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!

More beauty tips for hair, make-up and skincare, from the pros

In this blog I’ll be sharing more tips and tricks from the pros and general public, regarding hair, make-up and skincare.


Colour will brighten the whites of your eyes.  You don’t have to put a lot of eyeshadow on during the day; even just some mascara and/or eye liner can define and “open up” your eyes.

Using eyeliner on the outside of the top eyelids or just in the corners of the eyes, will make your eyes look bigger.  A line, inside the bottom eyelid, will often make your eyes look smaller; so be careful if you don’t want your eyes to look smaller (tip from the writer).

I put clear mascara on my lashes before I apply black. It helps keep my lashes separated and stops the mascara from smudging (tip from Lucy Smith).

Hide dark circles with a peach or yellow-toned concealer.  These colours neutralise the purple smudges.

I hate using eyelash curlers, so instead I apply my mascara, heat a small teaspoon in hot water, dry it and then use the back of the spoon to gently push my lashes. Hold for a few seconds for the best curl (tip from Sheila Miller).

Do the lines round your eyes look worse after you’ve applied your make-up? Finish off by dabbing a tiny amount of eye cream to your eye area to keep it looking dewy and fresh.

Grooming your eyebrows? The narrower your face, the slimmer the outer ends of your brows should be. If you have a wider face, don’t make your brows too thin or it will emphasise the width even more.

Make your lips look bigger by using lighter colours of gloss. The lip-gloss reflects the light, thus making your lips appear fuller and sexier!

When I’m making up my lips, I apply lipliner and, instead of adding a lip-gloss, I use Blistex (can also use Vaseline or any other lip balm). Not only does it keep my lips super-moisturised, but it also stays on for ages, looks gorgeous and glossy too. Bonus is, it saves me money too (tip from Julia Jukes).

When I’ve run out of make-up remover, a cotton wool pad dipped in cold milk does the job perfectly and it’s gentle on my skin, too (tip from Lesley Urwin).

Keep unruly eyebrows in place by spraying hairspray onto an old, clean, dry toothbrush, then brush gently through your brows — they’ll stay put all day. Or you could try applying the tiniest slick of Vaseline for a gleaming finish.

Prep your lips for lipstick by applying an under-eye concealer first. It evens out the colour of your lips and stops the lipstick from bleeding too.

Heavenly hair

Want loose, natural waves for a night out? Celebrity hairstylist Richard Ward has the answer – “Curls always drop a lot — it’s better to over curl your hair so that by the time you go out it should look just as you want it.”

If your hair needs some TLC, heat your deep conditioner in the microwave for 30 seconds before you apply it. The warmth will help the conditioner penetrate your hair more easily and smoothing any dry ends.

You want to colour your hair at home, but can’t find the exact shade you want? Why not mix 2 different shades?  Expert hair colourist Anita Cox McMillan suggests “mixing two different shade packs together.  It’s a great way to add red tones to brown without it being overpowering, or to tone down a dark shade. But always stay two or three shades within your natural hair colour to avoid mistakes. Anything more drastic should rather be left to the experts.”

Everyone should own a set of Velcro rollers. They make your hair look like it’s had a professional blow-dry as they give natural-looking volume. Just pop them in and blast with a dryer. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then spritz with spray before removing.

I suffer from a dry, itchy scalp when I get stressed, but massaging olive oil onto my head at night relieves itchiness and soothes flaky areas (tip from Anne Clarke).

“Avoid product overload in your hair,’ says Richard Ward. “Rub the product into both your hands like hand cream until it’s nearly absorbed, then apply it to your hair.

Your hair only looks shiny when the cuticle lies flat. So always smooth a drop of serum onto damp hair and blow-dry with your dryer pointing down the hair shaft.

If your highlights are growing out, change your parting. It will give your colour a new lease of life until you have time to get to your hairdresser.

Brushing your hair 100 times a day not only massages the scalp, but it also oils your hair from the roots to the tips as you brush (tip from the writer).


“When you’re applying your eye cream, always work from the inner to the outer corner of the eye; gently lifting the skin upwards.  Use your index finger and a small amount of product,” says Geraldine Howard, co-founder of a therapeutic skincare brand. “It helps smooth out fine lines and will drain the area of puffiness.”

“Using an SPF moisturiser all year round, especially on your face and neck is important,” says Catherine de Groot, co-founder of a natural skincare company.

If you want your facial mask to penetrate the skin more deeply, put cling wrap over (keeping your eyes and mouth open), for a few minutes.  If you feel you are beginning to sweat, don’t use any cling wrap.

Facial massage techniques are simple, easy ways to not only lessen the site of fine lines and wrinkles, but also help your skin to look healthy and more radiant.  According to Geraldine Howard, you can do the following:  “Apply a few drops of facial oil and massage out frown lines in an upwards and outwards motion, placing the middle fingers at the bridge of your eyebrows, bringing the fingers firmly up and out.”

Get rid of puffy eyes by popping some used tea bags in the freezer for a few minutes. When they’re chilled, cover your eyes for 10 minutes.  Sliced, cold cucumber can also do the trick.

Soothe an inflamed spot by applying a drop of lemon juice to it; not only will it remove bacteria, but it will also dry the whole area out too.

Use your facial peel or exfoliator on your upper arms as well as your face. It’s a great way to remove those little hard bumps (tip from Sarah Slight).

For a deep cleanse, hold a warm face cloth over your face for 10 to 15 seconds.  The warmth relaxes and softens the pores, so oils and dirt are more easily removed. You will also stimulate circulation, which in turn helps activate cell renewal so that your skin can repair itself faster.  Bonus is that a warm face cloth also helps to relax tired eyes!

“It is good to change your skincare with the seasons.  In winter skin can often dry out, so use products that are more nourishing.  During summer, skin can be oilier due to perspiration and heat, so use cleansers to balance it,” (tip from Catherine de Groot.

Want your make-up to look as if it’s done by a pro?   Make-up artist Melissa Evans share these tips:

Want to look younger? Use cream foundations as they blend more easily and won’t sit in lines and wrinkles. If you need heavier coverage try building up a few light layers.

To make your eyeshadow last, you should always use a primer but, to save money, try using your foundation.  Put a small amount over your lids and blend well.  Then apply some powder before you put on your eyeshadow, otherwise your eyeshadow will cling to wet areas and look uneven!

Cream blush is a must in your make-up bag.  Our skin tone can fade as we age and cream blush adds a really gorgeous glow to your skin.

Think you’re too old to try smoky eyes? Never! Opt for matte shadows and flattering shades such as khaki, navy blue and soft grey. When applying your shadow, lift your brow so you can see the crease line and, to give hooded eyes an instant lift, blend the colour slightly above that crease line so you can see it when you look straight ahead in the mirror.

Never use those terrible sponge applicators you get with your eyeshadows; they won’t distribute the eyeshadow evenly.  Rather invest in some good brushes instead — they’re worth their weight in gold and will save you product wastage too.  For best results, use synthetic brushes for cream products and goat and squirrel or sable brushes for powder ones.

Avoid eyeshadows with too much shimmer — they can highlight creases and wrinkles and you can look older than what you are! 

Beauty tips to keep your body, hands and feet in tip-top condition; coming to you from the beauty pros

There are some beauty secrets every woman should know and, reading through old magazines, I came across a number of great tips, that I’ll share in 2 blog posts.  Here are the first tips for your body, hands and feet.

Fabulous feet and hands

Applying a thick layer of Vaseline or other moisturizing foot cream to your feet at night, then putting on a pair of cotton socks.  When you wake up the next day, those hard heels will be soft and smooth.

Using a buffer to bring your nails to a high shine before painting them. Polish will go on more smoothly and last longer.

When applying your face cream, always dab a little on the back of each hand and massage in to keep them soft and smooth (tip from Jackie Burns).

Smooth over each nail with a cotton pad soaked in nail polish remover before painting them. This removes all trace of oil from the nail and prevents air bubbles.

Apply two or three very thin coats of nail polish rather than one thick coat that won’t adhere to the nail as well.

When your favourite tube of hand cream seems empty, cut off a corner at the bottom and squeeze it from there — plenty more (tip from Jane Price).

Wearing nail polish or a big ring:  research has found that adorning your hands with either nail polish or a big ring (a few smaller ones), makes them look younger.

Body beautiful

If you’ve waxed your bikini line, a nappy rash cream like Elizabeth Anne’s Baby Nappy Rash Cream, will calm any irritation.

Want to reduce scars and stretch marks? Rosehip oil or pure vitamin E cream or oil, can reduce the colour and appearance of both.

‘Citrus scents give a feeling of youthfulness, so people think you’re younger than you are,’ says fragrance expert Roja Dove.

Apply plain yoghurt to mild sunburn — it adds moisture and cools things down (tip from Kathryn Croft).

Keep candles and bath oils in the bathroom ready for that relaxing me-time.

Haven’t got the time and/or energy for some me-time?  Light a candle, even if it’s just for a quick bath or shower.  The candle light will help to relax your mind and, washing with a lovely scented body wash, will bring joy to the senses (my tip).

Discovering, reconnecting with and loving the real you

In the modern world it is, for some bizarre reason, more important to some to take care of their external bodies, but neglect their inner self.  However, as more and more people are becoming aware that our bodies function as a unit, more and more people realize that, in order to live a truly happy, healthy and peaceful life, one has to look after one’s inner self.  This includes your thoughts, feelings, emotions, spirit and soul.

As we know, the mind is divided into 2 parts:  a conscious mind and a subconscious mind.  The conscious mind is the one that is always busy; it can distinguish what is right and wrong, good and bad, and so forth.  The subconscious mind is like the hard drive of a computer; it stores all your thoughts, feelings, emotions, things that you said and were said to you, and so on.  Unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between right and wrong.  If, for example you are told or tell yourself that you are stupid / fat / ugly, then the subconscious mind will store that thought (words) and you will not only believe it to be true, but “become” it, as it were!

The job of the subconscious mind is also one of “auto-pilot;” you navigate through life, doing things, going places, without really thinking about it.  How many of you haven’t told someone “it comes naturally?”  Our thoughts are powerful; they create our words, our words create our feelings, our feelings create experiences and behaviours, and in the end it creates our beliefs and, ultimately, our reality.

Depression, stress and panic attacks are, unfortunately, on the rise.  As we navigate through this modern life, we don’t take “time-out” to get rid of stress, we might not be eating well and/or exercising at all, and many are sleep-deprived.  Add to the list social media and media in general, that bombard us with negative news, and you cannot blame yourself or anyone else for freaking out!

So, you might ask, what am I supposed to do?  The short answer is:  start by taking one step per day and consciously choose what you think, what you say, what you read, what you listen to and who you engage with.  When you have been told (or told yourself), for example, that you are not good enough; stop the thought in its track the minute it pops up!  Change it by telling yourself “I am good enough.” 

At first it will be tricky, because your subconscious mind will think otherwise, but write it down on pieces of paper that you stick up in the kitchen, on your mirror, in your car, and everywhere else where you can see it throughout the day.  Read it out loud, or say it in your head, but never stop.  The more you do this, the more your subconscious will start to not only believe it, but it can change the negative thought into a positive one.

Add some emotions too – whether you are reading it or saying it, practice every time to put more “happy” emotions into it.  Smile when you say it or read it, say it like you mean it.  If you still struggle, imagine that you are telling your best friend or child this. No, it is not easy; especially if it is something that you believed for a number of years.  However, persistence is key – peeling back the layers takes time. When you can stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and tell yourself “I am good enough, I am beautiful,” and so forth, then you have come full circle and broken down the false narratives that were stopping you from connecting with your true, authentic self!

The first step is to let go of all the preconceived ideas you had of yourself.  Whether you learn how to meditate, journal, or just make time for yourself to be quiet, is a good step in your journey.  Realizing that you are worthy, loved, good enough, and so forth, will help you reconnect with your inner self.  When you listen to your heart and your inner voice, the changes will start.  It is in our hearts where love, compassion, joy, peace and empathy reside, and to get us back on track in this crazy world, we need to reconnect with it.

Our inner self is part of who we are authentically; ignoring it or supressing it will only bring us tears, frustration, stress and loneliness.  After all, if you are not happy to be on your own, then you won’t be happy even if you had someone.  Being happy with who you truly are, on the inside and on the outside, is the key to true happiness, peace, joy and love.

“If you want to change the outside, then change the inside.”  It is never too late to connect with our inner self.  Dr. Phil once said “if you don’t look after yourself first, then who will?”  And it is true:  we must learn and teach others that true love = unconditional love.  Real love begins by loving ourselves and being in touch with our inner self.

So – go on – take the leap, the first step and reconnect with your inner self!

Collagen: the secret to a firmer, younger-looking skin

Collagen is a long, fibrous, structural protein, that gives the skin its elasticity and strength. 

It is an ingredient which you will find in many serums, masks, moisturisers and also in supplemental powders, capsules and liquids.  However, you can also find it in many foods (which I will mention a little bit later).

Apart from aiding our skin’s elasticity, collagen is not only the most abundant protein in the body, but also acts as a supporting base structure for the skin.  This is giving our skin its bounce and plump.  Interestingly, collagen is also found in organs, blood vessels, bones and tendons, and acts to bind tissue together.  Our skin is rejuvenating itself all day, every day.  Not only is it shedding dead skin regularly, but it is constantly making new collagen.

Unfortunately, due to our modern-day life that is filled with environmental stressors, exposure to UV radiation and of course ageing, collagen production starts to decline. This, in turn, causes fine lines, wrinkles to appear and sagging skin.  During menopause collagen declines much more…but no worries my readers, there are many foods you can consume, that will help your body to build and maintain collagen-levels. 

Here is a list of a number of different foods that is full of natural-building collagen:

Bone broth, chicken, fish and shellfish, Egg whites, Soya products, Cabbage, Red Fruits and Vegetables, Beans, Berries, Almonds and Cashews, Avocados, Citrus fruits, Tropical fruits, Garlic, Leafy greens, Tomatoes and Bell peppers.

The abovementioned foods are just a few different sources.  A diet full vitamin- and mineral rich fruits and vegetables, as well as protein-rich foods (can be animal- or plant-based sources), is a good lifestyle choice to make, to help supply these critical amino acids to the body.  Other nutrients that also aids collagen-production include vitamin C, copper and zinc.  For best results, regardless of your age, cut back on or cut out too much sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet, as this cause inflammation and damages collagen.

Today there is many different collagen supplements on the market, ranging from powders and shakes, to tablets.  Researchers agree that this can aid your body’s collagen-production and boost skin elasticity, but warns people that it is not closely regulated. 

So before purchasing and using a product; do make sure it is from a reputable provider. Also; don’t forget the wonder of water – drinking enough water will also help to keep your body nourished on the inside, as well as moisturized on the outside!