Working from home (continued)

Here are more tips and tricks for turning your home office into a space that is inviting and pleasant to work in.  As you know, the body, just like the mind, can get exhausted from working too hard and/or long hours.  Your eyes can also tire and take strain; especially when we are looking at a computer screen or cell phone screen, for hours on end.  Taking a break from looking at your screen all the time and just looking up, away at something else, will instantly relax your eyes.  Eyestrain is one of the many complaints that people complain about today.  Your eyes’ muscles also get tired, so make sure to take a break every 30 minutes – 1 hour.  When you start to see double or your eyes are red and/or painful, then stop working!  Taking care of your eyes are vital; instead of overworking both your eyes and mind, stop, put off the laptop and rest.  This is also important for children, as their eyes are still growing and, too much time spent on a phone or tablet, can cause eye problems.  Teach them to take regular breaks as well.  Remember; tomorrow is another day.

Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is part of the modern world.  Already in 2011 radio frequency wireless radiation was classified as a Class 2B carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  What to do?  First option is to create a distance between yourself and the device(s); second option is not to spend hours and hours in front of the computer or on your phone – easier said than done, you might think!  A great advice, given by an internet expert, was to keep the wi-fi (wireless rooter) in another room; far away from you.  When you go to bed at night, put it off, as the rooter still emits dangerous radiation-levels.  The same goes for your mobile phone.  Instead of keeping it next to your bed, place it either in the room next door or on a table/chair standing quite far away from your bed.  Even when you put your phone on silence, it is still emitting radiation that can interfere with your sleeping pattern.  Luckily today there are many shielded boxes, filters, covers and so forth, on the market, that will help minimize the radiation.  Using certain crystals placed around your laptop can also help a lot.

The blue-spectrum light of your phones and computers has been associated with insomnia, hormone imbalances, eye damage and other health problems.  Switch your phone’s blue-spectrum light to an anti-blue screen filter, swap your kindle for a notebook or workbook or, better yet, read an “old-fashioned” book instead.  For those of you who do not get enough sunlight or go out into the sun enough, make sure to take vitamin D as a supplement.  It is vital for your immune system and keeps depression at bay!  Fluorescent lights are not the best choice for an office.  Rather opt for natural light (if possible) or use incandescent-lights, like standing lights, desk lamps, and so on.

Colour is magic and can make or break the mood and production-levels in the office.  Green is a wonderful colour to incorporate into your office.  Not only is it the colour of nature, fresh air and plant life, but it is also correlated to broader thinking and creativity.  Soft green, like pink, is very calming, while wood tones and blues can reduce anxiety and promote balance.  Green is also “easy on the eyes,” thus wonderful for tired eyes!  According to Feng Shui, red, orange and yellow are great options in an office, as it keeps you activated, energized and increases mental alertness.  However, as with all colours, having too much of a specific colour in a room, can make you agitated and irritable more than usual, so make sure not to use bold, warm colours in excess.  A pop here and there is quite alright, but one doesn’t want to leave the office feeling you are unable to “switch off” either.

Just a last note on colour.  A study found that a soft yellow-colour is great if you feel stressed or socially isolated.  Blue is great for creative-jobs.  The famous French painter, Claude Monet, painted his workspace yellow and furnished it with different accents of blue.  When he was asked why, he replied that yellow stimulated his mind and blue helped him to stay calm and focused.

Room temperature plays a huge role in productivity.  When a room is too hot or too cold, you tend to either be easily distracted or not very productive.  Your normal, internal body temperature ranges between 20 – 24 °C (68 – 75.2 F), so keeping the air conditioning on 22 °C (71.6 F) is the best option. Even if your work becomes mundane (as routines do), having a space that is inviting and beautiful to look at, then work becomes pleasant and productivity soars.  Even just a small change, like a new cushion or chair, can change the whole atmosphere of a room.  Enjoy your space and happy work days!

Working from home

Whether you have been working from home for as long as you can remember; or whether you have started working from home recently, there are many ways to create a space for yourself that gives you the peace and quiet that you need.  In today’s blog post, I want to look deeper into elements that you can either place inside your office, or use that are already there, to create a calm, yet productive home office space. 

The 2 most important items in your office are an ergonomic working surface and a good chair to sit on.  Ergonomics refers to the design factors in a workspace that intends to maximize productivity by minimizing fatigue and discomfort.  A good chair will not contribute to back, neck, shoulder strain or any other injuries.  It should be at a comfortable height (preferably one that can be adjusted), with a good back rest.  The desk and chair should either have a window on the side or in front (depending of course of the lighting) and you should be facing the door / entry way.  in Feng Shui this is known as the “seat of power.”  This positioning provides a sense of protection (as the wall is behind you), as well as a psychological safety and confidence.  A high-backed chair supports your back and on a psychological level the chair “anchors” you.  This is called “Black Warrior” in Feng Shui.

When we are sitting for long periods at a time, we tend to slouch when we become tired.  A ventilation-tray underneath your laptop, which you can lift up, is an easy way to not only lift your screen so that you can look straight ahead and type easier.  It also keeps your laptop cool.

A sit-stand desk is another good investment.  Working like this have been linked to better performance, better engagement and less fatigue and lower-back problems.  Not everybody will be able to work like this for long periods at a time, thus I would suggest to alternate between sitting down and standing.  Just make sure that your laptop is at eyelevel and not too low, otherwise you have to stand with a bent neck and this can create stress in your upper back, shoulders and neck-areas.  Standing or sitting with a bent neck also cuts off oxygen, so do make sure to keep a gap between your chin and your throat.  Stretching and taking short breaks during the day are great ways to get energy back, as well as undoing any tightness body, caused by sitting down or standing for long periods of time.

Making use of the biophilic design-concept in your workspace is another, easy way to create serenity.  This is a concept that is used in building design and interior decorating, in order to increase connectivity between yourself and the natural environment.  The idea is that you connect with nature (either directly by looking out into nature, or by bringing nature inside).  For example, using natural, chemical-free and low-toxic materials for walls, furnishings, flooring, are much healthier options. Pictures of nature on the walls are great ways to bring nature inside, as well as indoor plants.  Indoor plants not only make the space look more serene, but the plants also purify the air.  If it is possible use natural light and natural air; open the windows instead of using aircon all the time.  When it is cold and you need to use heating, make sure to put a bowl of water close to your radiator to help keep the air moist. 

Of course it is a bonus if you can look out at a beautiful view!  A pleasant view is not only something beautiful to look at, but it does wonders for the psyche as well.  In the 1980s Roger Ulrich did a research on hospital patients and found that, if they have a pleasant view, it reduces stress and aids in the healing process as well.  If you don’t have a beautiful view, make sure to put a flower box in your window.  If you don’t have a window, hang a beautiful nature-scene on your wall.  Ulrich has found that even pictures of nature can calm and relax a person.  Another easy way to connect with nature, is to get outside.  Whether you have your lunch-break outside in a park, or whether you just go for a walk; stretching your legs and taking a break is not just good for the body but also the mind and spirit.  Re-charging your batteries, so to speak, is a great way to get you through the afternoon.  If you tend to experience a slump in your energy-levels in the afternoon, make sure to drink water, and nibble on some nuts and/or fruit to give you the extra boost of energy (stay clear of crisps and sweets, as it creates a big dip in sugar levels).

As I have mentioned earlier, good ventilation and indoor plants are wonderful ways to keep oxygen circulating.  As we know, many synthetic chemicals like glue, paint, detergents, and so on, are not good to our bodies.  If you cannot open a window to let natural air come in, do make sure to place on / more indoor plants in your office.  Here are a few plants that is wonderful in cleaning the air and increase oxygen-levels inside your office:

Devil’s Ivy (Pothos / Golden Pothos) (Epipremnum aureum) fights off common household toxins, that grows easily in hanging baskets, water and pots. The toxins that this plant help to remove are Benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene;

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) are easy to grow and to look after.  Their leaves are a rich, glossy green colour.  All it needs is water once a week and fertilizer in springtime, when their beautiful white (sometimes green) flowers bloom. The toxins it removes is Formaldehyde;

Philodendron is a heart-shaped plant that are relatively easy to look after.  All that they need is a moderate amount of water and bright, indirect sunlight. Toxins removed are Formaldehyde and xylene;

Snake Plant / Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifisciata) is a succulent plant that can grow up to 2 metres.  It is low maintenance that is hardy and thrives in a space that offers bright, even direct, light for a couple of hours a day.  Do be careful not to overwater this plant as it thrives in dry conditions. Toxins that is removed by this plant are Formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene and xylene.

PS: Before you buy your plant, do make sure that it is not toxic to small children and pets.  The Philodendron and Spathiphyllum are mildly toxic to animals as well as small children.  The Spider plant is non-toxic.

There are many easy-to-follow tips that can change a dull, dark workspace into an inviting space.  You don’t have to break the bank to create a working space at home.  Even a lick of paint, a picture or a plant, a colourful cushion, can change the whole aesthetics of the room.  When a room – even your home office – is inviting, then you want to spend time there, you want to be productive and you most certainly would enjoy the space.  Happy workdays everybody!

Collagen

Collagen is a fibrous type of protein that contributes to ageing.  There are more than 16 types of collagen, which occur naturally in the body.  It makes up around 30% of the total amount of protein in the body and, in combination with elastin, it connects and supports bodily tissues.  These tissues are your skin, bone, tendons, muscles and cartilage, as well as the internal organs.  It is also present in the hair, nails and teeth. 

Collagen is an important element in the body but, as we age, the body produces less and less.  It starts around the age of 30 and accelerates in our 40s; leading to the visible and invisible signs of ageing, for example fine lines, wrinkles, dry and/or sagging skin, and aching joints.  Although the decrease in collagen is a natural process, it can be sped up by other factors, such as pollution, too much UV-exposure and certain lifestyle choices.

Collagen-loss affects different parts of the body, for example:  one of the first signs is firmness of our skin.  Collagen provides this and, as it decreases, our skin becomes dryer and thinner; therefore, signs of ageing become more visible.  Another sign of collagen decreasing, is our hair and nails.  Balding, thinning and weakness of hair start to occur.  Hair and nails are made up of primarily keratin, which creates stronger and more resilient hair and nails.  Keratin not only strengthens our nails but also protects them from damage and infections. As collagen decreases our nails can become more brittle and break more easily. Just an added note here: calcium and magnesium are just as important for strong bones and nails as collagen (hence you will notice that it is added in collagen-supplements ).

Our bones, joints and muscles also use collagen in order to stay strong and healthy.  As collagen decreases, bones can become weaker and more fragile – important to make sure to add the right amount of minerals and vitamins to your daily diet.  As we age, our joints wear and tear (especially if we did ballet, sport or any active activity).  Cartilage can decrease / thin out over the years, especially around knees, hips, wrists and backs.  Staying active regardless of your age is not important – it is vital – as movement keeps the joints lubricated.  Even just walking regularly, at a comfortable but not too slow pace, is good; as long as you keep moving!

There are a tremendous number of muscles inside the body, ranging from short to long, connecting and protecting the skeletal system.  As mentioned before, the decrease in collagen can cause a decrease in muscle strength and function.  This can affect our balance, gait and overall mobility; that is why it is so important to keep moving and making sure your diet consists of the right foods and/or the right supplements.

Collagen have many benefits:  it improves skin hydration, firmness and elasticity; it keeps the bones and connective tissues strong, flexible and healthy; it strengthens the arteries; it helps to build lean muscles and promotes muscle recovery; and it regulates sleep patterns.  Collagen is an important protein and, from what you can see, used in many parts of the body.  Although it decreases as we age, all is not lost, because there are many good supplements of collagen on the market today.

Lastly, I want to let you in on a few interesting uses of collagen.  Did you know that collagen is used in food, medicine and manufacturing?  For thousands of years collagen was used as a glue and even today, it is used to manufacture strings for musical instruments.  In food, collagen is heated to create gelatine and used as casings for sausages and in medicine it is used as a filler in plastic surgery and dressing severe burns!

So, ladies and gents, we cannot stop ageing, but we can help our bodies to age better by looking at our diet, making sure to exercise no matter what our age and to take a good collagen-supplement if need be. instead of dreading the thought of ageing, we should embrace it with gratitude, a positive attitude and help from Mother Nature!

Muscle-rebalancing

Our bodies are amazing; every organ, muscle, tendon, bone, and so on, work in unison.  If one part of the body is out of alignment, then it can trigger a range of discomforts, ranging from stiffness, soreness and even cause bones to be pulled out of alignment (sciatica-spasms).  Stretching and massaging can help, but also an easy-to-do technique called energy balancing technique.

When you massage or stretch a muscle you not only want to get rid of the acid build-up (happening after a workout or stress).  You also want to wake the muscle up, so that it can “let go” of the tightness / stress.  If you struggle to release tightness, then place your fingers on either side of the muscle, where it attaches to the moving and non-moving bones.  Gently juggle / rub the ends of the muscles in order to “wake it up.”  An overworked / strained muscle not only becomes stiff and painful, but it can also interfere with circulation and the lymphatic system.  This turns off the muscle’s strength and causes minute tearing of the fibres.  Unlike muscles, fibres (which connect the muscles to the bones), cannot stretch and contract.  Thus, when muscles are overworked / tight, the fibres tear, to help protect the muscle.  In turn, the tearing causes stiffness and pain. 

Massaging the area can help tremendously, but take care not to put too much pressure on the area, as this can cause more damage.  It is always good to massage an irritated area for a short period, then leave it to “settle” and rather come back later.  Therefore, make sure to always go to a well-qualified masseuse or be careful when doing it at home. If a massage doesn’t work, then the spindle cell mechanism and the Golgi tendon apparatus might just do the trick. 

The spindle cell mechanism is located in the belly of the muscle and senses the relative length of muscle fibres, which then sends the information into the nervous system.  By firmly pressing toward the muscle’s ends with your thumbs, begin in the centre of the muscle and stretch it.  This stretches the spindle cell receptors and they send a message to the brain – “muscle is too long.”  The brain replies by sending more nerve impulses to the muscle, causing it to tighten / become shorter.  This method can also be used in reverse in order to release a cramp / spasm; simply press together in the direction of the muscle fibres, in order to shorten the belly of the muscle.

The Golgi tendon apparatus is located in the tendons at either end of a muscle.  Receptors occur along the origin and insertion of the muscle.  To have an affect on the muscle’s tone, simply place your fingers along the origin as well as the insertion of the muscle.  Press firmly back and forth along the direction of the muscle fibres.  If the muscle has been strained and too much tension has been put on the tendons, the Golgi apparatus will have sent a message to the brain to warn it of the danger of tearing tendons.  The brain, in turn, will turn off the energy to that particular muscle in order to avoid injury.  It can happen that the tendons have pulled slightly away from the bone and, by using this technique, it can help the tendon to reattach again properly.  Once this is done, then the muscle can resume its normal function again and, in turn, the “apparatus” has been reset.

Our bodies are amazing and if we take care of it, it can heal completely.  Harmony and balance are key to having optimum functioning of the body as a whole. Just like a car, our bodies need a “service,” whether it is a regular massage, relaxing in a warm bath or stretching properly (add to that warming-up properly before exercising as well), it needs to be taken well care of.  More often than not, we take our ability to use our limbs, eyes, ears, and so on, for granted.  Yet when we are injured / hurt, we quickly realize the importance of not only being careful, but also to listen to our bodies and taking care of it.

PMS – a blessing or a curse?

One of the major causes of PMS is high oestrogen levels.  When oestrogen is more dominant, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your body produces too much oestrogen.  It simply means that your oestrogen levels are higher than your progesterone levels.  Many women and young ladies suffer from PMS and, depending on the severity, it can be something many dislike – and that is understandable.  But have no fear, because in this week’s blog post, I am going to look at a few supplements that you can add (if not taking it already), to alleviate the symptoms.

A healthy gut is one of the best ways to keep PMS-symptoms at bay.  Excess oestrogen, which is excreted by the liver into the bile, is usually eliminated through the bowels.  When the digestive system is sluggish, the excess oestrogen can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal tract.  To help alleviate the problem, add more fibre (wholewheat, fruits and vegetables) to your diet and make sure to drink enough water.

Calcium D-Glucarate helps detox the liver by splitting off into glucaric acid.  This acid binds to toxic substances, ushers them into the urinary tract, and assists in expelling the excess oestrogen. Magnesium plays an important role when it comes to the optimum functioning of your cells.  Magnesium should be taken together with calcium, in the evening, when the body absorbs it best.  Unfortunately, due to our farming methods, many food sources are depleted when it comes to vitamins and minerals.  It is always great when you can eat organically, but if not, then make sure to get a good supplement that combines calcium and magnesium.  Magnesium not only supports hormones (which in turn affects PMS and menstruation), but it is also important for bone health.

When taking the above in supplement-form, do remember to take Calcium and Magnesium together, at night.  Not only does the body absorb it better, but calcium cannot be absorbed without magnesium, and vice versa. Both calcium and magnesium are good to keep cramps and spasms at bay, but it also aids in muscle-health as well.

Omega 3-oil is known to reduce PMS-symptoms.  Fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and krill, are high in omega oils and antioxidants.  If you don’t eat fish, then make sure to get a good omega 3-supplement and take that regularly (or as prescribed).  Olive oil on your salad instead of salad dressing is another easy way to add more healthy oil to your diet.  Nuts also contain Omega oils; a handful of different types of nuts are more than enough.  Hemp is another good source of omega-3, 6- and 9. Bonus of adding these essential fats to your diet, is that it will give you a boost in energy levels, control inflammation, as well as aiding in great hair, skin and nails.

Vitamin B, especially B1 and B2, help to reduce PMS-symptoms.  Vitamin B6 and especially B12, are crucial when you eat red meat.  Not eating red meat will make you anaemic because iron is mostly found in red meat.  However, it can also be found in legumes like lentils and dark green leafy vegetables.  If you still find your food is not supplying you with the right amounts, add a good quality vitamin B-supplement (B-complex) to your shopping trolley, or ask your pharmacist or medical practitioner for a B-injection.  Iron is a vitamin B-ingredient.  As mentioned above it is important to add a supplement to your diet if you are a vegetarian / vegan.  However, if you have heavy and/or long periods, or experience abnormal fatigue, have your iron-levels checked in order to find the right solution for you.   

Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, is needed to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin and melatonin (the sleep-better hormone).  Tryptophan is first converted into 5-HTP, then into serotonin.  Supplementing with Tryptophan / 5-HTP will not only boost serotonin- and melatonin production, but it will also help to reduce carbohydrate-cravings and control your appetite.

Herbology is also helpful but, before you use any of the following, please consult with your health practitioner first.  St John’s Wort, Evening Primrose Oil, Ashwagandha, Black Cohosh, Wild Yam and Dong Quai, are all helpful in relieving PMS-symptoms, discomfort and/or pain.  Take care when using St John’s Wort as it can interfere with the contraceptive pill.  Ashwagandha is used to help fight stress.  Long-term stress not only affect the production of sex hormones but also worsens PMS.

Essential oils like Clary Sage, Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, Cypress, Bergamot and Geranium, alleviates PMS-symptoms and helps you to relax.  Lavender is also widely used to alleviate headaches; simply rub lavender drops onto your temples, as well as for relaxation (spray some lavender on your pillow or take a bath / shower with lavender oils).

Tissue salts are salt that is a natural substance in our cells.  Natrum Muriaticum (Nat. Mur), Natrum Sulphate (Nat. Sulph) and Kali Phosphate (Kali. Phos), have got many benefits; including alleviating PMS, fatigue, water retention and moodiness.  Magnesium Phosphate (Mag. Phos) works wonders for cramps and spasms.

Practising meditation / mindfulness, as well as getting some exercise, not only helps with PMS-symptoms, but in lifting your mood and helping you to relax.  Getting rid of stress is vital; not only this time of the month, but every day of every month.  Stress can cause havoc on your digestive system, your hormones, as well as your household!  Practising mediation / mindfulness will help with stress-relieve as well as coping with PMS-symptoms.  Going for a walk or doing gentle exercises like yoga-stretches or swimming, is a good way to lift your mood.

Last, but not least.  If you feel you need to rest, then rest; even if it is just taking a “cat-nap” of 10 – 20 minutes.  A warm bath with lavender or Epsom salts, herbal teas and/or a hot water bottle placed on your tummy-area, are other ways to alleviate cramps and/or pain.

PMS is not something one looks forward to every month, but when you live a healthy, holistic life, then coping with and dealing with PMS becomes easier and much more manageable.  Try some or all of the above but, if all else fails, speak to your health practitioner.  How you feel about it, what you think about it and how you manage it, can make life easier or difficult.  Take care and make sure to listen to your body! 

Hormone health

As we age our body’s hormonal function starts to decline.  Hormonal imbalance is not just caused by menopause or a hysterectomy, for example, but can also be due to other factors.  For example, stress, food sensitivities, “leaky gut,” nutrient deficiencies, not sleeping well or lack of sleep, environmental toxins, any tension in relationships, as well as a refined carb-heavy diet.  Various symptoms are linked to hormonal imbalance:  hair loss, unexplained weight gain, mood swings and fatigue. 

Cortisol and Insulin play a huge part in hormonal functioning.  It is natural for the body to “switch off” these hormones as we age; however, it can happen earlier than expected, due to either one / more of the above-mentioned reasons, or because of a total hysterectomy (where the ovaries are also taken out).  The impact of these hormones on our overall health (and sanity), is quite important.  According to Dr. Anna Cabeca, adrenal insufficiency can occur.  During the first phase the body begins to metabolize the muscle-proteins and this causes fatigue, weakness and muscle pain.  It can also cause women to have cravings and experience sudden, unhealthy weight gain around the middle.

During the second phase more menopause symptoms kick in, because the adrenals are now impacting the balance of other minor hormones (for example oestrogen, progesterone and pregnenolone), in favour of creating more cortisol – the slowing down of the production of the thyroid hormone.  “leaky gut” can develop, as well as sleep issues, moodiness and isolating behaviours.  Hair loss, inflammation (causing joint pain), a decrease in immunity, a lack of libido and blood sugar issues, can all creep in!

The third phase is called adrenal hypo function.  Adrenal hypo function is when the adrenals no longer pump out the required cortisol-level, because our brain has decided to shut down the production of cortisol!  Why?  In order to protect itself from these high cortisol outputs.  Therefore, this feedback from the brain causes the adrenals to decrease the cortisol output as a defensive measure; causing our bodies to become more acidic and causing more inflammation.

Is there hope?  Yes, there is!  And I am not referring to the synthetic hormone replacement drugs.  There is a more natural way to take care of your body.  The first thing to do is to manage your cortisol levels…and the rest will follow.  Here are a few tips how to manage it:

  1. Eat a more alkaline-based diet.  There are many researches done that demonstrates that an acid-heavy diet (one consisting of many carbs, sugars and processed foods), elevate cortisol and insulin.  Research also found a strong connection between dietary acid load and the conditions of bone health, obesity, cardiovascular disease and overall well-being.  When you stick to a more alkaline-based diet it helps to restore the cortisol- and insulin-levels to healthier levels, plus it helps to reset your daily circadian rhythm, boosts your mood, decreases joint pain (inflammation), promotes better sleeping patters and helps you to lose weight.  An added bonus is that such a diet also help to reduce bone loss and improves muscle mass. An alkaline diet is a diet rich in vegetables (however, there are some that can be more acidic than others – that is for another blog post).  Meat, processed foods, sugar, dairy, caffeine and alcohol, on the other hand, is more acidic.  I will look into more detail in another blog, but for now, try to eat 80% alkaline and 20% acidic.
  • Drinking Maca.  Maca is an adrenal adaptogen, which helps to balance your adrenals and hormones.  However, please ask your medical practitioner first about it, especially if you are sensitive to certain foodstuffs or have allergies.
  • A healthy lifestyle is key; not just for your physical health, but also for your mental and emotional well-being.  Managing your stress better is the first step in the right direction.  Exercise, as you know, plays an essential role in stress management.  Whether it is a Yoga- or Pilates class, swimming or going for a walk; the key is to learn how to breathe properly and to learn to be mindful.  Meditation is another wonderful way of reducing stress levels and becoming more mindful.  After all, when you stress less, you accomplish more!
  • Try to reduce environmental-toxins as much as possible.  Avoid foods that have unnecessary additives and/or preservatives in, buy organic whenever you can and use beauty products that are free of parabens and phthalates.
  • Get more sleep!  When you are stressed it disrupts your sleeping pattern and there is nothing worse than not getting enough sleep.  So, learn how to meditate if you struggle to “switch off” at night.  Going to bed at the same time will help to restore your circadian rhythm.  Avoid caffeine and “screen-time” (whether it is from your laptop, cell phone or television), at least an hour before bedtime.  It is important to sleep in a dark room; so, turn off the lights and don’t forget to switch off your phone (or at least put it on silence).  Just an interesting note on cell phones.  A study indicated that, if your electronic device(s) are in your bedroom, your brain don’t switch off and go into the deep sleep needed for regeneration.  Why?  Because of the radiation.  Best to leave it in another room instead of the bedroom.  If not possible, put it on your dresser and not next to your bed.
  • Healthy bowel and healing your gut.  Healthy bowel movement is very important and can be maintained by eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains (grounded flax seed is also good).  However, if you suffer from allergies / sensitivities then do make sure to eat what your body is happy with.  Our gut has bacteria that needs to be in balance in order for us not to suffer from constipation, bloatedness and/or a “leaky gut.”  As mentioned before, a diet rich in alkaline foods is good, as well as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Drinking enough water is key, as is adding fermented foods, like yogurt, to your diet.
  • A low-carbs diet high in healthy fats.  We all know that eating plenty of refined sugars and starches not only plays havoc on our waistlines, but it can also spike our blood sugar and insulin levels.  Swap your white bread for brown, wholewheat or rye bread, for example.  Eating less butter and more olive oil, is another tip.  Coconut oil is good but do use in moderation as it is high in calories!  Avoid margarine at all costs – butter is far healthier. 

Small changes can add up and bring you big results.  So why not make a conscious decision, this year, to eat more healthy, drink more water, get exercise and, most importantly, get rid of and learn how to handle stress.  Put your laptops down, leave your phone at home and get out into nature – even if it is cold!  Reconnecting with nature, with oneself and with each other – the good old fashioned way – is a great way to relax and unwind.

New Year – does it mean new beginnings?

Whenever a new year begins, we tend to say / believe that it is a start of new things; a new beginning of sorts.  In many ways this is true, for example a new year can usher in changes like moving house, getting married or going on an overseas trip.  Yet, for me personally, each day is new – let me explain.  Most of us have a daily routine that we follow:  get up, have breakfast, get everyone ready, go to work, and so on and so on.  But have you ever noticed that no day is, in fact the same?

Yes, the sun comes up and sets in the same spot and, more or less at the same time (depending on the season of course)!  But look around you and notice that nature is constantly changing.  Clouds never look the same as the day before, nor do plants.  Today you might notice a new flower in your garden that wasn’t there before; tomorrow you might notice that the tree has started to shed its leaves.  The ocean is a wonderful example of the changes that happens all the time.  Even though the waves look the same, it is not.  Every grain of sand, every shell, that it pushes onto the shore, is different.  It always amazes me to look at nature and notice the various shades of a colour, for example green.  No plant’s colour is the same, no plant has the same patterns, no flower smells the same; no animal is the same.

When you realize that there is constant change and that change is the one thing in life that is constant, then every day becomes a new day, a new beginning as it were.  Going into this year, do not fret, stress or worry about your goals that you haven’t achieved last year.  Rather think of your goals as a to do-list.  Tick off the things you did and carry on with what is left.  If there is something like a goal, that you didn’t achieve or finish, let it go.  It is in the past.  You are now here, in the present, in the now; start here.  When you set a goal (s) it should never be something that is unattainable or unreachable.  It is better to take baby-steps and get there in the end, than trying to run so fast to get there, that you end up landing on your bum!

We are all on a journey; a journey where we need to grow spiritually and yes, to learn life-lessons.  Some of us will learn quickly; others will take a bit longer.  Whatever your goal (s) are for this year, make it your priority to not beat yourself up, nor be harsh on yourself if you haven’t reached your goal in a certain time-frame.  Time-frames are great tools to help us to stay focused, to stick to a routine and to hang in there.  However, time-frames should never restrict you from being yourself and enjoying life. 

A new year brings with it many opportunities to “write a new story,” to carry on working towards your goal, or setting a new goal.  Whatever you want to achieve this year – go for it, stay positive, stay focused and remember, every day is a new day; every day is a blessing.  Enjoy the ride, enjoy the journey and remember:  be kind to yourself and always smile!

End of another year

As we come to another end of another year, many of us are probably at a place in our lives where we realized that change is inevitable and that there are things in life that we don’t have control over.  Therefore, I want to re-visit and look at a few pointers that I feel can take us forward into the new year. 

We are, according to astrologers and esoteric thinkers alike, entered into the Aquarian Age.  An age where we realize that freedom is our human right, that being and staying healthy is what makes us wealthy, that family and friends are precious, and that we are all connected.  We are all part of a wider, bigger universe or Christ Consciousness; and we need to work together if we want to achieve peace and prosperity.  Aquarius is the water-bearer sign– water being the symbol of wisdom and knowledge.  Many people, at first, think Aquarius is a water sign, but it is in fact an air sign, which means that Aquarians use their thinking-cap instead of their emotions, when making decisions. Working with his / her intuition (gut feelings) are another trait of Aquarians.  Aquarius is also a fixed sign; which means that, once it has made up his / her mind up, it is done and not easily changed. Another trait is that it stands firm in his / her beliefs and has an attitude of “all or nothing” when it comes to relationships, work, setting goals, and so on.

Coming back to this year, and specifically focusing on health and fitness, the things to remember is never to give up, keep going and don’t be hard on yourself if things don’t work out the way you want(ed) it to.  When you want to exercise more, eat healthier or just be more open to forming new relationships, take it step by step and stay in the now.  Having a goal (or a list of to do) is a wonderful tool to use but do remember that it can take time to reach your goal.  Instead of rushing things, rather focus on the steps to take to get there.  It is often the people who start off by making small changes, that will stick to their goal than those who rush in and then give up.

Looking after our emotional- and mental health is also vital to help us stay positive, committed in our goal and in life in general.  When something, in this case, a year has ended, we should not beat ourselves up if we didn’t do / achieve all our goals.  Focus on what has been achieved, be grateful for getting this far and know that each day is a blessing.  When you can look at life and appreciate the simple things, life changes.  Nature is, as I have said in previous blogs, a wonderful healer, teacher and gift.

Nobody is certain about today; if there is one, big lesson to take with you, is to just be in the now, be in the present, breathe and let Divinity / God / Universe take care of the rest!  Like my granddad used to say: “if you worry, you die; if you don’t, you might also die!  So why worry?”  May all my readers have a blessed, healthy and happy 2021.  Chin up, stand up straight and shine your inner light into the world!

Healthy snacks for your dog and / or cat

Pets are part of the family; they are not just man’s best friend, but also loyal companions that gives love unconditionally – many lessons to be learnt from our animal friends.  So, why not treat them to some home-made snacks this festive season.

Here is a healthy recipe that you can make as a treat for your dog.  Just make sure to ask your vet if unsure and remember, it is a snack (treat) so don’t feed your dog everything at once!

2 cups wholewheat flour

½ cut smooth peanut butter (make sure is does not contain Xylitol, as this is toxic to animals)

2 eggs

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

¼ cup water; extra if needed

Mix the flour, peanut butter, eggs and parsley in a bowl until just combined.  Add water, little-by-little until the mixture comes together.  Roll out the dough (5 cm) and cut out shapes.  Place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes at 180*C (350*F).

This recipe makes about 36 treats and will stay fresh, in an airtight container, for a week.  The dough can easily be frozen to make the treats at a later stage.

Here is an easy-to-follow recipe for making home-made snacks for your cat:

1 tbsp Catnip (Optional)

1 cup All-purpose flour

1 tbsp Olive oil

1 10 oz can Tuna or Salmon

1 Egg

1 cup Old fashioned oats

Preheat your oven to 180*C (350*F).  Drain your canned tuna and reserve about 3 tbsp of the liquid.  Dump your old-fashioned oats into the food processor and pulse until powdery.  Add all of your ingredients in and pulse away until it forms a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit of water.

Once mixed, roll out the dough and cut out shapes.  Bake it for about 20 – 30 minutes until it is slightly golden and crisp on the outside.  If your cat prefers crunchier treats, you can bake it a bit longer.  Let it cool completely and store it in an airtight container.

To all my readers celebrating Christmas; have a blessed festive season!

The art, the gift, of giving

Christmas-time is a time for giving – but should it be the only time that we give presents?  Of course not; birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and many other times, are celebrated.  Life should be celebrated – to wake up every morning is a blessing; to be able to walk, to see, to hear, are all blessings.  Yes, when it is a special day or special time of the year, we tend to go the extra mile with presents and/or decorating the house.

In the old days, when there were far less shopping malls, people used to make their own gifts for each other.  Home-made preserves, biscuits, self-made portraits, knitted scarves, the list goes on…everyone made something by hand.  Today it is, I agree, much easier (and sometimes cheaper) to buy something; especially if it is something the person wants.  But I cannot help but wonder if a handmade gift doesn’t mean more?  Don’t get me wrong – no matter the gift – it is the intention behind the gift that counts.  When we give something with love, it is accepted with love.  Even just giving our time and energy can go a long way!

I love to watch a young lady, Catherine, on YouTube.  Her channel is called Dainty Dairies and she always have such wonderful ideas on how to make your own gifts by using things you already have and just upcycling it.  For example, you can take a tin or a jar, give it a brush of paint, and fill it with something sweet or salty.  Tie a ribbon around it and there you go! Or you can take old toilet rolls, give it a lick of paint and/or decoupage it, press the sides in and voilà, you have a small gift box to put some sweets in or anything small.

In our household we have decided, a few years back, that we are not going to spend a fortune on Christmas-gifts.  Instead, we give each other something that is on the wish list and instead, we spoil each other on our birthdays.  So, if you don’t know what to give, why not ask the person to give you a list of things and then choose from there?  Or, if you, like me, like to bake, why not bake something and put it in a beautiful tin?  The internet is full of ideas of DIY’s and I am sure there will be something to make for everyone; even if you are not a “handyman / handy girl” by nature!

At the end of the day, I do believe that it is not the amount of money spent on a gift that counts.  It is the time taken to make it (search for it), the love that went into it and the reason for giving it, that counts.  Time, energy and love are things that cannot be measured by money.  Giving is the exchange of energy and, when our intentions behind giving is filled with love, admiration and a sense of wanting to give, then it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter how big the gift is. To give something of yourself, whether made or bought, is what counts.  I personally don’t think that giving should only be limited to Christmas and birthdays.

Walking past someone and just smiling, going for a walk with someone you love, helping someone around the house, anything where you give of your time, love and energy, is giving.  The art of giving is to give without expecting something in return.  When you give someone something, then energy is exchanged and, whether you get something in return straight away or not, shouldn’t matter.  Sometimes a hug, a smile, a thank you, is enough!