wellness blog

Observing your emotions

Observing your emotions

Some points on observing emotions in the body and how you can begin to gain awareness around how they are affecting you physically.

Open your heart - without cupid's help

Open your heart - without cupid's help

Open your heart to love every day of the year with this gentle heart-opening yoga and meditation practice.

Meditation - 3 misconceptions that may be holding you back

Tell me, what do you know about meditation?

 

Does it sound 'new age-y'? Or has it come into the main stream well enough for you to know meditation doesn't have to mean robe-donning, chanting, and so on...?

 

Have you tried it?

 

Tell me, did you close your eyes and 'nothing much happened'? ...Did you fall asleep? ...Did you find it hard to stay still?

 

In fairness, if you have tried to meditate and basically felt like you must be 'doing it wrong' or 'missing something', I'd wager a bet that you're not alone.

People quite often tell me that their first few meditation sessions didn't go how they thought they would. Some might have even sat there wondering what all the fuss is about! In fact, some may argue, why bother meditating at all if you end up feeling more confused about it all than when you started?!

 

What that tells me, is that this person has bought into the somewhat hyped-up idea that to meditate for the first time is to be instantly enlightened, and that if you do not discover the hidden truths or reach a higher plane, then you must be missing something. So maybe you put it into the 'too hard' basket and give up.

 

 

 

In reality, the sooner you let go of 'guru-level enlightenment' as a goal, the better. This idea has come from media sensationalism, envy-inducing and unrealistic social media posts, or, of course, celebrity hype. There is truth somewhere in those bold claims, which can be traced back to the original Hindus and Tibetan monks practicing yoga and meditation for many centuries, but in our Western, capitalist society, deeper spiritual meaning is quite often obscured by the shininess of the glitter that is the modern health craze. Don't get me wrong, the modern health craze is good, if somewhat skewed and confusing. Green smoothies and yoga have become mainstream. But that means that there are literally thousands of newbie yoga teachers around the world who walk and talk as though they've reached some state of nirvana from all the yoga and meditation they do, and that it is their job to impart its wisdom. This imparting of wisdom is generally nice and benign, but I believe it can mislead you, the modern public, about what meditation is, what it can do for you, and how to access it. 

But I'm not here today to rabbit on about all of that, so I'll stop!

I simply want to point out what I see as misconceptions about meditation commonly held by the general public, perhaps including you, Ms or Mr Average Joe. My hope is that you see it for the amazing practice that it truly is, but that you see it with an ounce of realism and logic. If you have been put off in the past from trying it, I am hoping to clear away some of those myths so you might also see yourself giving it a try.

 

Why?

 

I teach meditation and yoga. I have skills to share, and an incredible amount of enthusiasm for yoga and meditation, because it can truly be life-changing.

As part of my offering in stress management, I want to share with as many people as possible, just how health-giving and stress-reducing these practices can be.

However, I do not intend to let others think I have become enlightened. I will not be a charlatan about it. I will not get woo-woo on you and try to convince you that I have some higher powers that you are missing out on. Because I think it will put you off making it a regular practice, and because I think it would unethical of me to do that.

 

My gut feeling is that the more you see it as something within your reach, the more chances there are that you'll try it. And because I know what an incredible difference it can make to your life, health and relationships, I would love to see more people bringing it into their daily lives!

 

So what has meditation done for me?

Regular, long term practice has definitely made me more grounded, more emotionally aware, more balanced, and more empathetic, among other things. It has improved my health, made me more alert and focussed, given me increased self-awareness and self-compassion, and helped me build and nurture my special relationships, and I absolutely love it.

 

meditation

 

I wish my daily meditation practice looked like this. But it doesn't.

This was taken in Bali on my yoga teacher training. It was posed and I was actually exhausted from the intensive (and enjoyable!) program we undertook. It was a beautiful setting, but I haven't made it back there, and I'm not sure when I will. Wish I could say my life looked like this every day, but I would be misleading you.

 

I live in a cramped 1 bedroom flat in a basement in a very expensive city. Usually, I do yoga and meditate in one of the only spaces we have available - the square metre or so at the foot of the bed, next to the wall and the hole in the floor that smells like musty earth. I don't mind though.

 

Usually, I meditate for 20-30 minutes every morning. But some mornings I don't sit down in time and I have to cut it short. Some mornings I have an early meeting or some other appointment, and I can only squeeze in 5 or 10 minutes. On those days I make a promise to myself to make up for it in the afternoon, but I don't always get there. Sometimes I have all the freedom in the world and I don't use a time limit, then time truly does disappear. But I don't mind either way.

 

I have dreams of running my own stress management retreats. I have dreams of living somewhere tropical and spacious with my husband. Who knows, we might even get there one day. But as it is right now, I don't mind one bit.

 

The photo you see above, this is not my meditation reality. And I truly don't mind.

Because, for me, meditation is never something that is visible on the outside. You could be in a dank and dusty cell. You could be run off your feet with chores. You could be all alone, or you could be surrounded by people. All of these things won't matter the minute you choose to close your eyes and connect with your breath, whether it is for 5 or 50 minutes. As soon as you do that, you are opening the door to a new, expansive world, and this is where the magic happens. Not surrounded by green smoothie gulping yogis, not in a world-class health facility, not on a long holiday away from work, but in your daily life, where you are right now, with the time you have right now. That's where it happens.

 

This brings me to the whole point of this article, misconceptions. We tend to create a set of beliefs around something, and these beliefs are not always true. Sometimes, these beliefs can put people off doing something, or trying something for the first time, even when this thing could be of immense benefit to them. I would hate to imagine that you have avoided trying meditation because you believe any of the 3 common misconceptions about meditation below.

 

(Bear in mind that I am not a meditation purist, and so, my thoughts on meditation are more liberal and flexible than some. What I'm giving is my take on reality, no one else's).

 

Misconception #1

You close your eyes and something woo-woo (for want of a better word) should happen from the very first time.

'Fraid not dude! Unlikely, I should say. For most people, they close their eyes and nothing magic happens. In fact, most people, for the first time, realise just how congested with thoughts their mind is, and just how uncomfortable it is to sit completely still for a spell. To be fair, I had a pretty awesome first time meditation experience, and that definitely provided me with the hook to keep practicing. I was taught to meditate at 15 years of age, by a monk, with a small group of people, some completely new, and some very, very experienced. I can remember everything about that first session, especially the moment I was hit by wave after wave of what I can only call a 'deeply meditative state'. I'm convinced to this day that those waves were somehow passed to me from one of those ridiculously experienced meditators, though I'll never know for sure.

Either way, it hooked me right in as it was an incredible experience. But I think it was an exception. Most of the time, the feedback I hear from people who meditate for the first time is that 'nothing happened', as though they were expecting something like the rush from a drug, or the doorway to another universe to suddenly open when they close their eyes.

Your own experience could be anywhere along that spectrum, from 'nothing happened' to 'waves of awesomeness'.

What I suggest is that you be ok with that and, regardless of which it is, make a promise to yourself to just keep practicing. Eventually shifts will occur, and you'll start to see what is actually possible. Every single human being is capable of doing this, if they choose. Until the shifts happen, you can at least enjoy some time out from whatever you are doing. If you can slow your breathing down and elicit the relaxation response, you are doing your body a great favour, even if you don't meditate deeply for many, many months.

 

Misconception #2

There's only 1 way to meditate.

Like, OMG, like, No Way Jose! There are a gazillion ways to meditate! Ok, maybe not a gazillion. But there are many.

The trick is to shop around to find that one that works for you. You can meditate with a candle, with your eyes closed, sitting in lotus, sitting on a chair, walking, saying a mantra, using mala beads, focussing on your breath, chanting, using a podcast, through Youtube, in a class, via an app, and more. These are just the variations I've been exposed to.

Perhaps you decided to learn to meditate a few years ago and took yourself off to a community class where everyone sat on the floor and chanted for 45 minutes, leaving you with a stiff back, bung knees, and, you've forgotten the words, but there's weird tune whirring through your mind from the incessant chanting. You don't go back and you've written meditation off as loony.

Please don't. Please don't give up on it. Shop around. Perhaps that wasn't the right one for you. Seek out some different meditation groups. Perhaps you can make it a goal to try a different meditation style per week for 6 weeks and see what works best for you.

 

Do you prefer to go it alone with an app or a podcast? Or is joining a group going to keep you more accountable?

Are you comfortable sitting on the floor for a long time, or can you chat to the teacher and see whether they have an option for chair meditation?

Do you doubt your own ability to sit still at this stage of the game? Maybe take the pressure out of it and explore walking meditation to start with.

 

Absolutely, there is not only 1 way to meditate. If you've tried before and didn't like it, give it another go. Open your mind and try a few methods. You might be surprised to find one that really works for you!

 

Misconception #3

You have to meditate an hour a day every day in order to do it right

This is a tough one. It's true, the more you meditate, the easier it becomes. And it is also true that the longer you meditate, the deeper you can get into a meditative state. Buuuut that is quite an off-putting truism for most. There is no doubt that when you first start, finding even 5 minutes to spare is difficult, let alone 30 minutes! 

So what I recommend is to start with just factoring in 5 minutes every day to get quiet and find a relaxed state. Once you have built that quiet time into your routine, you can start to extend it by 5 minute increments. You might stop and make yourself still for 5 minutes for the first two weeks, then up it to 10 minutes, and so on.

Over time you may build up to a regular, one hour practice. Or maybe not. If you're like me, you might have a regular 20-30 minutes per day, but sometimes you'll cut it short, or just be grabbing 5 minutes to centre yourself on the train on the way in to work.

Be flexible. You live in the modern world, as do I. Do what you can, when you can. But do it!


So those are 3 big misconceptions that I see popping up in my clients and people I talk to about meditation. Have a think about whether you have had any thoughts like this yourself, and whether you have considered 5 minutes of meditation as being somehow out of your reach.

What can you do to bring it into your world a little more often, and a little longer each time?

 

I'd love to hear from you! Do you meditate? Have you tried it and given up? Did you find it hard to make the time, or were you disappointed with the results?

Let me know in the comments box below!

xo

Time for a massage? Five reasons to get one now!

Hi!

So...I don't think it's going to take much arm-twisting to get you to have more massages...is it?

 

I mean, how good is it to indulge in an hour long relaxation massage with a skilled therapist? Think ambient music, essential oils, your muscles slowly uncoiling under your therapist's professional touch, soooo good!

 

Perhaps you're the kind of person who needs proof of the benefits before trying? Or, perhaps you've always been curious about massage but not game to get one for yourself? Well I'm here to tell you it is well worth getting a regular relaxation massage - take some time out and your body will truly thank you for it.

 

Here are 5 proven benefits of Swedish relaxation massage:

 

  • It can decrease arginine-vasopressin, a hormone which is involved in blood pressure regulation and water retention (Rapaport, et al, 2010) and normally increases with stress and aggressive behaviour (Peterson, 2012).

  • It can reduce depression and anxiety (Moyer, et al., 2004).

  • It can ease back pain and increases range of motion (Hernandez-Reif, et al.,  2001).

  • It can promote sleep and enhance the quality of your sleep (Gauthier, 1999).

  • It can improve tension headaches and reduce the number of migraines that occur in sufferers (WebMD 2016).

 

BONUS BENEFIT: Been a bit grumpy lately? A good time-out by way of a relaxation massage is sure to leave you in a good mood, and you can expect a knock-on effect in your immediate relationships. In short, you get a relaxing massage, and your partner and kids will be better off too!

 

 

So what happens?

 

If you've never had a massage before, I know it can be a bit daunting. You may feel vulnerable taking your clothes off, or having a stranger's hands touch you - a perfectly normal concern.

In actual fact, you don't have to take anything off if you don't want to. You can have a massage fully clothed, without the use of oils, of course. You can even ask for a seated massage, so you can feel more in control of your surroundings.

 

Remember, it is important you are comfortable with how much skin you are exposing, and there is no point in getting a relaxation massage if you can't relax!

 

So make sure you have a conversation with the therapist about your boundaries if you are feeling concerned.

 

Also, seek a qualified and professional therapist.

 

Check out their credentials and make sure they are a member of a reputable industry association. Those with appropriate credentials and industry association can generally be considered more likely to follow professional guidelines and standards, meaning you can really allow yourself to relax under their therapeutic touch.

This is not to say that:

a) someone who has professional qualifications and is a member of an industry association will not behave unprofessionally, or

b) someone who doesn't have this accreditation will automatically behave unprofessionally,

but following up on their professional standards is a way of feeling more relaxed about their professional standing, and your personal health and safety.

 

 


What happens in most appointments:

 

* remember this can vary from therapist to therapist, so this is a basic rundown only*

  • Before the appointment, it is a good idea to avoid eating or drinking too much directly before the appointment, but make sure you are well hydrated throughout the day before your massage.
  • Arrive early and complete a health history form.
  • If you are taking medications or have a medical condition, you should check with your doctor before you get a massage, and make sure you put all relevant information on your health history form. The therapist should study the form and discuss your health history with you. It may be necessary to alter or postpone the treatment if there is something in your chart which contraindicates massage.
  • The therapist will seek your permission to provide the massage and show you the treatment room. You will be asked to undress and lay face-down on the treatment table, under a towel. Make sure you discuss with your therapist your level of comfort with undressing. The therapist will leave the room while you prepare yourself on the table.
  • The therapist will knock and enter when you are ready.
  • Your therapist will begin palpating your body, usually through the towel. That means they are gently pressing on the larger muscle masses of the legs, back and buttocks to get a sense of tension and muscle tone. You can begin to take some deeper breaths here and settle yourself into the massage.
  • Following this, your therapist will un-drape the towel from one part of your body, one leg, or your back for example. They will warm oil in their hands and gently glide their hands over your muscles. As your muscles slowly warm, you will begin to feel greater relaxation and calm.
  • Once your therapist has completed your back and legs, you will be asked to turn over, and he or she will focus on the legs, chest, arms, neck and head. Some therapists also massage the stomach. Remember, if you are uncomfortable with any part of your body being touched, you can let the therapist know at any time.
  • Upon completion of the massage, you will feel very relaxed so make sure you get up slowly. Take a moment sitting on the edge of the massage table before hopping down and getting dressed. You don't want to feel dizzy or woozy. Let the therapist know if you are feeling faint or light headed.
  • Once you are dressed you head outside and make your payment. Take it slow, bask in the glowing warmth of relaxation, and make sure you drink plenty of water.

 

My advice? After your massage, head home, give your loved ones a hug, and settle in with a good book for an early night.

 

If you have any questions feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer them.

Enjoy!!

xo

 

Disclaimer: Please see your doctor before engaging in any therapeutic body work, especially if you are currently suffering from a medical condition or taking medication. Certain physiological changes during massage can impact your health and safety, and massage is contraindicated for certain conditions. See your GP if you are unsure.

 

 

References:

Gauthier, D., 1999, 'The healing potential of back massage', Online Journal of Knowledge Synthesis in Nursing, Vol. 6 (5).

Hernandez-Reif, M., Krasnegor, J., & Theakston, H., 2001, 'Lower back pain is reduced and range of motion increased after massage therapy', International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 106, p.p.131-145.

'Massage therapy styles and benefits', 2016, Web MD, 2016, Accessed 10 March 2016, <http://www.webmd.com/balance/massage-therapy-styles-and-health-benefits>.

Moyer, C., Rounds, J., & Hannum, J., 2004, 'A meta-analysis of massage therapy research', Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130 (1), p.p.3-18.

Peterson, A., 2012, 'Don't call it pampering: Massage wants to be medicine', The Wall Street Journal, 13 March 2012, accessed 09 March 2016, <http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304537904577277303049173934>.

Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, C., & Breese, C., 2010, 'A preliminary study of the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in normal individuals', Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol 16 (10), p.p. 1079-1088.

 

 

 

My hubby disappeared = time for paella 'my style'!!

So, I didn't tell you before, but my husband disappeared before Christmas.

Well, ok. It was a totally above board, tickets booked, travel plans arranged type of deal. He went on a long-awaited trip home to see his family in Spain. But it still felt like he had literally disappeared. You may as well have chopped off my right arm and kept it somewhere for a few weeks, showing it off to me on Skype and in Whatsapp photos, to 'keep me connected' or taunt me... that's how it felt...

And along with my darling husband, what also disappeared was our super Sunday night ritual....paella, his style! His mum's secret recipe with his Aussie twist! Aargh! Alone without him or our tradition!

 

Words cannot describe the flavours that man can create with his precious recipe, and I don't dare to emulate it.

 

He heard from a friend once that paella literally comes from 'para ella'... paraella... paella! I like it! It was traditionally cooked by the husband for the wife on Sundays, as a way of thanking her and giving her a chance to put her feet up! While we aren't quite so traditional in terms of breaking down the household chores - are you kidding?! - my hubby and I have definitely made a tradition with him cooking me this beautiful meal every Sunday evening, and I love it. He also enjoys a glass of red wine and a loud yarn with his family while he does it, so he infuses it with full Spanish vitality!

I managed to fill my paella gap for a little while during his absence, with Christmas feasts and family dinners to satisfy me. On my return to Sydney and approaching my first Sunday night alone though....the tension got to me. How can I survive a Sunday night without his delicious, authentic Spanish feast? Read: I was missing him terribly.

So, resolute, I decided to create my own. I didn't want to even attempt his recipe, so I decided to do a little background research into the general way paellas are put together. I also reflected on the process I saw my husband follow. I then thought about the ingredients I would like in a paella, and I came up with my own 'Ruth's authentic vegetarian Paella' recipe! It combines some delicious foods and flavours, and I used brown rice so it is super wholesome too. 

It turned out....really well! I was surprised at how good it was actually! The only issue was that I didn't consider the measurements at all. I almost made enough to feed 15 yogis about to break their fast....not so great if you're chilling at home, husband-less. 

Here's a peak of my creation:

Paella simmering.jpeg

 

Anyway, look, try it for yourself! Here is the recipe below. Give it a whirl and chop and change it how you like to add your own twist! I'd love to hear what you think of it.

 

Ingredients:

* These ingredients will end up feeding 3-4 people very well. It's up to you how much rice you add, and it will also depend on the size of your pan.

  • 2 tbs good olive oil
  • 1 brown onion - diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic - finely chopped can't have too much garlic in this!
  • 1 red capsicum - diced
  • A few florets of broccoli - just shave the tops in and finely chop a little of the stalk
  • 1 tomato - chopped roughly
  • A small can of green peas
  • A can of chopped tomatoes
  • A few sticks of celery to your liking - sliced or diced, your choice
  • 1 heaped tsp of paprika
  • 5 to 10 saffron threads or a dash of saffron powder
  • A twist of ground black pepper
  • A litre of vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of long grain brown rice - add more depending on how many people you're feeding.
  • A Paellera!! - I'm afraid if you want to be truly authentic, you really do need a paellera - paella pan. They are not too expensive, and they are worth it for the way it cooks the paella. I've seen recipes with non-stick frying pans. Your call, but consider it like eating pasta without good Italian cheese on it, just not quite the same ;-)

Method:

Ok, so getting the flavour going early is very important. Trust me, I see the intensity on my hubby's face at this stage of the process! 

It starts with the onion and garlic in the beginning and builds up. It's important you give the vegetables some time to absorb the flavours, without burning.

Step 1: Heat the oil and add the onions and garlic, cooking until soft.

Step 2: Add the paprika, stirring through quickly, then add the chopped capsicum and celery. Allow time for the flavours to mix in and absorb.

Step 3: Make a well in the centre of the pan and add the chopped tomatoes. Mix through for a few minutes.

Step 4: Add about half of the stock to 1 cm from the top of the pan and add the saffron. Allow some time to simmer.

Step 4: Start to sprinkle in some of the rice, without letting the pan overflow. If you don't use all the rice, don't worry. Just make sure it's evenly distributed and covered by liquid. You can give a gentle nudge to the vegetables to allow the rice to distribute through the pan a little, but there's no need to really mix it.

Step 5: Allow the rice to simmer gently and keep adding stock as necessary - you should see bubbles and simmering (like the photo above) for most of the time, until it fully absorbs towards the end.

Step 6: Lastly, sprinkle the peas over the top and allow some time, 5 mins or so, for them to absorb the flavours. No need to stir! Grind a little black pepper over it all at the very end.

Note: If your cooking plate does not distribute heat evenly (electric for example), you may need to turn the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking.

With brown rice you will need to wait a bit longer for the rice to cook. With gentle simmering it could take up to 30 minutes. It is important that you DON'T stir the dish at all. This is the beauty of the paella, getting the balance between having the absorbed, unstirred rice, without over-cooking or burning. Test the rice as you go to see when it is ready. 

* Tip! You might end up with a kind of dark, golden crust on the bottom of your pan - yay, good for you! It's not burnt, or at least it shouldn't be burnt. It's called soccarat (sometimes spelled socarrat), and is from the rice on the bottom. It has a beautiful caramelised flavour, and is considered the pinnacle of a good paella. Doesn't always happen though, so good luck with it!

Whether you get the soccarat or not, you should end up with a seriously delish wholesome meal to share with your family. Here's mine below:

 

Paella Complete_Looking good.jpeg

 

I'd love to see how your paella turns out - let me know! And remember, cooking is just for fun. Don't take it too seriously, and try experimenting with ingredients and methods to find what suits you!

xo

 

 

 

Friday = drinking day? What the *&%! is a 'standard drink' anyway??

What do you do at the end of a long week...perhaps unwind with a beer or wine? Kick back, relax with friends, have 'one more' and 'just one more' after that to release the stress of the week?

We're back into the swing of things at work and it is very tempting to throw back a few drinks at the end of the week, isn't it? I mean, after all, if you're like me, you've been really good all week! You didn't drink much during the week, you ate well, you went to the gym...there's nothing wrong with a wine or two....right?

 

alcoholandstress

 

I'm the same. I also enjoy a glass or two of wine with my husband on the weekend now and then...but after seeing this, I might be re-thinking exactly how full my glass is (the one with alcohol in it, anyway!), or how many glasses I have.

It is interesting to watch this little experiment (Is Binge Drinking That Bad, 2016) with identical twins. For one month, they each drink the U.K.'s recommended intake of alcohol per week, one at a moderate pace over the week, and the other all at once, binge-drinking style. The results are admittedly funny, and also a little terrifying. Most interesting of all, *spoiler!* is that they both had major changes in their blood work from baseline after 4 weeks, in areas such as liver inflammation and systemic inflammation, and more - with systemic inflammation, the body behaves as if it is fighting a virus - perhaps the cause of that fuzzy headed feeling. So, clearly it's not the greatest news. More changes were noted in their blood tests, but you'll have to watch to see for yourself.

Also very interesting is that they were both only drinking the U.K.'s recommended intake! They were not drinking any more than what was recommended as safe.

 

Caveats:

1. The U.K. recently reviewed those guidelines and changes were made to the recommendations. It is important to note that in this show, they were drinking the recommended intake before (Arnett, 2016) the changes recently made, i.e. they made the show before the changes came out, following the older guidelines. Still, their findings are very interesting and it is worth considering your own intake compared to theirs, and also how it changes from country to country.

2, Also, to be fair, it should be stated that this is not a scientifically valid experiment, especially with only 2 subjects! The conclusion that can be drawn from it is that, for their particular body composition, the U.K.'s formerly recommended alcohol intake is actually not sufficient for them to avoid long-term liver damage. Quite a sobering thing to discover, isn't it? - yes, pun intended! Their results also beg the question, if this is true for these two people, how many others is it also true for? And, will the new changes to the U.K. guidelines be enough for the majority of people?

Ok, so what are the recommended guidelines and how are they shown?

Well, as you probably know, women are generally recommended to drink less than men, because we metabolise alcohol in a different way to men due to our higher body fat composition.

The recommendations are presented as units, where one unit = 10 grams of alcohol, however I have read here (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015) that the U.S. guidelines take a standard unit to be 14 grams of alcohol so...not sure what to say about that, except that it is best to research the advice for your particular country to be sure.

The number of units recommended varies from country to country actually, and those variations are really surprising! As a guide of what a standard drink actually equates to, a small (125 ml) glass of wine is 1.6 units, a bottle of wine is about 10 units, a 25 ml shot of spirits is 1 unit, and a pint of beer is 2.3 units (Change for Life, 2016).

 

Here's the breakdown for Australia, the U.K., and the U.S.A.

Australia:

Women = 14

Men = 14

* and no more than 4 standard drinks at any one time.

Here's some further information (Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, 2015) on the alcohol guidelines from the Australian Government. I also found this super cool organisation (Hello Sunday Morning, 2016) through www.alcohol.gov.au. They've created an app that is designed to help you change your relationship with alcohol, join like-minded people, and share your hangover-free Sundays. Loving this as it totally aligns with my concept of Sunrise-ing Well through making better lifestyle choices. Here is the app for iPhone, not sure if there is an Android version. You can also find their Facebook page here.

 

U.K.: ---> NEWS! The Guidelines were changed since the doco was made! So they were right when they predicted in the show that the amount of alcohol per week would be reduced. The changes were made in early January and now stand as:

Women = 14 units or less per week

Men = 14 units or less per week

Here's a nice little graphic display (Change For Life, 2016) of how much that actually translates to based on alcohol type in the U.K.

Notice how there is no difference in the recommendations for men or women?

 

U.S.A.:

Women = 7 units or less per week (in Australian/U.K. terms that works out to almost 10 standard drinks)

Men = 14 units or less per week (almost 20 standard drinks in the Australian/U.K. equivalent)

*Note that the U.S. measurement of a unit is higher than that of the U.K. or Australia so I've given the rough equivalent above. Here's a link (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015) to more on this.

So what does this mean for you and me? Well, look, I'll be honest...I don't drink more than a standard glass every now and then these days, and after looking into it, I'd say I'll be cutting back even more!

What about you? Can you see yourself cutting your intake back a little? A lot? For many it is not as easy as just saying you will stop or cut back and hey presto it's done. There are many factors that need to be considered before making a commitment to cut back. In my one-on-one coaching sessions, I help you to identify the areas you need to address in your life in order to make the changes you want to make. For example, it may be that you need to work on improving or changing your habits in the area of relationships, or how you deal with stress, before you can tackle the goal of reducing alcohol. Together we can identify the areas where you are stuck and build a strategy towards change. Making huge commitments in short periods of time runs the risk of rebound and bingeing even more, so I encourage you to start slow and build up as your confidence grows. 

Plus - big news! - I haven't made any official announcement yet, but I am planning to run a group coaching program to help you 'Stress Less and Live More'! This could be the perfect opportunity to start reducing your alcohol intake with a group of people supporting and sharing the journey. Keep your eye out for my posts and contact me if you are interested in finding out more...exciting!!

If you'd like to chat with me about your goals around alcohol or any other health habit, I offer a free 15 minute Discovery Call where we can discuss the areas you want to change. The call is totally risk-free and can give you a chance to hone in on what's important for you. Use my contact form here to get in touch and set up your call.
 

xo

 

References:

Arnett, G. 2016 'How do the UK's new alcohol guidelines compare with the rest of the world's?', The Guardian, 8 January 2016, viewed 29 January 2016, <http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2016/jan/08/how-do-the-uks-new-alcohol-guidelines-compare-with-the-rest-of-the-worlds>

Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, 2015 Alcohol Guidelines: Reducing the Health Risks, NHMRC, viewed 29 January 2016, <https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol-guidelines>

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 29 January 2016, <http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm>

Change For Life, 2016, Alcohol Units and Guidelines, Change for Life, viewed 29 January 2016, <http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/alcohol-lower-risk-guidelines-units.aspx>

Hello Sunday Morning, 2016, Hello Sunday Morning, viewed 29 January 2016, <https://www.hellosundaymorning.org/>

 

Disclaimer: This blog post is intended to share publicly available information and assist you in making informed choices for improved health. It in no way replaces the guidance of your GP or health provider. If you feel your alcohol intake is unsafe or dangerous, or that you are suffering from alcohol addiction, please see your GP for medical assistance right away.

Yummo Zucchini and Sweet Potato Bread

Hey y'all,

This year, I have resolved to update my blog more often, and include an array of lifestyle and wellness posts, some yummy recipes, some yoga tidbits, some coaching and lifestyle posts, some rants and raves about health now and then! A whole gamut of info from me to keep you alight and buzzing with easy ways to improve your health and reduce stress! And this is my first foodie post for the year....Yummo Zucchini and Sweet Potato Bread. So so so good! ---> and SO easy!

Below I've laid out the recipe for my version of Yummo Zucchini and Sweet Potato Bread and let me tell you, it is YUM! Not only is it yummy (yes that is the main word that keeps popping into my mind as I munch on a slice of this), but it is full of nourishing ingredients and very easy to whip up with a food processor. The ingredients and process are listed, but I would urge you to be creative with it. It really is just a base recipe and you can add all kinds of extras, and don't really need to be anal about measurements, as long as you have a consistency you're comfortable baking then you're fine.

Side note: I think my mixture could have done with some more almond meal because it turned out quite 'eggy', but, whatever! It's still yum!

So here are the ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of almond meal
  • 1 tspn of baking powder
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast (or Parmesan if it suits you)
  • 1 tbspn of rosemary (dried or fresh, both taste good)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 brown onion chopped
  • 1.5 cups (approx.) of sweet potato, peeled and grated
  • 1.5 cups (approx.) of zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 5 eggs
  • season with a dash of sea salt
  • a pinch of paprika
  • walnuts to decorate

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees Celsius, line a large tin with baking paper. My tin was quite large and flat, however you could use something smaller and deeper and adjust your cooking time accordingly.

2. Use a food processor with the grater blade to process the sweet potato, zucchini, onion, and garlic.

3. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

4. Add the spinach, baking powder, almond meal, nutritional yeast, and seasoning, and mix through well.

5. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Lightly beat the eggs in the centre before mixing it well through the rest of the bowl.

6. Spread the mixture evenly into the baking tin and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

7. After 25 minutes, open the oven and place the walnuts on top, pressing them into the mixture. You could use cherry tomato pieces, feta pieces, or sultanas if you like.

8. Keep baking for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife blade comes out of the mixture clean.

I enjoyed mine with delicious sweet potato chips I made up with the leftovers! Leave a comment below if you try the recipe or have an idea for a variation. I'd love to hear it!


Getting the 'feel-goods' with 5 simple apps...

 

I joined the gym last year and only went twice! ; I swore I'd stop drinking so much and yet, there I was last week with a killer hangover ; Why do I keep eating that fast food??? Why?!... and it goes on.

Many of us hit the new year with bold ambitions to lose weight or quit smoking, while others are a little more cynical about the true effect of creating new year's resolutions. For many, it can be a time of personal torment, rather than satisfaction and excitement about your plans. As a health coach, I help you create a strong vision and strategy around you health aims and coach you through the process of change. I will be sending out some articles on goal-setting in the next few weeks to help you along with your aims for 2016 ---> so stay tuned!!

 

For some, their main goal for 2016, is simply to be happier. Sounds pretty straight forward doesn't it ---> Be. Happy.

 

Then why is it such a struggle?!

What I want to do today is share with you some key information on happiness and well-being and show you 5 free simple apps you can use to increase your happiness and well-being pronto!

We all know that rush you get when someone gives you a little gift. It's definitely a feel-good moment, a part of what Dr Martin Seligman (see below) would call, The Pleasant Life. Like most things pleasant, my way of looking at The Pleasant Life is that it is nice enough, there is appreciation and joy in this life and all your important needs are met, but it's just a little bit bland...perhaps there is a sense that there can be more some how. Going a little bit further with this idea, we meet The Good Life where we use our own unique strengths and gifts to live a better and more fulfilling life. Finally, along this path, we meet The Meaningful Life in which we can use our unique strengths and talents to improve the lives of others and through that gain a greater sense of meaning and fulfillment.

The Meaningful Life: one of the greatest ways to increase personal happiness is to contribute to the welfare of others - volunteering, donation, charity, unpaid work, and, to make this super easy, there are apps you can download to help you!

Study after study demonstrates the positive effects volunteering and social contribution have on health and well-being. Here are just a few articles to read up on:

1. The Journal of Social Science and Medicine, 2008  - Their study suggests that volunteering can increase levels of happiness regardless of socio-economic status.

2. WebMD.com 2015 - cites a study conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School in England which suggests that there is a link between volunteering and better health and well-being, though more research is needed.

3. The Pursuit of Happiness 2016 - (my favourite research into happiness and a great contributor to my coaching programs!) Dr Martin Seligman states that happiness can be gained through altruism, and there is a chance for great gratification in giving and kindness.

So, there are many ways to donate your time and energy to a good cause. If you don't have a lot of time, you may prefer to give a regular donation to a charity of your choice. What I'd like to share with you today though are 5 easy ways you can contribute to a good cause, all from the comfort of your own phone! Technology today, it's just incredible, isn't it?!

So here are 5 apps that you can download onto your phone right now (I believe they are all free downloads) to start making a positive contribution to the lives of others (are you getting the feel-goods yet??).

Note: I'm giving Android apps - because I heart Android over Apple, sorry, haha - but if you take the name and google it, you'll find the iPhone version easily, and I won't hold it against you ;-). 


  • Share the Meal - with US$ 0.50 cents you can feed a hungry child for a whole day through the United Nations World Food Program.

  • Dream Lab - The Garvan Institute of Medical Research can harness the power of your phone to speed up cancer research, while you sleep!

  • Tree Planet 2 - One for the gamers! This app donates one real tree for every game tree planted.

  • Donate a Photo (main site) - For those who love snapping pics! Snap a pic, upload it on the app, share it on social media - basically what anyone with Instagram usually does, except every time you do it, $1 is donated to a charity you have chosen from their list. 

  • Pay it Forward app - This app looks fun! You are given daily suggestions of 'random acts of kindness' to do, can keep track of your 'kindness progress', and view where the most acts of kindness are being performed in the world through the app.


So, time to get downloading! Which of these apps interests you the most? I want to download them all! I currently have the Dream Lab on my phone and I will definitely get the Pay it Forward app. I might switch it up a bit to save space on my phone.

I'd love to hear what you think of them, maybe you can suggest other contribution apps, or even tell us about other volunteering experiences you've had.

Would love to hear from you!

xo

References:

1. Borgonovi, F. 'Doing well by doing good. The relationship between formal volunteering and self-reported health and happiness', Social Science and Medicine, vol. 66; iss. 11, p.p.2321–2334

2. Preidt, R. 2015, 'Volunteering may make people happier, study finds', WebMD Health Day Reporter, 23 August 2015, viewed 4 January 2016, <http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20130823/volunteering-may-make-people-happier-study-finds>

3. Pursuit of Happiness, 2016, Martin Seligman, The Pursuit of Happiness: Bringing the Science of Happiness to Life, viewed 4 January 2016, <http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/martin-seligman-positive-psychology/>