We’ve all probably heard the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and the Irish proverb ‘a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything’.
As we get older though we tend to laugh less as we get caught up in the serious business of life. Just think of how often a baby smiles and giggles on a daily basis or how often children who are playing and having fun laugh? I’m guessing it’s a lot more than we do on a daily basis.
But there are huge benefits to laughing on a physical and emotional level. Here are some ways that laughter can help us get a healthy happy glow:
- Laughing eases stress, anxiety and fear. Laughter helps us be in the present moment and therefore our fears for the future or stresses about the past are momentarily put aside.
- Laughing relaxes the muscles and relieves tension. Who needs a massage, just have a good giggle!
- Laughing improves blood flow and boosts your immunity.
- Laughing feels great. It releases endorphins (the feel good chemicals) which are natural pain relievers. There have been studies showing that laughter can increase your pain tolerance thanks to the endorphins.
- Laughter can even strengthen abs if you engage in big belly laughs enough!
- Naturally enough, laughter can contribute to a greater sense of well-being and happiness and a better perceived quality of life.
- Being able to laugh and have a sense of humour in the face of challenges or disappointments is associated with greater resilience and an ability to cope with and bounce back from setbacks quicker.
- Laughter can bring people together and can strengthen relationships. Humour and shared laughter can induce feelings of connection and positive emotions and can defuse uncomfortable situations.
- Laughter is beautiful and attractive. People who have a good sense of humour are often deemed as more desirable and the ability to laugh and especially make others laugh is said to increase your sex appeal. Usually a good sense of humour is one of the traits that people say they’d like in their ideal partner.
So just how can we laugh more? Here are some suggestions:
- A laugh begins with a smile so smile more.
- Watch more programmes, films, YouTube clips that you find funny and get you chuckling.
- Go and see a comedy show.
- Read books or comics that make you laugh.
- Listen to some light-hearted comedy podcasts.
- Try a laughter yoga class. Yup, it’s a thing. Really! This is one I’d be curious to try.
- Meet up with people who make you laugh more often. I’m lucky as I live with the person who gets me laughing every single day!
- Loosen up… don’t take things too seriously. Try to see the lighter side of life. Experiment seeing if you can see the funny side of situations.
- Playing with animals or children is a great place to start! If you don’t have an animal or a child to play with, find somebody who you can get silly with. What was your favourite thing to do as a kid? What delighted you? Maybe it was playing board games, or riding your bike, or making sandcastles on the beach. Is there anything you could do that would give you that sense of delight now??
What could you do to bring more laughter into your life? I’d love to hear your suggestions!
Schools are back in business this week and with that there’s a lot of talk about healthy lunches.
1 in 4 children are overweight or obese here in Ireland with many children not meeting the government dietary recommendations for daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
I don’t have too many fond memories of my primary school lunch which usually consisted of a limp ham and cheese or maybe a banana or jam sandwich with a sour smelling flask of milk. It was a great day when I was upgraded to a flask of sweet milky tea and sometimes I’d get an aul Mr Kipling almond slice or chocolate Penguin bar thrown in as a treat. Whatever they consisted of, they definitely weren’t very inspiring or colourful and didn’t include much fruit or vegetables. A lot of the time they went uneaten (apart from the Penguin bars… I loved them!) unless I was absolutely starving.
But lunches don’t have to be uninspiring. We begin eating with our eyes so making food look appealing with lots of colourful fruits and veggies and novel presentation can make children excited about them (and maybe eat some fruits and veggies too!).
I love the idea of bento box lunches. They can translate to a lot of colour with a variety of flavours and textures to keep the novelty factor up. Here are some ideas that I think would be great for school-goers with some I wouldn’t mind trying myself! And there’s not a limp sambo in sight!
Photo: Following in My Shoes
Rachel from Following in My Shoes has some great colourful ideas with a handy printable list of items to include. I love that each lunch box has a variety of colours, textures and a mix of cooked and raw foods. And the little note is a super cute idea!
How good is this panda egg wrap bento from Happy Little Bento? Seriously imaginative and inspirational stuff!! Novelty factor through the roof!! And I love the practical suggestions from Our Paleo Life – these lunch boxes look so appetising but simple enough to put together. The crudities are a great idea and the turkey blt roll-ups is something I’ve tried myself. So good!
Photo: Nom Nom Paleo
Nom Nom Paleo has an amazing series of lunch box ideas on her website. So. Much. Inspiration This chicken and roast veggie bento would be a great use of leftovers! I’ll definitely be looking for my own lunch box inspiration here.
Photo: Primal Kitchen
Finally, Primal Kitchen has some practical advice for getting buy-in from children as what’s the use of making a great lunch if it’s not going to get eaten.
I think I’m going to start doing a bento box style lunch box myself in future!!!
So gluten has been in the Irish press a lot in the last week. Firstly, there’s been much debate on its effects, who can be affected by it and whether going gluten free is just another ‘fad’ diet for people and secondly it’s the start of the Coeliac Roadshow this week. (Find out more http://www.coeliac-ireland.com/coeliac-roadshow/)
From my own experience with Crohn’s disease, IBS and SIBO I found going gluten free made a huge difference in my symptoms. While going gluten free was only one of the changes I made to my diet and lifestyle I believe it was one of the most important ones and there are many people and studies out there that support the benefits of a gluten-free diet. However, in saying that I don’t think it’s a panacea to all ills.
So you don’t end up like one of these people in this hilarious clip, I thought it might be good to do a quick guide to gluten.
So what exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and foods processed from these grains. It’s what gives baked goods their elasticity, helps them rise and keep their shape and provides the chewy texture.
So why all the fuss?
Gluten is a big deal for people with coeliac disease as it creates an autoimmune reaction in the body. It harms the villi in the small intestine which causes problems in the body absorbing nutrients and can lead to a host of health concerns from digestive distress to neurological issues to malnutrition to osteoporosis. http://www.coeliac-ireland.com/coeliac-desease/symptoms/ A lifelong strict gluten-free diet is necessary.
A gluten ‘intolerance’ or ‘sensitivity’ on the other hand is different in that even though the symptoms may be similar to a celiac reaction, the villi in the small intestine are not actually harmed. In other words, the test for celiac is negative but symptoms improve when a person goes gluten-free.
While some of the symptoms are as you’d imagine such as digestive troubles like bloating, constipation or diarrhoea there are a host of other symptoms that might be not so obvious such as joint pain, skin problems or rashes, low energy and fatigue, brain fog, mood issues, holding onto extra weight or losing an excess of weight, mouth ulcers etc.
Gluten sensitivity can often affect people with IBS, autoimmune diseases (like Crohn’s) or inflammation but it’s a small percentage of the population.
How do you know if you have a gluten intolerance?
While testing for coeliac disease can be straight forward enough (blood test and biopsy), there are no great diagnostic tests yet for a gluten sensitivity.
The simplest way to find out if your body will respond to avoiding gluten is to eliminate it from your diet for a period of time (1 – 3 months) and see how you feel when you re-introduce it. If your symptoms go away while you are off it and come back once you’re back on it then you know you’ve an intolerance or sensitivity.
A word of warning on going gluten-free
Most supermarkets now have a whole host of gluten-free foods on their shelves. A lot of people think that if something is gluten-free then it must be healthy. However this isn’t always the case. While there are some high quality nutritious products out there, there is also a lot of processed crap that are higher in sugar and starches too! It’s important to read labels, know what’s in your food and be mindful of getting what your body needs.
So what foods have gluten?
Here is a list of foods that have gluten:
- Bulgar wheat
- Cous cous
- Durum wheat
- Malt, malt extract, malt flavouring, malt vinegars
- Oats (unless certified gluten free)
- Pasta made from wheat
- Wheat starch, wheat bran, wheat germ
Here are some things that could have gluten so it’s important to read labels (not an exhaustive list):
- Alcohol like beer or lagers
- Breadcrumbs / stuffing etc
- Communion wafers
- Dressings / Sauces / soups / stews may be thickened with flour
- Imitation seafood
- Luncheon meats
- Processed meat / sausages
- Play dough
- Soy, teriyaki and hoisin sauces are fermented with wheat
- Self-basting poultry
- Supplements and medications (check with your pharmacist when you are purchasing)
While that sounds like a lot, there are a load of naturally gluten free foods such as:
- Nuts / seeds
- Fish, poultry, meat
- Most dairy
And then there are gluten free grains / flours too including:
- Cornmeal, corn starch, maize
- Chestnut flour
- Chickpea / Gram flour
- Lentil flour
- Nut flours (coconut, almond etc)
- Potato flour, potato starch
- Rice flour
- Seed flour (eg flaxseed)
- Soy flour
There are loads of gluten free resources on the internet including societies, recipe blogs, support groups etc.
For more information about coeliac disease and a gluten free lifestyle in Ireland, check out www.coeliac-ireland.com
The first time I heard about SLOW food was when my friend and I went to see Alice Waters (chef, restauranteur, activist, author) speak in San Francisco about 10 years ago. At first, I honestly thought she was talking about the speed of making and eating a meal!! It soon became apparent though that she was in fact talking about an acronym for Seasonal, Local, Organic and Whole foods and the benefits of eating that way.
Eating SLOW food is basically eating as close as possible to what nature intended us to eat. I was fascinated and learnt a lot at and it’s something I try to incorporate as much as I can today.
There is an actual Slow Food Movement which is a global, grassroots movement that was founded in 1989 in Italy to counteract fast food and fast life. They envision a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.
They oppose the standardisation of taste and culture, and the unrestrained power of food industry multinationals and industrial agriculture. Sounds pretty good.
So let’s delve a little into Seasonal, Local, Organic and Whole foods.
With supermarkets stocking fruits and vegetables all year round it’s hard to know what is actually in season. But it’s good to be aware of what is actually in season as this produce is always the freshest and therefore the most nutritious foods.
Buying local should mean that produce hasn’t had far to travel and shouldn’t have been stored for long periods of time which can result in a loss of nutrients. If produce has to travel, it may need to be treated with a variety of chemicals to extend its shelf life and to make it fresher and more appealing. If you are eating local, chances are you are eating seasonal produce.
I could (and probably will) do a full post on why it’s important to eat organic as much as possible but I’ll keep it brief here. Basically, I try to consume mostly organic produce because I know it’s more nourishing for my body and organic farming is more environmentally sustainable. I also know that organic produce contains far less chemicals and pesticides than conventionally farmed produce.
While there has been some debate recently about the nutritional difference (or lack thereof) between conventional and organic produce I still think avoiding chemical exposures as much as possible can only be a good thing. So what I’m not consuming is as important as what I am!
Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. So you are talking about vegetables, fruits, animal products and whole unprocessed grains (if you can tolerate them). The benefits of eating whole foods are that they provide more complex micronutrients and therefore greater nutrition. Eating a whole foods diet means that you don’t eat (or limit) the processed packaged foods that have more than one ingredient!
So how can we eat a little more SLOWly?
- Find out what produce is in season and eat more of those foods.
- Eat less packaged, processed foods and more whole real foods.
- Become curious about food labels (and not just for the calorie or fat content). Does the food have an ingredients list the length of your arm? Do you even know what all the ingredients are?
- Check where the produce is from. Did it have far to travel? Are there any local options you could choose instead?
- Try to source and eat more organic produce. There are more and more organic options available due to demand and the difference in price to conventional food is getting smaller and smaller.
- Find a farmers market with local sellers – this will be a great place to get to know what foods are in season as well as locally grown. Better yet, if there are local organic sellers!
- ‘Farm to you’ deliveries – if you can’t make a farmers market there are businesses that will deliver produce directly to your door.
- When eating out, maybe try places that serve food that is made from local and seasonal produce.
- Trying growing some of your own food. Even if you only have a small space (like a patio) you’d be surprised at what you can grow.
Some good resources in Ireland:
Slow Food Ireland http://slowfoodireland.com/
Grow It Yourself. Find out what’s in season and how to grow your own food http://www.giyinternational.org/pages/about_giy
Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association. Find out more about organic food, certification and see who is on their member directory http://iofga.org/
Organic Trust Ireland. More information about organic produce and certification http://organictrust.ie/info/
Find out more about how to know if produce is organic and where to source it http://www.bordbia.ie/consumer/aboutfood/organicfood/pages/organicfood.aspx
Discover any local farmers market near you http://www.bordbia.ie/consumer/aboutfood/farmersmarkets/pages/default.aspx
The Organic Supermarket https://www.organicsupermarket.ie/ and Absolutely Organic http://www.absolutelyorganic.ie/ offer a farm to door service in the Dublin region, while Green Earth Organics http://www.greenearthorganics.ie/ and Beechlawn Farm http://www.beechlawnfarm.org/ service the west coast of Ireland and Organic Republic http://www.organicrepublic.ie/ and Devoys Organic Farm http://www.devoysorganicfarm.com/ services the Cork region.
The Happy Pear https://thehappypear.ie/ in Greystones, Wicklow is a shop, daytime café and evening restaurant selling and serving local, organic and seasonal produce. The owners have a bestselling cookbook and sell their own produce line in shops across Ireland.
My mum used to always say I was the biggest dilly dallier (aka time waster) in the morning. I don’t know how I managed it, but no matter how early I got up, time used to slip away from me without realising, resulting in me just about making it to school on time. Still to this day I can dilly-dally and get lost in a time warp (usually with social media and emails) if I’m not careful.
Over the last year or so I decided that I wanted to use this vortex of ‘wasted’ time in the morning to cultivate a morning routine that would set me up for having a healthy, happy, glow throughout the day.
This morning routine offers simple, gentle, nourishing ways of taking care of myself before I head out into the day and focus on other’s needs.
It’s my way of committing to starting the day off with positive vibes (thoughts, feelings and energy) and protect against the harmful effects of stress the rest of the day may bring.
These morning rituals also act as a fresh-start, a re-set button on whatever happened the day before. It’s like I’m starting anew every morning.
Some of the many benefits of having such a morning routine / ritual include:
- Overall sense of wellbeing and calm
- Lower levels of stress and a more positive outlook on life
- Increased energy and stamina
- Heightened creativity, focus and problem-solving
- Better diet choices for the rest of the day
Here’s 9 simple ways to get your day off to a healthy happy start and achieve a day long glow:
Most of us wake up dehydrated. Not only will drinking water quench the thirst and rehydrate us, it will also help our liver and kidneys flush out the toxins that our bodies try to detox overnight. Drinking water first thing in the morning can help prevent feeling sluggish and therefore improve energy and clarity.
Drink some green stuff!
Try a green juice or smoothie at the start of the day which are nutrient packed powerhouses that your body will love.
Also having a cup of green tea or my favourite, a matcha latte instead of a coffee, is an amazing way to flood your system with antioxidants.
Get a little exercise
Whether it’s a 10-minute stretch before getting ready for work, doing a quick morning HIIT session or getting outside for a walk (even a walk to work), moving your body and getting your circulation going will not only wake you up but could potentially prevent aches and pains that come with sitting at a desk all day.
Spending even 10 minutes meditating and becoming mindful of your breath, thoughts and feelings can have huge benefits to your health (emotional and physical) and happiness.
Write it out
Whether you decide to journal your thoughts with dedicated morning pages or you write down three things you are grateful for in a gratitude journal (or both!), writing is therapeutic. It can alleviate anxiety, encourage creativity and can cultivate a more positive and happier attitude.
Affirmations are positive words or sentences that transform your thoughts to intentions that you can repeat like a mantra. For example, ‘I love and accept myself just as I am’. You could have a number of different affirmations pinned to your mirror in the morning so you’d see them as you get ready.
Listen to or read something positive, inspiring and uplifting
I’m a podcast junky and I love listening to interesting podcasts while I get ready for work and on my commute. Listening or reading something that makes you happy or inspired is such an uplifting way to start the day.
Pretty much everything I’ve mentioned so far will help create a healthy happy glow but there are a couple of things you can do to help your skin glow even more!
Water with lemon
Remember I suggested to drink water in the morning? Amp it up by adding some fresh lemon juice. Lemons are full of antioxidants and vitamin C which both promote radiant skin. Just make sure not to use boiling water as it will kill the vitamin C.
Dry brush your skin
Get a natural bamboo brush from any health food store or pharmacy and before you jump into the shower, get brushing. Gentle, repetitive strokes, towards your heart, to stimulate the lymphatic system, creates smoother skin, promotes improved circulation and reduced cellulite.
All of these are little things that don’t need to take up a whole lot of time in the morning. But they add up to BIG things for your healthy, happy, glow.
Do you include any of these in your morning routine?
How often do we wolf down a meal in a rush out the door? How often do we eat at our desk working? Or eat while totally engrossed in watching TV or catching up on social media? Have you ever eaten a meal and been so distracted that when you discover you have a clean plate you can’t remember even eating it, never mind what it tasted like? What about mindless grazing or eating crap because you’re bored, tired, lonely (fill in the blank)?
Not being aware of how we’re eating (physically and emotionally) can impair digestion and can lead to over-eating which in turn can lead to digestive complaints, weight gain and an impaired immune system.
But there are three things you can do to improve digestion, boost your immune function and lose weight and it doesn’t include dieting!!
REST & DIGEST
First up, get your body out of the stressed ‘fight or flight’ mode and into ‘rest and digest’ mode as your body needs your mind to be calm in order to digest food properly. Don’t shove food in your mouth as you’re running out the door or eat while standing at the counter. Stop, sit down and take a few moments before you start your meal to take some deep relaxing belly breaths.
Put down your phone or device and turn off the TV so you can become present with what you are about to eat. And maybe offer some gratitude for the food that’s in front of you.
Sound impossible? I find putting my phone down really difficult but taking even a minute before you eat to take those few deep breaths, get present and de-stress can have a huge impact on your digestion.
CHEW, CHEW, CHEW AND THEN CHEW SOME MORE
Digestion begins in the mouth. Ever notice that even the sight or smell of food activates saliva in your mouth? That’s your body getting ready to digest! When you chew your food, you begin to break it down into smaller and smaller particles. Chewing signals to the rest of the body to begin the digestion process from saliva coating your food with enzymes, to the stomach producing acid etc. The more you chew, the less work your digestive system has to break down your food which leads to easier digestion.
Some people say you have to chew at least 18 times, 30 times etc. But who wants to count their chews? A good gauge would be to chew until your food becomes liquefied before swallowing if you can. This may feel like an absolute aaaaaage when you begin eating this way but over time it should become easier.
While mindfulness (or the art of being present) is usually associated with meditation, it can actually be applied to most activities, eating included. Being more mindful when you eat makes you slow down and become more aware of portion sizes, hunger cues, habits that may not be serving you and emotional mindset. For example being mindful can bring about more awareness of emotional eating (or not eating) as a way of coping with negative emotions or worries.
So how can you eat mindfully?
Mindful eating is about becoming present, engaging your senses – sight, smell, taste (texture) – and any physiological, emotional and psychological reactions you are having at that moment. When you eat, get curious and ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I engaging my senses or am I mindlessly eating?
- How does my body feel before, during and after I eat? Starving with a rumbling tummy? Low energy? Hangry? Anxious? Full?
- What are my feelings about this food and why am I eating it? Pleasure? Delight? Naughty? Guilty? Good? Bad? Comfort? Bored? Out of habit?
- What are the thoughts that are coming to mind when I eat this food? Does it trigger memories? What beliefs do I have about this food? Do I have any fears?
Awareness is the key. Becoming mindful can actually change the way you think and react to food. Over time you’ll come to trust your hunger cues, you’ll know what habits serve you and which ones don’t, you’ll intuitively know what portion size is actually right for you and what foods are right for you, you’ll be able to manage your emotions without food and you’ll know potential triggers that urge you to overeat / under eat / emotionally eat and you can respond to them.
Studies have shown that all this in turn can help with over eating and binge eating, can help people lose weight and can reduce anxious thoughts about food and your body. (1, 2, 3 below)
So three things – slowing down, becoming present and chewing – can have a big influence in achieving a healthy, happy, glow.
 Kristeller J. L. and R. Q. Wolever. 2011. “Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training for Treating Binge Eating Disorder: The Conceptual Foundation.” Eating Disorders. 19(1): 49-61.
Baer, R. A., S. Fischer, and D. B. Huss. 2005. “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Applied to Binge Eating: A Case Study.” Cognitive and Behavioral Practice 12: 351-358.
 Rawal, A., J. Enayati, M. Williams, and R. Park. 2009. “A Mindful Approach to Eating Disorders.” Healthcare Counseling & Psychotherapy Journal. 9(4): 16-20.
Proulx, K. 2008. “Experiences of Women with Bulimia Nervosa in a Mindfulness-Based Eating Disorder Treatment Group.” Eating Disorders. 16(1): 52-72.
Hepworth, N. S. 2011. “A Mindful Eating Group as an Adjunct to Individual Treatment for Eating Disorders: A Pilot Study.” Eating Disorders. 19(1): 6-16.
 Tapper, K., C. Shaw, J. Ilsley, A. J. Hill, F. W. Bond, and L. Moore. 2009. “Exploratory Randomised Controlled Trial of a Mindfulness-Based Weight Loss Intervention for Women.” Appetite. 52(2): 396-404.
Dalen J., B. W. Smith, B. M. Shelley, A. L. Sloan, L. Leahigh, and D. Begay. 2010. “Pilot Study: Mindful Eating and Living (MEAL): Weight, Eating Behavior, and Psychological Outcomes Associated with a Mindfulness-Based Intervention for People with Obesity.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 18(6): 260-4.
Framson, C., A. R. Kristal, J. M. Schenk, A. J. Littman, S. Zeliadt, and D. Benitez. 2009. “Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire.” Journal of American Dietetic Association. 1439-1444.
Acai and Berry Smoothie Bowl and Popsicle (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, Low FODMAP)
While I love my green smoothies and have one nearly every day, I do like to mix it up so I don’t get bored. Step forward smoothie bowls which are thicker and can be eaten with a spoon (how’s that for changing things up!). One of my favourite smoothie bowls to have is an acai berry bowl which is made with frozen fruit so it’s perfect for the summertime.
What is Açai? Açai (ahh-sah-ee) is a low-sugar berry grown in Central and South America, Brazil and Peru.
While it’s been touted as a superfood with reported benefits such as burning fat, slowing aging, lowering high cholesterol, and increasing libido, there is no solid scientific evidence to prove these claims yet. However, we do know that it has many health and beauty-related benefits due it being very rich in antioxidants, minerals, healthy fats, and vitamins so it definitely can help us achieve a healthy happy glow:
- Reduces free radicals
- Boosts collagen production and skin elasticity
- Helps skin to retain moisture
ACAI AND BERRY SMOOTHIE BOWL (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, Low FODMAP)
For the smoothie:
1 heaped tablespoon of Açai powder
1 frozen Banana
120ml Coconut Milk
80g Fresh or frozen mixed berries
Toppings of your choice:
Banana, berries, kiwi, coconut chips, mulberries etc
Add the smoothie ingredients in a blender and blend until thick and creamy. If you stick a spoon into the mixture the mixture should be able to be thick enough to stay on the spoon, if not add ice or more frozen bananas.
Pour into a bowl and top with the toppings of your choice.
ACAI SMOOTHIE POPSICLE (Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, Low FODMAP)
This is a delicious summer treat!! It’s perfect if you have some smoothie left over!
Take the acai smoothie and mix in some chopped fruit. Pour into popsicle moulds and freeze. Take out and enjoy!
Have you tried an acai bowl? What’s your favourite topping?
I feel like I’m one of those animals who tends to come out in the spring and summer and hibernates in the winter months. I love this time of year and try to get outside as much as possible.
But did you know that getting outside in nature can actually improve your health and happiness?
- I’ve written before about the immunity boosting properties of Vitamin D. As sunshine is a natural source of Vitamin D it’s important to get outside and soak it up.
- Being in a natural setting can increase your quality of sleep (which is super important for good health). Studies show that natural sunlight helps set the body’s internal clock that tells us when to eat and sleep and normalises hormonal functions that occur at specific times of day. I just recently heard of a study of chronic insomniacs who were cured after camping out for two weeks (away from electronics etc). Being out in nature reset their systems.
- ‘Grounding’ or ‘Earthing’ (when our bodies come into contact with the Earth via walking barefoot or gardening) can balance out the positive electrons (in the form of free radicals) that can build up in our bodies due to high prevalence of mobile phone waves, WiFi etc.
- Research has even shown that hospital patients can recover faster when they can see trees or flowers from their window!
- Being outside can actually offer relief for everything from depression to negativity. A study from the University of Michigan linked group nature walks to enhanced mental health and positivity, along with lowering feelings of stress and depression.
- A study published in Psychological Science said that interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation (monkey brain anyone?) and can restore attention levels and therefore concentration.
- When it comes to exercising, studies show that doing activities/exercises outdoors makes you happier than doing those same exact activities indoors.
- Getting fresh air, soaking up Vitamin D and the endorphins from getting active outside all contribute to healthy glowing skin.
8 TIPS TO GET OUTSIDE AND ENJOY THE BENEFITS OF NATURE
Go For A Walk
Go for a walk every day whether it’s before or after your day at work or during your lunch break. I’m lucky as I live near the mountains, the sea and numerous parks so I’m spoilt for choice of where to walk. I love meeting friends for a catch up and an evening stroll. Not only am I getting the benefits of exercise and being outside but I’m also gaining from the social interaction which increases happiness. The photo above is from one of my favourite hikes along the cliff walk of Howth Head. A great workout and stunning views.
Walk on the Grass
Take off your shoes and get the benefits of grounding!!! Walk on the grass or walk in the sand or in the sea. My Dad used to always talk about the benefits of paddling in the sea. He knew what he was talking about!
Dine al fresco
I love eating outdoors – whether it’s a BBQ with family and friends, sitting outside a café drinking a matcha latte, eating my lunch in the local park or on our patio or going on a picnic.
Check out outdoor events
Whether it’s a weekly farmers market, an outdoor concert or play, open air cinema or a festival – there are usually loads of outdoor events (many of which are free) happening. It’s good to take a break from the TV and computer screens!
Be a Tourist in Your Own City
Know of a park you’ve never been to, a beach you’ve never walked? Why not make a day trip to see what your city / area has to offer? Rent some bikes and go exploring neighbourhoods you might not know. You never know what you might discover!
Normally run inside on a treadmill or do a gym class? Why not try taking it outside? Find some good running/cycle trails or some outdoor boot camp classes to change things up. I’m keen to try some outdoor yoga this summer. I also want to make a habit of going on hikes at the weekend and may even try a game of tennis or two (always feel inspired after Wimbledon)! The gym is always there to go back to!
From planting a few flowers to growing a vegetable garden, gardening gets you outside and communing with nature. I’ve only a small patio but I love tending to my flower pots and organic leafy greens and herbs. Not only does it brighten up the place but seeing the garden grow and flower gives the added sense of accomplishment (yay! I didn’t kill them!). I can’t wait until I can serve up a salad fresh from my little patio garden.
Just sit and chill
We’re always so on-the-go. Sometimes we just need to sit outside quietly and appreciate the natural beauty around us away from emails, phones and social media. Better yet if we engage all our senses so we are in the present moment. Notice the sounds, the breeze or heat of the sun on your face, the feel of the grass or the sand …. you get the idea!!
What’s your favourite way to spend time outside? Do you notice the benefits? I’d love to hear some other suggestions to get me outside more!
As someone who suffered from gut pain for the best part of 20 years, I’d like to think I can relate to those suffering with IBS. The scope of how it affects people is wide ranging – for some it’s a mild inconvenience but for others it can be debilitating and extremely stressful. For me I experienced the full spectrum with some days better than others.
According to Irish Health IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is a common functional gastrointestinal disorder that affects as many as one in five of our population here in Ireland. It seems more women tend to suffer from IBS and it’s usually worse for people in their 20’s and 30’s.
And while it may be common, it certainly shouldn’t be deemed normal!
What are the characteristics of IBS?
IBS is characterised by chronic and relapsing symptoms; lower abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, wind, distension, altered bowel habit (ranging from diarrhoea to constipation or an alternating combination of both) and occasionally heartburn, nausea and vomiting may occur.
And while most people report these physical symptoms it’s important to remember that the gut is responsible for a large portion of our immunity and produces feel good hormones too! When the gut is damaged people can often experience things like depression, anxiety, food sensitivities, chronic lethargy, low libido, weight management challenges, eczema and a whole lot more.
Unfortunately IBS can be a bit of a mystery as there is no single test for it and the diagnosis is normally made by a medical practitioner by ruling out other potential issues. I remember being told that I probably had IBS, I felt like I was just lumped into the ‘well we don’t know what it is, so we’ll just say it’s IBS’ category which for many can feel frustrating.
So what’s happening in there??
The gut is a complex place and somewhere where scientists are only starting beginning to really understand. It’s estimated that there are over 10 times more bacteria in our guts than cells in our bodies and they play a huge role in our health and wellbeing.
There are also a lot of neurons (cells within the nervous system that transmit information) in the gut which is why the gut is often called the second brain and people often talk about ‘gut feelings’. Not only does the brain influence the gut, it seems it works the other direction too. Many IBS sufferers will say that their emotions, particularly stress levels, can make their symptoms worse. If you feel tense and stressed, it could make your digestive system tense and stressed too and exacerbate IBS symptoms.
Between the bacteria, neurons, diet and stressful lifestyles it’s no wonder that the symptoms of IBS can differ from person to person.
There doesn’t seem to be a single cause of IBS but factors such as emotional issues, trauma, stress, diet, lifestyle and intestinal flora balance could all play a part.
So what can you do if you have IBS?
While there is no one ‘cure’ for IBS, there are definitely things you can do to help ease the symptoms.
- Look into the Low-FODMAP diet and Take Out Food Triggers
The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria which in turn can produce the IBS symptoms. They are found in a wide range of foods including milk and milk products, certain fruits and vegetables, sweeteners such as honey, some grains such as wheat and rye and some legumes such as chickpeas.
There is good evidence that going on a low-FODMAP diet can help reduce symptoms significantly. In one study, a FODMAPs-restricted diet showed a 75% success rate for treating patients with IBS – the FODMAPs didn’t cause IBS to develop, but removing them from the diet was very helpful in controlling symptoms. It’s a good idea to speak to a nutritionist or health coach before embarking on this so that you don’t miss out on essential nutrients.
Monash University in Australia is at the forefront of FODMAP research and have a great app with loads of information about IBS and the low FODMAP diet. For more information http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/
- Try some supplements
- Peppermint oil (make sure it’s food grade) can help calm muscle spasms in the gut. I take a few drops of oil into some warm water about 30 minutes after my dinner
- Fish oil. I take Omega 3 tablets to help with inflammation in the gut.
- L-Glutamine. I take this amino acid to help with repairing my gut lining.
Of course, please consult with your health care practitioner before you start taking any supplements!
- Tackle stress
I try to do some form of exercise whether it be yoga or walking every day and try to meditate for at least 10 minutes. Even better if it can be done outdoors so you can get a double dose of wellbeing being out in nature. Also going to speak to a counsellor or a therapist can be of great help to work through any emotional issues or past traumas as people tend to hold on and internalise these stressors.
- Eat mindfully
It’s important to be in ‘rest and digest’ when eating so your food can be better digested. Taking a few deep breaths before you start a meal, eating slowly and chewing properly can be of great benefit.
- Probiotics may help with IBS
While using probiotics may be helpful for some people, it might not be right for everybody. It’s important to get one that is low FODMAP and that suits you as some people may find that they worsen their symptoms.
Do you suffer from IBS? What’s worked for you?
When I talk about treating yo’self, what I’m really talking about is self-care.
Self-care includes prioritizing and engaging in actions that care for our physical, mental and emotional health resulting in less stress and better overall wellbeing. It encourages us to be more in tune with our minds and bodies and is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that keeps us healthy, happy and glowing!
The problem is that many people (myself included) often put self-care on the long finger or ignore it altogether. This can be due to the busy-ness of life getting in the way or putting other people ahead of ourselves. Or it could be due to self-care being sometimes deemed as selfish and over indulgent resulting in feelings of guilt by putting ourselves first. But it is usually the times when we don’t engage in self-care (‘I don’t have the time’, ‘I’m too busy and stressed’ etc) that we probably need it the most.
Researchers believe that self-care and the pursuit of health and happiness is far from a selfish act. When we nurture ourselves we are likely to see improvements in many aspects of our lives including our physical, mental and emotional health, our relationships and our ability to deal with life and care for others. When we fill ourselves up, we have more in the tank to give and be of service to others!
So how can you treat yo’self??
Self-care is very unique to each individual. It’s not just the occasional manicure or night out with the girls. It’s about identifying your own needs (what recharges you, fills you up) and building up a list of habits that you can partake in on a consistent basis to make you feel like your best self.
Below are some examples of self-care routines I currently practice:
- Starting my day with a morning meditation and a big detoxifying mug of warm water and lemon juice. Giving myself this 20 minute ritual of calm before my day begins sets me up for the day.
- Being active or incorporating movement every day whether it’s a walk, a yoga class, a dance class etc. I try to go for a walk at lunch time every day to get some fresh air, sunlight and break away from the computer. It definitely recharges my batteries.
- Ending my day with writing in a gratitude journal so I go to sleep on a positive note.
- Going to the farmers market to buy organic produce every weekend and batch cooking so that I have nutritious food ready to eat during the week.
- Mindfully eating the nutritious foods I have made and treating myself to little indulgences like my favourite matcha latte’s or dairy-free ice-cream and really savouring them.
- Getting out into nature for a long walk. I’m lucky that I live near the sea and mountains so have plenty of great options for experiencing nature.
- Getting enough sleep every night. I know I need about 8 hours to feel good so that’s what I aim to get.
- Catching up with friends – whether it’s long chats on the phone, meeting up for a meal or for a walk or hike. All of it is good with me and I cherish these times!
- They say laughter is the best medicine and I’m lucky that I live with my boyfriend who makes me laugh every day. He also gives awesome hugs too so that’s always a bonus!
- Reading a great book or getting a pile of magazines and getting lost in their content curled up on the couch or in bed preferably with a Dyptique candle burning beside me and a hot cup of tea in hand.
- Being kind to myself – forgiving myself for the occasional set back, catching the inner mean girl / bitch brain / negative self-talk and telling it to ssssshhhhhhh! This is a hard one and something I have to work on daily
- Going for a massage, a blow-dry, a manicure, pedicure or facial or any treatment that makes you feel pampered. I probably don’t do this enough!
The list could go on and on. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things and there are things that I’ll want to start introducing too.
Do you engage in self-care? If so, I’d love to hear what you do and if you have any suggestions for me!