Health Category

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly’…But what about that dreaded Hangover?

Tis the Season to be JollyIn the UK pubs are still closing at a rate of knots, and yet the British love a tipple, and never more so than at Christmas. With Supermarkets competing with each, and driving down the price of alcohol, it is readily available giving people plenty of incentive to stock up.

But, if you have reached a certain age, where you can’t drink quite like you used to, or at least not whilst waking up feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed – then read on for some smart ways to minimise the almighty hangover.

  • Of course, as the first point, I should say that if you don’t want a hangover – the first and easiest option is to not drink!

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Part Time Vegan

Vegan DietNot so long ago you might have had a rather unflattering view of a ‘vegan’ as a slightly hippy person that ate a lot of mung beans and tofu. Being a vegetarian or vegan was a serious endeavour, and very often one taken as a result of concerns for animal welfare.

But, now the tides have turned and if I say vegan, you might very well think of celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyoncé going vegan for a month or two to get ‘concert ready’.

And that’s the thing, people are now introducing vegan style eating to their lives but not necessarily as a full-time approach. Some may start by having a ‘meat free day’, others will have vegetarian or vegan breakfast and lunch, but eat whatever they want for dinner. Some are taking a 5-2 approach, 2 days vegan and 5 days with their usual diet and so on. (more…)

On Your Feet Britain

On Your Feet BritainThe 27th April is ‘On Your Feet Britain’ day, the challenge is simple – spend less time sitting and more time on your feet!

Medical research suggests that sitting for more than 4 hours per day contributes to health issues, for example a reduced metabolic rate – essentially burning less calories, disrupted blood sugar levels, heightened blood pressure, increased insulin levels, switched off leg muscles and the shutting down of enzymes responsible for burning harmful blood fats.

It is thought that a culmination of the above health issues can lead to major diseases like cancer, heart disease diabetes, dementia as well as other health problems like obesity, back ache, muscle degeneration and depression.

The problem is that British people sit on average for 8.9 hours per day, but many of us sit for even longer. If you tot up the time you spend sitting during a commute, whilst eating, whilst at work and relaxing – whether that be in front of a computer or TV – you might find the figure is scarily higher! (more…)

Boost Your Immune System in Unexpected Ways

Immune SystemAt this time of year coughs and colds are prevalent, the stress of Christmas and sometimes burning the candle at both ends during the holiday season can leave your immune system a little under par.

Rather than turning to the medicine cabinet, why not try boosting your immune system in a more holistic way? You might be surprised at what works:

Mingle

It is easy to stay at home in-doors when the weather is wet and cold, but actually getting out, meeting with friends and family and having meaningful interactions reduces chronic stress, which in turn reduces negative impacts on your immune system. (more…)

Festive Offer + Avoid the Dreaded Christmas Weight Gain!

Weighing ScalesI am writing this article in October, but already the shops are filling up with holiday goodies – Mince Pies, Christmas Cake, Christmas Pudding, Cheese Biscuits, Peanuts and of course the beloved Quality Street and Roses to name a few…

Research suggests that most people will put on just over two pounds in weight over the holiday period, but for many the weight increase is much higher, especially with bank holidays allowing for extended time away from work. The most worrying thing though is that often those few extra pounds stay on, and so gradually year on year we get a little bit bigger! (more…)

A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled

'Frazzled' Ruby WaxWhilst many of us will know Ruby Wax as a comedienne, in more recent times she has been an advocate for mental health; in April 15 her services to mental health were celebrated by being awarded an OBE. This followed her obtaining a Masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy from the University of Oxford. The book I’m talking about today is the second that she has written in this genre, the first being: Sane New World: Taming the Mind – a manual for understanding the brain and providing an insight in to human behaviour, this book was turned in to a theatre show and now the same is happening for Frazzled, with dates still left in June 2016 in London and more being added soon: www.rubywax.net

Ruby Wax’s latest book called A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled is a self-help book, in the sense that the book contains a six week course based on her studies at Oxford University with advice for parents, children, for relationships and for teenagers but it is delivered with her acerbic wit, so much so you will effortlessly glide through the book without realising its real intent – to get you to be more mindful and to change for good! The end result is a smart, humorous and accessible book.

Ruby says about the book:

“500 years ago no-one died of stress: we invented this concept and now we let it rule us. We might have evolved to be able to miraculously balance on seven-inch heels, but as far as our emotional development is concerned we’re still swimming with the pond scum. If we don’t advance our more human qualities then we’re doomed evolution-wise to become cyborgs, with an imprint of an ‘Apple’ where our hearts used to be.”

Ruby Wax shows us a scientific solution to these modern problems: mindfulness.

“I know what you’re thinking – what if I don’t want to stare at a butterfly wing or hear the single ting of a wind chime? My definition of mindfulness isn’t about sitting erect on a hillock, legs in a knot, humming a mantra that’s probably the phone book sung backwards, it’s something that can help us all: learning to notice your thoughts and feelings so you can truly experience life.”

In a recent article for Sainsbury’s Magazine, Ruby explained that although ‘mindfulness’ has been a buzz word for some ten years or so, it is a concept taken very seriously – so much so the US Marines have adopted it. She explains that mindfulness and her book are about “A way of exercising your ability to pay attention…noticing your thoughts and feelings without kicking your own ass while you’re doing it.”

  • Think of ‘attention’ like a muscle – use it or lose it…
  • Learn to ‘focus’ inside – so you can observe your thoughts without the usual commentary!
  • People you are close to will find it incredibly flattering when you give them your full and undivided attention.
  • To achieve mindfulness you must learn compassion – be kind to yourself first and then you will pass kindness on to others.

Book cover image courtesy of Penguin Life Books

Miracles from Heaven

Miracles from Heaven movie posterThe film ‘Miracles from Heaven’ is based on a true story – Christy Beam (played by our cover star Jennifer Garner) discovers her daughter Annabel who is only ten years old has an incurable incredibly rare digestive disease. Suddenly her childhood, amongst her two sisters that should have been happy and carefree was filled with hospitals and doctors.

The Beam family are ferocious firstly in getting a diagnosis – going from lactose intolerance, to IBS, to there is nothing wrong…and then as advocates for finding a healing solution. With no expense spared to find a cure only to be told by all medical experts there is nothing they can do.

Then one day – a rare occurrence by that time, Annabel was well enough to play outside. With her sister she climbed a hollowed tree, then a freak accident happens – the branch snaps and Annabel plummets the equivalent of three stories.

But that is when a ‘miracle’ occurs, she is unconscious, but survives the fall and she was inexplicably cured. Her rescue and cure leaves the medics who had treated her mystified, but restores the family’s faith and leaves a community inspired…

The film is an adaptation of the book written by Christy – Annabel’s mother; it is a heart-warming and uplifting description of what led to that fateful day and the experiences of Annabel following the fall and her miraculous recovery.

Jennifer Garner has been having a difficult time of late following the decision to get divorced from Ben Affleck; they announced their plan just one day after their 10th wedding anniversary. Since then the whole family has been subjected to press interest, firstly in regards to Ben’s alleged infidelities and secondly as they continue to spend a lot of time together making things as normal as possible for their children.

But perhaps the filming of this latest movie proved timely for Jennifer in terms of providing some healing of her own. She was raised alongside her sisters to go to church every Sunday and they had introduced their children to their faith and had them baptised at the family’s local church. But the film offered a re-engagement with faith, making it a routine once more. She told NBC journalist Savannah Guthrie “The thing about this film was it kind of encouraged me to re-engage in just participating – not just believing – actually participating in raising my children so that they have the same background my parents gave my sisters and me.”

At the American premier in Los Angeles Jennifer discussed religion with the reporters “It has always been quietly a part of me, I’m still getting used to the idea of talking about it.”

If you want to see the film, then the UK cinema release date is set for 10th June 2016.

Film Poster Image courtesy of Affirm Films – TriStar Pictures

Meditation

lady meditatingMeditation sounds simple in principle – focus on one thing and block out all other thoughts! But in reality it can be harder to achieve and takes dedication and sustained practise. However the benefits far out way the commitment needed.

In some cases you may think of meditation of being a hippy thing to do, or a perhaps an extension of yoga practise. But in reality the world is a confusing and very busy place for all of us these days. Strides in technology are fantastic, but they have also created an environment where we are ‘always on’, smart phones and tablets have made it in to the bedroom that once would have been a tranquil place to rest. Just doing everyday tasks like getting lunch and coffee now provide many choices and with it many decisions.

All told many of us are stressed both in body and mind perhaps without even realising it. And this is where meditation comes in. It gives you a safe place to crowd out all of the pulls on your everyday life. In that moment you just get to concentrate on you – not your partner, your kids, or your job – just you…

A traditional pose for meditating is sitting cross legged on the floor – but find a space and position that is comfortable to you. Some people prefer a dimly lit room, others will like light, some will close their eyes, others prefer to focus on something like a lit candle – again, do whatever feels right for you. Try to carve out a period of time that will be quiet and where you will be undisturbed – and turn off any technology!

You may find it easier to relax if you do some gentle stretches and an important component is your breathing – very gradually slow down your breathing, so that you breaths in and out are calmer and more controlled.

When you first start meditating you may find it difficult to clear your mind, you will no doubt have to sit in the position for a while. Random thoughts will try and enter your head – what you are going to cook for tea, a friend you must remember to call, a sick relative, an email you forgot to send. It is not unusual for you to feel guilty for taking the time out, and to begin with you may tell yourself that you could be better spending your time on a million and one things from your ever growing to do list…

The whole point of meditation is learning to resist this inner chatter, there is no need to feel guilty for taking a small amount of time for yourself each day. With practise you will find that following your sessions any decisions that were troubling you now seem easier to take, and you will be able to prioritise what really needs to get done and frankly what can wait.

Some people find it easier to take themselves on a guided tour of their imagination – you might think of a place that you felt really happy (perhaps a beach on holiday), then can you imagine the salty taste on your lips, the gentle breeze on your skin, the smell of the suntan lotion and the gentle chatter of people in the background, the warmth of the sun and the relaxed glow you felt…Gradually allow this visualisation to carry over your whole body until all of the tension in your muscles melt away and your mind goes quiet. Keep breathing deeply and slowly and keep working to keep your mind clear of any thoughts.

Regular practise should see you reap the benefits; you should feel more enlightened and happier on a deeper level.

Gratitude Diary

grateful imageMany of us could probably write a list quite easily about the things that we consider to be wrong in our lives or things that we would like to change, the list would be different for all of us:

Feeling like your work/life balance has got out of kilter

Feeling as though there is never quite enough money coming in

Wondering if your relationship is going to go the distance

Feeling worn out and in need of a break

Struggling to manage all of your responsibilities

The list goes on…

But what if instead of making endless lists in your mind about what is wrong, you turn things around and write down on a weekly basis everything you are grateful for!

When you are stressed, tired, ill, short on time or are just going through a difficult patch it can be incredibly difficult to think you are grateful for anything. But even thinking of one thing can have enormous benefits to your health.

Dr Emmons has been studying the effects that gratitude can have on our health, wellbeing and our relationships with others for over a decade. People that keep a gratitude journal for even three weeks show positive benefits.

On the Physical Side:

Stronger immune systems

Better quality of sleep and a feeling of being refreshed on waking

Lower blood pressure

A desire to look after themselves and exercise more

On the Psychological Side:

People feel more optimism and just generally happier

They feel more joy and are able to take pleasure in more things

A general feeling of being more alert, alive and open to positive emotions

On the Social Side:

They forgive themselves and others more easily

They feel less alone and isolated

They are more helpful, generous and compassionate

To get started, you could try writing down five things you are grateful for three or four times a week. There is no need to feel pressure to write something big down, it could be as simple as ‘I am glad my neighbour has grown sunflowers this year as they make me smile every time I pass them.’

In time if you want to you can extend the practise to others, for example sending a note to a person to thank them personally will benefit both them and you? Rather than writing things down, with certain people for example your partner you may choose to tell them: try telling them three things before bedtime that you are thankful for, for example ‘I really appreciated you texting me after my meeting today to see how it went.’

Over time it is okay to alter the schedule of how often your write in your gratitude journal, but be specific, honing in on details stops you getting fatigued over the task and seeing it as a chore.

After a while you should be able to create gratitude in your head as well as on paper. When negative thoughts creep in to your day, you can counteract them with ‘What is good about my life today?’

Fun in the Sun

burnt toast representing sunburnA recent poll carried out by The Royal Pharmaceutical Society demonstrated that 80% of us did not know what SPF protection means! 56% did not realise that SPF is only in relation to UVB rays and not UVA. The end result – clearer labelling is needed on sun protection products, perhaps moving to a much simpler system of low, medium, high and very high protection taking in to account the UVA & UVB components.

Perhaps equally as concerning was that over 50% of the people are never using sun protection and 15% of those with children were not checking for a UVA rating.

So, this cause for different labelling is a great idea but it is not going to help us right now. So whether you are staying in the UK or are jetting off on holiday here is the lowdown on what you need to know to protect you and your family in the sun:

1) Go for a broad spectrum sun screen that has UVA & UVB Protection.

2) Use an SPF factor 15 as a minimum to protect against UVB rays. Sun factors rely on you knowing how long it would take for you to burn without using sun screen. So if you would normally burn in 10 minutes (unprotected), then using a factor 15 would allow you to be protected for 150 minutes. When in doubt – go higher.

3) In the UK, UVA protection appears as a star rating on the bottle, from 0 – 5 stars. The higher the star the greater the protection.

4) When purchasing sun screen – check that it is not past its expiry date. Sometimes it is okay to use last year’s sun screen; they can have a life of several years. They need to have been stored in a cool location out of direct sunlight. Check the bottle, as there will be a manufacturing logo on it showing how long it can be used for after opening.

5) You should aim to spend time in the shade when the sun is at its hottest – between 11am – 3pm.

6) Apply sun screen before you go out and reapply regularly. Most people miss bits and also use a lot less than the recommended amount. Don’t forget to protect your scalp. Sweating in the heat and swimming will also remove the product, even if you are using a waterproof version, so keep topping up.

7) It is a misconception that a ‘base tan’ will protect you. Also do not be lulled in to staying in the sun longer or applying lotion less frequently because you have used a high factor product.

8) Lastly, remember to also protect your eyes. Look for a CE or British Standard mark when purchasing. You want glasses with a 100% UV protection.

None of us want to get burnt in the sun, but occasionally we do get caught out. If you are worried, then regular checking of skin and keeping an eye on any moles is a good idea. For moles follow the ABCD route:

A = Asymmetry, check if the two halves of your mole look different.
B = Border, check to see if the border of the mole is blurred, irregular or jagged.
C = Colour, check if the mole is uneven or has more than one shade/colour.
D = Diameter, look to see if any of your moles are wider than 6mm (which is about the size of an eraser at the end of a pencil).

You are now all set, for safe fun in the sun – enjoy!

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