Slow Down That Inner Voice

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A friend recently posted as her Facebook status:  “(Name) would like to know how to stop thinking so much…”

Well, after reading this, I got to thinking (ironic, I know):  How DO you switch off that annoying little voice that buzzes away so much in so many of our modern, stressed-out heads; never seeming to give us a break and allowing us to experience some SILENCE??

Like my friend, I also have a tendency to over-think, and I have definitely discovered a link between ‘fast thoughts’ and feeling stressed out.  It’s taken me a while, but I have finally begun learning to notice when my thoughts seem to be taking over, and gently allowing them to slow down again.  I find that as soon as I consciously slow my mind down, my stress levels almost instantly decrease.

I’ve explored a few different techniques over the years to achieve this feeling of more peacefulness, quiet and calm – and would like to share a couple:

 

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

Now before you hastily navigate away from this blog, for fear that I am some new-age hippy about to advise you to hug some trees and transcend the boundaries between your mind and that of Mother Nature – Transcendental Meditation is not as complicated or as (for want of a better word) ‘wanky’ as it sounds.  Based on certain techniques practised in yoga, TM is not based within any particular religion or school of thought; and unlike some other well-known forms of meditation, you are not required to “empty your mind” completely of any thoughts for say, 4 hours solid (if you have ever managed to do that successfully, then tell me how!).

Simply put, you spend 20 minutes twice a day sitting in a comfortable chair, gently repeating a short ‘mantra’ in your head, and allowing your mind to relax.  If you think lots of random thoughts, then that does not mean you have failed – in fact, it is wholeheartedly encouraged at first.  You then spend 10 more minutes simply relaxing in the chair.   Sounds simple?  It is!  The benefits of TM have been widely documented, and the practice is popular with many celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Clint Eastwood, and even Russell Brand!  There have been a huge array of scientific studies into this form of meditation, monitoring measurable changes in the body, such as brain function, IQ, and biological ageing – finding that not only does TM reduce stress, increase energy and concentration and improve sleep; it also slows down the ageing process, aids with weight loss, and can even increase your IQ!

There is a lot more to say about TM, but I’ll save that for another blog post.  All I’ll say for now is this:  I tried it in 2009 and found it made a huge difference to my stress levels and ‘busy mind’.  However, since then I have fallen out of the routine, and now only meditate maybe once per week.  I am now setting myself a challenge:  to gradually increase my meditations over the next month, until I am once again practising TM twice per day.  As my instructor said when I first learned the discipline:  “If you’re too busy to spare 20 minutes, twice a day, you’re too busy!!”

Google it – it’s definitely worth a try if you’re looking to try some simple meditation to inject some calm into your life.  I’ll let you know how I get on….

 

The Sedona Method

This is something I began learning at the end of 2010 – again, finding it very beneficial, and very simple to put into practice.  The Sedona Method focuses on ‘releasing’ negative thoughts and emotions from your mind, ‘letting go’ of them effortlessly and allowing yourself to move forward without anything blocking you.  It is available as an audio course, or a live seminar (I took the audio course), and focuses on the areas of ‘wealth and success’, ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘relationships’.

Once you’ve learned the basic technique, you’re encouraged to put it into practice regularly, whether that be sitting down and setting goals for the future, letting go of fear that may be holding you back; or simply letting go of a negative reaction you may have towards someone during the course of your day.  Have a boss or spouse who get on your nerves??  The Sedona Method attempts to help you in dealing with the anger and frustration with ease…. 🙂

Again, this is something that I consciously practise intermittently, but something that I endeavour to utilise more and more.  I initially decided to learn the technique to attempt to control my emotions more effectively when communicating with my boyfriend and (I hope he’d agree!) it worked pretty well.

 

Just Stop!

Lately, after learning these techniques (and perhaps still subconsciously living life using the principles I’ve discovered), I’ve found that the thing that works for me is simply being more aware of my thoughts:  noticing when they have begun to speed up, take over my mind, spiral out of control or become negative, and taking a second to just stop!  I take a deep breath, try to think rationally about whatever is on my mind and put it into perspective, then bring myself back into the present moment somehow… Listen to some music, notice something pretty or interesting in whatever surroundings I am in, or simply smile and relax.  Sounds cheesy, I know, but I find that it works for me and really stops my spiralling thoughts in their tracks before they begin to take over.

 

Write it Down

If you really can’t stop thinking, and have tasks swirling around in your mind, or goals and desires fighting for space in your brain, then I also find that simply writing things down can be a good way to get them off your chest and achieve some clarity.  A simple ‘to-do list’ or a list of goals that you’d like to explore further are good ways to get started.

 

Talk to Someone

Often having a chat with a friend or even a life coach can help you to a) get yourself back into the present moment and just have a good old chat and a break from your thoughts(!), and b) help you to discuss any thoughts that you are particularly struggling with or failing to get rid of – hopefully leading to a different perspective on the topic and a greater feeling of ease and calm.

 

Exercise!!

Take the focus from your mind to your body, and get out there and get moving – making sure you’re doing something you really enjoy!!

 

Hope a few of these tips have helped, or at least given some food for thought.  Here’s to a calm day ahead, with a nice calm mind!

To your long and healthy lives,

Claire

 

 

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Introduction to ‘Sleep’

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It goes without saying that sleep is an important part of our lives – we spend around a third of our time on this planet snoozing, and we all know that the hours we are asleep give our bodies a chance to rest and repair.  Sufficient, quality sleep has also been strongly linked to successful weight management (personally, I feel that in my case, this is more to do with the fact that the less hours I am awake, the less available hours I have to eat!!!), as well as stress relief and energy levels.

So in my humble opinion, I think sleep definitely counts as one of the categories we need to pay attention to, in order to live long and healthy lives.

Not the ideal sleeping situation - but at university, we took what we could get!

I’m keen to explore this topic as I often have trouble with sleep – and I know that millions of others around the world do too, judging by the number of sleeping aids, tablets, books, hyponosis cds, etc. which sell by the bucket-load every year.

I myself don’t have much trouble getting to sleep – it’s getting into a relaxed and restful sleep that is my issue.  You name it, I dream about it.  There is clearly some crazy stuff going on in my head…  and it doesn’t want to give me a rest!  I’m not going to be one of these boring people who recounts all of their dreams, as I’m very aware that, while my zany subconscious imagination may be of interest to me; to others it would probably be a yawn-fest (maybe I should tell the stories – it might help you with your sleeping problems after all!!)

But anyway, constant dreaming is my number one problem, as well as (yep, I’m gonna say it): needing to pee.  Dunno why, at age 27, I still have the night-time toilet habits of a toddler, but alas, I often do and it doesn’t exactly enhance my attempts at a restful night’s kip!

So with this section of the blog, I shall attempt to explore what we can all do to ensure we benefit from the best sleep possible.  Join me on my journey to night-time nirvana 🙂

To your long and healthy lives,

Claire

What Are Your ‘Can’t Stop Foods’?

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We all have them….  Those foods that we just can’t resist.   We open the packet, thinking “I’ll just have one or two…”, and the next thing we know, we’ve consumed enough food to feed a family for a week.

Whether it’s biscuits, bread, chocolate,  or chips ‘n’ dips – there are just some foods that we find impossible just to snack on without gorging ourselves.

In studies which have been conducted on the eating habits of the most long-lived people in the world, one of the common themes applicable to all of them is their tendency to never overeat; always enjoying leisurely and sociable mealtimes and stopping when full.

I for one have a number of these vices, and often put away so much food in a day it has caused my boyfriend to claim that he has “never met anyone” to eat as much as me – “not even a guy!”

My current vice as a vegan - Potato Gems - fine in moderation, but I tend to eat half a bag in one go!

So I have now challenged myself to:

a) Eat more slowly – Thus swallowing in less air with every mouthful; allowing my body to send me the ‘full signal’ before I have time to overeat; and putting less pressure on my digestive system.  I may even try eating some of my meals with chopsticks, as I know they slow me down somewhat!

b)  ‘Mint after meals’ – Either brushing my teeth or eating a natural sugar free mint after meals, to alter the taste in my mouth and dissuade me from continuing to eat more.

c)  Stop buying so many ‘Can’t Stop Foods’ – If I don’t have them in the cupboard, then I won’t eat them!!  Note:  This only applies to more ‘treat’ foods which may be higher in fats, sugars, etc.  If I want to gorge myself on carrot sticks or grapes, I can still go ahead and do that!!

Time to give my belly a break and attempt to curb the snacking!!   Food should be fuel, not entertainment.  Well, that’s the goal anyway…  Will let you know how I go!!!

To your long and healthy lives,

Claire

Motivation Tips – Keys to Sticking to an Exercise Plan

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Over the last few years, I learned a few keys to exercise that ultimately began to work for me:

  • Incorporate it into a routine (when living in London, I cycled everywhere – no more ‘finding time to exercise’; it was my daily commute, and hugely preferable to riding the packed underground trains every day, wedged into a stranger’s armpit).  Think of exercise as a part of your life – not just something you’re doing for a while to try to lose weight.
  • Find things you enjoy doing – you’ll never find the willpower to run on a treadmill every night if you despise doing it. Personally, treadmills make me lose the will to live.  Running outdoors wins every time.
  • Find buddies to work out with -if you make plans with friends, or attend a regular class/club, you’re much less likely to skip your workout.
  • Follow a plan – I find that having a set schedule to follow, with goals to reach, helps me to stick to the programme.  I go as far as to print off a calendar which is fixed to my wall – every time I complete a workout, I mark it on the calendar.  Just the sight of too many empty boxes in a row with no activities marked in them is enough to spur me into action.
  • Have big reasons for exercising – Like many goals in life, if you don’t have a big enough ‘Why?’, then you won’t bother taking action.  Whether it’s an intention to lower cholestorol, fit into a wedding dress, run a marathon, or increase density in weak bones – find something you really care about.  And remind yourself of this reason every time you’re tempted to swap the run around the park for an evening of chocolate and wine….
  • Mix things up – Nothing will help you lose motivation faster than a boring, repetitive exercise regime.  In addition to this, you’ll stop seeing noticeable results unless you give your body new challenges.  Resolve to inject as much variety into your workouts as possible.
  • Recognise small achievements – Don’t necessarily think that a ‘workout’ has to mean sweating it out in the gym for 2 hours….  I like to include simple things into my exercise routine – such as taking a long walk with my boyfriend, or going out dancing with the girls.  Anything that gets you moving can count as a workout!
  • Push yourself – It’s easy to get into a rut.  Try to give yourself little challenges every time you exercise.  Whether it’s going for 5 minutes longer than your last workout or increasing the weights you lift by a couple of kilos – every little effort keeps your body guessing…. and keeps you interested!
  • Don’t beat yourself up – If you skip a workout, you skip a workout.  The world is not going to end, and no-one is going to judge you.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ve failed for the entire week as you’ve missed one day’s exercise – becoming the person who decides they might as well “start again on Monday” as they’ve written the whole week off as a failure.  Start again immediately the next day – consistency is key.  The longer you leave it before working out again, the less you’ll feel like doing it.
Simple tips, but worth reviewing every now and then to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance of success.
To your long and healthy life,
Claire

Introduction to Exercise: My Buff Boyfriend… And Me.

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So we all know we need to exercise right?  And yeah, yeah – we know it will keep us young and fit and benefit our bodies But how do we incorporate it into our daily lives?  How do we enjoy it?!  And how do we make sure it is giving us the maximum benefit possible?

Through this blog, I will attempt to address all of these questions and more.

Typical of many people, I’ve yo-yo’d between being Little Miss Gym Bunny (with the disciplined daily workout routine of an Olympian.  Well almost…) and Medium-Sized Miss ‘I’ll Do It Tomorrow’ (with the inability to move from the couch).  I liked the way I looked and felt when exercising regularly, but all it took was a few days of lapsing from my routine for me to end up completely inactive for months on end.

Then I met my current boyfriend.

An avid marathon runner, triathlete, sometime personal trainer and weight-lifter – with the kind of dedication I have yet to witness in another human being; my boyfriend of almost 2 years (who I’ll be referring to affectionately as ‘Papa Smurf’ due to his unfortunately short stature) well and truly kicked my ass into gear.  My lazy couch-dwelling days are now a distant memory.

It all started when we had been seeing each other for a few months.  I’d just moved from London to Korea, and my daily 2-3 hour commuting bike rides were a thing of the past.  I quickly began to see changes in my body and fitness levels, and realising I had to do something, I decided to train for a half marathon.  Having never run before, I enlisted the help of good old Papa Smurf in preparing a training plan for me, which I followed religiously.  After months of training (and a fair few hours of complaining, I will admit), I completed the 2010 Seoul half marathon, and felt fantastic!

I’ve been exercising almost daily ever since.   However, I will readily admit that were it not for the Master of Dedication religiously carrying out his exercise regime every day and unintentionally making me feel like I’d be the laziest human to walk the planet if I didn’t follow suit; then I’m not sure whether I’d be quite so fit.

But alas, he does, and I am, and so I will therefore now attempt to share what I have learned with the masses.  Expect some inspiring exercise tips, and some facts and statistics that will hopefully spur you into action, one way or another.

I firmly believe that no matter your age, sex, current fitness level or physical limitations, you can find a way to be active – and reap the health benefits in the process.  It’s also been proven that regular exercise can be a huge help in beating conditions such as depression (we all know by now about those ‘happy hormones’ they call the endorphins, right?!)

So if increased happiness isn’t a nice side effect of getting active, I don’t know what is!

To your long and healthy lives,

Claire

Gearing up to run my first half marathon!

Introduction to Nutrition – My Story

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So, it may seem like an obvious question, but here it is anyway: “Why ‘nutrition’ as a category for this health blog?”

Well, I’m a big believer in the old adage, ‘you are what you eat’, and have grown more and more involved in the world of food in the past few years, both out of genuine interest, and also out of necessity.  Let me share a little of my own story with you:

Throughout 2010 and int0 2011, I lived and travelled in Asia.  Much as I myself LOVED the experience (and especially enjoyed sampling the amazing variety of foods on offer in each place I visited), my stomach definitely did NOT love that period in my life, and decided to punish me constantly.  What began as a little bit of bloating now and then became a daily battle with extreme uncontrollable bloating, stomach cramps, low energy, vomiting, muscle weakness, depressed mood swings – and we won’t even mention the random bowel issues….   I hit rock bottom when, during a trip to China, I vomited and then fainted right in front of around 1000 tourists, right in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing.  Very attractive.

After moving to Australia in 2011, I decided enough was enough and that I had to find out what was causing my problems.  That was 6 months ago and I am making a lot of progress, however am still not yet completely back to normal.

My first stop was an alternative health doctor, specialising in allergies and intolerances, who was recommended to me by some friends who’d has successful diagnoses and had seen all of their symptoms disappear within a fortnight of seeing this guy.  “A year’s worth of problems, gone in 2 weeks?!”  I thought.  I had to give it a go.  The consultation involved some aspects of kinesiology (tuning into the ‘energy’ of the body) – I was asked to place different foods in my hand, and then the doctor measured the strength of my muscles by asking me to push his arm (to see which foods caused my body and muscles to weaken).  It seemed a little strange at first – especially as I felt no difference in strength with the first 20 or so foods that were placed in my hand.  But just as I was beginning to feel cocky, and thinking that I was clearly some kind of medical marvel with no food a match for my superior muscle strength; I was faced with my now nemesis:  wheat.  The second that tiny piece of wheat was popped onto my skin, I was completely transformed – unable to cause the slightest movement in the doctor’s arm, no matter how hard I tried.  “If that tiny piece of wheat on my hand can have that much of an effect, then just imagine what it’s doing to me when I put large amounts of it directly into my body” I thought.

In that same consultation, I also discovered I had a weakness to (drumroll please): garlic, onion, egg, cow’s milk, sulphites and preservatives.

I headed home feeling pretty damn depressed that I could no longer eat garlic bread or brie, whilst at the same time feeling elated that I had finally found the cause of ‘all of my problems’ and looking forward to being ‘free in a fortnight’.

To cut a long story short, I cut out all of the baddies in my diet, and began to see a slight improvement – mainly in my energy levels and (ahem) bowel movements…  However, it was by no means the end of my journey, and after two long weeks, daily bloating was still a part of my life.  I was sick of looking 6 months pregnant every single day, and feeling permanently uncomfortable (especially as I was only 26 years old and otherwise fit, healthy and slim), and so there began my constant quest to find out more about how the food we eat affects our bodies.

Through this blog, I’ll be sharing some of the (I think) really interesting things I’ve discovered so far, as well as giving more information as I find it.

In the last few months I been having regular visits to a ‘mainstream’ doctor -I’ve had blood samples taken (no cancer found – phew), ultrasounds (no problems with my kidneys, ovaries or uterus) and been given tablets to stop my stomach producing any acid (I’ve now stopped taking these as I’ve found that adjusting my food was far more beneficial than taking the tablets).  After all of those tests, the doctor simply told me to “live with” the problem, and that some people are just digestively challenged – simple as that.  All the doctors seemed to recommend was medication – there was no talk of nutrition or prevention, which saddened me.  After fighting for it, I’m now booked in for a colonoscopy and gastroscopy (woohoo – sooo excited about those!!  Not.) And as well as cutting out all of the food mentioned above, I’m now on a gluten free, highly alkaline diet, with no citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes or any fruit that comes in a can.  I’m also supposed to avoid any spices or cocoa, but am mostly failing in that respect!

On a positive note, one of my biggest discoveries on this journey has been how much our bodies can benefit from eating a vegan diet.  I am now completely vegan (I couldn’t eat eggs or dairy anymore anyway – so the only major thing left to cut out was meat/fish!) and feel fantastic about my decision, and my subsequent diet.  I’m excited to share lots of vegan tips, advice, information and recipes through this blog too! I have also learned a lot about ‘food combining’ and have noticed a great deal of difference since I began eating foods in the right ‘combinations’ – I’ll also share information about that.  To top it all off, I also drink no alcohol anymore (hoping I can re-introduce a little of it at some point!!) and only drink filtered or mineral water.

I’m now down to bloating just a couple of times a week, and not nearly as severely as I was previously; and I have a whole lot more energy.  The times when I do get sick are usually also the times when I think “Screw it!” and eat something I know I’m not supposed to 😉

Going through all of these digestive struggles, I have met soooo many other people who suffer from similar (and also far worse) ailments, and have seen first hand how a change in diet can affect a person’s entire life.  Even people who do not exhibit any ‘symptoms’ of ill health can vastly benefit from a greater understanding of the effect that the food they eat is having on their bodies and minds.

I have realised how important it is to really be aware of exactly what is going into the food that we are buying, and now check food labels carefully.  Removing preservatives in my diet was particularly eye-opening – I had no idea so much rubbish was pumped into so many foods!!

I have also read a number of studies which have been conducted on the world’s longest living communities; and the links between the nutrition of those people and their general health and longevity are astounding.  Examples and explorations will be shared here too.

I really believe that when it comes to health, prevention is better than cure.  And I certainly think that food and nutrition is a very good place to start.  If you would like to know how to prevent (or help to reverse) conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, skin conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, and many many other common ailments – then it is my sincere hope that the information contained in this blog can help you on your way to doing so.

Look forward to having you join me on this journey!

🙂

So What Will I Be Blogging About??

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So What Will I Be Blogging About??

So I’m initially aiming to blog once per week, and then hopefully I can increase that as time goes on.  I’d love to include as many videos as possible too, so watch this space for those!!

As mentioned in all the info sections, I’ll be blogging in 6 distinct categories – these are the broad areas of life which I believe can see us happily through into old age, when we make sure we pay attention to them.

Here’s a brief overview of the types of entries you can expect:

Nutrition – Recipes, cooking tips, information on the nutritional value of different foods, intolerance information and advice, discussions about various eating plans, focus on different ‘superfoods’, vegan help, case studies, food combining help, disease prevention information, cooking for kids, at-home ‘farming’ tips – and anything else I can think of!!

Exercise – Tips, sample exercises, demonstrations, body information, the link between exercise and disease prevention, reviews of classes/dvds, video workouts which you can follow….

Sleep – Sleep information and advice on its benefits, many tips and case studies regarding how you can enjoy the best night’s sleep every night, discussions on the link between sleep and weight, reviews of various sleep techniques and equipment (special pillows, hypnosis cds, etc)

Relationships – Not just the romantic kind!  This section will focus on the relationships we cultivate with others in our lives, and the effect these have on our health and happiness.  I’ll be looking at topics such as: the link between our (and society’s) relationship with older people and the way we age; how to surround ourselves with the people who will add to our lives, rather than sap our energy; and how to forge happy and healthy relationships with those around us. Importantly, I’ll also be looking into our relationships with ourselves.

Relaxation – I believe that everyone needs to relax!!  I’ll be exploring classic relaxation methods such as meditation, massage, tai chi, etc., as well as looking at ways in which we can all lighten our workloads and inject some rest and relaxation effortlessly into our daily lives.  I’ll also discuss my findings regarding how we can reduce our working hours, organise our tasks more effectively and do more of the things that excite us and make us feel all warm inside.

Learning – Here I’ll be looking at the link between learning/brain activity and the ability to remain young well into retirement.  I’ll be exploring things such as ‘brain training’ type activities, as well as looking at case studies of people who have successfully kept learning throughout life – and have loved it!  I hope to interview inspirational people, as well as exploring and sharing other little inspirations with you.

My hope with this blog is that is helps you all focus a little on each of these categories, and apply the tips that you enjoy into your own lives.  I would love to generate as many discussions as possible and I welcome comments!!  My main reason for starting this blog (I have never blogged before) is simply to share what I have been discovering in my own personal life experience.  I have found out so much in such a short space of time that has made me think, “Wow – why doesn’t everyone know this??!” or “Why hasn’t anyone told me about this before??” and I would love to help other people make those discoveries.  If just a few people find that my explorations help them to make positive changes in their lives, and in turn, live longer and with greater health and happiness, then I will be so happy!!!

I also hope to be light hearted and as amusing as possible 😉

To your long and healthy lives.