Easy-to-do tips and tricks for hair, skin and nails

A while ago I wrote about things you can do at home to make your own lipstick, extend your make-up’s lifespan, and so on.  In this week’s blog post, I am delving into some more “do-it-yourself” tips, which I found in an old magazine (links to blogs will be added).

Hair hacks

Want to intensify your dark hair’s colour?  Simply mix some ground coffee into your conditioner and apply it to your hair like a mask.  Leave it in for as long as you like; the longer you let it soak in, the darker and richer your brunette colour would be


Would you like some curls?  Braid small sections of damp / wet hair, run a straightener over it, let it set for a while, then simply remove and voilà!  (@kouturekiss);

Is your hair limping and/or fine?  Try using beer as a hair mask.  The yeast in the beer will plump each individual strand, therefore thickening it and boosting volume.  Let a ½ cup of beer sit for a few hours until it has de-carbonated.  Mix it with 1 cup of water and use it as a shampoo.  Leave it on your hair for at least 5 minutes before rinsing it off.  Heads-up!  Use a non-alcoholic beer (Tohairwithlove.com).

Skin secrets

Struggling with blocked pores?  Why not use a soft cloth that has been warmed up by placing it over a clothing steamer?  Or you can brew some green tea, pour it into a bowl, then hold your face over it for a few minutes?  Green tea is high in anti-oxidants, which is wonderful for both external and internal use (Harpersbazaar.com.au);

When you apply blusher and bronzer, always keep the letters E and C in mind.  Using a brush, draw the letter E on each side of your face.  Start at the forehead, curving around towards your cheekbones, then back out towards your jawline.  Now apply the bronzer (illuminator) by drawing the letter C on each side of your face.  Stay close to your temples and, once this is done, blend everything in (Shesintheglow.com).

Tips for your eyes

Want to freshen up your mascara but are worried that it may clump if you put another layer on top?  No fear:  simply apply a small amount of Vaseline to your lashes, using your finger or a cotton bud.  The Vaseline will break up any clumps, soften your lashes, and make it easier for you to reapply the mascara (YouTube Elle Fowler);

The jury is still out on this one, but it is said that, applying white eyeliner as a base coat over your entire eyelids, will brighten your eyeshadow and bring out the colour (Politicsofpretty.com);

Wish you had thicker eyelashes?  Using a curler is one of the easiest ways.  However, you can also use baby powder!  Put a layer of mascara on (you can first curl your lashes or you don’t have to).  Then, by using a cotton bud, coat your lashes with a small amount of powder, then again mascara.  This will add length and volume to your lashes (according to Dogstagsdiapersanddiy.blogspot.com).


Using an exfoliator sponge like Bug-Puffs, cut it into a small piece and put Vaseline on.  Gently rub over your lips.  Your lips will be exfoliated and moisturized at the same time (Cultofpretty.com).  You can also use a toothbrush that you won’t use to brush your teeth with; just make sure to be gentle as the lips are very sensitive (bitesofwellness.blog.com);

Ran out of lipstick?  Mix blusher with any lip balm / lip ice and apply (Harpersbazaar.com.au).


Have a cracked nail that is ruining your manicure?  Try using a tea bag!  Tear off a section of the tea bag and place it over the crack in your nail.  File down excess material from the bag, apply a strong base coat over the nail and there you go!  The crack won’t turn into a break (Instagram @xovain).

An added tip

We all love a white, bright smile, but to have it professionally done not only cost a lot of money, but can damage your teeth permanently (as it interferes with the enamel on your teeth).  Instead, why not use a banana peel?  Simply rub the inside of the banana peel across your teeth, let the paste, which forms, sit for about 10 minutes, then brush your teeth.  A banana peel contains magnesium, potassium and manganese.  This will brighten and whiten your teeth in an easy way, without damaging your teeth’s enamel.

There are many ready-made products on the markets that promises instant beauty.  Before you use any of it, do research and check reviews of the products.  If in doubt, then rather leave it or try one of the abovementioned tips.  It might take a bit longer to get results, but as the saying goes; rather be safe than sorry!

Sound therapy

In last week’s blog post, I started to delve into sound therapy.  In this week’s post I am going to look deeper into what exactly it is and mention some of the different therapies used today. 

Sound therapy is based on the sympathetic resonance principle.  This principle is derived from the resonance / vibratory rate of an object.  In a nutshell; sympathetic resonance is when one vibrating object causes another to vibrate in harmony or match the others’ vibration-rate.  For example, when an opera singer sings a certain melody / note, that melody / note can shatter glass.  Another example is when a vehicle passes your house and the windows rattle.

Many of the older cultures still use sound therapy today as a form of treating an illness or dis-ease.  Xhosa women, Turkic races of Mongolia and Tuvia, Tibetan lamas all use people to sing more than one sound at once.  Using sound and intention, the vibrations of the sound / notes become faster at a cellular / molecular level.  This, in turn, raises the frequency and, the higher the rate of vibration, the larger spaces are created between the cells.  When this is less dense, negative / intrusive energies are prevented from sticking to the cells, thus, healing can occur much faster.

Today sound therapy is used by many healing modalities, including medical practitioners.  It is known to help for various ailments namely:  to relief anxiety, stress, improves concentration, enhances creativity, improves vision (both physically, mentally and spiritually), balances the brains’ hemisphere, restores equilibrium in the endocrine system, relieves headache- & sinusitis, induces an alpha brainwave / deep meditation-state, increases energy and balances the aura and chakras.  Therefore, it helps with the cleaning up of the organs and glands, clears your mind so that you can be more in tune with your intuition and can, according to research done by the late Edward Cayce, help with serious illness as well.

Interesting is that you can do sound therapy using your own voice.  Humming, chanting and toning are all ways to rebalance yourself.  When you are doing this, you become more relaxed and centred.  This is also an easy way to get more oxygen into the body as you deepen your breathing, due to the muscles becoming more relaxed and, in the end, it stimulates the flow of energy / breath. Remember how a song you like, uplifted you; especially when you were humming away? That is the same effect – music, like everything else, is energy and vibration.

Scientists did numerous studies and could prove that sound and music affect a person’s brainwaves, metabolism and physiological responses; creating profound cellular change.  Why?  Because the Universe is made up of a movement of energy and vibration; not just atoms and matter!  In a study about sound, it was proven that sound moves matter and create forms / shapes (snowflakes and raindrops all have patterns when you look at it under a microscope, as well as plant cells).  When beautiful music is played, the forms are beautiful, but when hard rock / heavy metal is played, the forms are all mis formed.  In Yoga and in meditation, the sound “om” is used as a way to relax the mind and body.  When looking at it closely, it forms a circle, that evolves into concentric squares and triangles! 

Everything we see and don’t see, think, feel and say, has a frequency.  Our bodies, organs and every living being, has cells that are made up of energy.  As explained in my previous article, when we are out of tune, we cause an imbalance in our bodies or, a dis-ease.  Diet and lifestyle, as well as our thoughts, words, and the music we listen to, can play a huge part.  In Yoga and other “alternative” practices we learn about chakras (energy bodies) that runs parallel to our spinal cord. 

These energy bodies transfer energy (also known as prana / chi) via the nadis and meridians to our organs, bones, skin, blood vessels, and so forth.  These chakras act as energy wheels / energy centres, that feds the whole body with life-force.  Most of you probable know that our bodies are made up of 70 – 80% water.  Sound travels much further under water than on land, thus, the sounds that dolphins and whales make can be heard miles and miles away from where the animals are.  These sounds penetrate on a cellular level and today, many people swim with dolphins as their sounds can produce healing and positive changes.  Lastly, scientist have proven that the memories that are stored in the body’s mitochondria, is a muffled sound and denser energy, whereas an overactive chakra has a hollow sound and is higher in volume.

Before ending today’s blog post, I quickly want to look at music therapy.  D. Lane (PhD) from Ohio, USA, noted that a 30-minute music therapy session boosts the immune system and increases salivary IgA.  Playing lullabies to new-borns in intensive care, not only relaxes them but premature babies are discharged up to 2 weeks earlier!  M. Thaut (PhD), Fort Collins, USA, noted that rhythmic music (where there is a 4/4 beat) is a powerful healing tool to treat Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, as well as strokes.

Whether it is music that you listen to, joining a drumming group, or going for Tibetan singing bowls-session, one thing is for certain.  Energy is all around us and it plays a huge role, not only in our healing and transformation-journeys, but also in the Universe and Nature itself.  When the music stops, we tend to think that that is the end.  However, it is not.  Those melodies penetrated our minds and bodies on an energetic, subtle way.  Energy vibrates for a much longer time after the last notes have been played or sung.  Therefore, when we use sound / music as a means of therapy, the effects stay with us for a longer period.

The power of sound

In many, if not all, ancient cultures, sound was used to convey a message, as part of a ceremony and for healing.  The Aborigines use sound to heal broken bones, for example.  In the Old Testament in the Bible, Joshua walked 3 times around the wall of Jericho while the people gave a great shout…the wall of Jericho came down!

Ok, you might think what?  How does it work?  Let me explain.  The Hermetic principles believe in the structure of creation.  Mentalism believes that all is in the mind; Vibration defines that everything is vibration; and Rhythm means everything flows.  Many, many years ago, a man by the name of Pythagoras studied this phenomenon and came to the conclusion that harmonies have mathematical relationships.  For example, 2:1, 3:2, 4:3 and these mathematical relationships are found in nature. 

Our universe is made up of energy and everything vibrates in an interaction of fundamental tones and harmonics.  Sound can change the shape of matter, for example an opera singer can break a glass with certain notes (harmonics).  In the ancient cultures, and today in Yoga and Meditation, mantras and/or chants are used.  Drumming, which I will delve in deeper in another article, has been shown to alter brain patterns; thus, expanding awareness.

More and more doctors are realizing, and waking up, to the fact that our bodies are also energy and not just “flesh and bones.”  Different parts of the body have different resonant frequencies that work as a unit.  If one of the parts is out of tune, so to speak, then disease or disharmony, sets in.  Illness or dis-ease (disharmony) begins in the subtle bodies, when negative thoughts, emotions, and programming take on a dense, crystallised form as energy patterns in the etheric energy-fields.  These etheric energy fields are the energy inside the body, the life force, so to speak, of each and every cell, molecule, blood vessel, organ, bone, and so forth.  When we become ill, the electromagnetic field inside the body becomes very dense and, by using sound, it gets dissolved and harmony or health, sets in again.

Look at it this way.  Our bodies are energy and each cell, organ, molecule, tissue, gland, bone, and so forth, vibrate to its own unique sound.  These unique sounds reflect the state of our physical body and our physical body reflects the state of our aura.  The sound (cymatics), that is used near the organism (cell or organ), for example, creates physical change within that organism and its electromagnetic field.  These changes might be subtle but it is very powerful and brings about a great amount of healing, as the sound penetrates much deeper, to cell level I would say, than other treatments.  Our bodies work in unison, as a unit.  When one of our body parts or organs are “out of tune,” then it affects the whole body – think of the last time you had a headache or was ill; then think of how the rest of your body and you’re your mood, were affected.  Your mood is what people “read” and when we have a dis-ease, it is noticeable even when you don’t say anything.

Using sound therapy (which I will go into more detail in my next article), it reminds me of the difference between stretching your body after exercising and going for a massage.  When you stretch, you feel good.  When you go for a massage (where the deep-seated muscles are also tackled), you feel great!

A few examples of medical practitioners turning to what some would call alternative medicine, are:  Mitchell Gaynor, MD, uses crystal bowls and Tibetan bowls in his practice with cancer patients; Sir Peter Guy Manners, MD (osteopath in the UK), uses cymatic therapy; and Jeffrey Thomson, DC, uses sonic induction therapy (primordial- and nature sounds), in his practice.

Ronald Beesly once said “There is more energy released in Sunrise and Sunset and times of rainbows than perhaps in any other way.” Maybe then, it is not such a bad idea to wake up when the sun rises, to be outside when the sun is setting and to really look at the rainbow!

Essential oils

Essential oils have been used for ages.  In ancient Egypt and China, you find records or these oils being used for various reasons.  There is no hard evidence of when it was being used in Egypt, but dates go back to around 3 500 BC.

What exactly are essential oils?  Essential oils are compounds that are extracted from plants. The oils capture the plant’s scent and flavour or “essence.”  These unique aromatic compounds give each oil its characteristic essence.

Essential oils are usually extracted by distillation; often using steam.  Other processes include expression, solvent extraction, manual extraction from the peel of an orange (for example), absolute oil extraction, resin tapping, wax embedding, and cold pressing. These oils are used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and other products.  Essential oils are also used for adding flavour to food and drink, and for adding scents to incense and household cleaning products.

There are many different essential oil brands and flavours on the market today, used by massage- and aromatherapy therapists and the general public alike.  I am going to look at a few, well-known essential oils today.

Carrier oils:  vegetable oils that are derived from the seeds, kernels or nuts from a plant.  Coconut oil, Apricot kernel oil, Jojoba oil, Grapeseed oil, Avocado oil, Rosehip oil, Almond oil, Olive oil, Arnica oil, Argan oil, Flaxseed oil, Broccoli seed oil, Evening Primrose oil, and others, are just some of the many different types of carrier oils.

Carrier oils are used, together with essential oils, to dilute the latter.  Due to its high concentration, essential oils can only be used in small amounts.  When you add a carrier oil, you can, when massaging, for example, cover the whole body without causing any skin irritation, when combining these oils.

Here are some of the above-mentioned carrier oils’ benefits:

Coconut oil:  moisturises dry skin, is anti-fungal and antibacterial;

Apricot kernel oil:  rich in vitamins A, B and E; can help to reduce skin inflammation;

Jojoba oil:  deeply nourishing, especially for dry skin; helps to balance the sebum;

Grapeseed oil:  protects the skin and assists in reduction of wrinkles and stretch marks;

Avocado oil:  rich in vitamins A, D and E; moisturizes dry, rough skin, hydrates skin, nails and hair;

Rosehip oil:  good for skin regeneration; treats scars and stretch marks;

Almond oil: contains antioxidants; easily absorbed;

Olive oil: contains healthy fatty acids, antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory;

Arnica oil: contains helenalin (an potent anti-inflammatory substance); antibacterial; fatty acids; can be used on its own to treat muscle ache, inflammation and help heal bruises;

Argan oil: contains omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic acid, antioxidants, vitamins A and E; good for skin and hair;

Flaxseed oil: relieve common skin disorders like eczema; improves skin’s elasticity and texture; full of omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-lineic acids (which helps to reduce inflammations)

Broccoli seed oil: moisturizer; filled with omega 3-, 6- and 9 fatty acids; high in antioxidants; reduces dryness and promotes healthy hair

Evening Primrose oil: anti-inflammatory; improves nerve function and skin’s elasticity.

Essential oil-examples:

Lavender oil:  many benefits, including aiding sleep and relaxation, relieving headaches, reduces itching and swelling when applied topically;

Rose oil:  high in antioxidants; can aid in treating acne and improving overall skin complexion;

Hyssop oil:  it can help to minimize scarring, reduce inflammation and also acts as an overall healing agent;

Grapefruit oil:  extracted from the peel, grapefruit oil is known for its anti-fungal properties that can help to reduce harmful bacteria on the skin;

Lemon oil:  uplifting oil; loaded with antioxidants that helps to reduce swelling;

Peppermint oil:  popular cooling oil; assist in muscular tension, sunburn and skin rashes;

Roman Chamomile oil:  another companion of the well-known chamomile oil, roman chamomile assists in treating skin conditions like inflammation and eczema;

Tea tree oil:  probably one of the most well-known oils, tea tree oil is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral oil; help to treat eczema, reduces reactions in people allergic to nickel, and treats insect bites and staph infections.

Please remember to only use a small amount first, in case you have an allergic reaction.  Always dilute the essential oils, never take in orally, and make sure to buy only the pure essential oil-brands.

Ageing…and all that jazz!

As we age, our hormones change – and so does our bodies.  Many women suffer from premenopausal and/or menopause.  However, there are also other women that never had any drastic changes.   In today’s article I am going to look at what it is and what you can do, naturally, to help you if you do suffer from it.

Premenopausal:  can affect women between the ages of 45 to 51 years of age.  Symptoms like hot flushes and/or night sweats can start, because the ovaries produce fewer and weaker follicles.  This carrier on until ovulation and menstruation stop altogether.  Some women can still have intermittent spotting or bleeding, while others have no periods anymore.

What to do?

Taking soy isoflavones can help a lot, as they have a natural, oestrogen-like action in the body to boost the hormones.  Studies have found that isoflavones reduce hot flushes by 39% compared to a placebo (using unnatural medication).  It is also interesting to note that Asian women, that follow an Asian diet, rarely (almost never) complain about symptoms.  Less than 25% Asian women, compared to 85% of Western women, have menopausal symptoms.  The reason?  Soya plays a huge part in their diet, and processed, refined foods rarely, if ever, features.  Another key to not having menopausal symptoms in Asia, is that they eat a lot of fish.  Omega oil is key when it comes to “pick you up” when you’re feeling low.  It is food for your brain; thus, it plays a vital role in your mood swings.  CBD oil (the natural one) can ease anxiety and stress.  Ubiquinol (a form of Coenzyme Q10), is important when the body’s cells need to process the oxygen-intake and generate energy.

Menopause:  usually occurs between the ages of 51 and 55.  Menopause happens when your ovaries have run out of the right number of follicles to maintain your monthly cycle.  Due to the lack of oestrogen, the joints can be affected, especially hips, knees, hands and fingers.  Muscles, ligaments and tendons can also become more easily stiff and/or ache.

What to do?

Using herbs like black cohosh, sage and red clover can help.  Always check with a qualified practitioner before using the herbs, as some herbs can interfere if you are on prescribed medication.  Good quality supplements, made from a reliable, trusted brand, can be added to your diet.  A trusted brand is Solgar as well as Solal, but there are others as well. 

When your joints ache and/or are stiff, make sure to lubricate it by adding Omega oil to your diet.  Keeping hydrated is vital, as well as doing some form of exercise.  Unless you have no injuries and/or are used to exercising, be careful doing high-impact exercises.

Restless legs can occur and is triggered by insufficient magnesium, which in turn reduce your chance of absorbing calcium.  Make sure to take a supplement that combines calcium and magnesium and take it in the evening.  Check that there is added vitamin D (or take a separate vitamin D-supplement if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun), as this not only helps you to have less mood swings, but it is one of the vitamins that help to boost your immune system.

What else can you do to help?

Apart from exercising and staying hydrated, make sure to eat protein with every meal.  Eat less or cut out all-together, refined carbohydrates and sugar, add more healthy fats like oily fish to your diet, make sure to eat enough at every meal but don’t overindulge, drink green tea, manage your stress and learn to relax (meditate).  Also make sure that you get enough rest, so always listen to your body.  By the way – did you know that, when you crave carbohydrates – it is often because your body doesn’t have enough calcium and magnesium in?

Lastly; there are many medical practitioners and women who believe in HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).  Speak to your doctor, do your research and then decide what you think is best for you.  If you don’t want to use synthetic products, then opt for DIM (Diindolylmethane), says Dr. Brewer.  DIM supplements are plant-based chemicals that convert bad oestrogen into good oestrogen.

Post-menopause:  the adrenal glands continue to produce small amounts of oestrone, but do make sure to de-stress daily, otherwise this adrenal output is reduced.  During post-menopause, female progesterone levels (that plays a role in mood swings), fall to as little as 1/120 of premenopausal levels.

What to do?

Making sure to take calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K2, are important for strong bones, mood swings and protecting against osteoporosis.  After the age of 30, your body doesn’t build bone anymore, so making sure to take these supplements and doing weight-bearing exercises, are key.  You don’t need to lift heavy weights; beanbags, 1 kg, a Pilates ball, walking, swimming, are all good ways to help your body to maintain bone density.  Another fantastic fun-exercise is Rebounding (bouncing on a ball or trampoline).  Not only does it build and maintain bone density and strength, but it is far saver for your joints than jogging.  However, if you like to jog and don’t experience knee-, hip or back pain, then continue but always listen to your body.  If your joints hurt, rather opt for walking, cycling, swimming or Pilates / Yoga classes.

A good Omega-oil supplement is important; sea buckthorn is a good source, but again use a brand that is trusted and reputable.  Doctor Adib noticed that, if you suffer from vaginal dryness or discomfort, sea buckthorn oil, used daily for 3 months, are more effective than a placebo.  Taking turmeric is fantastic for aches, pains and inflammation.  You can either take the powder or as a supplement. 

To end off, let us look at the 4 hormones that play a role:

Oestrogen:  produced by the ovaries, oestrogen starts to decline (as discussed above).  When supplements and/or a healthy diet is not followed, oestrogen decline causes thinning of the hair and skin, loss of skin-elasticity, low moods, vaginal dryness and bone health.

Progesterone:  also produced by the ovaries after ovulation, halfway through the monthly cycle.  When a woman is in perimenopausal state, her body still produces oestrogen but not enough progesterone to balance it out.  Thus, you may experience mood swings and irregular periods.  Progesterone plays a part in normalizing blood clotting, reducing hot flushes, restoring libido and regulating blood sugars.

Testosterone:  it is the sex hormone in men, but also plays an important role in women’s health.  Testosterone increases libido, boosts muscle mass and strength, as well as increasing energy levels.  It also helps with self-confidence, mood, vitality, memory and bone density.  It plays a role in preventing cardio vascular disease but, if testosterone levels are low, it can cause fatigue, irritability, depression and a decrease in bone density in women. 

Oxytocin:  also known as the “love drug,” can also decrease alongside libido.  Magnesium and cholesterol, as well as vitamin C, are needed to form oxytocin.  Healthy fats, found in avocados, oily fish, walnuts, olives and olive oil, are good to add to your diet.  Vitamin C is found in fresh fruit and vegetables.  Supplements can be taken; just know that vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin.  It needs to be taken every day.

Getting older should not be seen as something to dread!  Instead, remember that life is not a destination, but a journey.  It is the way we age that matters.  The way we look at ourselves, it is a mindset and an attitude.  Age, after all, is but a number!

Do you remember?

In the good old days people had to rely on their memory and/or writing down things (making a shopping list for example), in order to remember dates, places, numbers, and so on.  Today we have a smartphone, laptop, tablet, and/or someone in our family or at work, that helps us to remember these things.  Not a bad thing; but the downside is we start to become lazy in a sense.  Instead of trying to remember a number, a birthday date, or a name, we, instead, turn to our phones or someone else.

When I was growing up, we all had to learn to do maths without a calculator.  It was only later, when I was older, that we started to use calculators in class.  How many of us can still do a simple mathematical sum without a calculator?  How many telephone numbers can you remember; how many birthdays, special dates, and so on, without having to reach for your phone or a diary?

Improving your memory is not as difficult as it sounds, nor does it take a lot of effort or work either.  According to Michael Abrahams (memory expert and mentalist), there is no such thing as a bad memory; you either have a trained memory, or an untrained memory.  The key is to unlock your brain’s potential to remember and to train (retrain) your brain.  When we go for a walk, to the gym, or for a jog, we are training our bodies and working on keeping in shape.  To train your brain – and memory – is not difficult at all.  Here are a few tricks that will help. 

Mnemonics:  the way in which you use different methods to recall information.  For example, a rainbow’s colours are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  Using the first letter of each word, you remember ROY G BIV.  Using music can also help; not only can it help you to remember words, but music can also help you to remember maths equations, science cycles, and even the names of countries!

Association:  when you are using something that is familiar to use or to assist in recollecting something, you use association.  For example, you meet somebody new whose name is Gerald.  In order to remember his name, you think of your sister, Geraldine.

Pictures and stories:  one of the best ways to remember something is to make up a story by using pictures.  The mind stores pictures better than words; so next time you misplace your car keys, decide on a specific spot in the house where you want to keep it.  Make a mental picture of your keys lying in the designated spot.  Fill your picture in with yourself fetching it, someone / something giving it / holding it, and so on.

Memory palace technique:  used by many athletes; you associate information with a specific place (s) that is familiar to you, like your home or the roads you take to get to work and back, with that which you want to remember.  If, for example, you need to do some grocery-shopping, try to look at the buildings and things around you when you drive and “link” your list to things.  For example, seeing a robot can remind you of buying green beans, oranges and apples (green, orange and red). 

Give your brain a challenge:  just like your body needs to be exercised to stay strong and healthy, so too does your brain.  Learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, playing chess or cards, doing crossword-puzzles, and/or doing art, are all examples of things that you can do to help your brain to make new neural pathways.

Try not to write down your daily “to do- “list or store it on your phone:  your brain is far more powerful than you think.  When you try to remember things every day, the list of things you can remember will increase every time.  When you start to rely on writing things down, or storing it on your phone, your brain becomes lazy.  Think of it as a muscle; when you exercise you keep your strength, flexibility and muscle memory.  When you don’t exercise / stop exercising, you lose your muscle strength, and the muscles become weak / lazy.

Do manageable things every day:  Michael said that frequent revision is the key to assist in locking information in.  When he broke the Memory World Record for Pi last year, he said his secret was to break the learning down into small, manageable chunks of information, that he revised regularly.

What else can you do to help your brain to stay fit, healthy and remember?

Start by ditching a bad diet.  What we eat not only affects our bodies, but also our brains.  When cholesterol plaques build up in the brain, it can damage the brain tissue due to the lack of oxygen-rich blood.  Brain cells need oxygen-rich blood in order to work optimally and, if deprived of it, not only affects your thinking and memory, but it can cause other health problems as well.  Best to eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish (especially oily fish), nuts and wholegrains.  Your brain needs Omega-oils to work as well as stay healthy.

Exercising regularly.  Exercise protects the brain against deterioration and reduces the risk of cognitive decline with age.  There is a saying that “we are only as old as we think we are.”  Whether you just go for a daily walk, a jog, do yoga or Pilates, moving the body is vital.  Not only does your brain excretes the “happy- “hormone serotonin when you exercise, but exercising can lift your spirits (just like laughing); especially when you can be outdoors.

Cutting down on alcohol or stopping altogether is not such a bad idea.  Did you know that binge drinking, for example, even when you did it when you were younger, can destroy the nerve cells in the brain, as well as damage the hippocampus (the part of your brain that plays an important part in memory)?  If you do like a glass of wine, for example, opt for red wine, as it is high in antioxidants.  Again, the key here is moderation: no more than 1 – 2 glasses with a meal; no need to finish the bottle just because it is open!

Smoking is another bad habit that can cause lasting damage to your brain cells.  Not only does smoking deprive your body’s cells of absorbing oxygen, but it can kill certain cells permanently.  When your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, parts of it can start to die off.  The same with the rest of the cells in your body.  Oxygen is life!    

Socializing.  Studies have shown that, being socially isolated and/or lonely, can be tied to an earlier onset of dementia.  When we socialize our brain’s performance is boosted.  If you know of someone that lives alone, stay in touch.  Make a point of going out with friends and/or family.  Discussing different things and chatting to others is good for both your morale and brain.

Classical music.  Ever heard of the Mozart-effect?  Baroque music, especially the music composed by Mozart, have been shown to have a wonderful, positive effect on the brain.  It is used by millions of students and adults alike when they are studying / learning.  Not only does it calm the mind and soul, but the musical rhythms are such that it can have a positive effect on the brain waves and memory alike.

Horse riding, karate, Tae Kwan Do, Judo.  Doing a sport like the beforementioned, teaches the child / adult to focus.  When you are focused you not only achieve more, but you get more done.  As I’ve mentioned before, think of your brain as a muscle.  When you learn to become centred (as is the case with these types of sports), you start to use it in all areas of your life.  Horse riding is an excellent sport for children that is highly intelligent.  Because the horse is an intelligent animal, the person riding the horse must adapt and learn to “listen” to the horse – not the other way around.

Eat more dark chocolate!  Yes, you heard me – cocoa is high in antioxidants that can aid the brain’s performance.  Chocolate with a 70%+- cacao amount is best.  The flavonoids in the cacao can, according to various studies done, aid in brain functioning by improving blood flow to the brain.  However, skip chocolate with added sugar in and don’t overindulge!

To diet; or not to diet – what do you think?

There are many people who believe wholeheartedly in dieting; then there are those people who do not.  As a nutritionist I am not against it, but I will not prescribe any form of strict dieting unless there is a medical reason for it.

Throughout the years many people jumped on the bandwagon and wrote books on all kinds of diets – Paleo, Atkins, Banting, to name a few.  The only problem with diets like these, I believe, is that they restrict / cut out certain food groups and up the intake of other food groups (for example in Banting you cut out carbohydrates but eat a lot more protein).

I was listening to Dr. Mike on YouTube not so long ago, where he actually went on one of these quick, crash diets himself.  What he said, in a nutshell, is that if you want to lose weight quickly, then going on a crash diet can work.  He even went on a Banting diet – after a month, he said, he did lose weight.  However, his cholesterol levels were sky high (due to the huge amounts of protein that he had to consume).  Although he had more energy, he said that he craved a lot of other food, because he wasn’t getting all the necessary nutrients in.

So, here’s my take on it:  when I struggled with my sinuses and weight as a teenager, I cut down on the carbohydrates.  It wasn’t until I found out that I was wheat intolerant, that I changed the type of carbohydrates I ate.  For example, when I buy pasta, I always look for a product that is made from semolina (durum wheat semolina).  The semolina is a finer wheat, as the hard-outer shell is removed, which makes it easier to digest.

As I have mentioned before, I am not against the idea of dieting, it is the type of diet that people go on, that I don’t agree with.  As a nutritionist I believe that people must get as many of the necessary vitamins and minerals in from the food they consume.  Unfortunately, due to all the pesticides, antibiotics, gmo’s, and so forth, that are used in food stuffs today, unless it is free range or organic, we don’t necessarily get all the nutrients in.  Thus, we can take supplements for that (and again I am not advising anyone to rely solely on supplements)!

I must also add that I agree with Dr. Mike.  I had patients who came to see me after their doctor told them to quit Banting asap.  Why?  Not only were their cholesterol levels high (something not found in their family, and they were under 55 years), their livers couldn’t digest all the protein-acid that built up because they ate a lot of meat, and the one patient (under the age of 40), were diagnosed as pre-diabetic (not something that run in their family)! Another patient also had to re-introduce carbohydrates in his diet, as his body was “eating” his muscles. The thing is, your digestive tract cannot digest protein (therefore extract the necessary nutrients from it) without the help of carbohydrates. Protein can only be digested if you eat carbohydrates as well, as the enzymes necessary to do the job, is only find when carbohydrates and protein are eaten together! When you cut out carbohydrates from you meals, protein-acid builds up. As in the case with the two patients, the liver becomes “intoxicated” from all this acid – not healthy at all!

To sum it all up:  above is just my take of diets.  I believe the best “diet” is to eat everything in moderation (except if you are allergic or intolerant of course).  The Mediterranean lifestyle is a good example of a balanced eating plan, as is Weight Watchers and Weigh Less.  Eating from all the food groups not only provides your body with all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs, but it will also help your body to maintain the right pH-levels.  In the “good old days” there wasn’t something like dieting:  people ate what was available, they ate in moderation, but the secret to their success?  They were active!!

So, have your pizza, have a burger, have that chocolate cake and milkshakes. But do it in moderation! Try to cook your meals more often than eating ready-made meals or takeaways (these are often not healthy at all because they contain extra salt and hidden sugar). And don’t forget; put on your takkies and get moving!

Mindful about your thoughts

Your mind is amazing.  Thoughts come up all the time, as well as emotional states.  However, these thoughts actually start to arise at a subliminal level before they come into conscious awareness.  Many times, a thought arises, together with an emotional feeling, before you even know it is there.  When this happens, and you are not aware of it, the thoughts are rooted in your mind (consciousness).

Being more aware of your thoughts, you now know that you are thinking and/or feeling something, and this can help you to become more aware (mindful) of what you say.  When we identify with thought, we give it power and allow it to rule our mind.  The thought then brings about our emotional state, for example if the thought is connected to something painful, then pain, depression and/or anxiety.  We try to get rid of it by “looking at the bright side.”  However, because the thought has already been given power over the mind, it is there; stuck in the subconscious!  How, you might ask, does that work?  In a nutshell; your subconscious mind is like a computer hard drive.  It cannot distinguish between what is true or false; anything that is being said, believed, or told are stored there.  For example, if you tell a child he / she is stupid, the child will start to believe it, store the “idea” in his / her subconscious, and believe – and become – stupid!  That is why it is important for us to think before we speak, as words can be more powerful than we think.

Owning the thoughts that pop up in your mind brings you a step closer to being more aware, more mindful, of your thoughts and feelings.  We create thought patterns, thus emotional states, by habit.  When we think in a certain way due to our beliefs or the way we were brought up, it is often difficult to break the thought patterns.  Mindfulness and meditation are two ways to teach yourself to become more aware of the thoughts entering your mind.  Before it becomes stuck (and causing a certain emotional state), you acknowledge the thought as it arises at a subliminal level.  You just know when this happens; you are aware of it but you don’t get attached to it.

So often we attach emotions to our thoughts through habit, but what we don’t realize is that by doing this, we give our power away.  By being mindful we allow the thoughts to surface, but we don’t get emotionally attached to it.  Indeed, not easy; and I am not saying that you cannot become emotionally attached.  By giving our emotions too much power over our logical thinking, is not good for anybody.  There must be a balance between logic and emotion; between heart and mind.

Mindfulness (and meditation) teaches you that you should think of your thoughts as a movie scene – you are aware of it but you don’t get attached to it.  Your brain has more power than you realize and it is the state of your mind that holds the key to whether or not you give thoughts the upper hand over your emotional well-being or not. You always have a choice; you can choose what to think, what to believe, what to feel, just as you choose what to eat, what to drink and what to wear. 

A free mind is not a blank mind without any thoughts and/or feelings.  It is a mind that is able to observe the thoughts and decide whether or not to become attached to it or not.  You become the observer and not the participant.  Being in the present moment, the here and now, is important.  Life has its ups and downs; sometimes things happen that you have no control over and your emotions and thoughts throw you off balance.  When you can become still and be in the moment, then you can calm yourself and know that “this too shall pass.”  Deep breathing is a wonderful way to calm you down, as it slows the heart rate and helps the mind to become clear and still.

Instead of becoming overwhelmed or submerged into a situation, you stand back, look at it from all angles, bringing your mind and emotions into balance.  This doesn’t mean that you cannot feel or say anything; it simply means that you are taking your power back and not allowing your thoughts to “run away” with your emotions. You become a person that is still loving, but you are more balanced and, because of your state of mind, you can deal with situations better and be at peace at the same time.

Are you really listening?

“His thoughts were slow,

His words were few

And never formed to glisten.

But he was a joy to all his friends –

You should have heard him listen.” 

Quoted by Wayne Mackey (Oklahoma City Times)

In today’s angst-ridden world of fast cars, fast food, fast everything, few of us have the ability to truly listen.  We “listen,” but only to wait until we can jump in with our own story or opinion.  It is said that hearing is a mere faculty; and listening is an art.  Indeed, it seems that hearing has become a “lost art,” so to speak!

When you study Communication Management, one of the first things you learn is that listening is key in order to have a successful partnership, business and/or career.  “Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively, skilfully, and with understanding to another person.”  To truly listen and truly understand, means “the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or non-verbal messages.”  You must learn to listen, to absorb and to ponder before speaking.  Instead of cutting somebody’s sentences off, learn to wait and be more patient.  Basic etiquette is not to interrupt somebody, but to wait until the person has finished talking – and no, not always done by many of us I’m sure!  Especially if we have something exciting or urgent to tell!

As mentioned before, to be successful, you learn that listening is key.   When studying communication management, you learn how to communicate; but not how to be communicated with.  Communication, as we all know, is not just words.  Whatever is being said will be interpreted not from the words being used, but the way it is being said, and the body language.  More than 70% of our communication is non-vocal – it is body language that we read; not the words being uttered.

In today’s world where we are bombarded with advertisements, noise from traffic, loud music, shouting, and so forth, many of us have learned to “shut down” or “tune out” in order to preserve our sanity and regain some peace and quiet.  The irony is that this created a situation where we think we are listening, but in fact we made up our minds before the person starts to speak.  Why?  Because we are sensitive to criticism, we believe it’s either “our way or the highway,” we have preconceived ideas and beliefs, and in true honesty, we are scared of the truth.  When we have to truly listen, even though the person has different views or beliefs than ours, we have to let down our guard as it were and be honest with ourselves.  Many people struggle to accept other people’s views, beliefs and opinions.  Thus, miscommunication happens.   It is not just what is being said, but the way in which it is said (tone of voice, the way you look at a person, your facial expression, and so forth), that can make or break the conversation and, in the end, even the trust and the relationship!

The sad reality for me, is that people start to mistrust one another, they stop being themselves, they stop sharing their dreams and secrets (even with a friend), for fear of being ridiculed or lambasted.  Maybe it is the modern world we live in – think of the movies we watch, what we hear on the radio or television, what we teach our children.  To give somebody your true, pure attention, is one of the greatest gifts.  Whether it is a child telling you the same story, or an adult who is starting to forget and are repeating things, it shouldn’t matter.  To the person who is talking, it is important.  And to share it with somebody whom that person can trust, is all the more reason to really, truly listen.  No judging, no preconceived ideas, no sarcasm.

Why?  Because it takes courage.  It takes courage to let down your guard and show somebody the real you; it takes courage to speak, just as it takes courage to be quiet and just listen.

Where and/or when do we learn to listen?  In the womb!  Scientists have proven that an unborn can be emotionally damaged whilst in the mother’s womb, when parents argue and fight.  On the other hand, healing can occur when soft music is being played to the developing foetus.  When a mother talks to a baby, for example, she can, at times, feel the baby kicking – why?  Because the baby recognizes her voice.  When we truly listen to somebody and when somebody listens to us, we grow and expand.  Yes, we can learn a lot from internet, books, and other materials, but when we allow a conversation to be one of not just babbling but really listening, we can grow and learn from one another.  No 2 people are the same, so why not accept each other regardless of whether we have the same ideas and beliefs or not?

Have you ever wondered why a powerful speaker is so popular?  It is because he / she truly listens.  They speak to our souls whilst listening, as it were, to our body language.  A good listener is somebody who tries to understand what the other person is saying, who listens carefully with what it is that he / she disagrees with, before speaking.  It takes a unique person to want to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.  After all, one of the basic human needs is to understand and be understood.

Instead of listening to your own inner voice and to decide, beforehand, what you are going to say, listen to what is being said, without your inner voice “chipping in.”

Our whole world and outlook on life can change if we have that one person, a friend, confidante, parent or partner, who takes the trouble to listen; it is someone who is not only popular but well informed.  When you know that the person that you are talking to is a good listener, you will automatically become more at ease, be willing to “open up” and share your feelings, dreams and thoughts. 

Like a camera our human brains also have filters used during communication, for example our experience, education, language, emotions, attitudes, and outside influences.  Knowing and understanding your filters will help you to maximise your communication and listening success.  Words, in the end, have no meaning; it is the person saying it that does.  However, because many people assume that people think or believe the same, misunderstandings can often crop up.  Unfortunately, our sensory mechanisms have been dulled by our parents, environment, our own fears, and the modern world we live in.

However, these mechanisms are not lost; they merely need to be re-awakened!  We have all been blessed with an invisible shield, also known as our aura.  This is like our inner voice works as a guide when we listen; telling us whether the information is true, important or of value.  Think of the saying “put yourself in somebody else’s shoes – “when you, as a listener, is attentive to not just what is being said, but the way it is said and notice the body language, then you are a powerful listener!  Listen not just with your ears, but also with your heart, your eyes and your aura (inner voice).

Looking at life from a different angle

I recently read an article of the Tree of Life, by Wayne Visser, who looked at a tree from a completely different angle.  Humans, instinctively, want to be out in nature.  Our inner self knows that, to be in nature, is not only good for the body, but also for the soul and the psyche.  There is always order in nature; nature is always in balance; and it is this that humans, instinctively crave and love.  Let me take you on this journey that I read about, share with you my interpretation and you can let me know what you think.

The seed or acorn, lies deep in mother Earth’s womb, germinating as time goes by.  Who would’ve thought that a small seed will produce a big, beautiful tree?  The seed, for the writer, symbolizes untapped potential, beginnings and having faith (think of the mustard seed-symbolism in the Bible).  The expression “to plant a seed” is often used when we talk about launching a new project, having a new thought or idea, and believing in our dreams.  Planting a seed deep in the earth can be seen as “digging deep” in one’s own soul, getting in touch with the real (inner) self, or getting in touch with your subconscious mind (your dreams). 

As the seed germinates and the tree has started to grow, roots are developed.  The roots of a tree are what it uses to grip into the earth, to keep it from falling over and to draw up food and water from the earth.  Humans also have roots – whether we call it our religion, upbringing, culture or beliefs.  As humans it is important to have a “root-system,” otherwise life will be difficult and we will not be strong enough when we are blown over or in a storm, so to speak.  Our roots, just like that of a tree, reminds us that we all have internal strength, we just need to tap into it and nurture it.  Our soul, just like that of a tree, needs food; whether the food is quiet-time, a relaxing bath, walking in nature, or meditating, taking “time-out” to connect with our inner strength will make it stronger and help us cope better.

As the branches of the tree grows and reaches toward the sky it can be seen as a reflection of our life; our destiny.  As the branches grow, we go on a life’s journey, learning, experiencing and growing.  Not just physically, but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally.  Our one lesson is to let go of fear and to not let anybody deter us from our journey.  Like the new branches, we are sometimes vulnerable or told we cannot do something, but if we can learn to not listen to the noise and stay connected to our roots (inner self), we can grow and reach our dreams.

When the budding leaves and/or blossoms start to appear, it is a signal that spring has sprung; that a new cycle is beginning; a new life, as it were.  Our life also goes through cycles.  On a physical level we come into this life as a baby, then we grow up into an adult.  On an emotional level, we “grow up” and learn that, throwing a tantrum or 2, is not a way to “get through” life.  On a deeper, spiritual level, we discover that there is a deeper meaning to life.  Just like the budding leaves that come out every season, we can also “turn a new leaf” anytime we want to.  Whether we let go of a bad habit, change careers, change relationships, or anything else, we are constantly “greening” our lives.  After all; what’s the use of having a mind when you can’t change it?

A tree’s trunk must be sturdy and strong in order to withstand the weather.  All of us have gone through a time in our lives when things were ruff, when there was a storm, or when the wind was blowing so hard that we thought we’re going to be knocked over!  However, when we have a secure sense of identity and self-worth, a positive attitude and a strong belief in oneself, then, come what may, we can and will stay strong.  Your inner self can “hold you up” no matter what, when it is strong and looked after.  When we “mature” we know when to bend and when to stand firm.  This is not easy, but it can be taught and will grow with wisdom.  Wisdom is about building bridges and listening with our inner self; knowing when to say something and knowing when to keep quiet.  “For everything, there is a season;” when it is winter, we want to rest more, stay indoors and recharge.  When spring arrives, we start to wake-up, we have more energy and a new lease on life, as it were, to start something fresh, something new.  Along comes summer and we are full of energy, joy and optimism.  Then it is autumn-time; time to slowly slow down, recoup, recount and reflect. 

Our arms are the branches of a tree – it reaches out into the world.  Like the branches, our arms are a place to rest (“rest in your lovers arms”), it is a place to hide when we are upset (hugging somebody), it is a place for a child to find comfort (a child needs a soft place to land) when needed.  Our shadow, like that of a tree, is not something to be afraid of or to dislike.  Our shadow is a teacher that often shows us what blockage (s) we might have in our minds and/or hearts.  There cannot be a tree if we don’t plant a seed in the dark earth.  As humans we cannot become who we truly are if we don’t accept and love everything, and every part, of our being – including our shadow!

There are many beautiful trees that flower and/or bear fruit.  Ask any farmer and he will tell you that, in order to harvest every year, you have to work with nature and not fight it.  Listening to our inner voice, we are guided through our life knowing we are taken care of, no matter what.  Flowers are, interestingly, used for any occasion; whether for a wedding or a funeral!  For the writer, flowers reminded him (the writer of the article) of the colours of diversity and change, of the way one looks at life – are you looking at life through “rose-tinted glasses” or are you looking at life through “dark shades?”

Life is like a tree.  It constantly changes but always remains grounded.  By staying true to yourself and grounded, remember who you are, remember your roots and never give up on yourself or your dreams.  Believe in yourself, stay connected with your inner being and remember that the ups and downs in life is never permanent; seasons come and go.  Life is not a destination; it is a journey!