Producer – was impacting more and more on that lifestyle; the years of working long hours and late nights started to take its toll and I became stressed and sick.
I started questioning whether I was in the right job – I was producing amazing events, but it started to feel meaningless and the risk of giving up a safe income and changing careers very quickly became less scary than the thought of staying in the events industry for the rest of my life.
I happened to be introduced to the right person at around that time, which led me to take the leap and start on my journey to becoming a PT. I have now quit the events industry altogether and can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve made – there are challenging times and the money is nowhere near the same yet, but I am a much happier & healthier person and finally feel like I’m helping people change their lives in a positive way.
That certainly is a leap of faith! You now do a range of different training regimes yourself? Can you tell us a little more about them and why you do so many?
I love having variety in my workouts – it keeps me motivated and to me is much more fun than doing the same thing every day. I’m also a big believer in that we need to keep challenging our bodies to get stronger & fitter – by exposing it to a variety of activities & exercises we allow our bodies to grow in a much broader way. It also helps aid recovery between big sessions to give those movement patterns you just worked very hard a break and get the body moving in a different way.
The majority of my training is based on Gymnastic Strength Training – lots of handstands, bodyweight strength training, rings etc. with a big focus on mobility. There is a lot of variety within this style of training, and I love the strategic approach of working towards set goals (i.e. a muscle up) – it pushes me to get better and work hard. I like mixing things up on my rest days with touch football, surfing / swimming, hiking or the odd run.
Wow that certainly is a lot! How do you keep up with all your different training schedules with so much going on? What’s your secret tip for fitting it all in?
I’m actually German and used to be an event producer so being organised comes with the territory! But in all seriousness, for me it’s all about planning ahead and having a set schedule of what to do when & where. I plan my sessions in 6 week cycles, and each session is written down so when I go to the gym I just need to open up that notebook and know exactly what I’ve got to do that day to stay on track.
It means I don’t have to think about it when I get there but can focus my energy on the session, and it holds me accountable on those days where I’m feeling tired. I also meet up with a mate a couple of times a week and we train together – we teach each other new stuff, play with different exercises, spot each other and just generally make sure the other one pushes (or rests!) when we need to.
That’s a great tip about planning your workouts in advance. It takes the effort out of trying to think what you’re going to do when you actually get to the gym which sometimes feels like half the workout!
So this month we’re talking a lot about stress and mental health. Can you tell us how exercise helps with that?
Exercise is proven to reduce our bodies stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – and stimulates the production of endorphins, the chemicals in our brain that act as natural pain killers and help lift our mood.
Exercise can also help take your mind off things and shift your focus, and some exercises can in fact be a form of moving meditation – running or long power walks tend to do that for me! It can be a great way to get in some ‘me-time’ to create the space to think things through or just find the time to breather and switch off.
Exercising regularly makes you want to eat healthier too, which in turn helps reducing the stress, as your body will be fuelled with the right nutrients to help cope with stress.
For some statistics on the connection between physical exercise and mental health, check out the Waves of Wellness Foundation. Interestingly, research has shown that physical activities can sometimes be more beneficial for patients with mental health than a strictly clinical approach; after working with the ‘One Wave’ charity Joel Pilgrim founded ‘Waves of Wellness’ based on this approach, a non for profit that helps people struggling with mental health to find an outlet through surf therapy.
Exercise helps people to feel better about themselves, and the community & their support that comes with sports and exercise groups can provide a sense of belonging too.
So there are a lot of benefits and some great statistics to back it up!
One of the biggest concerns our clients tell us is that they don’t have enough TIME to fit in exercise. How would you overcome that?
I think the most important thing is to find a type of exercise you love – if you really enjoy something and it makes you happy, you will find it much easier to make the time.
The gym isn’t for everyone – try team sports, swimming, cycling, yoga, tennis etc. and figure out which activity makes exercise fun and not just a chore you feel obliged to do for health reasons.
Also, think about why you want to exercise – to feel healthier, to be able to keep up with your kids, or because you want to learn a new skill? It’ll help your motivation and keep you going on the days where it gets hard.
That’s so true, you have to find something you love. Exercise can’t be seen as another chore in our lives – we just won’t do it. Plus we work with clients consistently to re-identify their ‘why’ for all their goals. It’s just one of the best ways to keep them motivated and pushing forward!
So what are the best exercises to be doing to get in a quick, efficient and sweat inducing workout?
My go to for a quick and efficient workout is a bodyweight circuit (think lots of animal movements like bear crawls, ape walks, frog squats, caterpillar walks and bodyweight pushing & pulling exercises. followed by some max sprint efforts –it’ll get your heart pumping & the sweat going while working your entire body.
And what if I’m a beginner and never really exercised before, is there anything different that I should be doing?
The most important thing is to ease yourself into it – you don’t want to go so hard that you’re hurting for days as that’s the best way to stop yourself from wanting to go back.
If you’re unsure about technique or completely new to something, I’d recommend taking a few classes to learn the ropes and make sure you’re getting it right from the outset. It’s harder to fix bad habits than learning from scratch, and the right technique can make the difference between reaping the benefits or getting injured.
Stuart McGill, a professor of spine mechanics said “First move well, then move often.” and I 100% agree with that statement. Other than that – get out there, try lots of different things and find the kind of exercise that makes you keep coming back.
That’s it isn’t it. Just try something! But don’t go too hard. So many people go out really hard in that first week and when they can’t walk think “I’m never doing that again!”. It’s just best to build it up.
Ok so the other end of the spectrum, what if I’m quite advanced, how can I keep pushing the intensity and make sure I’m making progress?
Add some variety to your workouts by taking it into a different environment (i.e. outdoors or vice versa), add new movements into your sessions, look at ways to achieve your goals by trying a new approach.
Let’s say you want to learn how to handstand – don’t just keep kicking up again and again, look at what other skills and strength you might need to achieve that handstand and work on those – for example your shoulder mobility, core strength etc. It adds diversity while still working towards your main goal, helping to get there faster.
Another option is to find a training partner or group, a bit of healthy competition can go a long way in stepping up your game and it may expose you to some new ideas.
Yes healthy competition is definitely a great way to up the anti! We’ve talked about that previously for finding your training soulmate!
Ok final question, what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to integrate three exercise sessions during the week?
One thing that can make a big difference is getting the exercise in first thing in the morning – that way it’s done and no matter what the day throws at you or how tired you are after work, you will have had your exercise. Plus it’s a nice way to start the day rather than rolling from bed onto a chair and sit down right away, it’ll get your body and your mind going.
I know it can be challenging when you work long hours or have kids to get back to, so you could try to incorporate exercise in your day in a way that makes it easy and doesn’t leave much room for excuses. When I was still in events, I used to run home from work at least a couple times a week – depending on the route I’d get a good 45 – 60min run in and with traffic taking the bus would’ve taken the same time. Or you could walk the first 5km before getting on the train home, cycle to and from work or give a lunchtime class a go. Travel a lot? Pack your trainers, most hotels have a gym & pool, or you can go for a walk and explore the area.
If your week gets the better of you, get moving on the weekends! If you have kids, get them involved – go for a bike ride, play soccer in the park…there are so many options. Find the most convenient option for your lifestyle and make it a part of your routine – trust me, you will be more productive as a result and feel better for it!
There’s always a way if you make it a priority right! Thanks so much Kat that was really helpful.
Well readers we hope you all got something useful out of that and you’re all going to kickstart your workouts to feel the benefits!
Who here wants more ENERGY?
It’s one of the underpinning philosophies here at Energy|Body|Mind (hence the name) and there’s a reason for it; the amount of energy you have impacts on your quality of life EVERYDAY.
If you wake up tired, how much do you feel like fuelling yourself with a healthy breakfast, or going to the gym, or even being mindful throughout the day?
So if Energy is the answer to a lot of your problems, why do so many of us struggle to have enough? Unfortunately, there are many things in our life (particularly STRESS), which rob or drain energy from us, and to replace it; we need to take proactive steps.
So below are the top five ways that you can boost your energy through nutrition to have you bouncing off the walls and having others ask “what are you on?”:
1. Start the day with a supercharged coffee.
“What? Coffee? But I already do that?”. For those who love their coffee, mornings wouldn’t be the same without that warm liquid gold that gives you the ability to function throughout at least half the morning.
Australia’s obsession with coffee is fairly new, comparatively speaking to most European countries. We’re ranked 42nd in the world for coffee consumption, while Finland is number one. Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon for many people to feel emotionally dependent on their barista to get their morning hit!
There are (fortunately) many health benefits associated with MODERATE consumption of caffeine, including increased athletic endurance, healthy brain function, cellular health and longevity, healthy blood sugar levels, and liver support.
But what happens when we have too MUCH caffeine. Well, it’s like when we consume those sugary energy drinks. They are loaded with that white powder that we already know is bad for us (sugar) plus an unnatural amount of caffeine. When we have too much caffeine we start to experience:
So try to limit yourself to 1 to 2 cups a day. Switch to herbal teas after that and after about 3pm. While some clients swear they can have a cup of coffee and go straight to sleep, it still interrupts your circadian rhythm, which is one thing we don’t want to mess with!
Now what is a ‘supercharged’ coffee? Check out number 2…
2. Get friendly with bone broth.
Bone broth has started to receive a lot of attention recently as one of the new ‘superfoods’. Never heard of bone broth? It’s an incredible source of easy to digest protein and a good source of hydration.
Some people like to supercharge their coffee with bone broth. It’s loaded with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, which takes your coffee from a nice morning drink to an essential go-to energy beverage.
However, bone broth can be added to anything, not just your coffee. Put it in a smoothie, a juice, you can even have it on its own. They even make a bone broth protein powder now (just in case you can’t handle the taste of the pure stuff) and it still gives you a hit of all those amazing benefits.
3. Pump the pump bottle.
I know what you’re thinking – water really? How is that going to give me energy? Well, being dehydrated is one of the biggest causes of fatigue and exhaustion. It seems that many Australian’s are very dehydrated, and just have no idea that going and filling up their glass could make a huge different to their overall energy.
The average person needs to be drinking about 2 litres of water a day, but if you’re exercising and sweating more, you need to up the anti. Having a glass of water first thing in the morning (or supercharged with lemon or apple cider vinegar) will make a huge difference to your day. Finishing off the day with another glass at least 30 minutes before bed will also keep you hydrated throughout the night.
Remember the mantra: “If I’m thirsty, it’s already too late!”.
4. Go nuts.
The feeling of pure exhaustion and fatigue can make you feel like you’re going a little nutty at times. It’s a real drain on your physical and emotional needs when you’re not bouncing with energy. Cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts are rich in protein and magnesium, a mineral that plays a key role in converting sugar into energy.
This doesn’t mean you can start to mix nuts with high sugary foods, it just means that they are helping to covert those natural sugars more easily into the fuel you need.
Nuts are a great snack and also a great pick me up, so instead of reaching for those sugary biscuits or chips, try a few nuts with some fruit if you need that 3pm snack.
5. Calling all chocoholics!
Chocoholics we have good news: a little bit of dark chocolate has been shown to boost your energy and mood. So no you’re not imagining that little rush after you eat that delicious goodness.
Just try and make sure it is DARK chocolate. And by dark, we’re talking at least 70% dark. Some brands claim to have ‘dark’ chocolate, but when you look at the ingredients, they can be as low as 30-40%.
We want to try and just have little bits of the ‘good stuff’, and dark chocolate helps us do that because it is so rich.
So there you have it – the top five ways to boost your energy through different fuel sources. Remember, every time we eat we’re trying to fuel our bodies. If you’re feeling lethargic or tired after you eat certain foods, that may be a sign that your body is NOT using them as a source of fuel (check out what you can do here).
For the month of March, we’re talking about stress, and the ways that we can manage it. Stress is something that we can’t avoid, but if we learn the tools and techniques to control it, then we can go a long way to creating a healthier and happier life.
It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but exercise can be one of the best measures to immediately and sustainably reduce stress. After all, exercise is known to increase cortisol – the stress hormone – so how can it also manage it?
On the one hand, stress weakens the brain, particularly the part responsible for your memory. Conversely, exercise promotes the production of neuro-hormones that are responsible for learning, and improved cognitive function. So we now know that just by increasing your heart rate through exercise, you can start to immediately reduce the impacts of stress. There are a few other positives that you can get from exercise that relate to reducing stress:
1. It creates a sense of calm. Stress can really take control of your life. When you think about your never-ending ‘to-do list’ in both your work and personal life, everything can feel somewhat overwhelming and cause the body to try and shut down. Regular exercise can provide structure to your otherwise chaotic life. It is a great way to train the body to get into a rhythm, and as human beings we crave this.
2. It gives you a hit of the ‘feel good’ hormone. When we’re stressed, our self-confidence often takes a hit. Exercise helps to boost the production of endorphins, so that ‘high’ that you get after you exercise (and often for hours after) is not imagined. It improves your confidence and your decision making abilities to keep you switched on for the whole day.
3. It helps with your breathing. Ancient wisdom used to count a persons life by the number of breaths they took, so learning techniques to slow down the breathing were highly regarded. When we exercise, it forces the body to learn how to take deeper and more controlled breaths and be more efficient with oxygen. The more efficient your body becomes with regular exercise, the better your breathing. When we have calm and controlled breathing, we feel physically and mentally calmer and in control.
4. It helps your heart. Heart issues are one of the biggest killers in Australia. While exercise is a great way to get over a broken heart, it also helps with your physical heart health. Linked to #3, when you start to breathe diaphragmatic (nice deep breaths into the belly), the diaphragm gives the heart a gentle massage. This massage keeps the heart beating in a controlled and consistent manner and is also a sign to the body to switch on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) where our body focuses on digesting and resting.
5. It will improve your sleep. This one is all but guaranteed. Not only does the research tell us that exercise helps us to sleep, but I’ve SEEN it in all of my clients. I had clients who were previously on multiple sleeping pills and potions be able to wean themselves off them all just from taking up exercise. The benefits of getting a good nights sleep are second to none!
So if you’re feeling stressed, try to get moving. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous gym class or bootcamp (though they are great). Something as simple as walking regularly is shown to have access to all of the above benefits. A walk around the block before an important meeting can be a great way to calm the nerves, or a run after work can be one of the best ways to de-stress after a busy day. Exercise is one of the BEST remedies you can implement to manage your stress – and it’s FREE!
Research has recently come to light that if you live in a neighbourhood surrounded by trees, shrubs, and chirping birds, then there is less chance for you to suffer from anxiety or stress.
According to researchers, lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. But can it really be that simple?
People are increasingly spending time indoors, and with the majority of the day for most spent inside at a computer, it’s no wonder that we’re starting to see the health detriments to society.
The link between the role of nature for our mental well-being has long been established, yet many still fail to get their daily dose of the outside world.
There are several ways that you can try to up the dose of nature in your daily life:
1. Exercise outdoors. Gym memberships can be an astronomical cost, with some gyms demanding up to $100 a week from some of their members. Exercise doesn’t have to be such a costly exercise, AND doing it outdoors gives you a considerable chunk of your day connecting with nature. Go for a walk / jog / run, complete a circuit in your local park, join an outdoor bootcamp at lunchtime; the options are out there!
2. Take a break. I actually think smokers have this one down pat the best. While I don’t advocate for smoking in any way, the one thing that they do best is take breaks regularly outside! Back in my corporate life, I used to get the smokers of the office to come and take me on their ‘smoko breaks’ as a reminder to get outside. As long as I stood upwind, it was a great chance for me to get a few extra minutes outside with nature and re-centre before heading back into the office. A great way to boost your productivity as well!
3. Implement outdoor meetings. I’ve spoken about this before, but on top of having walking meetings (or if that’s not possible), get your meetings outside. Technology has meant that we can be very mobile and portable with our ideas, so take the meeting to a café with an outdoor area, or meet in a bigger space that has access to sunshine and all the elements. It’s amazing how refreshed you’ll feel afterwards compared to being stuck in an air-conditioned building.
4. Convert your commute. We often become so stuck in our ways that we forget the various options we have for commuting. You can walk/jog/run all or part of the way, ride a bike, ride a skateboard/scooter, get creative! Getting up that little bit earlier or getting home just that little bit later will be worth it for your mental and physical health.
5. Bring nature to you. While working outside or out of an office is not a reality for all of us, we can try and bring some of the elements from the outside in. Invest in a plant or succulent that you can have in the office and encourage others to ‘green up’ the space. Research has shown that just looking at nature can help you to feel more relaxed, so when that deadline is becoming overwhelming, or you’ve received a passive aggressive email from a colleague, or your boss is breathing down your neck, you just need a few minutes staring at something green and natural to calm the mind.
So while the headline grab of ‘birds improve mental health’ may be a little simplified, this study does uncover the role primary components of nature contribute toward our mental health. Integrating nature into our daily lives highlights the benefits of preventative healthcare and encourages us as a society to make our cities a healthier place to live.
How was your sleep last night? Did you get a solid, uninterrupted 8 hours of bliss? If you’re like most people, last night probably looked more like dragging yourself to bed once you’d reached complete exhaustion, tossing and turning, waking up randomly at 3am and feeling wide awake, then being rudely awoken by your alarm. Sound familiar?
There’s a spectrum of the quality of sleep between the complete bliss and the complete nightmare, and if you’re sitting closer to the latter then it’s time for a reset.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything from pills and potions to plants and night-lights, a new study from the University of Colorado has shown that there may be a much simpler way and it comes from the great outdoors.
Think about the way that our ancestors used to live, they’d rise with the sun and go to sleep with the sun. Their circadian rhythm was very much dependent on natural light which kept the body clock in check.
Fast forward to the way we live and we are not only deprived of natural light, spending hours under artificial lighting in office blocks, but we’re also forcing this artificial light into our lives late into the night. This is causing chaos with our circadian rhythm, and is a significant contributor to the lack of quality sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone that is released that helps us go off to sleep. It is well known that light destroys melatonin in our bodies. Going to bed late not only contributes to tiredness and productivity throughout the day, but is also now linked with obesity, diabetes and mood disorders.
So how do you hit the ‘reset’ button? A recent study has shown that just a couple of nights in the great outdoors are enough to retune the body’s internal clock. This not only allows you to fall asleep more easily, but it allows the body to move through the five stages of sleep more rhythmically.
So say you’ve done your weekend reset, how do you keep it up? Here are the top five ways to bring the traditional outdoors elements back in with you:
1. Embrace the darkness. The natural environment has one key element that we seem to be missing in our modern world – complete darkness. I love when staying at hotel rooms they have those blackout blinds. I could be sleeping in the middle of the day and think it’s the dead of night because it’s so DARK! At home, do your best to make your bedroom as dark as possible. Remove all sources of artificial light – even a TV light is enough to keep you wired. Invest in some good blackout blinds (or get creative with your own DIY version). Even using an eye mask can really help to take your body into full darkness.
2. Turn off the tech. This is often the hardest one for a lot of people. When you go camping (and you do it right) there is no technology. Phones, ipads, ipods, all i-things are off. While it is not realistic in the modern world to throw away your phone, try weaning yourself off before bedtime. Start with switching it off (or to flight mode) 5 minutes before bed. Then extend that to 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, up to 2 hours before bed. Not having contact with a screen before bed REALLY helps to unwind the mind and help you switch off before going to sleep. All those thoughts that come racing in as soon as your head hits the pillow will have time to digest BEFORE bed if you allow them.
3. Lessen the lights. Unlike in camping where you have to follow the sun for the hours you can be awake and active, I’m not going to tell you to go to bed with the sun (particularly hard in winter when the sun goes to bed so early!). Instead, try and dim lighting in your house, or keep it to a minimum for 30 minutes before bed. Use low lighting lamps, candles, lights that aren’t so aggressive and prone to destroying that much needed melatonin release!
4. Set your bedtime meeting. My clients who have the best nights sleep treat their bedtime like an important meeting. Some of them even have an alarm when it’s time to go to bed! Getting into a routine of a set bed time that’s at a reasonable hour not only helps keep that circadian rhythm happy but also makes waking up on the other end much easier!
5. Target is 7-9. That’s hours of sleep. It’s sometimes easier to work backwards, figuring out what time you need to get up with what time you need to go to bed. Research shows that it’s the hours BEFORE midnight that are the best quality, so try and make at least two of those hours before midnight.
Sleeping has such a huge impact on how we feel; our energy levels, food cravings, our ability to exercise and move. It is one of the biggest problems that clients come to me with, and one of the best solutions to so many other (seemingly unrelated) problems! Start working on your sleep routine today and see how it transforms your life.
The world has become a pretty unstable and unsettling place at the moment – Donald Trump is in charge of the most powerful country in the world, the UK is in negotiation to leave the rest of the EU, and war continues to rage in the Middle East. One sitting of the news and you’re likely to walk away feeling more down than when you started.
In a time where we’re experiencing the highest standard of living in history, paradoxically we’re also more depressed, anxious and unhappy.
First things first, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying this out of selfishness, or from a ‘every man from himself’ perspective. I’m talking about learning to create happiness and peace from within that can radiate onto others and create a ripple effect. There’s a reason they get you to fit your own oxygen mask on a plane before others – you won’t be able to get someone else’s mask on if you’re not breathing!
So here are the top 6 things that you need to be doing for yourself regularly in 2017. I’m not saying that these things will change the world, but they will definitely help YOU to feel happier, healthier and a more altruistic human.
1. Breathe. It’s amazing how many people aren’t breathing to its full potential. I used to be one of them. I used to just keep all the oxygen in my chest, and not expand the breath into my diaphragm and lower abdomen. When you start to breathe diaphragmatically, the PNS system (learn more on this here) is switched on, and your body starts to relax. It’s great to mindfully breathe like this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to sleep for about five minutes. This will help you to subconsciously breathe like this throughout the day as well. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of deep breathing can do for your mental and physical health!
2. Fuel your body. It’s easy to forget that the reason we eat is to provide fuel to the body. The balance between eating for pleasure and eating for survival has swung considerably to the former and this is having ramifications. Try to make at least one meal a day focused on fuelling for nutrition. Eat nutrient dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – and try and eat as close to the natural source as possible. Processing of foods has changed considerably, and it’s hard to know what’s been added when you can’t understand the ingredients!
3. Move more. Unless you’re an ultra athlete, we could ALL do with more movement. Our sedentary lifestyle has us sitting down more than ever. Unfortunately, one hour of intentional exercise has been shown as not enough to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. So we need to start integrating movement throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to/from work or a portion of the journey, or go for walking meetings instead of sit down coffees. Do whatever it takes to make that magic 10,000 step number. It’s not in any way easy, but it’s very rewarding for your body.
4. Learn to meditate. If there is only ONE thing that you do this year, learn to meditate. There are yoga studios and meditation centres popping up everywhere, and plenty of resources online that can teach you the fundamentals – I have even made a recording for you here. If you’re already meditating, make it a goal to foster your practice. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation (and I do so here) but for the sake of this blog, just realise that meditation is one of THE BEST forms of self-care out there. It takes as little as 5 minutes a day, and it can be life changing. Trust me on this one.
5. Embrace minimalism. I have blogged on this already (and will probably continue to!) and it seems to be quite an emerging theme for me (and plenty of others) in 2017. It seems that an excess of ‘stuff’ is manifesting our discontent, and there is no end in sight in the hunt for something new. Cleanout your wardrobe (learn how to here) or de-clutter your office space. Just spend time over the next year clearing the physical to allow the mental space for growth.
6. Sleep. At the end of the day it can feel like there’s just not enough time to do any of those self-care activities. I wouldn’t blame you for telling me so! The proverbial ‘to do list’ continues to grow, and despite the number of items we tick off, it never seems to end. One thing you CAN do that doesn’t require an extra item on the to do list is to sleep. I mean, force yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT. I can hear you groaning through your computer “who has that much time to sleep?”. The change makers do and so do you. The plane and oxygen analogy is most pertinent here. You will be so much more productive, have so much more energy, be capable of achieving so much more in less time, IF you get more sleep. Try it for a week and see what happens…
Now this may seem like a lot but even if you just pick ONE of these things to do this year, the transformation may just surprise you.
Jennifer Scott did a Tedx Talk on her form of minimalism in the wardrobe. She talks about how we constantly add to the wardrobe yet don’t throw out things that are currently in the wardrobe. Despite this paradox how many of you have those mornings before work when you think “I have nothing to wear”? The struggle is real to find an outfit that feels comfortable but also looks good. We often have to end up picking something last minute so we’re not too late, and for the rest of the day end up feeling slightly uncomfortable in our choice. My partner – who wears a suit everyday – still has the conundrum of picking out what colour SHIRT (he only has one choice to make!) he’s going to wear that day.
So why does this inverse relationship exist between the number of clothes and the ease with choosing what to wear? Behavioural economics will tell us that it primarily relates to the notion of choice. Research shows that increasing choice actually overwhelms our brains, and too much choice has a negative impact on us. So how do we overcome it then?
Well Jennifer proposes a 10-item wardrobe. She advocates for having a small high-quality wardrobe that is in heavy rotation. There seems to be quite a stigma in Australia about wearing the same clothes. But this isn’t the case in all cultures. Look at any European film; the main lead women characters wear only a few items consistently. It allows them to demonstrate their own unique style everyday. Whereas American films are all about having a different outfit in each scene!
Let’s just think for a moment about what a 10-item wardrobe for Summer / Autumn could look like:
· 2 pairs of pants
· 1 pair of jeans
· 3 dresses
· 4 shirts
· 2 pairs of trousers
· 2 pair of shorts
· 4 shirts
· 2 jackets
Seems reasonably do-able? You are also allowed some ‘extras’ on top of your 10-item wardrobe, such as: t-shirts, blazers, and special occasion wear like for weddings or specific occasions.
I’m not going to stand here though and say that I have a 10-item wardrobe (maybe one day!) but I do a wardrobe cleanout twice a year. To make things easier, I turn all my coat hangers to face the ‘wrong way’. When I wear an item, then it is turned back the right way. This helps me identify what clothes are not being worn regularly. This cleanout has four rules that a piece of clothing has to pass before it gets to stay in the wardrobe:
1. Does it fit me today: don’t wait till you lose/put on that weight and think ‘then it will fit me’. The rule stands for ‘does it fit me TODAY’.
2. Is it age appropriate: there are some items that can last decades and still be timeless, but that tiny leather skirt you bought when you were 18 is probably not appropriate to wear to your friends 30th birthday anymore.
3. Is it my true style: I find as my wardrobe starts to shrink, it also starts to develop. You know the typical clothes that you feel most comfortable in and that look good, so I keep items that follow that trend. If you think that biker jacket looked really great in the shop but you’ve never worn it, it’s probably not your style.
4. Has it been worn in the last 6 months (you can tell by the coat hanger flipping trick!): this is the best rule for the bi-annual clean up. If you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months then it’s got to go.
On top of this, I also enforce the rule that if I buy something, then the equivalent in the wardrobe has to go. Realise that RIGHT NOW you have enough of everything, so anything you buy is excess. So for an easy example, if I buy a new pair of socks, then I throw out an old pair. If I buy a new top, I know that I need to throw out a top at home. This requires a little more thought now in the buying decision. So rather than just impulsively buying items, I now think about what will be sacrificed for this new piece.
So you may still be asking ‘why bother?’. Well despite having a lot more room in the wardrobe and not having to squish everything in, there are some real benefits to having a condensed wardrobe:
· When you need to get dressed for work, you should now be able to pick 2 items and they’ll go together.
· You can let your true style shine through that is classic and unique to you, not like everyone else.
· You will save money because you won’t be impulse buying.
· A clean wardrobe means a clean mind.
· You’ll always be able to look presentable and not default to your ‘active wear’ even though you’re not exercising.
See how you go with de-cluttering your wardrobe!
I’ve blogged before on the Elimination Cycle and the steps for preparing, but we’re starting a new cycle of the Elimination Detox TODAY so I wanted there to be another resource for people to learn about this.
There are several symptoms that you may see within yourself that are signs that your body is craving detoxification. These range from:
· Digestive problems e.g. IBS, diarrhea, constipation
· Weight gain
· Low energy
· Short temper
· Fluid retention
· Skin breakout and congestion
· Sore, red or stingy eyes
· Waking up consistently between 2am-4am
· Not feeling hungry for breakfast
These are only SOME of the symptoms. So if you experience any of these, it is your body’s way of saying “I need some time out!”. My body needs to detox about once every six months, and I can tell when it needs it.
I grew up in a household where we had fresh food bought everyday, because the supermarket was conveniently located about 5 minutes from my house. When I moved out of home and into a university dorm, food shifted from being a healthy source of fuel for my body to a pleasure seeking mechanism that had almost no nutritional content. I should’ve caught on when we learnt the suppliers for the college food also serviced several major prison systems in Sydney!
So I got sick. Like really sick. Like waking up in the middle of the night with stomach pains, headaches, and fevers (usually at 3am!). I had every test under the sun to try and find out what was wrong with me. NOTHING. All the doctors said there was nothing medically wrong with me to be causing this. So I turned to a nutritionist and a naturopath who worked together on figuring out what was the underlying cause: food allergies. I was allergic to almost EVERYTHING I was eating.
So I spent the next couple of months going through an Elimination cleanse and figuring out what foods my body would tolerate and serve me as a source of fuel. Now those allergies are all but gone, but occasionally they can rear their ugly heads when I’ve drifted off slightly and started to eat more processed foods. So that’s why I detox every six months. To give the digestive system, the liver, the kidney’s, all a break and a reset!
So what should you expect if you do an Elimination Cleanse? Well let’s start with the withdrawal. Particularly if you have had a diet high in sugar, I’m not going to lie to you – the first 5 to 7 days of this is going to be tough. Sugar is treated like a drug in our brains, and there has been research showing that we become chemically addicted to the white stuff! So that first week you may experience:
Headaches: like any addiction, when you remove it, the body goes into withdrawals. The body has become dependent on this and when it doesn’t get the ‘hit’, will start to cause headaches as it craves for it.
Fatigue: on top of the headaches, your body is now missing the energy boost that sugar used to give it. Think of the highs and lows that you often experience after a sweet – a donut, a muffin, a cup of milky coffee. It gives you a short boost, you have a crash, you crave more sugar, so you give it another hit. It becomes a vicious cycle. When we break that cycle, it is very likely that you may feel sluggish and fatigued.
Irritability: When you make changes in your nutrition the body often responds in very interesting ways. If it’s missing it’s normal pick-me-ups then its common to become more cranky and irritable than usual – think 2 year old child who has missed their afternoon nap.
So what do you do about the cravings? And believe me there are going to be cravings. Depending on how much processed foods, caffeine, sugar and alcohol you were consuming before will ultimately determine how hard the detox will be. However, the ones with the higher levels initially are often the ones who also experience the best benefits!
Here are some of my top tips for helping you get through an Elimination Cleanse:
1. Drink. Drink till you feel like a fish. But only the good stuff: water and herbal teas. Dehydration is often one of the main reasons why we have cravings, and you can often drown them out with water. Try for at least 2 Litres of water everyday during the cleanse. There’s some more tips here on staying hydrated.
2. Move. You know that high that you feel after sugar or caffeine? Your body is going to miss that, so replace it with some exercise. When we move, our body releases the same feel good endorphins PLUS acts as a stress reliever to help with the irritability. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym and train 7 days a week, just get sweating. Be creative. Get outdoors. It’s summer here in Australia so the opportunities to exercise are endless!
3. Integrate natural sweets. You ARE able to trick your body. When you’re craving something sweet, give it a healthy alternative. Amazingly, sweet root vegetables will give your body a similar satisfaction to lollies, so up the anti on vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Fruits are also a great alternative and there is an abundance of wonderful fruits available at the moment! Pineapple is so sweet, your body will think it’s just had a block of chocolate!
4. Create a network. Firstly, it’s best to warn your family and friends that you may be more irritable than usual during the cleanse. As the toxins leave your body and you go through the withdrawal symptoms, your fuse tends to be a lot shorter than usual. It also helps if those closest to you are aware of what you’re doing to provide extra support in those tough times and to not eat that cupcake in front of you. If you’re lucky, they may even choose to join you!
5. Go easy on yourself. Realise that deciding to take a cleanse is more than what a lot of others do. Beyond that, eliminating ANYTHING unhealthy from your diet is going to be beneficial to your overall health no matter if you do it for a day, a week or a month. Realise that you WILL have slip ups – we are human – so you just go back to the cleanse as soon as its over. Don’t throw away all your hard work just from one slip up.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can join our Elimination Detox Challenge! We start January 16th and all our Eliminators start together and finish together. You will have access to your own manual, support videos and tutorials, plus a step-by-step guide to both the pre – during – post elimination.
You can sign up HERE!